defies CBK over deal with JVP
- Stirring the pot
- Damage control
the SLFP facing the prospect of a serious internal split due to
continued agitation by several party seniors for an alliance with the
JVP, the government was setting the stage for a major grassroots
offensive to capture the moderate ground within the opposition.
President Chandrika Kumaratunga calling off talks with the JVP to forge
an alliance due to serious policy differences, a formidable group within
the SLFP led by Gampaha District MP, Anura Bandaranaike struck a note of
defiance, insisting a pact with the Marxists was the only path towards
electoral victory against the UNP.
the Anura Bandaranaike faction within the SLFP, Kumaratunga was
increasingly becoming redundant due to the constitutional limitation
imposed upon her from contesting the presidential election for a third
term and a major offensive was launched publicly to force the
President's hand on the issue of an alliance with the JVP. To
Bandaranaike, failure to clinch a deal with the JVP would lead to
electoral disaster and decimation of the SLFP and he publicly started
espousing that view point much to the chagrin of the President.
was just the previous week, Kumaratunga launched a scathing attack on
the reds at the PA parliamentary group meeting detailing the list of
demands made by the Marxists, warning
members of disciplinary action if there was any more talk of an
JVP in addition to seeking four ministerial portfolios and the deputy
defence portfolio was also demanding the co-chairmanship of the alliance
whilst rejecting the SLFP formula for devolving power to the north east.
For the Marxists, the path to prosperity was a socialist economy
buttressed with a military solution to the north east crisis and if the
SLFP wanted an alliance, it was going to be on the JVP's terms,
conditions Bandaranaike saw no problem in complying with.
JVP knew only too well, the SLFP was desperate to recapture power and
the only way to achieve that objective was through an alliance with the
Marxists. Accordingly, they used that leverage to exert maximum pressure
on the SLFP, knowing it was a no-lose situation for the party.
if the JVP succeeded in securing a deal with the SLFP on its terms, a
future government of the alliance would not only be a captive of the
Marxists but it will undoubtedly help them infiltrate the grassroot base
of the blues in addition to the state machinery and marginalise the
party in the mid to short term thereby emerging as the principal
opponent of the UNP.
the other hand, even if the alliance talks failed, the JVP would have
successfully divided the SLFP as is already evident and directly
benefitted when it comes to election time.
through the process of negotiating an alliance with the SLFP, the JVP
has cleverly projected itself as a party with a consistent position as
opposed to the SLFP, which was not only divided on policy but also seen
to be opportunistic, largely due to comments by the likes of
President, though fast running out of time in office however, was
politically savvy enough to realise the JVP game plan and given the
impracticality of their demands was left with no option but to call off
the talks, resulting in the two parties publicly exchanging barbs.
served in government as head of state for over seven years, Kumaratunga
unlike her brother was fully conscious of the international as well as
domestic ramifications of having to run an economy driven by socialist
ideology and wage war at the same time with the LTTE whilst also completely alienating the minorities and for
those obvious reasons she distanced herself from the JVP.
to the likes of Anura Bandaranaike, the be all and end all of politics
was capturing power at any cost and saw an alliance with the JVP as the
only way of achieving that goal and started openly defying the
given Bandaranaike's track record of causing internal splits in parties,
the President though furious with her brother moved quickly to take
damage control measures last week by stopping him in his tracks, at
least for now.
JVP for its part too knew only too well, Bandaranaike was the best
instrument to further its political agenda and egged him on with word
and deed and rising to the bait, Bandaranaike started publicly
challenging the President's views on an alliance with the JVP, warning
SLFPers the party will be doomed if a deal was not stuck.
told public meetings in Attanagalle and Kandy that the President has
only two more years in office and the party would thereafter have to
find a suitable candidate for the presidential election, thereby
indicating to the party cadres Kumaratunga was on the way out.
went on to say, if an alliance is not formed before the Wayamba
provincial polls in January, the UNP will be victorious, leading to all
elections that follow producing the same result, which he said would be
the death knell of the party and the President.
said that, Bandaranaike added the formula for success was to forge an
alliance, sack the Prime Minister, go for a general election, win it and
then nominate a candidate for the presidential election - which he hopes
will be him.
