25th  April, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 41

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New faces in Sri Lanka's 13th parliament 

By Dilrukshi Handunnetti 

Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero and Ven. Ellawela Medhananda Thero arriving in parliament MPs Akila Viraj Kariyawasam and Dayasiri Jayasekera ó two more newcomers in parliament
One of the monks from JHU caught in the controversy JVPís Matale District MP Sujatha Alahakoon Ratnapura District newly elected MP Thalatha Athukorale

The new legislature may not be off to a good start, but diversely constituted as it is, the 13th parliament of Sri Lanka did not lack fresh faces and new aspirations.

Akila Viraj Kariyawasam is the one of the youngest legislators to enter parliament. Representing Kurunegala, Kariyawasam is a graduate and was the first secretary of the National Youth Front (NYF), the youth wing of the UNP.

"This parliament is a representation of a multitude of hues. Therefore, it would be a political challenge both for the government and the opposition to muster a collective voice on issues. I think it is not an obstacle but a challenge," said the young MP.

He also wished for people friendly polices and an opportunity for opposition legislators too to participate in the development goals of a nation.

"When you are in opposition, you are relegated to the backseats with nothing constructive to do with regard to pursuing a development agenda. I wish that could change," he noted.

As for Sujatha Alahakoon, the JVP's Matale District member, it is a huge political dream come true. "Not the fact that I am in parliament, but the fact that the party has come so far in national politics."

A former principal of Pushpadana Balika Vidyalaya, Kandy, Alahakoon left her career and dedicated herself to a fulltime career in politics. "I have been with young people as a teacher. I know what they desire. These conventional parties have been tried many times and they have failed to deliver. The JVP has the commitment and the ability to do it," she said with conviction.

Change of course

One of the most renowned Buddhist monks, Ven. Uduwe Dhammaloka Thero was next in expressing political ambition. The Ven. Thero said that the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) monks have been subjected to a lot of harassment, intimidation and mental agony over their decision to enter politics.

"We are here to try and change the course of this nation. We stand for an undivided country, for supremacy of the people and the country's sovereignty. We were misunderstood, but we will try to create the promised dharmarajya - illusive it may sound to the people, given the bad politics and policies in the country," said the Thero.

Pathmini Sithamparanathan is another first timer in parliament. Hailing from the northern peninsula, she has been instrumental in organising the Pongu Thamil celebrations in pursuance of the recognition of Tamil nationhood.

"Sri Lanka is a mosaic of people and we have much to contribute. The TNA is here today with an enhanced number to prove that we have aspirations of our own and to show that we speak in one voice," she said.

Making her debut in the legislature in 2004 was Thalatha Athukorale, the youngest sibling of former civil aviation minister and assistant leader of the UNP, the late Gamini Athukorale.

In her case, it is largely a matter of following in her much-loved brother's footsteps. "I had no political ambitions, but since he left us, it was incumbent upon me to try and help the people that he served so well. I am not even convinced that I can match his prowess, but I am going to try," said a beaming Athukorale, a lawyer who has now committed herself to fulltime politics.

Lasantha Alagiyawanna, the PA Gampaha District member is another first timer. A former minister of the Western Provincial Council, he was appointed as a deputy minister of transport by President Kumaratunga.

New culture

"The UPFA is a new political force, one that is going to create a new political culture in Sri Lanka. We will be committed to finding a lasting and honourable peace and this parliament holds the key to it," he said adding that pledges made to the public should be fulfilled soon so that public faith would not be destroyed.

"We promised much to the people, and we should begin to deliver. Besides the benefits promised for the improvement of individual economies, we also must look at issues like abolishing the executive presidency which has been the bane of this country and the swift altering of the flawed electoral system," he said.

Ven. Kathaluwe Rathanaseeha Thero is the monk who has triggered off the biggest political controversy during the past week. The monk was reportedly abducted and then brought to the House to lend support to the UPFA candidate for the post of speaker, D.E.W. Gunasekera.

Speaking to The Sunday Leader, Ven. Rathanaseeha said that there was an obvious division within the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), which is defeating the desire for the creation of a dharmarajya.

He said that he had no political ambitions except to see the country well governed.

A popular monk who has entered parliament is Ven. Kolonnawe Sri Sumangala Thero. The Ven. monk represents Gampaha District and is famous for his sermons that teach family values.

"After the demise of Ven. Gangodawila Soma Thero, a huge void was created. People of this country are starved for spiritual guidance and the rulers have been offering little to the people in this area. With the passing away of the revered monk, we decided that it is time that other monks too followed the hollowed path and at least made an attempt to create a righteous society. That's why I am here, we are here," said the monk.

Political challenge

The JVP candidate who contested for the first time and polled the third highest preference votes  in Colombo District is Lakshman Nipunaarachchi.

He feels that the new parliament is a 'political challenge' and one that the UPFA gladly welcomes.

