Hakeem’s meet with OIC Head irks MR

asraffThe feud between Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem and the government top brass first started at the time when a section of the ruling coalition launched a battle against the halal certification some time ago. Hakeem incurred the wrath of the government hierarchy when he took steps to make representations to the Heads of Muslim nations in West Asia instead of making any effort to get the issue resolved in consultation with the authorities here. 

Hakeem falls from grace
Differences between Minister Hakeem and the government top brass took a turn for the worse, when it came to light that the minister had sent reports to the Muslim nations in Mid-East and also the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), accusing the government of turning a blind eye to the continuing serious violations of human rights of the Muslim community in this country. 

The rift between the SLMC Leader and the government further widened following the ‘Black June’ incidents in the Beruwala-Aluthgama area.
Minister Hakeem came under fire from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and several Cabinet Ministers regarding his role in internationalizing the June riots issue. 

Rendezvous with OIC Secretary General
Meanwhile, Hakeem’s conduct during his recent private visit to Saudi Arabia has caused grave concern among the authorities here. Hakeem’ s visit to Saudi accompanied by a group of close confidants including the Kalmunai Mayor, several SLMC electoral organizers and a well-known lawyer, was initially looked on as a pilgrimage to Mecca to mark Ramazan. However, intelligence reports that reached President Rajapaksa a few hours after Hakeem’s departure, said Hakeem was not on his way to Mecca on a pilgrimage, but was destined for a rendezvous in Saudi Arabia for talks with Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) Secretary General, Ameen Madani. (The OIC is a collective of 57 Muslim nations).
 

Intelligence reports also said that Hakeem and his group members had informed Madani that the Muslims in the Beruwala-Aluthgama area continued to suffer harassment even after the riots and although it had already been established beyond doubt that the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS) was behind the attacks on the Muslims, the government had failed to take any action to bring the racialist activity of the BBS under control.
A report, that one member of the Hakeem-led group had described President Rajapaksa as ‘a blood thirsty’ President had shocked the President and the government high ups.
 

President Rajapaksa, who lost no time in holding council with top government officials and advisers regarding the grave situation taking shape internationally, decided to speak direct to OIC Secretary General Madani, who is known to be a friend of Sri Lanka, to present the true picture of the incidents that occurred in the Beruwala-Aluthgama area.
Later the President called Ameen Madani and explained to him at length that the accusations made against the government by Hakeem were baseless.
 

Dew’s comments that media downplayed
Senior Minister Dew Gunasekera made a news making statement on the country’s economy and its political culture at a special media briefing held last Monday on the 20th National Convention of the Communist Party of Sri Lanka. However, none of the Sinhala national newspapers except our sister paper Mawbima had given his statement the extensive coverage it deserved.
Minister Gunasekera said: “The country is fast heading towards cultural degeneration. Our political culture has declined to a low level. Our economy is in a perilous state. However, it is a pity that our religious leaders, economists and sociologists are silent. It is a matter for regret that our people are mum on political and economic issues in the country. They do not care to speak up about the problems they are grappling with.
 

“The sharp decline in the country’s national income is making a serious impact on the free education, health and other welfare measures. It is high time the government set up ‘a think tank’ to undertake a study of the calamitous situation the country is heading for today. “
 

Dew gets a call from the President
President Rajapaksa, who has made it a practice to read all national newspapers first thing in the morning was rather taken aback when he saw the statement made by Minister Gunasekera carried in the Mawbima. He immediately called Dew Gunasekera and asked him whether he really made the statement carried in the Mawbima. “I heard TV news readers also giving prominence to your comments,” he said.
 

Dew told the President that the newspapers had correctly reported the comments he made at the media briefing.
“Janadhipathithumani, we are a partner in the coalition government. We too made a contribution towards bringing this government to power. But we don’t get a proper hearing from the government,” he said.
“What has really happened? Have we done you any wrong?” the President asked Dew, who said his party had been asking for an appointment to meet him for several months without success.
 

