Sunday, 12 April 2015

Maithri ready to show his true colours shortly



As dissension with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) heightens, the political stage is certainly set to go for a general election with the possibility of the present Parliament being dissolved anytime after 23 April. The SLFP crisis has forced President Maithripala Sirisena to think of the future of his presidential administration as a section of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) supporting his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to stifle the 100-day programme initiated by him. Chances of getting the 19th Amendment passed in the House after 20 April looks remote as a section in the SLFP demands that electoral reforms too should be passed simultaneously, if they are to extend their support for the constitutional changes that prune the powers of the President. Returning from Islamabad in Pakistan President Sirisena made an announcement in Polonnaruwa that he would get the 19th Amendment passed in Parliament and dissolve Parliament. However, he did not specify the date he intends to dissolve Parliament. This announcement stunned the SLFP which stands divided.



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Ceylontoday, 2015-04-12 02:00:00
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As dissension with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) heightens, the political stage is certainly set to go for a general election with the possibility of the present Parliament being dissolved anytime after 23 April. The SLFP crisis has forced President Maithripala Sirisena to think of the future of his presidential administration as a section of the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) supporting his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa seems to stifle the 100-day programme initiated by him. Chances of getting the 19th Amendment passed in the House after 20 April looks remote as a section in the SLFP demands that electoral reforms too should be passed simultaneously, if they are to extend their support for the constitutional changes that prune the powers of the President. Returning from Islamabad in Pakistan President Sirisena made an announcement in Polonnaruwa that he would get the 19th Amendment passed in Parliament and dissolve Parliament. However, he did not specify the date he intends to dissolve Parliament. This announcement stunned the SLFP which stands divided.
On his return to the country, the President reportedly met Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. The trio had one on one meets. A number of issues pertaining to the 19th Amendment and the dissolution of Parliament had been discussed. The United National Party (UNP) led by the Prime Minister has already begun party activities to strengthen it to face the next general elections. Wickremesinghe has instructed his organizers not to relax during the festive season but to go the electorates to organize the party to face a general election before mid July. Political sources did not rule out the possibility of the President issuing a proclamation dissolving Parliament on May 5. The President is aware that with the confusion within his party and the UPFA, it is difficult for him to honour the pledges given to the people during the presidential election campaign.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court determined that the 19th Amendment was consistent with the Constitution and that, however, two clauses required a referendum. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa informed Parliament of the Supreme Court determination last week. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe told the House that the sections which required a referendum would be omitted from the 19th Amendment to seek consensus in the House. Earlier, speaking to heads of media organizations with regard to the 19th Amendment, the Premier said the government will not proceed with anything that would require a public referendum. He said the necessity was to ensure smooth passage in Parliament for the constitutional changes. The petitions over the 19th Amendment were taken up before a three Judge Supreme Court Bench comprising Chief Justice K. Sripavan and Justices Chandra Ekanayake and Priyasath Dep. The Supreme Court concluded the hearings last Monday and conveyed the determination to the Speaker the same evening. Certain key powers vested with the Executive President were to be amended according to the proposed constitutional amendment, while the term of the President is due to be reduced from six years to five. President Sirisena has already announced that he would not seek a further term though he would be entitled to do so under the present Constitution. Under the proposed 19th Amendment, powers vested with the President to dissolve Parliament will be transferred to Parliament, while the President's term will restricted to merely two terms. The main constitutional proposals of the 19th Amendment include the transformation of the Presidential form of government to a Presidential-Parliamentary system of government and the re-introduction of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.

Leader of the Opposition
Adding insult to injury in face of the current crisis within the SLFP, the crisis over the post of Opposition Leader further deepened last week. Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa who called for time to study the process and read Erskine May to resolve the crisis, put the ball back in the UPFA court last week directing Susil Premajayantha to submit a name after talking to the UPFA Opposition. Incumbent Opposition Leader, Nimal Siripala de Silva took umbrage over the stand taken by the UPFA group led by Dinesh Gunawardene against him as the Dinesh supporters signed a petition with 52 names in support of Dinesh to request the Speaker to recognize Dinesh as the Opposition Leader. Nimal Siripala described the move as measure to backstab him. In the current scenario, the UPFA-SLFP opposition looks to be in shambles as the UPFA has gained ground with the defection of 26 SLFPers to the government, last month, to accept ministerial portfolios. With the Speaker's to put the ball in Premajayantha's court, it had embarrassed Premajayantha, a sober politician who does not want to make enemies within his own opposition. Therefore, it is likely that the issue may drag on till Parliament is dissolved. If that happens, Nimal Siripala de Silva would be the beneficiary from that crisis.

