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Saturday, June 30, 2007

The moving Mangala machine - Lakbima

The moving Mangala machine

Plotting the course

The following are some notes from our Parliamentary correspondent’s report last week:MPs Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriarachchi sat in the opposition benches around twelve noon last Monday. They sat on seats close to JVP MPs Lalkantha and Vijitha Herath. Sooriarachchi sat where MP Nihal Galappathi usually sits. The MPs were first greeted by UNP’s Rukman Senanayake. Later, the crossover MPs were seen having a long discussion with Wimal Weerawansa and Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

The wandering elephant

Earlier in the week, party secretary Maithripala Sirisena warned the President that there is a possibility of the government losing the vote on the supplementary estimates.
This was due to many forces coming together in the form of the TNA and the JVP and the UNP. However, the President said that there is no possibility that the JVP will ever vote together with the TNA.
At the end of the week, he was proved to be wrong because the JVP did just that.
This provoked Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle to make some comments about the JVP sleeping with the enemy. That brought the JVP down hard on the Minister.
“Do not shoot your big mouth off. We know what we are doing,’’ he was told curtly by Vijitha Herath.
There is another tale though, about the vote on the supplementary estimates. Though there were some anxious moments about this vote, the President was told that Ranil Wickremesinghe leader of the Opposition will most probably not be there when the vote is taken, as he would be attending the wedding of the daughter of businessman and friend Hari Selvanathan, the Chairman of Carsons in India.
“We are through in that event’ said the President, with the coming vote in mind. When Wickremesinghe in fact missed the vote due to his visit abroad, Maithripala Sirisena phoned Rajapakse from parliament to say “Didn’t I tell you so?” He also joked “Maybe you have hatched a secret MoU with Ranil.’’

Mangala’s seat in history

This week was Mangala Samaraweera’s political week. Before he sat in the Opposition benches of parliament, Mangala Samaraweera’s impending crossover was made known to the President by Mervyn De Silva.
However, when de Silva said that ‘those two are taking their seats today in the opposition’, and added that ‘I am going to make sure that they will not get a chance to speak,’’ the President shot back that ‘there are enough people to reply to them, you don’t have to get involved.’’

In the meantime, the debate on supplementary estimates was to come up before Parliament. When it did, JVP’s Wimal Weerawansa was to say that the vote cannot be called one for Supplementary Estimates for Ministries.
He said Supplementary Estimates are taken when the Ministries run short of money, but these are new votes of funds for new Ministries — just because the old Ministries were broken up to form the jumbo cabinet.’’
The Speaker said that a ruling has to be made on the issue after a meeting of party leaders.
This was when UNPer Joseph Michael Perera made a beeline to Weerawansa and accused him of botching all the plans.
What plans? Weerawansa shot back. “Why, the plans for Mangala Samaraweera to sit in the Opposition benches at the auspicious time.’’ That’s when Weerawansa said ‘’I know nothing about your plans.’’

Govt. ganging up on the gang

Mangala Samaraweera’s sitting in the opposition benches caused consternation in government circles, and one of the immediate short term plans was for the government to form a national coalition of patriotic forces.
‘At a time when anti-national forces are ganging up to topple the government, we should band all patriotic forces together’, said the convenors of the move, who are from the government’s core inner sanctum.
This was echoed by Ven Ellawala Medandna of the Jathika Hela Urumaya, who said at a JHU party meeting that various forces are conspiring against the JHU, and that this included a conspiracy being hatched by some “UNP spies’’ who were seen at a foreign Embassy. He said the conspirers against the JHU included the UNP, anti-national elements together with some sections of the media.

Decimate and rule - Somawansa

When the JVP Central Committee convened last week, leader Somawansa Amarasinghe said that the government is now sinking deeper and deeper into the mire. “There is no salvation, they are making a right royal mess of it,’’ he said.
This view was endorsed by MP Lalkantha and others.
Wimal Weerawansa then said that it is the opportune moment to map out the strategy. The UNP is rearing its head due to the government’s unpopularity. What we have to do now, he said, was to ‘bifurcate via these two forces’, and map our own path to power. Heads were seen to nod all around.

