Nandana and Wimal
filling of the post of deputy speaker in
parliament following Geetanjana
Gunawardena's resignation became quite a
task for the government with many names
being proposed for the slot.
names were proposed for the slot with many
of them being names of SLFPers.
Interestingly, in the midst of all these
names, the name of JVP defector and head of
the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal
Weerawansa also figured suddenly in the list
in keeping with Weerawansa's style there is
an interesting story behind how his name was
proposed to the slot.
their defection from the JVP, Weerawansa and
his colleagues have on many occasions
discussed the need to join the government -
accepting ministerial portfolios without
coming into direct confrontation with the
JVP. Although the request was conveyed to
the President by Weerawansa through Basil
and Gotabaya Rajapakse, the response
received was to ask the defectors to
continue to work for the government without
to make a move
therefore had to cast aside his desire to
become a minister in the government.
However, with Gunawardena's resignation as
deputy speaker of parliament, Weerawansa
felt the time had arrived for him to make a
move to establish his position in
parliament. He summoned his parliamentary
group immediately for a meeting.
the meeting it was discussed whether the NFF
should be given the
chance of filling the vacancy.
Everyone believed that if the government
agreed to allow the NFF to appoint its
nominee as the deputy speaker, it would help
build the image of the defectors and the
newly formed party. The group unanimously
decided that Weerawansa's name should be
proposed to the post.
Weerawansa declined to be nominated for the
post of deputy speaker and the party finally
settled on Nandana Gunathileka to be
nominated to the post.
President Mahinda Rajapakse had also held
discussions with SLFP Secretary, Minister
Maithripala Sirisena on who ought to be
selected to fill the vacant slot. It was
proposed that newly appointed member of
Parliament, Priyankara Jayaratne should be
appointed to the post.
Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out that the
person to be nominated to the post of deputy
speaker should be well conversant with the
parliamentary standing orders and should be
who is well-accepted by
then said that although Nirupama Rajapakse's
name was initially proposed to fill the
vacancy, she had declined to accept it. The
President casting aside Gunawardena's
objections spoke of nominating Jayaratne as
the deputy speaker.
few hours after the President decided that
Jayaratne should be nominated to fill the
vacant slot, he learnt of the NFF's desire
to appoint a member of its party to the
informed of his party decision to
Gunawardena, who then communicated it to the
President. Rajapakse however responded by
saying that it had to be a SLFPer who should
be appointed as the deputy speaker.
then called the President and informed him
of his party's decision and requested for
Rajapakse's support to appoint Gunathileka
to the slot. The President informed
Weerawansa that he had no objections to the
from then on commenced his operation to get
Gunathileka appointed as the deputy speaker.
his campaign to get Gunathileka appointed as
the deputy speaker, several people inquired
from Weerawansa as to why he did not want to
be appointed to the slot.
response was that he did not want to be
appointed to the slot as the President had
plans of appointing him as the deputy
defence minister and the highways minister.
Weerawansa made this statement to several of his close confidants, creating the impression that he was
soon to hold high office in the government.
is in this backdrop that Weerawnasa later
found out that the President had already
given his consent to appoint Jayaratne as
the deputy speaker. It was further confirmed
by Gunawardena when Weerawansa inquired from
him. However, Gunawardena had also told
Weerawnasa that in his personal opinion, he
preferred Gunathileka to Jayaratne to be
appointed to the post.
also said that if the government wanted to
strengthen his party politically, the slot
should be given to Gunathileka.
next step was to check the support Jayaratne
had from the President. During his
investigation, Weerawansa found out that
Jayaratne was not a specially favoured
member of the President. Based on the
information received by him, Weerawansa
continued with his operation to get
Gunathileka to be appointed as the deputy
members of the NFF inquired from Weerawansa
as to the progress made with regard to
getting Gunathileka appointed as the deputy
speaker, he said, "There's no problem,
the President does things just as I have
asked him to. Nandana's job is done."
also sent a message to the President through
Gotabaya that Gunathileka should be
appointed to the vacant parliamentary slot.
the President informed Sirisena and
Gunawardena to silently continue with the
necessary work to appoint Jayaratne as the
day before the parliament met, the
government group met at 3 p.m. at Temple
Trees. It was that morning Weerawansa found
out that Jayaratne's name was not taken out
as the nominee for the slot.
immediately called Jayaratne and informed
him that his party had already decided on
nominating the person to be appointed as the
deputy speaker and that the President had
already consented to it. He asked Jayaratne
to withdraw his name from the appointment.
also told Jayaratne that the 12 JVP
defectors were saving the government in
parliament and therefore, due consideration
should be given to the fact before any
decision was to be made.
to step down
then informed Weerawansa that he had no
intention of being appointed as the deputy
speaker, but was forced to accept it as it
was a request made by the President.
