- Mangala speaks out against troublemakers
- Maithri-Ranil duo put China on the balance
President Maithripala Sirisena with his oratory skills and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe with his economic vision will now have to put their years of experience to good use in order to meet the expectations of the general public. The high expectations placed on the yahapalana government by the majority of the country that voted in favour of it will undoubtedly convert to frustration in the event the good governance administration delays or in the worst case scenario, fails to deliver the goods promised.
However, the good governance administration has had its fair share of problems to deal with in the past one year. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his group of loyalists since January 8, 2015 declared guerilla warfare against the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe duo. The guerilla attacks nevertheless deeply affected the Sirisena-led Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).
The formation of the joint opposition in parliament under Rajapaksa’s leadership could be viewed as one such attack.
Despite assuming the leadership of the SLFP, Sirisena is still in the process of reinforcing his position in the party as well as gaining legitimacy within the group amidst various tugs and nudges by pro-Rajapaksa camp in the SLFP.
The obstacles posed by Rajapaksa loyalists even resulted in Sirisena and in some instances Wickremesinghe making space within their government for members of the former Rajapaksa regime. Some loyalists of the former President started to make in-roads to the yahapalana government post January 8 last year and some have even managed to receive appointments to State institutions including the Presidential Secretariat. These appointments have taken place much to the chagrin of loyalists of both Sirisena and Wickremesinghe.
Whether these moves would actually yield a benefit to the good governance programme could be witnessed in the next few months.
Given the intricacy of the current political scenario as well as the position of the SLFP, the role played by President Sirisena is unenviable. He has to ensure the continuance of the good governance programme and keep the attacks of the Rajapaksa group towards him, the SLFP and the government to a minimum.
Sirisena is now faced with a new challenge – the possible formation of a new political party by the pro-Rajapaksa group.
Political parties and groups loyal to Rajapaksa are now preparing to contest the next local government elections expected to be held this year under a new party with the ‘lotus bud’ as its symbol.
The plan is to launch the new political movement under Apey Nidahas Peramuna, which was registered under the guidance of former minister Basil Rajapaksa before the last general election.
Forming a new party is unavoidable, Basil was quoted as saying in the media.
He has said the socio-political situation today is similar to 1951, when SWRD Bandaranaike had to leave the United National Party (UNP).
There is a need for a new political force since the activists of the UNP, the SLFP, and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) are disappointed with the present political situation, Basil had earlier told BBC Sandeshaya.Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa have also said recently that a new party would be formed.
It is learnt that the Elections Commissioner had refused to grant permission to use the lotus symbol, which the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) had used during its propaganda campaign, as it is considered a national symbol.
However, the Elections Commissioner had later consented to the symbol of a lotus bud, minus several petals from the original lotus flower symbol.
However, according to reports, the party is expected to get its name changed, as the first letter of the Sinhala alphabet, with which its name begins, is considered inauspicious.
The joint opposition has made plans to field groups of candidates separately for the local government bodies. However, the decision may vary in the case of the North and East Provinces.
It is in this backdrop that a group of former chairmen of several local government bodies, who are Rajapaksa loyalists, announced their decision to contest the next local government polls under a new party. Former Chairman of the Walallavita Pradeshiya Sabha, Udeni Atukorala, made this statement at a news briefing held on the 14.
The pro-Rajapaksa group through this move is undoubtedly targeting the 5.8 million votes that were polled by Rajapaksa during the last Presidential Election. Nevertheless, such a move would definitely divide the vote bank of the SLFP.
Simultaneous to the move of announcing the formation of a new political party, the pro-Rajapaksa group has decided to submit a set of five proposals to President Sirisena. The decision to prepare and submit the set of proposals was decided during a meeting held recently at Rajapaksa’s Mirihana residence.
The proposals are being presented as a condition by the pro-Rajapaksa group to support Sirisena and the SLFP at the next local government election.
