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Pot Shot

Air power - govt's trump card

Sirisena takes on JVP and Basil

Basil Rajapakse and
Maithripala Sirisena

 SLFP General Secretary Minister Maithripala Sirisena has been the target of a political coup unleashed by forces within the government for quite some time.

The 'coup' is being masterminded by President Mahinda Rajapakse's brother Basil Rajapakse with the blessings of the former.

Sirisena was targeted by the government for the 'abnormal' increase in the price of rice. The price of rice which skyrocketed due to government bungling was blamed on Sirisena and his brother who owns a rice mill.

Basil handed over the contract of attacking Sirisena to his pal, the JVP's Wimal Weerawansa. The JVP accepted the task with open arms and began to attack Sirisena on the price issue.

Close watch

Sirisena for his part closely studied the pattern in which the JVP was attacking him and found out from where exactly  the attacks were originating. He found out the strategy behind the attacks and also the people who were masterminding the campaign. Sirisena, who has wide experience in the cloak and dagger politics of the SLFP decided not to react immediately. Instead, he started to plan out his counter attack.

Finally, when JVP Polonnaruwa District Parliamentarian S.K. Subasinghe began to attack Sirisena in the House, the Minister shocked the JVP member by revealing details of an alleged financial deal involving Subasinghe.

Sirisena's comeback shocked everyone, including Basil and his confidants at the Presidential Secretariat.

Sirisena revealed details of Subasinghe allegedly collecting money from his brother engaged in business and also collecting rice and dhal from businessmen in Polonnaruwa.

The JVP's alleged business dealings have now come out into the open. Especially following the revelations made with the unofficial house arrest of JVP Colombo District Parliamentarian Sunil Handunnetti where details of the party's links with casino kings like Ravi Wijeratne as well as acceptance of bribes from leading businessmen came to light.

Ready for battle

Sirisena did not give up after hitting back at Subasinghe. He then began to go after the people who were instrumental in bringing out the mud slinging campaign against him and was determined to expose the lot.

Basil, who realised that the campaign was about to boomerang on him big time, thereafter scrambled to get in to Sirisena's good books.

Basil called Sirisena and said that since there were many projects that needed to be initiated in Polonnaruwa under the Nation Building Ministry he would prefer to personally visit the area to initiate them. Sirisena agreed and invited Basil to Polonnaruwa. Sirisena's response made Basil believe that all was well and his public relations exercise had worked out.

Sirisena called all the organisers in Polonnaruwa as well as officials from the Agriculture Ministry and asked them to organise a grand event to welcome Basil in Polonnaruwa. Accordingly, a grand event was organised in Polonnaruwa.

Basil was warmly welcomed and was accompanied to the hall where the event was to be held. Sirisena played along and did not show any of the displeasure he was harboring towards Basil over the mudslinging campaign.

Sirisena however by then had decided to attack the mastermind behind the mud slinging campaign against him and waited for the right moment to go on the offensive.

On the offensive

During the first few minutes of his speech Sirisena spoke of the various development activities in the area and all seemed fine. Suddenly, he veered away from the niceties and approached the allegations leveled against him and his brother in an aggressive manner. Basil could not believe what he was hearing.

Sirisena made a speech similar to that made on an election platform - attacking the JVP as well as everyone who had been connected to the mud slinging campaign. Sirisena's speech went down well with the audience and there was much cheering right along. He in detail revealed the alleged acceptance of bribes by JVP members as well as money collected by them from businessmen.

Sirisena kept looking at Basil while making the speech and the significance of this was not lost on the large crowd. "If anyone decides to attack us politically it would be well for them to remember that we too would retaliate," Sirisena told the audience and looked at Basil.

Not stopping at that, Sirisena proceeded to take a swipe at Basil.

Broad hint

"When we carried the bodies of dead farmers and when we, the SLFP fought on the roads, where were these fellows? They were urinating in their pants. Now they are coming to teach us things," he said.

Sirisena referred to the era when the SLFP was in the opposition for over 17 years. He reminded the people of the hardships endured by the SLFP members at the time. The intention was of course to highlight the fact that Basil had joined the UNP in 1982 and got a job through then Mahaweli Minister Gamini Dissanayake and later left for the United States as a green card holder.