Gampaha District MP also took up the position that there was no other
alternative since the presidential system is here to stay due to the
lack of a two third majority to abolish it, thereby taking Kumaratunga
out of the political equation.
however was not the agenda Kumaratunga had in mind, but the first line
of defence to prevent an imminent split in the party over this issue
given Bandaranaike's public defiance of the President was to neutralise
him and this she sought to do by calling for a meeting of the SLFP's
policy making body, the central committee.
Kumaratunga the road to defeating the UNP and forming a stable
government while still holding the peace was not to cave into the JVP
but lure a sizeable group from the UNP and the minorities, both of which
the President knew will be lost if an alliance was forged with the JVP
on the terms demanded.
rather than allowing Bandaranaike to split the party by confronting him
for defying her authority, the President opted to forge ahead with her
agenda whilst pandering to Bandaranaike by agreeing for a resumption of
talks with the JVP.
when the central committee met on Monday, October 6, whilst agreeing to
resume talks with the JVP, to avert a split in the party, Kumaratunga
very cleverly checkmated the Marxists on the issue of a settlement to
the ethnic issue by calling for representations from each member.
Bandaranaike was not present at the meeting.
the President did at the meeting was ask each member to individually
spell out their respective positions on devolving power to the northeast
based on her 2000 draft constitution and the unanimous view was that
power should be devolved in terms of Kumaratunga's draft.
with the JVP
that move Kumaratunga ensured any talks with the JVP will have to be on
the basis of the Marxists accepting her position on devolution, a
position the likes of Wimal Weerawansa already rejected.
as far as Kumaratunga was concerned, any alliance with the JVP will have
to be on the basis of agreement on Kumaratunga's 2000 draft
constitution, a move which has now effectively checkmated Bandaranaike
from providing the JVP a blank cheque to strike a deal.
Kumaratunga dealt Bandaranaike another devastating blow by informing the
central committee it will only be General Secretary, SLFP, Maithripala
Sirisena and Assistant Secretary, Susil Premajayanth who will in future
be authorised to speak on talks with the JVP, thereby effectively
shutting up Bandaranaike.
is also significant that both Sirisena and Premajayanth who was formerly
a chief minister of the Western Province are firmly committed to the
devolution of power to the north east.
it is not in Bandaranaike's nature to be sidelined and in the weeks to
come he will increasingly become strident, charting his own agenda in a
bid to get the party's presidential candidate nomination. But Opposition
Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, also a strong contender for the nomination,
has already made his intentions clear of seeking it for himself in the
event of an election, thus setting the stage for an all out battle and
Rajapakse, given his antagonistic stance towards the JVP, has endeared
himself to the President since of late, making life that much more
difficult for Bandaranaike.
fact, after Bandaranaike's statements on the party's need to select a
candidate for the presidential election came to be reported in the
media, Rajapakse made his own counter attack, stating the party stood
for the abolition of the executive presidency and making Kumaratunga the
executive prime minister and as such the question of nominating a
candidate at this point did not arise.
that as it may, Bandaranaike continued to toe the JVP line even on
foreign policy, threatening to move a vote of no confidence against
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe for his address to the United
Nations General Assembly, but once again hitting a red light with the
threatened to move the no confidence motion through the media,
Bandaranaike made his proposal at the PA parliamentary group meeting
presided by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse on Thursday, October 7.
found ready support for his proposal from Badulla District MP, Nimal
Siripala de Silva and Batticaloa District MP, M.L.A.M. Hizbullah after
which the three Muslim MPs from the east, Hizbullah, Ferial Ashraff and
Segu Issadeen were entrusted the task of drafting the motion.
Matara District MP, Mangala Samaraweera and other members loyal to
Kumaratunga had other ideas and informed the President of Bandaranaike's
proposal and vetoed it.
