The Sunday Leader

Sirisena Buoyed, Ranil Foxed, Mahinda Unaffected, With 19th Amendment

Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mahinda Rajapaksa, Basil Rajapaksa and Wimal Weerawansa

The passing of the 19th Amendment to the constitution has been presented as a great achievement for President Sirisena and for Ranil Wickremesinghe. In reality whilst Sirisena may well claim some merit there is no gain in any shape of form for Ranil Wickremesinghe. Many of the proposals he put forward were abandoned because the Supreme Court interpreted the proposed amendments by saying that on a number of issues, there was a need for a referendum of the people.

Politicians from both sides of the house now claim to have acted within the wishes of the people of the country. However in reality many of the issues envisaged including the abolishing of the Presidential powers and the transformation of those powers from Presidency to parliament were not achieved because of the need for a referendum. Neither Sirisena nor Wickremesinghe wished to test the waters on those lines. In essence what the 19th amendment achieved was a very watered down version of what was originally envisaged.
The entire clause on the management of media institutions was removed by President Sirisena who clearly understood that the clause was riddled with ambiguity and if it were to be bulldozed through, there was a grave danger that the international community at large would perceive the attempt as being very repressive and slanted away from established democratic norms. Owners of all media companies would have breathed a veritable sigh of relief that this clause was removed. Common consensus was that this piece of legislation was being mooted by Wickremesinghe to target certain specific owners of media institutions. At least one of those institutions felt that it was a case of biting the hand that has fed you.

Attending a function at Capital Maharajah’s Stein Studios on Thursday evening Sirisena acknowledged the support and commitment for democracy displayed by that company’s networks which includes Sirasa and the Newsfirst brands. The President felt less alone because of the strength he gained by that support is how he put it to a capacity audience of 2,000 at an event that was later described as a light and sound extravaganza under their corporate theme The courage to be different and We are The Maharajahs. During the evening it was revealed that the Group had achieved a growth of 11% which was higher than some publicly listed corporates, some of whom had achieved a growth of 9% by comparison.

President Sirisena’s 100 day programme contained the following specific words:

The process will begin of abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system and replacing it with an executive of a Cabinet of Ministers responsible to Parliament, and of repealing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution with legislation to establish strengthened and independent institutions, including a Judicial Services Commission, a Police Commission, a Public Service Commission, an Elections Commission, a Commission against Bribery and Corruption and a Human Rights Commission. This will be through a 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which will be presented to Parliament and passed as swiftly as possible.

Whether the passing of the 19th amendment could be construed as starting the process of abolishing the authoritarian executive presidential system is debatable.  The 19th amendment achieved in the main 1) the imposition of a two-term limit to the Presidency 2) the independent appointments of the various commissions 3) that the President could not dissolve parliament until six months prior to the parliaments’ full term. That in itself was an important change because it meant that any President would be unable to threaten parliament with an ad-hoc decision to dissolve parliament if they refused to play ball with him: in essence parliament could not be used as a rubber stamp by the Presidency.


Basil was given an assurance

Basil Rajapaksa’s (BR) arrest and subsequent remanding for two weeks was presented as one of the minority government’s greater achievements coming at the tail end of the 100 day programme. One cabinet minister said that the Rajapaksas had taken the arrest without a whimper. Basil’s subsequent move to the prison hospital and from there to the National Hospital where he is supposedly in a paying ward, whilst attracting scepticism was also to find some merit.

Rajapaksa left Sri Lanka on the night of the 9th of January to Los Angeles via Dubai. On the way there he lost his bags. His departure led to various allegations levelled against him mainly by his colleagues in parliament. Leading the attack on Basil at the time was Gamanpilla and Wimal Weerawansa. What was not public knowledge was that Rajapaksa is a diabetic and in the early part of 2014 was admitted to the Lanka Hospital due to an unusually high blood sugar count. Medical opinion is that diabetes is the early warning system of many other medical issues including high blood pressure and cardiology conditions.

It was in this light that he left Sri Lanka at the first available opportunity and went to the United States for his medical checks. Doctors had been of the view that the intensity of his work and the long hours he kept had contributed significantly to a general deterioration of his health. The Minister had been of the view that he had no option but to carry on and be in Sri Lanka especially after the election was called. His mission was to ensure his brother’s victory.

Whilst there was much speculation as to why he left Sri Lanka once a legal charge was levelled against him he announced via his legal team that he would be returning to Sri Lanka once his last medical check was completed. That was on the 19th of April and he arrived in Colombo on the 21st and was at the offices of the FCID on the 22nd.

