The provincial councils of the North
Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces were
dissolved by the government after closely
studying the results of several surveys.
Many in government believe that unlike
the eastern provincial poll, the outcome of
these two PC elections would play a very
decisive role in stabilising the government.
As President Mahinda Rajapakse has realised
the importance of the elections, he has
decided to play the main role in the
campaign for the two PCs.
Soon after his return from an overseas
tour, the President summoned a meeting at
Temple Trees with the government members in
the PCs to discuss the elections to be held
for the North Central and the Sabaragamuwa
The President at the meeting made an
important statement. He said that at a time
when the opposition was carrying out a
campaign stating that the people were
against the government, elections such as
the PC polls should be held to counter the
criticism and show the government’s
popularity among the people. Rajapakse then
asked the representatives to work hard to
ensure the government’s victory at the PC
polls as they were crucial for the
A file for each
The President then summoned each PC
member individually and handed them a file.
Each file contained a list of tasks to be
handled by the respective PC member and the
state institutions he would have to align
himself with to carry out the campaign.
Although the meeting with the PC members
ended without any debate on the campaign,
the next meeting summoned at the
Presidential Secretariat was an important
The meeting was for the heads of all PC
institutions. Rajapakse chaired the meeting
flanked by Basil Rajapakse and Maithripala
Sirisena on either side. Sirisena made a
brief welcome speech and Basil made a speech
Basil who is neither an office bearer of
the SLFP nor a minister in the government
attended the meeting as the President’s
"We did not summon you for a meeting only
to say that you need to work on the campaign
for two more elections. I know that many of
the chairmen here worked hard during the
Eastern Provincial Council elections. I also
know very well how a few ignored their work.
I will say one thing. This time around no
one will be able to ignore their duties.
There will be no room for it.
"I am aware how our ministers worked
during the last provincial council
elections. Some ministers went with their
families, stayed at hotels and enjoyed
themselves for weekends and returned to
Colombo. They used the period to go on
picnics. There were also some who went to
the east in the morning and drove around
till dawn and returned to Colombo. Another
lot just visited the east on days when we
went there to attend meetings. They would
just show their faces to mark their presence
and then return to Colombo.
"I will relate one incident that took
place. The local government heads complained
to the President that a minister who had
been put in charge of a certain institution
had not showed his presence at all. The
President was angry and I asked him to look
into it. The President called this minister
and asked how he was doing. The Minister
said that he was exhausted after working for
the elections. The President then mentioned
an electorate and asked if it was raining
there. The minister responded by saying that
there were occasional showers. The President
then asked if the occasional showers were
being experienced in the seat given to him
for the elections or on the seat he was
sitting on at the time. The Minister was
stunned. The President then told him that he
knew everything that was going on. That was
how we got the work done," Basil said.
He then said he had another secret to
"I will tell you another secret. During
the period the Eastern Provincial Council
elections were being held, a special police
team was deployed to each post at the
entrance and exit to the area. One of the
tasks allocated to them was to maintain a
chart of each and every minister who entered
and left the area. When the elections ended,
I received the chart. I showed it to the
President. When you look at the chart, you
can easily see the kind of work carried out
by the ministers. Therefore, this time
around, apart from the election campaign, we
are going to launch another secret operation
to determine the honesty of the ministers.
We will need your help for that.
"It is the ministers and parliamentarians
who enjoy all the perks unlike you, but when
there is an election, they try to ignore
their work. We have decided to identify such
ministers to keep them in their due place in
future. If we get your help, then the work
will be easier," Basil said.
Hearing Basil’s words that were insulting
to many of the SLFP ministers, the heads of
the provincial institutions were left
looking at each other trying to decide what
has become of the SLFP.
Everyone began to whisper as to what
Basil was trying to do given the silence
maintained by the President and the SLFP
General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena.
During Basil’s speech, Sirisena had either
been resting his head on his hand or looking
at the ceiling of the Presidential
The President, who spoke after Basil, had
then tried to minimise the damage caused by
The President had thanked everyone who
worked hard during the eastern polls and
said that everyone should enjoy the victory
together. He also said that the war was
entering a decisive moment and the
government would continue the war till the
Rajapakse also reminded those gathered
that it was not a SLFP government that was
in power, but that it was a coalition of
many parties. Therefore, he asked everyone
to work in a manner that would not hurt any
of the parties in the government.
After his speech, the President walked
among the chairmen and spoke to them in a
more cordial manner.
