Presidential helicopter was busy from Saturday (18)
onwards: The President choppered over to Embilipitiya to
have a series of meetings and for lunch with the
Chairman of ‘The Firm’ (‘without shares’ as he points
out) Chamal. He used the Pelwatte Sugar Company’s
auditorium to listen to his son Namal making his maiden
speech in front of him.
chose this meeting to endorse his cousin Sashi
Rajapakse’s entry into politics — Speaking a tad
quickly, Namal told his audience that some time ago when
he was speaking to his father about the future that
awaited this country, his father had told him that if he
was given just five years, he would sort matters out.
The audience heard how his father had taken just about
no play but all work for the President. He addressed a
number of meetings including a telephone
network-sponsored distance learning scheme in Moneragala.
But he had done his work for the week. It was then that
the President took Ambassador Dayan Jayathilaka quite by
Alerted to his sacking
like the longest serving cabinet minister in Saudi
Arabia, at the time, Oil Minister Sheikh Ahmed Zaki
Yamani (the architect of the 1973 oil price hike by
OPEC) who learned of his dismissal by King Fahd, over
the radio whilst playing cards with his pals, Dayan
Jayathilaka was alerted to his sacking by a friend who
had read it in the Daily Mirror! The fax came some hours
later. His crime he himself was not aware of.
However speculation was rife that Dayan’s removal was
his tempting of fate by placing into sharp focus the
government’s stance on the 13th Amendment. He repeated
it like a mantra in his exchanges with a political
commentator in an English daily.
perhaps annoyed the President who had stated that he
knows what solution to give “after the elections.” Or
the President had another ace up his sleeve and did not
want Dayan’s postulations to be seen as the view of the
government given his position within.
was articulating the government viewpoint or the fact
that the 13th Amendment was part of our constitution.
Dayan Jayathilaka may have been part of the court and he
may have been lulled into a false sense of security in
that his private writings published for public
consumption were apparently ignored by the upper
echelons of power. And there lay his fault.
Jayathilaka obviously was not privy to the fact that his
articles were not so much as causing rumblings but
giving those opposed to him an opportunity to complain.
To simplify matters, Dayan Jayathilaka appears to have
breached Rule 1 of the 48 Laws Of Power: Never Outshine
the Master. The ostentatious display of one’s
superiority can inspire fear and insecurity in others —
leading to tales of not helping with the established
formalities at Swiss Airports.
Jayathilaka’s removal, recall — whichever terminology is
used — will be felt by the Republic for some time to
come. With Generals Fonseka and Chandrasiri et al and
the Navy Commander Karannagoda too out of their initial
positions it is only the Rajapakses who will carry the
torch of victory when election time comes around.
Rely on the judiciary
contrast the Presidential Advisor and friend of 40 years
and political ally, Vasudeva Nanayakkara has not so much
as articulated but sought to rely on the judiciary to
enforce action against some who are known to be close to
the President. The President on the other hand has lent
tacit support to those very people, like P.B.
Jayasundera for example. P.B. has been ‘invited’ back to
the fold and has launched a Supreme Court action to pave
the way for this.
Meanwhile Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapakse helped
open the A9 roadway to Jaffna last week. An important
move it was greeted with a huge sigh of relief by both
Jaffna residents and Colombo’s commercialdom.
President was in Mahiyangana last week. He opened the
new State House and in the early hours went on a
walkabout through the town. He went to the Nagadeepa
Viharaya where he had previously vowed to return only
when there was electricity there. His vow fulfilled he
made a return.
walkabout he also chatted with the shopkeepers who had
been given 70 shops there through the efforts of a party
stalwart. At the main sports ground where the
Presidential helicopter awaited, the President saw that
a large crowd had gathered and made an impomptu speech
and interacted with the crowd before leaving for the
short hop to Moneragala and the Pelwatte auditorium.
Friday, the President visited the
project in the company of Tikiri Kobbekaduwa. He
followed this up by returning to State House Kandy,
where he hosted a gathering in the presence of Nanda
Mathew, Dilan Perera, Nimal Siripala de Silva and
President said that he had always maintained cordial
relations with all and that this had stood him in good
stead. He used these relationships he said to maintain a
consensus amongst all those he worked with. At this
gathering many opposition members pledged their support
to the President and his party.