Weerawansa continued to ask Jayaratne to
step down and make way for Gunathileka to be
appointed to the slot.
also sent out a message that Jayaratne was
trying to get the slot by selling the
President's name. Hearing of the story being
circulated by Weerawansa, the President
immediately called Jayaratne and asked him
what he had told Weerawansa. Jayaratne said
that he had informed Weerawansa that he
would step down if the President asked him
to do so.
President angered by this statement had
said, "Why on earth did you
mention my name? That would create an impression that I am the one
who is backing you. I told you at the
beginning to carry out this work by
leaving my name aside."
then asked, "Mr. President, then what
do you suggest that I do now?"
don't have to make decisions based on what
someone says; You say that you will go
ahead. We will take a vote, but don't use my
name," the President said.
then said that the matter would be resolved
at the parliamentary group meeting.
meeting got underway at Temple Trees and the
President broached the topic of appointing a
deputy speaker. He said that two names have
been proposed to fill the slot. That of
Jayaratne and Gunathileka.
President then said that he had no desire to
parliamentary work and proposed that
the issue be resolved in a democratic manner
by the parliamentary group. He also said
that he was not going to canvas for either
Jayaratne or Gunathileka to be appointed to
the post. The President proposed a ballot to
decide on the nominee for the post.
whether there was any objection to it
was informed that the parliamentary group
was agreeable to it. By this time, an
unofficial message was sent to all the
SLFP members to cast their votes in
favour of Jayaratne. The message also said
that it was the wish of the President.
after the President's speech, it was
Minister Mahinda Wijesekera who spoke. He
said: "Mr. President, when we make
decisions like this we have to think far. We
are engaged in politics. In politics, you
have to make the right decision and win
instead of making
the wrong ones and lose. I entered
politics through the JVP, but I defected
from the party later on and formed another
party. But that did not make any difference
as there was no change in the JVP vote base.
If you look at the party's history, on four
occasions, leading figures in the party have
tried to defect and break the JVP's vote
base. None of those were effective. That is
the truth and reality.
say with great responsibility that no matter
how hard Wimal Weerawnasa and his group try,
they will not be able to break the JVP's
vote base. By trying to allow Wimal's group
to appoint a deputy speaker in parliament,
are we trying to lose any future opportunity
of having any transaction with them? That is
my opinion. If we think of the political
future, at a decisive moment, it would be
the JVP that we would need to support us.
Therefore, there is no need to give this
slot to Nandana and create an unnecessary
President agreed with Wijesekera by nodding
his head. He then called for the vote.
"Those who say that Priyankara
Jayaratne should be appointed to the post
raise their hands," the President said.
whole parliamentary group raised their hands
and voted for Jayaratne.
smiling at the group, the President jokingly
said, "Does that mean there is no one
who wants Nandana? That is not good, so at
least I will raise my hand to support
President then said that since the whole
parliamentary group had voted for Jayaratne,
he would be appointed to the post.
the voting ended, many members began to say
that there was sentiment being built that
the government was working against the
media. After listening to what a few
government members had to say, the President
said, "What is this joke? Who says that
there is media suppression? That is a
blatant lie. The problem is that our own
people are going around saying these things.