President and her allies of course are working on a different strategy
to oust the Premier to which Bandaranaike is not privy and decided it
would be foolish at this point to move a no confidence motion since a
decisive victory for Wickremesinghe given the Tamil National Alliance
support would derail Kumaratunga's plans for his ouster.
rather than move a vote of no confidence, it was decided to ask for an
issue in fact came to be discussed at the party leader's meeting in
parliament on Wednesday, October 8, where the government needled the
opposition for backtracking on the threat. Among those present at the
meeting presided by Speaker Joseph Michael Perera were Ministers Karu
Jayasuriya, W.J.M. Lokubandara, Tyronne Fernando, Mahinda Samarasinghe,
Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapakse, Mangala Samaraweera, Anura
Bandaranaike and Wimal Weerawansa.
was Weerawansa who broached the issue, proposing a one day adjournment
debate on the Premier's UN address, to which the government readily
Government Whip, Mahinda Samarasinghe rising to the challenge said the
government was willing to give the first available date for the debate
but that they were disappointed a vote of no confidence was not
presented as threatened.
wanted to give an immediate date for the no confidence motion but no one
has given notice of one. Instead you have presented a motion for an
adjournment debate. We will give you Thursday, October 23, which is the
week parliament next meets. We could have given you Tuesday or Wednesday
but the Prime Minister is in India on those two days," he said.
Samaraweera "I hope the Prime Minister will be there to
reply." Shot back Samarasinghe - "Of course he is going to
reply. That is not an issue."
course, the government is alive to the President's strategy of
attempting to woo a group of UNPers with the Foreign Minister no less
informing Party Chairman, Malik Samarawic-krema he had been also
Samarawickrema allayed Fernando's fears stating 12 PA MPs were in
dialogue with the government and would crossover at a moment's notice if
a single MP from the UNP joined the PA ranks.
are holding them to strike at the most opportune time,"
Samarawickrema told Fernando.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe too is preparing to meet the
challenges ahead and last week directed his ministers as well as members
of parliament not to leave the country for the next two months, other
than on very special circumstances especially with the budget debate to
continue from November 12 to December 18.
to issuing this directive at the cabinet and the parliamentary group
meetings on Wednesday, the Prime Minister met with his political affairs
committee on Monday, October 6, where the political strategy for the
weeks ahead was discussed. Among those present were Ministers Karu
Jayasuriya, S.B. Dissanayake, Bandula Gunawardena, Tilak Marapone,
Mahinda Samarasinghe, Rajitha Senaratne, K.N. Choksy, M.H. Mohomed,
Tissa Attanayake, J. Podinilame, P. Jayaratne, Ananda Kularatne and UNP
Chairman Malik Samarawickrema.
the very outset, the Prime Minister told the members, though the
government has done a considerable amount of work during the last two
years, the message has not filtered to the grassroots, a situation he
said that has to be urgently addressed.
problem is that while ministers attend functions and speak about their
ministries, nothing is said about the development activities of the
government as a whole. The ministers must speak in one voice. We must
capture the moderate voter who is panicking because of the SLFP and JVP
to us," he said.
the message to the people
the Premier's opening remarks, the members present made their
observations after which the Premier said he was looking at a scheme
where the ministers get personally involved in taking the message to the
he appointed a five member committee to coordinate and map out a
strategy comprising Mahinda Samarasinghe who as Chief Whip was to
coordinate strategy with MPs Imthiaz Bakeer Markar to coordinate the
media and S.B. Dissanayake to coordinate the speakers in English,
Sinhala and Tamil. The other two members appointed were Malik
Samarawickrema and Irwin Weerackody.
message of taking the message to the people was also articulated by
Wickremesinghe when he addressed the UNP parliamentary group on
Wednesday stating he has nominated the backbenchers to review
development activity of the government.
MP will be given an office, planning secretary and a clerk from the
government service. They will have to review Rs. 17 billion worth of
development activity in the respective districts and report to the
development ministers and district coordinating committees. This
programme will be coordinated by Mahinda Samara-singhe with the MPs. The
development ministers will handle the supervision and advise the
members," the Premier said.
while the opposition is facing a battle for survival given the internal
divisions over an alliance with the JVP, the government was planning to
move in for the kill with a package of economic goodies also to be
offered in the forthcoming budget.