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Summit blues and court rulings as Govt. blunders on


A cunning coyote in the UNP's midst


S.B. Dissanayake, Sajith Premadasa, John Amaratunge and K.N. Choksy

Ranil repays Choksy's loyalty by asking him to resign for SB

Sajith plays no part in dirty game to oust Choksy

SB runs with the hare and hunts with the hound

By Sonali Samarasinghe

The opposition UNP is suffering from a confused state of mind.

In the midst of a crucial provincial council election campaign it seems to be preoccupied with bestowing upon new comer S.B. Dissanayake a parliamentary seat merely to check whether his civic rights are in tact. And this for a man who was asked to run for the Sabaragamuwa chief minister's post not just to prove his metal but also to test the civic rights issue which of course he declined.

What Dissanayake wanted was an  easy way out and a chance to maintain the myth of his invincibility by not facing a stiff test in Sabaragamuwa. It is towards that end that he looked to an entry into parliament through the national list seat of President's Counsel and veteran UNPer, K.N. Choksy.

It was to this end too that when the Political Affairs Committee of the UNP met last Wednesday in parliament senior UNP MP John Amaratunge mooted the idea to the committee of asking K.N. Choksy to 'temporarily resign' so that S.B. Dissanayake could be appointed to parliament 'temporarily'.

Rationale

The rationale was that the appointment would enable S.B. to test if his civic rights were in tact and to ascertain whether the deprivation of his civic rights, following his jail term, served as a barrier to his return to parliament. If Dissanayake's nomination was rejected by the elections commissioner on legal grounds, then Choksy would be re-nominated. Or if accepted he would resign to make way for Choksy's re-nomination having established his position.

Interestingly, Sajith Premadasa was one member who did not comment on the issue possibly remembering not only Choksy's service to the party but also his father's especially when it came to the presidential election petition case in 1989. In the dirty world of politics, to Premadasa at least gratitude was not a lost ideal.

Following Amaratunge's proposal the committee decided to  request UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to approach  Choksy and  communicate their proposal which he agreed to do but even before Wickremesinghe could do so many a UNP member including Amaratunge jumped the gun and approached  the national list MP directly, making a bad situation worse.

Johnny come lately

Choksy however told the members he would not budge for a man like S.B. Dissanayake who only joined the party three years ago whereas he has been of service to the party for decades and holds the seat in his own right.

Earlier the UNP had attempted to get S.B. nominated through the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress but its Leader Rauf Hakeem had declined to accommodate him on their ticket.

Of course John Amaratunge's son in law, businessman Dinesh Weerakkody is one of S.B. Dissanayake's (SBD) closest allies though ironically it was Amaratunge himself who not many moons ago at a UNP working committee meeting raised the matter of Dissanayake's adverse remarks on the Eastern Provincial Council Batticaloa election, casting aspersions on the UNP campaign. At that time Dissanayake had left the country and was not available to answer the questions raised by Amaratunge who vowed to raise them when the member returned but that never materialised.     

SB's PR company

However it is now this very Amaratunge who seems to be promoting Dissanayake. So much so that in parliament last Thursday (24) a day after the political affairs meeting Amaratunge who is usually assigned a seat next to Choksy was to sit in his allotted place for less than a minute before he slunk off in embarrassment to sit somewhere behind.

Choksy had then turned around and asked Amaratunge to come and take his usual place beside him. Again Amaratunge had taken the opportunity to put forward the resignation issue to Choksy stating that S.B. Dissanayake would even give a letter of assurance that he would resign after the waters were tested.     

While Amaratunge was attempting to coax Choksy into giving way Ravi Karunanayake, another Dissanayake believer for whatever reason was to also make submissions to the senior party man and respected President's Counsel to resign his seat.

Out in the cold

The danger in such a course of action is that it is likely that once Dissanayake is appointed by the elections commissioner, his appointment will become the subject ofintense legal scrutiny. any person could  file a case in court challenging his right to sit in parliament due to civic disability. This would give SBD the opening to extend his nomination by merely telling Choksy he would resign after the court case concludes - a process that could take years. Meanwhile K.N. Choksy who has been fiercely loyal to the party would be left out in the cold.