That is our problem.
example, take Mervyn Silva's issue, it was
our own ministers who said that action
should be taken against him when the
Rupavahini issue took place. That was when
the whole campaign started. Even I was told
that action should be taken against him. I
told those people that I had no problem and
asked them to show evidence to prove that
Mervyn was at fault. It was then that I
found out that Mervyn had not assaulted any
one, but was assaulted. All this talk of
media suppression is a blatant lie."
whole parliamentary group was shocked by the
President's words where he completely
white-washed Mervyn Silva. After listening
to the President the government members
decided that there was no point in pursuing
the issue and thus remained silent.
twist in the Srikotha story
UNP parliamentary group met last Tuesday at
the parliamentary complex.
the beginning of the meeting, Party Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe spoke of the unfair
treatment meted out to Parliamentarian Alick
Alick has had to undergo a great injustice.
He is not well and has requested for money
from the President's Fund, but the request
was turned down. This is a very sad
situation because the fund was established
by our former President J.R. Jayewardene to
provide funds for people who are seeking
treatment for various illnesses. The
President's Fund is not any one's private
property. We need to raise the issue in
parliament immediately," Wickremesinghe
to speak was MP Ravi Karunanayake who said
that the country's foreign debt that stood
at US$ 4,200 billion has increased to US$
5,800 billion. Then Palitha Ranga Bandara
raised another issue.
lorry still at large
the Jana Rala campaign of the Jathika Sabha,
the former IGP said that there was a
lorry laden with bombs that had entered
Colombo. This lorry has not yet been
apprehended," he said. Everyone laughed
at the statement.
group also discussed
the statement made by the new IGP to
those who try to attack you. Again
the group had a hearty laugh.
issue taken up for discussion was the story
carried in the state media that two
cameramen attached to ITN who were filming
the UNP headquarters, Sirikotha, were
shouted at in obscene language after they
had been summoned inside. The UNP after
condemning the story had also made a
complaint to the Police
on the manner in which the police handled
so-called employees of ITN had arrived in
front of Sirikotha last Tuesday evening when
a meeting with the civil security committees
was in progress. Party Secretary Tissa
Attanayake and Ranga Bandara had attended
the two ITN cameramen had said they were
filming the road outside the party
headquarters, at the time they were
questioned by the Sirikotha security
personnel, they had been standing beyond the
main entrance. The security personnel had
asked the so called media men as to what
they were doing there.
are from ITN and we have been asked to get
these visuals," they had said.
security officer had however informed what
was happening to Attanayake, who had asked them to be brought to his
office. Even when the two cameramen were
taken to the room where Attanayake was, they
had had their cameras on.
conversation therefore was caught on tape.
He asked the two cameramen as to why they
were acting in such a manner. "Is it
right to come in by force and video the
place? If you told us what you wanted, we
would have helped you," Attanayake had
one of the ITN cameramen started to speak of
his rights. "We have a right and we can
do it. These are orders from higher
offices," he said.
then called the police emergency service and
asked them to look in to the matter. He also
called the OIC of the Mirihana Police and
informed him of the issue. It was the police
who had taken the cameramen away.
story however was given a different twist
after they went back to the ITN head office.
The story that was released was that the
media men were threatened and almost
assaulted inside Sirikotha.
line with the conspiracy, the Sirikotha
security officer who was taken to the
Mirihana Police to record a statement was
put behind bars. As soon as Attanayake,
Karunanayake, Ranga Bandara and Sagala
Ratnayake heard of the incident, they went
to the police station to inquire into the
incident. They then learnt that the police
had arrested the security officer at
Sirikotha without even recording a statement
from the ITN cameramen.
is very unfair. I was the one who called the
police and informed them of the incident. If
we wanted to harass them, we could have at
least taken their videotapes. They haven't
erased the parts where we spoke,"
the ITN cameraman was also arrested by the
police, and it was around 2.30 a.m. when
Attanayake and the crowd left the police
station. However, the following morning the
ITN cameraman was granted bail.
