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NFF goes into tailspin after Govt. dumps Wimal


Dulles Alahapperuma
and Wimal Weerawansa

The two-faced acts of JVP defector and Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF), Wimal Weerawansa came out in the open during his days as the star of the JVP.

Although Weerawansa denied every detail revealed about him in the media, before long, everyone was able to see his true nature for themselves.

His decision to defect from the JVP, along with 10 other members, to form a separate party indirectly supportive of the government was when Weerawansa made his great expose to the people.

Weerawansa then lost his credibility in the face of the public. His statements that the newly formed NFF would be made the third force in the country's political scene soon became a joke among the people.

However, it was President Mahinda Rajapakse, who said that it was pointless to have Weerawansa defect from the JVP and form a separate party and support the government as the need was to have him inside the JVP and carry out the government's agenda from within.

President stays firm

 The President made this statement when Weerawansa and the other defectors requested that they be taken into the government and given ministerial portfolios.

The President sent word through Basil that if Weerawansa defected from the JVP, then the only action that remained was for him to form his own party and build his strength from there.

Unable to accept the President's position, Weerawansa then worked on getting another JVP defector, Nandana Gunathileka, appointed as the deputy speaker in parliament. Rajapakse, who was very adept at playing his cards, till the last minute, gave Weerawansa the impression that his request would be met.

With the expose on the story behind Weerawansa's failed attempt to get Gunathileka appointed as the deputy speaker in parliament a controversy erupted in the NFF. Members of the NFF held Weerawansa responsible for the bad treatment meted out to them by the government. They said that though they were working for the government they were not being rewarded for it and that they were facing political extinction.

The NFF members pointed their fingers at Weerawansa and asked him to stand firm when making demands from Basil.

Disappeared

It is also learnt that Gunathileka after finding out the truth behind the failed attempt to make him deputy speaker, had switched off his mobile phone and left for an unknown destination for about a week.

The controversy within the NFF grew to such an extent that many of the parliamentarians refrained from attending meetings called by Weerawansa.

Weerawansa had no other but Minister Dulles Alahapperuma to turn to with his sad story. He told Alahapperuma that due to the President's actions and the exposes made in The Sunday Leader and sister paper Irudina, the NFF was facing a huge crisis. He requested Alahapperuma to intervene to help resolve the crisis.

Alahapperuma agreed to help Weerawansa. "There is an art to get the President to approve a request. These are not things that could be spoken directly. Give me a few days. I will do the needful," he had said.

Alahapperuma also asked Weerawansa to work to strengthen Basil Rajapakse's position in the government. When Weerawansa left Alahapperuma was a much happier man.

A few days later NFF Member Piyasiri Wijenayake informed Weerawansa that members were to be named to the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which were dissolved with the prorogation of parliament. He said that traditionally, it is a member of the opposition who is made the head of these committees and therefore it would be wise to get a member of the NFF appointed as the head of one of the committees with the help of the government.

Hesitant

However, Weerawansa was hesitant to accept the proposal, given his previous experience over the appointment of the deputy speaker. Wijenayake insisted that since the post has to be given to the opposition and since the government had learnt its lesson from having members from the real opposition heading the committees, it would be ideal to get the support to appoint an NFF member as the head of one of the committees. He also said that such a post would minimise the grievances of the disgruntled NFF members.

Weerawansa finally agreed to Wijenayake's request and decided to meet Alahapperuma and request him to get the President's support to appoint Wijenayake as the head of COPE.

Alahapperuma, who has already boasted to Weerawansa that he had mastered  the art of convincing the President agreed to help in the endeavour. Weerawansa then informed Leader of the House, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Chief Government Whip, Minister Dinesh Gunawardena of Wijenayake's proposed appointment as the head of COPE.

They  told Weerawansa, "Traditionally, the lead posts of the two committees are given to the opposition. However, whether this tradition will be followed this time around is yet to be decided by the President. If he makes the final decision and informs us there would not be an issue."

