Geneva Trap And Sampur Carrot
UNP Parliamentarian and Economist Dr Harsha de Silva earned the ire of top echelons of the government when he claimed that the government was constructing the ‘Colombo Port City’ with a Chinese company that is facing a World Bank debarment for fraudulent practices. Although he made this remark last week at a press conference in Colombo, World Bank had issued a public statement in this regard a few years ago.
The Sri Lankan government has granted a 25-year corporate tax holiday to the Rs. 172.4 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) project handled by Chinese Communication and Construction Company (CCCC) which will reclaim more than 575 acres (233 hectares) of sea.
The expenses of Colombo Port City project is higher than the total cost of Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (US$ 210 million), Phase 1 of the Hambantota Port (US$ 361 million) and the Colombo-Katunayake Expressway (US$ 350 million) – three flagship developments project carried out by the Rajapaksa government. It is clear that the ‘Colombo Port City’ project will go down in the history as the biggest development project masterminded by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Soon after Dr Harsha de Silva made the controversial statement about the Colombo Port City project, several online publications reported that Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had ordered several senior Police officers to take measures to arrest Dr Harsha de Silva for making insidious statements.
The news of the arrest however sent shockwaves through the rank and file of the UNP as it was a threat on everyone in the opposition criticizing the government. Also, it raised many eyebrows as the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council was also around the corner.
The following day, several senior members of the government assured Harsha that there wasn’t any truth in the media reports that appeared in online publications. Allaying the fears of the UNP, Police Media Spokesman SSP Ajith Rohana issued a statement saying the Defence Secretary had not issued any instruction to arrest the UNP Parliamentarian. That eased the tension between the Police and the main opposition to a great extent.
UNP takes on Ajith Rohana
That was not the only entanglement the Police media spokesman had with the UNP last week. UNP Candidate for Western Province and former Solicitor General Srinath Perera convened a special press conference a few days ago against the Police Media Spokesman who criticized the main opposition party for granting nomination to Royce Fernando, who was arrested in connection with a robbery in Negombo. Srinath Perera lashed out at SSP Ajith Rohana for passing judgments over Fernando prior to the prosecution and urged him to resign from his position immediately as he had failed to discharge his duties in an unbiased manner.
However, Ajith Rohana’s response to the UNP candidate was interesting. He said he was willing to step down from his position at any moment as the job is ‘extremely stressful.’
“This is arguably the toughest job in the Police service as my duty starts at 4.30 in the morning. I answer more than 400 phone calls on a daily basis from 4.30 am to 11.30 pm and sometimes excessive use of the telephone leads to temporary hearing problems,” Ajith Rohana told his close associates.
However, his statement strongly resembled the remark made by former Elections Commissioner Dayananda Dissanayake on ‘stress’. That earned him many nicknames in the journalistic and political circles and it seems like the Police Media Spokesman too is travelling down the same path. However, a multiple police sources confirmed that the Police Media Spokesman would not resign from the position due to political pressure.
Duminda to stay away from politics for a month
Education Services Minister Duminda Dissanayake, son of the late Berty Premalal Dissanayake, had a narrow escape from a major accident last week when his jeep crashed against a bowser that was parked alongside the Galgamuwa – Padeniya road.
Minutes after the accident was reported some assumed that it was part of a conspiracy as the minister was strongly critical of the government and the administration of the North Central Province of late. However, it was later revealed that the Minister’s driver had fallen asleep while driving and there was no ‘conspiracy’ behind the accident.
Dissanayake’s jeep was severely damaged due to the accident and the front side of the vehicle looked atrocious. However, the Minister escaped with an injury on his left leg. Although his condition was not critical the Minister needed serious medical attention and he was taken to the Kurunegala hospital. Subsequently, he was transferred to Colombo National Hospital where he was examined by a group of veteran doctors.
Later he was transferred to Lanka Hospitals (Pvt) Limited for further treatment and hospital sources confirmed that he would be discharged on Saturday. However, they added that the Minister will have to stay away from active politics for at least one month as he is scheduled to undergo medical treatment and physiotherapy for his injured leg.
Indian HC dangles Sampur carrot ahead of Geneva
It is widely speculated among the political circles that India will vote in favour of the US sponsored resolution against Sri Lanka which will be presented to the 25th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council. With India’s general election around the corner, the central government of India will not try its luck as Tamil Nadu support will be crucial for any political front to form a government.
Although India’s support at the UNHRC session looks like a distant possibility, the Sri Lankan government has still not given up its attempts on developing an equation with India. There is a school of thought in the government who believes that the government should ‘manage issues’ with India, regardless of the pressure mounted by Tamil Nadu parties on the Indian central government.
And whilst there is this last minute scramble to manage issues on a diplomatic level before the Geneva HRC sessions; with our closest neighbour India not playing ball due to pressures from Tamil Nadu, the Indian High Commissioner Y. K. Sinha has decided to do some damage control on another level. At the 4th Asian Energy Security Summit organised by the Independent Power Producers’ Association of India, which kicked off this week at the Taj Samudra, Sinha has said that the Indian sponsored Sampur Coal Power project could help Sri Lanka export power to India.
