and political manoeuvrings
- Aftermath of Akuressa suicide bomb attack
- Karuna vs Pillaiyan
- UNP rebels tell Ranil “ go”
- Irudina says conspiracy plot against Ranil
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa were
attending religious observances at Temple Trees around 9 a.m. on Tuesday
(10) Poya day, when a call came through on the President’s mobile
telephone, informing him of the suicide bomb attack in Akuressa, Matara.
The President immediately ceased everything he was doing, and personally
called the Air Force Commander and instructed him to have a helicopter
ready as soon as possible to fly to Matara. President Rajapaksa then
telephoned Director National Hospital Colombo, and told him to have a
team of surgeons and neuro physicians ready to fly to Matara on board
Air Force chopper.
As a result, a team of nine doctors including a neurosurgeon boarded the
SLAF MI17 helicopter to attend to the high profile injuries in Matara.
In the meantime, the President called the Matara Hospital to find out
the condition of those injured in the attack. He learned that Minister
Mahinda Wijesekera’s condition was extremely serious, and immediately
moved to instruct the authorities concerned to make arrangements to fly
the Minister and former Southern Province Chief Minister H.G. Sirisena
and his son Manoj back to Colombo for treatment.
Minister Wijesekera was brought to Colombo for an emergency surgery, and
that night, President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself visited the Minister at
the Colombo National Hospital to check on his condition. Although
Minister Wijesekera had sustained extensive injuries and doctors were
initially concerned about the seriousness of his condition, by Wednesday
afternoon, the injured Minister took a turn for the better, and was even
able to breathe without the aid of machines.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa then went on to instruct IGP Jayantha
Wickremaratne to furnish him with a report as to why a function in
Matara attended by six ministers, was not provided with adequate
security to prevent such an attack. As a result of this report, four
senior police officials in the Matara District were transferred with
Fourteen people were killed and more than 40 injured in the suicide
attack in Matara, believed to have been carried out by the LTTE who are
facing massive military losses in the North. The attack hit hardest on
one of Sri Lanka’s oldest parties, the Communist Party of which seven
leaders were killed in last week’s explosion. They include Devinuwara
Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman, Attorney at Law Upali Sarachchandra,
Matara Municipal Council MP Sirisena Thudawe, Athuraliye Pradeshiya
Sabha MP Anura Wickremasinghe, Thihagoda Pradeshiya Sabha MP Rohana
Wattage and Coordinating Secretary to Minister Chandrasiri Gajadheera,
Intelligence units received information that the LTTE was planning a
massive strike in Matara some time ago. However, it is clear that
situation was seriously exacerbated by the fact that adequate security
was not provided for the function, even though so many ministers were in
TMVP leadership tussle
The tussle for leadership within the LTTE renegade movement turned
political party, the TMVP, ended last week with the former leader of the
faction, Vignayamurthi Muralidharan alias Col. Karuna Amman and 2500 of
his cadre accepting membership of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Karuna’s
arch rival, P. Chandrasekeran alias Pillaiyan remains Chief Minister of
the Eastern Province. Pillaiyan manoeuvred the TMVP which was allied to
the ruling UPFA during the Eastern Provincial Council Elections, and
emerged victorious, earning him the position of Chief Minister. At the
time, Karuna who had travelled to Britain on forged travel documents was
being held in a prison in Britain, and was only subsequently allowed to
return to Sri Lanka. The fact that his former deputy was now lording it
over as Chief Minister of his beloved Eastern Province, was a problem
for Karuna, leading to tussles between the two factions that often
turned violent. As a solution to the problem, the government appointed
Karuna as a national list MP of the UPFA.
But this did not result in a resolution to the internal battle within
the TMVP as expected. In the end, a larger faction of the TMVP senior
leadership, turned out to be loyal to Pillaiyan and made arrangements to
oust Karuna from the party. Meanwhile at a ceremony organised in
Batticaloa, Pilliayan and the TMVP laid down their arms and surrendered
their weapons to the army. It was just a few days after this that Karuna
moved into the SLFP, with some 2500 cadres. He has indicated that he
hopes to set up SLFP branches in the Eastern Province. After he joined
the SLFP, President Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed him as a non-cabinet
minister. However, Karuna was hoping to get the portfolio for Nation
Building which the President did not give him. Instead, he was appointed
Minister for National Integration. Karuna was hoping that with the
Nation Building portfolio, he would be able to conduct a massive
development drive in the east. However, President Mahinda Rajapaksa
thought that in the long term, giving Karuna the Nation Building
portfolio would only intensify the tussle between the two TMVP leaders,
and wisely decided not to do so.
Although the Pillaiyan faction disarmed, Karuna and his cadres did not
lay down their weapons upon joining the SLFP. When asked about this,
Karuna responded that he and his followers did not have many weapons to
effect a hand over, and charged that Pillaiyan’s faction had not
surrendered their revolvers during the ceremony. However, Pillaiyan
maintains that the Karuna faction still have arms in their possession.
When asked about a party member of the SLFP carrying weapons, Media
Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardane replied that during the JVP
insurrection of 1988-89, the UNP government allowed the LSSP, Communist
Party and the MEP to carry weapons for protection, adding that such a
thing was not an issue.
