Election fever reaches new high

Government working hard for a landslide victory JVP at receiving end of election violence
‘Manapa-Pore’ intense in Galle district Ranil to bypass Political Affairs Committee

Now that the Southern PC poll is only five days away, the election fever gripping the South has reached a new high. This election, being a precursor to the Presidential and General Parliamentary elections round the corner, is considered decisive for both the government and the main opposition UNP.

The government coalition is working hard to register a landslide victory to create the necessary momentum for a cake walk at the two upcoming elections. Government Ministers, and the UPFA’s PC , UC and Pradeshiya Sabha members who have pitched camp in the Galle, Matara and Hambatota districts several weeks ago appear set to leave no stone unturned in their quest for more and more votes. Meanwhile, President Mahinda Rajapaksa makes it a point to take time off his tight schedule as the head of State to visit the South as often as possible to personally meet the people and to provide leadership to the UPFA campaign. He is expected to address the final rallies to be held in Galle, Matara and Hambantota on October 4, 5 and 6 respectively.

The government victory in the South is a foregone conclusion. Even, the main political rival UNP seems to have accepted this reality at least unofficially. In this context, the question arises as to why the government is putting in so much of effort to win the Southern PC election. The answer is obvious. A sweeping victory in the South will lay the foundation for President Rajapaksa’s victory at the Presidential poll.

West continues to vilify government

While the attention of the people in Sri Lanka is focussed on the coming elections, certain countries in the West are relentlessly pursuing their anti-Sri Lanka agenda. They are planning various measures against the country articulating the hackneyed allegation that the government has been violating human rights. According to media reports, the USA, UK, EU, and Norway and Germany and certain UN officials are engaged in activity designed to institute punitive measures against Sri Lanka. For example, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had charged Sri Lanka had used the rape of women as a weapon in its war on the LTTE. Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has vehemently refuted this allegation.

The Western countries poised to attack Sri Lanka, are intently watching the outcome of the Southern PC election to ascertain whether the popularity of the government is intact or whether it is on the wane. People in the South are sure to send a clear message to them on October 10. However, the government did not want to take the election victory for granted as it is obviously determined to show the West that the people are fully behind it.

The decimation of the LTTE terrorism which had plagued the country for 30 years is an achievement which would remain ever green in the memory of the people in the South. The UPFA’s victory in the South would be a tribute paid to President Rajapaksa by a grateful people in the South.

`Manapa-pore’ - A negative factor

The government has aimed at a vote exceeding 75 percent in the South. If the percentage of the vote for the UPFA fell short of expectations, it would be certainly due to the `manapa-pore’ – undignified scramble for preference votes - among the party’s candidates.

The district where the ‘manapa-pore’ is intense is Galle. The candidates in the forefront in this scramble there, are controversial figure Nishantha Muthuhettigama, Sajin Vass Gunawardena and Randima Gamage, son of Minister Piyasena Gamage. Nominating Sajin Vass and Anarkali as UPFA candidates has caused the wrath of Muthuhettigama. His reaction to these candidates being in the fray eroding his preferential vote base led to his being arraigned and remanded. He has, nevertheless, attracted the attention of the people in Galle by the controversial statements he had been making to media. An embarrassed Anarakali, the butt of Muttuhettigama’s barbed remarks, is no loser anyway, having won the sympathy of the people, according to reports reaching Colombo.

Minister Piyasena Gamage’s son Randima has monopolised the UPFA poster campaign in Hiniduma area, charge his fellow candidates. No sooner a poster of another candidate is pasted at a public place than would a poster of Randima be pasted over it, they say. The allegation of covering posters pasted by other candidates in similar manner is made against Sajin Vass Gunawardena too. Meanwhile, there is an allegation against Minister Piyasena Gamage that he has been telling people to cast their preferential vote only for his son Randima and abstain from marking the other two preferences. Apprised of this situation, President Rajapaksa had made it a point to instruct the party candidates to tell their voters to cast their three preferences to three candidates. However, this Presidential directive is not observed in the Hiniduma electorate, say the UPFA candidates.

