Southern Provincial Council poll gets closer to D-day on
October 10, the opposition spoke as one on a significant
matter: the misuse of state resources by the government.
A leading member of the UNP stated that it was a vulgar
display of misuse of power. They were he said, taking it
up in parliament but the misuse continued unabated which
only showcased the arrogance of the ruling party.
Handunnetti of the JVP said that whilst his party was
doing well and especially so if it was a level playing
field, was vociferous in his condemnation at the misuse
of state resources for the sole benefit of the ruling
party. The state media he said was not fair in the
least. It was a damning indictment on equality and
suggested that the elections could not possibly be fair.
column was reminded of Navin Dissanayake’s
pronouncements sometime ago on this very subject.
Suggesting that to a leading UNP Member of Parliament,
he said that Navin’s behaviour at that time was shocking
as he had dragged his father too into the mire. Such was
his brand of politics and if Navin wished to take that
line he could but it was not for the UNP: they were made
of sterner integrity than that.
Ratnayaka had his work cut out for him in Matara: He was
putting in his miles as were his troops. They were loyal
and were working hard to make as best an impact as they
could in light of the ever increasing use of state
resources by the government. Most of the candidates
including the UFPA types could not match the resources
of Sajin Vaas Gunawardena.
sooner was it announced that his sibling Manoj, was
incurring significant losses at SriLankan Airlines –
well over USD90 million – Sajin was already “to ing and
fro ing” with considerable ease, matched only by the
President himself: Sajin was transporting himself all
over the south by personal helicopter! The helicopter is
being operated by
Deccan for the moment and Sajin is said to be planning on using
it at an aviation training school after election use. No
one can deny that he is a class act with his “out of the
box” ostentatious strategy.
President not to be left out of the hustings at which he
is an absolute natural, toured the south exhorting
southerners to vote for the UFPA. In between opening a
state of the art administrative block in Hakmana and
other official events also in the southern area around
Tangalle, he was hosting meeting after meeting – twice
daily – at the family grounds in Medamulana. Some 3,500
attend each of these meetings where they meet the
President, listen to what he has to say and obligingly
assure the President that they would indeed, vote for
meetings are lively affairs with the crowds cheering the
President with great passion and the President openly
enjoying himself. He put across a powerful message.
There was a need he said, for opposition at every level,
within the party, the district, the province but it had
to stop there. There was no room he said for opposition
to the motherland. That was unacceptable and he took to
task those that went abroad and spoke ill of the
country. ‘Our problems are ours, we don’t need outsiders
interfering. We can talk and discuss and solve these
issues amongst ourselves’ was his message.
this went down well in a backward electorate he was in
fact paying a back handed compliment to Ranil
Wickremesinghe in that Ranil could get the international
community to do his bidding over that of the President.
In Vakarai, the President opened a state of the art
school and stated that communalism was now history.
There was he said, just two groups: those who love the
motherland and those who work against the motherland. We
will deal with the second category and it was the
people’s responsibility to help his government do that.
Vote of confidence
other speeches he spoke of the responsibility of voting
for the UFPA; he wanted he said a thumping vote of
confidence from the south to rival the Uva if need be.
as the President was stating his take on the loyalty of
some of his subjects, former President Chandrika
Kumaratunga was in India, telling anyone who would
listen that despite the war being over there was a fear
psychosis in this resplendent isle. The former Head of
State slipped back into Sri Lanka and caught a flight to
New York as quietly as she could. She was attending the
Clinton Global Initiative 2009 in New York. Reports also
reached this column that Harry Jayawardena was in New
York for this event.
Beverley Palace was continuing to be constructed amidst
a much higher level of security with the villagers and
the estate workers placed on high alert – and with
cameras and camera phones banned from the site for
prudence at least if not privacy and security.
