Somawansa reveals Mahinda's game plan
Although it is not surprising to see leaders of two parties exchange warm wishes by shaking hands or even the rare hug, one such 'warm' moment that took place a few days ago resulted in a misunderstanding between two leaders.
This incident took place when President Mahinda Rajapakse met the JVP delegation led by Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe at Temple Trees soon after
the Co-Chairs meeting in Brussels.
Angered by the statement released by the Co-Chairs, Rajapakse wanted to send a message to the international community and it was his advisor,
Dullas Alahapperuma who came up with the plan to use the JVP for the purpose.
As per the 'plan' the President then called the JVP to meet with him the following day and made sure that local and foreign media were present
to cover the event.
President hugs Somawansa
It was at this meeting that Rajapakse hugged Amarasinghe for the cameras. This was the photograph Rajapakse wanted seen by the international community.
Soon after leaving Temple Trees, Amarasinghe and others who formed the delegation - Party Secretary Tilvin Silva and Propaganda Secretary Wimal
Weerawansa began to exchange views on the President's unusual behaviour.
Amarasinghe said that he did not consider the hug to be a good sign at all. He explained the he could not fathom the President's behaviour
given the short discussion he had with the JVP that day.
Weerawansa however said that he did not believe it to be so and said the President was sincere in his motives. What Weerawansa could not tell
was his desire to see the JVP join the government.
Silva observed that he did not feel comfortable in the manner in which Rajapakse behaved. He went on to say that it was the first time the head
of state had behaved in such a manner.
Silva also observed that Rajapakse has not been transparent in his actions and hence Rajapakse and his brother Basil were clearly trying to
fool the JVP.
The following day, the JVP politburo was to meet to decide on the President's meeting with the party delegation. Interestingly, the party's
true politburo is not the one mentioned in the party's website or what has been given to the elections commissioner's office.
Footage on TV channels
The footage shown on TV channels where Rajapakse was seen hugging Amarasinghe turned the meeting into one that was filled with heated arguments. The hardliners took centre stage at the meeting for the first 15 minutes. They said that Rajapakse was trying
to fool the JVP along with his aides, Basil and Alahapperuma.
The hardliners went on to say that the President's behaviour was due to the JVP's poor performance at the local government polls and Basil's
impression that he could do anything with the JVP through Weerawansa.
They then observed that the party had to make a decision as to whether it was going to join hands with the President and be destroyed forever,
or stand alone and build themselves to become the country's largest political force.
President should agree
It was also proposed that if the JVP was to join the President, then he should agree to the 20 conditions forwarded by the party and that the
JVP should launch a massive campaign against the President and the government if he failed to accept the three main conditions -abrogation of the CFA, ouster of Norway as the peace facilitator and the de-merger of north east provinces.
This massive political campaign is to be launched step by step. Amarasinghe was to then make a statement condemning the President's behaviour
at the meeting.
Amarasinghe said that he would make a similar statement at his next meeting.
The party also decided on launching a massive campaign against the government and the President. Accordingly, Amarasinghe was tasked with
addressing a public rally in every electorate and other party leaders to carry out awareness meetings at branch committee level.
Weerawansa, who remained silent till all the decisions were made, then put forward a proposal on behalf of the President. That was to raise a
voice against Norway and Erik Solheim.
He explained that since the government was not in a position to carry out such a campaign, the JVP's assistance was requested by the President
as he could then take action if the country opposed Norway and Solheim.
The party hardliners rejected the request saying that the JVP no longer needed to be part of the President's antics. It was decided that raising opposition to Norway's role as facilitator and Solheim should only be carried out by the party according to its
policies and not to please the President or Basil.
Another topic that was discussed at the meeting was the news that party senior Nandana Gunatilleka who is now ousted from the politburo was
planning to speak to the media.
It was then decided to send out a letter signed by Silva asking party members not to give any media interviews without party approval.
People in glass houses...
JVP's Wimal Weerawansa has introduced a new political sub-culture to the country. That is to insult other politicians in a degrading manner, sometimes even by bringing out their personal lives.
Weerawansa carried out this strategy to the hilt during the last presidential election where he regularly insulted Opposition and UNP Leader
Weerawansa's portrayal of himself as a know-it-all and his well maintained appearance made him the man most suited to execute the new strategy. However, no act can last forever and this is exactly what happened to Weerawansa at the National Literature and Cultural Festival.
