- New political party at a standstill following issues over leadership
- MR announces decision not to leave the SLFP
- SLFP leadership to carry out discussions in electorates about current issues
- Fonseka likely to be questioned over Lasantha’s murder
Key among the issues is the attempt by Rajapaksa to strike a deal with President Maithripala Sirisena to get some form of reprieve for members of his family who are currently facing investigations on several serious incidents including that of alleged money laundering carried out during the tenure of the former regime.
It is learnt that one of Rajapaksa’s relatives, who is a well known businessman, is currently engaged in trying to mediate between Sirisena and Rajapaksa to reach an amicable settlement in some of the main allegations faced by the former First Family.
However, the Rajapaksa relative has yet been unable to strike a proper deal on behalf of the former First Family.
Given the current scenario, the joint opposition group of parliamentarians has resorted to engage in somewhat silent politics until matters were clearer regarding the formation of the new political party.
Another obstacle faced by the Rajapaksa loyalists in forming the new political party is the delay in reaching a consensus on the party leadership.
The likes of Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila continuously called on Mahinda Rajapaksa to take the leadership of the new political party and convert it into the platform that would propel the return of Rajapaksa to the helm of the country’s political stage.
However, it was later discussed that Rajapaksa would serve better for the cause while continuing as an SLFPer and the names of Basil Rajapaksa and Gotabhaya Rajapaksa were then discussed for the leadership of the new party. Initial discussions were based on getting Gotabhaya appointed as the party leader while Basil would carry out the functions of the national organizer. Despite initial agreement on the names and the positions, the joint opposition group started to reconsider the decision, given the fact that Gotabhaya’s undiplomatic actions when dealing with political issues that portrayed his lack of experience as a politician.
The next to be considered for the post of party leader was Basil. However, some of the members in the joint opposition are firm believers that it was Basil and his actions that resulted in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat at the last Presidential election. Therefore, objections started to mount against the possibility of naming Basil as the leader of the new political party.
Amidst the discussions, the name of the leader of the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna, Dinesh Gunawardena has also surfaced as a possible leader for the new political party.
Be that as it may, the joint opposition group is faced with a herculean task of finding a suitable leader for the new political party – one with a clean track record without any allegations of corruption or fraud against him.
Since the formation of the new political party is being delayed due to these reasons, Rajapaksa and his loyalists have resolved that in order to maintain what they believe is growing support for their cause, the group should hold meetings with public representatives of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). These meetings are to be led by Mahinda Rajapaksa with the aim of building a following for him before handing them over to the new political party, which at the moment is limping and unable to tread the future path.
Albeit leading the meetings organized by the joint opposition, MP Mahinda Rajapaksa, who initially indicated his desire to lead the people against the current government, has now shown a change of heart.
Rajapaksa last week made a public statement that he would not leave the SLFP.
Last Thursday soon after giving his statement to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC), Rajapaksa in response to reporters who asked if he was part of a new party said, “I am in a party, and that is the SLFP. Even though they are trying to chase me, they won’t be able to get rid of me that easily.”
It is therefore clear that Rajapaksa would not quit the SLFP to lead the new political party. Rajapaksa has always said with pride of his loyalty to the SLFP and the fact that despite many defections from the party since his inception, he had stuck on against all odds.
It was SLFP General Secretary, Minister Duminda Dissanayake who on Friday summed up the Rajapaksa psyche by saying that Mahinda Rajapaksa would never leave the party.
Rajapaksa by last Thursday resorted to the stance of standing firmly in the SLFP after the attempt by the joint opposition group to claim that over 1,400 local government representatives of the SLFP had participated at a meeting presided by Mahinda Rajapaksa in Negombo.
Although photographic evidence showed that there were thousands of individuals attending the Negombo meeting, a proper head and name count revealed to the SLFP leadership that among the group were a large number of supporters of several local government members, their personal staff and party members who had gathered at the venue to get a proper account of what was actually going on.
Some of the local government representatives who had attended the meeting had on the following day informed party officials that they were present at the Negombo meeting only to see what was going on and had no intention of joining the Rajapaksa clan.
It was rightfully pointed out by a senior SLFP member that one thing the Rajapaksas were good at was in showing heads before cameras. A case in point was the many election rallies organized by the Rajapaksas where thousands of buses carrying people to attend the respective rallies were brought from all parts of the island.
“Showing numbers to the media is something the Rajapaksas have been doing for many years,” the senior SLFPer said.
