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Editorial

November 18, 2007  Volume 14, Issue 22


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Prtesident Mahinda Rajapakse and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had a surprising encounter when they called over at the residence of former President JR Jayawardene to pay their last respects to the Former First lady eleanor Jayawardena. The meeting did not go as well as the one in this photo taken after the signing of the MOU between the SLFP and the UNP in 2006

Mahinda rejects JVPís four
conditions at meeting with Ranil

By The Sunday Leader Political Editor

President Mahinda Rajapakse informed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday that he will not accept the four demands made ..........

......More


  > Basil offers Somawansa Opposition Leader's post

  >

President fails to woo Wije

  > Opposition in talks with 16 govt. MPs

  >

JVP refuses to meet MR
  > 53 extra judicial killings reported in October
  > Raj hits back at US$ 3m investment dispute

Mahinda rejects JVPís four conditions at meeting with Ranil

President and Ranil in surprise meeting

MR says no dissolution if budget is defeated

Ranil will be asked to form Govt

Ranil wants people to decide next Govt

By The Sunday Leader Political Editor

President Mahinda Rajapakse informed UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday that he will not accept the four demands made by the JVP but invite Wickremesinghe to form a Government if the budget is defeated.

The President said he has no intention of dissolving Parliament and going for a general election even if the Government loses the budget.

The President explained the course of action he intends to take when he met Wickremesinghe at the funeral house of former First Lady Eleanor Jayawardene last night.

The President who arrived at the funeral house after Wickremesinghe had gone and occupied a seat next to the UNP leader and asked what he intended to do on the budget.

Wickremesinghe told the President the accepted convention in all democracies is for Parliament to be dissolved upon losing a budget and for a general election to be held.

The President however had said he had no intention of doing so and would invite Wickremesinghe to form the next Government in such a situation.

The Sunday Leader learns Wickremesinghe had told the President he will not lose the budget vote if he concedes the four demands made by the JVP. The JVP has demanded the abolition of the ceasefire agreement, abolition of the All Party Representative Committee, rejection of UN human rights representations on Sri Lanka and protection of national security.

The President had told Wickremesinghe he was not ready to give into the JVP demands.

It is learned the UNP leader had said he will not accept an invitation to form a Government out of the present parliament if the budget is defeated but ask the people for a fresh mandate.

Wickremesinghe had also said the President could otherwise invite the JVP to form the Government as a constituent party of the UPFA if the budget is defeated.

The President it is learned had said he had no intention of doing so.


Basil offers Somawansa Opposition Leader's post

Basil to resign from Parliament for JVP leader

Anura B to decide tonight on budget vote

CWC and SLMC make new demands

Arjuna under pressure from Reggie

By The Sunday Leader Political Editor

THE government has decided to leave no stone unturned to win the budget vote and last week offered to make JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe the Leader of the Opposition if the party votes for the budget.

The offer to make Amarasinghe the Opposition Leader was made by Presidential Advisor and MP, Basil Rajapakse.

The government has also agreed to consider withdrawing from the Ceasefire Agreement and banning the LTTE to win the support of the JVP.

The Sunday Leader learns Basil Rajapakse had told Opposition MP Jayalath Jayawardene that since UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had welcomed SLFP MP Wijedasa Rajapakse's crossover, the government would move to make Somawansa Amarasinghe the Opposition Leader after the budget. Jayawardene, it is learnt had informed Rajapakse that the JVP leader was not a Member of Parliament to be entitled to hold the office but the Presidential Advisor had dismissed the comment stating there were ways to achieve that objective.

Rajapakse told the MP he had offered to resign his UPFA national list seat and appoint Amarasinghe who also represents the UPFA through the JVP to Parliament and then facilitate his appointment as Opposition Leader after inducting more UNP MPs into government.

Contacted by The Sunday Leader, Jayawardene confirmed the conversation with Basil Rajapakse.

Meanwhile the President has invited all government MPs for a meeting at 4 p.m. today followed by dinner to ensure the government has a majority in the House.

The Sunday Leader learns National Heritage Minister, Anura Bandaranaike will not attend the dinner meeting and will decide how he would vote, Sunday night. Bandaranaike has not attended Parliament a single day during the budget debate and had told confidantes he may not attend the budget vote due to ill health.

It is also learned Colombo District MP, Arjuna Ranatunga who informed President Mahinda Rajapakse he will not be voting for the budget has come under intense emotional pressure by his father, Governor Reggie Ranatunga who was spoken to by the President. Ranatunga had said he will make his final decision known on Monday.

Meanwhile the CWC and the Muslim Congress too have met  Basil Rajapakse and Chief Government Whip, Jeyaraj Fernandopulle and forwarded a list of demands which the government has agreed to concede including more financial and subject allocations to the respective ministries under their purview.

The Sunday Leader learns the CWC and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, which jointly count for 12 votes, will make their final decision over the weekend.

The CWC MPs met Thursday to decide their course of action with only Minister Muthu Sivalingam fully in favour of voting with the government. The SLMC high command was due to meet Friday night to decide on how the party will vote at the budget.