Ranil to go?
Following the UNP’s abysmal performances at all recently held elections
on the provincial and local levels, the leadership struggle has emerged
once more to the fore, with party seniors now joining in the call for
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to step down.
The majority of the party’s Parliamentary group now hold the view that
Wickremesinghe should function as Opposition Leader, but hand over the
party leadership to Karu Jayasuriya who is currently deputy leader.
A discussion about these matters was held at the home of UNP National
Organiser S.B. Dissanayake last week. Taking the lead at this meeting
was UNP stalwart Rukman Senanayake, who has of late lent his voice to
the call for Ranil Wickremesinghe to step down, saying the party needed
to change direction, and become, once more, a party of the people. Also
at this meeting were Lakshman Seneviratne, Johnston Fernando, Thalatha
Athukorale and Dayasiri Jayasekera.
Following reports of this meeting being published, the pro-UNP Irudina
newspaper last weekend carried derogatory reports about both Dissanayake
and Senanayake, in an unprecedented manner. The Irudina reported that
both UNPers had met with President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and they were
leading a conspiracy to oust Wickremesinghe from the leadership. The
paper reported that Dissanayake had also spoken to the President on the
According to the report, it was the plan of this group to hold a
Parliamentary group meeting, and appoint Karu Jayasuriya leader, after
which they would use Jayasuriya to sign a memorandum of understanding
with President Rajapaksa. The group hopes to form a national government
and get Senanayake appointed Prime Minister, the paper went on to say.
Jayasuriya would then be ousted and Senanayake would take over as party
leader of the UNP. Going one step further, Irudina claimed that it was
the plan of the rebels including Dissanayake and Senanayake to bring
busloads of crowds to Sirikotha during this meeting, and throw stones at
the party headquarters, while heckling Wickremesinghe and demanding his
stepping down. The paper said that it was all part of a government
Upon seeing this newspaper report, Dissanayake flew into a rage. Further
investigations revealed that the persons behind this malicious report
were none other than Wickremesinghe and some of his closest allies.
Dissanayake decided to hold a press conference in order to respond to
the charges. As a result media organisations were informed that a press
conference would be held at Dissanayake’s Battaramulla residence.
However, Wickremesinghe’s allies soon learnt that Dissanayake was going
to hold a news conference, and urged the party leader to stop him,
immediately telephoning Dissanayake and urging him to refrain from
holding the media conference. Dissanayake flatly refused. “I have
already told the media that this is going to be held. I can’t cancel it
now,” he told the UNP Leader.
As a result, the press conference went ahead and Dissanayake announced
to media personnel that there was a plot within the UNP to, “assassinate
Dissanayake charged that the rumours about his attempting to join the
government were false, and went on to reassure party members saying that
no matter what internal plots were hatched against him, he would never
desert his loyalists in the UNP.
“Irudina is practically run by the UNP. It is the UNP media unit that
decides on what interviews are to be published each week in the Irudina
newspaper. When Rukman Senanayake and I suggested a change of direction
for the UNP, the same paper turns on us. When leaders who are loved by
the party members are attacked in this way, it is no wonder that more
and more UNPers are joining the government. This is no good for the
party,” Dissanayake charged, at the news conference.
Dissanayake also threatened that if the Irudina did not cease this false
reportage, he would move to reveal all the informants about the various
nefarious activities of that paper.
Meanwhile the UNP Reforms Committee met at Sirikotha last Monday.
Wickremesinghe, Senanayake, Tissa Attanayake, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera
and Kabir Hashim attended the meeting.
“Most of the party believes that you should resign from the party
leadership. The members are asking that both S.B. and Sajith are given
more responsibility within the party,” Gamini Jayawickrema Perera told
Responding to this, Wickremesinghe responded: “Allright, I am willing to
do so as you are asking. But my recommendations also must be listened
to. If S.B. is to be given a deputy leadership position, Ravi
Karunanayake must also be given the same position. And if Sajith is to
be appointed assistant leader of the UNP, Vajira Abeywardane must also
be appointed simultaneously to the same position.”
The UNP Leader was clearly attempting to make sure that his loyalists
are also in positions of authority within the party, lest he be
sidelined altogether in the reformation process.
However, Gamini Jayawickrema Perera said this would displease the party
rank and file, and pleaded with Wickremesinghe not to make these
demands. An incensed Wickremesinghe responded with, “Remember that it
was I who appointed you Chairman of the UNP.”
Perera retorted: “I never asked for this position. And I am willing to
give it up anytime.”
Meanwhile, Sirikotha sources indicate that moves are underway to have
Wickremesinghe ousted at the party’s next Working Committee meeting, the
only body that can actually effect his removal. A group of MPs are
reportedly working towards this, and have already obtained the support
about 80 members of the UNP Working Committee. The MP group believes
that it will be possible to get further support for the motion, and
implement it in the near future.
The UNP membership is all agog at this juncture wondering what bomb is
to drop next on the crisis within the party. Loyal UNPers grieve over
the fact that it is likely that Wickremesinghe will once more use the
enormous powers afforded to him as party leader by the UNP constitution,
to quash the rebellion. But this will only result in another group of
UNP members crossing over to the government at the end of the day.