Another fact that seems to be unique to the Rajapaksas are the colourful characters who always join forces with the group.
Soon after the SLFP general secretary issued a letter to several local government heads of the SLFP calling for explanations for violating the party’s Central Committee decisions, some of them resorted to tearing up the letters and burning them before the media. Interestingly, some of the local government heads are facing allegations of fraud and corruption and are anyway in the process of facing disciplinary inquiries.
Hence, the Rajapaksa led joint opposition is now attracting members of the SLFP who are facing various accusations and are likely to be suspended following disciplinary action.
The SLFP leadership has now decided to hold a series of discussions at electoral level to educate the party membership of the real situation of the party.
Sirisena and the SLFP officials have thus far remained silent in the face of various brick bats thrown at them by the Rajapaksa group. The Rajapaksas have claimed that Sirisena had forcibly taken over the leadership of the SLFP among other claims made against the party’s current office bearers.
However, following much pushing by former President and senior SLFP advisor, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunge, the SLFP leadership has agreed to speak about the current issues faced by the party with its membership.
These discussions are to commence from the second week of March and is to be a frank and open discourse with the membership where Sirisena loyalists are to explain the real position of Rajapaksa and his group.
While the SLFP is engaged in pushing its errant members against a wall and quelling weeks of internal squabbles, the United National Party (UNP) also came into the spotlight last week.
The UNP and its general secretary became a topic of discussion last week when the Centre for Policy Alternatives (CPA) filed FR Application No.54/2016 before the Supreme Court.
The CPA and its Executive Director had filed a Fundamental Rights application challenging the appointment of Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka to fill the vacancy created by the death of Minister M. K. A. D. S. Gunawardana, as a Member of Parliament elected in terms of Article 99A of the Constitution (the National List).
The CPA stated its position saying, “in terms of Article 99A of the Constitution, only a person whose name was included in the district nomination papers or national list submitted by the relevant political party, is entitled to be nominated to fill such a vacancy.”
In its Petition, CPA stated that the appointment of a person as a Member of Parliament contrary to the provisions of the Constitution violates several rights guaranteed under the Constitution and in particular the franchise which is part of the sovereignty of the people. Furthermore, CPA has argued that any attempt to interpret legislation in a manner contrary to the provisions of the Constitution would imperil the supremacy of the Constitution, which is the cornerstone of constitutional democracy.
Among the respondents named in the petition are UNP General Secretary Kabir Hashim, Sarath Fonseka, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, General Secretary of Parliament Dhammika Dassanayake, Chairman of the Elections Commission Mahinda Deshapriya and the Attorney General.
The Sunday Leader last week stated how the letter nominating Fonseka to fill the vacancy in parliament was prepared and signed by Kabir Hashim before he left for the US on an official visit. The letter was signed, sealed and ready to be delivered even before the Working Committee of the UNP sanctioned Fonseka’s appointment to parliament.
It is also learnt that even the Chairman of the Elections Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya had stayed till late on Monday (8) to endorse the letter from the UNP general secretary nominating Fonseka to parliament disregarding a letter sent by a UNP member to the commission citing a violation of the Constitution by the appointment of a Field Marshal to parliament.
Despite being in the good books of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, it seems like the odds are now mounting against Field Marshal, MP Fonseka.
Soon after Fonseka’s appointment to parliament, President Sirisena appointed Major General Milinda Peiris as the Chief of Staff of the Army. It was Major General Peiris who headed one of the court martials against Fonseka in 2010 to probe his alleged involvement in several fraudulent deals that had taken place in the Sri Lanka Army during his tenure as the Army Commander.
Sirisena’s decision to appoint Peiris to the new post seems more than just a coincidence. In fact it seems more of a tit for tat move with Fonseka’s new appointment.
Be that as it may, the ghost that would be most scary for Fonseka to face would be that of the slain founding editor of The Sunday Leader, Lasantha Wickrematunge.
The Criminal Investigations Department (CID) last week released two sketches of individuals believed to have been involved in Wickrematunge’s murder. The following day, it was revealed that one of the individuals have been identified as an army soldier.
The alleged involvement of military personnel in Wickrematunge’s murder has been spoken for years. However, with the implication of military personnel in Wickrematunge’s murder, the CID is now gearing to interrogate Fonseka since he was on January 8, 2009, the Commander of the Sri Lanka Army.