The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 5

The Nation Sunday, November 23, 2014 Page 5
politics
From the Floor
Rasika Jayakody
S
ome believe that there was
something wrong with the
‘auspicious time’ at which
the late S.W.R.D. Bandara-
naike formed the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party in 1952. Al-
though the party has managed to come
to power on seven occasions over the past
62 years, it also lost seven general secre-
taries in the same process. The seventh
general secretary to leave the Sri Lanka
Freedom Party was Maithripala Siris-
ena, the party’s longest serving General
Secretary who held the office for nearly
13 years.
SLFP Secretarial Jinx
Before Maithripala Sirisena, S.B. Dis-
sanayake, who was the General Secretary
of the party, during the tenure of former
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Ku-
maratunga, also left the party and joined
the UNP, along with several other Par-
liamentarians of the ruling party. Mai-
thripala, a Parliamentarian from Polon-
naruwa, was appointed as the General
Secretary after S.B. Dissanayake’s cross-
over.
Former Prime Minister Rathnasiri
Wickramanayake, whose name is now
mentioned in connection with a possible
crossover to the common opposition,
too distanced himself from the party in
the mid 80 when clashes between Vijaya
– Anura and Sirimavo factions erupted
in the opposition camp. He came back
into the limelight several years later only
when he could see some light at the end
of the tunnel. If rumors that are floating
around in the political stratosphere are
anything to go by, the former Prime Min-
ister and his son are doing spade-work
for a crossover.
Another SLFP Secretary who is quite
famous for political somersaults is J.R.P.
Sooriyapperuma, who is now a Nation-
al List Parliamentarian of the United
People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). A
former lecturer and a fiery orator, Soori-
yapperuma crossed over to the SLFP
from the UNP and held the position of
General Secretary during a tumultuous
time. However, he stepped down from
politics in the early 90s primarily due to
Anura-Sirimavo-Chandrika clashes. He
returned to politics in 2010 as a National
list Parliamentarian of the ruling party
after a hiatus of nearly 18 years.
Former journalist Rathna Deshapriya
Senanayake, who started his political ca-
reer as a young activist of the Communist
Party, is another General Secretary of
the SLFP who could not stay in the party.
Rathna Dehsapriya was the brother of
the late Dharmasiri Senanayake, who
was the General Secretary of the party
for several years until his demise in 2000.
In fact, Dharmasiri was the only General
Secretary of the SLFP who remained in
his position without leaving the party.
But, it was widely rumored that Sena-
nayake too would leave the party due to
clashes with the former President. How-
ever, such a move was prevented by his
untimely demise.
Bernard Aluvihare, founding General
Secretary of the SLFP, also crossed over
to the UNP in 1956, just months before
the general election. However, Aluvi-
hare, ended up in the losing party and
failed to secure his seat in Parliament.
He lost to Nimal Karunathilake, a jour-
nalist attached to the
Lankadeepa
news-
paper, who was fielded by Bandaranaike
at the last moment. Nimal Karunathilake
too became the General Secretary of the
party and he crossed over to the oppo-
sition in 1964, along with C.P. de Silva.
This crossover was engineered by Es-
mond Wickremesinghe, former Edito-
rial Director of Lake House and the fa-
ther of present opposition leader Ranil
Wickremesinghe. CP’s crossover in 1964
resulted in the downfall of the SLFP led
Government, headed by the late Sirimavo
Bandaranaike.
Following Maithripala’s exit, Petro-
leum Minister Anura Priyadarshana
Yapa was appointed as the General Secre-
tary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Al-
though it is still too early to say whether
Anura Yapa would be the eighth General
Secretary to leave the party, the common
opposition quite confidently claims that
there are nearly 30 MPs who have already
extended their support to the faction led
by Maithripala Sirisena. Former Minis-
ter Rajitha Senaratne, who addressed the
same press conference at New Town Hall
in Colombo on Friday, said other UPFA
MPs would cross over to the opposition
“in installments”.
Mutton dressed as lamb
The most important factor of Mai-
thripala Sirisena’s press conference on
Friday was the participation of former
President Chandrika Bandaranaike Ku-
maratunga. Many were of the view that
Kumaratunga was the “chief architect”
of the clandestine mission which saw
its peak with the crossover of the Gen-
eral Secretary of the SLFP. However, it
is now clear that the former President is
entrusted with the specific task of gar-
nering the support of the ruling party
MPs for the common candidate of the op-
position. However, her presence in Mai-
thripala Sirisena’s ‘common candidate’
press conference was greeted with mixed
reactions by many sections of the society.
Some even consider CBK as a liability
rather than an asset to the election cam-
paign of Maithripala Sirisena.
