Govt. gets wires crossed
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
AN ambitious growth target of 8% has been forecast for the next six years and the government has expressed confidence in achieving it. However, energy experts have cast doubts, as.......
> Civil society suggestions for strengthening CFA
> CBK and MR lock h orns over SLFP leadership (....Pot Shots)
Govt. gets wires crossed
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
AN ambitious growth target of 8% has been forecast for the next six years and the government has expressed confidence in achieving it. However, energy experts have cast doubts, as it would indeed be prudent to first rectify one of the festering cancers in the country - the power crisis, which has a direct impact on the country's development and hence the growth target.
Sri Lanka, believe it or not, has the highest energy charges in the Asian region and experts have warned that a delay in the implementation of low cost power projects would result in a further increase of electricity tariffs.
Minister John Seneviratne
The electricity tariffs have a severe impact on the country's industries, a major contributor to economic growth.
The Central Bank has said the expansion in economic activities in 2005 is expected to continue in 2006 with better performance in all key sectors and the industrial sector output is projected to expand underpinned by favourable external demand and sustained domestic demand.
An increase in manufacturing costs due to high power tariffs could become a dampener on the Central Bank's prediction.
Most industries that have been adversely affected by the high power prices are now looking to other countries in the region to set up their businesses, making Sri Lanka the loser at the end of the day.
Sri Lanka's power sector has been a hot topic of discussion by successive governments with no proper long-term solutions being implemented thus far.
The Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) has been strangled by long-term debts amounting to billions of rupees.
The losses amounting to Rs. 80 billion include a Rs. 30 billion debt due to the selling of electricity at lower than cost and Rs. 50 billion on long term loans.
An electricity unit sold at an average Rs. 7.70 at present actually costs around Rs. 9.50 to generate, that is before taking into account the CEB's long-term debt and depreciation.
The CEB incurs a loss of approximately Rs. 4 per unit at present and the government has been forced to bridge the gap through short-term loans.
Energy expert, Dr. Thilak Siyambalapitiya says that the government's present strategy of bridging the gap between the cost of generation and sale could not continue for long.
He said that in order to break even, the government would have to increase the current prices by a further 40%. (See box)
However, in a bid to find some relief, the government this month increased the electricity fixed charge.
Accordingly, the cost of the first 30 units would be Rs. 60, 31-60 units would cost Rs. 90, 61-90 units would cost Rs. 120, 91-180 units would cost Rs. 180 and 180 units and above would cost Rs. 240.
These charges are applicable to religious institutions as well.
Even with these increases, the CEB says that it would only cover a mere 8% of the losses incurred by the institution.
Amidst all this, the addition of a 300MW diesel power plant in Kerawalapitiya is expected to further increase the generation cost of a unit of electricity.
The heavy impact on thermal power generation due to the high global fuel prices would make it impossible for the government to generate power at a lower cost.
However, even a decrease in fuel prices could not guarantee smooth sailing for the CEB as the depreciation of the rupee too would pose a problem owing to the over reliance on oil. Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne says that there would be no
increase in electricity tariffs with the addition of the Kerawalapitiya power plant, adding that if it does not happen, the country would face a severe power crisis by 2007.
He also says that the government is in the process of implementing long-term solutions to remedy the power crisis in the country. (See box)
The crisis in the power sector is expected to take a turn for the worse next year if additions were not made to the current power generation system.
The energy demand of the country grew by 9% last year and is expected to grow further this year. With a steady growth in demand, a matching is yet to be put in place.
The country's power sector is also in need of urgent reforms, which have been on hold for the past few years, mainly because of the Marxist JVP, who are also a main constituent party of the government.
The JVP opposed any form of reforms or restructuring of state enterprises, which they said was another form of privatisation.
A committee appointed by cabinet presented a 13 page report on the proposed power sector reforms to then Power and Energy Minister Susil Premajayanth. The former cabinet approved the reforms.