Why this process is futile in any case is that undeniable legal obstacles prevent Dissanayake from making his move now. In fact two President's Counsel K.N. Choksy and former Attorney General Tilak Marapone have already made legal submissions on this matter to the UNP where a Court of Appeal judgment clearly specifies that Dissanayake's civic rights cannot be restored following a jail term of two years, before December 2011.

In fact Choksy has now made a request to the UNP leadership for permission to attend a political affairs committee meeting in order to again explain based on legal fact why Dissanayake must rest easy for three more years and in any event why he would not make way for Dissanayake.

Cunning coyote

That said it is undeniable that Sukiri Banda Dissanayake is a cunning coyote in the UNP's midst. The one time Chandrika acolyte's strategy is to keep the UNP in perpetual opposition until he gets back his civic rights and is ripe and ready to take over its leadership whether the UNP support base likes it or not and thus become the opposition candidate.

It is no secret that he was in the forefront of the campaign to undermine the leadership and rent the UNP fabric together with the 17 UNP defectors. Having instigated and incited dissent from within and present at meeting after meeting where plots were hatched and rehatched, it was S.B. Dissanayake who at the last minute pulled out of the plan and stayed back.

It was not for either the love of the UNP or the loyalty he bore for Wickremesinghe that he did so but in pursuance of the leadership by clearing the party of possible challengers in the form of Karu Jayasuriya and Milinda Moragoda.

Sukiri Banda it was no secret wanted only to clear the UNP membership of all future potential candidates and then continue with unholy vigour to undermine the leadership and the UNP from within. What more lethal an enemy than if the enemy poses as a friend?

Bending the budget

Again his sinister hand of sabotage was seen last year when an opportunity was presented for the UNP to defeat the budget. Defector Mahinda Ratnathilaka who crossed over to government following a similar cross over from government to opposition ranks has openly said that S.B. Dissanayake was busy as a bee personally visiting houses of parliamentarians urging them not to cross the floor to opposition ranks as President Rajapakse would be in power till 2017.

To Dissanayake, victory for the opposition at a time his civic rights were deprived would have seriously impacted on his political fortunes and he wanted to make sure the UNP remained in opposition till he was ready to take over. The only way to do so was to keep weakening the leadership by pointing to regular defeats and ensuring the party was not in a position to form a government.

Dissanayake who happens to be the party's national organiser also sold the Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) members the same argument during the budget, coaxing them  not to make silly moves detrimental to their survival by crossing over to the opposition.

If that were not enough Dissanayake was to visit the home of COPE Chairman Wijedasa Rajapakshe when he crossed the floor of the House and sat with the opposition during the budget debate. Dissanayake was to then tell him not to be foolish and join the UNP. He was to tell a shocked Rajapakshe not to vote against the budget and ruin his political future since the opposition would never be able to defeat the government.

The list goes on. During the highly successful Jana Bala Meheyuma last year organised by the UNP-SLFP(M) combine, the National Congress and even as thousands upon thousands took to the streets it was none other than UNP National Organiser Sukiri Banda Dissanayake who toddled off to Temple Trees and posed beside President Mahinda Rajapakse as he presented a wedding invite to his son's nuptials.  

Media splash

Understandably the state media splashed the photograph on the front pages of its newspapers as thousands of UNPers sweating it out on the streets reacted with anger. It was then in sheer embarrassment that Dissanayake was compelled to hit out at Rajapakse at a  meeting to show that he was not in the pocket of the President.

And even as the cost of living was to reach Himalayan heights and people started blaming the government for economic mismanagement, rather than step up the campaign, it was Dissanayake as UNP National Organiser who came to the President's rescue by stating even a future UNP government cannot bring down the cost of living.

Then again on the eve of the nominations for the Sabaragamuwa and North Central Provincial Councils, Dissanayake was to once again visit Temple Trees under the guise of an alumni meeting of the Vidyodaya Campus and pose for the cameras with the President and UNP defectors, Bandula Gunawardena and Mahinda Wijesekera.

