Ranil Wickremesinghe, Leader of the opposition United National Party (UNP) has officially pronounced the death of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), he had entered into with Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa on taking a bipartisan approach to all major national problems.
Squarely blaming Rajapaksa for the demise of the "truly historic" MoU, Wickremesinghe told parliament on Tuesday: "The UNP finds it impossible to work with the government in finding a solution to the issues referred to in the MoU when the government has broken this MoU."
But given the importance the UNP gave to the Tamil question, the most pressing issue facing the country, Wickremesinghe promised to cooperate with the government in finding a political solution to it.
"We have not wavered in our commitment to the peaceful resolution of the North-East conflict. Since the government proclaims that it can carry on the negotiations itself, we will allow the government to do so.
"The UNP will give its support in parliament to any final negotiated settlement which is within the framework of the paper submitted by the party representative KN Choksy to the All Party Representative Conference," he said.
Wickremesinghe pointed out that Rajapaksa had sworn-in 18 UNP MPs as ministers in his government without his consent and in flagrant violation of the MoU which had clearly stated that the modalities of collaboration between the government and the UNP would be jointly worked out, and that there would be a high level consultative committee.
Rajapaksa interprets the intake of UNP MPs as a form of inter-party collaboration, fully in tune with the MoU. But Wickremesinghe complains that he, the Leader of the UNP, had been kept out of it!
"The President did not resort to such (consultative) mechanism but went ahead and swore-in the ministers thereby breaking the MoU," Wickremesinghe said.
"This destroyed all possibilities of having an inclusive approach to the critical national issues, and has affected not only the UNP but all parties in parliament."
"This single act has divided our society sharply. It has also divided the parliament. Instead of an inclusive democratic society which we could have enjoyed equally, we are now moving towards a divided society," Wickremesinghe said.
"The cabinet of ministers has become an international joke; democracy is weakened; the decision making in the government has been limited to a few; the role of parliament has been devalued," he noted.
Predicting the emergence of a grim situation in Sri Lanka, Wickremesinghe said: "We will witness in the coming weeks an increase in the violation of human rights; deterioration of governance; spread of corruption; undermining of democracy and the rising cost of living."
Declaring an all-out political war against Rajapaksa, he said: " We in the UNP will continue, without any restriction, our campaign to protect human rights; uphold good governance; eliminate corruption, safeguard democracy and bring relief to the people."