However, with the swearing in of the new president and a new government, a new set of proposals were drafted based on the earlier report and is currently awaiting fresh cabinet approval.
With an ailing power sector, chances of steady economic growth lok dim.
If the country's leadership does not take decisions based on necessity rather than on petty politics, then chances of developing the economy through a boom in the industrial sector and achieving 8 per cent growth would remain nothing but a pipe dream.
Prices should go up by 40% - Expert
Energy Sector Specialist, Dr. Thilak Siyambalapitiya says that in order to break even, the current electricity prices should go up by 40%.
The government, which is currently selling a unit of electricity at an average of Rs. 7.70 when the generation cost is an average of Rs. 9.50, meets the gap through short-term loans.
Dr. Siyambalapitiya explained that electricity costs in Sri Lanka were high when compared to other countries in the region.
"Electricity costs in Thailand and Malaysia were much lower, but in some parts of India, electricity costs were higher than Sri Lanka," he said.
Industries in Sri Lanka pay an average of Rs. 8.20 per unit of electricity while in Thailand it is approximately Rs. 6 per unit. However, in Tamil Nadu, a unit costs Rs. 10.
Dr. Siyambalapitiya said that the high electricity prices would have an impact on energy intensive industries, as it would retard any future growth in the sector.
Industries like ceramics, cement, steel and all industries that use rubber as raw material were considered energy intensive industries.
According to Dr. Siyambalapitiya, high-energy costs deprive these industries from making any value additions to their products.
Citing an example he said that a reputed commercial company in Sri Lanka has opened a factory in Thailand and uses Sri Lankan raw material. "They have set up the factory in Thailand due to the low power costs and they use Sri Lankan raw material and as a result, jobs that could have been ours have
gone to the Thais," Dr. Siyambalapitiya said.
He went on to say that there were broad implications experienced due to the high-energy costs.
However, he did not rule out the possibility of solving the issue in the future, as the country did possess the energy efficiency potential.
Dr. Siyambalapitiya also stressed the importance of implementing low cost power projects as a long term solution to the problem.
CEB incurs a loss of Rs.4 per unit - Minister
Power and Energy Minister John Seneviratne explained that the high costs were a result of the use of electricity generated by fuel. Approximately 50% of the country's energy demand is met through thermal power.
"If fuel prices go up, then the electricity prices will also go up. The CEB incurs a loss of Rs. 4 per unit at present," Seneviratne said.
He went on to say that the government was engaged in implementing long-term solutions to remedy the country's power crisis.
Once the Norochcholai coal power plant comes into operation, electricity could be generated at a lower cost. Seneviratne says that with coal, the generation cost of a unit would be Rs. 4.90.
The government also has plans of putting up coal power plants in Trincomalee and Hambantota.
However, the government continues to incur losses amounting to millions of rupees with each day delayed in implementing the coal power plant.
As for the Kerawalapitiya diesel power plant, Seneviratne says that it would not result in a further increase in electricity tariffs.
"The cabinet has decided to give the plant to Lanka Transformers and they have ensured that a unit would be sold at Rs. 8," he said.
However, it has been planned to convert the plant into one run on LNG (liquidated gas) in two years. Then a unit could be sold at Rs. 4.50.
Seneviratne observed that if the Kerwalapitiya plant does not begin operations soon, the country would face a severe power crisis in 2007.
The cabinet is also to consider a new set of reforms to the power sector, which has already been presented to it.
These reforms have been based on the report presented last year by a 13-member committee headed by Additional Secretary, Power and Energy Ministry, W. B. Dissanayake.
Immediate revision of tariffs necessary - report
The report of the committee on power sector reforms headed by Additional Secretary, Power and Energy Ministry, W. B. Dissanayake was finalised on July 12, 2005 and handed over to the then Power and Energy Minister Susil Premajayanth on July 13, 2005.
This report has been the basis of the current reforms that have been placed before cabinet for approval.