"We are in government for the first time in large numbers with sufficient political clout. In addition to that, we are in a multi party coalition to pursue an agenda like no other. It is truly a happy challenge, and one a party like the JVP would take pleasure in accepting.

Nipunaarachchi said that the two conventional political parties have failed to serve the masses and hence the presence of a revolutionary and zestful party like the JVP within its folds might strengthen the PA, which would have otherwise taken a more lukewarm political approach to issues at hand.

"It is largely a pro-JVP vote this time and we will show that the JVP is truly committed to serving the people, as we professed to do when entering politics," he said.

With the 13th parliament being a collective of the young and the old, representing diverse political opinions and ethnic denominations, only time would tell whether they have been successful in achieving their objectives. It is also hoped that they would have the political maturity to see through many a storm that might brew in the tumultuous sea of Sri Lankan politics.


Monk (ey) business

By Henry Holdenbottle 

Darling Chandi girl

I may be wrong, but sometimes, just sometimes, I feel that a number of our law makers have been accidentally left behind by a touring circus group. Especially, so when they proceed in a sort of stampede unsurpassed even by that admirable show stopper on Lion King, to place their ample posteriors on a tiny ballot box. My dear, if that ballot box could only talk it would sniff in disgust and say 'phaugh.' Meanwhile, I am told reliably, that some of the voters were becoming increasingly confused in this melee of ballot boxes and bums. They were turning this way and that trying to work out into which crack their folded ballot paper should be slotted in.

And if it isn't the JHU playing dress up. All decked out in an old sari draped like a toga, blind folded, with a sword in one hand and the balance of justice in the other. Who would have thought that your little coup would backfire on you. I mean to say old chum, the audacity of you and your staff. To whisk away two yellow robes to a secret location and bring them back to the House covered in shrouds (not the Turin we hope) to surreptitiously cast a vote for you. Naughty, naughty.

About these bally monks darling. The aspect that intrigues me most in the whole hakgedi story, is the fate of those five rupee lunches at the canteen. Will they? Won't they? I mean to say, as far as I know, and my knowledge of religious observances is as good as your knowledge of good governance, monks have to walk the streets with a mendicon's bowl. Are they allowed, I wonder, to purchase, barter, engage in trade etc., even if it were only for a consideration of five rupees? As you so astutely may be able to sense, the debates confronting the House in the near future will prove extremely interesting.

 Should law makers of this great and victorious Sinhala Buddhist nation be seen hurling vile abuse, files, bananas, books, paper balls etc., at yellow robed members of the Buddhist clergy?

Should Wee Jay Moo get a hair cut? Should the new Pee Em drop his red shawl and wear a blue one? And while the House is debating these highly sensitive and compelling issues, the people might as well just mosey on back to their mud huts and wait for the promised land. From all reports this slight parliamentary mishap hasn't phased you one jot. You, I am informed, proceed to keep both your chins up. That's the spirit. Your GenSec Siri even proclaiming that this will not cause any obstacle to the functions of the UPFA government. Au contraire some experts beg to differ. They say your course will be reminiscent of a kindergarten obstacle race.

But then anything is possible by your Goebbelsian media sycophants. Anyone who can turn a slight edge of less than 50% of a vote and less seats in the House than when you were in opposition and turn it into a landslide election victory, is remarkable at many levels. The levels may be low and devious, but what the heck. Besides, if you can then make the masses believe what you say, you are not only remarkable you are a remarkable genius. If I've said it once I've said it a 100 times darling, if ever I am compelled to believe in reincarnation and all that type of thing, I'll swear you were Goebbles in your last but one birth.

Meanwhile I hear you whining about the Jathika Hela Urumaya, completely breaking this promise to you and voting with the TNA. Hmm. Now you know how Ranil feels about you. Rotten I wager.

While we are on the subject of monks and Utopian Dharma Rajyas and good governance, what horror befell the members of your party darling? Granted, the JVP types were new to the traditions, but what of your colleagues in the blue corner? Except for the Pee Em who keeps acting with some decorum despite your vapid influence, the others behaved like retired female prison guards in a room full of bikes on death row. Or, if you prefer, like circus monkeys in heat. On one hand, one is taught as a little tike to respect the yellow robe and worship the feet that hides under it, and on the other one learns by example to pelt the yellow robe with anything weighing over 50 grams.

You may have missed this during your endless tenure as prez dear, never really coming into parliament except to shine in the light of others during the budget, but there are what is commonly known as accepted parliamentary traditions, where leaders of parties congratulate the newly elected Speaker.

I cannot agree with you more, there are traditions that really get one's goat and should be abolished in the proper way, but surely a bit of a congratulatory message by a member of the Sinhala Buddhist clergy is not such a bad thing. Now if it had been a vile Catholic chappie or one of those bally Apostles or Pentecostalists or Westernised watchamac- allits, the situation would have called for entirely different methods. One would have been totally justified in breaking with age old tradition and burning and hurling at will. Anyway darling, you have learnt your lesson. It is what I always say. This is what you get for monkeying around with the monks. Toodle oo for now.


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