After months of labour
Joint Opposition Alliance born
  • UNA founded
  • Tamil-Muslim political alignment on cards
  • JVP changes tactics
  • Karuna-Pillayan feud exacerbates
The alliance proposal had to be placed on the back burner for several months due to the strong opposition put up by a section of the party’s Working Committee membership. When the alliance proposal was first presented to the Working Committee, an articulate section opposed it and later the party leader had to settle for a Common Consensus instead of a common opposition combine. The Committee had also decided that the party symbol `elephant’ and the party color `green’ should not be abandoned under any circumstances

Both UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and SLFP (M) leader Mangala Samaraweera saw the fulfillment of their long cherished hope when the UNP Working Committee approved the formation of the Joint Opposition Alliance they had planned sometime ago.

The alliance proposal had to be placed on the back burner for several months due to the strong opposition put up by a section of the party’s Working Committee membership. When the alliance proposal was first presented to the Working Committee, an articulate section opposed it and later the party leader had to settle for a Common Consensus instead of a common opposition combine. The Committee had also decided that the party symbol `elephant’ and the party colour `green’ should not be abandoned under any circumstances.

Undaunted by initial setbacks, party leader Wickremesinghe again placed the alliance proposal along with its policy document ‘Dasarajadharma Pratipattiya’ before the Working Committee when it met on October 5. However, no objections were raised. The Working Committee gave its nod for getting up an alliance with all anti-government parties and groupings on this occasion.

When Ranil presented the `Dasarajadharma Pratipattiya’, S.B. Dissanayake proposed that its adoption be held over for further discussion to make amendments to it if need be. However, the policy document was adopted with a majority voting for it.

The Working Committee also approved naming the proposed alliance as `The United National Alliance’.
The proceedings which so far remained placid suddenly turned stormy, when Ranil Wickremesinghe proposed a new symbol and a new colour for the new alliance.

Lakshman Seneviratne, Johnston Fernando, S.B.Dissanayake, Joseph Michael Perera, Milroy Perera, K.N.Choksy, and Daya Gamage who so far had remained quiet, vehemently objected to the proposal and maintained that the `elephant’ symbol and the `green’ colour should not be given up under any circumstances. Ranil appeared surprised when a normally quiet Choksy turned vocal to hold a brief for the retention of the party colour and the symbol. Ranil once walked out in a huff amidst the heated arguments.

Runil’s proposal runs into stormy weather
Ranil may have expected the Working Committee to approve his proposal on the new colour and the symbol with no hiccups as his loyalists formed the majority. But to his disappointment, most of them had not turned up on this day.

The UNP leader later directed General Secretary Tissa Attanayake to call for the explanation of the absentee-members with a view to taking disciplinary action against them.
The Working Committee also approved the proposal to appoint Ranil as the leader of the United National Alliance (UNA) and Tissa Attanayake as its general secretary. The Committee also decided that the post of Treasurer too should be held by an UNPer.

Torching of UNP MP Range Bandara’s house and party office
Burning down of UNP MP Palitha Range Bandara’s Chilaw residence and party office was one of the main topics that came up for discussion at this meeting. Range Bandara said that the damage caused by this act of arson exceeded Rs.11 million. The Committee decided to set up a fund to reconstruct the house and the party office. Ranil immediately pledged a contribution of Rs.100, 000 towards the fund. Mahanuwara District MP Abdul Cader donated Rs. 100,000.

Founding of UNA anounced at media briefing
Addressing a media briefing held soon after the October 5 Working Committee meeting, UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake announced that the UNA Pact will be signed within 10 days, and about 15 political parties and groupings are expected to become its constituents.

The leaders of the UNA met at the UNP leader’s Cambridge Place office the following day ( October) .Tissa Attanayake and Mangala Samaraweera were the first to turn up. Ranil Wickremesinghe showed up a little while later. Jatika Sanwardhana Peramuna leader Achala Suraweera, Nava Sihala Urumaya leader Sarath Manamendra and representatives from the Democratic United National Front and the Lanka Progressive Front were among the other participants.

SLMC straddling the fence
The SLMC which participated in the initial deliberations over the founding of the Joint Opposition Alliance now appear to be having second thoughts about joining the combine.
A section of party seniors have put their foot down that they should not team up with an alliance led by the UNP when government’s victory at the upcoming General parliamentary elections is a foregone conclusion. They have pointed out that they would not be in a position to render any worthwhile service to the Muslim community in the country.

Meanwhile, SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem has informed Ranil and Mangala that they would not be in a position to join the alliance until and unless the party’s Supreme Council grants its approval. .
Hakeem holds confab with Tamil leaders
SLMC leader Hakeem held a powwow with leaders of several Tamil parties at his Kollupitiya residence on October 3.