The committee in its report has deemed it necessary to establish reasonable financial stability in the electricity sector.
However, it was clearly stated that contrary to statements made by politicians that through restructuring the cost of electricity could be brought down, it would not be possible to do so.
The report stated, "Although the cost of electricity could be brought down by off loading all the sector debts, it is not possible to reduce or even to stabilise the electricity prices, at current levels."
According to the 13-page report, "while the new enactment is being drafted for passage through parliament, it is imperative that financial stability of the CEB be improved by immediate revision of tariffs to at least reflect the steep increase of fuel prices."
According to the report, the power sector was faced with serious and long-standing issues including a financial crisis and four major issues have been identified as those in need of urgent attention.
First among them were the obstacles faced by the CEB during the past one or two decades in implementing plans for setting up large scale, low cost base load plants, particularly those using coal and fuel and large scale hydropower projects.
The proliferation of relatively low capacity thermal power generating plants using petroleum fuels, the prices of which have sharply risen was another cause.
Another cause identified is the CEB's inability to increase tariffs to commensurate with the increasing fuel prices, depreciation of the rupee which contributed to the increase in capital costs and a part of the operational cost and the consequential higher prices paid to independent power producers in
terms of their contracts.
The final root cause was the structural and managerial weaknesses and operational inefficiencies within the CEB, as well as an inadequate level of empowerment in its decision making process.
The committee in the report mentioned three strategic initiatives - tripod of strategic initiatives - to be adopted to solve the problems related to the four root causes.
However, the committee highlighted that the "sector reforms essential to ensure a viable, self-sustainable and nationally beneficial power sector should have three principal strategic initiatives, each of which constitutes a leg of the power sector tripod."
First in the three initiatives was the immediate adjustment of electricity tariffs to at least reflect the direct costs consequent to the increase in the price of fuel. This, however was needed to be followed by a realistic, fair and transparent mechanism for tariff setting and compensation for tariff
The next was the urgent implementation of the low cost large-scale thermal base-load generating plants using coal, until they meet a substantial part of the energy requirements. The committee also highlighted that there should not be any room for vacillation and diversionary moves.
The committee has included policies and measures to be adopted in this aspect.
The third leg was restructuring the power sector by unbundling the CEB and establishing independent, self-contained and commercially oriented companies fully owned by the CEB and ensuring their continued viability by offloading debt and subject to an independent and transparent regulatory mechanism.
To receive optimal results, the committee in its report recommended that these three initiatives be implemented consistently, vigorously and concurrently with equal emphasis on each initiative.
Root causes for the present crisis
Following are the four root causes which were identified by the power sector reforms committee in 2005.
1. Non implementation of low cost power projects. Eg: coal and hydropower projects.
2. Proliferation of relatively low capacity thermal power generating plants.
3. Non revision of tariffs
4. Institutional deficiencies.
Civil society suggestions for strengthening CFA
Civil society in Sri Lanka has presented several suggestion, that could help strengthen the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) and to move forward towards a sustainable and just peace.
The following are suggestions made by several civil society organisations.
In light of the upcoming talks in Geneva on February 22-23 between the Government of Sri Lanka (GOSL) and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) to review the implementation of the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA), a number of local civil society groups coalesced to support the parties' efforts to strengthen the CFA and to suggest ways towards
a sustainable and just peace.
We, as members of local civil society groups committed to a negotiated political settlement to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, express our congratulations to both the government of Sri Lanka and the LTTE for the courage and flexibility they have demonstrated in returning to the negotiating table. We hope that the meeting in Geneva will be
a first step towards ensuring a return to an expanded process of negotiations that will result in an agreement that is acceptable to all Sri Lankans.
In this context, we wish to put on record our concern regarding the escalation of violence, particularly over the last two months that has posed a serious threat to the CFA and the peace process.It has taken a heavy toll of human lives among civilians and combatants alike. If the peace process is to move forward, we believe that it is
imperative to build a shared commitment to end the violence and halt the assassinations and abductions immediately.