Reassurance

Weerawansa responded in a positive manner and began work on getting Wijenayake appointed as the head of COPE. From time to time he inquired from Alahapperuma about  the President's response. "Do not  worry about anything. I am handling the President well. Do not worry Wimal, it will be done," he said.

Relieved by Alahapperuma's response, Weerawansa continued with his plan.

By the time Alahapperuma approached the President with Weerawansa's request, De Silva and Gunawardena had already informed him of the request to make Wijenayake the chairman of COPE.

The President objected to the request at once. "They are trying to get the chairmanship and become heroes through that. Wijedasa also tried to do something similar. Weerawansa and his group are trying to find short cuts to reach the top. That is not the way, ask them to hold meetings and go among the people. I do not care about these traditions. Appoint two members from the government to head the two committees," Rajapakse insisted.

Alahapperuma's 'art' did not work with the President. Not about to give up, he continued to request the President to appoint Wijenayake as the chairman of COPE. Rajapakse responded by asking Alahapperuma to do his part and stop acting on behalf of Weerawansa and his group.

Bad news

The day before members were appointed to the two committees, Alahapperuma informed Weerawansa that the government had decided to appoint two of its members to head the committees.

Thoroughly disappointed and embarrassed, Weerawansa asked Alahapperuma as to why the President was treating him in this manner. A disappointed Wijenayake said that he was now suffering the consequences of making the wrong political move. Wijenayake told Weerawansa that they could no longer keep silent against the unfair treatment meted out to them by the President and the government.

A few minutes later, the rest of the NFF members heard of Weerawansa's plight.

They called on Weerawansa to rise against the government, as they could no longer remain silent given the fact that they were neither accepted by the government nor given any of the perks and privileges.

Weerawansa tried hard to calm the members by saying that they should be a little more patient. The NFF members however threatened Weerawansa that if he did not start attacking the government, they would do it from parliament.

Gunathileka also felt that if the party did not start attacking the government and capture its attention, they would continue to be illtreated by the President.

On the attack

Meanwhile, Wijenayake requested Weerawansa's permission to launch a surprise attack against the government. That was to align themselves with the UNP and call for Wijenayake's appointment as the chairman of COPE.

Weerawansa had no option but to agree to Wijenayake's request and asked him to open a dialogue with the UNP.

Wijenayake met UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake and asked for the UNP's support when his name was proposed as COPE chairman. He promised Karunanayake that he would act strongly against the government, even more than Wijedasa Rajapakshe.

No support

Karunanayake however said that he could not make a final decision on the matter without speaking to the party leader. The UNP then informed Karunanayake that there was no need to support Wijenayake.

After failing in all their attempts, Weerawansa and Wijenayake decided to make a special statement in parliament against the government's decision to appoint two of its members to head COPE and PAC.

Weerawansa then informed Wijenayake and the rest of the NFF membership that from now on, their support to the government would be decided on a case-by-case basis.

However with the unfolding developments  some members of the  NFF members have become jittery and have started a dialogue with the JVP to return to the fold and some dramatic moves can be expected in August, most probably before the provincial polls.


Wimal plans to launch media network

JVP defector and Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF) Wimal Weerawansa, who has been disappointed many times by the government has decided to launch a new project last week.

The project is to organise a media network of his own. Japan Saman, who was the former head of the JVP's branch in Japan when the party had a branch there, had promised to provide the necessary financial backing to Weerawansa.

With an idea of starting his own newspaper, Weerawansa called the manager of the Lakdiva newspaper, where he used to work at one time before entering politics, Thilak Eparachchi for a meeting.

The Lakdiva newspaper that was compiled by Vini Hettigoda and Sunil Madhava Premathileka created a change in the Sinhala print media at the time it was launched.

Looking for support

Weerawansa and Japan Saman had a lengthy discussion with Eparachchi on reviving the Lakdiva newspaper. Eparachchi had also said that he could get Premathileka to join the newspaper once again, if it were to be launched.

Weerawansa however had said that he wished to hold the ownership of the newspaper while its management would be in the hands of the party.

