Sri Lankans seem destined to be burdened with failures of political leaders without any proper relief in sight in the foreseeable future.
The Mahinda Rajapaksa government with its failures and the opposition political parties with their failures have drawn a grim future for the people.
The governing party and opposition political parties are still picking up the pieces to move forward after the provincial council elections.
Opposition and UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe who has been called by certain sections of the party to resign as party leader and a few media outlets have commenced a campaign to oust the UNP leader.
Wickremesinghe says that he was prepared to discuss any step that could help the party.
It is in this spirit that Wickremesinghe had agreed to a request by the United Bikkhu Front for a discussion between Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premadasa and himself.
Bikkhus including Venerable Girambe Ananda Thero organized the meeting at the Dhammakithyarama Kollupitiya (Polwatte Temple) on Friday.
During the discussion Wickremesinghe has agreed to the proposal put forward by the monks to set up a Supreme Council in the party to play an advisory role.
All parties have agreed to further discuss the proposals and Wickremesinghe has said that the matter would be discussed at the next Working Committee meeting.
However, Premadasa who has now made it a practise to commence a campaign with the support of a few media outlets to ascend to the party leadership after every election has become ineffective with party members questioning Premadasa’s ability to lead.
Given Premadasa’s past actions during disputes in the party and the fate that befell some of his staunch loyalists has resulted in a lack of confidence in his ability to lead the country’s largest political party.
Be that as it may, in the peak of his campaign to become party leader, Premdasa has put himself in a tight spot by saying he was prepared to lead the party and be its Presidential candidate at the next election.
Premadasa advisors have asked him to now think twice before speaking since he was not in a position to contest against President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a Presidential election.
Premadasa’s defeat against Rajapaksa at a Presidential election would diminish forever his chances of becoming the leader of the UNP.
Also, his comment about the UNP being led by imbeciles was also criticized by his advisors who have said that Premadasa should not stop down to the level of the likes of Mervyn Silva.
Premadasa by re-commencing a campaign to become party leader has now exposed himself for a hoard of questions on his ability and preparedness to lead the UNP.
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake has been at the receiving end of much criticism after the provincial council elections.
Premadasa has publicly criticized Attanayake saying he has failed to win his electorate.
Attanayake in turn has pointed out that Premadasa has failed to make the party win in his electorate in the Hambantota District in the past few elections. In fact, it was noted that the UNP’s vote bank has been on the decline in the Hambantota District.
He added that his appointment to parliament through the National List in 2010 was due to his responsibilities as the party secretary. Attanayake had won at every election he had contested.
Attanayake threw the gauntlet was once again at Premadasa – How can a person who cannot record a victory against Rajapaksa in his constituency speak of defeating President Rajapaksa at a Presidential election?
Nevertheless, deciding to lead by example, the UNP general secretary handed in his resignation from the post of party organizer of the Kundasale electorate in the Kandy District.
Attanayake’s view is that there should be a collective responsibility for the party’s defeat at the elections and one person should not be blamed for the failure.
“The party did not win in my electorate and I take responsibility for it. Therefore, I resigned and I think it is time we all took responsibility for our actions,” he said.
When Attanayke handed his resignation to party leader Wickremesinghe, he declined to accept it, but he had later accepted the letter saying that Attanayake had a greater role to play in the functions of the party.
Attanayake has proposed the names of several party members to replace him in his position as electoral organizer of the Kundasale electorate in the Kandy District.
During his meeting with the party leader, Attanayake had also explained to the party leader about the criticism levelled against him by some party seniors that the candidates’ lists were prepared by him without consulting other members of the nominations board.
Wickremesinghe had not responded.
Wickremesinghe by then was aware about an incident that had taken place in finalizing the party’s candidates’ list for the Northern Provincial Council election.
UNP MP from Jaffna Wijekala Maheswaran had given a list of candidates for the North based on caste requirements. She had explained to Karunanayake that the candidates did not have monies to carry out a campaign, but if the party supported them, the UNP would secure five definite seats in the Council.
Karunanayake had said the party could not fund individual campaigns and rejected Maheswaran’s list. Instead, Karunanayake had put forward a list of intellectuals and professionals.
It is well known that like in the South, votes in the North are also divided according to caste.
Finally, the UNP was unable to secure even one seat in the North.
WC to decide
The UNP’s Working Committee is to meet on Monday (7) and the discussion is to be focussed on the party’s recent set back at the provincial council elections.
