Ranil seeks to mend fences
• Nawalapitiya probe has not found any party politician guilty
• Rambukwella, Amunugama and S.B. as ministers
• Ranil woos back Mano, Digambaram and Mangala
• Ranil invites Mangala’s party to join UNP
UNP’s Mahanuwara district MP A.R.M. Abdul Cader resigned from the post of National Organiser for Muslim Affairs of the party last week.
Abdul Cader has informed party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe in writing that fielding SLMC leader Rauff Hakeem on the UNF Mahanuwara district list on an arbitrary decision by the party leadership, has deprived the party of a large number of votes which the party would have otherwise received, and in these circumstances he was resigning from the party office of National Muslim organiser as he could no longer function in that position according to his conscience.

An injustice
Cader says that right along he had pointed out that fielding three Muslims on the Mahanuwara district list would be prejudicial to the ethnic harmony in the district, but his reasoning was not heeded by the party leadership. He explains had the UNF fielded only two Muslim candidates, the Muslim voters would have marked one preference each for the two Muslim candidates, and cast the balance vote for a Sinhala or a Tamil candidate of the party. He points out that the Sinhala and Tamil candidates have suffered a great injustice due to Muslim voters casting their three preferences, one each for the three candidates.
Of the four seats won by the UNF at this general election, three have gone to Muslim candidates. The three winners are Abdul Cader, heading the list, Rauff Hakeem trailing second and A.H.M. Haleem, the fourth. The only Sinhala candidate who succeeded in winning a seat by being the third on the preference votes list is Lakshman Kiriella.

Now that his prediction as to what would happen if Rauff Hakeem were fielded against his objection, had come true, Abdul Cader, a Muslim leader, who has always been close to Sinhala voters, is highly disappointed and disillusioned. He has said in his letter that given this situation, he is giving up the position of the party’s National Muslim Organiser, but he would continue as a member of the party.
The UNP’s most senior Muslim leader, Cader had always stood by the party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe during all internal ‘revolts’ against him by rebel groups. A businessman, Cader had pocketed out large amounts to meet the party’s financial commitments.
Meanwhile, the new Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne last Tuesday paid an official visit to Gampola, his main vote base and his electorate of the past-the –post election days. Incidentally, Abdul Cader is the UNP chief organiser for Gampola. Cader made news and created a stir in UNP circles when he garlanded his longstanding political rival, the new Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne on the latter’s arrival in Gampola on Tuesday.

Woos estranged partners
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is reportedly making a determined effort to woo back to the UNF fold, Mano Ganesan’s Democratic People’s Party, P. Digambaram’s National Workers’ Congress and Mangala Samaraweera’s SLFP (M) which split from the party combine over the National List seats issue.
The UNF leadership conceding two National List seats to the SLMC, after denying the DPF, NWC and the SLFP (M) at least one seat each they sought triggered the issue.
DPF leader Mano Ganesan, who lost in the Mahanuwara district, had looked forward to receiving a National List seat from the UNF. Meanwhile, P. Digambaram, who successfully contested on the Nuwara-Eliya UNF list too had expected to get at least one National List seat from the UNF. Both Mano Ganesan and Digambaram took Ranil Wickremesinghe to task saying that the latter had reneged on a promise to grant their parties at least one National List seat each. Mangala Samaraweera too was highly disappointed over the failure to concede them too a National List seat. But he made no strong protest. It appeared that he had decided to maintain a watchful silence over the issue after accepting an explanation given by Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Meanwhile, Rauff Hakeem and Mangala Samaraweera started negotiations with Mano Ganesan and P. Digambaram in a bid to revive the crisis-hit UNF. They mediated in bringing about a meeting between Ranil Wickremesinghe and the estranged alliance partners. However, talks Mano Ganesan and P. Digambaram had with Ranil Wickremesinghe crashed as the disappointed duo refused to settle for anything short of the promised National List slot. As by this time the UNF National List MPs had been sworn in, Wickremesinghe had requested Rauff Hakeem to ask one of his two National List MPs to resign to give way for DPF leader Mano Ganesan. However, Hakeem had turned down this request. So the crisis over the UNF National List seats allocation continues to deepen with no solution in sight.
The SLMC too, despite getting two National List seats from the UNF, is not free from National List worries. It was Nisham Kariappar who was initially intended for one of the two seats. However, Hakeem, on second thought offered this seat to a Congress candidate who was defeated in the Kalurara district at the recent election. This has angered the SLMC supporters in the East who last week staged a demonstration in Ampara against the SLMC leadership.

UNP- SLFP (M) merger
Another political development that has become a moot point in political circles is an invitation UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has extended to SLFP (M) leader Mangala Samaraweera to enter the UNP fold along with his party membership after offering him the party’s National Organiser post. Samaraweera has responded saying that he is not averse to such a merger, but he has to make a decision in consultation with the party’s politburo. The SLFP (M) politburo convened accordingly, met at the party headquarters at Rajagiriya last Tuesday with 38 of the 40 members in attendance. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe too made a guest appearance at the meeting on the invitation of Mangala Samaraweera. Wickremesinghe took advantage of this occasion to explain to the politburo members present the hassle he had undergone in picking candidates for the UNF National List Parliamentary seats. He also promised to offer a UNF National List seat to a candidate from the SLFP (M) if a vacancy occurred. He also called on them to dissolve the party for a merger with the UNP. “I do not anticipate an immediate response to my invitation. You may discuss the matter at length before coming to a decision,” he had said. Mangala Samaraweera assured Ranil that they would make a response after discussing the proposal at a special session of the party’s Central Committee.
However, the majority of the SLFP (M) membership has expressed their reservations about joining the UNP en masse. These dissidents have pointed out that they would be only adding to the present woes of a badly weakened UNP if they entered its fold at this stage, and besides, they of the SLFP (M) would not stand to gain anything worthwhile from this move. Another group in the party has opined that there would be no harm in joining the UNP provided that Samaraweera was offered a powerful position in the party.
The SLFP (M) is expected to take a hard decision on this during this week.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that a number of UNP frontliners like Sajith Premadasa and Dayasiri Jayasekera have raised a strong objection to a decision taken by party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe to offer a key office of the party to SLFP (M) leader Mangala Samaraweera once the latter’s party is merged with the UNP.