Basil however had left for his office but
the meeting gave a clear indication who was
calling the shots in the government.
NFF’s party pooper does it again
The National Freedom Front (NFF) formed
by JVP defectors Wimal Weerawansa and
Nandana Gunathileka opened its party
headquarters on Thursday, June 19 morning.
The opening was held amidst the usual
interventions that take place where the NFF
This time around, like during previous
occasions, the intervention was caused by
Gunathileka’s legal wife. It was
Gunathileka’s legal wife who created a
disruption at the launch ceremony of the NFF
Spouses of the NFF members were not
invited for the ceremony held to mark the
launch of the NFF. However, Gunathileka’s
legal wife, who is now separated from him,
wanted to attend the function. She entered
the venue, but was prevented from entering
the hall. Unable to convince the security
personnel to permit her in, she called
Weerawansa’s wife, Sashi, who immediately
arrived at the scene.
Sashi, kicked open the door and entered
the hall, much to the dismay of Gunathileka
and Weerawansa, who at the time was making a
However, the latest incident was when the
party opened its headquarters last Thursday.
Gunathileka’s wife wanted to attend that
event as well.
Sashi agreed to take her to the venue
without any hesitation. However Sashi had
told Gunathileka’s wife that she would not
be in a position to accompany her inside as
she had an important appointment. As
promised, Sashi had taken Gunathileka’s wife
to the building located in Jayanthipura,
Battaramulla. Sashi had left the place after
The problems began soon after. The
security personnel at the venue had
prevented Gunathileka’s wife from entering
Gunathileka’s wife had then started to
shout at the security personnel. Her son,
who was also with her had begun to cry in
the middle of the chaos.
However, the security personnel had
managed to make sure that the scene was not
caught on tape by any of the media personnel
present at the time.
Gunathileka’s legal wife is currently
staying at a house given to her by a JVP
parliamentarian at the Madiwela housing
complex. The house was initially given for
Gunathileka and his family. However,
Gunathileka later separated from her, but
the wife continues to stay in the house.
Later Gunathileka was given a residence
in Madiwela as well. The wife then said that
she did not like staying at another person’s
house and asked for the house allocated to
Gunathileka immediately handed over the
house to parliament, leaving his wife with
no option but to continue to live in the
house given by the JVP parliamentarian.
While Gunathileka is busy with the
government, it is the JVP that has been left
to fend for his wife and family.
Berty gets set for internal battle
over CM stakes
The North Central and Sabaragamuwa
Provincial Councils were dissolved one year
before their term ended.
Soon after the decision was made to
dissolve the two councils following results
of a survey, the President summoned the two
chief ministers from the provinces and
informed them of the decision.
Although North Central Province Chief
Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake agreed
with the President’s decision, he was not
too pleased to hold an election in the
province one year earlier.
Dissanayake who called some friends to
his residence soon after the decision to
dissolve the councils was announced had made
some interesting comments.
"This is a fine state of affairs. The
people in the country have nothing to eat.
They play out money under the guise of the
war. After that, when they want to check the
people’s pulse, they take us for a bite. If
they wanted to check the pulse then the
President and his brother could have
dissolved the Southern Provincial Council
and held an election there. That is the way
to do it. Instead they have dissolved the
North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial
Councils and are trying to destroy us and
the government as well," he had reportedly
Even as Dissanayake was making this
statement, a plan was being hatched against
him at the Presidential Secretariat. The
plan is to name a secret candidate for the
chief ministerial slot in the North Central
Province due to the decline in Dissanayake’s
popularity and the alleged corruption
charges leveled against him in the
Basil Rajapakse has now taken the matter
into his own hands and has shown the results
of the survey to many. Basil also spent the
last few days trying to find a new candidate
to be included in the government list of the
Basil had first proposed the name of
former army chief of staff and present Sri
Lankan Ambassador to Malaysia, Nanda
Mallawarachchi to be included in the
Anuradhapura district list. A rumour to the
effect was also circulated by the
However, the proposal had to be dropped
because Mallawarachchi had informed he had
no intention of contesting any polls.
Now the name of North Central Province
Governor, Karunaratane Divulgane has been
proposed in the list in place of Dissanayake.
Close to CBK
The plan is to appoint Dissanayake to the
posts vacated by Divulgane when he resigns
from the posts to contest the election.
Divulgane would become the government’s
chief ministerial candidate.
There is another reason for Basil to
attack Dissanayake. That is the close
friendship between Dissanayake and former
President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
When Kumaratunga visited Anuradhapura on
several occasions, it was at Dissanayake’s
residence that she had her meals. In London
too the duo had some discussions.