There has been a dramatic reduction of violent incidents since the decision to enter the process of dialogue was taken. This demonstrates that the two parties to the CFA have the capacity to deter violence in the conflict-affected areas.
The Ceasefire Agreement now in force expresses the desire of both parties to the CFA to 'find a negotiated solution to the ongoing ethnic conflict' through bringing an end to hostilities and improving the living conditions of all inhabitants affected by the conflict. We believe that the Geneva
talks must reaffirm the commitment of the government and the LTTE to adhere to the spirit of this agreement, thereby providing a positive atmosphere for negotiations in the future as well.
Recognising the complexities of the ground situation, we call for creative and flexible approaches to consolidating the framework of implementation of the existing CFA. This needs to ensure the security of civilians and the improvement of living conditions for all those affected by the conflict.
In order to address the specific problems, civil society calls for the adoption of some broad principles as indicated below:
Commitment to non violence will strengthen existing terms under the CFA that deal with violence (Articles 1.2, 2.1 etc.). Thereby the parties commit to the spirit of the CFA and not undermine each other's political and military position.
Commitment to civilian protection will ensure that the rights of the civilians, referred to in Article 2.1, are safeguarded through devising specific measures to prevent killings, abductions, intimidation and harassment etc. The measures could include improved investigation, monitoring and reporting of these rights and violations. This would
require a broad interpretation of the mandate of the SLMM, to strengthen its capacity to monitor Article 2.1. It should, for example, set in place a complaints mechanism accessible to civilians that could respond to the needs of the affected persons, their families and communities. Assistance programmes for the victims of violence will be a critical tool for strengthening the humanitarian aspects of the CFA and peace process.
Commitment to reciprocity will address the critical issue of the High Security Zones in which demilitarisation by one party is reciprocated by the other. Such reciprocity will allow for a process of confidence building and of strengthening the environment in which the negotiations take place. In this spirit of reciprocity the parties should
also take into consideration the rights of the Muslim community to equal and non-discriminatory treatment.
Commitment to strengthening the monitoring capacity of the Sri Lankan Monitoring Mission through reaffirming a broad interpretation of its mandate and allowing for expansion of human and material resources. For example, making provisions for the Head of Mission to be a rotating position would increase public confidence in the SLMM.
Similarly, if the local members of the monitoring team are jointly chosen by the two sides, instead of being appointed separately by each side, would also enhance public trust in the SLMM.
This statement is jointly issued by the following civil society organisations:
Association for War Affected Women -AWAW
Berghof Foundation for Conflict Transformation
Centre for Policy Alternatives -CPA
Foundation for Co-Existence -FCE
Initiative for Political and Conflict Transformation - INPACT
International Centre for Ethnic Studies - ICES
National Advisory Council for Peace and Reconciliation -NACPR
National Peace Council -NPC
National Anti-War Front -NAWF
People's Alliance for Free and Fair Elections -PAFREL
Social Scientists' Association -SSA
Trade Union Centre for the Right of Re-building the Country
Women's Alliance for Peace and Democracy
Women's Education and Research Centre - WERC
CBK and MR lock h orns
over SLFP leadership
It is common to see minor clashes between parties as election heat intensifies.
In a surprising change to this accepted norm, this time around people witnessed the brewing of internal battles with the impending elections for the local government bodies.
The biggest internal clashes were however recorded from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
The Bandaranaikes have always been news-makers in the country's political stage having produced three prime ministers and an executive president.
In keeping with the country's constitution, which does not permit anyone who has held the presidency for two terms to be appointed to rule the country once again, President Chandrika Kumaratunga had to retire on November 17 paving the way for her successor, President Mahinda Rajapakse to assume office.
It was a common belief that November 17 was the beginning of the end for Kumaratunga in particular and the Bandaranaikes on the whole.