Speaking at the inauguration of the 3-day session of this Energy Security summit, the Indian envoy told the participants that the Sri Lankan economy had expanded rapidly in the post conflict period and that bilateral ties between the countries go back to time immemorial. Therefore, Sinha says engagement in energy relations was an important part of India Sri Lanka relations. While pointing out the IOC and Cairn relationships, he said an area of great promise is the potential of energy trade between Sri Lanka and India.
Power trade between India and its neighbours is ongoing. India is also discussing power-trading possibilities with Sri Lanka based on intergrid connectivity. Since the peak hours are different between the countries, Sinha says the power supply from Sri Lanka to Southern India would help the power deficit problems there, ensuring a win-win relationship for both countries.
Well, dangling the Sampur carrot at this juncture seems rather ironic, especially if Sri Lanka has to supply power to Jayalalithaa’s Tamil Nadu state. With this Southern Tamil nation almost on invasion mode with Sri Lanka, its forerunner being the fishing boats that blatantly encroach and rape our natural resources, talking about a supply of power to them seems pretty far-fetched.
But by getting into these diplomatic machinations, Sinha seems to be trying to salvage an already unsalvageable situation, where good neighbourly relations are concerned; signalling that the north of India at least was still holding a white flag, trying to pretend it was business as usual.
Sinha’s sugar coated carrots are rather a laugh and seems somewhat like a case of both Brutus and Mark Anthony all rolled into one. What’s worse is that the Sampur station has not even got full marks for its efficiency and as negotiations were going on the former minister of Power and Energy said that because of its inefficiency the CEB would lose Rs. 4,500 million annually.
The equation just does not seem right and Ambassador Sinha’s proposals in fact don’t hold much water. Why should we create expensive infrastructure, which has certain environmental implications and then sell its produce to India?
However, Jayalalithaa’s election manifesto speaks volumes of the ‘viability’ of Sinha’s suggestion to supply power to South India.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister’s AIADMK, in its election manifesto, has lavishly assured that if a government formed by the party and its allies comes to power at the Centre after the Lok Sabha elections, it will move the United Nations to hold a referendum for the formation of a separate Eelam.
“The party is determined to ensure that punishment is given through the International Court of Justice to all those who committed war crimes and genocide against the Tamil minorities during the internal strife in Sri Lanka, which was against international regulations,” the AIADMK’s manifesto said.
The party also assured to take all necessary steps to retrieve Katchatheevu, which was ceded to Sri Lanka by an Indo-Sri Lankan agreement. AIADMK said the retrieval of Katchatheevu was the only solution to resolve the problems of Tamil Nadu fishermen. This clearly points out that things are not going in Sri Lanka’s way where the Indian politics is concerned.
Ranjan – Waravewa get strategically important electorates
The Leadership Council of the United National Party has been doing spade work over the past several months to streamline the internal matters of the party such as the appointment of electorate organizers. Chairman of the Leadership Council Karu Jayasuriya has told his members several times that streamlining ground level matters is the only way of avoid issues that arise when it comes to nomination.
As part of that programme, the Leadership Council, last week, made a good move by appointing Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake as the Electorate Organizer for Gampaha. It was widely speculated that Ranjan Ramanayake would be fielded by the party as the Chief Ministerial Candidate for the Western Province. There was another school of thought that the party leader did not want to bring Ramanayake into Gampaha District as that would affect the popularity of some of his favourites.
However, in the end, Ramanayake, one of the most outspoken opposition Parliamentarians, has ended up in Gampaha, which of course is a stronghold of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. It is clear that Ramanayake will have to wage his battle right in the middle of the bastion!
Meanwhile, former High Court judge W. T. M. P. B. Waravewa , who voted in favour of former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka at the White Flag case, has been appointed as the new Organizer for Kundasale electorate. The position was previously held by UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake. The Party General Secretary resigned from the position following the UNP’s defeat at the Central Provincial Council election, several months ago.
Waravewa is no alien to UNP politics as he contested the Central Provincial Council election under the UNP ticket. Following his retirement from the judicial service in the aftermath of the controversial white flag case, Waravewa took to politics representing the opposition camp.
The Leadership Council member said that Ramanayake will contest the next Parliamentary election from Gampaha and Waravewa from Kandy. Therefore, Sabaragamuwa Province will surely miss Ramanayake at the next Parliamentary election as he was the one who topped the preferential votes list last year from the Ratnapura district. Meanwhile, the late Dr Jayalath Jayawardena’s son, Kavinda Jayawardena has been appointed as the new organizer of Negombo, replacing Royce Fernando, who was arrested over his alleged involvement in a robbery.
Although the party is waiting for the final verdict on Fernando, it has appointed Jayawardena just to keep the momentum going in Negombo – an electorate where the UNP usually holds an edge over the government. Kavinda Jayawardena too is a medical doctor and a candidate contesting the Western Provincial Council election.