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 GRAB THE HAND THAT REACHES OUT!

Nimal Siripala de Silva, Minister of Irrigation and Water Resources Management, stated Wednesday in Parliament that the Rajapaksa government will not take any vital decisions on its own to do away with the 13th Amendment, and that the administration seeks consensus.

The proof of that pudding is in the eating, and it should be remembered that there has been an open invitation for the opposition including the TNA to join the Parliamentary Select Committee, that would decide on any kind of replacement that will fill the vacuum left by amending or jettisoning the 13th Amendment to the constitution.

Inevitably, the government is not merely a seeker of consensus but consensus comes to it. For example, on the issue of the impeachment of the Chief Justice, it will be recalled that opposition members who first called for her resignation. This seems to be why there seems to be some divergence of opinion in the main UNP opposition itself on the impeachment moves, with some UNP parliamentarians appearing to be baffled that the party leader, in their opinion, is soft peddling the issue, even though Ranil Wickremesinghe with his vast experience on such matters should know best.

The point is that the Rajapaksa administration does not move on any vital national concern if there is no critical mass of opinion that has been formed on any such issue. It is because there is just such a critical mass of opinion on the issue of the 13th Amendment that the government first broached a wide-ranging national discourse on the subject.

Remember, it is discourse that was the first step, and the airing of views in the public media space on the 13th Amendment has begun very much before any tangible moves have been taken to strike out 13-A from the constitutional document. Which government that has a working two-thirds majority in Parliament will do this, if it is not an accommodative, consensus seeking administration that seeks conciliation and co-existence with the political opposition?

Nobody will say that the minorities have no problems or no outstanding issues that have to be addressed at the Centre, but so far the parties that seek to represent them in the North for instance have been apathetic in the face of the accommodative spirit of the Rajapaksa government. This is why the organized ethnic-Tamil political opposition here in this country should seriously re-think taking its cues from the Tamil diaspora - so-called -- which for the most part for obvious reasons does not have a national agenda.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, trite through that may sound, and it can be seen that the government is not dictated to by the vocal coalition partners that for instance would have wanted the 13th Amendment torn off the constitutional document yesterday.

But, the President has said that the Amendment will be replaced by something that will be thoroughly discussed and dissected, and therefore in effect what's expected is something that is tantamount to an amendment to the 13th Amendment.

That is far reaching accommodation especially in the face of the raucous almost tub-thumping noises among the more vocal sections of the coalition partnership, but it is a pity that the Sumanthirans and the Sambandans of this country are not cognizant of this fact.

It's correct to say that this sort of consensus and accommodation animates most aspect of governance of the current administration. Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe for example, has gone out of his way to say that the Sri Lankan government did its best to meet the expectations of countries which expressed some concern about Sri Lanka's human rights record. Since the Geneva UNHRC meeting in March, these countries have got to know Sri Lanka better, though there are new areas that Minister Samarasinghe says Sri Lanka has expressed willingness to work on, in a spirit of cooperation.

Despite a recalcitrant image that some of the diehard antagonists want to portray, the government has been quite overtly consensus seeking, and in plain terms, friendly and sincere in its interactions with all-comers both in the country and abroad. It behoves the opposition parties to think seriously about this.
 

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