One of the words that politicians` lexicon does not have is `enough`. Their insatiable desire for self-aggrandisement knows no bounds. And they are ready to go to any extent to realise their dreams. After all, that is why they are called politicians!
Victory has proved to be problematic for the UPFA with some of its ambitious constituent members demanding more and more National List seats. National Freedom Front Leader Wimal Weerawansa has done an Oliver Twist. He wants one more National List seat for his party. He and UPFA General Secretary Susil Premjayantha have locked horns and are washing dirty linen in public. The stench is unbearable. The JHU is also said to be resentful over the allocation of National List seats but it has not voiced its protest in public unlike the NFF.
Weerawana argues that his chum M. Mussamil, who exposed an attempt by the Opposition to bribe him in the run-up to the last presidential election and risked his life in the process, deserves a National List appointment. He says the UPFA has reneged on its promise to him. It cannot be gainsaid that Mussamil unsettled the Opposition in a big way for the benefit of President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the presidential fray and therefore deserves a better deal. However, the government says it cannot afford to grant two National List slots each to its coalition partners as Weerawansa demands, because in such an eventuality the SLFP, the biggest constituent party of the UPFA, will be left with only three National List seats. This argument is also tenable in that the UPFA would not have won the April 8 parliamentary polls but for the SLFP.
The NFF fielded 15 candidates and only two were returned only three of the nine Ceylon Workers` Congress candidates were elected the JHU had five contestants in the fray but only two of them succeeded the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna fielded five candidates but three of them failed to win of the 13 leftists who contested on the UPFA ticket only three got elected and the Upcountry People`s Front was wiped out in the contest. So, it is fair that the SLFP has got the lion`s share of the National List seats.
The situation, however, was different in 2004, when the JVP, which contested a general election on the UPFA ticket, fielded 39 candidates, out of whom 36 were returned. The outfit was entitled to five National List seats but taking into consideration the then President Chandrika Kumaratunga`s predicament, it `donated` two seats to the SLFP! This time around, the JVP-led DNA has won only seven seats and former JVP front liner Weerawansa is fighting for an additional National List slot! The JVP, which once claimed to be capable of `swallowing` the SLFP, now finds itself in the exalted company of the Old Left!
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has also drawn heavy flak for not accommodating some of the UNF National List nominees like Rukman Senanayake, who is the UNP Assistant Leader. Besides the Oliver Twists demanding more seats, some defeated candidates also want to enter Parliament through the back door.
The President and the UNP Leader have come under immense pressure to abuse the National List to accommodate political rejects in Parliament. They have for once refused to budge. Their task of making National List appointments was akin to getting a camel through the eye of a needle. It is not that they have not erred in that endeavour. Their wisdom is in question.
The political fallout of tussles over the National List appointments is yet to be seen. They may either fizzle out with the passage of time or lead to splits. Most protesters are too dependent on the SLFP and the UNP for survival to leave their coalitions in a huff. As for the vociferous dissenters within the government ranks, voting with their feet is a frightening proposition like kicking up a row in the last bus and getting off half way through in the middle of a dreadful rainy night near a haunted cemetery on a deserted road!
However, one thing is clear. Both the President and the Opposition Leader are in trouble because they did not put the National List to the intended use. Instead of using it to bring in men and women of eminence as MPs, they stuffed it with ambitious politicians, most of whom could have been made to contest elections. They have no one to blame but themselves.