Who is funding MR’s new party?
The tug-of-war between President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to get the reins of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) has reached its penultimate stage with the latter opening a new political operations office with the alleged support of the majority of Provincial Councillors and Local Government members.
Several senior and young members of the party seemed to have paid no heed to the indirect threat of having to face disciplinary action and were on the verge of being expelled from the party as they went for the opening of a new office for political operations by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa few days ago.
The new office was opened by former President Rajapaksa at Jayanthipura, Battaramulla, while the Maha Sangha led by the chief prelate of the Abhayarama Temple, Narahenpita, Ven. Muruththettuwe Ananda Thera chanted Pirith.
MPs Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Udaya Gammanpila, Bandula Gunawardena, Dilum Amunugama and many other members of the Joint Opposition were present. While speculation was rife that the symbol of the new party would be a lotus bud, the new office is also coincidentally situated at the Nelum (lotus) Mawatha.
Rajapaksa urged those members who had switched their allegiance to the Yahapalana Government to join hands with the Joint Opposition and expected them to take a decisive step soon.
Once formed, the new party will involve Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, National Freedom Front and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya also.
Kurunegala District, United People’s Freedom Front (UPFA) MP, Salinda Dissanayake, handed over the new political movement’s symbol to MP Rajapaksa at this event.
Reiterating that he would always be with the people, the former President urged the UFPA members to sink their differences and unite for the sake of the country.
Famous as President Premadasa’s ally Ven. Elle Gunawansa Thera advised the former President to give political leadership to a struggle to free the country from those subservient to Western powers.
Joint Opposition Leader Dinesh Gunawardena, too, urged the former President to give leadership to their struggle. Paying a glowing tribute to the former President for leading the country to defeat terrorism, MP Gunawardena said, since his defeat, there had been a sorry state of affairs in the country. Gunawardena said that Rajapaksa’s leadership was needed to revive the national economy that is in dire straits due to poor management.
The Chinese factor
With these new developments taking place, now the attention has been drawn to the fact as to who is backing the Rajapaksas.
It is not a secret that India plays a major role when it comes to deciding the political geography of Sri Lanka and other neighbours. On the contrary, China has always shown an interest in the economic geography of a country.
However, over the past two years China was slowly changing its foreign policy and involvement in regional politics in a big way. A country known for small funding for the communist party in each country around the world China was thus far not known to be a political game planner. However, these policies have changed in a big way where China is looking at funding and forming alterative power bases in the region.
This change has resulted in putting Indian and Sri Lankan intelligence services on the alert, especially given the political changes that are threatening to take place.
Secret services that were on the alert for over an year are suspecting Chinese funding in the new political party to be formed by the Rajapaksas and according to reports the largest foreign funds are attracted by the National Freedom Front led by MP Wimal Weerawansa.
President Maithripala Sirisena in few meetings held last week at his residence at Paget Road revealed that 11 MPs of the Joint Opposition have clearly said that they will not join the new party, while four to five MPs are begging Malik Samarawickrama for United National Party (UNP) membership.
He, however, for once putting his foot down took several decisions against members of the SLFP who are attempting to defy the leadership and ignore his rulings.
“If the party was handed over to me they should also give me the freedom to handle party matters. This Local Government polls are the first election that I would be leading and I will give nominations to all those who are currently in the party. I know how to drive this party to victory. We know what happened to those who broke away from the SLFP and formed different political parties. Those, including Chandrika Kumaratunga, had to return to the party. Therefore, I do not think those who know the history of the SLFP would dare splitting the party,” he said.
CC divided over AG
The Attorney General’s Department which was facing severe criticism for its delay in taking action against culprits got a new head last week. However, the procedure adopted by President Sirisena at this juncture ended up creating a difference of opinion amongst the members of the Constitution Council.
President Sirisena overlooking the senior-most State legal officer when choosing the Attorney General has fuelled speculation that the same criteria – ability over seniority – will decide who the next Police Chief is.
He had suggested three names – Suhada Gamlath, Kapila Waidyaratne and Jayantha Jayasuriya and wanted the Constitutional Council to pick one.
However, the Council sent the names back to the President saying it would be a violation of the Constitution if they chose a new Attorney General. The Council has powers only to embargo a nominee of the President.
JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, however, has said he will vehemently oppose any wrong nominee by President Sirisena, but Prime Minister Wickremesinghe was of a different opinion.
He, instead, had decided to remain silent on the matter and not to have any kind of confrontation with the President.
President Sirisena then suggested Jayasuriya who is junior to Gamlath despite strong backing to the contrary from several ruling party seniors, including Justice Minister Wijayedasa Rajapakshe.
Fate of the IGP
If any department came under criticism in the past year for not falling in line with policies of Yahapalanaya other than the Attorney General’s Department it was the Police.
Now that the AG’s Department has finally got a new head, attention is diverted to the Police Department with Inspector General N. K. Illangakoon due to retire in April.
It was during the incumbent IGP’s tenure that the Police was accused of blatant cover-ups such as the Thajudeen murder as a traffic accident. The senior-most officer to replace him was a key figure heading the former President’s Security Unit, Senior DIG S. M. Wickramasinghe.
At a time when several Presidential Security Division men have been implicated in the alleged Thajudeen murder that is still under investigation, appointing Wickramasinghe could lead to a conflict of interest.
The Financial Crimes Investigations Department has already begun probing the wealth accumulated by several bodyguards of the former President and a comprehensive investigation against Wickramasinghe is inevitable.
Maithri’s diary change
During the first year in office, President Sirisena was criticized by his fellow party men for not differentiating functions he should attend while maintaining the dignity of his office.
President Sirisena, recently, at a meeting revealed that his 2016 year plan has changed as this would be the year he and the government will practically start working as the past one year has been what you would call a ‘warming-up’ period. A reason he pointed out was that the majority of the UNP Ministers were in the Opposition for twenty years and there should be a reasonable time given for them to study how a ministry functions.
According to the new diary plan of the President, he will only attend important and unavoidable functions and that too will be a maximum of two per week.
He had entrusted ministers representing each district to attend those meetings and functions on his behalf.
Yoshitha’s prison secrets
Prison officials took measures to bring Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who was remanded on money laundering charges and funding CSN channel, to Kaduwela Magistrate’s Court Thursday (11). Rajapaksa family members Mahinda, Shiranthi, Namal and Gotabaya were present at the moment with MPs Johnston, Wimal, Udaya, Keheliya and C.B. Ratnayake also at the Magistrate’s Court premises. Meanwhile, Mahinda grabbed the opportunity to talk to his son, Yoshitha while the Court adjourned for a while. He asked what is happening inside and Yoshitha responded:
“We are deprived of the minimum facilities which are enjoyed by the rest of the inmates. We are not allowed to have a better sleep. Jailors are calling the names in the middle of the night while they start working to shifts. They are always checking for secret mobile phones. We had two air tunnels earlier but one is closed by now.” Mahinda was speechless after listening to the grievances of his son, Yoshitha.