Perhaps it has also slipped the memory of the ungrateful UNP that during the time of nominations for the current Sabaragamuwa and North Central Province elections and the latest bout of dissension within the UNP where Johnston Fernando and Lakshman Seneviratne were agitating for reforms within the party it was again Dissanayake who played Iago to their Desdemona.

Abey's house

He was to meet the pair at Gamini Abeyratne's house days before the crucial working committee meeting and gave them an assurance he would back them urging them to go ahead with their plans to agitate for the reforms.

Having done that he slipped off behind their backs sending Ranil Wickremesinghe a separate message revealing what he claimed was the game plan as discussed at Abeyratne's and pledged his full support to the present leadership with an assurance he will stand by Wickremesinghe.

Motives

Pray what is the motive of this man  Sukiri Banda Dissanayake who is  endowed with all the powers of a National Organiser of the largest political party in this country? Surely it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Though it might now cause some consternation to the egg heads in the UNP determined to give this schemer some validation based on some mythological idea that SB (heaven forbid) is their one and only saviour.

One is reminded of a time some 2000 years ago when an over excited   crowd shouted for the scoundrel Barabbas and called for the crucifiction of Christ, as Pontius Pilate washed his hands off the whole affair.  

The myth that is SBD

But let's analyse S.B. Dissanayake the politician. S.B. Dissanayake, the man who was once accused by Beijing Olympics Captain Susanthika Jayasinghe of sexually harassing her. A little matter which came to international light, when Sri Lanka's golden girl happened to mention it publicly.

So what is S.B's record as a politician? Not as good as Susanthika's as a sprinter one is compelled to notice. He has been the UNP's National Organiser with extensive powers within the party framework to whip up a storm. He has done nothing of the kind.

Good orator

Certainly he is a good orator just as much as for a space Wimal Weerawansa's bibikkang stories were to spellbind the more ignorant audience present and waiting for a bit of entertainment in their dreary lives. 

SBD's organisational skills have never been tested in real terms. If he won, he won with thuggery and state patronage during his cosy relationship with Chandrika Kumaratunga and all one has to do is ask UNP grassroots members in Hanguranketha how he won elections in that area. And if that is UNP's answer to the country's problems, the Rajapakses may well be a blessing in disguise.

Indeed it was this very Dissanayake who had approached former President Kumaratunga to 'kill two editors' soon after the 1999 presidential election and later claimed it was Kumaratunga's proposal to do so. However Minister Mahinda Wijesekera was to later expose that lie stating Dissanayake was the man who made the suggestion and dropped the idea only after Kumaratunga warned him he would be arrested if any harm was to befall the two editors however much she disliked them.

It is also no secret, Dissanayake at the time sent human body parts including skulls to houses of several UNP members including that of Ravi Karunanayake's and to the house of his mother-in-law. He was also to boast truthfully or otherwise that he was responsible for the assassination of Soththi Upali.

And such a wheeler dealer is SB that when he was confronted with a Contempt of Court charge before the Supreme Court rather than face it like a man he attempted to subvert the process of justice by trying to influence the Chief Justice unsuccesfully.

Believing in his own powers of influence he boasted that he had fixed the case with the CJ and would not be convicted. Come judgment day he had to eat his own words.

What is relevent however is that here is a man who will stoop to any level to have his way even by subverting  the course of justice and if that is what the UNP holds out as the  ir great new hope then the public  may well ask whether there is any purpose in changing the Rajapakse regime for the lot that is the UNP.             

Claim for top job

It is such conduct it appears then that is to be his claim for leadership and organisational ability. Though in reality he doesn't appear to have one tenth of the organisational skills demonstrated by Mangala Samaraweera for instance in his 2005 presidential campaign that brought Rajapakse to power or similar skills demonstrated by Sajith Premadasa in opposition.

Where pray is the support that SBD says he commands? Dissanayake also laments that he is unable to perform because he is not given sufficient powers. However as National Organiser he has extensive powers.