As the SLFP and the UPFA battles with the crisis of the Opposition Leader, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) comprising Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) members claimed that no MP elected from the UPFA or UNP could hold the position and the ITAK was entitled to it, with the next highest number of elected representatives in the House. On those lines, the ITAK, the main constituent of the TNA, wrote to Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa to put on record its position with regard to the Opposition Leader issue. "At the conclusion of the General Election held in April 2010, the Commissioner General of Elections informed Parliament that contestants from four political parties were returned to Parliament and the current Parliament therefore is constituted by members of four registered political parties, namely, the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA), the United National Party (UNP), the Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) and no other," the letter said.
The letter pointed out, "Therefore, the government today is composed of both the UPFA and the UNP, disentitling both of those parties from occupying the seat of the Leader of the Opposition. No Member of Parliament elected from the UPFA or UNP can be the Leader of the Opposition. This clearly is the legal position as well as one that accords with parliamentary tradition, both of our country and the Commonwealth," stated the letter signed by ITAK General Secretary K. Thurairajasingham and Parliamentary Group Leader R. Sampanthan. "The resultant position is that it is the ITAK that is entitled to the post of the Leader of the Opposition, having 14 Members of Parliament," ITAK stated adding, the DNA has seven members, one of whom is a Cabinet Minister at present.

Finance Bill crisis

The government's move to seek Rs 400 billion from Parliament to pay State sector wages met with defeat in Parliament last week. Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake moving the Bill stressed the need to meet the sum as an urgent need. However, at the time of voting only 31 members in the government was present in the House thus facing a defeat as the opposition had 52 present. Later, SLFP General Secretary Anura PriyadarshanaYapa, appointed to that capacity by President Sirisena though seating in the opposition ranks claimed they defeated resolution to raise the Treasury Bills threshold because the Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, had informed Parliament that they had enough funds to pay salaries and it contradicted the government's earlier reason for the need of a bond issue. Yapa questioned the government's need to raise the Treasury Bills if it had enough funds and said the government had acted in disregarding the cooperation of the opposition during the debate on the Bill. He lamented that neither the Finance Minister nor the Prime Minister were present in the Parliament during the voting on the Bill. He explained that when the government noted that the Bill was to pay the salaries of State employees, the opposition had agreed to support it. "Instead of getting our support, the Finance Minister lashed out at the opposition during the entire debate. How can the government expect us to vote in favour of the Bill after such attacks on us," he asked. Yapa said the SLFP members were not prepared to raise their hands in agreement to each and every regulation forwarded by the United National Party (UNP) though the necessity could be urgent in nature.

SLFP Senior Vice President and Chief Opposition Whip, W.D.J. Seneviratne said the resolution was defeated to condemn the approach adopted by the government to gain the support of the opposition. "If they need our support we should be approached in a cordial manner", he pointed out.Commenting on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Seneviratne opined that the fundamental rights of the people would be violated if the Amendment was presented in Parliament without giving room for the people to study it and added that when a Constitution was being changed, public opinion was mandatory. Seneviratne reiterated that the SLFP would not support the 19th Amendment if the electoral reforms were not brought together with it. Hence, the stand taken by the SLFP Opposition has plunged the future of the 19th Amendment into a further crisis as the UNP-oriented government wants a general election to be called shortly under the existing PR system.

UNP view

Leader of the House and Plantation Industries Minister, Lakshman Kiriella described the voting on the increase on the Treasury Bills' threshold as a clear split among members of the SLFP and UPFA opposition. Addressing the media in Colombo to counter the SLFP opposition towards the Finance Bill, Kiriella said, "We understood this situation in the opposition and it is clear that the opposition is divided on every issue", Kiriella noted. He stressed that every member in the opposition had assured the government they would support the government to secure the objectives of its 100-day programme. The minister was of the opinion that Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva, said the opposition would support the government to get the resolution approved but lamented that several members of the same opposition later decided to vote against it."We don't know whether the decision was taken after discussions between two groups or it happened as a result of a rift that exists in the opposition. But it is totally contradictory to parliamentary traditions and norms," he added.

