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Pot Shot

EPC poll: importance of the Muslim factor


Basil moves to stop UNP-SLMC alliance for eastern polls


 Milinda Moragoda and Basil Rajapakse

President Mahinda Rajapakse held the local government polls in the Batticaloa District with the intention of winning it and carrying out a massive propaganda campaign based on it.

However, the government could not celebrate the victory as initially anticipated.

The government had an easy victory at the elections as neither the UNP nor the TNA contested. It now seems that since the local government poll results did not create the anticipated euphoria among the people, Rajapakse decided to call for the eastern provincial polls.

It is reliably learnt that another reason for Rajapakse's decision was an intelligence report received by him that neither the UNP nor the TNA would contest any election that would be held in the east.

Provincial poll

Also, during the discussion that took place between the President and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, Rajapakse said that he was planning on having  provincial council elections in the east. Wickremesinghe at the meeting said that until the armed groups operating in the east were disarmed, the UNP would not contest any election in the area.

The President made the statement on the Eastern Provincial Council elections in order to receive confirmation on the reports received by him and Wickremesinghe being the cunning fox he is gave the 'confirmation' Rajapakse needed.

Pleased with Wickremesinghe's response, Rajapakse called brother, Basil Rajapakse for a discussion. He told Basil to make the necessary preparations for the Eastern Provincial Council elections and said that according to Wickremesinghe, the UNP was not going to contest the election.

Basil made sure that the news was given wide publicity in the media.

A few days later, the President announced that the eastern provincial polls would be held shortly.

However, the UNP had earlier decided to contest the provincial council polls in the east. Wickremesinghe, well known for his political cunning, decided to keep the decision a secret especially when it came to the President. Wickremesinghe knew very well that Rajapakse would publicise that the UNP was not going to contest the eastern election and then go ahead with the election anyway. Rajapakse fell for Wickremesinghe's plan.

Ranil's plan

Once the elections were announced, Wickremesinghe put his plan into action by making Rajapakse feel that the party was faced with a dilemma and was undecided whether to contest the election or not.

The government started to leisurely draw its plans for the eastern election as it was under the impression that the UNP and the TNA were not going to contest the election.

However, Basil received information that the UNP and the SLMC were planning on contesting the elections together.

Disturbed by the news, Basil took it straight to Rajapakse.

Basil and the President then began plotting to create a rift between the UNP and the SLMC and prevent the UNP from going ahead with its decision to contest the election.

Many started to say that if the UNP and the SLMC formed an alliance to contest the election, it would be detrimental to the government.

The first step Basil took was to try to create a rift within the SLMC and decided to use SLMC Batticaloa leader, Hizbullah for the purpose.

Basil's plan

Basil directed several SLMC defectors in the government to carry out his plan. It was then decided to buy over SLMC leaders in the east while discussions were underway. When all these plans failed, Basil went back to Hizbullah. Basil said that if the SLMC contested the election with the government, the chief ministerial candidate would be named from the SLMC.

After sending the message to the SLMC leadership, Basil also used another channel to send a message to SLMC Leader Rauf Hakeem calling him for a discussion. It was Minister Milinda Moragoda who was the 'chosen one' to carry Basil's message to Hakeem.

However, Moragoda did so through Basheer Segu Dawood. The message that was sent to Hakeem was for him to meet Basil and Moragoda for a discussion to resolve 'the present crisis.'

While Basil got Moragoda to send an invitation to Hakeem for a discussion, he sent a threat through another channel. The threat was that if Hakeem failed to accept the invitation for the discussion, the SLMC would be broken in to pieces.

Hakeem disregarding the threat informed Moragoda that he would accept the invitation to discuss the polls with the government, as the party had not yet arrived at a final decision.

During the discussion between Hakeem, Basil and Moragoda, Basil tried to tell Hakeem that if he failed to join the government to contest the election, the SLMC would be destroyed, as there were many members who were planning on joining the government.

Plan B

Hakeem ignored Basil's threats and said that he would stand by his party decision, clearly stating that the party would not contest the election with the government.

Basil then started to work on plan B - to destroy the SLMC.

Basil summoned the SLMC defectors who are currently holding ministerial portfolios and said that everything possible has to be done to prevent the SLMC and the UNP from forming an alliance and that if the alliance is a success, it would then pose a problem to the government.

He also said that since Hakeem had already indicated that the party would not contest with the government, a plan has already been formulated to prevent the UNP and the SLMC from contesting the election together.

Basil said that in order to prevent the SLMC from joining the UNP, pressure should be exerted on the SLMC from the east. He also said that with the help of eastern Muslim leaders, factions that have broken away from the SLMC should be brought together to form an alliance to contest the eastern polls in order to exert pressure on the SLMC.

Basil then ordered that the plan should be carried out immediately.

