Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapakse
the two major parties were generally busy with the
forthcoming Western Provincial Council elections last
week, other issues took centre stage. More of that
the ruling UPFA it is a case of the incumbent President
winning it for the coalition. Mega spenders (heaven
knows where the money comes from) were vying for space
on the walls of the Western Province apparently trying
to convince voters that he/she has more money than the
rest and therefore has to be more popular and also
therefore, has to be elected through the largest manapey.
The big spenders tend to win and are almost all from the
ruling UPFA, and in a country which supposedly has a
high literacy rate, this formula seems to work like
magic election after election!
those candidates of the UNP it is a different story -
having to trudge from house to house canvassing for
support - the result of years in opposition. Little or
no financial support will be available to candidates
from the opposition as they are of little use to 'funders'
who more often than not require quick returns on their
Meanwhile the eight member committee appointed by the
UNP to discussreforms to be proposed in regard to the
powers that should be vested with the party leadership
and the necessity to create a new post, met for the
first time on Wednesday (18) morning in parliament.
Committee members Tissa Attanayake, Gamini Jayawickrema
Perera with John Amaratunge representing the Party
Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe were present at the
meeting. The possibility of Wickremesinghe being
appointed the party's senior leader whilst deputy leader
Karu Jayasuriya being appointed as the party leader, was
discussed at the meeting.
UNP's four decision making bodies - the party
convention, national executive committee, political
affairs committee and the working committee as per the
party constitution have to ratify any decisions made by
the committee on party reform.
committee which met last week, it is learnt, has made
the following recommendations. 1. Wickremesinghe should
preside at the national convention, 2. Wickremesinghe
should preside at the national executive committee,
3.Wickremesinghe cannot preside at the political affairs
committee. All decision-making powers to be vested with
the political affairs committee including decisions made
by the party leader and 4. Wickremesinghe would not be
permitted to sit at the working committee. There,
however was no agreement on this issue within the
Friday (20) night, with Wickremesinghe's approval, the
committee met with President's Counsel Shibly Aziz to
discuss the constitutional changes required to
accommodate the recommendations. During this meeting,
Wickremesinghe had made a telephone call and said his
powers to preside at the working committee be retained.
committee next met on Monday (23) and the members
decided to agree to Wickremesinghe's request to preside
at the party's working committee.
Following party tradition, that of any committee
proposal being presented to the working committee should
be presented as a note from the party leader, Attanayake
prepared a note to be handed over to Wickremesinghe on
the proposals to be presented to the working committee
members that evening.
Meanwhile 20 members who gathered at UNP MP Cader's
residence had signed a letter. This was a proposal to
appoint S.B. Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa as
assistant leaders of the party. However the letter that
reached Sirikotha had only Premadasa's name in it.
Ravindra Samaraweera objecting to the letter questioned
the plight of the rest of the members who had not signed
the letter. There are 80 members in the UNP's working
committee including 42 parliamentarians.
Speaking against the clear division created in the
party, Samaraweera said that 40 odd UNP parliamentarians
joined the government due to such issues. He added that
calls made to the party leader to prevent Jayasuriya and
17 UNPers from defecting to the government were ignored.
Ranjith Madduma Bandara told the working committee that
Vajira Abeywardena's statement had proved that there
were only 20 members supportive of Wickremesinghe in the
working committee and that it was an embarrassment.
Dayasiri Jayasekera requested the party leader to read
the names of the 20 members who had signed the letter,
but Wickremesinghe had remained silent.
this discussion it was revealed that one of the members
in the eight member committee, Renuka Herath had also
signed the letter. Several members at the working
committee expressed displeasure at Herath's decision to
sign the letter given that she was also a member of the
eight member committee.
Lakshman Seneviratne then posed a question to the party
leadership that shocked the rest of the members. He
questioned as to the fate of the funds collected by
selling the party's printing press to businessman Joel
Selvanayagam. He said that the printing press given by
Sirisena Cooray was to be used to print the party's
official paper, Siyarata, but the press was later sold
to Selvanayagam for a sum of Rs. 40 million.
Seneviratne asked working committee members Bodhi
Ranasinghe and Irwin Weerakkody who were members of the
board at the time to respond to the question. MP Mohomed
Maharoof too agreed that the printing press was sold for
Rs. 40 million and that the fate of the money was
unknown by the party members.
National Organiser S.B. Dissanayake said "You appointed
the eight member committee and the proposals were
approved by you. Therefore, why are you opposing the
proposals now?" MP John Amaratunge then said that the
matter could be resolved by calling for a vote. Going
against party tradition, a vote was to be called to
approve the proposals. This did not materialise.