The demands include the inclusion of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the SLFP Central Committee, appoint Rajapaksa loyalists who poll the highest number of votes as the heads of their respective local government bodies, hold the local government election before March 31, and several other proposals.
The set of proposals would definitely pose a dilemma to Sirisena.
In the event he accepts the proposals presented by the Rajapaksa loyalists and implement them, the President would be seen to have betrayed the forces who stood by him during the last Presidential election.
On the other hand, if he allows the Rajapaksa faction to contest separately at the next local government election, it will have a direct impact on the SLFP vote bank and will weaken the party. Such a scenario would pose a threat to Sirisena’s political future.
Given the current situation, several members of the Sirisena faction have decided to unite Rajapaksa and Sirisena. Minister S.B. Dissanayake has taken the initiative in trying to organise a meeting between Sirisena and Rajapaksa.
Mangala speaks out
The uncertainties in the SLFP now seem to be spreading even into the government parliamentary group. Realising the adverse impact statements made in public with such a mindset would have on the sustenance of theyahapalana government, Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera lashed out at some SLFP members in the government.
Samaraweera said that it is a group of individuals who worked against President Sirisena during the January 8 Presidential election, who are now creating problems after joining the government as charity cases.
“After working against Maithri on January 8, they are now creating a mess in the government after taking over ministerial posts offered to them by the administration out of good will,” the Foreign Minister has lamented at the parliamentary group meeting.
SLFP ministers at the meeting have remained silent during Samaraweera’s statement, but had expressed their dismay at his words after the meeting had concluded.A group of SLFP ministers had then approached the President and called for action against Samaraweera’s statement. Sirisena had requested SLFP ministers to attend a meeting at his residence on the 9th to further discuss the matter.
However, the President had not attended the meeting.
Be that as it may, it is now evident that the pro-Rajapaksa group has failed to gain ground as initially expected.
Since January 8, 2015, the Rajapaksa group has faced a defeat at the August 2015 general election and has failed to create an impact during the 2016 budget debate.
The alleged international conspiracy theories used in abundance by the Rajapaksa group does not hold ground anymore.
The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe collaboration has so far managed to avert any major form of attack planned by the Rajapaksa-led joint opposition while gaining strength and recognition before the international community.
The yahapalana government has even managed to checkmate Rajapaksa in relation to China as well. It is no secret that China has been an ardent supporter of the Rajapaksas and extended much support during the former regime.
According to recent reports, the Chinese government has postponed the invitation extended to Rajapaksa to visit China. In fact dates have not been set for the visit to take place.
The reason for the delay in extending the invitation, it is learnt, is following the move by the government of good governance to renegotiate and go ahead with the Chinese-funded Colombo Port City project.
The Sunday Leader learns that the Chinese government has requested the former President to delay his visit to Chins because of the goodwill extended by the Sirisena administration, and an invitation for Rajapaksa to visit China at this juncture could sour the growing relationship between the Sri Lanka and China post January 8, 2015.
It is also learnt that the Chinese government had extended the invitation to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in order to indicate to the Sri Lankan as well as the Indian governments of China’s continued support to Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Tussle in WPC
Apart from the Rajapaksa faction, another issue that the good governance administrators have to now focus on is the appointment of a minister in the Western Provincial Council to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Jathika Hela Urumaya’s (JHU) Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe.
Several UNP Western Provincial Councilors are currently eyeing the ministerial slot and have commenced a secret operation to secure the post.
It is learnt that several senior UNP Councilors are also backing the move by some party councilors to secure the portfolio of health in the Council.
The main aim of the UNP is to ensure that the party takes hold of the health portfolio in the council.
Meanwhile, several councilors loyal to former Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga have also expressed their interest in securing the health portfolio.
The tussle for the health portfolio has now converted into a battle between the UNP, and the SLFP in the Western Provincial Council and is fast becoming an internal clash within the government of good governance.
Only timely intervention by Sirisena and Wickremesinghe could ensure a peaceful resolution of the matter.