President’s B’day cake
Most of the Government Parliamen-
tarians are still in a state of shock over
Maithripala Sirisena’s sudden political
move. Even a day before his crossover,
he was seen at the Temple Trees, attend-
ing the Cabinet Meeting and the Central
Committee meeting of the SLFP. Al-
though there were rumors that Maithri-
pala might crossover to the opposition,
noone, including the top echelons of the
Government, took them seriously. The
Central Committee members cut a cake
to celebrate the 69th birthday of Presi-
dent Mahinda Rajapaksa and Maithri-
pala was fed with the first piece of cake
by the President.
A news website reported on Wednes-
day evening that Maithripala was offered
the Prime Minister’s post and he had de-
clined it. It was a “known” secret among
political circles that Maithripala was ex-
pecting the position of Prime Minister
since 2010. His refusal to accept the Prime
Minister position was a clear indication
that the Minister had decided to leave the
Government. However, everyone, who
was involved in that clandestine opera-
tion, kept everything under wraps with
remarkable success. It had already been
decided that the announcement would be
made on Friday at a full-scale press con-
ference in Colombo.
At the press conference, Sirisena ex-
plained some reasons which led to his
dissention. However, he didn’t disclose
real reasons behind his dissention. Ac-
cording to closest associates and family
members of Sirisena there are two main
reasons behind his clashes with the gov-
ernment.
Seeds of discontent
One was the incident involving his
son, Daham Sirisena, who allegedly at-
tacked Asela Waidyalankara, the son of
DIG Ravi Waidyalankara. The latter sus-
tained injuries due to the clash and he
was later hospitalized. However, several
newspapers - particularly the pro-Gov-
ernment ones - reported the story saying
the Minister’s son had threatened the se-
nior Police officer’s son claiming he was
the son of the future Prime Minister.
The Minister, who spoke to media, re-
peatedly assured that no such claim was
made by his son and it was completely
a fabricated story to tarnish his image.
The Minister thought that the story was
‘planted’ by some elements in the Govern-
ment who were acting against him. Ad-
dressing media at his residence, Sirisena
said there was a conspiracy to “destroy”
his political career and he was aware of
the people who are behind such plans.
That could be considered as the first sal-
vo he fired at the top rung leadership of
the Government.
In addition to that, Maithripala was
disappointed with the fact that the Pre-
miership was not offered to him in 2005.
It is known among political sources that
he was the one who proposed President
Mahinda Rajapaksa’s name to PM’s posi-
tion in 2004. Maithripala, deep down, be-
lieved that he would be appointed to the
same position by President Mahinda Raj-
apaksa in 2010. Despite Maithripala’s ex-
pectations, President Rajapaksa went on
to appoint D.M. Jayarathne as the Prime
Minister of the UPFA Government in
2010. The Minister was not even present
at the swearing in ceremony of the new
Prime Minister, to mark his protest.
Ominous Omens
It was the same displeasure and dis-
appointment that culminated with his
decision to become the common candi-
date of the opposition. When Maithri-
pala addressed a SLFP affiliated trade
union meeting in Polonnaruwa, he had
been approached by CBK to be the com-
mon candidate of the opposition. The
controversial remarks he made over the
assassination of S.W.R.D Bandaranaike
and the ‘power of Polonnaruwa’ was
directed at those who exerted pressure
on him to remain with the Government.
In the same speech he appreciated for-
mer President Kumaratunga while giv-
ing an indication to the country that he
was preparing the ground for a very big
decision.
Behind closed doors
As of now, Maithripala has received
the support of the main opposition
party. On Friday night, he met Opposi-
tion Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for a
closed-door session soon after the press
conference he addressed at New Town
Hall. During the meeting, the two lead-
ers discussed several matters pertain-
ing to their mutual agreement on which
both parties would carry out their elec-
tion campaign. At the press conference,
Maithripala Sirisena disclosed that UNP
Leader Ranil Wickremesinge would be
the Prime Minister under his Presiden-
cy.
Sirisena’s Support Base
The JHU too is likely to support the
common candidate. Athuraliye Rathana
Thera, who emerged as the ‘man of the
match’ of the common candidate game,
will play a key role in Minister Sirise-
na’s campaign. At the moment, they are
trying their best to arrive at an agree-
ment with the JVP- the second largest
opposition party in the country. At the
press conference, Maithripala clearly
indicated that he had the support of the
former Army Commander Sarath Fon-
seka. With such assurances, the stage is
now set for the much talked about com-
mon candidate to test his real strength
against a strong opponent like President
Mahinda Rajapaksa.
S
witching political alliances and
talks of possible crossovers
reigned above almost all the
other affairs of Parliament last
week. It had been long predicted that
once the President proclaims the next
presidential polls, the crossover time
would commence and the so-called Com-
mon Candidate would uncover his face.