The President expressed his surprise that the CP’s request for an appointment to meet him had gone unheeded. “None of my officials have told me that your party had asked for a meeting with me. Now that I know you want to meet me for a discussion, why don’t you people meet me tomorrow itself.”
Minister Gunasekera told the President they could not meet him the following day as they were busy with preparations for their 20th National Convention, but that they looked forward to meeting the President soon after the convention. The President readily agreed to meet a delegation from the Communist Party soon after their 20th National Convention.
 

Wimal attacks International Advisory Panel
The Politburo of the National Freedom Front (NFF) met in an emergency session at the party Headquarters at Battaramulla last Monday to discuss the International Panel of Experts on War Crimes, appointed by President Rajapaksa to advise the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into cases of disappearance of persons from the Northern and Eastern Provinces headed by Maxwell Parakrama Paranagama. The President, by the same Gazette proclamation that appointed the Three-member Advisory Panel, had expanded the mandate of the domestic Commission of Inquiry as well.
Piyasiri Wijenayake said the President by his proclamation gazetted on 15 July had broadened the mandate given to the three-member Commission of Inquiry.
 

NFF Leader, Minister Wimal Weerawansa charged that the government through the appointment of an international three-member Advisory Panel of Experts with a history of having served on several international war crime tribunals has paved the way for an international interference in the ongoing inquiry. “The persons who advised the government to issue the proclamation have placed the government, as well as the commanders of the security forces and their personnel in jeopardy. The international agents who had been bringing pressure on the government in various ways will certainly not let go of this godsend opportunity to interfere with the proceedings of the domestic inquiry…,” the minister said. He also said the appointment of an international advisory panel provides justification for the so-called international inquiry launched by the UNHRC.
 

NFF writes to President
Following a decision taken by the NFF Politburo, a letter requesting the President to take necessary action to revise the Gazette proclamation in question was sent on Tuesday and a copy of the letter was released to the media as well.
 

Presidential proclamation comes under fire from JHU
Meanwhile, the Politburo of the Jatika Hela Urumaya (JHU), another constituent of the ruling coalition, also met last week to discuss the Gazette proclamation relating to the appointment of the three-member Advisory Panel of War Crime Experts and expanding the mandate of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into disappearances in the North-East. At this meeting, Minister Ranawaka and other Politburo members slammed the proclamation describing it as a move that would in effect undo the victory achieved by the war heroes. They pointed out that the government by appointing the international panel of experts to advise the Commission on Disappearances and expanding the mandate of the Commission has forfeited the right to hold a brief for the war heroes, if they were to suffer any injustice on the basis of recommendations to be made by the Commission of Inquiry. The JHU Politburo also decided to dissociate itself from all actions taken by the government, in regard to this Commission of Inquiry and to launch a countrywide campaign to protest against the International Advisory Panel of Experts appointed by the President.
 

President frowns on leaking of ‘Cabinet secrets’President Rajapaksa severely warned his ministers at the previous Cabinet meeting not to leak ‘Cabinet secrets’ to the Press. He also said he proposed to take deterrent action against the errant ministers. However, despite the ministers being thus gagged by the President, this newspaper and its sister paper Mawbima reported in the political columns what transpired at that Cabinet meeting in detail. The two newspapers also reported that President Rajapaksa rebuked Minister Navin Dissanayake adding that the door was open for him to leave the government at any time.
 

An echo of this incident was heard at the weekly Cabinet meeting held last Thursday. On seeing Minister Navin Dissanayake the President said: “Thank you, Navin. What I said about you at the last Cabinet meeting was well reported in newspapers!”
Minister Navin Dissanayake immediately realized what the President was driving at. He said: “I did not give this information to newspapers.”

“Ah! Our journalistsmust be clairvoyant! Ministers also must be having the power to be omnipresent!” was the President’s rejoinder.
At this stage, Navin gave a solemn undertaking to the President that he would not quit the government under any circumstances.
At this Cabinet meeting, the President also ‘served notice’, on Minister Rauff Hakeem, to be in readiness to meet him, within the ‘next few days’.
 

Harin suffers the first defeat
Badulla District UNP MP, Harin Fernando, due to run for Uva Chief Minister from the UNP at the coming PC polls suffered a political setback when the Supreme Court on Thursday rejected the FR petition filed by him against action taken by the Elections Commissioner to transfer three PC seats from the Badulla District to Moneragala in a seat re-distribution move, on the eve of the Uva PC election. A section of the Print media gave prominence to the Supreme Court ruling describing it as Harin’s first election defeat.
 