UN backs 100-day project

As confusion reigns with many conflicts within the opposition and also the opposition with the government, the United Nations system and the UNDP looks satisfied to continue to provide support to the 100-day programme, at the request of the government. This was disclosed by UN Assistant Secretary-General and UNDP's Asia-Pacific Regional Director Haoliang Xu when he met Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mangala Samaraweera on Thursday (9). During discussions Xu thanked the Colombo Government for their continued support to the work of the UN Country Team in Sri Lanka. Xu congratulated Sri Lanka on marking this year which is the 60th anniversary since it became a Member State of the UN, coinciding with the 70th year since the UN was founded and acknowledged the partnership with the ministry in launching the 70/60 campaign. During the visit to Colombo, a second visit to the island, Xu has met and exchanged views with high-level government officials, development partners and the civil society on learning more about the emerging development needs and expectations of Sri Lanka in a new political environment whilst ascertaining the future direction of UNDP support along with other members of the UN family, strengthening UNDP's role as a key development partner in Sri Lanka. The UN Assistant Secretary General Haoliang Xu travelled to Mullaitivu to assess the support extended by UN Development Programme (UNDP) to the community and handed over a rice mill to the Multi-Purpose Cooperative Society (MPCS) Panankamam, a producer organization supported by UNDP Sri Lanka under a Norway and New Zealand-funded northern livelihood development project. What is interesting is that Xu's arrival here comes ahead of a visit by the UN Working Group for Enforced Disappearances and a visit by the team of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL).

In the face of the deepening crisis in the SLFP, President Sirisena met a group of SLFP Ministers following his return from Pakistan. Issue after issue surfaced at that meeting. The first issue was that former President Chandrika Kumaratunga's office had extended the invitation to meet Sirisena. The invitation stated that a meeting would be held with the President prior to the Cabinet meeting. These ministers refused to go to Temple Trees and decided to meet the Head of State at the Presidential Secretariat. When they arrived at the location, the Cabinet meeting was in progress. The President who was the first to leave the Cabinet room asked those present, "Are you here to meet me?" "Sir, it was you who had asked us to meet you", they responded. Minister Jeevan Kumaratunga explained to the President that Chandrika was scheduled to meet them but they had arrived at the Secretariat to meet the President. "Ok, let us start the meeting", the President said. The debate in Parliament on the proposed 19th Amendment Draft to be taken up on 20 April was taken up for discussion. "I have made a pledge to the people that my powers would be reduced and it is mandatory that we honour that pledge. I will monitor the conduct in Parliament on that day and decide on dissolving Parliament", the President said.

Minister Dilan Perera interjected to opine, "An election at this juncture will not be beneficial to the SLFP. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa will try to capitalize on this crisis situation. An election at this juncture will only meet the needs of Mahinda and Ranil. The government has labelled most of us as rogues. Even I am labelled as a rogue. I will take legal action in that regard. I advise not to go for an election at this juncture". Several SLFPers also warned the President of future threats that may surface on him. They said even an impeachment motion could be brought against the President. "If an election is held and if Mahinda is not given nominations, he (Mahinda) would contest under a separate party and get at least 35 MPs elected. Ranil will also get at least 80 MPs. If that happens, Ranil and Mahinda will join to impeach you", they warned. The President kept mum on that observation. Vijith Vijithamuni Soysa said if Maithri does not strengthen and stabilize the SLFP, Mahinda would try to capture it. "If we are to hold an election, we must strengthen the party. If an election is held tomorrow and if the people feel the swing is towards Mahinda all will go. Then I will also have to return to Mahinda. After you took over the leadership, we joined to strengthen your hands. We also need security and cannot be destitute".

