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Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lakbima Politics Of The WEEK !

Sports Minister Gamini Lokuge kicked off last week’s Cabinet meeting saying that the first proposal to be approved was the presentation of an elephant to Romania. “Our temples and devalas are also asking for elephants,” President Rajapaksa replied. “How can we send elephants abroad without giving them some elephants.” “Don’t worry sir, we will get a herd of elephants after November,” said Mano Wijeratne. “How is that?” asked the President. “Well, sir, Ranil has promised his MPs that they will defeat the Government at the budget vote,” Wijeratne explained. “But his MPs know that Ranil can’t do it. If the Government doesn’t fall at the budget, they will all join the Government. Then there will be no shortage of elephants.” Everybody burst into laughter.

A Jubilant Ranil

UNP and Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremasinge in jubilant mood felicitating Senior Deputy Chairman Alick Aluvihare at the UNP’s 61st special convention held at the Municpal Grounds, Getambe, Kandy last Sunday (Sep 9). Pic by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe

Bambuwa thamai

The JVP Politburo also spoke about a recent comment made by SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena. He had declared at a public meeting that, if the JVP went on a wrong path and fell into trouble, the SLFP cannot be expected to rescue it. “We don’t need rescuing,” scoffed Chandrasena Wijesinghe, JVP MP. “We are on the right path. But when the Government treads on the wrong path and calls out to us for rescue, we cannot be expected to help them out.” “That’s perfectly true,” said K D Lalkantha. “We can tell Mr Maithripala Sirisena bambuwa thamai!”

Much ado about Ranil

The UNP’s special convention was held on Sunday afternoon in Getambe. Much effort had been made to conduct the convention in keeping with Kandyan traditions. There were gok kola decorations and magul bera all round. No polythene was used. At the convention, nine MPs were given awards for entering and staying in Parliament continuously since 1977. These were Alick Aluvihare, Joseph Michael Perera, Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake, Renuka Herath, W J M Lokubandara, Gamini Jayawickrama Perera and Sarathchandra Rajakaruna, Ranil Wickremasinghe and Rukman Senanayake. Gayantha Karunatileka later read out the UNP’s “Kandy Declaration” to the public. On Monday, the UNP celebrated Wickremasinghe’s thirtieth year in politics with a religious function at the Dalada Maligawa. Apart from alms being offered to the Temple of the Tooth and the priests, 84,000 oil lamps were lit that night to mark the occasion.

A job well done

It was a good week for President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the navy destroyed three ships that had been attempting to smuggle weapons to the LTTE in Sri Lanka. “We had been on alert for many months,” the President told his ministers. “Nobody else knew about these ships except me and the Security Council. The Navy Commander and I used code language to talk about this issue. I asked him everyday whether the job had been done. He responded that they are still on alert. On Monday morning, he called me and said one job was done. I told him to do the same with the other two. A little while later, he dropped the code language and told me that all three ships had been destroyed. Those ships had three light aircraft, a bullet proof vehicle, a high speed boat and a lot of weapons. We tried to save the high speed boat but failed.”

Tsunami trouble

On Wednesday, around 5 pm, President Rajapaksa met with Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, Transport Minister Dullas Alahapperuma and Foreign Secretary Palitha Kohonna. The topic was the President’s forthcoming visit to the UN General Assembly sessions in New York. The group discussed how to obtain maximum advantage over LTTE terrorism through this trip. While the conference was in session, the President’s Coordinating Secretary Gamini Senerath came running in. “Sir, there has been an earthquake in Sumatra,” he panted. “There is the possibility of a tsunami.”
President Rajapaksa asked him to alert the media. He then contacted higher officials in the Met Department and inquired after the situation. He directed police along the southern coast and army camps on the eastern coast to be ready. By that time, several Ministers had arrived at Temple Trees to participate at the Cabinet meeting. There was a din in the room due to the fact that they had already heard about the possibility of a tsunami. Presidential Secretary Lalith Weeratunga revealed that he had contacted the American Tsunami Information Centre which said there was no threat of a tsunami here. However, they had advised Sri Lanka to be on the alert.
The Cabinet meeting was held in a hurry that day, to ensure that Ministers were free to inspect arrangements related to public safety.