This festival is always celebrated on a grand scale and is graced by either the head of state or a national leader. A special lecture is also
This lecture is usually delivered by a politician well versed in history and the country's culture or an academic with similar credentials.
The invitation this time was forwarded to Speaker W. J. M. Lokubandara, who is known to be well versed in the country's history as well as culture. Lokubandara however declined the invitation as he was going to be overseas during the period the festival was to be held in Anuradhapura.
Next in line was Weerawansa.
Weerawansa accepted the invitation with glee. He did not forget to publicise the fact that he would be delivering the special speech at this
Several media institutions loyal to Weerawansa publicised this and soon after, the Cultural Affairs Ministry and the Minister received an
avalanche of letters from academics opposing the invitation extended to Weerawansa.
Most of the academics told Cultural Affairs Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena that asking Weerawansa to deliver the special speech was an
insult to the country's rich cultural heritage.
The Minister responded by saying that he was not the one who invited Weerawansa and said that it was a decision made by the organising
committee. He also said that he would inquire into the matter and take appropriate action.
The Minister then made inquiries from the head of the organising committee, Buddhadasa Galappatti as to what actually happened.
"This has now become a big issue for us as well. People are asking us as well. What has happened is a small mistake. When the Speaker
declined the invitation, the organising committee decided to invite Prof. Wimal Dissanayake, but instead accidentally they had invited Wimal Weerawansa. Now we are helpless. Everything is set for the event and we can't now ask Weerawansa not to attend the function. That will become a bigger problem," Galappatti said.
Weerawansa as a result ended up delivering the special speech at the National Cultural Festival thanks to the mistake made by the organising
committee. Cultural Affairs Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena after finding out the story behind the invitation, decided to keep quiet about it till the end of the event.
Seeing Weerawansa at the event, most historians felt sad to see the depths to which the country's biggest cultural event had sunk to.
However everyone was keen to hear what Weerawansa had to say in his speech. Weerawansa who is well known to insult and ridicule people on the
political platform, on that day made a statement that shocked every historian present.
In his speech Weerawansa said, "When talking about literature, there are several books that come to my mind. It is the duty of a writer to
ensure that the reader is mesmerised by his writing. Now look at the novel written by French writer Guy de Maupasant called the Old Man And The Sea. I was mesmerised by this novel and it is still in my mind."
This is where Weerawansa went wrong.
It was obvious Weerawansa had been preparing for the speech for several days, but one wrong statement made him the laughing stock at the
function. The novel mentioned by Weerawansa received a Nobel prize and was written by American writer Ernest Hemingway.
The novel was translated by Cyril C. Perera. Weerawansa therefore made a fool of himself by trying to speak on a subject he was not familiar with.
People, especially historians and writers who opposed the invitation extended to Weerawansa took on the Minister after the event. They argued that the event had been degraded by the mere presence and the speech made by Weerawansa.
The Minister after apologising to the crowd said he would prevent such things from happening in the future.
And so it was to be Weerawansa's 'cultural' waterloo. This slip made by Weerawansa however was not reported in the media.
The Sinhala daily Lankadeepa which published his speech the next day, however did not publish the real story. Weerawansa who had realised the mistake he made in his speech, had phoned the editorial board of Lankadeepa and requested them to correct his speech before publishing it in the papers. It is only
Weerawansa who could do such things and get away.
Muslim members turn their wrath on Gotabhaya
The issues faced by the Sri Lanka government are far from over and in fact they keep mounting.
The killing of the 17 aid workers attached to an INGO in Muttur has put the government under heavy scrutiny by the international community. The government, which was in a tight spot following the killings, finally managed to somewhat overcome the international glare by pledging to appoint an independent
and international team to probe the massacre.
Be that as it may, the government is now faced with another predicament. This time it is with the massacre of 11 Muslims in Pottuvil.
Inquiry into killings
Although the inquiry into the killings has not begun, the people in Pottuvil have already given the verdict on the killings. They have pointed the finger at the Special Task Force (STF). Soon after the massacre, three deputy ministers and the IGP made their way to Pottuvil to resolve the issue.
Things however did not go as planned and the people in Pottuvil launched an agitation campaign against the government officials.
While the IGP's vehicle was stoned by the villagers, the three deputy ministers were forced to wear protective gear and run for cover.
The people made one request and that was the immediate transfer of an officer attached to the STF in the area.