SLFP firebrand M.K.A.D.S. Gunawardene joined the fray to attack the corrupt politicians in the previous government. He urged the President to punish them irrespective of their status. Having given a patient hearing to all members the President replied, "The Supreme Court has conveyed its ruling to prune the powers of the Executive President. I was elected by the people. I must transfer certain powers. I must also say this. Many think I am weak and I do not know to administer and that Ranil is running the government. My style is different. At the right time I will show who Maithripala is". After the President's observation, Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala complained that Mahinda Rajapaksa was behind the move to oust him as Opposition Leader. "Sir, I have evidence to prove it", he added and requested the President to speak to the Speaker.

Mahinda to UPFA fore

While Maithri runs a confused SLFP, his predecessor Mahinda Rajapaksa had embarked on a new mission to capture the majority in the SLFP Central Committee. Already nearly 60 MPs in the SLFP have pledged their support to Mahinda and are working hand in hand with him. Hence, Mahinda plans to take control of the Central Committee and the SLFP using these 60 MPs. Several Central Committee members who are not MPs too have pledged their support to the former President, reliable sources revealed. However, Mahinda faces a practical problem of getting nominations from the SLFP as he is keen to re-enter politics through his former party. If he is not given nominations, Mahinda plans to contest under a party affiliated to the SLFP. Sources said he would most likely contest from the UPFA, which defeated the 17-year UNP administration in 1994. Meanwhile, Mahinda's sibling Gotabhaya too has expressed willingness to enter politics. If Gotabhaya fails to get SLFP nomination, he too is likely to contest from the UPFA. All indications are that the Rajapaksas' are ready to come back in a big way despite efforts to throttle their re-entry into politics.

The SLFP will hold its May Day rally this year at Hyde Park. Former Minister and SLFP General Secretary, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa last week extended an invitation to the former President when the latter visited the Abhayaramaya Temple in Narahenpita. It was not clear whether Mahinda accepted that invitation. The leftist parties too, have organized a rally at Kirulapone on May Day and Chandrika too, had been already invited to make her presence on that stage. The Kirulapone rally had been planned by D.E.W. Gunasekere,Vasudeva and Tissa Vitarana three weeks ago. However, Dinesh wants Wimal to instruct the trio to gather all trade unions as Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga was extending fullest support to make it a success. All indications are that Mahinda would board the Kirulapone platform being a veteran trade union leader.

Chandrika booed

In a bid to strengthen the SLFP at grass roots level, a district meeting of the party was held last week at Kurunegala following the return of the President from Pakistan. All ministers, MPs in the district and the former President Chandrika Kumaratunga too, were present at this meeting. As Chandrika walked to light the traditional oil lamp, a section of the gathering started to hoot. Organizers were able to calm the situation. Fearing further reprisals, the organizers decided to cancel the address of Chandrika in the agenda. The meeting turned dramatic as Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara proposed the vote of thanks mentioning the name of former President Rajapaksa recalling the good work done by the former President Mahinda's name was received with a loud applause. When Chandrika was leaving the venue, the situation became tensed and her security was forced to escort her. Thereafter, two factions at the meeting were engaged in fisticuffs and the police brought the situation under control.

Champika's mudslinging

The Police last Tuesday issued a media release alleging that DNA Parliamentarian, Tiran Alles was reportedly involved in a scandal over finances of a Tsunami institution called RADA and that the MP's passport had been impounded. Alles immediately summoned a media conference and refuted the charges noting that the police had never questioned him regarding the allegations made in the police media release. He told the media that a prominent minister was behind the move to sling mud at him and assured he would name him shortly. He said the government politician in question had committed several misdeeds and that Alles had evidence to prove them.

The complaint had been lodged by an organization called Dushana Virodhi Peramuna. Alles subsequently made a statement to the police last Thursday accompanied by Attorney-at-Law and Pivituru Hela Urumaya Leader, Udaya Gammanpila and met the media outside the CID office.

He directly accused Minister Champika Ranawaka of being behind the move to tarnish his image. Alles said Ranawaka was attacking him thinking that he (Alles) was responsible for the exit of Udaya from the JHU. The MP stated though Ranawaka had pledged to teach him a lesson, Champika
Source:  http://www.ceylontoday.lk/51-89939-news-detail-maithri-ready-to-show-his-true-colours-shortly.html
 

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