With the Z-Score debacle and the alleged threat made by Minister Rishad Bathiudeen on the Mannar Magistrate hanging over the government like the sword of Damocles, Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting was going to be a long-drawn-out affair with frayed nerves all round. As anticipated, the meeting dragged on for a considerable length of time.
President warns Salinda
No sooner the Cabinet sat down for the day’s business, the President brought up the subject of a news report that claimed Minister Salinda Dissanayake had been involved in a row with a Police SP and threatened him with death. “This sort of tussle with the police is unwarranted as such incidents will reflect badly on the government. Salinda should have acted with restraint,” the President chastised. The minister, explaining as to what happened said, “It was true I had an argument with him. But he provoked me by refusing to grant a permit to bring in some materials to lay out a road for a school development programme.” The President, while accepting his explanation, remarked it would have been better if the matter was settled amicably through dialogue. “Such incidents could mar the reputation of the government and people won’t blame me that I am molly-coddling errant ministers. That cannot be allowed,” he said, but didn’t appear too rattled by the incident.
Red light to Rishad
Next, he took up the vexed issue of Minister Rishad Bathiudeen allegedly threatening a Magistrate. Obviously, due to the seriousness of the issue, the minister did not attend the Cabinet meeting, but the incident caused some embarrassment to the government. The President claiming he would have called for an independent inquiry, said “The minister should have acted with more restraint. When faced with such situations, ministers should act more judiciously. It has now become a fashion for the media to blame ministers, parliamentarians and local politicians for any wrongdoing in the country. The ministers should be careful of what they do and what they say. Remember, I get all the news. I will surely look into them. So, be careful and act with responsibility.
The President next took up a rather different, though sensitive topic for discussion. He said, “I have received a four-page letter from the Mahanayake Thera of the Malwatta Chapter referring to some dissatisfaction among Buddhists about putting up a non-Buddhist place of worship near a Buddhist temple. The Cardinal also has written to me saying that members of a foreign religious order are instigating the Catholics in rural areas to change their religion. These are very complex and sensitive problems, which should not be allowed to get out of control. On top of all other problems, if we have to face these religious problems too, it will be very unfortunate. We cannot allow it to happen.
The President next brought up the Z-Score rigmarole, which is getting out of hand, for discussion: “Now students have taken to the street over this problem. They are dashing coconuts invoking divine intervention. The universities are also seething with unrest. We cannot allow it to continue any longer. The government and I do not want to be tarnished by accusations of hindering the education of our children. We must put a stop to this Z-score problem now and not allow it to drag on indefinitely. I have instructed SB to give me a report and also to take relief measures for those who are affected due to the second revision of the Z-scores, which according to SB numbers about 50 to 60. There cannot be any repetition next year,” he said.
I want a landslide victory
After the Cabinet meeting the President chaired the Executive Committee meeting. Speaking about the electoral campaign of the party with regard to the three Provincial Councils he said; “In this election I am not looking for just an ordinary victory. I want a sweeping victory. You all must work hard for it.” In a somewhat vexed tone he continued, “I have heard that some party contestants are working on individual agendas. I cannot allow that. All should work as one for a landslide victory. I stress this again. Do not resort to individual campaigning. Work as a team,” he said adding, “I have received reports that our candidates in the North-Central and Sabaragamuwa Provinces are engaged in individual campaigning. It should stop immediately. I have also heard that large cut-outs and hoardings have come up at roundabouts and street corners. People are fed-up with such gimmicks. We have to take a decision on this soon.”
The President next touched upon the subject of the Eastern Province Election. “The biggest fight will be in the Eastern Province. Contrary to various rumours the Muslim Congress is solidly behind us in this election, though they contest separately. We do so with a close understanding.” At this stage, Minister Susil Premajayantha interjected that according to reports reaching from the East, the UNP would be reduced to the fourth position, with which analyzing the President too agreed. He stressed the election campaign should be conducted in a well disciplined manner and remarked that a section of the UNP members will also join the government soon.
Diaspora sharpening their knives again
At the moment all eyes are on the London Olympics, which ceremoniously opened on Friday. However, the Tamil Diaspora is sharpening their propaganda knives for another bout of boisterous confrontation if the President attends the Olympics. The Diaspora has been aroused from their slumber by a foreign news report that according to a government source the President will attend the Olympic Games. On two previous occasions, that of President’s pre-arranged Oxford Union oration also and at a sideline commercial conference at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Celebration, the Diaspora was successful in thwarting the President’s plans. Therefore the President’s Olympic visit is shrouded in a haze of uncertainty.
