- President participates in a series of official
functions ahead of election campaign
- General Fonseka attends functions organised by
the UNP and JVP
- Lal Kantha brings another ‘Sarath’ to the scene
- Abolition of executive presidency within 180 days
date fixed for filing of nominations for the upcoming
Presidential election is only three days away. By now the
cash deposits on behalf of the two main candidates running
for the Presidency, President Mahinda Rajapaksa and General
Sarath Fonseka have already been made.
Several other prospective candidates from recognised
political parties too had made their cash deposits with the
Elections Secretariat by last Friday. They are Siritunga
Jayasuriya (Eksath Samajavadi Pakshaya), M.B.Thaminimulla (
Okkama Rajawaru - Okkama Wesiyo), J.A.Peter Nelson Perera (
Sri Lanka Progressive Front), Dr Wickramabahu Karunaratne
(New Left Front), Sarath Manamendra ( Nava Sihala Urumaya),
P.D. P.S. Liyanage ( Sri Lanka Labour Party) and Ven.
Battaramulle Seelaratana Thera (Janasetha Peramuna). Wijaya
Dias of the Socialist Equality Party also has announced his
intention to contest.
TNA yet to decide
The TNA which had been holding a series of discussions on
how they should participate in the upcoming election had not
decided up to the time of writing this column to field a
candidate of their own.
A group of TNA MPs led by M.K.Shivajilingam are adamant that
the party should field a candidate. In fact, Shivajilingam
had announced while in Tamil Nadu that he would come forward
as a candidate if the party decided not to enter the fray.
Meanwhile, the retired Supreme Court judge K. Vigneshwaran
is being mentioned as a possible TNA candidate.
The present indications are that there will be at least
11 candidates in the running for Presidency.
MR attends official functions ahead of campaign trail
President Mahinda Rajapaksa these days is participating in a
series of official functions across the country ahead of
taking the campaign trail in earnest. The President last
Wednesday unveiled the victory monument at the Nanthikadal
lagoon in Puttukudiiruppu where LTTE supreme leader
Prabhakaran and other top leaders met their Waterloo. The
President who made use of this visit to meet the army
officers and soldiers stationed in the Vanni, later
proceeded to Settikulam to meet the IDPs in the camps and
study the conditions at the camps at first hand. On his way
back, the President visited the Madhu church and
participated in a service to obtain the blessings of Our
Lady Marada Madhu.
General Sarath Fonseka off the mark
Common opposition candidate General Sarath Fonseka is
already in the thick of the fight attending numerous
functions organised by the UNF and the JVP. The General last
week addressed the JVP trade union activists at the Solis
hall at Nawala. and their UNP counterparts at Sirikotha.
Last Wednesday he addressed a women’s conference jointly
organised by the JVP’s Samajavadi Kantha Sangamaya and the
UNP’s Lak Vanitha organisation at the Jeyewardene Centre in
Colombo. General Fonseka, on his arrival for the conference
was received by Lak Vanitha leader Rosy Senanayake and
Samajavadi Kantha Sangamaya leader Samanmali Gunasinghe.
Several UNP and JVP leaders were present at this conference.
This was the first UNP-JVP joint function that General
Fonseka attended after being `baptized’ as the Common
Opposition Presidential candidate.
The leaders of the UNP and JVP are these days planning to
put up an impressive grand show at their maiden joint
propaganda rally to be held in Kandy on December 18.
The General’s statements create ripples
Certain statements relating to the ethnic issue and economic
policies that General Fonseka had made at media briefings
and public rallies in the recent past have created ripples
in the JVP and certain other political parties.
General Fonseka announced at his main media briefing that if
he were elected President, he would go beyond the 13th
Amendment in working out a solution to the ethnic problem.
He had repeated this statement in an interview he had with
the well known Indian magazine `The Outlook’.
Asked to comment on economic policies which he proposed to
implement, the General had said that he would implement
UNP’s economic policies as they were acceptable to him The
JVP leaders have taken exception to these policy statements
by the General which had caused them much concern.
EPDP expresses solidarity with Mahinda
EPDP leader Douglas Devananda told a recent media briefing
that his party had decided to back President Mahinda
Rajapaksa at the Presidential election as the latter had
agreed to meet 10 demands put forward by the party. He added
that one of the 10 demands is a solution to the national
issue which goes beyond the parameters of the 13th Amendment
to the Constitution.