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe meanwhile was a
busy man. He chaired a meet at Cambridge Terrace which
discussed various issues connected to the Grand Alliance
now in the making. Those present included Mangala
Samaraweera, Karu Jayasuriya, Rauf Hakeem, Kabir Hashim,
S.B. Dissanayake and Ravi Karunanayake.
outset Samaraweera was critical of the way the UNP was
going about the Alliance. Especially the running down
Alliance partners and questioning the political viability of the
Alliance. They got down to business after Samaraweera
had his say. Earlier Tiran Alles and Mangala Samaraweera
had been to the 4th Floor of the CID to make statements.
Tried and tested methods
government had once again gone back to tried and tested
methods of using the CID for political purposes. Recall,
Tiran Alles was questioned on the same issue and was
cleared by court. But this time an additional line of a
conspiracy to assassinate a VIP was used. They were both
sent on their way after statements were recorded.
IMF loan it was announced was now forthcoming — not just
US$ 1.9 billion but a tad more at US$ 2.5 billion. This
turn of events saw Ranil Wickremesinghe questioning the
conditions to which the government had agreed to in
accepting this loan. The UNP’s position was that the
government should have gone to the conventional outlets
for borrowing and not to commercial sources at high
rates on earlier occasions as well.
working committee of the UNP met to thrash out the
conditions in forming a grand alliance. It was also
agreed to do away with the Executive Presidency or
modify its powers. At the Working Committee Sajith
Premadasa stated that the people were happy with the
presidency at this point but preferred a system whereby
the office would be answerable to parliament and used
this very argument to oppose this move to be used in the
election campaign. It was said he, best left alone as it
made no sense — political or otherwise.
13th Amendment proved to be the Achilles heel in so far
as Dayan Jayathilaka was concerned. It also caused even
more thought provoking ideas for the UNP. They wanted to
know what the government’s stand on the 13th Amendment
was. Their support of the 13th Amendment was very much a
comforting notion for the Tamil people of this country.
President who enjoys the support of the majority
community, there was though a modicum of comfort for the
Tamils through the full implementation of this piece of
legislation. With elections called in Jaffna and with
the presidential elections looming as well as
parliamentary election sometime in April 2010, there was
some solace to be had for the Tamil people in the
implementation of the 13th Amendment perhaps with some
changes to be the so-called “13th Plus.”
with the President holding the “political solution”
close to his chest the Tamils would be voting blind, and
sections of the majority too would be only hazarding a
guess. It was in this backdrop that Indian Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh in a speech in the Lok Sabha
stated that most of his talks with President Rajapakse
at the NAM meeting centred on how the Sri Lankan
government would treat the Tamils and the displaced and
that India’s relations with Sri Lanka in the future
would largely depend on it.
Unitary state concept
Clearly it is best if the UNP did not change its stance
on devolution especially focusing the Tamil vote base.
Therefore, with little mileage emanating from the
backing of the unitary state concept, Wickremesinghe
must do well to remember the reason why he is not the
Chief Occupant at President’s House now.
talk of nepotism and the rise of the Family Firm has
been uppermost amongst some UNP strongmen. They charge
that the SLFP has no democracy but sustains the dynastic
nature of politics in this country, with the Rajapakses
unwilling and unyielding to any but themselves. Nepotism
at large and undemocratic is the charge.
a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.
Where, the government asks, is the democracy within the
UNP that the UNP is fond of preaching. Do they not
practise what they preach? A strong complement of UNP
faithful including the likes of Lakshman Seneviratne and
Sajith Premadasa question this aspect.
would like to see far more transparency, far more
internal democratic methodology to put to rest the
notion that Ranil Wickremesinghe is leader of the UNP
for his lifetime. The leader of the United National
Party cannot be changed easily. The best chance is if
the leader were to voluntarily go. And that they point
out makes the UNP no different from the SLFP’s family
politics — from SWRD to Sirimavo to Anura to Chandrika
and now with the Rajapakse family — co-incidentally or
not, the co-founders of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.