More the merrier!

The Mangala Samara-weera cross over made for some interesting stories in the margins of the political theatre.
Minister Janaka Bandara Tennakoon was not in the best of moods after the crossover, which took place during the debate on supplememntary estimates.
So, when he met MP Harrison of the UNP, he quipped ‘so your leader decamped, when the vote was about to be taken?” “It was just one vote, so what?’’ shot back Harrison.
“What we hear is that even if he was present it would not have made a difference,’’ Tennakoon said.
More MPs had briefed the President about Mangala Samaraweera’s crossover,
garnished with the tale that Chandrika Kumaratunge will also support the move and will form a party of her own.
Said the President ‘she has formed many parties. She was in one party, then she formed another with Vijaya and another and so on. So what’s new’’.

Do the Math

The latest on the Mangala Samarweera issue is that it has caused political convulsions of unprecedented proportions. There are separate moves to make Mangala either the leader of the opposition or the Prime Minister. This is because the JVP will not ally with the UNP to bring down the government, but will ally with Mangala Samaraweera who is of the view that there are several government party MPs who will join him.
Current calculations apparently are that two government members will join Mangala Samaraweera, which will add four including Samraweera and Sooriarachchi to the JVP’s vote bank. This will mean that the JVP’s current 37 will inflate to 41.
The UNP’s current 42 will be depleted to 39 when three UNPers would crossover to the government The numbers will be such that Mangala Samaraweera will be the leader of the opposition.

But other conjectures are that Samaraweera will get himself enough support from all sides to land the Prime Minister’s job, which seems to be a highly unlikely conjecture though, at this point of time.

A Rosy explanation

When the UNP political affairs committee met for deliberations last week, Ranil Wickremesinghe gave an appraisal of his tour of Anuradhapura earlier in the week. But when he did so, there were others to say that there are certain elements in the party who were undermining the Buddhist base of the party that Wickremesinghe had painstakingly built.
“Look at Rosy Senanayake,’’ they said. “She is going around saying that the Buddhist base of the party will be dismantled by Wickremesinghe.’’
Wickremesinghe said however that she had denied she said this, which fact has been accepted by the newspaper concerned which carried the interview in the first place.
Eventually, it was decided that the matter should be laid to rest.

Return of CBK; Will she or won’t she?

At a pow wow of the party faithful, Minister Keheliya Rambukwella, who has his lines open to the UNP, told the President that there is every possibility that Ms. Chandrika Kumaratunge would make her return to politics via the UNP. He said ‘it is now quite a possibility that she will return by occupying a seat vacated by national list member K. N. Choksy.’
The idea however was pooh poohed by another Minister there, Nimal Siripala de Silva, who said ‘she made a caricature of Choksy and imitated the way his mouth goes crooked, so you think Choksy will make way for her?’’
Well, we are not sure he said a mouthful there.

Declines Horagolla invite

When Mangala Samaraweera crossed over and sat in opposition benches during the debate on supplementary estimates, he did so after much deliberation. He spoke to some of the MPs of the SLFP group, and said that he will take this decision in the interest of the country. He then spoke to Chandrika Kumaratunge, ex President, now in England. Kumaratungne made one request which was that Samaraweera should remain in the SLFP. “If you leave the SLFP and join some other party, Mahinda would have got the upper hand in this whole confrontation,’’ she said.
That way, Samaraweera got her blessings to cross over to the opposition, though while remaining in the party.
However, he also invited Kumaratunge to be present in Horagolla, when he planned to establish the Mahajana wing of the party at the Horagolla Samadhi. Kumaratunge declined. Guess the reason. She said among other things that she fears that she will be arrested at the airport on return, on trumped up charges. Guess what happened to Sooriarachchi and Mangala could happen to anybody?

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