Ranil- Sajith powwow
Ranil Wickremesinghe had called Sajith Premadasa to his Cambridge Terrace office last Thursday for a discussion on the proposed reorganisation of the party. Opposition Chief Whip John Amaratunga and Kegalle district MP Kabir Hashim and the Working Committee member Dinesh Weerakkody too were associated with the party leader at these talks. Wickremesinghe had at this meeting referred to the need to fill the vacant posts of Deputy Leader and the National Organiser of the party. Sajith Premadasa had at this stage insisted that the right to elect by ballot the suitable persons to all key positions in the party including that of the Deputy Leader with the exception of the party leader be given to the party members. “If I am to be given an office of the party I should be duly elected to that position by the party members,” he had said. However, the party leader had made no reply.

Sajith has also asked the party leader to seek the views of the party seniors such as Ranjith Maddumabandara, Lakshman Seneviratne and Talatha Atukorale regarding the proposed reforms.
During Thursday’s Cambridge Terrace discussion, Ranil Wickremesinghe had asked John Amaratunga and Kabir Hashim to work out what was described as a ‘concept paper’ on reforms including the criteria for appointment of persons to key positions in the party.

JVP to continue
The JVP has decided to continue to function under the banner of the DNA led by General Sarath Fonseka. They will, accordingly, contest all elections in the future under the ‘Trophy’ symbol, said JVP MP Vijitha Herath.
The JVP politburo has decided to pursue their political mission as the Democratic National Alliance along with General Fonseka and his supporters, taking into consideration the capabilities and the strength they demonstrated at the April 8 general election. The politburo has also decided that the party should win over various sections of the body politic while carrying out politics on a broad front.

Lacklustre May Day
The JVP made it a point in previous years to celebrate the May Day on a grand scale with a colorful demonstration followed by a massive rally. However, this year they have dispensed with the usual colorful procession confining the celebration to a rally at the Campbell Park in Colombo. The obvious reason is that the party has become so effete, it is not confident of drawing a good crowd.
The UNP too did not hold a May Day celebration this year. Instead, they held a Bodhi Pooja at Dharma Sashtrodaya Piriven Vihara in Piliyandala yesterday
The veteran leftist trade union activists say that the May Day, once a mega event marked by revelry, colour and grandeur, celebrated by political parties and trade unions with much commitment attracting massive crowds to the city, is no longer an occasion people attach much importance to. According to them, the day is not far away when the May Day becomes a thing of the past.

Nawalapitiya probe report
The SLFP Disciplinary Committee which probed the alleged election- related violence in Nawalapitiya which led to the nullification of results of 37 polling stations is expected to hand over its report to President Mahinda Rajapaksa tomorrow.
Three Cabinet portfolios and two Deputy Minister positions are awaiting the UPFA MPs elected from the Mahanuwara district and they are expected to receive their appointments soon after the President receiving the report of the Disciplinary Committee. According to informed sources, the Disciplinary Committee has not found any party politician guilty in the absence of evidence pointing to the culpability of any particular person or persons. Therefore, there is nothing in the way of appointing as a minister any of the eight of MPs elected from Mahanuwara, informed SLFP sources said.

The release of the overall result of the Mahanuwara district was held back due to irregularities that marred the balloting at 37 polling stations in Nawalapitiya at the general election on April 8. A re-poll at these 37 polling stations was conducted on April 21 and with the release of the results of this re-poll the overall result of the district was announced the following day. The SLFP Central Committee which met with President Rajapaksa in the chair on April 24 decided to hold a full scale inquiry into the Nawalapitiya fiasco. Offering a portfolio to any of the MPs elected from the district was held back pending the receipt of the report of the Disciplinary Committee.

The SLFP Disciplinary Committee headed by attorney-at-law W. Karunajeewa began proceedings last week. Attorney-at-law Champani Padmasekera functioned as the secretary of the committee whose other members were Saliya Mathew, Chandra Fernando and Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa.

None found guilty
The Disciplinary Committee which met at the SLFP headquarters recorded statements from the successful contestants Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Keheliya Rambukwella, S.B.Dissanayake, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Eric Weerawardena and Lohan Ratwatte and the other candidates. The Disciplinary Committee later visited Nawalapitiya and made inquiries from the Chairmen of Pradeshiya Sabha and the civil society organisations there. Most of those questioned had denied that there were any such irregularities as reported to the election authorities. However, the Senior Presiding Officers of some polling stations had reported certain incidents to the Elections Commissioner. The results of the 37 polling stations were nullified on the basis of such reports. “However, the Disciplinary Committee has no authority to question the election officials,” a senior SLFP member said.

Nevertheless, the Disciplinary Committee has found that whipping caste differences, ‘manapa-pore’ and disharmony among the UPFA candidates in the fray had led to certain incidents. Keheliya Rambukwella, Dr. Sarath Amunugama and S.B. Dissanayake are expected to be appointed cabinet ministers and Mahindananda Aluthgamage and Faizer Musthapa Deputy Ministers.
Meanwhile, CWC leader Arumugam Thondaman, who declined to be sworn in as a minister on an earlier occasion, is expected to take his oaths at an auspicious time ordained by a South Indian astrologer during this week. The President has also informed the LSSP that Prof. Tissa Vitarana too will be appointed a minister.