The Sunday Leader

Ranil Prefers CBK To Karu

 

  • Sajith Refuses To Be Candidate
  • Mangala In Singapore Ponders Offer of Foreign Ministry
  • Ranawaka Jockeys & Expected To Leave By Nov 15th

Daya Gamage makes a play for common candidate

Chandrika Kumaratunga, Karu Jayasuriya, Mangala Samaraweera and Daya Gamage

A  lunch to placate: Last week we revealed exclusively how Ranil Wickremesinghe had removed Mangala Samaraweera and Krishantha Cooray from strategic media work and replaced them with his own trusted aides Erwin Werakkody and Sugath Chadrasekera. The news sent the UNP leadership into a tailspin – Dialog earning plenty of revenue thanks to the huge amount of calls that were made to each other and Wickremesinghe trying to limit the damage.  This week we exclusively reveal details of two luncheon meets aimed at trying to placate Mangala, soothe him down and massage his ego even if it meant being economical with the truth in that quest.

Be that as it may, Mangala Samaraweera’s appeal is difficult to dismiss. Samaraweera’s displeasure with Ranil Wickremesinghe has been pounced on by the government and highly sensitive talks have already taken place in which Samaraweera has been asked to let by-gones be by-gones. A cabinet position has also been offered. Samaraweera left for Singapore soon after the tryst at Gallery Café. A highly trusted high-level aide was also coincidentally in Singapore at the same time. Sources close to the nerve centre of government indicated that Mangala would join the ranks before the week was out – thus consolidating President Rajapaksa’s re-election bid, notwithstanding any order to the contrary from the Supreme Court.

The first of these lunches was hosted by Mayor A. J. M. Muzzamil, who commandeered Krishantha Cooray and hosted Mangala Samaraweera at Upalis by Nawaloka for a spot of lunch. Mangala was inconsolable whilst Krishantha showed his displeasure but let his natural passion for all things UNP overcome his own anger.  Mayor Muzzamil was so engrossed in his appeal to Mangala, that the Mayor did not notice that another friend had paid the Mayoral bill and had left the Colombo 7 restaurant before Muzza could realise what happened. Quipped the man who got away, “at least Muzza knew how to butter up Mangala – he gave him good home cooked food, Matara style”, but to no avail as Mangala was a very angry man indeed.

The second of these lunches was hosted by former Chairman of the UNP, Ranil-classmate and confidante and friend of many a vintage year, Malik Samarawickrama, a man who has officially no position in the UNP but who is the de facto Chairman by virtue of being the Leader’s buddy. Hasheem is considered to be Malik’s under-study and was silent for much of the lunchtime tryst.

The location was the Gallery Café at Alfred House Gardens. Over lunch and desserts senior aides of Ranil Wickremesinghe had to listen to the tale of woe as recited by Mangala Samaraweera and Krishantha Cooray. Both made it plain that they were simply not happy with the despotic Wickremesinghe style. Not as they pointed out, after the hard work and effort the two had put in. Listening to them that lunch time was Eran Wickremaratne, party Chairman Kabeer Hashim and former Chairman Malik Samarawickrema. Samarawickrema, a die-hard Wickremesinghe loyalist, was at his persuasive best. Samaraweera was considering the unthinkable – he wanted to leave the UNP. There was little that anyone could say to console a naturally sensitive Mangala. This is what Ranil always does, a leopard can’t change his spots. Samarawickrema did his best: give it time, we have resolved far greater more grave matters than this, Leader knows what he is doing. This is all strategy.

Except that he was talking to two people who both knew that this was mere talk and that the leader is set in his ways. In the end however Samarawickrama bought time: he obtained assurances that Samaraweera would not do anything rash or hasty. It was revealed that as in previous times of crisis, Mangala would take a break and he was off to Singapore to rest and contemplate the fallout of him accepting any government offer. Mangala did the same when his troubles with President Rajapaksa reached a crescendo – he was in Singapore when he was formally relieved of his Ministerial portfolio. As Samarawickrema left the restaurant – where he picked up the very reasonable tab of a little over Rs. 13,000 – he must have felt that it was money well spent. “If Mangala was to quit the UNP now, it’s the end of the little credibility we have”, said a close associate of the Leader.

Shan Fernando’s Gallery Café must be a favourite of politicians past and present: whilst Malik Samarawickrama was assuring Mangala that Ranil would not have Karu Jayasuriya and would rather have Chandrika Kumaratunga as the candidate, at a nearby table was the scion of the Bandaranaike dynasty, Ms Sunethra Bandaranaike who was dining with some friends. Predictably Ms Bandaranaike did her best to keep a straight face.

 

The forked tongue syndrome

Sajith Premadasa appears to be playing the same game that the UNP leader is most adept at: the art of the forked tongue. Premadasa is still waiting for formal confirmation of his role as Deputy Leader and detail of his responsibilities. If he is annoyed or anxious or a bit of both, he is not showing it. Instead he is overtly supportive of Wickremesinghe the Leader. At a rally in Hyde Park he said that the ‘mice in government’ are looking towards the UNP. He declared that ‘our party’ does not need such people. A week later he was inviting everyone to join hands, support the UNP and acknowledge that Wickremesinghe was the Leader and the common candidate. Talk of mice apparently consigned to the incinerator, lest a lasting odour lingered.

