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 Spotlight

A cunning coyote in the UNP's midst


Summit blues and court rulings as Govt. blunders on


Nimal Siripala, P.B. Jayasundera, Vijitha herath and Mahinda Rajapakse

Politics on Sunday
by Sonali Samarasinghe

EU delegation given a run around over
chopper ride to east

JVP to take up Mahinda's pre election
Tiger deal in House

Ranil tells Indian Deputy HC Govt. won't
deliver on CEPA

President tells Kohona, there is no war
to have a ceasefire

Sajin wanted Shah Rukh Kahn to entertain
Indian PM during SAARC

As the 15th SAARC Summit kicks off today in Colombo amidst controversy over excessive expenditure, hundreds of bullet proof vehicles, oppressive security measures and unlawful eviction of innocent residents from their homes, the forum's host, President Mahinda Rajapakse will also be wracked by human rights allegations of massive proportions.

Unlikely though it is that easily one of the world's most failed organisations will manage to address realistically the most pressing issues of regional security, the food and fuel crises and rising poverty that plague the region today, the tamasha that has cost Sri Lanka's public over Rs. 5 billion will certainly not fail to entertain the cynics.   

Diplomatic war

Given the quiet war between Pakistan and India the summit is set to become a diplomatic battle ground and neither is Sri Lanka shielded from the shrapnel. Already India is more than irritated that the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which nationalists accuse is heavily weighted in favour of India, is not to be signed during the summit.

UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was to needle Indian Deputy High Commissioner M. Manikkam over the issue on Wednesday, July 23 at a dinner hosted by former Ambassador Charlie Mahendran when he said all his inquiries revealed that the government will not sign CEPA during the SAARC Summit.

Other such agreements with India are also getting the third degree. Last week the Government Medical Officers Association (GMOA) reacted angrily to a proposed 'Telemedicine Network' with an Indian company, saying that the agreement to be signed by the Sri Lankan government during the SAARC Summit was hugely in favour of India.

Addressing a media briefing GMOA General Secretary, Dr. Anuruddha Padeniya reportedly said  medical professionals had not been consulted and had been kept in the dark about this agreement. He reportedly charged the MoU to be signed during the SAARC Summit has been drafted hugely in favour of the Indian company that is involved in the Network and violates all norms and ethics of patient treatment and of the medical profession.

No Action Talk Only

A report by Imagine a New South Asia (INSA) released last week just days ahead of the Colombo summit says the failure of SAARC leaders to control rising food prices, protect small holding agriculture, ensure right to and control over land for women, resist Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and to stop bio fuels will increase the number of hungry people in the region to over 588 million by 2009.

A conservative estimate says at an average food prices in South Asia went up by 25 percent resulting in an additional 140 million poor in the region.

EU here

Meanwhile a 10 member European Union delegation handling relations with the countries of South Asia, on a five day visit to Sri Lanka last week ahead of the SAARC Summit, met a number of government ministers and opposition MPs including Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Human Rights Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe, G.L. Peiris, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, UNP MPs Lakshman Seneviratne, Ravi Karunanayake and Sagala Ratnayake.

Tries to meet Pillayan

Be that as it may the EU delegation led by Robert Evans of the Socialists Group who led a similar delegation to Sri Lanka last December 2007 was also scheduled to visit the Eastern Province and meet with its Chief Minister Pillayan. They had asked to be briefed according to Foreign Ministry sources on development plans for the area given its already allocated funds for the region.

Even as the UNP raised concerns the delegation was attempting to meet with a paramilitary outfit, the EU delegation was to face several obstacles to their eastern trip due to helicopter problems.

Obstacles 

The government had earlier offered the delegation either a military helicopter or vehicles and security detail to go by road in order to facilitate the visit. However the delegation had refused this offer seeking instead clearance to use a UN aircraft which had been allocated two pilots especially brought down to the country. However sources said the two pilots had not been given National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) clearance.

Notwithstanding the government had decided to allow the delegation to fly to the east in the UN helicopter.

All for one and one for all

Nonetheless when the delegation arrived in Ratmalana to board the aircraft more obstacles awaited them. During the security clearance procedure it was detected that one of the members' passport numbers did not tally with the list of numbers given to the security detail in Ratmalana as cleared for passage.