JVP fever

The JVP Politburo met at their Battaramulla party headquarters on Monday under the auspices of party leader Somawansa Amarasinghe. They evaluated the success of their countrywide public meetings. Politburo members revealed that SLFP and UNP members had also attended the JVP’s village level public meetings. They said these members were carefully observing the new political front that the JVP was endeavouring to forge. It was decided that the party would form committees that all political parties at village level could join. “Our public meetings in districts like Polonnaruwa were successful,” said K D Lalkantha, JVP MP. “Ordinarily, people don’t attend public meetings when they have work in their paddy fields. But they came this time. This means they are enthusiastic.” “SLFP members attended the meeting we held in President Rajapaksa’s village,” JVP MP Vijitha Herath said. “They say that the President has still not solved the country’s problems. They wanted a programme to solve national issues.” “The time is right now to produce a manifesto,” Amarasinghe said. “Let us form a committee of experts to do this.” This was endorsed by the Politburo which also delegated this task to Vijitha Herath.

Nothing but rumours

The UNP’s Democratic wing met at leader Karu Jayasuriya’s house on Tuesday. Jayasuriya drew attention to UNP leader Ranil Wickremasinghe’s statement about the HSBC bank. The team decided to oppose the Opposition Leader’s position that a future UNP Government would cancel HSBC’s local licence if the bank proceeded with the sovereign bond effort. Jayasuriya went to Batticaloa and Trincomalee on September 10 to
Elephant crossing expected observe progress on the ‘Eastern Rising’ rehabilitation programme. He was joined by Ministers D E W Gunasekera, Gamini Lokuge, Susantha Punchinilame and Ameer Ali. The three main questions they were asked by both Government officials and civilians were: Will there be a new district in the East? Are you building 5000 houses in Morawewa to accommodate a single community? Are you shifting Muslims from Kantale to Kinniya? Jayasuriya was quick to deny all these as rumours.

Ranil not himself?

At the same time that the UNP leaders gathered in Kandy, President Mahinda Rajapaksa was also in the hill capital. He enjoyed himself watching a rugby match at the Nittawela stadium. His son, Rohitha Rajapaksa, played in the game for his school, St Thomas College, Mt Lavina. STF Commandant Nimal Lewke accompanied the President. Also watching were UNPers Malik Samarawickrama and Johnston Fernando.
The latter’s son, Jehan, was also playing for St Thomas. Spying them in the stands, President Rajapaksa invited both Samarawickrama and Fernando to sit beside him. Samarawickrama accepted at once but Fernando was seen hestitating. “Don’t be afraid,” Rajapaksa quipped. “Even Malik is with me. So Ranil will not scold you. Come here and watch the match.”Only then did Fernando throw caution to the wind and join the President. Chatting with Samarawickrama during the game, President Rajapaksa commented that Ranil Wickremasinghe’s character had changed considerably.
“He is agitated now,” he said. “He doesn’t talk about important matters. Earlier, he spoke respectably on public issues. But now he assassinates characters, children, families, all. He seems to have forgotten that he is Opposition Leader.”

Akashi is welcome to solve human-elephant row

Environment Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka returned to Sri Lanka last week after his Japan trip. He informed the JHU’s Working Committee that Japan’s Environment Minister had offered assistance towards a garbage disposal project. He had also met Japanese Peace Envoy Yasushi Akashi. “During my meeting, he also asked me about our human-elephant conflict,” he told the Working Committee. “I asked him whether he had given up on solving our ethnic conflict and was now diverting attention towards our human-elephant conflict. He said, no, no, I’m still interested in the peace process. At the same time, he would also like to solve the human-elephant conflict. I told him that we will cooperate wholeheartedly with him if he wanted to help us solve problems of that nature.” “But I also told him what our policy was towards reviving the peace process,” he continued. “The peace process should be based on disarmament, democracy and development. Any peace that doesn’t include these elements is a sham.” Ranawaka then told the Working Committee that he was leaving this week for Canada to participate in a summit on the ozone layer.

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