Basil moves to block broad alliance using
'elephant' as bait
Weeks after the conclusion of the North
Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council
elections, the government seems to continue
to enjoy its victory at the polls by harping
on it via the state media.
However, the true motives of the government
can only be found out when one observes,
like a fly on the wall, the discussions
taking place between members of the
Although the government boasts of victory at
the recently concluded elections, it is
still unsure of its position as regards
Soon after the conclusion of the North
Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council
elections, the President decided to conduct
an islandwide survey. It was handed over to
an American firm that conducts political
surveys in Sri Lanka.
President Mahinda Rajapakse needed to know
for himself the possible results if he
called for a snap general election.
Within a few days, the company released an
interim report on the findings, especially
because of the urgency of the President to
know the outcome.
The interim report revealed that the
results of a snap general election at the
present time would not be beneficial to the
government and it would not be able to
secure a clear majority at the polls.
Soon after receiving the interim report, the
President made a special statement. He said
there would not be a general election till
2010. However, given the present political
situation, the President has no option but
to have a snap general election some time in
2009. He has also told confidants including
Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse that
there are no plans to go for an early
presidential election after completing four
years and that it would have to be a general
"Please be clear that I received a mandate
for six years and I do not intend to reduce
it by two years by calling for an election
after November 2009. I will serve the full
term so tell the party organisers to work
hard and ensure the party emerges victorious
at the general election," the President had
Meanwhile, last week, the President received
the final survey report. A special request
made by the President was also surveyed and
its results were included in the report.
He requested to know the possible impact a
broad alliance formed by the UNP, SLFP (M)
Wing and SLMC would have at an election. The
President has been keeping a close eye on
the developments taking place between the
opposition parties and this request was a
result of it.
Being the seasoned politician that he is,
President Mahinda Rajapakse knows very well
that the formation of a broad alliance among
the opposition parties will pose a huge
challenge to the government. Therefore, the
President held several discussions with
brother Basil Rajapakse on the measures that
could be taken to counter the impact of a
The President wanted to block the formation
of a broad alliance from within the UNP
ranks. He knew that there would be a
definite drop in the government's success
rate at a general election. The survey
report also cemented his fears.
The President was quite disturbed by the
results of the report. He told Basil to
launch a campaign to immediately prevent the
formation of the broad alliance between the
opposition parties. He also told Basil to
take any measures to ensure this.
Divide and rule
Basil informed the President of the possible
measures that could be taken to prevent the
formation of a broad alliance. He said the
best issue that could be taken up to prevent
the formation of the alliance was the issue
of the UNP's symbol, the elephant.
He said an impression ought to be created
that the UNP will be unable to win any
election without its traditional "elephant"
symbol. He said the UNP defectors in
government ranks could also be used for this
purpose to sow the seeds of dissension.
Basil began working on his task immediately
and has already taken several steps and has
had several rounds of discussions on
creating a rift within the UNP.
It is believed that although the results of
Basil's discussions have not come out so far
due to the already existing issues within
the UNP, it would surface soon enough.
Meanwhile Basil continues with his plan of
The President is disturbed as 2009 is viewed
as a year in which elections will definitely
be held. The President has to make some
difficult choices at the elections,
especially since he would be completing four
years in office in 2009. The country's
constitution permits the President to do so
if he/she so wished to call for a
presidential election after the completion
of four years in office.
Leading the President's agenda at the moment
is the holding of a presidential election
before a general election. If the President
is planning on holding a presidential
election before the general election in
2009, the election has to be announced
before December 2009.
However, the discussions on forming a broad
alliance between the opposition parties have
now become an obstacle to the President's
plan. That was also one of the main reasons
why he announced that there will be no early
The President has told confidants that a
broad alliance would pose many challenges to
the government at an election. He had also
said that if the broad alliance says the
executive presidency would be abolished
during either the presidential or general
election campaign, it would cause a problem
to the government.
According to the President, if the board
opposition alliance takes the abolishing of
the executive presidency as an issue at the
election campaign, even the JVP would
silently support it.
The President has revealed to Basil and a
few close confidants that winning even a
presidential election in such a backdrop
would not be easy. Therefore, the latest
task given to Basil by the President is to
launch a plan to create a conflict within
the UNP over the dropping of the elephant
symbol by the broad opposition alliance.
Basil was informed to create an issue among
the UNP MPs that facing an election without
the elephant symbol would be a problem.
Basil is expected to launch a full scale
operation in the next few days. The plan
will be launched as soon as talk of the
broad opposition alliance comes out in the
open. It will then be known who would dance
to Basil's tune in the UNP.
During a discussion on the matter, the
President had said to a minister close to
him, "I know that it would be
disadvantageous for us if the UNP takes the
initiative in creating a broad alliance."
"If the opposition forms such a broad
alliance what action would you take?" the
Minister had asked.
"Ha, if that happens I have what it takes to
address such an issue. However, I would not
leave room for the formation of such an
alliance. There is a large number of UNP MPs
who are opposed to dropping the elephant
symbol. All I have to do is to work them up.