At least that was what the Marxist JVP bragged about when their members shouted hoarse on election platforms in the run up to the presidential election.
It was the family's crown prince, Anura Bandaranaike who responded to these speeches.
"The Bandaranaikes will never retire from politics and no one can force them to. Chandrika has a long way to go before retiring. It will be a long time before she retires from politics even after the elections," he said at the time.
Bandaranaike's prediction then left many bewildered as to the message he was trying to convey to the party.
However, the events that unfolded during the last few weeks, especially with regard to the party's leadership, have proved that Bandaranaike's words were certainly more than mere rhetoric.
Two weeks ago, on Wednesday, Rajapakse had allocated between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. for his cabinet meeting, but due to a call he received from Kumaratunga the day before, he had to alter his schedule and requested her to meet him the following day at 6:30 at Temple Trees.
After agreeing to the meeting, Rajapakse informed most of the ministers of the scheduled discussion with Kumara-tunga. He went on to say that Kumaratunga was meeting him to discuss the controversy that had arisen with regard to several cheques signed by her during her last days as president.
"She is coming to talk about the cheque issue, but I am planning to discuss something else," he said.
On being questioned by the ministers as to what Rajapakse was planning to do, he responded, "I'm planning to discuss the controversies that have arisen within the party."
Kumaratunga who was well known for not being punctual throughout the 11 years of her presidency, has since retiring shocked many by becoming one of the most punctual politicians.
CBK meets with Mahinda
It was the same that Wednesday, and Kumaratunga made her way to Temple Trees exactly at the time Rajapakse had asked her to come.
The President accompanied by his wife was waiting upstairs to greet Kumaratunga.
Kumaratunga who arrived with her secretaries received a warm welcome from the Rajapakses.
After exchanging pleasantries for some time, Kumaratunga broached the topic she came to discuss.
Taking out a document on which she had written down all the issues and harassment faced by her since retiring as president, Kumaratunga first brought out the issue of her security.
She pointed out that since she was a leader under whom the state waged war against the LTTE, even after retiring from office there still existed a threat to her life.
Kumaratunga told Rajapakse that it was the duty of the government to pay special attention to retired presidents, including her.
"Why, haven't you received the security you requested from the cabinet? Haven't you been granted all that? Unlike the D.B. Wijetunges and J. R. Jayewardenes, I have gone beyond the constitution to provide security for you. Now what is the problem?" Rajapakse questioned.
Kumaratunga paid a keen ear to what Rajapakse had to say before responding.
"Mahinda, what is this act? You are behaving as you have no idea about what's going on. Since I returned from England, my security is being reduced one by one. The Army Commander is reducing my security saying that he has received orders from above. You know very well that I'm being targetted by the LTTE. Besides everything is a mess
these days and under such circumstances it is unacceptable that my security is being reduced by our own government. Yesterday I attended a meeting at our party headquarters and I had to leave in a small jeep for my own safety. You can check this from Maithripala and everyone who was present," she responded.
After Kumaratunga's statement, the friendly conversation changed into quite a heated argument.
"These are all things that you imagine. It was so in the past and even now. The problem is that I am the President of the country. If you have any problems tell them to me. I will then give the necessary orders. All these problems start when you try to speak to the army and police and give them orders. Please don't create problems, I
already have enough to deal with. When there are ways to resolve issues, please don't try to create new ones," Rajapakse said.
Kumaratunga did not take Rajapakse's comment lying down.
"Mahinda, for the last few weeks (naming several newspapers) newspapers carried reports about me and I have already found out how those stories got there and who gave it to them. There was a news story that I had brought a palace in England. Finally it was proved to be false. Then there were stories that I had asked for land and robbed
money. I have already found out how they got to the relevant newspapers," she said.
Rajapakse responded saying, "I'm not ready to respond to these allegations and I will not take any notice of them. Just tell me the problems you need me to resolve?"