Promptly reacting to Devananda’s statement that the
President had agreed to meet his 10 demands, including the
solution to the ethnic problem, the JVP leaders held a media
briefing and asked President Rajapaksa to immediately reply
to Minister Devananda’s statement.
However, the JVP is observing a studious silence over the
statement made by General Fonseka that he would go beyond
the 13th Amendment to provide a durable solution to the
Reason why General Fonseka made controversial
It is quite obvious that General Fonseka said that he would
implement the UNP economic policies in a bid to win over the
business community. However, this has raised the hackles of
JVP activists. It was not long ago that the JVP and its
trade unions were up in arms against the 2002- 2004 UNP
government when it carried out a series of economic reforms
like privatising the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation,
breaking the oil distribution monopoly held by the Ceylon
Petroleum Corporation by securing a second actor - the
Indian Oil Company, curtailing recruitment to the public
sector and handing over certain public enterprises to the
private sector. If General Fonseka were to implement such
measures in case he was elected, how could the JVP
leadership assuage party activists who would surely read the
Ranil stirs a hornet’s nest
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe at the outset had told the
`Udayan’ newspaper that General Fonseka once elected would
take necessary measures to abolish the Executive Presidency
and dissolve Parliament paving the way for a caretaker
government, adding that he would be the Prime Minister of
the proposed caretaker government and the JVP and the TNA
would be offered ministerial portfolios in that government.
Ranil Wickremesinghe’s statement incurred the immediate
wrath of the JVP leaders and Parliamentarian Lal Kantha
publicly took the UNP leader to task for making the
UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake hastened to make
amends by announcing soon after that his leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe would not accept the premiership of the
proposed caretaker government which would continue until a
new Parliament is elected, without a Prime Minister.
Lal Kantha brings another`Sarath’ to the scene
Meanwhile, JVP’s Lal Kantha compounded the confusion saying
that they will introduce another apolitical figure as the
Prime Minister of the newly elected parliament hinting that
former Chief Justice Sarath N. Silva would be their `other
Bemused UNP members face an uncertain future
Lal Kantha’s statement has spawned many more questions for
the the UNP’s rank and file. If an outsider were appointed
the Prime Minister giving way to JVP pressures, in the event
of the joint opposition winning the General Parliamentary
election, what would be the fate of the UNP? Where the party
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would be placed? Given this
scenario, the UNP members ask whether they would be able to
get anything done by an apolitical Prime Minister.
Can Executive Presidency be abolished within 180 days?
Meanwhile, there is big question mark hanging over General
Fonseka’s pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency within
180 days. Is this a practical proposition? According to
legal experts in Constitutional law, the scrapping of the
Executive Presidency is not something that could be done in
a month or two.
The abolition of the Executive presidency involves a long
complex process. When the new President is elected,
Parliament should be dissolved making way for holding a
Parliamentary General election. The new parliament should
convert itself into a Constituent Assembly. It has to seek
the views of the political parties civil society
organisations and the people who would make representations
individually. The draft Constitution to be prepared later
should be presented in Parliament and adopted with two
thirds of the members voting for it. Once adopted by
Parliament it should be presented to the people for their
approval at a Referendum. This shows that it is practically
impossible to abolish the Executive Presidency within so
short a timeframe as six months.
Is General Fonseka prepared to become a figurehead?
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the JVP leaders say that
their plan is to replace the Executive President with an
Executive Prime Minister answerable to Parliament. Is the
Executive Prime Minister is to be appointed following a
general election held according to the party system? Or is
he to be elected direct by the people at a separate
election? Neither UNP leaders nor those of the JVP have
provided a clear answer to these questions.
There is another question that begs an answer. Is there a
possibility of mustering a two thirds majority in Parliament
to ensure the passage of a Constitutional amendment? It is
the country’s experience that no single party would succeed
in securing such a landslide as to get a two thirds majority
in Parliament under the present Proportional Representation
Both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mangala Samaraweera said at
the inception that General Fonseka would become a nominal
President with the appointment of the proposed all powerful
Executive Prime Minister accountable to Parliament, under
the new Constitutional amendment.
However, addressing the JVP trade union conference, General
Fonseka categorically stated that he did not look forward to
becoming a ceremonial President and he should have powers in
keeping with his office.
The problems that the joint opposition is destined to face
will take shape only after the next Parliamentary election.