When Sirisena went back to his seat after the speech, Basil, who was visibly uncomfortable, shook hands and said "good speech."

"Good job Mr. Minister, that is how you must respond to these fellows," he said.

Sirisena responded with a smile. "I just started. There is still a lot to be done with regard to this issue. These fellows must be thinking we are fools and that we are afraid of them. I will show these fellows that we are not running scared," he told a worried Rajapakse.

UNP's battle over transfer of Bribery Chief

The UNP Parliamentary Group met last Thursday morning at the parliamentary complex.

At the outset, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke on the issue of the removal of the director general of the Bribery Commission.

"This is a very sad situation. The head of the Bribery Commission was removed at a time he was investigating in to alleged deals involving certain ministers and high ranking officials in the government. This is wrong. It is an effort to halt the investigations conducted into the allegations leveled against government ministers," he said.

It was pointed out that President's Secretary Lalith Weeratunga had summoned the director general on Monday and demanded his resignation stating the President wanted it.

No charges

It was further said that when the director general had inquired whether there were any charges against him, the President's Secretary responded stating there was no question about his integrity.

Wickremesinghe told the group meeting that the following day the Director General received transfer orders in violation of the law since the director general was not in a transferable service. He said the transfer order was particularly suspicious as the director general was investigating the MiG deal and the COPE findings which were very embarrassing to the government.

All  members agreed that the party should show its opposition to this high handed act.

Sripathi's accident

Next, Wickremesinghe explained details about the letter sent by the SLFP (M) Group Coordinator, the late Sripathi Sooriya-arachchi's wife, Dilrukshi to IGP Victor Perera.

He said that it was the UNP's duty to look into the letter sent by Dilrukshi to the IGP questioning the investigation conducted into the accident as well as its transparency.

A copy of the letter sent to the IGP was also sent to Wickremesinghe and he explained the details to the parliamentary group.

He said that the party needed to study the investigation conducted into the accident that killed Sooriyaarachchi.

Special committee

A committee was thereafter appointed to look into the investigation as well as into the magistrate's inquiry. Parliamentarians John Amaratunge and Lakshman Kiriella were called by the Opposition Leader to look into the matter.

Meanwhile, Mangala Samaraweera, Malik Samarawickrama, Rukman Senanayake, Tissa Attanayake and Lakshman Seneviratne met at Ravi Karunanayake's residence last Tuesday evening.

The meeting was to discuss details about the party's national policy and vision statement.

It was decided that proposals be called from the general public as well. The national policy is to be released during the second week of March.

Doctors and leaders dominate govt. group meeting

The Government Parliamentary Group met last Monday at Temple Trees with President Mahinda Rajapakse chairing the meeting.

The President was well prepared for the meeting, but chose to address the gathering in a light, casual manner.

During the meeting, one member raised a question regarding Minister Mervyn Silva. "Sir, there are reports that Mervyn is resigning. What is the situation with regard to that?" the member asked.

"Yes, that's right. Where's our Dr. Mervyn Silva? It seems to me that he has not attended today's meeting," the President said.

Various reports

Chief Government Whip, Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle responded, "Yes, sir, there are various reports in the media. That he is going to resign and join the Constitutional Council. But sir, there are questions. Maybe he has the qualifications to join the Constitutional Council, but can he take up such a position as a member of the SLFP."

The President responded keenly. "I do not  know about that. But Mervyn has not yet given me his letter of resignation. However, one day he spoke to me and said that instead of appointing people of 70 and 80 years of age, it would be good to appoint a young and energetic doctor like him. He said he was prepared to go to the Constitutional Council. He said it in a serious manner. I do not think he said it as a joke," Rajapakse said.

The next to speak was Minister Mahinda Ratnathileka who explained to everyone how Silva received his doctorate.

"I was also there on the day our Mervyn received his doctorate. It was Minister G.L. Peiris who had to present it to him. But GL came to me and said that he could not give it and asked me to give it. He said it was a great favour. Finally, it was I who presented Mervyn with the doctorate," he said amidst laughter. "Other people read books and become doctors, this man read no book and became one," added the President to more laughter.

