holds out olive branch to rebels
issue over the suspension of the membership of Matara
District MP Buddhika Pathirana, and WP member Shiral
Laktillake was expected to turn the Thursday’s UNP Working
Committee meeting into a stormy affair. However, the issue
had not generated much heat as widely anticipated. Sirikotha
At this meeting party’s General Secretary Tissa Attanayake
had proposed that the suspension imposed on the two members
be confirmed. However, Deputy leaders Karu Jayasuriya and
Sajith Premadasa and also Dayasiri Jayasekera and Kabir
Hashim who had held a brief for the two members `in the
dock’ , had taken up the position that the party may
institute disciplinary proceedings against them, if need be,
but the suspension of their membership should be lifted.
However, the majority members of the Working Committee had
supported the suspension pending disciplinary inquiries by
the Disciplinary Committee chaired by Tilak Marapone
appointed by the party leader.
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had initially decided to
take deterrent action against all members of the rebel
group. But he has had second thoughts following the media
briefing held by Rukman Senanayake and Imitiaz Bakir Markar
“Expel Ranil,” Rukman says
At this media briefing, Rukman made an appeal to Deputy
Leaders Karu Jayasuriya and Sajith Premadasa to use their
powers to summon a National Convention of the party through
the adoption of a resolution with a view to expelling Ranil
Wickremesinghe from the party leadership. He said that he
was making this appeal to the two Deputy leaders on behalf
of the UNP supporters in the country.
Meanwhile, Rukman Senanayake has vowed while chatting to
friends and political intimates that he is determined to
keep away from all party activity as long as Ranil
Wickremesinghe remains as the party leader. “I am prepared
to play an active role in the party from the day Ranil steps
down or is removed from leadership,” he has said.
Addressing the media personnel Rukman Senanayake said:”If
there are allegations against a member, they should be
investigated, what is happening today is the persecution of
members working for the good of the party by the party
leader and his clique. The party leader’s only `achievement’
so far is causing the party to lose at successive elections.
He is not working with a team spirit. He is only interested
in getting rid of members who do not subscribe to his views.
Party’s former Deputy Chairman Imitiaz Bakir Markar charged
that the party leader is trying to reduce the UNP to a
political party sans a democratic base. “What the leader is
doing today is eliminating the members capable of giving
leadership to a new political culture. This is a conspiracy.
There is a steady erosion of the party since 1994. The
Sinhala Buddhist vote won over and consolidated by the party
leaders like Dudley Senanayake and Ranasinghe Premadasa has
dwindled to a mere 20 per cent today. All party organisers
of UNP strongholds in the East have quit the party. The
predominantly Roman Catholic strip traditionally pro-UNP
from Negombo to Udappuwa has suffered the same fate.” said
Imitiaz Bakir Markar.
He added: “The leader and his coterie appear to be thinking
that the party belongs to a handful subservient to the West.
When they should concentrate on rallying all forces against
the corrupt government in power, they are creating crisis
after crisis in the party. We should face this reality. The
country’s future would be very bleak, if we failed to turn
the UNP into a powerful force it was once. In the good old
days, the annual National Convention sessions continued for
two days. This important annual event has now been reduced
to an affair limited to a few hours. Its agenda is confined
to the leader’s address. Party members get no opportunity to
address the Convention or ask questions from the leaders.
This is the kind of democracy being practised in the UNP.
The UNP leader has become the leading guardian of the
The statements made by Rukman Senanayake and Imitiaz Bakir
Markar have led to soul searching by many UNP supporters in
the country. Meanwhile, Ex- UNP MP Collective had published
a full page advert in some national newspapers giving a
graphic description of the steady decline of the UNP vote at
successive elections under Ranil Wickremesinghe’s
In the teeth of growing opposition to his leadership, Ranil
Wickremesinghe had reportedly abandoned some measures he had
contemplated against party dissidents like Sajith Premadasa.
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the Eksath Bhikshu Peramuna
affiliated to the UNP Ven. Meetiyagoda Gunaratana Thera at a
media briefing last week slammed the party leader for taking
revenge from members critical of quality of his leadership.