Premadasa had indicated that if Wickremesinghe was not to be the candidate at a presidential election, he would consider being the candidate although he said that he wanted to also have the Party leadership position. UNP seniors considered that an affront pointing out that it was not necessary for the Presidential candidate to be the party leader. Many thought Sajith was hedging. The matter was compounded by Ashok Abeysinghe (MP) asking Sajith to contest only to be shot down by Premadasa who was in a veritable strop. Abeysingha persisted by saying they could also propose to Ranil that he step down – would you contest then Ashok had asked. Premadasa was livid and flatly refused to have anything to do with those suggestions.

Ranil Wickremesinghe in the meantime is openly supporting the cause of Ms Kumaratunga as the common candidate. Observers of the local political landscape insist that the former President has been absolutely clear in her decision: she will not be entering the fray. Yet, Wickremesinghe who has met the former President in London as well, continues to insist that CBK should be the candidate while he is in full knowledge of the facts – that the lady will not be otherwise persuaded. Ranil’s ploy is to placate Mangala – that CBK will be entering the fray and that at that time Mangala will return to the limelight in terms of handling the media for the UNP. This was the message that Samarawickrema had for Mangala over the Gallery Café lunch.

 

Ranil’s sartorial elegance

Readying himself for the forthcoming elections Wickremesinghe was to summon the tailors from Hamedia this past Friday. The principal behind the Hamedia business Fouwzul Hameed accompanied the best tailor in his establishment for an afternoon meet. Amongst the wardrobe was a nifty National too.

 

The jockeying the people hardly need

The JHU continued their lobbying of the President for their demands. However the controversy over the importation of coal for Norochcholai did not move from the mainstream news. Champika Ranawaka continued to insist that indeed there was a discrepancy in the manner that the coal was imported, that the coal imported was under spec (he says ‘a little under spec’) and that the tender process was questionable as was he claimed, the arrangement between Lanka Coal and the Ceylon Shipping Corporation.

He maintained at a news conference that he tried his best to stop the transaction and that he went to the extent of asking then Chairman Lanka Coal, Tissa Herath to step down so as to facilitate an enquiry proper. Ranawaka insisted that he was then moved away from that Ministry and much to his surprise found that Tissa Herath was appointed Vice Chairman at the Ceylon Electricity Board. The Minister did not explain why it is that he did not take decisive action to halt the process, why the coal arrived in Sri Lanka in any event and why he did not even bring this matter up to his colleagues in Cabinet. The Minister, who is still a cabinet member, says that he knows who is behind all this but refuses to disclose the name.

The Minister has referred to a casino owner – and there is a growing call for the Minister to name the casino owner. What the Minister has not answered is why he is being so coy with the details raising the question that the Minister is using the controversial coal import to jockey for discussions. Says Anura Hewa, a University student, “why is the Minister talking like this now? He says this happened in his time. He says he knows that a casino owner was involved. He says that a journalist was shot at. The Minister knows all the answers it seems. So why was he silent then? Why does he not name the casino owner? Who was behind this transaction? I think we do not need this type of so-called heroes. It is a case of trying to be a Lion in wolf’s clothing. When things were OK he was quiet. Now he says this is a political witch hunt. It is very sad.”

The JHU in the meantime are expected to opt out of the UPFA by November 15th. An observer of the local political landscape said, “Champika is finished here but where will he end up is the big question.” Indeed.

The Mayor of Colombo, A. J. M. Muzammil at the New Town Hall in Colombo on November 1 made a revealing speech which touched the hearts of many present.  The event was attended by a capacity crowd and included the Chairman of the UNP Kabeer Hashim

Mr Muzammil spoke of how the Muslims in the Northern Province did not extend their support to the LTTE terrorists. The price the Muslims paid was very high indeed – the LTTE giving Muslim families a mere 24 hours to leave their ancestral homes under pain of death if they did not comply. The Muslims were forced to get out and Mayor Muzammil drove the point home by telling his audience that those Muslim families are still refugees. Was this the price that the Muslims had to pay for supporting liberalism and for being patriotic to the motherland? Muzammil’s speech was marked for its conspicuous absence of rhetoric – he spoke of facts and of inaction. The charge was that the authorities were indifferent to the plight of a largely rural population in Akkaraipattu.

The facts he spoke of minus any rhetoric was when he referred to the substantial sums of monies that the Saudi Arabian government had given to Sri Lanka. Muzammil reminded his audience that these were not loans but outright grants – in essence gifts. Muzammil did not refer to the billions in aid received from China which are in fact loans which need paying back at some point and of course carries an interest component. Muzammil specifically referred to an injustice that socially and financially challenged Muslim families continue to be faced with – although it is now over 30 years since the forced repatriation of Muslims from the north occurred.

