MR ends ‘home and home’ fight in Galle

  • Violence in Galle Districts take different turn
  • Powwow at Temple Trees following violence
  • Common Alliance a non-event
  • JVP make their presence felt

There is reportedly a marked increase in the incidents of violence with the election fever running high in the South.
The Hambantota and Galle Districts account for the most election-related incidents reported so far. A number of incidents where UPFA supporters had attacked the UNP and JVP candidates and their supporters torn down their election offices have been reported from the Hambantota district.

But the violence in the Galle District has taken a different turn. The parties to the clashes there are UPFA candidates and supporters themselves, making it a singular home and home fight. An UPFA candidate standing out in this ugly scene is Nishantha Mutuhettigama. He is charged with having attacked election offices of fellow UPFA candidate, actress Anarkali Akarsha and intimidated her. There is an allegation he had engineered the attack on the election office of another UPFA candidate in the Udugama area. He was remanded for clashing with the Police too after being released on bail by the Galle magistrate. It is obvious that Mutuhettigama’s election gimmicks have done the UPFA’s election campaign in Galle no good. His unbecoming conduct seems to have turned the sympathy of the people towards Anarkali.

Following reports of these incidents and similar untoward ones from Galle, a perturbed President Mahinda Rajapaksa had called all UPFA candidates from Galle for a powwow at Temple Trees at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and SLFP General Secretary Minister Maithripala Sirisena too participated in the discussion that followed.

Anarkali withdraws her complaint

The first item taken up for discussion was the conduct of Nishantha Mutuhettigama. The President pointed out that his conduct was not only a source of embarrassment to other UPFA candidates but also a blow to UPFA’s campaign. “This type of clashes among our candidates could lead to a drop in the UPFA vote by at least 10 percent. Why do you want to provide weapons to our political rivals to hit us with?’ The President asked. He said that there should be no feuding between UPFA candidates and asked Anarkali to withdraw her complaint against Mutuhettigama. She readily agreed to withdraw it. The President asked Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva to attend to legal formalities relating to the withdrawal of the complaint.

Truant politicos taken to task

Another topic that figured in the Temple Trees discussion was the alleged truant playing by some Ministers and Galle District party organisers who had been appointed to lead the electioneering in the district. The party headquarters had received complaints that these party front liners who had been entrusted with specific organisational tasks had disappeared after briefly showing up at their posts. Some local party leaders had complained that some of the ministers who had been appointed to lead the campaign had not turned up at all. NCP Chief Minister Berty Premalal Dissanayake who had been put in charge of the campaign too had complained about the ministers missing from the campaign trail.
The President who gave an attentive ear to all complaints directed party’s General Secretary Maitripala Sirisena to ensure that all party heavyweights who had been entrusted with organisational and electioneering responsibilities go into action in the respective areas assigned to them from October 1 to 7.

Removal of offending cutout ordered

Former Police Media Spokesman Ranjith Gunasekera, now an SLFP organiser in Galle District pointed out that a massive cutout depicting the images of the President, a senior minister and a PC candidate erected in the Galle city was an affront to the President. Questioned about the offending cutout, the candidate concerned professed his ignorance of the presence of such a cutout. The President ordered that the cutout be immediately removed.

PC candidate Ananda Abeywickrama who joined the UPFA recently complained that there were two candidates who were in the habit of pasting their own posters over the posters of other UPFA candidates and these candidates were a hindrance to his propaganda activity. Several other candidates complained that there were certain fellow candidates urging the voters to cast all the three preferences for them. “It is unfair for a candidate to canvass all the three preferences. You all should concentrate on ensuring the victory of the party without getting involved in`manape pore’ (jousts for preferential votes),” the President exhorted the candidates.

The PC candidates, who were also hosted to lunch at Temple Trees, dispersed after the one-hour long discussion.

Electioneering with a difference by Sajin

Controversial UPFA candidate Sajin Vass Gunawardena is adopting a novel modus operandi in electioneering which is the reason why he is not heard of outside the Galle District these days. He is not holding public meetings. Instead, he is reaching out to the people through election committees set up at the grassroots level in 10 electorates, each of which is overseen by a coordinating officer who is in constant contact with him. This election machinery is being operated by former Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte, a seasoned election campaigner. As the person who has organised the SLFP election campaigns since 1993, Ratwatte is putting his vast wealth of experience to good use. Putting their shoulder to the wheel with him are also his son Lohan, now a CPC member, WPC Minister Duminda Silva and Shalitha Wijesundara. There is a large group of young men and women accompanying Sajin on his canvassing rounds.

