Beliatte battles stump Thilanga
Mahinda Rajapakse and Thilanga
The Rajapakses have for some time now been
facing the issue of deciding on the next
person to take charge of the family bastion
of Beliatte in Hambantota.
The Rajapakse family has held on to the
organiser post of the Beliatte electorate
since the advent of the SLFP itself and now
the President's brother, Basil Rajapakse,
has made several requests that he be
appointed as the next organiser for Beliatte.
Basil, who entered active politics after
Mahinda Rajapakse assumed office as
President believed that taking over as
Beliatte organiser would be the ideal base
for him to build his political future.
However the President's wife, First Lady
Shiranthi along with most of the other
family members had other plans. They
believed that Beliatte should be handed over
to the President's eldest son, Namal.
Shiranthi believed that her eldest son was
the natural heir to the Beliatte borough.
Due to this cold war within the family, the
President did not appoint anyone as the
Beliatte organiser, a post that fell vacant
after Rajapakse assumed office way back in
However, it was only last year that the
President decided to hand over Beliatte to
another Rajapakse as an interim measure.
Accordingly Nirupama Rajapakse was appointed
to Beliatte based on several conditions. Key
among the conditions was that she would have
to hand the electorate back when such a
request was made by the President. Another
condition was that Namal would have all the
freedom he needs to carry out propaganda
work to build his image within the
Soon after this appointment and unable to
stomach the disappointment over the
President's move, Basil left the country for
a few months.
However, the shrewd politician that he is,
Basil was not about to give up and decided
to launch his own campaign for the Beliatte
post from far away LA. The plan was to get
the President to dissolve parliament and
call for a general election soon after the
North Central and Sabaragamuwa Provincial
Council elections that were being held at
Soon enough Basil returned to the island to
take charge of the campaign himself.
Although the President went along with Basil
at first, he later realised his younger
brother had bigger ambitions than what was
apparent. Rajapakse also realised that if he
dissolved parliament and called for a
general election, his son Namal would not be
able to contest at the election. Namal at
the time was completing his studies in
Not to dissolve parliament
Shiranthi also realised that Namal would be
left out if the elections were to be held at
that time. She therefore requested the
President not to dissolve parliament and to
do so at a time Namal would be able to
contest the election.
The President therefore decided not to
dissolve parliament and said that he was
unable to go for a snap poll because of the
JVP and the JHU. He said that if parliament
was dissolved then most members of the JVP
and the JHU who helped in his election would
not be entitled to a pension, as they would
not have completed five years as
Basil then shelved his plan for a snap poll.
However, the President did not wish to upset
Basil and told him to launch his political
career from the Bandaranaike bastion -
Gampaha. He told Basil to take over the
leadership in Gampaha and Rajapakse
appointed him as the head of the committee
to coordinate the Gampaha District.
This way, at least temporarily the President
managed to sidestep the issue with regard to
Namal and Basil.
It was then decided to dissolve the North
Western and Central Provincial Councils and
hold elections in these two provinces and
then proceed to dissolve the three remaining
councils - Western, Uva and Southern.
During the discussions held on the matter
between the President and Basil, several
Chief ministerial candidate
Basil had informed the President that he was
interested in contesting as the governing
party's chief ministerial candidate for the
Western Province. He then requested the
President not to dissolve the Uva and
Southern Provincial Councils at the same
time as the Western Provincial Council so
that the entire strength of the state could
be used to win the Western Provincial
Council election. He believed that the state
resources would have to be divided among the
three provinces if the provincial polls were
Basil had told the President that he would
then be able to first win the Western
Provincial Council election and later
contest the general election from the
Hence, Basil spent most of his time in
Gampaha with a view to break the
Bandaranaike stranglehold on the district.
However during his visits, he realised that
it was not going to be an easy task to break
in to the Bandaranaike vote base.
This made Basil think twice about announcing
his decision to take over Gampaha and he
decided to discuss the matter further with
The final outcome of the discussion was to
dissolve only the Western Provincial Council
and utilise the state election machinery to
win the council with a decent majority.
One man who was not impressed with this
strategy was former Western Province Chief
Minister Reginald Cooray who was visibly
disappointed by the dissolution of the
Western Provincial Council. Both the
President and Basil have not been on good
terms with Cooray for some time because the
two believed Cooray was a close friend of
former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.
However, before the dissolution of the
council, the President held a discussion
with Cooray. During the meeting, Cooray had
expressed his displeasure at the premature
dissolution of the council.
The President unwilling to change his mind,
had said he would dissolve the council
whenever he wanted and that he was only
informing Cooray as he was the chief
minister of the council.
The President had then given another message
to Cooray. "I don't like to make you the
party's chief ministerial candidate once
again. I want to put one of my men there,"
the President had said.
Shocked by the statement, Cooray had asked,
"Why Sir? Am I not yours? Don't you see me
as a candidate of the SLFP?"