Sajith done more

It is in this context that a young man like Sajith Premadasa, a mere Member of Parliament from Hambantota must be viewed. One is inclined to suspect that there is far more support for young Premadasa who despite being a mere MP with absolutely no powers in the UNP is extremely popular in his area as a man who is doing a great deal for his constituents. Such a man, a mere MP, is doing more for his party than S.B. Dissanayake, the National Organiser of the party.

It may be in hindsight that Sri Lanka is destined to realise the greatness of one of its sons. Ranasinghe Premadasa as prime minister, whatever may have been his shortcomings, was labeled a 'peon' by many but he did much more for this country, for its poor, for development, for its villages in his time than did many of Sri Lanka's leaders before and after him.

His son may still be only a shadow of his father but he surpasses many times over the mythological chimera that is Sukiri Banda Dissanayake.

In fact when the suggestion by Amaratunge of resignation at the political affairs meeting last week had come up for approval Sajith Premadasa was one man who did not say anything but kept his own counsel. Sajith has however been known to acknowledge Dissanayake's oratorical skills while identifying his weaknesses and indicating he will not work with him.         

Ingratitude

It is in this backdrop that it becomes incumbent on the UNP to re-examine itself critically. That its leadership and senior members could even consider such a proposal shows a lack of gratitude that has now become the hallmark of the party.

Sukiri Banda Dissanayake is a man who has undermined the UNP at every electoral stage. Recently he shouted from platforms that even the UNP would be unable to bring down the cost of living. And this from a man who is the National Organiser of a party that during its short governance in 2002-2003 ran such a tight and sound economic ship it brought down inflation to almost zero percent.       

Choksy only loyal man

President's Counsel K.N. Choksy however is the only UNP member appointed from the National List in 2004 who has not unashamedly and dishonorably crossed over to the government camp. He is the only man of honour among the dishonourables.

He stuck with the party through its times of loss and turmoil without going for crumbs of office and it is to this very man that the UNP says today resign so that such a man as Sukiri Banda Dissanayake may take his place. Is this how Ranil Wickremesinghe repays loyalty and if so what can other members expect from him or for that matter other members who are promoting Dissanayake's cause at the expense of a man like Choksy?

Remember this. It was Sukiri Banda again who was to shout through electoral fog horns that had he been in charge of the Batticaloa District at the recently concluded provincial election the UNP would have won the election.

One shot

This is ironic at best for it was to none other than Sukiri Banda Dissanayake that Ranil Wickremesinghe offered the chief ministerial candidacy of the Sabaragamuwa Province, a challenge he declined to accept. If Sukiri Banda was sincere about testing the waters on his civic rights there was an appropriate platform for him to do so but he rejected the offer .

Surely if Sukiri says he could have won Batticaloa, an area overflowing with Muslims and Tamils with para militaries to boot, Ratnapura and Kegalle would have been a cake walk for him. He rather than Ranjan Ramanayake would have clinched the post in one shot.

On the part of Sukiri Banda his game plan as always is clear. At the back of his mind and always intent on undermining the party, he is aware that he must think to the future just in case the UNP does not win the provincial council elections in August. In which case all he has to do is bat on about how Wickremesinghe loses his 15th election and continue to weaken the party from within.

Opposed

It is to this end that he has consistently been opposed to the UNP's formation of a broad front together with the Mangala Samaraweera group. He knows full well that a united front with the strength Samaraweera carries down south together with Samaraweera's demonstrated and proven organisation skills as opposed to his thuggery and political patronage alone will be detrimental to his purpose of clambering to a position of strength within the party.  

Perhaps like Israel exchanging prisoners the UNP should also explore the possibility of exchanging a crosser-over like SBD for more profitable material. Unfortunately Rajapakse one is inclined to believe is more aware of Dissanayake's wily ways than the UNP seems to be at the moment, and is unlikely to accept the subject of the exchange.

And sadly the UNP without addressing the larger issues confronting the party and the pressing campaign for the up coming provincial council elections on August 23 has decided to get bogged down with the fate of one man. A man not even loyal to its cause.


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