Government plan to clear Geneva hurdle
The UNHRC resolution passed in the Geneva sessions in February required Sri Lanka to implement the recommendations of the LLRC report and appointed a three member Supervisory Committee comprising India, Spain and Benin to keep tabs on its progress. It also required the Government to give a time frame for implementation of the LLRC recommendations. Subsequent to this the Government appointed a Committee to prepare a report setting down a time frame for the implementation of the report comprising President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga, Minister G.L. Peiris and some officials of the Attorney-General’s Department. The report is now ready and awaiting submission to the UNO. As rumour has it, this report will appear on the UN web-site next week. The report which covers 15 pages has given, strangely enough, an exact timeframe for the implementation of the LLRC report.
Ranil in big trouble
It was at a get together held at the UNP Deputy Leader’s hous recently that a number of UNP MPs brought to the Deputy leader’s notice that some, including the Party Leader are trying to show the country that Sajith Premadasa did not register his protest at the proceedings of the recent UNP Working Committee meeting, where the UNP Leader obtained approval for a number of undemocratic decisions, including the extension of his tenure up to a period of six years. What had actually happened was that Sajith had not attended the Working Committee meeting owing to an illness. Sajith mentioned at this get together that he is fully dedicated to defeating the dictatorial plans of the Leader even in the future.
Meanwhile, a group of MPs including Karu Jayasuriya held another meeting with Sajith on the steps to be taken and the ways and means of winning the Provincial Council elections. Here, it was decided to launch a comprehensive programme to encourage the candidates by holding meetings in the relevant provinces.
The MPs pointed out at this meeting that it was not possible to reach the people in the villages owing to the Party’s decision to hold only 10 main meetings in all three provinces. As a measure to overcoming this situation a committee was formed on the spot under the leadership of Sajith and Karu to look into the possibility of holding at least one hundred meetings in every district in the provinces where the elections are to be held.
It was also decided to help all candidates of the Party equally, without discrimination, and to make the maximum contribution to ensure their victory.
A number of party activists including Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa, Lakshman Kiriella, Talatha Athukorala, Dunesh Gankanda and Mangala Samaraweera participated in the party activists’ meeting held at Ratnapura on 25 July. After the meeting, the participants were entertained to tea by the former Opposition Leader of the Ratnapura Provincial Council, A. A. Wijetunga at his residence. Here the former organizer for Kalawana, Hasitha Muhandiramge posing a question referred to Ranil as the next President and Sajith as the President after that and asked Sajith as to why he did not mention in his speech he would cooperate with Ranil in carrying out party activities, to which Sajith replied that he mentioned in his speech he would work in cooperation with everyone.
Ranil angered by rousing welcome for Sajith
After the first meeting of the UNP at Ratnapura, the next meeting was held at Galigamuwa in Kegalle. It had been organized by Kabir Hashim. After the meeting commenced, when Ranil was on his feet, there was complete silence. However, a little later, a commotion was heard from the rear. The reason for it was the arrival of Deputy Leader, Sajith Premadasa and the party supporters welcoming him aloud.
As they continually shouted “Victory to our leader... Victory to our leader” for about five minutes Ranil could not continue his speech. Angered by this, he ordered those present to be silent, but his words fell on deaf ears. Enraged, Ranil said there has to be discipline in the party and signalled to Sajith to immediately sit in his chair on the stage. Ranil said if there is indisciplined people in the party, they have to be removed.
However, when Ranil ended his speech, and Sajith got up to speak there was again a thunderous round of applause and Sajith, who made a speech which drew the hearts of the party supporters to him, did not also forget to direct innuendos at Ranil.
“Today those who call themselves leaders do not listen to the voice of the people. They do not entertain the requests made by the people. They hold on to positions by force. However, if the people in the party tell me, Sajith, we do not want you, I will not stay for a minute. I will bow down to the wish of the people and leave the position,” he said.
In the meantime, Ranil fell into hot water again, while on his way to Anuradhapura to participate in a rally held there. Seeing farmers protesting at Tambuttegama, he got off his vehicle and tried to join them in their protest. However, the farmers were adamant they did not want the help of politicians in their protest. When they started booing at Ranil, his security guards had to rescue him from them and put him in his vehicle.
How Dayasiri’s story spread
The news that Dayasiri Jayasekera was trying to join the government, sent shock waves through the UNP last week. At the time this story spread like wildfire Dayasiri was in fact recuperating from an attack of dengue. He got telephone calls from all over, inquiring about it.