"No, you contest from Kalutara at the
general election. Then you can enter
parliament and even hold a cabinet
portfolio," the President had responded.
It is in this backdrop that former Sri Lanka
Cricket Chairman Thilanga Sumathipala came
in to the limelight. He has been vying to
contest as the ruling party's chief
ministerial candidate for the Western
Provincial Council for some time now.
Sumathipala had also received several
invitations from the President to take over
an electorate in Colombo. However, due to
his desire to be nominated as the party's
chief ministerial candidate, Sumathipala did
not accept the post of electoral organiser.
Soon after the dissolution of the Western
Provincial Council, Sumathipala had sent
several messages to the President. Through
these messages he had informed the President
of his desire to contest as the party's
chief ministerial candidate.
The President soon after making the
dissolution order left for his official
residence in Kandy and then sent a message
to Sumathipala from Kandy. The message was
for Sumathipala to meet the President in
Sumathipala immediately left for Kandy with
his family and several friends. During the
meeting the President had told Sumathipala
not to expect to be nominated as the party's
chief ministerial candidate, as he already
had someone else in mind. He told
Sumathipala to contest the election and
accept a portfolio after recording a good
Sumathipala was not in a position to ignore
the President's request.
Rajapakse had then invited Sumathipala to
join him in the chopper that flew him to the
Hanguranketha election meeting. That was the
consolation prize for Sumathipala to abandon
his dream of becoming the Colombo District
leader and the chief ministerial candidate
of the UPFA.
Chamal second time unlucky
The victories achieved by the military in
the north have been and are to be used to
the maximum by the government in carrying
out its political agenda.
The military victories are being used as a
cover for corruption, mismanagement and
suppression of democracy by the government.
As such, apart from the government
ministers, the provincial council
contestants are also using the military
victories as part of their political
campaign. Some of the ruling party
candidates have printed posters with their
pictures along with those of the security
forces in the battlefront.
However, the fact that the government
members cannot always hide behind military
victories was revealed last week during an
event in Wemidilla in the Matale District.
The opening ceremony of the Wemidilla
reservoir was scheduled to be held under the
patronage of Ministers Chamal Rajapakse,
Janaka Bandara Tennekoon and Jayatissa
Ranaweera. However, the VIPs were in for a
rude shock upon their arrival at the event.
Chamal is President Mahinda Rajapakse's
brother and a seasoned politician. However,
the incident that took place proves that
the people do not treat Rajapakses any
Chamal on an earlier occasion also had to
face the wrath of the people during a public
event which was splashed by the media at
that time. During that incident, it was
Chamal's security contingent that had to
intervene and rescue him from harm. Chamal
had to face a similar incident last week.
Families lose land
The Wemidilla reservoir was renovated using
a sum of Rs. 250 million to provide water to
1,800 acres of paddy land in the area.
However, there was an allegation that due to
the renovation of the project, some 225 odd
families were to lose their lands and
Although the people had been given
alternative land in Laggala in the Matale
District, they were not happy with it.
Therefore, the people started a protest
campaign at the reservoir project from the
day prior to the opening. When Chamal and
the other ministers arrived for the opening
ceremony, the people had stepped into the
canal protesting against the government and
its decision to open the reservoir.
The people started to shout slogans against
the government while a shocked Chamal and
other VIPs watched helplessly.
All attempts by the police and VIP security
personnel along with the organisers of the
event to bring the situation under control
failed. The protest intensified and finally
ended with the people throwing stones at the
The VIP security personnel had to once again
take Chamal and the VIPs to safety.
'Cutting' Azwer down to size and SB's rise
The campaign for the Central Provincial
Council has intensified and the governing
party members have been worried by the large
crowds attracted by UNP Chief Ministerial
candidate S.B. Dissanayake.
Senior government members have expressed
shock and disbelief at the support garnered
by Dissanayake at a time the government had
launched a full blown campaign capitalising
on the military victories in the north.
President Mahinda Rajapaske himself spent
most of his time last week campaigning for
the Central Provincial Council election from
his official residence in Kandy. In order to
strengthen the party's election campaign,
the President presided over many meetings in
the province. People from different sectors
and religions were also invited for meals at
the President's House in Kandy.
Large number of Muslims
As part of this campaign a large number of
Muslims were invited to President's House.
This task was allocated to Minister Faizer
One particular incident that took place
during one of these events caught everyone's
Former UNP MP A.H.M. Azwer, now a
presidential advisor was present at the
event. However, he was not given any part in
the programme and was not invited to make a
speech. Although he had tried to make a
speech, he was prevented from doing so.
The reason for distancing Azwer had been due
to the President's realisation that keeping
Azwer close to him was 'harmful' to his
The President was informed of the attack on
Azwer by certain Muslim parties that held a
protest meeting at the New Town Hall in
Colombo over the Palestine issue. It was an
eye opener for the President.