The objective of this meeting was to form a Tamil–Muslim political alignment based on a common policy programme aimed at achieving the aspirations of the minority communities.
EPRLF leader Sritharan, Democratic people’s Front leader Mano Ganesan, PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Sidharthan and SLMC Chairman Hashim Segudawood and General Secretary Hassan Ali were among those who participated in the deliberations which were focussed on the problems affecting both Tamils and Muslims in the country. The participants had decided at this meeting to draw up of a list of demands aimed at addressing the main issues affecting the Tamil and Muslim people, to be presented to the two main political parties in the country and to discuss this document with the Presidential candidates to be fielded by the two main parties.
They also decided to back the candidate who will make a positive response to their demands.
The participants also decided to hold talks with TULF leader V. Anandasangaree as well.

Tamil- Muslim combine, a ploy to support UNP?
Muslim political sources say that the proposed Tamil- Muslim alliance is nothing but a ploy by SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem to secure the Tamil- Muslim backing for the UNP-led alliance at the forthcoming Presidential poll. “Stymied in his bid to join the UNP-led alliance, Hakeem is planning to extend his party’s support to the UNP through the proposed Tamil-Muslim combine,” a Muslim political source said.
However, an SLMC spokesman said that the October 3 Tamil-Muslim talks were a great success and they propose to have the next round of talks with TULF leader Anandasangaree too attending it.

Meanwhile, both the Supreme Council and the Politbureau of the SLMC were due to meet in special sessions last Friday to discuss their stand vis-à-vis the two political alliances.
Karuna Amman–Pillayan feud exacerbates
The protracted feud between Minister Vinayagamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman and Eastern province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan has reportedly taken a turn for the worse now

A protest campaign calling for the removal of a Mobile Services Office set up by Chief Minister Pillayan at Akkaraipattu, was staged by a group led by a leader of Karuna Amman group Inayabharati. Karuna Amman followers who staged a fast had also burnt tyres on roads.

Meanwhile, Hijra road running opposite the Kalmunai Divisional Secretariat has been re-named after Amman group’s deputy leader Vinayabharati as Bharati Mawatha. Amman group has incurred the wrath of the Muslim community in the area over this arbitrary act. The Pillayan supporters charge that this road re-naming had been done to cause a rift between the Muslims and Tamils. They say that the Karuna Amman group is resorting to this type of arbitrary acts to undo what Chief Minister Pillayan has done to foster harmony between the two communities.

What JVP has in store
The results of the recently held PC polls are a clear indicator to the fast waning popularity of the JVP. When the JVP contested the last Parliamentary General elections with the SLFP-led UPFA, they not only won 39 seats in Parliament, but some of them also topped the UPFA preference votes lists pushing candidates of other constituent parties down to lower places.
However, the JVP could win only two or three seats when they contested alone at the PC elections. It was quite clear that the JVP was destined to suffer a similar debacle at yesterday’s polls as well.

A change of tactics
Convinced that they would not succeed gaining any political power through elections, the JVP, in a bid to demonstrate their clout, has now begun staging countrywide, protest campaigns, fasts, Satyagrahas and strikes.
Under their new programme, a group of unemployed Ayurvedic doctors is staging a fast-unto-death opposite the College of Indigenous Medicine at Rajagiriya. The Inter-University Students’ Federation staged a demonstration opposite the Colombo Fort railway station obstructing traffic for over four hours last Thursday. Thousands of home–bound city workers among others were caught in the resultant traffic snarl in the heart of the city. The JVP trade unionists added insult to injury when they inspired a five-hour lightning strike by railway workers causing train delays, the same day. Unemployed graduates, teachers, educational workers and students of several institutes of education also participated in protest campaigns and demonstrations inspired by the JVP last week.

JVP trade union leaders like Lal Kantha and Vasantha Samarasinghe are now busy planning a wave of strikes and protest campaigns to press a host of demands including a wage increase in the run up to the upcoming Presidential poll. Their objective is to cripple the essential services such as railway, CTB, Petroleum products distribution, electricity supply and healthcare delivery. The JVP trade union leaders have instructed their trade unions to stage a general railway strike on October 30 to give momentum to the planned wave of strikes across the country.

War-crimes report to be tabled October 15
A report on war crimes alleged to have been committed by Sri Lanka Armed Forces during the military operations, which has been compiled by the US State Department under the direction of a group of officials including former US ambassador to Sri Lanka, now Assistant Secretary in charge of Asian Affairs in the US State department Robert O Blake, is due to be tabled before the US Congress on October 15.
Data for this report is said to have been collected from organisations led by LTTE activists like V.Rudrakumaran and from some NGOs active in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the JHU started a campaign to collect one million signatures for a petition to be sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon calling on him to hold an inquiry into war crimes committed by the United States in various countries in the recent past. This, of course, is a reaction to the anti- Sri Lanka move by the US State Department.