It is conceivable that the JVP contesting in league with the
UNF will win some seats in Parliament. They could win 39
seats at the last General election because they contested
under the UPFA banner. They know that they would win only
two or three seats if they go it alone. It would be a great
victory for the JVP to win more seats by contesting under
the joint opposition banner. However, once they win the
seats in Parliament, they would quit the government to stage
customary strikes and protests.
If perchance General Fonseka is elected President, he
would be able remain in office for the full term. The UNF
and the JVP have come together, not because of their mutual
love or agreements on policy matters, but because they share
the objective of defeating President Mahinda Rajapaksa at
any cost. So they have sunk their differences for the time
being. Once General Fonseka is elected, the bond that holds
them together will snap and they will go their separate
ways. Therefore, General Fonseka, if elected, will have to
face the real problems from the day he becomes President.
SB takes centre-stage
S.B. Dissanayake from the very inception was opposed to the
party decision to field General Sarath Fonseka as the common
opposition candidate. He was already an unhappy person in
the party given the failure on the part of the party leader
to delegate necessary powers to him as the party’s national
organiser. Therefore, for SB, the decision to field the
General as the common opposition candidate was only a case
of adding insult to injury. Meanwhile, National Lawyers
Association President Upul Jayasuriya had put down S.B.
Dissanayake’s name also as key speaker at the meeting of the
association which General Fonseka was to attend as a guest
of honour. SB had become furious when he later learnt that
Ranil Wickremesinghe had deleted his name as a speaker from
the agenda of the meeting.
S.B.Dissanayake along with several other ministers
crossed over to the UNP in 2000 when he could no longer
tolerate the insolent attitude shown by President Chandrika
Kumaratunga and Minister Mangala Samaraweera. SB believed
that it was Mangala who was behind filing a case against him
for contempt of court, taking advantage of a remark he made
while addressing a `Vap Magula’ ceremony at Unawatuna in
Galle and Mangala received Chandrika Kumaratunga’s support
in this regard. SB was later handed two years in jail. Ranil
Wickremesinghe had not cared to offer SB a seat in
Parliament from the national list after his release.
An unhappy SB later looked on with disgust when Mangala
succeeded in getting the UNP to team up with the opposition
alliance after becoming a close confidant of his party
leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Disgust and keen disappointment SB was feeling further
increased when he learnt former President Ms. Kumaratunga,
who had expressed his solidarity with the opposition
alliance, was planning to throw in her lot with it in the
SB also realised that in case General Fonseka lost the
Presidential election he would become number two in the UNP
pushing SB further down in the hiararchical order. Having
realised that he had no future in the UNP, SB took the
SB at a meeting of the Walapone UNP Organisation was
explaining to the delegates present the circumstances which
led to his taking the decision to quit the UNP, when an
officer from the PSD turned up at the meeting to inform SB
that President Rajapaksa was to call at his residence
shortly. “I have just received a message from
`Janadhipatituma’ saying that he will shortly call at my
residence to meet me,” SB told the delegates and left
signaling the end of the meeting.
President Rajapaksa in Galaha
President Rajapaksa had arrived in Hanguranketa to open the
Bhikshu Gilanopasthana Madyasthanaya (Healthcare Centre for
Bhikkhus) at Galaha. The meeting over, the President
proceeded to the SB’s residence at Madanwela in
Hanguranketa. The President who was warmly welcomed by SB
and his wife Tamara had a two-hour discussion with SB before
leaving for Colombo. Later S.B.Dissanayake rang up UNP
leaders and organisers and also his close friends and
associates and informed them that he had decided to quit the
UNP. “You may take whatever decision you may. You are
welcome to see me at any time,” he told all his friends.
UNP reacts to SB’s defection
The UNP front-liners met on the eve of the party’s national
convention held early this month at the Navaloka stadium, to
wrap up the agenda of the day’s function. While the
discussion was on, Ranil Wickremesinghe who was in the chair
received a telephone call from Malik Samarawickrama. Malik
informed Ranil that SB had called on President Rajapaksa and
the latter had invited him to join the government. Ranil
conveyed this information to those present at the
discussion. A visibly concerned Gamini Jayawickrama Perera
told the party leader: “A person like SB should not be
allowed to join the government at this time. Let us send for
him and ask him what his grievances are so that we can sort
out matters.” But there was no positive response from Ranil.