Mangala Samaraweera the chief proponent of the Grand
Alliance expected it to be signed imminently; he was
candid enough to admit that the date depended on the
star gazers. The grass roots have awoken, there was a
new and renewed interest in the opposition parties’
supporters and it was fun but the financials remained as
elusive as any. The UNP and the other opposition parties
have to raise funds from their supporters and corporates
whilst the UFPA has almost expeditiously got themselves
the “state machinery” with which no one party can
of the UNPers were speaking openly about substantial
monies that their party had received from
in 2004. Significantly those people were wondering as to
what happened to this money especially now that the
party needed it the most. There was also the cocktail
circuit talk, where it was speculated on that of the 40
odd MPs in the UNP, no sooner the parliamentary
elections are over with, they too were set to cross over
to the government benches. It was estimated that there
would then only be a handful of core UNPers left at Sri
Karunanayake had fruitful and frank discussions with the
IMF team. There was no doubt said RK that there was a
significant compliance requirement which the government
would have to follow – if they were committed to
receiving the balance of the monies under the loan
arrangements. RK was also paying full attention to the
debate on foreign policy on Friday in parliament.
large gathering made up of the full spectrum of
political parties and the diplomatic corps gathered at
India House to bid farewell to Alok Prasad amidst much
Supreme Court decision in connection with P.B.
Jayasundera took most by surprise including Vasudeva
Nanayakkara, the petitioner. He preferred to wait until
he saw the reasoning before making a considered
Spreading the message
the issue of the so-called “fear psychosis” Nanayakkara
said that under President Premadasa in 1989, Mahinda
Rajapakse and he went to
Geneva to spread the message. In his view history had now
vindicated their actions then. It was he said similar
now. History will have to be the authority on the
correctness of Sri Lankans making pronouncements about
the “country situation” at international fora. People
can say what they like now but the supreme judgement
will necessarily have to be left to history, was his
Meanwhile the current Secretary to the Treasury had his
contract extended by an year just a day prior to the
judgment and speculation was rife that Dr. P.B
Jayasundera would be appointed as the Secretary to the
new Ambassador of the
United States of America,
Ms Patricia A. Butenis presented her credentials to
President Rajapakse last week. She could well have got a
hint as to what reception she should expect from the
tone and tenor of some sections of the press. How she
copes will be evident soon as she could not have arrived
at a more conspicuous time in Sri Lanka.
government has been shocked into accepting that bashing
the West after the war has been concluded (save for the
mopping up if indeed that is required) has its
consequences. It is in the West that we market our
products. It is in the West that we therefore get our
aid. The West has an abiding interest in us purely for
that reason and that alone. Unlike what the local
politicians say to an uninformed local voter, there is
hardly anything of interest to them to be obsessed with
have not found oil yet. We have no mines of natural
resources in commercial quantities. Strategic
positioning is too obvious only to our geographical
neighbours. But when it comes to human rights, freedom
of expression, rule of the law including good democratic
practices the West does sit up and take notice when they
are practised in the breach. Unlike the non effective
sanctions imposed in countries like Myanmar by the West
in the past, they now resort to selective, targeted
sanctions proved to be more successful and therein lies
the rub for Sri Lanka.
President Rajapakse stands to win the next presidential
election due to the victory over the LTTE. The country
is unanimous in its thinking on this, including this
column. The strident style and postures adopted to
oppose any voice of dissent be that from the West, NGOs
or the media is not required and will neither enhance
nor diminish his chances at the next presidential
election. But for the people of
it will have a long lasting effect if selective
sanctions are imposed in the future.
style of pushing the war victory though effective for
local political gain to an extent, has had its downside
too. The Nishantha Muthuhettige episode could be termed
as a direct fall out of this style of approach. Anarkali
Aakarsha saying “I want to serve the people like my
grand father did” is another. All want to ride on the
popularity of the President and the success of the war.
report from the Under Secretary of State for South East
Asia in the USA, Robert Blake was to be presented to the
Congress on September 23 but has been held back due to
a request in person by a Sri Lankan senior defence
official. Whether the government required time to
accede, take corrective action, propose fresh
commitments or make amends will be known shortly.