Harin who never intended coming down from his Parliamentary status to contest the Uva PC election had a challenge thrown at him to contest this coming election, when he challenged Sajith Premadasa to resign his Parliamentary seat to run for Southern Province Chief Minister. Harin, who has now come forward to contest the Uva PC election with much reluctance recently reminded Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe of his initial request that he be formally introduced to the people of Uva as the Party’s Chief Ministerial candidate jointly by him and Sajith flanking him in grand style at the party’s first propaganda rally to be held following the filing of nominations. Ranil told Harin the Patron of Eksath Bhikkhu Peramuna Ven. Girambe Ananda Thera was due to attend a public function in Badulla shortly, and both he and Sajith would be present at this ceremony. “This ceremony will serve as an ideal occasion for us to formally present you as the Party’s Chief Ministerial candidate,” Ranil told him.
However, Sajith who fell out with Ven. Ananda Thera over differences in regard to constituting the Leadership Council is reported to have said that he would never appear on the same stage with the prelate.
 

Reports earlier said Ranil and Sajith would take the election campaign trail in Uva together following an understanding they had reached. However, while Ranil is addressing sporadic pocket meetings in Uva, Sajith has confined his political and welfare activity to the Hambantota District, which he is nursing with unflagging commitment. Sajith has decided to address only a few propaganda meetings in certain select areas in the Uva Province, sources close to him said.
 

Maduluwawe Thera brings
opposition leaders together
Despite the behind-the-scene negotiations that have been going on for several months, the opposition political parties have yet to reach consensus on a common opposition Presidential candidate to take on President Rajapaksa who is seeking a third term in office. In fact, the negotiations were making headway when Ranil Wickremesinghe threw a spanner into the works by announcing that he proposed to run for President from the UNP come the poll.
 

However, Viharadhipathi, Kotte Naga Viharaya Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, who is also the President of the People’s Movement for Social Justice has been pursuing with unwavering commitment the goal of finding a common opposition Presidential candidate with the specific mandate to abolish the Executive Presidency. Holding a colloquium on the abolition of the Executive Presidency followed by a campaign to collect signatures for a public petition calling for the abolition of the Executive Presidency at the Colombo Town Hall on Thursday was the prelate’s latest move in pursuance of his avowed mission. Among the public figures present at this colloquium on invitation were former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, UNP Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe, Democratic Party Leader former Army Commander, Sarath Fonseka, JVP MP, Sunil Handunnetti and Western Provincial Minister, Udaya Gammanpila from the JHU. Nevertheless, the most conspicuous invitee present at this confab was former Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake.
 

According to our information, the organizers of the event had a difficult time in persuading former CJ, Bandaranayake to attend the colloquium. Finally she had relented saying that she should not be called upon to make any comment.
Despite some initial hiccups over the seating arrangement, the organizers managed to accommodate all party leaders and distinguished personalities in the front row. Among those seated in the front row were former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and BASL President, Upul Jayasuriya.
 

As Ravaya Consultant Editor, Victor Ivan walked up to the lectern to deliver his special talk, former President Chandrika Kumaratunga who rose to her feet said that she made it a point to attend the occasion despite getting her invitation at the eleventh hour and she regretted that she had to leave as there were two ambassadors waiting to meet her. And she walked out.
Ranil’s private meetings with Maduluwawe Thera and TNA Leader
According to reliable sources, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had met Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera and TNA Leader R. Sampanthan behind-the-scene recently.
 

Ranil who called on the Maduluwawe Thera at his Naga Viharaya in Kotte had informed the prelate that the UNP was planning to field a candidate at the Presidential poll. However, Ranil had not received an encouraging response from the Thera who had pointed out that there was no purpose for fielding a UNP candidate at a time the party was wracked by dissention and disunity. Fielding a common opposition candidate is the best available alternative, the Thera had told Ranil.
Meanwhile, Ranil had told his confidants that his talks with the TNA was a success and Sampanthan promised to support his candidacy at the coming Presidential election.