UNP and JVP in the fray

Meanwhile, the JVP is making their presence felt mainly through public meetings, house to house canvassing and distribution of handbills at public gatherings. The JVP cadres from all over the country are busy in the South campaigning for their candidates.

However, the UNP’s propaganda is restricted to pocket meetings and house to house canvassing. Only a handful of party leaders are participating in the informal powwows being held in the residences of party candidates. With UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe’s unaccountable decision to address meetings in places like Bandaragama, Yatiyantota and Nuwara-Eliya away from the scene of action in the South has, no doubt, made the party candidates as well as party supporters in the South feel that they have been left in the lurch.

Given this situation, the UNP candidates in the South are compelled to carry the burden of campaigning by themselves in the absence of any worthwhile support forthcoming from the party.
Joint Opposition Alliance a non-event?

The much publicised Joint Opposition Alliance which was to be launched under the leadership of the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe appeared almost a fait accompli at one stage, but certain developments that had followed since then seem to be threatening to reduce it to a non-event. The SLMC led by Rauff Hakeem and the Democratic People’s Front led by Mano Ganesan were to be the other constituents of the alliance proposed by Mangala Samaraweera.

According to initial arrangements which seem to have haywire, signing of the alliance pact, and unveiling of the Dasa Raja Pragnaptiya, the policy document of the alliance were to take place at the Jana Bala Meheyuma at the Vihara Maha Devi Park planned for today.

However, the proposed function was a case of putting the cart before the horse since the first thing the UNP leader had to do was getting the party’s Working Committee to approve the Pact and the Pragnaptiya before setting the date for the big event.

SLMC dissidents up in arms

While the affairs relating to the launching the alliance were in the UNP melting pot, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem too had to contend with an internal rift over the issue. A section of the party hierarchy and the membership raised strong objection to joining the alliance placing the SLMC leader in a very embarrassing position. Hakeem who was all out for the proposed alliance was also the sole party delegate at the talks on most occasions.

The alliance dissidents had questioned the wisdom of joining an opposition combine when it is quite obvious that UPFA is heading for a massive victory at the upcoming parliamentary general elections and President Mahinda Rajapaksa is to continue in office until 2017 given his victory at the next Presidential poll is a foregone conclusion.

These dissidents have pointed out that the SLMC had lost their opportunity to serve the Muslim community by making the wrong move of crossing over to the Opposition. However, the SLMC MPs who had defected are now as ministers rendering a great service to their community.

The UNP having lost a series of elections in a row is becoming politically impotent. Mangala Samaraweera is a politician sans a popular base. Mano Ganesan wields no clout among the Tamils. Given this situation, the SLMC would be only committing political hara-kiri by teaming up with political parties with no future, the dissidents have argued at a high level party meeting held recently.

In the face of mounting opposition, Hakeem had told UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe that he was not in a position to sign the alliance pact on September 27 as he has to obtain the formal approval of the party’s Supreme Council and the National Convention for the proposed alliance. He had also cited another reason for his not being able to be present on September 27 for the proposed big event: That he was due to leave for Malaysia on September 24 in connection with an educational matter concerning his daughter.

Planned big event now on a low key

Disappointed, Mangala Samaraweera and Ranil Wickremesinghe in a face saving attempt said that they would sign the alliance pact on October 10 after the Southern PC elections. The UNP leader Wickremesinghe had later decided to confine the big event scheduled for today to the Jana Bala Meheyuma only.

Accordingly, Jana Bala Sena Jatika Samuluwa will take place at the open air theatre of Vihara Maha Devi Park at 9 in the morning today.
Secretaries of the Election Operations Committees of the UNP covering some 10,000 polling stations in the country will attend this convention, UNP sources said.

The UNP will launch their election campaign for the upcoming Presidential poll and the Parliamentary general elections to coincide with today’s convention which would be chaired by party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The UNP Election Operations Committee members are expected to make a collective solemn pledge before the party leader on this occasion to work with dedication to defeat the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

Meanwhile, the rebel reformist group of the UNP has taken a decision at a recent rendezvous to totally ignore the presence of party leader during the proceedings of the future Working Committee meetings.