Meanwhile the circus rolls on and all eyes will be on
the forthcoming southern election. War crimes report,
GSP + and the state of the economy will take a back seat
for the moment.
recession and its impact on the local economy have
resulted in a massive increase in the country’s
unemployment rate and unrest among those who have lost
The Census and
Statistics Department has stated that there have been
155,000 jobs in the industrial sector and 99,000 in the
services that have been lost in the second quarter of
data, the Census and Statistics Department stated that
unemployment was no longer "down" and that there would
be a further increase in the unemployment rate if the
current trends were to continue.
The data that
excluded the North and Eastern Provinces indicated a
6.3% increase in overall unemployment against the 5.5%
recorded a year earlier. The National Center for Job
Losers (NCJL) Convener Wasantha Samarasinghe said there
has so far been no proper survey conducted by the
authorities to determine as to how many people have lost
He told The
Sunday Leader that although the Census and
Statistics Department has released statistics for the
second quarter of the year, there has been no survey
conducted to account for the individuals who have lost
jobs since July this year.
companies that are being closed down every single day
that go unaccounted. No one knows about these people who
lose jobs and they are helpless," he said. Samarasinghe
charged that the government has ignored the plight of
the people who have lost jobs since the crisis
commenced. "The government has to now address the issue
given the large number of people who have lost jobs," he
He referred to a
statement made by Labour Minister Athauda Seneviratne on
August 4 that the government would implement an
Unemployment Benefit Insurance Scheme to address the
grievances of those who have lost jobs. "He promised to
implement it by September. Now there are only a few more
days for the month of September to end and the proposal
has not even reached the Cabinet for approval," he said.
Samarasinghe, although the government has admitted to
the need for the establishment of a fund to address the
grievances of the people who have lost jobs, the
mechanism has to be set in motion.
cannot escape the present unemployment crisis anymore,"
He noted that if
the government by the end of September does not take
action, the NCJL together with the people who have lost
jobs would march to the Labour Ministry demanding the
compensation promised to them.
added that the NCJL was in the process of collecting
data of all those who have lost jobs due to the economic
crisis. "So far we have carried out surveys in Colombo
and Gampaha and received details of about 30,000 people
who have lost jobs in the two areas," he said.
charged that the deal arrived at by the government with
the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to receive a
billion dollar loan would result in a further increase
in the country’s unemployment rate.
Ministry however has stated a much lower figure than
that reported by the Census and Statistics Department.
and Manpower Ministry Secretary Mahinda Madihahewa said
an island wide survey has identified 50,000 individuals
who have lost employment since July 2008.
He told The
Sunday Leader that of the 50,000 about 30,000 of the
unemployed were from the outstations with the apparel
sector being the most affected industry.
When asked as to
the difference in numbers recorded by the Ministry and
the Census and Statistics Department, Madihahewa said
the Ministry calculations were based on the official
termination reports received by the Labour Department.
According to the
official terminations received by the Department, there
have been a total of 46 factories that have closed down
since July last year, of which 22 were from the apparel
sector. "There are also some companies that have closed
down after arriving at agreements with employees without
informing the department. Such statistics are not
recorded with us," Madihahewa said.
Referring to the
steps taken to address the grievances of those who have
lost jobs due to the economic crisis, Madihahewa said
the Ministry has submitted a proposal to the President
on introducing an Unemployment Benefit Insurance Scheme
that would pay an allowance for employees who received
less than Rs. 25,000 as monthly salaries at the time of
losing their jobs. The scheme has been planned in a
manner in which individuals who are applicable to enter
the scheme would be paid a sum between Rs. 4,000 – Rs.
12,000 for a period of 24 months.
nothing has been finalized yet and it is all in the
discussion stage," Madihahewa said.
The final scheme according the
Secretary would include proposals that would be
introduced by the ILO consultant who is due to arrive in
Sri Lanka on October 4 from Geneva.