A troika of Buddhist monks to bring Maithri and Mahinda together

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2017-12-10

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON

The Meteorological Department of Sri Lanka earlier last week predicted that a low pressure area in the South-East Bay of Bengal will turn into a depression with Sri Lanka witnessing side effects in the form of strong winds and showers.

Though there were no adverse weather conditions experienced by citizens as per the warnings, the political atmosphere experienced gale force winds, when by Thursday afternoon it sent 'panic attacks' through many in the country - especially those who brokered the marriage between the UNP and the SLFP in order to end a 'despotic ruling era' of Rajapaksas.

This political storm occurred when pictures of Southern Provincial Councillor Pasanda Yapa Abeywardena, son of State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and Janaasi Mallimarachchi, daughter of Janaka Mallimarachchi tying the knot went viral. The wedding, probably the first to be held in newly opened Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo brought back together, incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who have been at each other's throats ever since the January 2015 Presidential Election. Former ruler Rajapaksa who said that President Sirisena betrayed or back-stabbed him even after enjoying hoppers for dinner together without giving any indication of rivalry, was witnessed enjoying a merry moment at the wedding and the camaraderie between the two appeared no less than the combination of hoppers and lunumiris.

Though President Sirisena's side remained nonchalant after the event, pictures were circulated by former President's media unit to the media. Keyboard warriors were quick to spread their opinion on this 'meeting' and some went to the extent of calling President Sirisena, a traitor and accused him of shamelessly betraying the voters who elected the Yahapalana Government into power. However, these things were put to rest by former President Rajapaksa as he later said there was anything but politics discussed when the two sat together to sign as attesting witnesses.

While he may not have discussed politics with President Sirisena, he did not hesitate to ask as to why Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara is going around accusing MP Namal Rajapaksa of preventing two rival factions of SLFP getting together.

"Why do you go around saying so," he asked Jayasekara who also attended the same wedding.

"Because, he is going around saying so," Jayasekara responded.

"Stop spreading fake stories. Namal was put behind bars... his brother too. His mother was questioned and so am I. As a child he may have got hurt as he is just a normal human being and has not become an arahat. He was not part of any of these discussions, so, let him be!" Rajapaksa told Jayasekara who remained silent afterwards.

Addressing the weekly Cabinet media briefing co-Cabinet Spokesman Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera alleged that it is the actions and attitudes of two persons in the Joint Opposition (JO) and the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) that is preventing the reunification of the two Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) factions.

"I will reveal the names of these two soon. If these men are successful, they will be responsible for ensuring that the party will languish in the Opposition for a long time. I don't know why they want to do this, maybe it's an ego issue or they have a deal with someone else," he said.

Jayasekera added that the SLFP has extended its hand to the Joint Opposition and that most of the seniors of the JO are ready to join hands with the SLFP.

"Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa spent his entire political career with the SLFP and he is willing to work with the SLFP. Most of the leaders of constituent parties of the United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) are ready to work with the SLFP. Even Dinesh Gunawardane is ready to work with the UPFA, but it's the action of a few people that is stopping the party contesting together at the coming Local Government polls," he said.

Jayasekera added that according to the Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP), any party needs to get about 60% of the votes to obtain a majority in a local council. However, because it will be difficult for any single party to achieve this, there will be alliances, he said.

"The party will contest the coming election under the hand symbol and in some places under the betel leaf," he said.

Jayasekara also said that one has a dream of becoming a leader in twenty years.

As if to respond to these allegations Namal Rajapaksa took to social media platform and tweeted; "Joint Opposition's decision not to align with the SLFP-led Govt . is a policy-based decision due to the agreement signed by @MaithripalaS& @RW_UNP. If/when @Maithripala S's SLFP faction decides to terminate that agreement with the UNP, maybe JO can consider a way forward together."

However, the split in the SLFP has had a ripple effect on other parties as well, with allies in the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) and are now in the Joint Opposition deciding to go separate ways in contesting at the LG polls. The worst affected appear to be the party led by MP Wimal Weerawansa with the fourth prominent member of the party challenging the party leadership for preventing Rajapaksa-Sirisena union.

Deputy Leader of the NFF and Parliamentarian Weerakumara Dissanayake said yesterday that he was opposed to the view held by NFF Leader Weerawansa that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party should be divided. "If we allow that to happen United National Party (UNP) Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would emerge as the Executive President in 2020," he said.

Earlier the National Organizer of the NFF Piyasiri Wijenayaka, General Secretary Priyanjan Vitharana and former Parliamentarian Jayantha Wijesekara had parted ways with Weerawansa's leadership in a short period of about two months.

Although Vitharana's resignation as the General Secretary of the party was attributed to health reasons, sources said that he had serious differences with his leader.

Addressing a news conference held at his office in Anuradhapura, Weerakumara Dissanayake stated that he was concerned about the unity of the SLFP because if the SLFP is divided it would create chaos in the country and pave the way for Ranil Wickremesinghe to come to power.

"I am not worried of being a member of any party. What I am concerned about is to establish justice in the country. Hence, Presidents Maithri and Mahinda should work hand in hand so that the SLFP would be protected, he added.

Meanwhile, in what appeared like a positive change, the UPFA Executive Committee meeting at the President's house on Monday was attended by several members of the Joint Opposition including its leader, Parliamentarian Dinesh Gunewardena.

The meeting held under the auspices of the President Sirisena, was attended by the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, Desha Vimukthi Janatha Party and the Sri Lanka Mahajana Party, representing the Joint Opposition. Some of the representatives of these parties were Executive Committee members of the UPFA.

Other constituent parties of the UPFA including the Ceylon Workers' Congress and National Congress were also represented at the meeting. According to Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, General Secretary of UPFA, they have taken the decision, that MPs who represent the SLFP under the UPFA will not be campaigning for any other candidate other than those contesting from the SLFP and UPFA, and that they shall support the groups contesting under 'our ticket.'

A question was raised about the proposal MP Dinesh Gunewardena made. "He made a request at the UPFA meeting to grant them permission to contest separately or independently under their respective parties in those particular electorates. We approved this with no issue. We are definitely in a winning position. We are in a far better position than when we started. No one will leave the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. As an Alliance, Mahinda Rajapaksa is in favour and so are the party seniors, but a small group is not. This is where the problem stemmed from," he said.

Meanwhile, a group of Buddhist monks especially, Ven. Aturaliye Ratana Thera and Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera has initiated negotiations to bring back both leaders under one banner in order to win the 2020 elections. Interestingly, the two Theras are also assisted by Ven. Dr. Medagoda Abhayatissa Thera who is currently in the Eliya movement led by Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Though the initial talks between the two parties have failed, it is learnt that talks would continue from a new level as now the Rajapaksa faction has dropped the demand for the SLFP to be separated from the government. Instead, the new negotiations are continuing on the basic demands on dropping the proposed constitutional reforms, putting an end to selling national assets and to bring those responsible for Treasury bonds scam to justice.

President Sirisena had also requested his SLFP colleagues to give him time till 31 December of this year before taking any drastic decision and also extended the term of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on the Treasury Bonds Scam till 31 December. This is in addition to the MoU between UNP and the SLFP forming a consensus government coming to an end on the same day.

It is in the midst of this that senior members of the SLFP Central Committee have reportedly told President Maithripala Sirisena not to go for an extension once the term of the MoU comes to an end and speculations are on the rise that LG elections will see the return of the 'Chair' under People's Alliance - the alliance that came to the forefront in 1994 against the UNP.

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