The UNP Working Committee that met on Thursday has replaced
Ven. Gunaratana Thera with Ven. Tiniyawela Palita Thera as
the General Secretary of the Bhiskhu Front. The Committee
had appointed former MP Renuka Herath to handle reorganising
the Bhikshu Front.
Ranil takes a step backwards
Disconcerted by the media briefing held by Rukman Senanayake
and Imitiaz Bakir Markar, the UNP leadership had got the
Thursday’s Working Committee to adopt a resolution tabooing
the holding of unauthorised media briefings by party
According to the latest developments in the UNP, the rebels
have decided to defy the party writ tabooing making
statements to the media and holding media briefings on party
issues by unauthorised persons. “We are defying this
undemocratic move by the party leadership. “The leader can’t
suppress dissent and growing opposition to him. There is no
provision in the party Constitution that can justify denying
us our freedom of speech,” a rebel MP said.
There are also reports that say UNP leader Wickremesinghe
has made overtures through a `loyal and royal’ friend to
Sajith Premadasa seeking a meeting in a bid to patch up the
differences. “Our leader is keen on striking a deal with
Sajith before the upcoming National Convention to avert the
threat to his leadership. But this time round his attempt
will not succeed,” a UNP source said. .
Major diplomatic triumph
According to political observers Sri Lanka scored a major
diplomatic triumph when Australian Prime Minister Julia
Gillard and India’s Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai in Perth
on Wednesday reassured that the next Commonwealth Summit (CHOGAM)
will be held as scheduled in Sri Lanka. In fact, both Prime
Minister Gillard and India Foreign Secretary Mathai had
minced no words when they declared that Sri Lanka would be
the venue of the next Commonwealth Summit.
Sri Lanka being the venue of the next CHOGAM was, in fact,
never in doubt. But the much publicised statement by
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper last month that he
would not attend the Commonwealth Summit to be held in Sri
Lanka in 2013 if he failed to see progress in human rights
situation here by that time, cast a cloud over the holding
of the event in Sri Lanka.
Addressing journalists in Perth on Wednesday Australian
Prime Minister Julia Gillard had said: “The next
Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGAM) scheduled
to take place in Sri Lanka in 2013 will go ahead as
Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said that the
decision to hold the next Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka
was taken two year ago. “There is no issue with regard to
the venue of the next Summit as the decision was taken in
2009,” he had said.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had told a meeting of
journalist last month that he would not attend the
Commonwealth Summit in Sri Lanka in 2013, if there is no
progress in terms of human rights. Harper had said: “I have
expressed concern about holding of the Commonwealth Summit
one coming up in Sri Lanka. I intend to make it clear to my
fellow leaders of the Commonwealth that if we do not see
progress in Sri Lanka in terms of human rights…. I will not
as the Prime Minister is attending that Commonwealth
TNA at UN
TNA leader R. Sampanthan and party MP M.A. Sumanthiran are
due to meet the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon at the UN
headquarters in New York. The TNA had made it a point to
keep mum about the impending meeting with the UN Chief, but
the media had gone to town with the news. No authoritative
source had appraised either the External Affairs Ministry
here or the country’s Permanent representative at the UN Dr.
Palitha Kohana of the upcoming meeting between the UN Chief
and the TNA delegation.
According to reliable sources, Head of UNHRC Navanethan
Pillay had intervened to arrange the meeting between Ban Ki-moon
and the TNA delegation. Kohona had protested against Ban Ki-moon
granting an audience to the TNA. The UN Chief had refused to
call off the meeting at that stage.
However, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who was on a visit to
United Nations last week had already informed Ban Ki-moon of
the government’s stand on the matter. Minister Samarasinghe
had told the UN Chief that the TNA is not the sole
representative of the Tamil people in the country and the
other Tamil political parties too deserve the courtesy that
he had extended to the TNA. The Minister has also apprised
the UN Chief of the progress being made by his government in
the sphere of human rights and of the government’s Action
Plan on Human Rights.
Some MPs blame TNA
Meanwhile, several TNA MPs have taken up cudgels against the
party leadership for visiting New York with a select few on
the secret mission of meeting the UN Chief which they had
taken as an affront to them.