Mayor Muzammil was referring to the 500 model homes built by Saudi Arabian interests. 500 homes, he thundered, had been completed in 2009. Yet, these homes are now derelict and in a state of ruin – these homes are in a jungle like situation said he – although not one has been occupied. These new homes were built with Saudi grants of around US$ 15 million. Mayor Muzammil posed a simplistic question in the minds of his audience without actually passing comment or judgment on the matter: was this the price Muslims had to pay for the patriotism they have displayed going back all the way to the Kings of Lanka. Timing is King and ever the astute political mechanic that he is, Mr Muzammil would have known that better than most.

Legal experts familiar with the matter revealed that the spectre of this ghost township was very much part of a flawed order by Sarath Silva. Some wondered if it was a game to upset the apple cart and cause other action which may be inimical to the governments’ popularity.

Malaka Silva, the permanently testosterone-high son of Mervyn, was in trouble yet again. This time he was remanded by the Magistrate and spent his time in the Merchants Ward with a broken nose. Analysis of this event would reveal that Malaka had tried it on with a foreign damsel unaware that the lady was with her partner. The most astonishing development here was the inability of the Silva’s to have the foreigner successully remanded. Analysts looked beyond this incident and to the political standing of his father. Mervyn has been making noises about doing a crossover much to the amusement of those that say that Meryn will only cross a road, not the political divide. His fortunes are, they point out, inextricably linked to the Rajapaksas. Many have for long interpreted this as a means of Silva jockeying for favour post any Presidential election and for the appropriate signal from the top that Silva be given a free hand within the kingdom of Kelaniya.

For all his pronouncements that his father was a well to do businessman from Beliatta, our southern sources familiar with the history of the Rajapaksas reveal that the father owned a ‘the kade’ (roadside café). They recall how Mervyn dressed in shorts would trail behind the Rajapaksas and other SLFPers. He was even then a jester – reciting poems (kavi) and a nifty dancer: with his usefulness as a ‘special projects person’ and thanks to the Rajapaksa ascendancy to high office, Mervyn has now been elevated to the post of Court Jester.

The Rajapaksas however are said to be like elephants – a reference to their long and detailed memories. They, reveal our sources, are unlikely to forget how Mervyn was used as a de facto decoy by President Kumaratunga to scuttle Mahinda Rajapaksa’s presidential bid in 2005. They will also be unlikely to forget that Mervyn double crossed CBK by letting Mahinda know what was going on. Politicians of every hue in Lanka will tell you how important it is to have a diverse collection of people close to you. In as much as President Rajapaksa needs straight-up-front friends like Willie Gamage and aides like Sajin Vaas Gunawardena and all his Ministers and even the Senior Ministers, the President will also need the Mervyns of this world for special projects and tasks. Not all we are reminded can perform on the same project or scale for that matter.

Within Politics is reminded of Anura Bandaranaike who was going through a torrid time, having fought with his mother then Prime Minister. It was advised that he get hold of a thovila man. Well the man came, suitably attired as he was giving the impression he was a ‘swamy’ or mystic and carried out the rituals. Sometime thereafter a senior politician was travelling in the south when he thought he recognised a vagrant on the side of the road. He stopped to peer and was quite shocked as realisation dawned: the vagrant was none other than the ‘thovila’ man who had come to Colombo to invoke extraordinary blessings on the person known as Anura Bandaranaike. The entire episode was the handiwork of Mervyn.

It is not often that history is made within the privileged sanctity of parliament. And it is not often that anyone can say anything to shut Mervyn Silva up. That however is what happened when Anura Kumar Dissanayaka rose to speak on 3rd November. Mervyn rose to challenge the fiery JVPer only to be told, “yes you have to speak because if you don’t speak your son will be remanded for two more weeks at the hearing tomorrow”. Mervyn sat down and was thereafter quiet. His son was re-remanded for one week.

 

Daya Gamage Making a play as The Common Candidate

The UNP National Organiser Daya Gamage is emerging as a front runner for the position of  common candidate. Gamage, a wealthy businessman who along with Bimputh Finance recently took a significant stake in Sinhaputra Finance which is said to have cost him over Rs 433 Million, is engineering the ground work to this end. Gamage’s plan is that along with some political manouvering to have four members of the government to cross over in order that he may obtain the Chief Ministerial position. From there he perceives himself as being capable of handling the candidacy for the presidency. He cites as his background his strong Sinhala Buddhist background, educated at the bastion of Buddhist schools, Ananda College and of course his access to finance. Gamage is known to believe that Wickremesinghe is engineering the conditions in such a way as to become the party candidate for the next Presidential. That presents a problem to Gamage who is firm in his belief that Wickremesinghe is simply impossible to market to the UNP voter.

1 Comment for “Ranil Prefers CBK To Karu”

  1. Dr M.L.Najimudeen

    The Era of Madam Chandrika Bandaranayakke is over. If at all she may support the opposition candidate. There are traditional 4 million votes for UNP. They will not vote for Chandrika. The UNPers will never forgiving her of taking over the 3 cabinet and dissolving the UNP parliament.

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