UNP’s Pro-Reforms Group Takes A Step Back
The UNP’s pro-reforms group led by Parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa after breathing fire for the past several weeks has now decided to turn off the heat until the party convention in November.
The intermediary in the discussions between the UNP leadership and the pro-reforms group, UNP MP Kabir Hashim said that although the pro-reforms group was hoping to bring about a settlement to the party crisis, it has been unable to arrive at a final solution.
Instead, the group has arrived at an interim agreement.
The group arrived at this interim agreement at a discussion attended by members of the pro-reforms group and Hashim on Wednesday (29) evening.
After much deliberation it was decided to keep silent till the party convention when the reforms would be officially ratified.
Hashim then communicated the decision to party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Hashim explained that the pro-reforms group called on the party leadership to introduce reforms to the party, which has happened.
“A Reforms Committee presented the reforms that have now received approval by the Working Committee. Things are on track now and the reforms have to now be ratified at the party convention scheduled for November,” he said.
The pro-reforms group has now adopted the stance that it would wait for the reforms to be ratified at the party convention and an effective process is put in place.
Following the UNP’s defeat at the April general election, the party has been faced with a leadership crisis with party members pushing for Sajith Premadasa as the alternative to take over the party leadership.
During the past few weeks, the pro-reforms group while pushing for the implementation of the party reforms also called for Premadasa to be appointed to a senior post with powers in the party.
Nevertheless, Premadasa has now decided to wait for the party convention.
“After the convention, when the reforms are in place, there will be democracy in the party and there will be a proper system in place. Any suitable person could then contest for the senior posts in the party,” Hashim said.
Be that as it may, all members of the pro-reforms group are not agreeable to the “interim agreement,” saying it is a sign of defeat on their part.
“We came out and shouted, but now we have decided to wait for the party convention,” a pro-reforms group MP said on the basis of anonymity.
The group has even decided to withdraw a proposal made by Premadasa requesting for voting rights for UNP local government and provincial council members when electing a party leader.
However, Hashim said that all parties are still open to any positive proposals that could resolve the party crisis at the earliest.
Ginger Ale And Welithalapa For Mangala
UNP Media Unit Head, Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera was last week summoned to the fourth floor of the CID headquarters. He was summoned for interrogation on the controversial poster printed by the UNP for its protest against the 18th Amendment last month.
Following the controversy surrounding the poster that depicted Mahinda Rajapaksa as Hitler, Samaraweera claimed responsibility for printing the poster.
Nevertheless, the CID questioned him for over three and a half hours last Tuesday (28). Samaraweera entered the CID office with his lawyers Nilanthi Peiris and Shiral Lakthileka. The lawyers were allowed to accompany Samaraweera during the interrogation.
After entering the CID at around 12 noon Samaraweera was asked by the CID officers whether he would have some lunch. Turning down the offer, Samaraweera opted to continue with the interrogation session.
Samaraweera was interrogated by the OIC of the Special Investigations Unit 3 and an Inspector of Police.
Realising the session with the CID was not going to end any time soon, the next time he was asked whether he would like some refreshments, he agreed.
The CID then treated him to a Ginger Ale and some Welithalapa.
Samaraweera spent the first hour making his statement to the CID. He said that as the head of the UNP Media Unit, it was his duty to create awareness among the people of the different political moods through various means like posters, leaflets, etc.
Claiming responsibility for the poster, he said it was printed for the party’s protest against the 18th Amendment on September 8 and since the whole move was likened to a dictatorial move, he decided to go with Hitler’s image.
After explaining a bit about world history and Hitler to the CID, Samaraweera said that similar posters have been printed about other world leaders as well.
“It is a democratic way to express the mood of the people and it is also freedom of expression,” he said.
After the statement was made, the CID commenced interrogating Samaraweera.
Showing him the poster, they had asked him if he recognised the poster and the person whose picture is in it. He responded by saying that he recognised the poster and the picture resembled a person who is also a friend of his for the past 30 years called Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The CID then questioned Samaraweera about the printing of the poster, where it was printed, who had done the art work and other minor details. A few hours later Samaraweera was allowed to walk out.
