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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Sahodara Samagama expands -The Political column - Lakbima Online

Sahodara Samagama expands - Lakbima Online

President Mahinda Rajapaksa ended the speculation last week by gifting to his brother and advisor, Basil Rajapaksa, the National List Parliamentary seat left vacant with the death of former Irrigation Minister Anver Ismail. Although the President had long intended to get his brother into Parliament, it was Health Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva who had proposed that Basil be nominated to Ismail’s vacated seat. The President responded that he would be glad to do so if Minister A L M Athaulla, to whose party Ismail had belonged, consented. But he also he pointed out that the UNP would have a field day over the Sahodara Samagama’s latest move should Basil be nominated. Jeyaraj Fernandopulle (who usually has an answer for everything) replied that it wouldn’t make a difference because the UNP had been making the same allegation for months. Athaulla agreed to Basil getting the seat and the decision was made.

Basil Rajapaksa’s fashion advisor

On Wednesday morning, before heading to Parliament for his swearing in, Basil visited his Presidential brother. He was dressed in a national suit with a kurakkan coloured scarf draped around his shoulders. The scarf was tied at the ends. Upon seeing it, President Rajapaksa said: “Basil, only old men wear the scarf in that fashion. Our father wore it like that, too. Young men drape the scarf once around the neck and leave the other end hanging down.” So saying, the fashion conscious President adjusted Basil’s scarf (Basil was later seen on television following this new sataka fad) after which the younger Rajapaksa knelt at the President’s feet and worshipped him. The President then had this to say: “Basil, you have a big responsibility in Parliament. They are alleging that we struck a deal with the Tigers and gave them money. As an advisor outside Parliament, you can’t deal with these charges. I’m sending you to Parliament to answer the allegations and to save the reputation of our family and of our Government.”

Wasn’t me!

B asil Rajapaksa received a warm welcome from the Government benches in Parliament but there was no such reaction from the Opposition. When Basil went to the Speaker to recite his oaths, Opposition MPs displayed placards that said “10%”. Unfortunately, his first few words in Parliament (the oath apart) were uttered in denial. During the debate on SLFP M Winger Sripathy Sooriyaarachchi’s proposal for a Parliamentary Select Committee to inquire into reports that President Rajapaksa had struck a deal with the Tigers during the last Presidential election, SLFP M Wing Convenor Mangala Samaraweera alleged that Basil had been involved in the deal. The Presidential brother sprung to his feet to deny the report. Mangala quickly requested that Basil’s reply be included in the Parliamentary Hansard for future reference.

Getting the facts straight

The UNP Parliamentary Group met in Parliament on Monday. Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe announced that the coming week was crucial. “There is a debate on Sripathi Sooriyaarachchi’s proposal for a Parliamentary Select Committee to investigate whether President Mahinda Rajapaksa had struck an election deal with the Tigers and paid them money,” he said. “The Government is trying to evade this move. We must not let that happen.” Jayalath Jayawardena then raised a question about the security of Parliamentarians. “Sir, on the pretext of reducing the security granted to Parliamentarians, the Government has merely cut down the security of Opposition MPs,” he said. “The Government has not slashed their own security. We must protest against this.” “That’s a good idea,” responded Ranil. “But write a common letter through the Opposition’s main organiser. Don’t make individual representations.” “Wimal Weerawansa had been given 11 security personnel,” continued Jayawardena. “He can’t be allocated such a large number, can he?” “Jayalath,” replied Ranil, “Wimal is the leader of a Parliamentary Group and is allowed that number of security personnel. Don’t confuse a Parliamentarian with a Parliamentary Group leader.”

No Action, Talk Only

The UNP Parliamentary Group also spoke about Mervyn Silva’s atrocious behaviour and how President Mahinda Rajapaksa was handling the Non Cabinet Minister of Labour. Ranil Wickremasinghe pointed out that Silva was not conducting himself in a manner befitting the country or courts. He was worse than an ordinary civilian. “The President fooled the newspapers into publishing reports that he had told Silva off,” Ranil said. “But it seems to me that he is patting Silva on the back and conciliating with the man. The President should rightfully have sacked Mervyn.”