Informed sources said the Opposition would decide on their course of action after the JVP's decision on the budget is made public. These sources  said if the JVP votes against the budget, the Opposition will make its move at the Committee Stage vote on December 14.


Insists proposals are implemented

President fails to woo Wije

ATTEMPTS by President Mahinda Rajapakse to woo COPE chairman Wijedasa Rajapakse to vote with the Government on the budget failed yesterday with the member insisting the Government implements the seven proposals submitted by him in Parliament first.

The meeting with the President yesterday followed a discussion Wijedasa had with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapakse the previous day where he was urged to return to the Government fold.

The Sunday Leader learns the COPE chairman had reiterated the need to implement the seven proposals he made before any such decision is taken following which he was asked at least to meet with the President. The proposals included the removal of two ministers accused of corrupt practices in the COPE report, the removal of Treasury Secretary PB Jayasundera and Inland Revenue Chief AA Wijedasa for also being faulted by the committee, appointing a parliamentary select committee to evolve a solution to the ethnic conflict and slashing the Presidential budget to Rs 5 billion.

The Sunday Leader learns, President Rajapakse was assisted at yesterday's discussion by his two brothers Gotabaya and Basil with television cameras also in attendance. However, it is learned Wijedasa had told the President he cannot in anyway vote for the budget unless his proposals are implemented since he would become a laughing stock among the people.

The President, informed sources said, had promised to consider implementing the proposals after the budget and urged Wijedasa to vote with the Government. S       ources said Wijedasa did not agree to the formula suggested.

The COPE chairman had later told confidants he went for the meeting because it would have been discourteous to decline an invitation by the President but that at the same time he will not be able to face the people if he compromised on his principles by voting with the Government without having his proposals implemented.


Opposition in talks with 16 govt. MPs

THE Opposition is negotiating with 16 government members to vote against the budget, The Sunday Leader learns.

The decision of the 16 MPs have boiled down to awaiting the JVP's decision on the budget vote, informed sources said.

The Opposition will have 106 votes if the JVP votes against the budget.

It is learned JVP politburo member and MP, Anura Kumara Dissanayake has in an interview to a Sunday Sinhala paper published today given an indication that the party would be voting against the budget.

He had also privately told several MPs who had asked him for the party's position to read his interview to know how the party would vote.

The JVP newspaper, Lanka on Friday in its lead story said 24 government members were planning to crossover to the opposition.

Informed sources said the government members had indicated to the Opposition that they would vote with the Opposition to defeat the budget on December 14 at the committee stage if the JVP votes against it on November 19.


Calls for action on four demands

JVP refuses to meet MR

THE JVP yesterday turned down an invitation by President Mahinda Rajapakse to discuss the four conditions laid down by the Marxists to support the budget but insisted they be implemented before the budget vote.

Addressing a press conference yesterday, the JVP leadership said that the party had turned down a letter sent to JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva by Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunge inviting the party for a discussion on the four demands.

The four demands put forward by the JVP are the abolition of the Ceasefire Agreement, abolition of the All Party Representative Committee, refusing entry to the country to any UN representative on human rights missions and a pledge to uphold national security.

The JVP is to respond to Weeratunge's letter in writing today.

Party Leader Somawansa Amerasinghe said that the JVP was not ready to negotiate on the four demands and that it was now up to the government to respond through positive action.

He said that the government still had time to respond to the demands and that the JVP was willing to help them if the right path was chosen.

However, the JVP leadership did not make any firm statement if it would be voting in support of the budget or against it.

Responding to questions posed by journalists, Amerasinghe said that the JVP's decision would be based on the government's action.

The JVP was also critical of the crossovers taking place in parliament saying it brought disrepute to the whole parliamentary system.

MP says Rs. 100m the going rate

MPs receive top offers to join govt.

SKY is the limit for opposition members who are willing to crossover to the government and vote for the budget.

Financial rewards and top jobs are on offer, several UNP MPs have alleged both in Parliament and outside.

Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekera told Parliament on Friday he was offered the Ports Ministry to vote with the government on the budget. He said the offer came from the Presidential Secretariat.

Jayasekera told The Sunday Leader Parliament has today become an auction place with MPs offered anything over Rs. 100 million to cross to the government.

It is learned another MP, Indika Bandaranayake has alleged he was offered Rs. 200 million to join the government.

Senior UNP MP Abdul Cader told Parliament on Friday he too was under threat to join the government while the President had telephoned and inquired whether he could visit UNP MPs Alick Aluvihare and Ranjith Aluvihare at their home.


53 extra judicial killings reported in October

By Arthur Wamanan

THERE have been 53 extra judicial killings in the country during October, the Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) said last week.

It also stated that none of the cases of disappearances and killings had been investigated by the authorities and urged the government to establish a field based office with the cooperation of the United Nations Human Rights Council in order to stop these killings and disappearances.

"Even though several cases of extra judicial killings and disappearances have been continuously reported since last year, those responsible have not been investigated or prosecuted," the AHRC said.

While expressing concern over the extra judicial killings, it also stated that these reports were based on the cases that were reported.