S. Adakkalainathan and M.K. Sivajilingam openly blame the
TNA leadership for excluding the MPs representing the East
from the delegation. This issue may lead to a serious split
in the TNA, say political sources.
Meeting with Hillary called off
Meanwhile, US State Secretary Hillary Clinton had called off
the scheduled meeting with the TNA delegation following the
objection raised by the government of Sri Lanka. Assistant
Secretary of US State department for South Asian Affairs
Robert O’ Blake has been blamed for arranging the aborted
TNA’s meeting with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
The TNA delegation had submitted a 30-page document to the
US State department describing alleged human rights
violations and war crimes attributed to the Sri Lankan
government in a bid to get the US to bring pressure on Sri
Communist Party of Sri Lanka is now making arrangements to
hold a special national convention of the party in a bid to
resolve a crisis now brewing in the party following a
section of the membership making a strident call to quit the
CP leader DEW Gunasekera is a senior Minister in the
government. Chandrasiri Gajadeera, another party MP is
functioning as Prisons Reforms Minister.
A section of the CP for sometime had been critical of some
of government programmes which they have described as
`rightist’. The opposition of these CP members to certain
government measures which had been growing over several
years has now led to a situation assuming crisis
proportions, say party sources. The ideological differences
that have surfaced have divided the party Central Committee
members into three warring factions. The faction
representing the hawks says that the party should quit the
government which they charge is marching towards capitalism.
Thinking of another section is that remaining as part of the
government is strategically important, but they should not
hold Ministerial portfolios. The third faction made up of
moderates wants the party to direct the government in the
correct direction while remaining in the ruling coalition
holding Ministerial office.
Differences had come to a head at a recent stormy session
of the Central Committee and the members had agreed to
convene a special session of the party convention to place
the controversial issues before the general membership. The
party’s General Secretary has already sent for a feedback, a
report containing a compendium of the different viewpoints
on vital issues to party branches, youth leagues, trade
unions and other affiliates. The General Secretary will
submit the final report after incorporating the feedback
proposals to the National Convention, CP sources said.
The LSSP too had to face a similar internal crisis when a
section of the membership raised a hue and cry that the
party should quit the ruling coalition and when the crisis
threatened to split the party, the party hierarchy decided
to chalk out the future course of the party in consultation
with the general membership. The members discussed the issue
at length at a special convention that followed. At the end
of the day, a large majority of ordinary members of the
party refused to listen to the `quit the government cry’ by
the few hawks in the party and they backed a resolution that
the party should continue to function as part of the ruling
the coalition. Meanwhile, several leading party members who
wanted the party to quit the government failed to be
re-elected to the party’s powerful Politburo. However, the
hawks did not the leave the party. They remain in the party
resigned to the decision of the majority.
However, it is a self-evident truth that the country’s
oldest two political parties are now moribund entities and
they survive thanks to their being part of the government.
JHU goes secular
Jatika Hela Urumaya, a political party representing the
Sinhala nationalist fringe has, following a policy decision
launched a programme to build a rapport with the other
communities in the country. Under this programme, JHU’s
Parliamentary group leader Ven. Atureliye Ratana Thera held
a discussion with a group of Muslim community leaders at
Hotel Ranmutu last Wednesday. On being inquired about the
pressing problems that the Muslim community is facing today,
President, All Ceylon Muslim Youth league Federation Al Hajj
N.M.Ameen told the Thera that schooling has become a problem
for Muslim children.” There is no adequate number of schools
for Muslim children. There is a teacher shortage even in the
available schools. Besides, Muslim children are not admitted
7to Sinhala medium schools,” he had explained.
Ameen also said that the majority of Muslims in the city are
living in slums and their schooling breaks down and they are
exposed to vice and are drawn to delinquency due to their
unsavoury background and he stressed the need of a crash
programme to uplift the living conditions of these Muslim
Ven. Ratana had said in response that he agreed with the
views expressed by the Muslim delegates and that his
personal opinion is that a 20 percent admission ratio should
be reserved for Muslim students in Sinhala schools. Both
parties at this discussion had agreed to continue talks and
to hold the next round of talks on November 15.