off without me!"
Chandrika Kumara-tunga last week took wing to London on a
private visit to see her son Vimukthi and daughter Yasodha.
Many government ministers however were not kept informed of
the President's plans. About a week before leaving for London,
Kumaratunga called Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse and told
him that she was planning a visit to see her children. She
declined at the time however to inform him of the date of her
few hours before her flight last Saturday (21), Kumaratunga
summoned Ministers Mangala
Samaraweera, Dinesh Gunewardana, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake and
Nimal Siripala De Silva to appoint them acting ministers for
the portfolios held by her. A notable absentee at the
gathering was the Premier.
after the swearing in of the ministers, Wickremanayake
inquired from the President how long she planned to stay in
London, to which the Head of State replied with a grin -
"Without me here, everyone can govern the way they want.
It is I who am the problem here, so I am going to take a
this exchange, the President took Wickremanayake aside for a
private discussion which lasted well over half an hour. After
this conversation, she also spoke to Minister Samaraweera at
length about the possibilities of winning Arumugam Thondaman
and Rauf Hakeem over to the government. The Prime Minister's
name also came up during this discussion, at which time
Kumaratunga said, "There is no point talking about him,
he is an unguided missile," dismissively and with some
degree of disillusionment.
also informed her confidants that she was badly in need of a
very long break but declined to give them any indication about
the date of her return to the island. It was rumoured that she
was to return within a week, but no government official
appears to be clearly aware of the date of her arrival. It is
even doubtful whether Kumaratunga will return in time to
attend the SLFP annual convention to be held on September 4.
close to Kumaratunga expressed doubts whether she would return
to the island before September 6, since astrologers have
predicted a planetary change unfavourable to her around that
date. Several other sources close to Kumaratunga say she
should be back in the island before September 15.
indications about the duration and nature of the President's
trip are apparent by observing things at President's House.
For one thing, it is to be gathered that Kumaratunga's stay in
London will be prolonged because several of her personal staff
and her domestic help have been granted holiday leave.
Since she is expected to address the UN General
Assembly on September 20 however, Kumaratunga is likely to
return to the island before that.
several media personnel have inquired after the President's
return from ministerial secretaries and sources at President's
House, no clear response has been received by any of them
about the date of her arrival.
whines about JVP's 1,000 tanks
politburo of the JVP met suddenly last week. The reason for
the emergency meeting was the need to see the party's
renovation of 1,000 tanks project come hell or high water. At
the meeting, Irrigation Minister, Anura Kumara Dissanayake
informed the gathering about some of the injustices he was
facing during the implementation of this project.
Ministry has requested Rs. 200 million to carry this 1,000
tank project through. To renovate 10,000 tanks, we will
require at least Rs. 1 billion from the Treasury at the very
least. But from the looks of things, they are not very keen to
release the money," Dissanayake complained.
added that according to information received, the President
had laid down conditions to the Treasury even for the release
of the first installment of Rs. 200 million. Dissanayake asked
the politburo to reach a decision as to what he should do if
the President continues to pose obstacles in his path to
implementing this project.
member of the politburo asked Dissanayake what the President's
conditions had been for releasing the funds, to which the
Minister replied that Treasury Secretary, P. B. Jayasundara
had requested him to submit a budget along with specifics as
to how the funds would be spent, after which a decision would
be made as to whether or not the money was to be granted.
also accused Jayasundara of putting spokes in the wheel of a
project that had been approved by cabinet. He added that since
several of the tank renovation committees in various areas
were headed by members of the JVP, it was likely the President
had her reservations about the project.
heard the arguments, the opinion of the politburo was that
since there was a conflict brewing between Kumaratunga and the
JVP and also because their 1,000 tanks project had received a
huge public response, it was important to handle the issue of
the Treasury, strategically. They emphasised that since the
public was so enthusiastic about the project, the JVP would
suffer a huge loss of face if the project was to be abandoned.
JVP also decided that if the Treasury was indeed fussing about
the fund allocation for the project, this should be
highlighted through the media. The party decided that it would
use journalists and media organisations loyal to the JVP to
get the message across and agreed it would be favourable if
several editorials could highlight the matter.
ministers and state media these days are most concerned about
the corrupt practices of officials of the previous regime.
Deputy Sports and Youth Affairs Minister, Sripathi
Sooriyaarachchi has however of late been engaged in an
exercise to discredit a senior minister of his own party
had compiled a report on how a Health Ministry tender,
relating to the purchase of thriposha to be distributed free
of charge to pregnant women had been awarded to the fourth
bidder, bypassing three others who had quoted lower prices.
Sooriyaarachchi alleges that the tender had been awarded with
the knowledge of Health Minister, Nimal Siripala De Silva.
Having handed the report over to President Kumaratunga,
Sooriyaarachchi took wing to Athens with his family to watch
the Olympic Games.
Kumaratunga read Sooriyaarachchi's report, she immediately
halted the tender and demanded to speak to the Deputy
Minister. Having heard that Sooriyaarachchi was not in the
island, the President asked her secretary if he had officially
informed the Presidential Secretariat about his visit. The
secretary replied "no" following which Kumaratunga
ordered that messages be left with Sooriyaarachchi's secretary
and at his residence that he was to see her as soon as he
returned to the island.
heard of the Presidential decree through an associate,
Sooriyaarachchi responded that he was most disillusioned with
the present situation, adding that he had already informed
several ministers of this fact. "I will only be returning
to the island after a month abroad anyway," he is
reported to have said.
the UPFA came into power, the advertising campaigns of the
National Lotteries Board (NLB) worth millions of rupees has
been handed over to the company Selacine. Some time ago,
President Kumaratunga reportedly appointed Dharmasiri
Pathiraja and Nimal Ekanayake, two of her close associates to
the board of directors at Selacine.
in a sweeping move last week, Kumaratunga dissolved the
Selacine board of directors and appointed Sri Lanka
Broadcasting Corporation Chairman, Hudson Samarasinghe as
chairman of the board instead. Following discussions with her
Senior Adviser, Mano Tittawela, the President also ordered
that two more of her associates be appointed to the board.
also informed Samarasinghe that she had appointed renowned
casino and restaurant proprietor, Mahinda Ramanayake a
director on the board and requested him to coordinate all NLB
promotional campaigns with him in the future.
in the family
Kumaratunga has also decided that it is indeed time to look
out for the political future of her kith and kin and put the
wheels in motion to enhance brother Anura's political image.
According to reports, Kumaratunga has planned an intensive
media campaign commencing in November this year for this
little is said about the reason for this sudden interest in
spending millions to foster the little brother, those in the
know are well aware that the intention is to mould Anura for
the presidential candidacy instead of Premier Rajapakse. It is
also learnt that while Selacine will be handed the contract
for Anura's media blitz, it is widely believed that
Samarasinghe was appointed Selacine chairman so that things
could be carried out exactly the way Kumaratunga wants.
Samarasinghe has also been put in charge of the SLFP newspaper
Dinakara. Having summoned the editor and news editor of the
paper last week, Samarasinghe informed them that Dinakara had
to carry out a patriotic duty no other media institution was
capable of. He asked them to look into the activities of an
underworld figure operating in Hambantota and also to find out
which politician was behind his activities.
after the meeting, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse received a
phone call. He was informed that Samarasinghe had ordered a
campaign against the Prime Minister, via the Dinakara. The
caller told Rajapakse that the Dinakara editorial had been
instructed by Samarasinghe to expose the activities of
Hambantota Vambotta and reveal the name of the politician
aiding and abetting his activities in the area, to which the
Premier laughed and replied, "The President is probably
doing this also for my own good!"
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