“It is the man in the Lankadeepa newspaper and the one in the Divaina newspaper who know about it. They are the people who have given the news to the E-news website also. I never went to see the President last Saturday. Nothing of the kind happened. The UNP Leader consolidated his position for six years. I opposed it from the beginning. I think this is a reply to that...” Dayasiri gave that answer to all who inquired.
There were also those in the UNP who enquired about it direct from the President. Among them was Malik Samarawickrema, a former Chairman of the UNP. Mailk met the President at a rugger match in Kandy, last weekend. The President told Malik that he has opened all doors and if Dayasiri changes his party only will he be taken in.
However Kabir Hashim, Mailk Samarawickrema and Sagala Ratnayake who were entrusted with the job of looking into this, met Dayasiri at Kabir’s residence and had a lengthy discussion. Dayasiri, who was in a dejected mood over the fate of all those who talked of UNP winning elections drew their attention to it.
“All this time Ranil played the fool with all of us. Those who spoke on behalf of democracy in the party were axed. Myself, Rosy and Buddhika were sent out of the Working Committee. Shiral, Maithree, Anil Ratnayake, Bandulal and Rohana Gamage were also axed. In Kurunegala, Ashok Abeysinghe has been replaced with Shamal Senerath. Ask Ranil to change this situation. If not I will take a decision. We cannot go to sleep for another six years without any future. Kabir also said he did not know anything about extending the leader’s tenure for six years,” he said.
The others said, they also did not know about it and at a time when elections are held, it is disadvantageous to the party.
Meanwhile, a number of ministers and Sajith and Karu also made enquiries from Dayasiri about it last week.
‘Youth struck with lightning’
The JVP politburo met at their Pelawatte office on 25 July. The A/L results imbroglio, the power-cut and the elections came under discussion. “From the beginning the Government did not heed what we, students and parents said about the A/L results. S.B. and Bandula messed up matters acting in a stubborn manner. The President encouraged them. The matter was further messed up with the order to issue the results soon. Committees were appointed. Nothing worked. Finally the future of a large number of young people became bleak. Saying Tharunyata Hetak they actually made it Tharunyata Henayak, said Vijitha Herath.
“If a student who has got three ‘A’s cannot go to university it’s a sad situation.” A girl from Kaudulla in Polonnaruwa, who had qualified to enter the Medical Faculty cannot do so now. So it is pointless appointing committees. What should be done is admit all who qualified on both sets of results to the universities by stopping the scholarship scheme for foreign students. The government must stop talking foolishly like saying students will be allowed to sit the examination for the fourth time,” said Anura Kumara Dissanayake.
“It was only recently that the President and Minister Champika Ranawaka said Sri Lanka is the only country in Asia without power-cuts. They said that 80% of the people have been provided with electricity and it is a simple thing to give it to the rest. They blamed the unions for trying to keep the country in darkness. What has happened now? It is the Government that is keeping the country in darkness,” said Lalkantha.
Next, the politburo discussed the elections. “The government says that democracy has been consolidated in the North and that elections can be held there. However, we cannot distribute leaflets, go on a walk or associate with the Tamil people. The police intervene to prevent us doing these things by getting court orders issued. However, a Judge had taught a good lesson to the police recently by saying that it is this type of thing that should be done to foster brotherhood among people,” said Vijitha Herath.
“We said there is family bandysm in the SLFP and Minister Maithripala Sirisena had said that the relatives of those who said, they will bid good bye to politics only will be given nominations. However 80% of the candidates are relations of those who are in the government,” said Tilvin Silva.
Jathika Hela Urumaya ready for National Convention
The Central Committee of the Jathika Hela Urumaya Central Committee met at the party headquarters under the chairmanship of Omalpe Sobita Thera. The main topic of discussion was the party’s 9th National Convention due to be held on 29 July. Nishantha Warnasinghe, the National Organizer of the party, who is in charge of organizing the event spoke at length about the agenda among other matters.
“There are two special features of the national convention this time. One is honouring those who achieved distinction in various fields. Six names have been recommended for conferring the honours. And also ten senior members of the party will also be honoured,” he said.
The party’s General Secretary Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka proposed the names of the new office bearers of the party for 2012-2013 and obtained approval. Udaya Gammanpila said attention should be paid to the manner in which Wijayadasa Rajapakshe’s motion was dealt with and proposed that a committee should be appointed to look into matters affecting the Buddhasasana. On approval by those present, a committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Ven. Athureliye Ratana Thera.