“I cannot meet him at this time. Let him see me if he wants
to. I have given him whatever he had asked for,” was his
reply. UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake readily
endorsed the leader’s response. “We cannot allow this to
happen everyday. We have to take a firm decision. We have to
maintain the discipline in the party,” he said. However,
they all agreed to accommodate SB on the list of speakers at
the convention. Nevertheless, SB did not turn up at the UNP
The UNP leaders from the Nuwara-eliya and Kandy districts
have hailed SB’s exit from the party, as he is no longer a
threat to their leadership in the upcountry. Tissa
Attanaayake, Lakshman Kiriella and Renuka Herath are among
those who have welcomed SB’s exit.
TNA still in a state of indecision
The TNA Parliamentary Group met for the second day at the
Parliamentary complex to take a decision on how they should
participate in the upcoming Presidential election However,
they had failed to reach a decision at this lengthy
Seventeen MPs had participated in this discussion chaired by
party leader R. Sampanthan.
Absent at this discussion were Vavuniya district MP
Shivanathan Kishor, Batticala district MP T. Kanagasabai,
Batticaloa district MP S. Jeyanandamuthy who has been living
in UK for sometime, Jaffna district MP Suresh Premachandran
now in India and Wanni district MP S. Kanagaratnam now under
detention at the Terrorist Investigation Unit.
At this meeting which had lasted for about four hours, they
had discussed the current political situation and the
courses of action they have to take in the context of the
upcoming Presidential election. Eight Parliamentarians,
M.K.Shivajilingam, Selvan Adakkalainathan, R.M.Imam,
K.Tangeshwari, N.Sri Kantha, S. Noharathalngam, T.
Thangathurai, and C. Chandrakanthan had espoused the idea of
fielding a common Tamil candidate at the Presidential
election. Meanwhile, Parliamentarians Pathmini
Sidamparasnathan, Solomon Cyril and S. Gajendran had
proposed the boycott of the election by Tamil speaking
people in the North and East.
R. Sampanthan, Mavai Senathirajah and K. Thurairajasingham
had abstained from expressing their opinion. Shivashakti
Anandan had argued that the TNA should back General Fonseka.
The meeting had concluded with the participants agreeing to
meet again to take a final decision before the closing of
nominations on December 17.
TNA MPs to attend Vienna conference
Meanwhile, TNA Parliamentarians R.Sampanthan, Mavai
Senathirajah, Pathmini Sithamparanathan, S. Gajendran and
Gajendra Kumar Ponnambalam are due to leave for Vienna today
(December 13) to attend a conference to be held from
December 14 to 16. Suresh Premachandran now on a visit to
India is expected to join the group on the way. It is
doubtful that they would be able to return home before
December 17 which means that the proposal to field a common
Tamil candidate is not likely to materialise.
In these circumstances, the TNA will meet again after
December 17 to decide which candidate they are to support, a
TNA MP said.
Two Muslim candidates?
Deputy Higher Education Minister M.M. (Myon) Musthaffa has
announced at a school function in Attanagalle that he too
had decided to vie for the Presidency as a Muslim candidate
representing the Eastern province. A resident of Kalmunai,
Musthaffa was returned to Parliament on the UNP ticket from
the Batticaloa district. He later crossed over to the
government with the UNP Democratic Group led by Karu
Jayasuriya. Musthaffa about a year ago shifted his office
away from the Higher Education Ministry premises after
complaining that Minister Prof. Wiswa Warnapala did not
delegate any powers or functions to him. M.I. Illiyas, a
former MP for Jaffna district too has made his cash deposit
to contest the Presidential election. This means there will
be two Muslim candidates in the running.
Crisis in JHU over selection of candidates for general
Meanwhile, according to reports, the JHU has got embroiled
in a crisis over the selection of candidates for the
upcoming Parliamentary General election.
Former DIG H.M.G.B. Kotakadeniya, Western Provincial
Councillor who was placed third on the UPFA preference vote
list for the Gampaha district at the last PC election,
according to reports, had been looking forward to contest on
the UPFA list for the Gampaha district. However, the JHU
Central Committee has nominated Ven. Atureliye Ratana in his
place for the Gampaha district and asked Kotakadeniya to
contest on the Mahanuwara district list.
This decision has drawn a strong protest from Kotakadeniya
who says it is very unfair for the party to ask him to shift
to Kandy after severing his ties with the Gampaha district.
He faults the Central Committee for not intimating their
decision to him before the PC elections.
Ven. Atureliye Ratana, now representing the Katutara
district has reportedly decided to shift his political base
to the Gampaha district as his chances of winning a seat in
the Kalutara district are remote, having to compete with a
number of UPFA heavyweights in the district.