Japan Saman at the discussion had said that he was willing to pay a sum of Rs. 2 million to get the rights of the newspaper's name. Weerawansa had then revealed a secret. He had said that the newspaper was the first step in building a media network belonging to the NFF. The second and third steps according Weerawansa would be the launching of a TV and radio station. He had also said the President had already agreed to give him the necessary licenses to commence operations of the two stations.

However, due to Eparachchi's hesitance to give a clear answer, Weerawansa could not proceed with the plan to recommence the Lakdiva newspaper.

Weerawansa and Japan Saman had then decided to look at reviving another old newspaper called Heladiva.

Weerawansa believed that if his newspaper was launched with a name like Heladiva, he would be able to get the support of several JHU members as well.

Discussion with Dulles

Before looking into starting his own newspaper, Weerawansa had first held a discussion with Minister Dulles Alahapperuma on garnering the government's support for the endeavour.

At the meeting, Alahapperuma had promised the fullest support of the government with President Mahinda Rajapakse's blessings to Weerawansa and had also discussed using the newspaper to attack one of the President's friends who had recently started a newspaper.

Weerawansa criticising this newly launched newspaper had said that if he was given licenses to start a radio and TV channel, he could intensify the attack on the individual and ensure the closure of his radio channel as well.

Alahapperuma had told Weerawansa that he knew how to approach the President and had promised to do it in a manner where he could get Weerawansa the licenses to commence a radio and TV channel.

The discussion ended with Weerawansa explaining his plan of building a media empire for the NFF.


UNP gears for PC polls

The UNP's parliamentary group met last Tuesday morning at the parliamentary complex.

Commencing the meeting, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the party could not accept the government's decision to spend billions of rupees on the SAARC Summit at a time the country was facing a serious economic crisis and a security threat.

Wickremesinghe said the UNP should object to this decision and said the government's decision to demolish several structures in Glennie Street, Slave Island was also wrong.

Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake at the meeting highlighted that since SriLankan Airlines was acquired by the government, the airline had incurred a loss of Rs. 5,000 million. He said it was a grave situation.

Action to stop rigging

Parliamentarian Palitha Ranga Bandara then said that action should be taken to prevent the government from trying to rig the provincial polls. He added that the party should take necessary legal action without delay.

Wickremesinghe then informed the parliamentarians of the present situation with regard to the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council elections. He said that all UNP parliamentarians should work as one.

The UNP's election coordinating committee also met last week.

At the meeting, Wickremesinghe pointed out that the party had to win the forthcoming provincial council elections.

He said that all UNP parliamentarians should work to ensure the party's victory and added that the MPs who were working hard in the campaign should not be discouraged from doing so.

"Everyone should work to win their respective electorates. I do not need the glory of the victory, as it would be with you. However, if you lose your electorate, then the responsibility should also be borne by you. Do not  blame either me or the party," Wickremesinghe said.

The party's political affairs committee also met on Wednesday at 11 a.m.

At the meeting, Parliamentarian John Amaratunge said that in order to determine if there was a legal issue with regard to appointing S.B. Dissanayake to parliament, he should be appointed to parliament through the party's national list.

Amaratunge's request

Amaratunge also proposed that a request be made to the party's national list member, K.N. Choksy to resign from his post for a period of one week.

Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake also agreed to the proposal. Wickremesinghe said that he had no objection to the proposal. However, he said it was important to discuss the matter with Choksy.

The one-day islandwide token strike launched by the JVP was also taken up for discussion at the meeting. Parliamentarian Johnston Fernando said that if the party was given enough time, the party could have participated in a more productive manner by creating awareness among the members.

Meanwhile, Wickremesinghe asked Parliamentarian Joseph Michael Perera to give the party reform proposals to the working committee as soon as possible. He said that a document that has the consensus of the reforms committee members should be handed over to the working committee.

Leaflet

Perera, who may have not understood the Party Leader's comments, last week distributed a leaflet among UNP parliamentarians calling for their approval for it. The leaflet proposed Wickremesinghe to be named as the party's leader and Rukman Senanayake as the party's deputy leader with S.B. Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa as assistant leaders. The first to object to it was Wickremesinghe himself.