"You have a responsibility to look into my security issue," Kumaratunga said.
The President said that he saw no problem with regard to her security.
"Now you have told me about it and I will immediately look into it and solve it," Rajapakse said.
He then asked Kumaratunga if she had any other issues that needed to be resolved.
Accordingly, she presented him with her next problem. That was regarding a cabinet paper Kumaratunga had submitted during her last cabinet meetings.
In the cabinet paper she had requested permission to allocate funds from the President's Fund to an NGO. Cabinet approved this request, but it was halted by Rajapakse after assuming the presidency.
"Mahinda I did not request for this money for personal reasons. The cabinet paper clearly highlights where the money was to be directed to. Not only did you stop the release of these cheques, but you also leaked the information and misled the media," Kumaratunga charged.
Visibly angry by hearing her statement, Rajapakse responded, "I don't know if you really can't understand these. This money is neither mine nor yours, these are government funds. Money from such funds cannot be transferred to accounts if and when we need them. Do you know that a senior lawyer told me that if this matter was investigated
and you were found to be at fault, then you would have to be punished by a court of law? So please, don't ask me for this, it is something that cannot be done. There are lots of things that you can do madam. Now take Bill Clinton from the US for an example, he retired at a young age. Look at him; he is now travelling around the world working for people. If you want to I can assign you some tasks that could take you around the country as well as the
Kumaratunga's quick response was that she had no intention of following Clinton. "I don't want to follow Clinton, I'm happy if I can have some job where I can serve the people and country, so give me that chance."
What Kumaratunga did not tell Rajapakse is that he had done far worse by transferring tsunami money that came to the government into a private family account and going by Rajapakse's own logic, it is he who should have been charged.
What Kumaratunga did say however was that in her case the cabinet of which Rajapaksewas premier had given cabinet approval and the purposes for which the funds were to be used were specified. It was for the development of sports with two top sports persons in the country, Arjuna Ranatunga and Susanthika Jayasinghe as members of the board,
But Rajapakse was firm on his stance and said that there was no way he could approve the release of the funds.
Finally the discussion led to the issue regarding the SLFP leadership.
"What are you planning to do with the party? There is an election that is fast approaching. Do you have any plans to build the party?" Rajapakse questioned.
"Mahinda, what is your problem? Be direct," Kumaratunga said.
Rajapakse, taken aback by Kumaratunga's direct approach retorted, "No, there is no problem. The only problem I have is regarding the party leadership."
Kumaratunga greeted Rajapakse's response with a smile.
"I was waiting for the day you would ask me this question. I saw several stories published in the newspapers. They were about me stepping aside and giving you the party leadership. I thought that these stories were published because you wanted it. I saw the same happening before the presidential election. Then I did not take notice of
them. I know the party constitution very well and no matter how many paper articles are published on the matter there are ways to gain the leadership of the party.
"I used the proper way when I made you the presidential candidate by calling for a central committee meeting and proposing your name for the position. You cannot get the party leadership and presidency as and when you feel like it. If you want to take the party leadership, then there is process you must follow. The party has an
executive committee, then there is a party convention. You have to call them both and then get the leadership. You cannot get the party leadership by getting articles published in newspapers," Kumaratunga said.
Rajapakse who was listening intently to what Kumaratunga had to say, responded, "You must know how difficult it is to rule a country when the party leadership is not under you. Even you faced these problems at one point. So think about it and let me know."
Kumaratunga however said Rajapakse as President of the country and she as the party leader can put their past differences behind them and work for the betterment of the country without fighting but the President had other ideas.
"It is not possible to work together. I want the leadership of the party," he demanded.
However, Kumaratunga did not respond and when she was about to leave, Rajapakse said, "I did not realise that we have been talking for four hours. I missed the cabinet meeting because of it."
"Oh, have the ministers already left?" Kumaratunga questioned.