Many in the parliamentary circuit knew
Maithripala Sirisena to be the one who
would be selected to bell the cat while
other names too had been circulated in
those talks. Despite speculations that
many in-House crossovers from both
sides would be witnessed, there was
no such thing last week. But possibly
tomorrow – the last date of the budget
debate. The final vote is scheduled to be
taken at 5.00 in the evening. But then
there are fears that none would be doing
the honors from the Government side to
the Opposition as there is a possibility
of being assaulted inside the chamber,
because the election violence spree has
already started.
Unhealthy for
Ratana thera
After JHU’s Ven Aturaliye Ratana thera
announced his party’s decision to desert
the Government he was seen in Parlia-
ment only for a couple of days – that was
until he was verbally abused by Wildlife
Resources Conservation Minister Wijith
Wijithamuni Zoysa, Sports Minister Ma-
hindananda Aluthgamage and MP Lohan
Ratwatte at the restaurant lobby. Minister
Zoysa seeing Ven Ratana Thera hurry-
ing off had called the latter:
Oi Pivithuru
Hetak, Ohoma innawa. Monwada thamuse-
la me natana naadagam?
(Pivithuru Hetak
– name of Ratana Thera’s organisation-
stop there and explain what drama you
people are enacting). As Ratana thera sped
up he was abused verbally by Minister Alu-
thgamage and MP Ratwatte who resorted
to even vulgar words. Thereafter Ratana
Thera was not seen in Parliament but in
other places including when some Govern-
ment goons led by Mayor of Sri Jayawar-
denapura Kotte, Janaka Ranawaka staged
a protest march on Thursday requesting
that the land of the Dharmayathanaya in
Rajagiriya, where Rathana Thera resides,
be given over to them. Ratana Thera’s non-
appearance in the House had reasons, for
he might be remembering how two other
JHU monks – Ven Kollonnawe Sumangala
and Ven Udawatte Nanda theras had to
undergo treatment after a Parliamentary
brawl in 2004.
After hours crossovers
safer
The first SLFP MP to switch alliances to
join the UNP, Wasantha Senanayake, who is
so timid and naïve that he never found the
courage last week to walk across the Well of
the Chamber, preferred to enact his scene at
the UNP headquarters Sirikotha.
The others who joined Maithripala Siris-
ena, to sit with the former President Chan-
drika Kumaratunga at the head table in
New Town Hall on Friday, to name him as
the Common Candidate against President
Rajapaksa, too had all the reasons not to
cross over to opposition in Parliament.
Of those who were there, Fisheries and
Aquatic Resources Development Minister
Dr. Rajitha Senaratne, Education Services
Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Deputy
Minister of Buddasasana M. K. A. D. S. Gu-
nawardena, UPFA National List MP Prof.
Rajiva Wijesinghe were the new faces, for
MP Wasantha Senanayake had done his
theatrics on the previous day and DNA MP
Arjuna Ranatunga was not new to the anti-
President campaign. Later in the evening
came the announcement that Nuwara Eliya
MP P Rajathurai too joined the bandwagon.
Many other names appeared on the gos-
sip webs as getting ready to go after the
Common Candidate or crossing from the op-
position to Government. The Government
would certainly replenish its numbers.
Bloody days ahead
While intimidation and fear among those
who decided to go against the wave pre-
vailed, there had also been a few incidents
signalling that the coming weeks of elec-
tioneering would be a bloody affair. Many of
those who had taken to streets opposing the
President and welcoming the Common Can-
didate had been assaulted or chased away by
their political enemies. A convoy of vehicles
of the UNP was attacked in Mawathagama
near the SLFP office and several people were
injured in the incident on Friday evening.
The UNPers led by North Western province
opposition leader J.C. Alawathuwala were
shouting slogans welcoming the arrival of
Sirisena. In another incident at Moragalla in
Payagala, a former UNP Pradeshiya Sabha
member was injured, shot in the head by yet
to be identified persons. The victim Chamila
Ranasinghe was admitted to the Kalutara
Hospital and later transferred to the Co-
lombo National Hospital in a critical condi-
tion. Police had been told by witnesses that
an unidentified group arrived in a car, shot
him with a pistol and fled the scene while
UNP supporters were lighting crackers to
celebrate the crossover of some UPFA par-
liamentarians and Ministers.
Much violence, bloodshed and other re-
percussions of the former SLFP General
Secretary choosing to do a la Maddumaban-
dara could be easily predicted, as the heat of
election fever increases in the coming days,
but there seems nothing that can be done to
avoid that predicament, as the Rubicon has
now been crossed.
Crossing Well of Parliament gets as
dangerous as border crossing during war
The Maithripala Saga
The frustrated PMWannabe
who’d be Executive
President
for
100
days
1,2,3,4 6,7,8-9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,...76
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