According to former Minister of Sport Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Basil Rajapaksa had a role to play in the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil did not work for Rajapaksa’s victory was one startling claim being made. Accordingly Mahindananda’s more startling claim is that Basil came back to Sri Lanka in spite of the charges being levelled against him was because he had a deal with Ranil Wickremesinghe by which he would return to Sri Lanka, make a statement to the FCID and then get away without being arrested. A local observer said “the claim is fanciful, displays a lack of understanding and gives the impression that the person saying it has a shallow understanding of intricate politics”.

According to the same claim, Basil Rajapaksa was arrested only because at the last moment President Chandrika Kumaratunga intervened and insisted that the due process of the law be applied equally and without favour or indeed fear. Basil apparently came back boldly because he had been given assurances that he would not face arrest, let alone be remanded.

According to the same sources the scepticism on Basil’s return was a fear that Basil would now disrupt all the carefully laid plans taken by President Rajapaksa’s supporters, who were working around the clock and behind the scenes at ensuring a political comeback in some form for the former strongman. Speaking to sources very close to Basil Rajapaksa, we were told that there is no truth whatsoever in the claim that he has struck a deal with Ranil Wickremesinghe.

One of the matters that Basil Rajapaksa had taken on board was a different thought process when it came to dealing with the international community. Basil Rajapaksa had wanted to network with the United Nations, Europe, the United States and India differently. Basil Rajapaksa had barely disguised his disgust at what Weerawansa did in front of the UN in Colombo when he carried out what turns out as a bogus fast (The Sunday Leader photograph showed a bottle of saline in the background). Basil Rajapaksa had complained bitterly to the then President that there was no credibility when a member of the government was displaying scant regard for normal and usual behaviour. He had been of the view that diplomacy had broken down completely.

On Newsfirst’s Face the Nation political discussion programme the UNP’s Eran Wickramaratne insisted that the due process of the law must be followed. Earlier, speaking to The Sunday Leader prior to his arrival in the country Basil Rajapaksa said that he was committed to clearing his name and that of his brother, because it was essential to do so. He added that he is aware that he may well be arrested but that was part and parcel of his journey to clear his name. At the time he insisted that there was no liability on his part in distributing funds and that when the decision was taken he could not have possibly known that the President would call elections two full years ahead of schedule. He was firmly of the view that if he was to keep away he would only fuel speculation making it difficult to clear his name.

On the 21st night he was given information that he would be arrested the next day. His response was “I have to face it”. He turned up at the FCID at 11 am. The rest is recorded as history.

Sources say that Basil Rajapaksa’s arrest has lifted the morale of both, Ranil Wickremesinghe and the United National Party. One source quipped, “After James Bond, Ranil must welcome the BR arrest tremendously as a jolly good tonic.”

Basil Rajapaksa supporters say that after facing endless allegations of high finance corruption and the acceptance of commissions running into several millions of dollars BR has now been charged for carrying out his duties as a Minister. They argue that our BR cannot be held responsible that a decision he made as Minister to distribute an almanac and cash to rebuild homes, made a full three months prior to the announcement of the Presidential election could be construed as a violation of election rules. They claim that the eventual disbursement and distribution finally clashed with the Presidential announcement of a call for an early poll and that the distribution was halted once the election was called.

In terms of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his possible return to a political future, Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa also warned at a meeting in Angunukolapessa attended by President Sirisena that without unity the SLFP would lose at the parliamentary election and will not be able to form a government on its own. Kumara Welgama has stepped up his efforts to bring about reconciliation between Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa and it was envisaged that after the vesak period this may become a reality. It was expected that the two may meet during the formal launch of a vesak pandal in greater Colombo where both men have been invited. Mahinda Rajapaksa has been a long-standing attendee at this function even before he had become President.

The message has gained more clarity: that for the SLFP to be successful the influence that Mahinda Rajapaksa has over some of the vote bank must be harnessed. A regular observer of political Lanka said “Mahinda must be brought into the bosom of the SLFP. He is undeniably a crowd and voter puller. The SLFP will have to ask Chandrika to be tolerant if not quiet. She will have no choice.”

In the event that Mahinda Rajapaksa and his allies form a third force they will only split the SLFP vote. It will spell disaster for the SLFP and the main gainer will be the UNP.