As somehow the information did not tally with the passport he carried, Ratmalana refused to let him board but cleared the others. The delegation however was up in arms kicking up a hue and cry stating they will only go together or not at all.

If that wasn't disaster enough the delegation it is learnt attempted another visit again with similar results and had to come away from the Ratmalana Airport empty handed.

While the government and the Foreign Ministry spoke of grandiose plans for the delegation, its talk came to naught as the visit fizzled out. It is learnt the delegation had all but indicated a bleak future for Sri Lanka's GSP Plus prospects in their discussion with G.L. Peiris.

The delegation also met Mahinda Samarasinghe on human rights issues and voiced their express concerns over the lack of accountability. Samarasinghe meanwhile had briefed them on the human rights initiatives taken by his Ministry and the preparation of the Universal Periodic Review document and the interactive dialogue taken on board in that document including the EU's own 45 recommendations and 26 voluntary pledges.

Samarasinghe also spoke of the main initiative of the UPR document which is the National Action Plan on Human Rights which will be implemented in 6-8 months and requested any assistance they could give in this regard.

Assistance

Peace Secretariat Head and Secretary to the Human Rights Ministry, Rajiva Wijesinha who had been present at the meeting also spoke of assistance in the form of police training and rehabilitation of child soldiers recently released including humanitarian assistance. 

Samarasinghe hard pressed to defend Sri Lanka's dismal record had also pointed out that Sri Lanka was the only country in the world going through a conflict situation that continued to transport supplies through LTTE controlled areas to civilians while knowing that some of it would invariably fall into the hands of the LTTE. The reason is because the government cares for its civilians, Samarasinghe said.

It was Niranjan Deva Aditya, the unsuccessful non candidate for the UN Secretary General's post and a man who grabbed many posts during the UNP regime who was to jump in enthusiastically.

Deva Aditya who also claims to be an ambassador at large for President Rajapakse's government urged the rest of the delegation to note the point and inquired with a flick of his oiled hair why such a point was not being publicised internationally. It was not immediately clear which of the two hats, ambassador at large for Sri Lanka or member of the EU delegation Deva Aditya was sporting when he made this statement.

It was interesting that Deva Aditya who also has business interests in Sri Lanka and represents the British Conservative Party in the EU Parliament did not want the same publicity given internationally to the brutal assault of a British High Commission official just weeks ago on a public highway.

The delegation left in driblets last week with the last of them leaving Sri Lanka yesterday. The EU has observer status at the SAARC and is likely to participate probably through its local representative at informal working discussions scheduled during the summit.

Sajin once more to the breach

And with controversy already surrounding SAARC it was none other than Presidential Coordinator of Foreign Affairs Sajin Vass Gunawardena who was to come up with more bright ideas to liven up the debate on the validity of the summit.

As entertainment for the delegates Sajin came up with the idea of inviting Hindi film idol Shah Rukh Khan for a spot of typical Bollywood magic. Sajin then inquired of the Indian High Commission in Colombo whether its Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will be able to attend the King Khan festivities. The Indian Mission had carefully replied that Singh will be able to grace such an occasion only if the entertainment was strictly within SAARC and its security circumference but not if it fell outside SAARC.

The issue however fizzled out with Khan himself deciding not to accept the invite. Khan is a man who has already had a bitter experience in Sri Lanka and certainly India is not taking any chances with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's security during his visit to Colombo early next month.

Swamped

That India is not taking any chances on the security front is underscored by the fact it is to dispatch three warships, including two frontline guided-missile destroyers, a Delhi-Class destroyer and a Rajput-Class destroyer, equipped with Sea King and Chetak helicopters. Indian media note that  its National Security Adviser M.K. Narayanan is personally looking into the security detail.

Indian media also reported the contingent of the Special Protection Group (SPG) which provides 'proximate security' to the Prime Minister is much larger than usual. Singh will only attend the latter part of the eight day conference.

It is likely Indian Air Force helicopters will be deployed in the skies over Colombo for aerial surveillance of high-security zones.

King Khan

In this backdrop SAARC observers have expressed surprise over the choice of Shah Rukh Khan despite his undoubted popularity as host nations traditionally try to showcase their own culture at such international events. These talk shows and international events are also an opportunity for hosts to boost their economy, tourism, culture and investment. It is one of the foremost reasons together with the prestige why nations clamour to host such events.

