he allegation about attempts to compromise the country’s national interests persists. But, President Maitripala Sirisena asserted in the past few days that he would not jeopardise national security come what may.
A furore erupted at the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)’s executive committee meeting on Tuesday over remarks made by sections within the party that the proposed constitution making exercise would make way for the partition of the country at the behest of secessionist elements.
In an attempt to blunt a crisis before it boiled over into a national debate, President Sirisena asserted again that his government would leave no room for a division of the country.
"Unduly criticised ‘Buddhist Kathikawath Bill’ was established at the request of the Mahanayake Theras- Minister Amunugama"
“We have not yet started the process of constitution making. I won’t do anything inimical to the country,” the President had assured.
No sooner had the President made this remark, Transport Minister Nimal Sirisena said sarcastically that some elements were unnecessarily creating a fear psychosis among the people.
He had said that before even a baby is born, some start talking about its physical features.
It was Mahinda Rajapaksa MP, that started the public discussion on such perceived attempts.
De Silva’s reference evoked a response from the Rajapaksa supporters at the meeting. Galle District when MP Piyal Nisantha retaliated; “Today, we have advanced medical equipment to scan a foetus in a mother’s womb.”
He got a shot in the arm when Gampaha District MP Prasanna Ranatunga quipped,“Not only that, a scan test can determine whether it is a girl or a boy.”
MS blunts criticism in south but annoys Tamil Diaspora
The President remained silent when the members hurled allegations in this manner. But, after things settled down he reassured that he would not allow anyone to divide the country. On an earlier occasion too, he had said he would not allow foreign interference in probing allegations of human rights violations and accountability issues during the war. This statement will be helpful to pacify the southern electorate, but it appears have enraged Tamil diaspora groups.
The Global Tamil Forum (GTF) which congratulated the change of government at the last Presidential Election has now issued a statement expressing its disappointment over the President’s position. The GTF was a listed organisation during the previous rule. The new government, under its approach to reach out to the moderate sections of the Tamil diaspora, de-proscribed the organisation and invited it to participate in the post-war reconciliation process.
The GTF is determined to have international intervention in ensuring what it termed ‘justice for war crime abuses and human rights abuses committed by parties to the conflict in Sri Lanka’.
In its statement issued on January 25 the GTF has said the President’s position refuted the resolution adopted by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) co- sponsored by Sri Lanka itself.
“The resolution clearly committed Sri Lanka accommodating Commonwealth and other foreign judges, defence lawyers, and authorised prosecutors and investigators in its judicial processes. Sri Lanka will be in breach of the provisions of a resolution that it co-sponsored if the President’s assertions are implemented,” GTF said.
President laments attempts to divide SLFP
Apart from the constitution-making process, Tuesday’s SLFP executive committee devoted some time to discuss the present internal squabbles, with one faction trying to form a new party apparently with the blessing of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Again, the President said he was aware of the moves to form a new party with the backing of a section of the SLFP.
“This is a party which we preserved through enormous sacrifices. Any split will only result in the electoral defeat of the party,” the President said.
Chamal Rajapaksa, a senior member of the party, proposed to appoint separate committees at electoral level to make recommendations to revamp the party.
Lakshman Seneviratne relays UNP experience to SLFP squabbles
As a crossover from the United National Party (UNP), Badulla District MP Lakshman Seneviratne recalled how frictions among the leaders bedeviled the UNP at different times. H said the attempts made by some present SLFP leaders to divide the party would only compromise the interests of the rank and file of the party. Incensed by Seneviratne’s remarks, Rajapaksa backers reacted by shouting and booing.
Despite the disturbance, Seneviratne went on to say: “Our supporters were a dejected lot at that time in the UNP. The party was in tatters after leaders such as Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali quit. It is not in the interests of party if the SLFP breaks up.”
Angry Wimalaweera Dissanayake
After the commotion subdued, Digamadulla District MP Wimalaweera Dissanayake told Seneviratne, that the present SLFP leadership was scorned by party supporters.
“You better guard your mouth without uttering baseless points. The reality is that President Sirisena is looked at unfavourabaly at grassroots level of the party,” he said.
Next, former MP Saratha Weerasekara, who was also the head of the Civil Defence Force during the war, said the arrest of military intelligence officials posed a threat to national security. He said SLFP would also be held responsible as it was part of the National Unity Government.
Weerasekara was the only MP who voted against the 19th Amendment on his conclusion that it was a piece of legislation that was against the interests of the majority community.
Former Deputy Health Minister Lalith Dissanayake put forth his views commending the President. He even dubbed President Sirisena as the most democratic leader ever produced by the SLFP in its entire history.
He wound up by saying some past leaders were never ready to entertain others’ views. It was an obvious reference to Rajapaksa when he was the president.
Bandula makes special appeal to President
Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardane of the Joint Opposition, made a special request.
“Sir, we sit in the Opposition as a group with your consent. Now, it does not suffice for us to stay in the Opposition as a mere group. We need official recognition in Parliament to act independently.” The President had said he had noted all the requests, and would come back to them later.
Priyankara disillusioned over MR’s presence in Anamaduwa
Prior to the executive meeting, SLFP ministers met with the President at a separate discussion. During the meeting, Minister Priyankara Jayaratne protested over the arrangement of a public event with the participation of Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Anamaduwa electorate without informing him as the organiser.
Sudarshani throws her weight behind President
Afterwards, Deputy Minister Sudarshani Fernandopulle spoke about the series of press conferences being conducted by former SLFP local government members calling for a new political front with the support of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Mrs. Fernandopulle, the widow of former Minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, said it was only a call from a minority group of members who served in the local authorities standing dissolved at the moment. She said the majority was supportive of the present SLFP leadership.
Similar views were expressed by Petroleum and Petroleum Gas Minister Chandima Weerakkody.
The Buddhist Kathikawath Bill
In the meantime, Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama mentioned that the government had been subjected to undue criticism over the ‘Buddhist Kathikawath Bill’
because it was a piece of legislation established at the request of Mahanayake Theras.
However, Minister Anura Priyadashana Yapa cautioned Dr. Amunugama not to respond to such criticism as it would take a turn for the worse.
UNP busy at organising party
In anticipation of the local authorities’ election, the UNP, has beefed up its efforts in reorganising the party. Alongside, it is working out reforms to its constitution. It is learnt that the UNP will do away with some of the party positions.
MR and Basil appear on stage for the first time after electoral defeat
After one year, Mahinda Rajapaksa MP and his brother Basil appeared on the same stage for the first time on January 18. It was an event to mark the launch of a book by Mahajana Eksath Peramuna(MEP) media secretary Lalith Rohana Liyanage.
In the light of these political developments during the past week, a new political front is likely to emerge. But the President seems to be aware that any division would relegate the SLFP to the Opposition.