The President had then decided to sideline
Azwer. In front of thousands of Muslims, the
President made an interesting comment about
Azwer. "During the last presidential
election there was a campaign that if
Mahinda Rajapakse became President, the
Muslims would not be able to pray. One such
person who said it at the time is now with
me - Azwer. Look at the difference, Azwer
who spoke of me in such a manner then is now
with me," the President had said.
Everyone gathered had started to laugh at
the President's comment. Azwer had no option
but to grin and bear. Later Azwer had told
the President, "Sir you 'cut' me very
"So Azwer, it is the truth, I did not say a
lie. Besides, it cannot be hidden. All those
present at the gathering knew what you had
said. Don't worry. One cannot be afraid to
speak the truth," the President had said.
Readying for the hustings
Amidst the election campaigns for the
Central and North Western Provincial
Councils, Opposition Leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe was to visit Elpitiya last
week to speak to tea and rubber small
During a meeting there, a large number of
tea and rubber smallholders complained to
Wickremesinghe about the problems faced by
them. The meeting that was organised by
Galle District Parliamentarian Gayantha
Karunathileka was attended by
Parliamentarians Vajira Abeywardena and
Sagala Ratnayaka as well.
Addressing the gathering, Wickremesinghe
said that the problems faced by exporters
would only be solved under a UNP government
and not by President Mahinda Rajapakse's
Meanwhile, UNP chief ministerial candidate
for the Central Provincial Council, S. B.
Dissanayake had organised a meeting at the
Cooperative Hotel in Nuwara Eliya. Party
Secretary Tissa Attanayake and
Parliamentarians Renuka Herath, Ravi
Samaraweera and Rukman Senanayake attended
Many Tamil politicians contesting the
election also participated at the meeting.
They made emotional speeches pointing out
that under the present government, the
movement of estate Tamils had been
drastically restricted and that a majority
of the estate community was preparing to
vote for the UNP at the election.
Soon after the meeting, everyone attended
the district leaders' meeting organised at
the residence of Nuwara Eliya Mayor,
Chandana Silva. Senanayake, Samaraweera and
Herath chaired the meeting.
At the meeting Samaraweera alleged that
district organisers in Badulla were divided
due to the actions of Harin Fernando.
"Mr. Secretary, please look into this. The
organisers in the district earlier worked
in harmony. Since Harin Fernando was
appointed to Badulla, there has been a
division among the organisers. Although he
is the organiser for Badulla, he organises
social events in other electorates and
attends them without informing the relevant
organiser. Please advise him about it,"
Since Fernando was also among the gathering,
Attanayake immediately took steps to resolve
the issue. Attanayake told Fernando to have
cordial relations with other organisers and
to inform them if and when he organised a
social event within an electorate that is
not under his purview. Fernando accepted his
'mistake' and assured that he would not act
in such a manner in future.
Silva had organised lunch for the gathering
at his residence. Everyone was surprised to
hear a story related by Silva.
He said that Minister Maithripala Sirisena
had visited his residence and had tea with
him recently. He also said that Sirisena had
changed his clothes before leaving his
Attanayake then said, "He can remove his
clothes and change them, but you don't try
to fit into his discarded clothes."
The UNP Political Affairs Committee was to
meet last Monday. Since most of the members
were engaged in campaign work in the two
provinces, only Deputy Leader Karu
Jayasuriya and Attanayake were summoned for
a discussion at Cambridge Terrace.
It was also the first meeting held after the
dissolution of the Western Provincial
Council. As such, the discussion centered on
the future course of action to be taken with
regard to the newly dissolved council.
It was decided to appoint a nominations
committee and an election steering committee
after the conclusion of the Central and
North Western Provincial Council election on
February 14. Wickremesinghe also informed
that those who wished to contest for the
Western Provincial Council from the UNP
should be permitted to submit their
Wickremesinghe then attended one of the main
UNP rallies organised for the North Western
Provincial Council election in Wennappuwa.
Since the meeting was scheduled for 2 p.m.,
Wickremesinghe visited former UNP MP Festus
Perera at his residence and inquired after
It was Perera's wife, UNP MP Mary Larine
Perera, who had organised the meeting.
Parliamentarians Karu Jayasuriya, Gamini
Jayawickrema Perera, Tissa Attanayake and
Palitha Range Bandara also participated at
Soon after the meeting everyone proceeded to
another propaganda meeting organised by
North Western Chief Ministerial candidate
Shamal Senarath in Narammala.
Last Tuesday, Wickremesinghe spent time at
his Colombo office making the necessary
arrangements for the ceremony to mark the
61st Independence Day celebrations with the
participation of opposition political
parties in Kundasale, Kandy.
Apart from the UNP members other political
parties like the SLMC, New Left Front, etc.,
also participated at the event.
Addressing the gathering Wickremesinghe said
that in order to ensure the people's
supremacy the UNP had to be made the victor
and if the bullet was to rule the country
the present Mahinda Rajapakse administration
should be made victorious at the elections.