"Thus no one knows the exact number in Sri Lanka due to the absence or dysfunction of the mechanism to receive complaints from the victim's family, investigate the cases received and prosecute those responsible," it said.

According to the AHRC, most of these killings had occurred in the north and east.

Civil Monitoring Convener, Mano Ganesan told The Sunday Leader that he had met the ambassadors and high commissioners and had requested their support to extend the CMC's activities to the north and the east.

"We have received complaints of abductions and killings continuously from the north and east. The situation is not good in these areas. I have requested the high commissioners and ambassadors to assist the CMC to extend our activities in the north and east as well," he said.

The SLMM in its latest situation report also said abductions and killings continued in Jaffna. It was also reported that four persons had surrendered to the HRC office in Jaffna last week due to threats.


Raj hits back at US$ 3m investment dispute

CONTROVERSY surrounds a sum of US$ 3 million that was remitted to purchase shares of the Union Bank in December 2006 by Managing General Partner, the Galleon Group, Raj Rajaratnam who is based in New York.

The money was remitted to the bank account of Nexia Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd., who were handling the intended purchase of the Union Bank shares on behalf of The Galleon Group in December last year.

Rajaratnam, in two separate letters to the Chief Financial Officer of Nexia Corporate Consultants Pvt Ltd., referring to the US$ 3 million that was remitted to the company's bank account for the purchase of Union Bank shares, has also said that due to an error or oversight by the Standard Chartered Bank, the US dollars were converted and the remittance credited to a Sri Lanka rupee account instead of crediting it to a US dollar SIERA account.

Rajaratnam in the letter had further requested Nexia Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd., to take immediate steps to withdraw the said sum (after deducting any taxes) and pay it to the Galleon Group account at the Deutsche Bank, Colombo branch since the Union Bank transaction was not going through.

"As the Union Bank transaction is not going through (since it was bought by a Saudi group last month) there is no purpose in our money lying in a Standard Chartered Bank rupee account in the name of Nexia Corporate Consultants Pvt Ltd.," Rajaratnam has said in the letter.

In the letter, Rajaratnam has also referred to other purchases of shares by the Galleon Group in listed companies in Sri Lanka like John Keells Holdings, NDB Bank, etc., from time to time "lawfully remitting monies to purchase such shares in Sri Lanka."

The government has now alleged that UNP MP for Colombo District, Ravi Karunanayake was linked with the US$ 3 million that was remitted by Rajaratnam and has accused him for committing an offence under the Money Laundering Act.

Karunanayake dismissed the allegation as preposterous and told The Sunday Leader it was a futile attempt at intimidating him before the budget vote.

The Sunday Leader learns the Presidential Advisor had also spoken to Central Bank Governor, Nivard Cabraal and said not to mishandle such issues since Rajaratnam was a legitimate businessman who had invested heavily in Sri Lanka.

Rajaratnam it is learnt was recently approached by the government during the US$ 500 million bond issuance to invest. Sources close to Rajaratnam told The Sunday Leader that Presidential Secretary, Lalith Weera- tunge has had a lengthy discussion with Rajaratnam recently in New York in order to persuade him to buy into the US$ 500 million bond that was offered by the Sri Lankan government last month.


High drama at Galle Face Hotel

THERE was high drama at the Galle Face Hotel yesterday where the Government has housed UNP defector Mahinda Ratnatilleke with security provided by the Presidential Security Division.

Ratnatilleke is housed at Suite 2006-2007 and on a tip off received from an inside source a UNP team rushed to the hotel yesterday to meet with the elusive MP.

The UNP team which went to the hotel were MPs Lakshman Seneviratne, Ranga Bandara, former Executive Director of the Airport and Aviation Authority Gamini Abeyratne and lawyer representing Ratnatilleke in the Nalanda Ellawela murder case, Nissanka Nanayakkara.

The UNP team having gone to the hotel had called Ratnatilleke from the coffee shop and invited him to join them for a cup of tea.

Ratnatilleke had earlier invited Ranga Bandara to also join the Government offering Rs five million and a cabinet portfolio.

Bandara, it is learned had jokingly said he would want the Interior Ministry gazetted beforehand and Rs 50 million to which demand Ratnatilleke had said he will consult the President and revert.

Bandara confirmed to The Sunday Leader he was invited to join the Government by Ratnatilleke with an offer of cash and portfolio.

Meanwhile yesterday morning after telephoning Ratnatilleke from the coffee shop and inviting him for a drink, the UNP member had told the defector to look out of the window to spot them.

Ratnatilleke had later invited the UNP team to his suite and discussed hisdecision to defect and said he was now not in a position to return to the fold without losing face with the people.

The UNP MPs had said he had already lost face with the people by his conduct but Ratnatilleke had said thecircumstances were such he cannot now vote against the budget.

Ratnatilleke had also praised UNP leader ranil Wickremesinghe as a honourable man whom he would not criticise like some other defectors.

At the end of the meeting Ratnatillleke inquired how the MPs learned of his whereabouts and Bandara had replied that as an ex policeman he knows how to find people and that he still has goodcontacts within the police service.

 

 


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