The case on the controversial poster was first handled by the Mirihana Police and later transferred to the CID.
Back To Colombo
Counselor at Sri Lanka’s Mission to the UN in New York, Maxwell Keegel is to arrive in the country this week after the External Affairs Ministry recalled him last month, sources from the External Affairs Ministry said.
Keegel was accused of handing over a fake document to the External Affairs Ministry.
Keegel had submitted a document claiming to hold a diploma in French from the Alliance Francaise in London as part of his educational qualifications.
However, the External Affairs Ministry upon verification had found the certificate to be a fake.
External Affairs Ministry sources said that although Keegel was summoned back to Sri Lanka last month, Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Dr. Palitha Kohona had requested that Keegel remain in New York until the conclusion of the UN General Assembly.
DNA: SF Still An MP
The imprisonment of former Army Chief and DNA Leader Sarath Fonseka for 30 months has opened a debate on whether he would lose his parliamentary seat following the conviction.
The government on Thursday (30) claimed that following the President’s endorsement of a 30-month jail term for Fonseka, he would not be eligible to sit as a Member of Parliament with immediate effect.
Cabinet Spokesperson and Media Minister Keheliya Rambukwella told the media that according to the Constitution, Fonseka would be deprived of his seat.
The DNA however has pointed out that Fonseka would not lose his parliamentary seat since a court martial and not a civil court convicted him.
DNA General Secretary, Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath explained that the Constitution states that a parliamentarian would stand to lose his seat in the House if he is convicted in a civil court.
“It is a military court that has convicted him and therefore Fonseka would not lose his parliamentary seat,” he said.
He added that Fonseka’s lawyers would present the facts if such a necessity arose.
The lawyers are also preparing a writ application against the verdict of the second court martial to be presented to the Court of Appeal.
Nevertheless, Fonseka’s parliamentary seat would remain until the Court of Appeal verdict.
Herath said that all preparations have been made to file the writ application.
“We will fight the verdict legally and also protest on the streets,” he said.
The DNA has planned a series of protest campaigns at district level that is to be launched from Saturday (2). Meanwhile, the JVP and UNP have also planned a series of protest campaigns locally and internationally against Fonseka’s imprisonment.
Charge Sheet Against RW
A charge sheet against UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is currently being finalized by a group of senior party members.
The charge sheet is to be handed over to Wickremesinghe after getting one million signatures from party members endorsing the 20 charges against him.
A senior UNPer confirmed that the charge sheet is being finalised and would be launched to collect the signatures within the next few weeks.
Key among the charges are several questions posed to Wickremesinghe on his alleged betrayal of the party.
The senior UNP member said that among the key charges against Wickremesinghe are how he prevented Gamini Dissanayake from forming a government in 1994, how he manipulated Srimani Athulathmudali and delivered Thondaman to Chandrika Kumaratunga, how he accepted funds for the party privately when there was already an accepted party procedure in place, how he sabotaged the impeachment motion against former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva, how he gave the party printing press to Malik Samarawickrema who in turn sold it to a private party and his actions with the government on the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. “Wickremesinghe has betrayed the party from the beginning,” he said.
He added that although Wickremesinghe knew about the general election scheduled for 2010 no electoral organisers were appointed to most electorates and a few were appointed several months before the April general election.
Senior JVPer “Out” From The Party
JVP politburo member and former Galle District Parliamentarian and Fisheries Minister in 2004, Chandrasena Wijesinghe has been ousted from the party’s decision making bodies.
A senior JVPer, Wijesinghe was removed from the party’s decision-making bodies a few months back.
The Sunday Leader learns that Wijesinghe’s removal from the party’s main organisations has been due to a conflict in ideas over party policies.
When contacted, JVP Propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath confirmed that Wijesinghe was no longer a member of the party’s decision-making bodies and would not take part in any key party activities.
Herath added that Wijesinghe remained a member of the party.
According to Herath, Wijesinghe has relinquished his duties in the party due to ill health.
“He is suffering from diabetes and cholesterol and cannot take part in most party activities. However, he is still a member of the JVP,” he said.