"You have not understood what I said. What I want is something that includes the proposals of all the members and not names of individuals. Put forward the principles," he said.

Party Chairman Rukman Senanayake also agreed to it. Perera then took the leaflets back after realising the real requirement.


Basil stirs the  pot in NCP

Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse who left the island due to many disagreements and disappointments returned to the country following several pleas made by Minister Dulles Alahapperuma for his quick return.

Basil left the country for several reasons. Among them was the loss of  the Beliatte organiser post and the President's disapproval of his nominees for the chief ministerial post in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Councils.

Alahapperuma, who saw a move by several parties including JHU's Champika Ranawaka to bring Gotabaya Rajapakse to politics, decided to somehow bring Basil back into the country.

Back on the job

Upon his return, Basil was informed by Alahapperuma to immediately take over the government campaigns in the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces. Basil acted accordingly, and even worked to create a new controversy in the run up to the provincial council elections.

Since the calling of provincial council elections for the North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, Basil kept requesting the President not to name former North Central Province Chief Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake as the chief ministerial candidate of the government this time around. He said that Dissanayake would lose the election due to the many corruption charges against him.

Basil requested the President to name a new candidate for the post of chief minister. The President however did not heed Basil's request.

After returning to the island, Basil did not make any such requests from the President. Basil worked on getting another appointed as the chief minister.

Basil is now working to promote the brother of  Minister S.M. Chandrasena,  Ranjith Chandrasena, who is also a close confidant of the President, as the government's chief ministerial candidate in the North Central Province.

Summoning the Chandrasena family, Basil informed them that neither the party nor the President had made any decision to make Dissanayake the party's chief ministerial candidate. He added that the government was yet to name its chief ministerial candidate.

Preferential vote

"I have received the President's consent to appoint the candidate who receives the highest preferential votes as the chief minister. We will not announce it during the campaign, but afterwards. The President has agreed to it," Basil said.

Basil then asked the Chandrasenas to immediately launch a massive propaganda campaign to secure the highest preferential votes in the Anuradhapura District. He added that the necessary financial backing and the help of the state media would be provided during the last few weeks of the campaign.

Basil then sent several messages to the powerful candidates supporting Dissanayake in the North Central Province. The message was that Dissanayake would not be made the chief minister and that it would be given to the candidate who secures the highest number of preferential votes.

This move hampered Dissanayake's campaign and as a result, one of his close confidantes, the former mayor of Anuradhapura, Somadasa, decided to switch sides. Somadasa commenced his own election campaign. It has also been said that Somadasa might join forces with Ranjith Chandrasena in the next few days.

Basil after creating this controversy in the North Central Province has now entered the Sabaragamuwa Province and begun to implement the same modus operandi there - that is to appoint another chief ministerial candidate instead of Maheepala Herath and several rounds of discussions have already been held on the matter.

The plan

Discussions have been held with Ministers Susantha Punchinilame and Mahinda Rathnatilake. Basil has expressed his need to appoint a chief ministerial candidate who is not affiliated to either Ministers Pavithra Wanniarachchi or John Seneviratne. Basil therefore has thrown in his lot with Punchinilame and Rathnatilake.

Basil's chief ministerial candidate for the Sabaragamuwa Province will soon be revealed.

It is now evident that Basil has decided to work to appoint two chief ministers loyal to him with future political motives. It is important to look at Basil's moves in the light of talk of bringing Gotabaya into politics.

Basil's actions may also be the first step of his plan to secure power of the SLFP and it is interesting to note his partner in this endeavour - Dulles Alahapperuma.

It is also important to see if Basil's decision to axe Dissanayake and Herath as the chief ministerial candidates was prompted due to their close affiliations to the Bandaranaikes.

However, Basil's actions have had an adverse impact on Dissanayake's campaign and his house that is usually bustling with SLFPers is now an empty place. In order to hide the poor show, Dissanayake has now put up an asbestos shield around the main wall surrounding the house.


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