Sirikotha security officer was produced
before court and was remanded for a period
of 14 days.
made a complaint on the matter to the Police
Commission last Thursday.
year, when senior foreign service official,
Sarala Fernando left her post as the
permanent representative of Sri Lanka in
Geneva, she also left vacant a key
diplomatic post of the country; the post of
ambassador of Sri Lanka to the Vatican.
departure came on the heels of the
President's official visit to the Vatican in
April 2007. The government, upon her
departure, nominated her successor Dayan
Jayatilleke as permanentrepresentative in
Geneva and also concurrently as the
Ambassador to the Holy See. Months later,
the Vatican, in a very diplomatic and
cordial manner, called on the GOSL to
'withdraw' the nomination as Jayatilleke was
'unacceptable' due to his 'declared civil
government soft-peddled it for many months
with no Sri Lankan ambassador being
officially accredited to the Vatican.
when the incidents involving the Madhu
Church arose, there was no official
government view that could be expressed to
the Vatican authorities directly in the
absence of a duly accredited envoy. All the
government could do was to lobby the
Apostolic Nuncio in Colombo.
then Sri Lanka's Ambassador in Rome,
Hemantha Warnakulasuriya,muscled his way
into the Vatican, violating according to
diplomatic sources, all accepted norms of
diplomatic practice and started issuing
press release after press release on how he
got the Vatican to do this and that
vis-a-vis the Madhu situation.
authorities,firstly through the influential
Catholic Sri Lankan clergy in Italy and then
directly, called on the government to get
its act together and diffuse the unpleasant
situation. It was then that theForeign
Ministry appointed Sri Lanka's Ambassador in
Berlin, T.B. Maduwegedera as the concurrent
Sri Lankan ambassador to the Holy See.
Maduwegederahad an audience with the Pope
just last month. Simultaneously, the Foreign
Ministry also instructed the Ambassador in
Rome to keep off Vatican affairs at the
behest of the influential Sri Lankan
Catholic community. It is reported that this
ambassador is a PNG (persona non grata)
within the Catholic community in Italy.
sulk over Beliatte and Namal's victory
fact that the country lay solely at the
hands of the Rajapakse brothers is no secret
now. Apart from President Mahinda Rajapakse,
it is his brother Basil who wields immense
power in governing the country.
although only a presidential advisor, plays
a leading role in the country's governance.
From the beginning he interfered with the
work of every ministry. Finally, he was
appointed to parliament from the national
entered parliament adorning the President's
trademark kurakkan satakaya, giving the
impression that he would be the SLFP's next
presidential candidate. However, it has now
been revealed there is more to Basil's
satakaya than just making a fashion
behind the satakaya
being nominated to parliament Basil was
asked by his brother, the President, to
adorn the kurakkan satakaya in keeping with
the Rajapakse tradition. Basil objected
saying that he
did not like the idea of wearing a
satakaya as it did not suit him. The
President then said that if Basil was to be
appointed as the organiser of the Beliatte
electorate previously held by him, it was
necessary that his outer
appearance be built in a manner that
would appeal to the people in the area.
due to his desire to be appointed as the
Beliatte organiser, Basil agreed to wear the
before long, the Beilatte electorate became
a family problem. First Lady Shiranthi
Rajapakse kept telling the President to
appoint eldest son Namal Rajapakse as the
Beliatte organiser and bring him into
politics. Namal had in fact already begun
working in the area and built a support base
among the youth, independent of the
President. Rajapakse then said that he had
already promised it to Basil and therefore
could not make the appointment immediately.
order to resolve the issue, at least
temporarily, the President called Namal and
asked him to take over the Tharunyata Hetak
told Namal to build his image first by doing
social work, before entering politics. Hence
the Beliatte problem was temporarily
the problem re-emerged after the Eastern
Provincial Council election.
who carried out the eastern election
campaign informed the President of his
desire to enter active politics. He said
that in order to be engaged in active
politics, he needed the Beliatte electorate.
Basil said that he also needed to be
appointed as a cabinet minister. The
President agreed to Basil's requests.
long, Shiranthi and Namal heard of the deal
between the two brothers, which formed the
beginning of the family dispute. The
President's family objected to the idea of
appointing Basil as the Beliatte organiser.
The dispute with Basil has been a long
running one due to his operational style
which is resented by Shiranthi and Namal who
are more circumspect when it comes to men
President's plan to appoint Basil to
Beliatte and then take it back from him
backfired. Namal said that if Beliatte was
given to Basil, he too would have to take
several decisions and said that it would be
done in an unofficial manner.
President then asked Basil to forget about
Beliatte and take over Gampaha to strengthen
the party's base there. Basil however was
firm in his request and asked for Beliatte.