"Yes, my cabinet meetings last only an hour or two. I finish the work fast, the ministers must be asleep at home now," Rajapakse said.
Kumaratunga then made her way out of Temple Trees along with her secretaries.
It took only 24 hours for the discussion between Rajapakse and Kumaratunga to come out in the media.
An English daily and a Sunday Sinhala newspaper out on Saturday came out with one headline. The news was that Kumaratunga had asked the President if he needed the party leadership.
The stories further state that Kumaratunga agreed to give the party leadership to Rajapakse and that it would be done within a week.
Kumaratunga who was angered by the stories told her close associates that Rajapakse even after becoming President has not given up the dirty job of getting false stories published in newspapers.
Not stopping at that she even called the chairmen of the respective publishing houses.
Kumaratunga who called a particular chairman's house was informed that he would return the call in an hour as he was not well.
The chairman who called Kumaratunga not long after inquired as to why she had called him.
She then informed the chairman that the stories were planted by the President and that she had not at any point during the discussion agreed to hand over the party leadership to him.
Kumaratunga also requested the chairman to get her side of the story before publishing any story about her and Rajapakse in the future since deliberate plants were in place to make her look bad in the eyes of the party membership, she claimed.
How Chandrika took charge
of the Gampaha District
An upbeat ChandrikaKumaratungaafter her discussion with President Mahinda Rajapaksedecided to participate in all the meetings held on party reforms which were to be carried out before the elections.
She also paid special attention to the nomination list of the Gampaha District for the forthcoming local government elections.
Kumaratunga discussed the matter with Party Secretary Maithripala Sirisena.
However, the discussion took a different turn following a question posed by Sirisena.
"Madam, the district leader is Anura Bandaranaike but he has not participated in any of the meetings. Now we need someone to handle the election work. We cannot get through to him even to inquire about it. What is to be done about this?" he asked.
Chandrika takes over
Kumaratunga was quick to defend her brother.
"I was waiting to tell you Maithri, I think Anura is not feeling that well. He called and told me that he was going to Singapore for an eye operation. I don't think Anura will be in a position to carry out the bulk of the work during the campaign," she said.
Sirisena then asked who would be in charge of the Gampaha campaign.
Kumaratunga wanted to know who the most senior minister from the district was.
"Madam, it is Jeyaraj Fernandopulle," Sirisena said.
Kumaratunga was not too pleased with it. "Oh that would not do. Most of the people in the district are angry with Jeyaraj, especially our ministers and organisers. If that happens, then it will be beneficial for the UNP and the JVP in Gampaha. Since it happened in the previous general election, I think Maithri, it would be best that I
take over the campaign for the Gampaha District. The President says he wants to go all over the island, that is okay. Let him do what he wants. While handling the Gampaha District campaign, I will also attend several meetings in other districts," she said.
Support for Kumaratunga
Sirisena was overjoyed to hear Kumaratunga's response.
"Madam, that would be just fine, if you are taking over the Gampaha District, then we don't even have to look at it twice. What do you want us to do?" he asked.
Kumaratunga then asked Sirisena if he could give her a letter.
"What is the letter madam?" queried Sirisena.
"Give me a letter stating that until Anura gets back and assumes his duties, that I will be made the district leader," Kumaratunga said.
The letter was instantly typed at the SLFP party headquarters and Kumaratunga herself made several alterations to the letter, which was then signed by Sirisena.
Kumaratunga who accepted the letter left the party headquarters with several plans in mind. Of course she kept Anura in the loop and worked out the strategy accordingly.
Thus, soon after arriving at Horagolla, Kumaratunga made a call to brother Anura who was on tour in Indonesia at the time and informed him of her appointment as the Gampaha District leader.
Anura then pledged his fullest support to her and informed her that he would join her once he returned to the island after the eye operation.
Kumaratunga thereafter saidall SLFP district organisers would be called for a meeting at Horagolla at 12 noon on Sunday.