Wickremesinghe then went to another room in Sirikotha
and called Dilip Wedaarachchi, Ranjith Aluvihare, P.
Harrison, Gayantha Karunathileka and Champika Premadasa
inside and asked one of them to propose Sajith
Premadasa's name as an assistant leader of the party.
When the meeting reconvened, Wedaarachchi proposed
Premadasa's name as the party's senior assistant leader.
Rosy Senanayake seconded the proposal.
Hearing Premadasa's name being proposed to the post,
Ravi Karunanayake angrily asked if the members have been
spending hours discussing the party's issues just to
propose Premadasa's name. Karunanayake objected to
Premadasa's name saying he had not acted for the benefit
of the party.
that case, I will propose S.B. Dissanayake's name for
the post," he said. Cader seconded the proposal.
Dayasiri Jayasekera, critical of the way the meeting
turned out, said Wickremesinghe should be the "leader of
the party for all time" and walked out. Wickremesinghe
wrapped up the meeting stating that his powers would be
vested with the deputy leader and the working committee.
These proposals need to be ratified at the next working
committee meeting and also be approved at the party's
the UNP's problems were essentially internal, the ruling
UPFA's problems were filtering down to the people and
also affecting the government's international image.
Bashing any external voice is now second nature to the
government, all gung ho with the Tigers on the run. The
international community since 9/11and the
led War on Terror has come down hard on the LTTE and
this has led to their moderate stance on the
government's military thrust to wipe out the Tigers.
With their backs to the wall the Tigers must be kicking
themselves for having stabbed themselves in the back by
consistently shying away from meaningful talks on the
core issues. Once the LTTE is driven underground their
political strategy is bound to change.
meantime using a double edged sword, a story was planted
in an English daily that the slain editor of The Sunday
Leader was the go between for Tamilnet and a journalist
who wrote a solitary article for the website in 2003.
This journalist has since written to this newspaper a
retraction which is yet to be published. The hand behind
the slant has now been identified as being the JVP, a
journalist with connections to the Defence Ministry, and
a labour tribunal case will come to the fore in other
legal fora soon.
the global recession now affecting the economy on a much
larger scale than previously anticipated the government
has had to eat humble pie and seek the help of the IMF
and even invite the much maligned 'lender of last
resort' to once again set up a permanent office in Sri
Lanka. The organisation packed up and left the island in
Strangely the likes of the vocal Wimal Weerawansa have
gone mute on the matter and it has been left to the
likes of UNP pole vaulter Media Minister Lakshman Yapa
Abeywardene to do the honours by even suggesting that
instead of the US $ 1.9 billion requested from the
agency, the figure could be upped to even US $ 3.2
essentially an attempt at damage control to save face
with the local electorate, the figure mentioned by
Minister Abeywardene has raised eyebrows among the
international community, who after having provided the
requested funds will be answerable to their own funders,
the tax payers. More of this and donors will be hard to
come by even as the government goes its merry way
splashing billions on unproductive ventures.
such is Mihin Air. The directors of SriLankan Airlines
and Mihin Air together with Treasury officials met at
Temple Trees on March 26 evening to iron out the terms
of a wet lease of an aircraft by the former to the
budget airline. With the existing lease of the single
aircraft expiring on March 31, Mihin is hard pressed to
find money to extend the lease or to acquire another
SriLankan Airlines was 'requested' to lease one aircraft
but has insisted that Rs. 800 million be paid up front.
With the Treasury scraping the barrel to meet public
servants' salaries, a compromise was reached at this
decision was made to pay Rs. 500 million immediately
with Rs 300 million coming from the Shipping Development
Fund and the balance Rs 200 million in the form of a
bank guarantee backed by the Treasury. That a government
hard pressed for money and scraping at the door of the
IMF would be this cavalier in keeping a loss making
entity afloat just to keep the ego of a political
authority adequately inflated is a sure pointer to the
style of governance that is in store.
the biggest commercial operation of the government, the
Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) is going through hard
times seems irrelevant in the eagerness to maintain
white elephants. SLPA container through-put has declined
by 30% but staff remains at a staggering 14,000.
Discussions are underway to request 2000 workers to stay
at home with full pay in order that Rs 400 per day per
worker currently being paid for their meals could be
saved. The overtime payment too has remained the same
despite the 30% drop in through-put.
in such a background of financial indiscipline that the
ruling party is expected to romp home in the financially
well-to-do Western Provincial Council too - on war gains
again, but the quality of the candidates put forward by
the UPFA reflects the style of governance that the
people can expect from the soon to be elected provincial
council. Lets not fool ourselves. These candidates have
been selected by none other than President Rajapakse