Surely is there no talent among Sri Lankans where the country could have promoted unity by promoting Sinhala and Tamil entertainers was a question that was asked even in Indian circles when the Khan story started doing the rounds.

Coals to Newcastle

What pray is the point of entertaining Manmohan Singh in Sri Lanka by bringing Coals to Newcastle. Where is the benefit for the country? After all the public have sacrificed over Rs. 5 billion for the revels it is time for Rajapakse to give back with some strategic promotions.

Perhaps of course for the parochial and insular government what is important is the personal benefit for President Rajapakse who can add a line in his bio data that he was the chairman of SAARC 2008.   

And as usual going overboard without thinking the government last Thursday welcomed the Manmohan victory on the Trust vote stating in effect it was a victory for Sri Lanka's ongoing military exercise.

SLFP General Secretary and Senior Minister Maithripala Sirisena reportedly told a media conference "This outcome is a blessing for Sri Lanka. It is not a secret that India helps our military operations." 

Stupid mistake

At the same briefing Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva reportedly said the government would not act like a bull in a china shop on the matter of Kachchativu which Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Karunanidhi says should be taken back by India. 

However that is exactly how the government did act by jumping to congratulate Manmohan with such fervour.

It is a stupid mistake to throw in your lot so obviously with one side and in the process antagonise the far left and the opposition BJP which sponsored the dissension leading to the confidence vote.

Besides, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party and Communist Party of India - Marxist General Secretary Prakash Karat have sought an enduring partnership giving Mayawati the spin she needed to become a formidable force. India is thus in political upheaval and with elections in the offing it is nothing less than silly to take sides at this time.

Gun jumping

And this was not the only time the Minister of Health was to jump the gun.

The LTTE's unilateral declaration of a ceasefire from July 26 to August 4 during the SAARC Summit was a clever multi-pronged strategy by the LTTE to gain international commendation and earn the goodwill of SAARC members on the one hand and shift the burden of security to the government on the other.

Certainly it has not escaped the notice of the Indians if it has managed to slip the notice of Gotabaya and his men that the LTTE has both sea and air capabilities and have conducted successful attacks with a light aircraft and also have the capability of underwater suicide missions.

The UNP while careful to stress it did not know the intention for the ceasefire said it welcomes the move based on the fact it was against the loss of lives and property and war induced destruction. 

Oxygen and other matters

However Minister Nimal Siripala Silva, who had been chief negotiator for the government during the Rajapakse-LTTE peace talks told parliament last Tuesday (22) evening that the "Government was not ready to accept any ceasefire that would supply oxygen to the LTTE."

Silva had nonetheless shot his mouth off without reference to President Rajapakse who had been check mated much to his irritation as Rajapakse later told his confidants.

Earlier that same Tuesday the Norwegian Ambassador was to meet Foreign Ministry Secretary Palitha Kohona with the LTTE message of a unilateral ceasefire. After the meeting Kohona was to ask President Rajapakse how he wanted to respond to the ceasefire offer from the LTTE.

No war only law and order problem

Reminiscent of former President D.B. Wijetunge's statement that there was no ethnic problem but only a terrorist problem, President Rajapakse had thus replied Kohona. "What ceasefire? You have ceasefires only if there is a war. There is no war in this country, what we have is only a law and order situation and we are trying to control it," Rajapakse said.

Kohona responded with a vapid, "That is also true," and went on to ask President Rajapakse, "What shall I tell the Ambassador?" President Rajapakse had then instructed Kohona to tell him that he would refer the matter to the cabinet and inform him of the government's position.

But this was not to be. Before President Rajapakse could take a more prepared and diplomatic stand Nimal Siripala had galloped into the foray and rejected the LTTE offer with talk of oxygen et al.

Gota's line

Of course Nimal Siripala Silva may have been propelled into making the statement following another statement in the media attributed to Defence Secretary and President's brother Gotabaya Rajapakse stating the government won't enter a ceasefire when the LTTE is militarily weak.

Thus it was that when cabinet met last Wednesday the ceasefire issue was not part of the agenda with President Rajapakse mentioning the ceasefire only as a passing reference at the tail end of the meeting even as ministers had started to walk out of the doors. The ceasefire for Rajapakse was just a fait accompli at that point given the previous statements of his government ministers.