She also called Fernandopulle and informed him that she would be functioning as the district leader and asked him if he would be attending the scheduled meeting at Horagolla on Sunday.
"Madam, why do you ask that? Haven't we come when you have called for us?" he asked.
Meeting in Horagolla
"No Jeyaraj, that was then, now people are very different, that is why I asked if you will be attending. If you are not coming, then send someone else from the Katana electorate," Kumaratunga said.
"What are you saying madam? Wherever I am, I will always come when you call me. Jeyaraj is the same yesterday and today," he said.
After calling Fernandopulle, Kumaratunga personally called all the other organisers and invited them for the meeting.
After the meeting with the organisers, Kumaratunga informed Sirisena of her decision to fill several vacancies of district organisers to strengthen the party's election campaign.
Sirisena requested Kumaratunga to discuss the matter with the President.
"Maithri, I'm the Party Leader and informed you of my decision as it was my duty to do so. The organisers are appointed by the party leader. He is the President and he will rule the country. I will take care of the party and if he has a problem about it, he can speak to me," Kumaratunga said.
Anura takes the battle to
Janaka over party leadership
The Bandaranaikes were engaged in strengthening their power base within the SLFP once again, but since they no longer held executive powers, several ministers who were once loyal to them had decided to change loyalties.
Leading them was Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon.
The Tennekoons, who have been in politics along with the Bandaranaikes for a long time, for the first time showed a change of heart last week.
This came out in an interview published in the Lankadeepa last Monday. In the interview, Tennekoon had said that Chandrika Kumaratunga should retire from the party leadership and hand it over to President Mahinda Rajapakse.
It has always been the task of Anura Bandaranaike to counter-attack anyone who attacks the Bandaranaikes and he did the same this time around as well.
Anura writes to Tennekoon
On the following day, Banadaranike wrote a letter to Tennekoon reminding him of how his family entered politics and the sudden transformation.
Produced below is a translation of Bandaranike's letter to Tennekoon:
"With regard to the article published in the Lankadeepa newspaper on February 13 under the heading, 'Chandrika should move away and give the party leadership to Mahinda.'
"I saw this article on my return to the island after attending a special seminar on toursim.
"Reading this article I was compelled to believe that you have purposely forgotten your history as you have become an opportunist.
"It was the late S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike who gave nominations to your father, T. B. Tennekoon and brought him to politics when he was distributing leaflets with poems at the Kandy market.
"Since he did not have money to contest an election, we had to mortgage the house we were living in Colombo to give him the necessary money and vehicles to contest the elections. It was the Bandaranaikes who got him into politics.
"Then it was the late Sirimavo Bandaranaike who brought him up to the level of a cabinet minister by making him a deputy minister and then a minister. In short, if not for the Bandaranaikes, there would not be any T. B. Tennekoon.
"It was I who asked you to enterpolitics. I hope you remember the request I made when you were indisposed and living in a house in Piliyandala.
"During your political life, it was Chandrika Kumaratunga who made you a deputy minister and then a minister and brought you to the level of a cabinet minister.
"The President who understood your severe throat ailment released a large sum of money from the President's Fund to save your life.
"You are aware of the fate you would have sufferedif this did not happen. Your dear wife and children know of it even more than you.
"I hope you remember that I visited you when you were being treated in America after you received the money from the President. What did you and your wife, falling on your knees, tell me at that moment? 'I'm alive because of the Bandaranaikes.' These words are so appropriate today and let me be the one to remind you.
"Looking at the long history, it is evident that the Bandaranaikes have done everything for you. However, there is something else that has happened between the past and the present. That is that most of the people fed by the Bandaranaikes have ended biting their hands.
"The majority of the SLFP has understood the meaning of this insulting and low statement made by you.
"Finally, let me remind you of the teaching of Lord Buddha, especially on karma, where it is said that what goes around comes around. Let me remind you of that.
"However, I hope that you would not be the recipient of such a fate."