Basil who realised that the President was
trying to avoid appointing him to the post
continued to push for the position.
an angry Basil left for Los Angeles with his
wife saying that he needed a holiday.
Hearing of his departure, friends and family
began to call to inquire as to why he left
so suddenly. Basil responded by saying that
he needed a holiday but what Basil did not
do is inform several cabinet ministers he
had given appointments to that he was taking
requests to appoint Namal to Beliatte began
to flow. Chamal Rajapakse also said that
Beliatte ought to be
given to Namal.
in order to temporarily resolve the issue,
the President came up with a plan. He said
that a person who could be later removed
should be appointed to the electorate.
was when Nirupama Rajapakse's name was
proposed to Beliatte.
who is currently the co-organiser of
Mulkirigala was accordingly appointed as the
organiser for Beliatte.
President last Monday informed SLFP
Secretary, Minister Maithripala Sirisena to
prepare the letter to appoint Nirupama as
the Beliatte organiser. The appointment was
Wednesday at 10 a.m. at Temple Trees.
following day, the President left for
Beliatte with Nirupama by helicopter.
President then made a sudden trip to India
last Thursday to take part in several
rituals at the Thirupathi Kovil and several
other kovils in India. He was accompanied by
Namal and eight other persons.
as a diversionary ploy, the Presidential
Secretariat planted a story in the media
that the President was winging his
way to Delhi for discussions on the SAARC
appointing Nirupama to Beliatte, the
President sent a message to Basil telling
him to return to Sri Lanka. The President
may have thought that he had managed to
temporarily resolve the issue.
Basil's response put paid to such thoughts.
Basil said, "Even if I come to Sri
Lanka and do politics, I will never wear the
kurakkan satakaya. I do not need the
satakaya now that I don't have Beliatte. The
satakaya was given to me by my brother who
is the President saying I will be given
Beliatte. Now that I don't have it, why
would I need the satakaya?"
party insiders say for all the bravado,
Basil will return to the country and assert
his authority because he has too much to
lose by keeping out of politics and the
President knows it only too well. Further,
they believe with the story of the satakaya
coming out, Basil will continue to wear it
to avoid embarrassment.
clash between a presidential coordinator and
Treasury Secretary, P.B. Jayasundera came
out in the open last week.
President's Coordinator for Parliamentary
Affairs, Kumarasiri Hettige was at one time
a journalist attached to the Lankadeepa.
During his days as a journalist, Hettige was
very enthusiastic about reporting on Mahinda
Rajapakse. Finally, after assuming office,
President Rajapakse appointed him as a
few months later, Hettige became well-known
not for his work as the presidential
coordinator, but as the person who took a
police officer to task for not saluting him
and not clearing the path when his vehicle
was approaching parliament.
is in this backdrop that Hettige, using his
high office called Jayasundera.
called Jayasundera, who is also the chairman
of SriLankan Airlines and told him that he
needed the economy class tickets of Red
Cross Head Jagath Abeysinghe and another
accompanying him to London upgraded to
business class. Hettige also told
Jayasundera that it should be done
the response Hettige received brought him
crashing down to earth. Jayasundera had
said; "Please understand who I am. I am
not here to upgrade tickets. Besides, we are
managing this airline with losses and
therefore if we go on to give special
upgrading on tickets like this, we will go
to accept Jayasundera's response, Hettige
had started to drop names of highly placed
officials in the government saying he could
do just about anything.
matter whom you know and whose names you
use, there's nothing I can do,"
about to give up Hettige called Jayasundera
the following day and said, "I am
Kumarasiri Hettige here, I spoke to you
yesterday as well. I spoke to this person
Boralessa, who works for Chamal and he also
said he could not do anything. Let me know
if you can do this or not."
stopping at that, Hettige continued;
"The Red Cross extends a great service
to the country and the government. Can't you
responded by saying that he was not
interested in knowing the great services
extended by the Red Cross to the country and
the government. He had then said that it was
the Red Cross' duty to extend its services
to the country and disconnected the line
saying he was busy.
disconnecting the line, Hettige told
Jayasundera, "We are the ones who
brought the President and the government to
power. Where were you then? It is those who
tried to prevent the President from
succeeding that are trying to show their
colours to us today."
who had had enough of Hettige, disconnected