Speech in Greek

Thereafter, Minister Bandula Gunewardena started to give a speech on economics with the help of various graphs and documents. He analysed on the country's economic situation and the problems the country would have to face. However, no one seemed to understood what he was saying given the plethora of numbers he was rattling off.

Finally, his former leader from the MEP, Minister Dinesh Gunewardena had had enough. "That does not matter. They are nothing but numbers. You better say this in a language that is understood by us or else it wouldn't matter. People do not care about numbers as it does not fill their stomachs. You have to look at a practical solution."

Bandula who was shocked by Dinesh's statement immediately said, "Yes, Nayakathuma, that is what I also say."

No sooner Bandula Gunawardena referred to Dinesh Gunawardena as 'Nayakathuma' the members roared and the President was smiling too.

Responded the President, "Bandula, that is why they say old habits die hard. See, you finally called your former leader, the leader."

JVP gives Wimal red notice over  wife's conduct

The JVP is now in the throes of an internal conflict never witnessed since its inception in 1964.

In 1971 and 1988-89, the JVP was instrumental in launching two bloody insurgencies that were termed as revolutions.

However, today, the party is undergoing a revolution of a different kind. The JVP that was effectively marketed as the clean party has now become a party marred by sex, lies and deceit.

Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa is well known for allegedly sexually harassing a young girl; some members are known to accept financial support from dubious businessmen; and some wives of JVP leaders lead luxurious lives, driving around in vehicles worth over Rs. 4 million while the party's ordinary membership leads a hand to mouth existence. There are allegations that some in the JVP are also involved in securing arms deals for certain businessmen while also helping others secure multi million rupee tenders.

Media spotlight

These activities of the JVP leadership have now come out in the open and have been highlighted by the media. Every effort by the JVP to cover up its sins has been futile due to the constant publicity given to the party's double act.

Last week, the party leadership was disturbed by the situation due to the negative impact it had caused at the grass root level. Reports received by the party stated that the grass root level membership was thoroughly disgruntled with the manner in which the likes of Weerawansa and Sunil Handunnetti have been acting. Therefore, it was proposed that the party should launch an anti government campaign with immediate effect to deflect attention.

The reports had also revealed that the recent campaign launched by the party against the rising cost of living had been an utter failure.

A special politburo meeting was summoned last week to decide on the measures to be adopted to counter the adverse propaganda as well as the growing dissension against the party leadership.

After a lengthy discussion, it was decided to summon the party membership for a series of public meetings to be held at district level. It was also decided that the anti Indian stance should be implemented once again. During the 1988-1989 insurgency it was this very same stance that killed over 60,000 youth in the south.

Indian bogey

The belief of the party leadership was that it would be easier to garner support for an anti-Indian protest rather than one against the Western world.

Accordingly, it was decided to first hold a series of meetings at district level and then at electoral level and then to call for a boycott of Indian products.

The protests are to kick off with the party's opposition to the 13th Amendment and then to bring out the party's alternative proposals on the devolution of power. A special committee comprising of intellectuals attached to the party was also formed. It is learnt that the proposals would include the local government authorities as well.

The next matter taken up for discussion was the possibility of President Mahinda Rajapakse dissolving parliament and calling a general election.

Election scenario

 Reports received by the party revealed that the security forces will take at least one and half years to capture the Wanni area. Confirmation of the report came with the President too voicing such a view in an interview to an Indian newspaper. Hence, the government it is learnt has changed its initial stance of going for an election at the completion of the military campaign and was considering an election before that.

The JVP leadership believed that there was a possibility of an election once the government managed to clear at least part of the Wanni.

Therefore, it was decided to look at the possible issues that could be taken up for an election campaign and also ways to minimise the negative media publicity.

At the end of the meeting, it was decided to severely warn Weerawansa and his wife over their behaviour. The party leadership had asked Weerawansa to ensure that his wife stopped behaving in a manner detrimental to the party and had warned that if such behaviour were to continue, the party would have to take a tough decision against Weerawansa. The JVP leadership had also decided to summon Weerawansa's wife to the party headquarters to warn her as well.

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