Since the conclusion of the elections, there has been a discussion on making changes in key posts in the party. There have been several proposals being forwarded to the party leadership on key positions in the party, which is to be discussed tomorrow.
The Working Committee would also discuss and decide on appointing special Supreme Council consisting of nine members to guide and advice to the party and the Working Committee.
The Supreme Council would be set up in line with the party’s rules and regulations.
Karu Jayasuriya is to be appointed as the head of this Council and all parties have agreed to it.
Attention is to also be paid to ensuring the participation of all ethnic groups in this Council.
One of the key decisions taken by the party since the elections is to appoint former deputy leader Jayasuriya to the Working Committee.
Some media reports have stated that Jayasuriya has declined the offer to appoint him to the Working Committee and would not therefore attend the meeting on the 7th.
Hearing these reports, communications Division head of the party, Mangala Samaraweera contacted one of Jayasuriya’s confidantes to inquire about the reports.
Samaraweera was then informed that the media reports were wrong and that Jayasuriya had not declined the appointment to the Working Committee.
However, the confidante has added that Jayasuriya would not be attending the meeting on Monday, but would participate in the Working Committee meetings that would take place afterwards.
JVP to re-organize
As for the JVP, the party is also engaged in internal discussions in addressing the issues that have prevented the party from recording an increase in its vote bank.
The JVP at the recently concluded elections managed to secure its seat in the North Western Provincial Council and record the same amount of votes that were polled during the 2009 elections.
However, the party anticipated an increase in its vote bank due to the growing public displeasure against the Rajapaksa government.
Nevertheless, the JVP’s decision making body is now discussing and analysing the reason for its failure to record the targeted outcome at the elections.
The lack of clarity in the party’s policies, inability to address the current requirements of the country due to hard line stances, the distance between the masses and senior party leaders and the party’s dislike to form a broad opposition alliance with opposition political parties have resulted in people being hesitant to cast their votes for the party while appreciating the role played by the JVP.
The party is now forming a long term strategy aimed at toppling the government at the next Presidential election through a broad opposition alliance.
The JVP, which is well known to engage in long drawn discussions with little or no proper action afterwards, should realize that procrastinating at this juncture would only result in the further erosion of the party.
While the opposition parties are still dealing with the results of the recently concluded provincial council elections, the governing SLFP is facing its own demons as well.
The elections sent out warning signs to the governing party that its popularity was now on the decline.
Although The Rajapaksa government recorded victories in the North Western and Central provinces, the decision on appointing chief ministers to the provinces has resulted in an internal crisis within the government.
A triangular battle emerged in the In the North Western Province, where former Chief Minister Athula Wijesinghe, UNP defector Dayasiri Jayasekera and Minister Johnston Fernando’s son Johan Fernando were all vying for the chief ministerial post.
It was a similar situation in the Central Province as well. Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne’s son Anuradha Jayaratne, former Chief Minister Sarath Ekanayake and Minister Janaka Bandara Tennekoon’s son, Pramitha Tennakoon were vying for the top slot in the council.
Following much deliberation, the government decided to appoint Jayasekera as the Chief Minister for North Western Province and former Chief Minister Ekanayake was re-appointed to the spot on the basis that the sons of cabinet ministers could not be made chief ministers.
The President’s decision to sideline Anuradha Jayaratne on the basis that he was an offspring of the Premier and lacked experience is being criticized by senior SLFPers.
A senior SLFP source said that this type of reasoning does not go well when there’s rampant nepotism where one family is concerned.
Prime Minister Jayaratne has publicly stated that the Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa’s son, Shashindra Rajapaksa was the Chief Minister of the Uva Province despite the Rajapaksa policy and the fact that Shashindra was appointed after winning at his first election.
A protest was held in the Kandy town against Ekanayake’s appointment as Chief Minister of the Central Province by Jayaratne supporters.
Anuradha Jayaratne obtained the highest number of preferential votes at the elections.
The protesters had reportedly gathered at the Dalada Veediya in Kandy and blocked vehicles and showed their displeasure over the appointment.
Anuradha Jayaratne had then addressed the crowd and they had dispersed afterwards.
The protest by die hard SLFP members and supporters in Kandy was a discomforting situation for the government due to the public showing of a clash within the SLFP.
A similar situation was witnessed during the funeral of former North Central Province Chief Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake.
Dissanayake’s supporters protested against Minister S.M. Chandrasena and his brother, Chief Minister S.M. Ranjith, who are seen as Rajapaksa loyalists.