Last week, the SLMC held a discussion in the parliamentary complex with several Muslim religious leaders and Muslim ministers representing the government.

Muslim alliance

However, a few minutes in to the discussion, the Muslim ministers representing the government started to speak of the ulterior motive behind calling for such a discussion.

The Muslim ministers said that the SLMC should form an alliance with the small Muslim parties in the east and contest under a common symbol in order to sustain the Muslim identity in the east.

Hakeem responded with a smile and said that such an alliance would indeed be beneficial and said that such a group should contest under the SLMC symbol. However, the government ministers said that they were not agreeable to it as they did not want to contest under the SLMC symbol.

The government ministers then asked if the SLMC planned to contest together with the UNP.

Hakeem said that the party had at the time decided to contest the election separately, but added that the party could discuss and decide later on if it was going to join another political party to contest the eastern elections.

At the end of the discussion, the Muslim ministers representing the government informed Basil, who was in the United States that the discussion with the SLMC had failed. Basil then said that the government had to now look at an alternative to destroy the SLMC.

He said that a Muslim minister should resign from his portfolio and announce that he would be the chief ministerial candidate of the government. Minister A.L.M. Athaulla's name was proposed for the position.

Boycott threat

The message was also sent to the Pillayan Group through the JHU. The Pillayan Group responded by saying that if the government proposed the name of a Muslim chief ministerial candidate, the group would not only boycott the election, but also create an anti government feeling among the Tamils in the east.

Pillayan also said that the government should continue with its present stance of keeping the post of the chief ministerial candidate open.

By the time Pillayan sent his message to the government, two Muslim ministers had already expressed their desire to step down from their respective portfolios. They were Athaulla and Myown Mustapha.

Basil said that the person for the post should be Athaulla. He ordered the latter to immediately meet with Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to arrive at a final decision on the matter.

The discussion between Silva and Athaulla was a tense affair. Athaulla said that he was ready to resign from his portfolio and contest for the chief ministerial slot under one condition. The condition was that as soon as nominations were handed in, his name should be announced as the government's chief ministerial candidate.

Naming the chief minister

De Silva said that the government had taken a policy decision following a presidential directive not to name the chief ministerial candidate. He also said that if Athaulla's name was proposed as the chief ministerial candidate, the government would lose the support of the Pillayan Group.

Athaulla was firm in his stance and said that Pillayan should not be given the post of chief minister in the east and that a Muslim should be named as the chief ministerial candidate.

When Athaulla asked if the government was agreeable to it, de Silva said that it would be so after the election, but till its conclusion, the government had to keep Pillayan satisfied.

However, before the conclusion of the discussion, Athaulla said that unless he was named as the official chief ministerial candidate, he would not come forward to contest the election.

It is in this manner that the government managed to create a division within its own rank and file in the attempt to disrupt the activities of the opposition.

Hakeem and Wickremesinghe met at Cambridge Terrace last Wednesday to discuss a possible alliance between the UNP and the SLMC. This was indeed bad news for the government and it also made Basil cut short his visit to Los Angeles as well.

As soon as the President heard of details of the discussion, immediate summons were sent to Basil to cut short his holiday and return to the island. Basil was asked to immediately return to the island to resolve the conflict in the government.

 

PM and the Israeli connection

Before becoming President of the country, Mahinda Rajapakse did not pay much attention to diplomatic ties. His ties with the Palestine government  however was an exception.

Rajapakse was instrumental in forming the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Society and played an active role in it as well. However, all this seems to have changed after assuming office as the President.

Instead of focusing on Palestine, Rajapakse last week decided to send Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on an official visit to Israel.

Rajapakse believed that Wickremanayake would be well received in Israel.

Wickremanayake during his meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister attacked the Palestinians and charged that it was they who initially trained the Black Tigers of the LTTE.

The main purpose of Wickremanayake's visit to Israel was to discuss the procurement of arms to Sri Lanka.

However, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister did not receive the anticipated welcome in Israel and any plans of procuring arms too had to be cast aside.

Wickremanayake had however expressed the reason for his visit to the Israelis. He had told the Israeli government that any arms purchased from Israel should be done through a company named by the Sri Lankan government. However, the Israeli government had objected to the request claiming that the country had its own company it had been dealing with for a long time.

The objection came from none other than the Israeli Prime Minister himself.

The Sri Lankan contingent then visited Palestine before returning to the island via Jordan.Before becoming President of the country, Mahinda Rajapakse did not pay much attention to diplomatic ties. His ties with the Palestine government  however was an exception.

Rajapakse was instrumental in forming the Sri Lanka-Palestine Friendship Society and played an active role in it as well. However, all this seems to have changed after assuming office as the President.

Instead of focusing on Palestine, Rajapakse last week decided to send Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake on an official visit to Israel.

Rajapakse believed that Wickremanayake would be well received in Israel.

