Ranil holds out olive branch to rebels

The 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 sources said.
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 last week

“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 government today.”
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 leadership.
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 members.
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 planned.”
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 Summit…”

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 Lankan government.

CP convention
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 ruling coalition.

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 slum dwellers.
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.