Huge crowds that gathered for the funeral protested against Chandrasena and his brother and some even chanted slogans against the Rajapaksas.
The emerging dissention within the SLFP is now a key discussion in government ranks and the need to address the matter before the next round of provincial council elections scheduled early next year.
Challenges for TNA
Meanwhile, the TNA after recording a resounding victory at the Northern Provincial Council election is now faced with many challenges. These challenges have started from the point of deciding on the ministers for the provincial council.
The demands of the constituent parties in the TNA have caused a major obstacle that the TNA is hopeful of overcoming shortly. The TNA currently consists of five political parties the ITAK, TULF, EPRLF, TELO and PLOTE.
The constituent parties are making demands based on caste, religion and gender.
EPRLF leader Suresh Premachandran it is learnt is demanding a ministerial portfolio for his brother who had contested and won from Jaffna. Former TELO parliamentarian MK Sivajilingam who also won from has reportedly requested for a ministerial portfolio. ITAK General Secretary Mavai Senathirajah has requested that the former Jaffna municipal commissioner C.V.K. Sivagnanam be appointed as a minister. Also, former MP and PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddharthan who won in Jaffna is also being considered as a ministerial contender.
Meanwhile, wife of LTTE’s Trincomalee Leader Elilan’s wife, Ananthi Sasitharan, who polled the second highest number of preferential votes, is also being considered as a ministerial hopeful. Her candidacy is backed by members of the Tamil Diaspora.
With all these issues to be considered, the TNA is in the process of finalizing its ministerial portfolios and the party is expecting the finalization of the names to be done by the 11th.
However, TNA nominated members to fill the party’s two bonus seats in the Council. In a pragmatic move, the TNA decided to appoint a Muslim and a lady to fill the two bonus slots.
On the other hand, the controversy that surrounded the oaths taking of Northern Province Chief Minister elect, C.V. Wigneswaran was finally put to rest.
TNA leader R. Sampanthan met President Rajapaksa on Friday morning.
The discussion was focused on the Northern Provincial Council election, the future functions of the Council and Wigneswaran’s swearing in ceremony as the Chief Minister.
It was decided that Wigenswaran would take oaths before President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees on Monday (7).
The meeting was the first between the TNA and the President after the TNA won the Northern Provincial Council election.
Following the swearing in, one of Chief Minister Wigneswaran’s first meetings would be with Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid who will be in Sri Lanka on the 7th and 8th.
During Khurshid’s visit to Sri Lanka, he is to meet President Rajapaksa among other government officials.
Apart from the issue of Indian fishermen, the Indian External Affairs Minister is to discuss the situation in the country following the Northern Provincial Council election and the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
India continues to remain resolute in its stance that the Rajapaksa government should fully implement the 13th Amendment.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was last week quoted in the Indian media saying that there was no change in India’s stance in relation to the piece of legislation.
“Our views are well known as far as the devolution of more powers to the Northern Province is concerned. On an umpteen number of occasions, we have discussed with the Sri Lankan President the need to implement the 13th Amendment. Therefore, our position is fully well known to the Government of Sri Lanka,” Singh said.
The strained relations between Sri Lanka and India were once again in the limelight with reports of Singh being unable to meet President Rajapaksa.
Although the Indian Premier has said that time did not permit for a meeting with the President, it is evident that Rajapaksa was given the cold shoulder by the Indian leader, whose frustrations on the Sri Lankan government’s failures have now reached a peak.
Singh had told the Indian media that he was unable to meet Rajapaksa in New York as the dates given were not convenient to him.
“I would have had no hesitation in meeting him. He asked for a meeting on dates which were not convenient to me, because I came to New York only on the 27th and he asked for a meeting between 24th and 27th. So the meeting could not be arranged. There is no other reason,” Singh has told reporters.
Meanwhile, India is yet to decide on its participation at the CHOGM.
The Indian media has quoted Union Minister V. Narayanswamy as saying, “The Prime Minister will take a call on that,” when questioned on the opposition in Tamil Nadu against Prime Minister Singh’s participation in CHOGM in Colombo.
With India’s role where Sri Lanka is concerned becoming a key factor during the period of the CHOGM and the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) sessions next March, the Rajapaksa government is now looking at quick measures that could be taken to “temporarily” please the Indians like finalizing the long drawn Sampur coal power plant.
Whether the Indians would fall for the ploys by the Rajapaksa government similar to the ones implemented during local elections, is another matter altogether.