Wickremanayake during his meeting with the Israeli Foreign Minister attacked the Palestinians and charged that it was they who initially trained the Black Tigers of the LTTE.

The main purpose of Wickremanayake's visit to Israel was to discuss the procurement of arms to Sri Lanka.

However, the Sri Lankan Prime Minister did not receive the anticipated welcome in Israel and any plans of procuring arms too had to be cast aside.

Wickremanayake had however expressed the reason for his visit to the Israelis. He had told the Israeli government that any arms purchased from Israel should be done through a company named by the Sri Lankan government. However, the Israeli government had objected to the request claiming that the country had its own company it had been dealing with for a long time.

The objection came from none other than the Israeli Prime Minister himself.

The Sri Lankan contingent then visited Palestine before returning to the island via Jordan.

 

JVP's internal battle over Pillayan

The split within the JVP ranks keeps appearing in the open from time to time. Although great efforts are being made by the Marxists to keep the whole thing under wraps, their efforts have proved futile.

The party is currently faced with a severe ideological clash. The double standards adopted by the JVP leadership was brought out in to the open by The Sunday Leader and its sister paper Irudina. The questionable conduct of many of the JVP's leaders is now public knowledge.

However, it is the conduct of the party's Propaganda Secretary Wimal Weerawansa that is being questioned by the party membership. Weerawansa is seen as one who has betrayed the party for his own gain. Also, the fact that he has become pliable to senior members of the Rajapakse administration has also become another issue for the party.

Be that as it may, Weerawansa has once again emerged as the person who has managed to bring out the party's ideological confrontations out in the open.

Contradictory stand

Although publicly stating it is against the provincial council system, the JVP has announced its decision to contest the Eastern Provincial Council poll. This announcement led to a flood of statements from many party seniors.

Party Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe and seniors Anura Kumara Dissanayake and K.D. Lalkantha stated that armed groups operating in the east should be disarmed. They said that it would otherwise be impossible to have a free and fair election in the area. The Marxists also said that Pillayan and his armed cadres would use force to win the election.

While the JVP members issued such statements, Weerawansa, addressing a media conference of the Patriotic National Movement last Wednesday said that Pillayan should not be disarmed. He said that if Pillayan was disarmed, he would be killed by LTTE Leader Velupillai Pirapaharan.

Direct attack

Not stopping at that, Weerawansa made a  statement directly attacking his colleagues Dissanayake and Lalkantha. He said that if anyone said that Pillayan should be disarmed, that person should get his head examined.

However, something Weerawansa did not imagine happened just 24 hours after he made the statement at the media conference.

Lalkantha making a statement to the Lankadeepa newspaper said that there was no question about Pillayan being disarmed, as it had to be done. He also said that a free and fair election could not be held without Pillayan being disarmed.

Lalkantha said that if Pillayan had a threat from Pirapaharan, the government should disarm him and provide him with security.

Lalkantha said this in response to Weerawansa's statement.

Hence, the internal conflict in the JVP has once again come out in to the open.

 

UNP on the go

The Jana Bala Sena programme launched by the UNP has become one of the more successful campaigns launched by a political party at the grassroots level in recent times.

The campaign, which was launched under the auspices of the party leader has now successfully reached the villages.

The UNP, which realised the need to move forward from the traditional organisational activities, planned the campaign to reach the grassroots for some time. According to the Jana Bala Sena programme, a representative is to be appointed to represent 10 houses each in every village. It is to be organised based on the electoral lists.

 

Howzat

Having learnt that his secretary has mastered the Viennese waltz, Bogols is also practising to trip the light fantastic as he like his secretary hopes to be in Prague this Spring. That is after he has finished his present round of visits to London Town, the Valley of the Kings, and Bushland.

If waltzing country comes later in the list then thereturn of the overdue mission head might be delayed further and spring cleaning after three years for all diplomats as the Asian rag claimed becomes a real joke.

The talk in the ministry that is foreign is that a Great Dane lurking in the Vienna woodswill be thrilled, saying that every dog has its day.

Talking of the ministry that is foreign, where has its secretary disappeared to? Nobody really knows wherehehas gone though he has left word he would be back at work on April 3. Some say he might be sulking somewhere. Is it because of the still- to- be- confirmedrumour doing the roundsthat the palace dropped him from the delegationto Maoland.

The representative appointed on behalf of the 10 houses would be in charge of looking into the welfare of the family members in the 10 houses and to ensure they are properly registered in the electoral list.

Looking at the electoral list in the country, through the Jana Bala Sena programme, the party would be able to garner over 450,000 votes from the grassroots, it has been estimated.

The national steering committee is headed by Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe with Kegalle District MP Kabir Hashim and General Secretary Tissa Attanayake playing the pivotal roles.

The programme is also to be launched at provincial, district, electoral and divisional levels.


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