Opposition leader pitches into election campaign

Up to the beginning of last week, the UNP’s election campaign had been confined to pocket meetings, media briefings and house to house canvassing. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was conspicuous by his absence at propaganda meetings. Among the UNP front-liners who were busy on the campaign trail were Tissa Attanayake, Karu Jayasuriya, Dayasiri Jayasekera, Lakshman Seneviratne and Sajith Premadasa. The UNP leader pitched into the party campaign for the first time addressing a propaganda rally in Hambantota on September 31. At this rally he repeated a gaffe he committed while addressing a party propaganda rally in the run up to the Uva PC election. At the Badulla rally he created a stir by referring to a wrong date as the date of election. At Hambantota he referred to the election date as October 18. Wickremesinghe is expected to address a series of UNP rallies in the South up to October 6.

JVP at the receiving end of election violence

The JVP is carrying out it electioneering in Galle, Matara and Hambantota districts in the teeth of violence unleashed on their candidates and supporters by UPFA supporters. They have already made a number of complaints to the Police about attacks on party supporters and election offices.

Officials of the Road Development Authority (RDA) have filed a case against the JVP candidates in Hambantota charging them with having caused damage to the RDA property. The candidates who appeared in Tangalle Magistrate courts were enlarged on bail. The offence they had committed was painting the `Bell’ symbol on roads. The UPFA, and UNP candidates too have daubed their party symbols, `the betel leaf’’ and `the elephant’ on roads. There are no reports that the RDA had taken action to prosecute them as well for committing the same offence. An aggrieved JVP filed a FR violation petition in this connection in Supreme Court last week.

A controversy over an UPFA Muslim candidate

Muslim people in Galle and its outskirts have made an issue of an UPFA Muslim candidate over his religious sect. A section of Muslims has objected to his candidature saying that he belongs to a certain Islamic sect. The candidate at the centre of this controversy is Galle Deputy Mayor Fauzul Niyas. Niyas who crossed over from the UNP to the SLFP was later elected to the Galle Municipal Council. Deputy Minister Lionel Premasiri and former Galle Mayor Kelum Seneviratne are reportedly backing his candidature
President Rajapaksa visited Galle on September 27 to resolve the impending crisis. The President who met the Muslim leaders in Galle at the official residence of the Southern province governor recounted the service that his government rendered to the Muslim community.

“At a time when the government is facing threats from the international sources, the Muslims must close their ranks to support this government. I appeal to you to sink all your differences to ensure the victory of the government,” the President told them.

Ministers M.H. Mohamed, Piyasena Gamage, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Deputy Minister Lionel Premasiri, Western Province Governor Alavi Mowlana, Parliamentarian Chandima Weerakkkody, Presidential Advisor A. H. M. Azwer and Southern Province Governor Kumari Balasuriya were also associated with the President at this meeting.

UNP derives new vigour from Janabala Samuluwa

The leaders of the constituent parties of the proposed Joint Opposition Alliance Ranil Wickremesinghe, Mangala Samaraweera and Mano Ganesan are reportedly quite elated over the success of the `Janabalasena Samuluwa of the UNP held at the Viharamahadevi Park last Sunday. Fresh from the political event that imbued them with a sense of euphoria, the leaders have now decided to sign the alliance pact on October 10 itself.
However, Wickremesinghe has yet to obtain the formal approval of the party’s Working Committee for the Dasaraja Pratipattiya (Charter on Tenfold-Principles for Good Governance) which is the policy document of the proposed alliance. Therefore, party’s General Secretary Tissa Attanayake has called a meeting of the Working Committee to be held on October 5 Monday for this purpose.

Both Ranil and Mangala have agreed that they should lose no time in forming the alliance given the success of the Janabalasena Samuluwa and the imminent possibility of the Presidential election date being announced.

According to the usual procedure, proposal on the Joint Opposition Alliance has to be presented to the Working Committee after being duly approved by the Political Affairs Committee. However, Ranil Wickremesinghe has decided to present the alliance proposal to the Working Committee direct, bypassing the Political Affairs Committee because he commands the support of the majority there, a senior UNP leader said.
The party rebels like Johnston Fernando, Lakshman Seneviratne, Talata Atukorale, and Dr. Jayalath Jayawardena constitute the majority of the Political Affairs Committee which is headed by Karu Jayasuriya.