Therefore, on several occasions, Basil
asked Dissanayake to release statements to
the media attacking Kumaratunga. Although
Dissanayake did not refuse the requests, he
did not make any such statements.
If by chance Basil’s plan to name
Divulgane as the chief ministerial candidate
does not work out as planned, then the other
option would be to contest the election
keeping the chief ministerial slot open.
In such an instance, Basil would hope
that another government candidate would
receive more preferential votes than
Dissanayake is well aware of the plan
being hatched against him at the
Dissanayake too is now engaged in taking
several steps that would counter Basil’s
strategy. Therefore, if Dissanayake is not
named as the government’s chief ministerial
candidate, it is likely that he would take
several decisions that would rattle the
Karu’s plan with Mahinda backfires
Many were the headlines in the state
media and several private media on a brewing
internal conflict in the UNP. Such stories
have not been new to the UNP.
Although internal debates are not new to
the UNP as well, a certain section has
expressed great interest in the so called
conflict within the UNP. It is none other
than the 17 UNP defectors headed by Karu
Jayasuriya and his group decided to
defect from the UNP, join the government and
accept ministerial portfolios to teach a
lesson to the UNP leadership and enjoy the
perks of office, fearing they will have to
spend six more years in opposition.
However, in what was apparently a raw
deal President Mahinda Rajapakse handed
several lameduck ministries to the UNP
defectors. During initial discussions the
defectors had with the government, the
request was to make Jayasuriya the prime
Criticised in private
Although Rajapakse agreed at first, the
decision was later changed and the 17
defectors were given ministerial portfolios
that they later began to criticise in
private. They also began to be critical of
the treatment meted out to them by the
President and the government. They then
began to say that they would have been
better off if they were with the UNP. The
defectors then began waiting for an
opportune time to rejoin the party.
It is in this backdrop that the UNP’s so
called conflict emerged. Believing the time
was right the defectors then began working
on ways to return to the UNP. Gamini Lokuge,
Dharmadasa Banda and several other defectors
held secret discussions with the UNP through
Parliamentarians Ranjith Madduma Bandara and
Ravi Samaraweera. The discussions were held
to look in to the possibility of the
defectors returning to the party and
continuing with their work from where they
Madduma Bandara and Samaraweera went for
the discussion with Party Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe’s consent. They held several
rounds of secret discussions.
News then came out that another group of
17 defectors were having discussions with
UNP Parliamentarians Lakshman Seneviratne
and Johnston Fernando. When questioned,
Fernando denied having such discussions.
However, the defectors decided to meet at
Jayasuriya’s residence to discuss how best
they could split the UNP. The plan was to
return to the party as a decisive factor
when the conflict reached a crisis point.
The defectors decided to work according
to the plan.
The President before long heard of the
secret discussions and he inquired from
several ministers from the defectors group
about it and asked them to report to him on
The defectors tasked Rajitha Senaratne,
Mano Wijeratne and Hemakumara Nanayakkara to
find more details about the crisis in the
UNP. However, Jayasuriya who understood that
the President was aware of his secret
dealings with the UNP, met Rajapakse and
informed him of the defectors’ plan. He told
the President that the plan was to allow the
crisis in the UNP to worsen and then for 12
defectors along with him to return to the
party and capture the leadership.
Judas’ master plan
Jayasuriya also pledged that once he
secured power in the UNP, he along with the
UNP will support the President.
Rajapakse responded by saying that Rukman
Senanayake has been widely accepted as the
alternate leader in the UNP and that
Jayasuriya’s return to the party with a few
others would not change anything. However,
the President tactically avoided expressing
either his pleasure or displeasure about
Jayasuriya and co.’s decision to return to
Soon after Jayasuriya’s meeting, the
President summoned the state media heads to
Temple Trees and asked them to carry news
items that boosted Senanayake’s image.
High drama in the UNP Working Committee
Many have been the reports of a
controversy within the UNP. However, the UNP
parliamentarians whose names have been
associated with the ‘controversy’ say that
the intention is not to split the party and
join the government.
These members say that their intention is
to find solutions to the shortcomings in the
party in order to establish a UNP government
in the near future. They decided not to make
any public statements and brought out their
issues at the party’s last working committee
At the beginning of the meeting it was
Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena who spoke of the
unfair treatment meted out to him. He said
that when his security personnel were
withdrawn, he had to take the battle to the
Supreme Court without any support from the
party. He also said that he had no intention
of speaking about the matter at the party’s
working committee meeting.
Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando said
that it was better to speak out rather than
keep silent seeing the shortcomings of the
"I am now compelled to do something that
I never wished to do. The campaign to go on
bullock carts and toot horns was decided
without lending an ear to what the majority
had to say. People cannot be used and then
discarded after the work is done. I am a
Catholic and have no personal agenda. But
there are now issues that have made it
difficult to work with the party.
"The fact that we are getting weak is
unfair for the UNPers who voted for us at
the elections. I am speaking openly in a
democratic party. This is the best place to
discuss issues. But when we speak, if some
one says that Lakshman Seneviratne and I
have taken commissions that is wrong. I have
not taken a rupee from the party," Fernando
It was Milroy who interrupted Fernando at
this point. The atmosphere changed as soon
as Milroy asked how long Fernando was going
to take to end his speech.
Jayawickrema Perera, Dilip Wedaarachchi,
Earl Gunasekera, Gayantha Karunathileka,
Palitha Range Bandara and several others
jumped at Milroy and said that he should
allow Fernando to continue with what he had
Fernando then began to speak once again.
"The power of the party has been taken over
by a super clan. They tell the leader that
we are winning elections, but they are
wrong. They do not tell the real situation
to the leader. People are not allowed to
express their thoughts. Milroy is the best
example of that. Saw how he interrupted me
earlier? They are the ones who are ruining
the party. A committee was appointed to
identify those who did not attend the
eastern elections. But I say that a
committee should be appointed to look for
those who went overseas during the election
"The Opposition Leader should act
accordingly, but some one should be
appointed to look into the functions of the
party. Sajith and SB should also be given a
place. But do not try to appoint committees,
as they are of no use. The government will
go for a general election soon after the
provincial council elections. There are some
in our party who are in power who want to
get control of the party once we lose at the
general election. We have no agenda like
that. All we want is to make the party a
winning one," Fernando said.
Seneviratne spoke next. "I speak these
words honestly. You should keep your hands
to your chest and ask yourself if we could
go on like this. Can we make the UNP win if
we go on like this? There has to be a great
change in the party. If not we will lose at
the next elections. It is UNP blood that
runs through our veins and we do not work
according to other people’s contracts. The
working committee can decide what we need to
Stood by leader
"Since 1993, for 14 years, we have stood
by the leader, and we too need some
attachment shown. The party is left only
with 40 parliamentarians. But why can’t we
all go in one direction? Everyone is
separated. The party leader can make a
decision. I will never leave the party. I
will attack Mahinda Rajapakse’s government
today, tomorrow and thereafter," Seneviratne
Parliamentarian Naushad also said there
were lots of shortcomings in the party, but
said they have to be addressed and the
journey has to be continued with the party
Gunasekera and P. Harrison said that the
party could not proceed further with
shortcomings. Renuka Herath said the issues
needed to be resolved within the party.
Chairman, Homagama Pradeshiya Sabha,
Manju Sri Arangala also spoke at the
He said it was not the time to revolt
against the party leadership. He added that
if that be the case, then it would be
playing to the needs of the 17 UNP defectors
and said at a time the party was preparing
to face two provincial council elections,
other people’s agendas should be kept aside.
Vajira Abeywardena also said that the
party needed to address its shortcomings.
Cader said that the party leadership should
not be changed and added that Ranil
Wickremesinghe was a pillar of strength to
Wickremesinghe after listening to
everything commenced his speech citing a
jathaka story. He said that if there
were any truth in the allegations leveled
against him, he would accept them.
Equally at fault
"If there is something wrong, I accept
it. But I am not ready to say that those who
have found fault with me are 100% correct.
Those who are finding fault with me also
have responsibilities in the party. They
have been given roles to take the party
where it needs to be taken. Therefore,
accept the shortcomings on your part as
"There are various ideas in the party.
Let’s discuss them. That is why there is a
committee for it. Forward your proposals to
it and let’s do what we can. I am carrying
out a massive campaign against the Mahinda
Rajapakse administration and I am not ready
stop that fight. I will take that fight to
the streets irrespective of who is with me.
I have organised a sathyagraha to
commence from Colombo Central. I believe
that everyone would participate in the
"Irrespective of who decides to avoid it,
I will go ahead with it. I will continue
with this fight in temples, kovils and
churches. The government doesn’t feel
anything just because we stand in the hot
sun holding boards. We have to take to the
streets with the people. No matter what
forces stand against me, I will continue
with the fight against the Rajapakse
administration," Wickremesinghe said to wide
Media talks turkey with politicos
The main political parties held a
discussion last week following an invitation
extended by five media organisations
affiliated to the National Media Centre.
