Sri Lanka’s closely guarded political secret, that the owners of two media organisations have been brokering Sajith Premadasa’s entry as Deputy Leader of the United National Party (UNP), on behalf of the Government is now public.
The confession has come from none other than the General Secretary of the UNP, Tissa Attanayake. He admitted that he had been meeting Tiran Alles MP and Kili Rajamahendran during talks with his leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for the re-entry of Sajith Premadasa as Deputy Leader. He revealed this at the Working Committee meeting of the UNP held on September 23.
Tiran Alles, who has confessed to handing over millions of rupees to the LTTE to stop Tamil voters from exercising their franchise at the 2005 Presidential elections, is the Publisher of Mawbima Group of Newspapers. They publish the Ceylon Today (English) and Mawbima (Sinhala). Their Director Editorial Thushara Gunaratne has been given the assignment to name and shame anyone who criticises Alles. Kili Raja Mahendran alias Maharajah is the owner of MTV networks who owns the TV station Sirisa.
Today’s Sunday Leader and Sunday Times newspapers reported the revelations made by Attanayake. If the Sunday Leader said Attanayake has confessed to meeting Alles and Maharajah, Sunday Times quoted the head of the Eksath Bhikku Peramuna accusing Alles of acting on behalf of the Government. He alleged that a lot of money has changed hands.
Here are some highlights of Sunday Times report:
“The EBP members, during a 90-minute meeting with Wickremesinghe, placed their demands and a heated debate ensued. Others present were Karu Jayasuriya, Ravi Karunanayake, Wijayadasa Rajapaksha and Malik Samarawickrema, a former Chairman of the UNP and a close confidant of Wickremesinghe. Though invited Premadasa was absent. National Organiser Daya Gamage, who arrived for a different errand, also took part. Venerable Ananda charged that Tiran Alles (a National List MP of the Democratic National Alliance -DNA-) was in tow with a UPFA dignitary to ensure Sajith Premadasa was made Deputy Leader. He alleged that large amounts of money had changed hands. Wickremesinghe was to quickly assert that there was no such thing and that the delegation had got it completely wrong. Daya Gamage declared, “We cannot work on other people’s agendas.” Added Wijayadasa Rajapaksha, “The General Secretary of the party should not be a kapuwa (marriage broker). He must work for the best interests of the party.”
“Attanayake was to drop a bombshell during his speech. Whilst taking pride in the fact he was able to ‘unite’ Ranil Wickremesinghe, Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa on the same platform in Passara, he said, there were others who were strongly critical of him. He revealed that during consultations with his leader Wickremesinghe for the return of Premadasa as Deputy, he had met both Tiran Alles and Raja Mahendran. Eyebrows were raised when the self-confession came. All that while he had told party leaders and the Sangha that he did not deal with “anyone outside.” He said the purpose of his meetings was to ensure that the media organisations owned by them did not criticise the national leader or the UNP. Did Attanayake brief Wickremesinghe about his meetings? During Wickremesinghe’s meeting with the Eksath Bhikku Peramuna last Sunday, Attanayake denied any link with ‘those outside.’ He also denied it when asked by the Sunday Times at one of his press conferences. Here are the relevant excerpts from last week’s political commentary.
“The Sunday Times asked Tissa Attanayake, General Secretary of the UNP, about reports that Alles, who is from another political party, discussed with him the appointment of Premadasa as Deputy Leader of the UNP. The question was posed when he addressed a news conference at Siri Kotha, the UNP headquarters on Thursday. It was summoned to say that the Government could have further lowered electricity and fuel prices.
“Attanayake replied: ‘I have not had such talks. There have been various reports about me. This is particularly in websites and in some weekend newspapers. I don’t mind that as I have got more publicity. But I am happy about the role I played to unite the UNP. If the party is to win (the presidential election) all should get together. No one should be left out.’ Ravi Karunanayake contested Attanayake’s claim by saying he saw the General Secretary visiting Alles’ office at Rosmead Place a number of times…..”