If that does not happen, I will dissolve
parliament before that. If parliament is
dissolved, it would be difficult for the
opposition to get together during a
presidential election," the President had
Opposition draws first blood over fuel
The UNP's parliamentary group met on Monday
evening at the parliament complex.
One of the key topics taken up for
discussion was the fuel prices.
Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake broached
the topic first.
"The price of a barrel of crude oil in the
world market is on the decline. But the
government has not passed on the benefit to
our people. Although oil is purchased at a
low price, the local fuel prices have not
been reduced. It is wrong by the public.
Besides, it is unethical. When the price
increases, local fuel prices are also
increased, but when the price declines,
there is no change in the price of local
"It is the same with gas. We have to take up
the issue in parliament immediately.
Otherwise, Mahinda Rajapakse will reduce the
price of fuel in the budget and say he has
reduced prices. After selling fuel at high
prices for months, at the budget, the price
would be reduced and he will take political
mileage out of that as well. Therefore, we
have to expose this now," Karunanayake said.
Request for debate
The UNP parliamentary group agreed with
Karunanayake and said a debate should be
requested on the matter immediately.
It was Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena who
addressed the meeting next. He said that the
Mahinda Rajapakse administration was getting
commissions not only from oil but also
"Our Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayake spoke
about corruption and fraud. But the
government is sucking the blood out of the
people by selling the war as well. See,
during the past weeks we got hold of the
blood thieves as well. They were caught with
the goods. When we said expired blood kits
were being used, the government through the
state media responded in an ugly manner.
They said there was a conspiracy to prevent
people from giving blood to the war heroes.
"But I managed to go to the blood
transfusion centre and point out the truth
to those who hold high office in the Health
Ministry. The director of the national blood
transfusion centre has been interdicted. It
must be understood that the Health Minister
has to be held responsible for this
situation. He is not only the health
minister, but also the leader of the house.
Also, Health Minister Nimal Siripala de
Silva is the head of the World Health
Organisation. But he is silent. It is the
opposition that exposed this robbery.
"If this incident happened when we in
government, the People's Alliance would have
created a huge stir. But we still have not
taken this issue to the people. Please
remember that what these people have done is
to get a commission from the people's blood.
We should not keep quiet. We have to take it
to the people and get maximum mileage on it.
We have to request for a parliamentary
debate on the matter," he said.
The parliamentary group agreed and said they
would request for a debate on the matter.
How Ranil carried the day at the UNP Working
The UNP's Working Committee met last
Thursday (11) under the chairmanship of
Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe amidst
expectations of it turning out to be a
heated affair due to the issues that were
scheduled to be discussed.
The committee was to discuss the final
proposal relating to the party reforms. The
meeting therefore began with Party Secretary
Tissa Attanayake handing over the proposals
of the committee of party seniors that had
been tasked to present a report on the
The party seniors committee consists of
Joseph Michael Perera, Gamini Jayawickrema
Perera, Renuka Herath, Sarathchandra
Rajakaruna, Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake and
Attanayake then presented the final
proposals of the senior's committee on the
party reforms. The first proposal of the 14
proposals in the reforms report was the
re-appointment of a deputy leader and an
assistant leader. It was also proposed that
any post in the party that falls vacant
should be filled within a period of eight
days and the power to be vested with the
party leader and the respective committee.
The third most important proposal was to
form a student's organisation and a bhikku
front for the party.
It was also proposed to evaluate the work of
approximately 20 position holders in the
party every three months.
Other proposals included the introduction of
reforms to the legal unit of the party and
to give a facelift to the Lakvanitha Unit,
Youth Front and the Trade Union Wing.
However, Johnston Fernando, Lakshman
Seneviratne and Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena
objected to the 14 proposals. Many others
expressed their views on the report.
Finally, Vajira Abeywardena said there was
no point in presenting the report if the
proposals were not accepted. Ravi
Karunanayake said a final decision on the
matter should not be taken at the time and
that it should be postponed so that careful
consideration can be given to any
amendments. Sirinal de Mel said there was no
need for a new constitution to make the
party win. He said J.R. Jayewardene did not
bring a new constitution to win the election
However, finally a decision was arrived at
on whether the report should be accepted or
Wickremesinghe spoke at this point. "No it
should not be postponed. A final decision
has to be taken. If it is postponed, the
blame will be taken elsewhere. Therefore,
decide now if the proposals are accepted or
not," he said. The majority believed that
the final decision should be taken by vote.
Seneviratne opposed such a vote. Fernando
said he opposed the proposal to create a
post of deputy leader and one assistant
leader. He too said there was no need for a
vote to be taken.
Finally, Jayawickrema Perera and Abdul Cader
proposed and seconded that the reforms
report be passed. There was no objection to
it and it was also accepted to implement the
proposals outlined in the report.
Wickremesinghe spoke next and said that once
a final decision has been arrived at after a
lengthy discussion there should be no reason
to create more controversies.
"The report has now been approved after
taking into consideration all the issues.
Therefore, please do not take these issues
outside and do not create problems," he
Fernando then criticised the party's youth
front saying it was inactive.
Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, who is generally
quiet, responded by vehemently objecting to
"Mr. Parliamentarian, please don't speak in
this manner. You do not know what I have
done through the youth front. I was
appointed to parliament after receiving
84,000 preferential votes. I have formed 60
committees in my district. Other
parliamentarians also do that, but can you
please tell me what you have done in your
district," he said.
Kariyawasam also listed the things he has
done through the youth front. However, he
kept quiet after being advised by the senior
members not to create a controversy.
Opposition Leader of the Western Provincial
Council, Kithsiri Kahatapitiya presented
He said the provincial councillors have been
meeting the past few weeks to propose that
conflicts within the party should be kept
inside the walls of Sirikotha.
Fernando said, "No that is not the case. The
councillors criticised the party
Kahatapitiya did not accept the allegation.
"It is a complete lie. None of the
councilors criticised the party leadership.
Everyone said the party leader has to be
protected. Please don't give
misinterpretations," he said.
Finally, the meeting ended and
Wickremesinghe walked up to Fernando and
Seneviratne and shook their hands.
The hunt for a deputy leader in the UNP
The UNP's Western Provincial Councilors last
week diverted their attention towards the
issues that have arisen with regard to the
The UNP councilors who met at the council's
opposition leader's office last Friday
morning held a lengthy discussion on the
issue. All the councilors present believed
that the controversies within the party
needed to be resolved, especially since they
would be the ones to face the greater
difficulties among the party's grassroot
It was therefore decided to make a request
from the UNP parliamentarians who are
playing a key role in the party reforms.
"Yes, we have to intervene in this matter
now. We have to make a request from our
senior parliamentarians. We have to ask them
not to take the internal party issues to the
open. We are the ones who are always with
our village membership and they ask
questions from us. Then we are the ones
faced with the problems. No UNP member likes
to hear there are internal conflicts in the
party. Therefore, we need to discuss with
the parliamentarians the difficulties faced
by us at the grassroot level," the Western
Provincial Councilors said.
Meeting with MPs
It was decided to speak to Parliamentarians
Johnston Fernando, Lakshman Seneviratne and
Thalatha Atukorale immediately. Fernando,
Seneviratne and Atukorale said they too were
interested in speaking about the matter with
It was then decided to meet the following
Monday. The question then was the venue for
Councilor from Colombo North, C. Ram said
the meeting could take place at his
residence in Colpetty, but said a problem
would arise with regard to parking of
It was finally decided to hold the
discussion at Councilor Sagara Senaratne's
residence and Senaratne keenly accepted the
The Western Provincial Councilors arrived at
Senaratne's residence by 5.30 p.m. last
Monday. Thirty one out of the 35 councilors
arrived for the discussion. Councilors Mohan
Lal Grero, Jayantha Silva, Sarana Lal and
Palitha Behenikumara did not attend the
At the end of the meeting, it was decided to
oppose the request being made for the party
leader to quit and to make sure Ranil
Wickremesinghe remained the leader of the
UNP. The decision was unanimous.
It was also decided to inform the councilors
absent at the meeting of the decision and to
query their stance on it. Calls were
immediately made to the four councilors and
they too agreed with the decision.
As the discussion was nearing an end,
Fernando, Seneviratne and Atukorale arrived
at Senaratne's residence, who welcomed them
in a cordial manner.
Getting things started Seneviratne said,
"Let's discuss things straight. We are all
from the same party. But if some one asks
if I am going to leave the party, I will
start by giving a good shot to that person's
face. We are not going to leave this party.
All we want is to win an election."
Everyone started to laugh at Seneviratne's
statement - that he would give a good shot
in the face. Fernando started to speak next
and he criticised the party leadership.
Seneviratne also agreed with Fernando.
"Mahinda Rajapakse speaks of the country. We
speak of the stomach. The party leadership
should accept the responsibility of losing
the provincial council elections. The
constitution needs to be changed like it was
done in 1994. Party decisions should be
taken by a panel. A panel has to be put in
place for the purpose. Either Sajith, SB or
Rukman should be made the deputy leader of
the party," Seneviratne said.
Fernando also joining in, criticised the
party leadership for its actions when former
President Chandrika Kumaratunga took over
three ministries during the UNF government.
Atukorale also backed these comments.
The councilors then expressed their views.
Senaratne spoke first. "We went around the
island in the past few days. There is a lot
of expectations about Sajith Premadasa by
the UNP supporters. Therefore, if Sajith is
appointed as the deputy leader, we would get
the grassroot level support," Senaratne
He said Premadasa would be able to attract
the support of the youth and said he should
be made the deputy leader.
He also said he along with the other
councilors were ready to make the request
from Wickremesinghe and if he agreed to the
request, they would ensure that all the
actions against the party leader are
The discussion then came to an end and it
was decided by the councilors to meet with
the party leadership to discuss matters.
Senaratne then invited all those gathered
for dinner at his residence. During the
dinner, Senaratne received a call from one
of his close friends - Sajith Premadasa.
Senaratne and Premadasa are in the habit of
speaking to each other every night. When
Premadasa called, Senaratne told him details
of the discussion that evening.
"Oh really, then I too will come for a few
minutes and meet the crowd and have some
dinner," Premadasa said, and arrived at
Senaratne's residence a short while later.