Upon their return to Colombo, the deputy ministers made their way to meet Basil Rajapakse hoping to resolve the issue. Basil however, did not
respond too positively to the request and the Pottuvil issue continued to simmer.
With no sign of a transfer, the Muslims in Pottuvil organised a hartal campaign against the killing of the Muslims. The STF disrupted the
hartal and gunshots were fired to disperse the crowd.
It was on this day that Minister A. H. M. Fowzie visited Pottuvil to look into the situation. He immediately realised the gravity of the
situation and rushed back directly to Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapakse's office.
Fowzie said that in order to resolve the issue, Gotabhaya should immediately transfer the STF official the people were agitating against.
Gotabhaya on the other hand refused to do any such thing resulting in a heated exchange of words between the two.
On Wednesday, a separate delegation of Muslim parliamentarians made their way to Pottuvil.
The delegation comprised Alavi Moulana, Hussein Baila, Anver Ismail, Ameer Ali and an MP from the SLMC. Fowzie too joined this delegation.
They finally decided to thrash out the matter with Basil.
They waited for Basil for over half an hour in his office, but he did not turn up.
Meanwhile the situation in Pottuvil was going from bad to worse. The delegation then decided to meet Gotabhaya.
They had a two-hour long discussion with Gotabhaya to find ways to resolve the crisis. At one point, the discussion became heated. The
parliamentarians would not budge from demanding the immediate transfer of the STF official while Gotabaya continued to reject it.
"That cannot be done. One person cannot be transferred. In that case, the whole STF camp has to be removed and the police would have to be
deployed instead,"Gotabhaya said.
Baila observed that the only request by the villagers was to remove one particular STF official and went on to say that it would otherwise turn
out to be another ethnic issue.
Gotabhaya responded by saying that the STF had sacrificed 500 of its personnel to safeguard the Muslims in the area.
Angered by response
Angered by Gotabhaya's response, Baila said, "Don't speak like that. How can you differentiate Muslims like that? The STF sacrificed 500 lives to protect the Sri Lankans in that village. Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims are all Sri Lankans. Do not separate the Muslims. The main national problem in the
country has also gone this far because of this differentiation," they thundered.
Gotabhaya retorted saying that Baila should not debate with him and that if he was going to continue to do so, he would not be allowed to
participate at any meeting at the Defence Ministry.
Baila responded by saying, "Please understand who I am. I am a deputy minister and you are just a ministry secretary. How can you speak to
me like that? I just said that no Sri Lankan should be categorised as Sinhalese, Tamils or Muslims.
Everyone should be accepted as Sri Lankans. The villagers are Sri Lankans and so are the STF personnel." Moulana who realised the argument had gone too far intervened and said that they should not lose focus of the main issue at hand.
The IGP then intervened to resolve the issue.
He said that if permission were granted, he would leave for Pottuvil and transfer the STF official to Karaitivu without causing any
inconvenience to him.
At the end of the meeting, Gotabhaya was forced to grant permission to the IGP to grant the parliamentarians' request.
CBK plans her comeback
Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga has now become the most talked-about politician these days.
All eyes are now on Kumaratunga to see what she has been up to in London with her two children.
The latest news doing the rounds however is of her return to the island and the formation of a new political party.
Recently the parliamentary select committee on public enterprises received an invitation from the British government to study the functions of
British national corporations. Subsequently, among those who made their way to London were Ministers Dilan Perera, Wijedasa Rajapakse and Lasantha Alagiyawanna.
Alagiyawanna calls CBK
Alagiyawanna who called Kumaratunga a few days prior to his departure to London told her the dates when the government delegation would be in the UK.
Kumaratunga informed Alagiyawanna that she would most probably be out of the city during the period the delegation was in London, but said that
if she was to return before, she would indeed meet with him.
While members of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) were on their study tour, Alagiyawanna received a surprise call from Kumaratunga.
"I got back to London from Paris today. Lasantha, come for dinner to my place tonight. I like to know what's happening in Sri Lanka,"
Alagiyawanna said that there were several others who were keen on meeting her as well. She inquired as to who the rest were and was informed
that they included Perera, Rajapakse and Hussein Baila.
Kumaratunga informed Alagiyawanna that she was not in a position to entertain so many people in her small apartment. However, she said that if
they were so keen on meeting her, she would make alternate arrangements and get back to him.