All secret deals

However, UNP MP Lakshman Kiriella claimed in parliament Thursday that the Government Security Council had decided Wednesday night to suspend air and ground attacks on LTTE locations with immediate effect but without any official announcement. Media Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa addressing a press conference denied this claim.

The UNP charged that if such a decision is taken then it would tantamount to another secret deal with the Tigers keeping the people of this country in the dark.

JVP on the secret deal

In another distraction, even as SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena alleged that the UNP has links with the LTTE as it was urging the government to accept the unilateral ceasefire declared by the Tigers during SAARC, the JVP vigorously took up the issue of the alleged secret election deal between the Rajapakse government and the LTTE in November 2005 in parliament. The deal propelled Rajapakse to the presidency. Accusations were first made by the late Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi who said he had sat in on the discussions.

This newspaper later published a series of exposes on the alleged secret deal and the granting of two large projects by the government to two non existent companies in the north for billions of rupees.

Last Wednesday JVP's Vijitha Herath was to ask a series of questions in parliament on the deal and the two huge housing projects given to the two bogus companies. Dinesh Gunawardena had replied the JVP by stating that Tiran Alles who was chairman RADA at the time had committed a fraud and that was the reason he was in fact removed by President Rajapakse from the post.

Herath had quickly retorted asking Dionesh how the Minister can put the blame on Tiran Alles when it was in fact President Rajapakse who had signed the cabinet paper for the housing projects. At this time Dinesh Gunawardena had said he would look into the matter and reply.

Resigned earlier

Ironically Tiran Alles had resigned from RADA about two months before he resigned as chairman of Airport and Aviation Authority on February 10, 2007. That is just 24 hours after both Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi and Mangala Samaraweera were stripped of their ministries by President Rajapakse.

It is learnt the JVP will take up the matter again in parliament on August 5 where it will continue to pound the government with facts and documents on the alleged LTTE deal, bringing in an added dimension to the political upheaval taking place in the country.

In fact hitherto, the JVP which backed Rajapakse for the presidency had been silent on the Tiger deal and Gunawardena has now unwittingly stirred a hornet's nest and helped to bring the Tiger deal back into focus. 

PB in a quandary

Be that as it may, the larger issue that emerged lat week for the government was of course the Supreme Court judgment on the Lanka Marine Services Ltd. privatisation and the matter of Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera's continuation at the Treasury given the damning comments made against him personally by Chief Justice Sarath Silva in his order last Monday. (See page 13 for analysis)

Immediately after the judgement President Rajapakse was to go to Minister Fowzie's official residence at Baudhaloka Mawatha for a spot of biriyani. The occasion was Fowzie's son Nauzer's birthday lunch. Walking in with Defence Spokesperson Keheliya Rambukwella the President on beholding Democratic Unity Alliance (DUA) Provincial Councillor and Ranil Wickremesinghe ally M.J.M. Muzammil at the festivities said jovially, 'Ah mei UNP karayoth innei.' (Ah! here there are UNPers also.)

Muzammil was to then ask Rajapakse, "What is going to happen with P.B?" To which Rajapakse replied, 'he is only an official what can he do for the actions of politicians.'

Telling indictment

Given that the politicians embroiled in the issue are none other than Public Administration Minister Karu Jayasuriya and Tourism Minister Milinda Moragoda, both subjects of intense investigation by COPE and both now members of Rajapakse's cabinet, the marked statement by Rajapakse at this informal yet public gathering was telling.

Nonetheless the seriousness of the allegations and the impact of the court order was not lost on President Rajapakse. On his return to Temple Trees after the lunch he was therefore to call up his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga and tell him to get a copy of the judgement and study it. 

Explanation called

President Rajapakse also told Weeratunga to send a copy of the judgement to P.B. Jayasundera and call for his explanation. The question now is what will Jayasundera do?

The judgment accuses Jayasundera of colluding with John Keells and of giving JKH an advantage through a yielding hand. The Supreme Court also ordered him to personally pay costs of Rs.500,000 and considered his actions arbitrary, ultra vires and biased.  Obviously he will attempt to exonerate himself. Whether he will take the lifeline thrown inadvertently or otherwise by President Rajapakse and blame the politicians remains to be seen.

One thing is certain. With the Insurance Corporation privatisation now before court and likely to suffer the same fate as LMSL, Jayasundera's legitimacy to serve this high office is in serious question.


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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