The discussion was held at the Sri Lanka
Press Institute. The main aim of the
discussion was to look in to the media
suppression that is taking place.
The Working Journalists Association, Sri
Lanka Muslim Media Forum, Sri Lanka Tamil
Journalists Association, Free Media Movement
and the Federation of Media Employers Trade
Union participated at the discussion.
The political parties were represented by
Rauf Hakeem, Ravi Karunanayake, Dayasiri
Jayasekera, Wickramabahu Karunaratne, Mano
Ganesan and Ven. Akmeemana Dayarathana Thero.
Ministers Dulles Alahapperuma and Rajitha
Senaratne represented the government.
List of issues
The media personnel explained to the
politicians issues faced by the media in the
country during the last two years and cited
some instances as given below:
• The government has been unable to
complete any investigation held into the
murders of journalists and threats and
intimidation of journalists.
• The alleged forcible entry into the
Rupavahini Corporation premises by Minister
Mervyn Silva on December 27 and the
intimidation of media personnel attached to
the institution afterwards. Although the
actions stopped following an order by the
President, he continues to attack media
personnel attached to the Sirasa. No action
has yet been instituted against the
• The official website of the Defence
Ministry has named several media
institutions, personnel, editors and
organisations as traitors and called on the
security forces to take care of them. The
same website in the name of the Defence
Ministry has indicated the need for
• Hudson Samarasinghe, who conducts a
vindictive radio programme trying to
instigate people and shut certain media
personnel and organisations, has been
appointed as the head of the Sri Lanka
• The threat made by Defence Secretary
Gotabaya Rajapakse to the President and
Secretary, Sri Lanka Working Journalists
Association, Sanatha Balasuriya and Poddala
Jayantha on May 26, 2008 that their lives
would be at stake if they continue with
their fight for media freedom.
• The fearful suppression of the media in
the Jaffna peninsula, where over 200 media
personnel functioned at one point, has
prevented media personnel from engaging in
their profession in the area. The editor and
news editor of the Uthayan newspaper
in Jaffna have been forced to live in the
office premises due to the threats faced by
• Journalist J.S. Tissainayagam has been
held by the CID for over 100 days without
being charged. Journalist Parameshwari, who
was released by the courts is being still
addressed as a terrorist by heads in the
• Peaceful protests organised in line
with the right to free expression being
subject to attacks in Chilaw and Colombo.
The media personnel at the discussion
highlighted that media freedom was
associated with the democratic rights of the
country. The need for a broad people’s force
to call for the implementation of the right
to information bill, establishment of the
17th Amendment, ensuring free and fair
elections, abolishing the executive
presidency, and protecting professional
rights of the people were also highlighted.
UNP Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake
said that there was a plan now to change the
management of media institutions to make
them loyal to the government.
The media organisations said that when
the Free Media Movement met with the
President and called for the implementation
of the right to information bill, the
President had responded by saying it could
not be done at a time the country was
fighting a war.
Hakeem said that the President’s response
was unacceptable and that most countries
engaged in wars follow free policies. He
reiterated the importance of implementing
the right to information bill.
Karunaratne said that discussions could
not be held with representatives of a
government that was engaged in media
Alahapperuma, who denied the allegation
that the government was suppressing the
media, said a ministerial sub committee has
been appointed to address the grievances of
the media personnel and that from Friday
(20), the committee would meet and decide
the solutions to most of the problems.
Senaratne said that he in no way endorsed
the suppression of the media and that he and
several other members in the government have
already raised a voice against the issue.
He also said that leaving aside reports
by international media organisations, he
should be handed the reports prepared by
local media organisations.
It was Sunanda Deshapriya who clashed
"Don’t get angry with the international
community. We work with international media
institutions. We are affiliated to the IFJ.
They stand for our protection and they have
no other agenda. Those reports cannot be
cast aside like that," Deshapriya said.
Alahapperuma then said, "I deny the
allegation that the government is
suppressing the media. But I accept that
there is a problem. That is why a
ministerial sub committee was appointed."
Ven. Dayarathana Thero said that the
media needs to be more thoughtful when
highlighting sensitive issues.
However, the two government members left
the discussion early saying they had to
attend the cabinet meeting.