8 Comments for “Sirisena Buoyed, Ranil Foxed, Mahinda Unaffected, With 19th Amendment”

  1. Daggy

    As for the basil factor allow it to take its owm course. We have more serious isssues such as Economics, Development and Unemployment to attend.

    CBK simply can not engage in puppeteering directing the PREZ. If her return was to unseat MR, then fine job accomplished . Go back to where she came from instead of spewing venom. CBK has no place among her party supporters as she gets booed by them & thereby bringing discredit to the PREZ & the party.
    The disgust shown towards CBK on every occasion she appear on public platforms with the Excellency must be very embarrasing to Him.

    Today, in world politics what is most important is the China factor & economics. Even the USA & the West are heavily dependent on the China factor. Thenj, why are we attempting to sideline the Chinese? Is it to appease USA & India?
    USA is enjoying major benefits from China and it is China who keeps the $$ steady.

    What is Yahapalanaya attempting to do at a time China is attempting to surpass the monopoly of the IMF & The WB by introducing the BRICS & AIIB.
    Are the Yahapalanaya economists attempting to shoot themselves on their feet?
    Who is steering the Prez & the Country towards India ? CBK ???

    We did identify the importance after the Yahapalanaya when the PREZ visited India, China & Pakistan.
    We should get the best from both China & India.
    China investments good for America but we despise. Why?
    We should reach out to both and be the bridge.
    It was just after SLNY that China announced a $40b investment in Pakistak. Silk road of 3000 miles and rail & imfrastructure development in Pakistan.
    Have we missed the bus??

    • Sam T

      “”Silk road of 3000 miles and rail “”
      all well and good but CBK – Sonia nexus is the pussy formula that keeps India as enemy. Both together are slime balls deadlier than Hillary ` convenience` e-mails.

      Politics aside nothing like the western buyer for the best prices and guarantee plus customer service.

      The Silk route to europe the buyers of china made cheap electronics in return for corn fed air dried worlds best ham, wine brandy, port, olive oil is the mouth watering stuff it took back after its maiden voyage over the SARC nations head. rail run by german, russian spanish and chinese railway.- on 9th December 2014 now the lines would be streamed line to run a bullet train of at-least 100 containers/100 carriages (maiden 42)

      There is no sea silk route for SARC its expensive, slow, and fraught with terrorism. It was just the politicking of Xi because of the border Islamist attacks.
      Cochin was the pendant to it all but never materialized because Modi like MR was concentrating on Gujarat Ahmadabad to the distaste of the public. Communist locally and congress at center fix-it guys at foreign relations. They are in a fishy problem with the Italians.

      Coconuts Without the EU buyer there is no fun in having China export market which you can never garner from `all weather islmist idiot ministers` of trade or commerce. Remember GDP of China is Pig not for jokes and one must know how to lure them from the gut not the nut or butt because they have neither of those.

  2. Parakrama

    Mahinda Rajapaksa ruined SLFP and the Country whole. Keeping the KING OF ABUSE and FAMILY rule with CORRUPTION, BRIBERY, NEPOTISM, THUGGERY ruling until 9th JANUARY 2015, it is GOOD and WISER for SRI LANKA and SLFP to keep this CROOK away.

  3. George

    A load of BS as usual, Faraz. Get real. Stop going behind the R’pakshas. You have no future there.

  4. raj

    how can anyone expect president to shake hands with someone who is a suspect of white van abductions and extra judicial killings

  5. raj

    If Srisena ever includes MR in the team his every efforts to restore democracy in Sri Lanka will be fruitless. MS will loose credibility among ordinary Sri Lankans who elected or supported him if he ever choose to team up with MR.

  6. Srivan

    Nothing changeth! Carry on Sarge!!!

  7. concerened_citizen

    I don’t think the allegations about Basil conspiring against Mahinda are as ludicrous as this article makes them out to be. For the past couple of years there have been whispers of ructions between Mahinda, Gothabaya and Basil. The probable root cause of these tensions is that Basil feels he is a better administrator than Mahinda, while Gothabaya had attained public popularity to rival that of Mahinda thanks to his work as Defense Secretary during the final phase of the civil war. In fact, by the final year of his presidency, there were real fears that Mahinda was losing control of his family, with Basil and Gothabaya emerging as factional leaders. Gothabaya in particular, had shown the tendency to pursue his own agenda, even on matters that should be outside his sphere of influence as Defense Secretary, and even if his agenda clashed with that of the government.

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