Off with their heads

The UNP held several meetings of district organisers last week. On Wednesday, the party’s Political Committee met at Cambridge Terrace. Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe told the gathering that the work of certain organisers was weak. “The work of some organisers is unsatisfactory,” he said. “Some haven’t done any work at all. We must remove them from their posts after observing their work further.” “It’s not enough to remove them as organisers,” pitched in Ravi Karunanayake. “We must sack them altogether.” “We mustn’t be hasty,” said Sajith Premadasa. “We must observe them a while longer.” “Yes,” replied Ranil. “But if they lack enthusiasm, there is no point watching any further. We must remove them.” This was duly endorsed by the Political Committee.

Defeating or not defeating?

Rajitha Senaratne bumped into his old UNP friend Vajira Abeywardene in the Member’s restroom in Parliament on Wednesday. “You guys said you would topple the Government before the budget,” said Senaratne, tongue in cheek. “When will you do it?” “No, we haven’t given any such deadlines,” replied Abeywardena. “Who says that we have?” “Why... Ravi (Karunanayake) said so,” said Seneratne. “These random statements don’t matter. We will topple the Government when we want to,” countered Abeywardena. “Okay, let’s assume that you toppled the Government... at whatever time,” continued Senaratne. “What will happen to the war?” Abeywardena replied that they will continue with the war. Senaratne then wanted to know what the UNP’s fate would be. “If that happens, the UNP will be in a difficult situation,” Abeywardena admitted. “If the UNP stops the war, the JVP and JHU will wage war against us on the streets. But if we continue with the war, the UNP, which has been supporting the peace process, will be finished.”
The pair then started counting the number of members each side would have in the event that the Government was defeated in Parliament. “We definitely have 119 members,” Seneratne said. “The UNP has 84 but 41 are on this side. At the budget vote, two more of your guys will support us.” “Okay, okay,” said Abeywardena. “We never said we were going to defeat the Government at the budget, did we?” “If the UNP took over, will Ranil treat you fellows well?” Senaratne persisted. “Ranil will only look after those in his company... Mangala, Akila, Sagala and the Royalists. We went through the same thing once. Why should we go through it again? Think of the country for once and join us.”

Ifthar Celebration

Enjoying themselves to the hilt in good company and with food and drink laid out for a breaking of fast hosted by the Speaker WJM Lokubandara at his official residence on Thursday (Sept 20) are Leader of the Opposition & UNP Ranil Wickremasinghe, Speaker WJM Lokubandara, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, and the newly appointed National List MP Basil Rajapaksa.
Pic by Nimalsiri Edirisinghe

UNP goes marketing

After attending yet another Jana Rala rally on September 15 - this time in Dehiattakandiya - Ranil Wickremasinghe, headed to Kandy where he stayed at the Watapuluwa residence of his friend Malik Samarawickrama. The next day, the UNP kicked off a campaign to distribute propaganda leaflets throughout 400 market fairs. Ranil left Kandy for Kurunegala, where he handed out fliers at the Melsiripura sathi pola. UNP National Organiser S B Dissanayake did the same in Nuwara Eliya while General Secretary Tissa Attanayake distributed leaflets in Hunnasgiriya. While this was going on, Attanayake got a call from Ranil who had some advice for him related to the UNP-organised mobile phone boycott that was to take place the next day from 9 to 11 am. Attanayake conveyed this message to all UNP organisers in the country via (of course) phone and SMS.

Chandrika visits the quartz garden

Former President Cha-ndrika Kumaratunga recently paid an unexpected visit to Namal Uyana at Galkiriyagama, accompanied by son Vimukthi. She was greeted by Ven Rahula Thera, who overlooks affairs at Namal Uyana, and taken on a guided tour. “I’m sorry that I couldn’t visit Namal Uyana while I was in power,” she told Ven Rahula Thera. After walking around the gardens, she and Vimukthi both expressed the opinion that it was a wonderful location to observe nature. The former President also spent time chatting with tourists who were visiting that day. Meanwhile, Ven Rahula Thera asked her a question that has been on the minds of many: “Are you not returning to politics?” “No, hamuduruwane,” she said, “Sri Lankan politics is not a good field.” “Then, will Mr Vimukthi enter politics in future?” Ven Rahula Thera persisted. “My intention at present is to continue with my veterinary work, hamuduruwane,” replied the young man. The pair spent around two hours at the gardens and left after downing two glasses of beli mal water.

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