Alagiyawanna received another call from Kumaratunga about an hour later. She informed him that since she was not in a position to entertain
everyone in her apartment, she had made arrangements for dinner at a well known Chinese restaurant in London.
Before calling Alagiyawanna, Kumaratunga had called the hotel the ministers were staying at and sent individual messages to their rooms about
the dinner plans.
Alagiyawanna with the rest of the ministers made their way to the restaurant at 8.30 p.m., the time given by Kumaratunga.
Kumaratunga arrived a few minutes later, accompanied only by her driver.
She then made her way to the pre-booked lounge in the restaurant and exchanged pleasantries with the ministers.
They inquired after her life in London and were saddened to hear her story. She then started to inquire about the state of affairs in Sri
Kumaratunga began to list in detail the unfair treatment meted out to her by President Mahinda Rajapakse and his brothers Basil and Gotabhaya.
She went on to say that despite the unfair treatment meted out to her and trying to scare her away from returning to the island, she would
definitely return next month.
She also said that she would appear before courts to clear her name in the cases filed to tarnish her image.
Kumaratunga then told the ministers of her daughter's impending wedding, which is currently being planned.
The wedding was initially to be held at the Taj Samudra Hotel in Colombo, but since most of the groom's (a British national) relatives were
hesitant to travel to Sri Lanka following the recent bomb attack at the army headquarters, which is adjacent to the hotel, the wedding has now been shifted to London.
The ministers also told Kumaratunga that it was not wise to travel about with a security person even in London.
"Yes, that is true. I accept it. I had a security officer, but now he is not there anymore. I had to stop him as I found it difficult to
pay his salary," she said.
Kumaratunga said that once her daughter's wedding was over she would be free to return to the island and engage herself in full time politics
and social service.
The dinner went on till midnight and at the end of it, Kumaratunga wished the ministers well and left the restaurant saying that they should
meet once she returns to the island next month.
Political analysts have pointed out that Kumaratunga is known to always leave for London when she was politically down and return with a
vengeance, as was the case in '94 when she returned to the island to become chief minister, then prime minister and then executive president.
Ranil-Mahinda rapport growing
It is now rather rare to see President Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe exchange messages.
During the tenure of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, the duo exchanged messages regularly.
Many believed that with Rajapakse taking office as President, the friendship between him and Wickremesinghe would blossom and result in solving
many issues faced by the country.
However there are signs the former friendship is now getting back on track and although the friendly exchanges are not done in the open, they
do happen very discreetly.
When Rajapakse requested the UNP's support to the government, Wickremesinghe responded by saying that he was ready to support him
unconditionally to solve the national problem.
Rajapakse responded immediately asking Wickremesinghe to nominate five members from the UNP to commence talks with a five member government
Wickremesinghe said that before nominating the names, he should hold a discussion with Rajapakse to which the President agreed.
Wickremesinghe was accompanied by Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya. Minister Maithripala Sirisena accompanied the President.
The foursome held a discussion that lasted several hours and finally the two leaders agreed to name five member delegations from both sides to
Rajapakse requested Sirisena to nominate the five member delegation on the government side.
Wickremesinghe however did not have it easy as the internal conflicts in the party made it a difficult task for him to name the five member
delegation. He tried in vain to form the delegation.
Wickremesinghe finally called Sirisena and asked if the number could be increased to seven.
Sirisena said that although it was not an issue, it had to be endorsed by the President and proposed that Wickremesinghe call Rajapakse
Accordingly, Acting Presidential Secretary Gamini Senarath was requested to connect the President, who was in Havana with Wickremesinghe.
Senarath could not get the President on line due to his busy schedule in Havana.
He then called Wickremesinghe and said that he would connect the Opposition Leader with the President as soon as he got through to him.
Wickremesinghe told Senarath that since it was not easy to reach the President, if he got through to Rajapakse at any time, to ask his approval
to increase the number of the delegations to seven members.
Senarath called Wickremesinghe the following day and informed him that the President had agreed to increase the delegation to seven members and
said that he had requested a meeting with the opposition leader once he returns to the island from New York.
It is indeed a good sign to see the increasing understanding between the two leaders. However, this relationship has also caused much concern
to several political leaders and heads of media institutions. Certain elements with vested interests have now set about trying to ruin this relationship from progressing any further.
News items have already been published by certain media institutions to destroy the good relations between the UNP and the SLFP.