Ranil to bypass Political Affairs Committee

Meanwhile, the Working Committee is expected to approve the proposal to replace the `elephant’ with a common symbol. The Working Committee and the Political Committee had earlier given its nod for establishing a common consensus with the opposition parties but had tabooed the jettisoning of the party symbol `elephant’ in favour of a common symbol.

The issues relating to the party symbol and the proposed Joint Opposition Alliance are expected to generate some heat at the Political Affairs Committee scheduled for Wednesday.

Appointment of new party organisers

UNP leader Wickremesinghe has decided to appoint new party organisers for Kotte and Colombo North. The current Kotte organiser Ravi Karunanayake is to be shifted to Colombo North electoral division.
However, appointing an organiser for Kotte to replace Ravi has set a poser to the UNP leader. Both Wijedasa Rajapaksa and Shiral Laktillake are vying for Kotte. The UNP leader had initially decided to appoint Wijedasa Rajapaksa for Maharagama, but the latter had declined saying that Maharagama is a left stronghold and asked for Kotte. Shiral, a well known NGO activist also had staked a claim for Kotte.
Ranil is in a very comfortable situation as he has no heart to disappoint Shiral who is very close to him, say the UNP seniors.

Less than 3,000 had attended Janabalameheyum Samuluwa

Contrary to the claim made by UNP leaders that the last Sunday’s convention at the Viharamahadevi Park Open Air Theatre was a great success, it has transpired that of over 10,000 secretaries of the party’s Polling Station Committees summoned for the big event, only than 3,000 had turned up. A large number of party organisers too were conspicuous by their absence. Most participants were party supporters who had come from the city and its outskirts like Kaduwela.

Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a committee headed by Karu Jayasuriya to take disciplinary action against the truant party organisers and polling station agents. The other members of the committee are Gamini Jayawickrama Perera, Lakshman Seneviratne and Ravi Karunanayake.


Lockerbie conviction - A miscarriage of justice

By Edward Gunawardena
The Daily News headline of September 1, ‘Lockerbie bomber pledges innocence’ quoting the Xinline news agency, instantly drew my attention as I had read earlier how the evidence had been doctored to lay the blame on Libya.

Abdal Besset Ali al Megrabie, who was recently freed on compassionate grounds, has stated, “the days will prove that he was innocent as ‘ the truth never dies.’’’ He has also said that “he will be acquitted and the ruling issued against him will be annulled if there is justice in Britain.”

On the night of December 21, 1988 Pan Am flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie, killing 270 people including 11 on the ground. It later emerged that the plane had been brought down by a bomb placed in a suitcase in the cargo hold. It was the largest act of terrorism against the US prior to 9/11.

David Southwell in his book ‘Secrets & Lies - exposing the world of cover ups & deception’ (Funtastic, Australia 2005-ISBN 1711508177), has written: “Nagging doubts remain over the case, especially when it emerged that key elements of the evidence had been destroyed. Many police officers were disturbed by the presence of Americans at the crash site and were told by senior officers that they were not to enter material about American activity in their notebooks. In 2000 Labour MP Tam Dalyell revealed that a former constituent WPC Mary Baylan had come to him to express her concerns over the destruction of police notebooks belonging to officers involved in the initial stages of the Lockerbie crash-site investigations.

About 11 years after the event Balyan had been asked to give evidence at an inquiry over Lockerbie. The retired WPC had phoned the Livingston Police Station for her notebook and she had been told that it had gone missing, despite the legal requirement that it be kept safely. She had then learnt that the notebooks of the Lothean & Borders Police who had been at the crash site had been destroyed.

In the House of Commons Dalyall MP asked “Who gave instructions for the destruction of the notebooks in the biggest murder trial of Scotland? It was a question that was not answered. What happened to the remains of a suitcase belonging to Joseph Patrick Curry - a member of the US Army Special Forces, which Baylan recovered from the crash site also remains a mystery. Like the police notebooks, this too was missing.”
Propaganda gimmicks of the western powers have come to be found out sooner or later. The channel 4 canard will also suffer the same fate.