President Maithripala Sirisena appeared to have earned the wrath of the rank and file of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) when he, in his address at the public function in Matara last month to mark the first anniversary of the National Unity Government, said the current system of governance could not be jolted under any circumstances for another five years. It did not get with the hardcore SLFPers looking for a government of their own, casting aside the United National Party (UNP).
The tone and tenor of the President’s speech at the SLFP Convention on September 4, however gave fresh hopes for the SLFP, as he pledged to lead the party to electoral victories in the future to form a government with like minded parties. He even vowed to advocate the founding policies and principles of the party. This rekindled hopes of SLFPers loyal to him, and they now keep their fingers crossed.
The current unity government between the UNP and the SLFP is bound to serve its full term because the leaders of both sides have made announcements in public to that effect. It means the two parties have to wait till the next general elections to part ways and contest separately.
Nonetheless, the local authorities’ election is slated to take place early next year, as speculation is rife in political circles in this respect. The President announced at the convention that the SLFP would context under its ‘Hand’ symbol at the election.
For the last time, the SLFP contested under its symbol at the local government election in 1991. The UNP was in power at that time. Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera also contested the elections as a candidate to the Tangalle Urban Council and became Mayor.
The decision has been taken at a time when the party was grappling with a formidable challenge within. The Mahinda Rajapaksa faction of the party has threatened to form a new movement. So, the party is riddled with internal squabbles. Already, the MR faction has started the groundwork for the new party. The former President’s brother, ex-minister Basil Rajapaksa is actively involved in the task by engaging with different segments of society to work out a well-knitted political party.
The attempt to contest under the ‘Hand’ symbol is interpreted by some as a move to play on the conscience of SLFP supporters and to halt them from abandoning the party at this hour. It is also seen as a tactic to neutralize the Joint Opposition (JO) which accuses the President of giving upper hands to the UNP in politics.
Till 1991, the SLFP contested under its ‘Hand’ symbol on various occasions. It won an election by contesting under it only in 1970, that too was in some electorates only. The SLFP-led alliances have been ruling the country since 1994; barring the 2002/2004 period. Yet, power has been clinched up by contesting polls under different symbols -- the ‘Chair’ and the ‘Betel Leaf.’
Earlier, UNP General Secretary, Minister Kabir Hashim said the two parties would work out a common arrangement to contest the election. He, in his brief comment to Daily Mirror, did not elaborate on what that arrangement would look like. It has left scope for interpretation in different forms.
One interpretation is that the two parties would field candidates under each other’s symbols according to a common arrangement. For example, there are two local bodies in the Kesbewa electorate of the Colombo District -- Boralesgamuwa and Kesbewa. For one local body, candidates of both sides would be fielded under one symbol, and for the next under the other.
Assault on SL HC occupies centre stage in Parliament
Pro-LTTE activists demonstrated against the visit of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to Malaysia to participate in the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP). The UNP was represented by Primary Industries Minister Daya Gamage and his spouse Deputy Minister Anoma Gamage.
The protest culminated in the assault of Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to Malaysia, Ibrahim Ansar at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport when he came to see a delegation off to Sri Lanka. In addition to Daya and Anoma Gamage, JO’s parliamentary group leader Dinesh Gunawardane was in the delegation.
Offenders, identified as Tamils linked to “We Tamil Party’ of South India ‘have arrived in the airport and beaten the High Commissioner asking for whereabouts of MR. In consequent to the assault, the Malaysian authorities beefed up security for MR.
The incident made headlines in Sri Lanka, and became a central issue discussed in Parliament last Tuesday. Dinesh Gunawardane raised the issue in the form of a question under Standing Order 23/2. Questions were raised as to how the LTTE activists, be they Sri Lankans or not, managed to demonstrate flaunting LTTE flags right throughout the visit.
In reference to the incident, all were cautious to avoid any remark that would strain relations with Malaysia, the country that stood with Sri Lanka in the fight against terrorism. Also, Malaysia corroborated with the Sri Lankan security authorities in the arrest of LTTE’s chief arms procurer Kumaran Pathmanathan alias KP after the war was ended in Sri Lanka in 2009.
Against this backdrop, it is worrisome for some people as to how the LTTE activists could have a free hand to stage demonstrations in Malaysia. This group is politically aligned with Democratic Action Party of Malaysia, and lobbies for war crime charges against Sri Lanka as revealed by Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe. He said a delegation would be dispatched to Malaysia to engage with them and brief them on steps being taken here for reconciliation instead of pushing for a war crimes tribunal.
Despite the influence of such Tamil elements in Malaysian politics, it is learnt that Malaysian Premier Najib Razak’s is a personal friend of MR.
Dinesh bemoans denial of office of Opposition Leader in his ICAPP address
In the ICAPP summit, the fight against terrorism was a key topic. On behalf of the JO, Dinesh Gunawardane also delivered a speech. He bemoaned in his speech that the JO had been denied the office of the Opposition Leader despite commanding more support in the opposition for it.
He said, “Today the Joint Opposition, which I represent, constitutes 10 political parties, including the majority of SLFP MPs, leads the Opposition ranks with twice as many MPs with a clear overwhelming majority in the Opposition in Parliament. Yet, the JO is deprived of the legitimate right to Office of Leader of the Opposition.
Dear Friends of “One Asia”,
Asia is the largest of the earth’s seven continents, covering almost one-third of the world’s total land area with more than 3.9 billion inhabitants, accounting for the three fifths of world’s total population.
Before the rise of the European world-straddling empires, the main economic and cultural centres of gravity lay in Asia. The cultures of China, North India and Persia were supplemented by smaller, yet no less significant centres of trade and human development such as Japan, Sri Vijaya, Indo-China and even Sri Lanka.
Sri Lanka was an entrepôt for trade between the East and the West, and had historic ties with the countries of South East Asia. One of the common aspects of South East Asian culture was provided by also Buddhism, which provided a civilised underlay for even non-Buddhist societies, and much of the Buddhist activities in the region originated from Sri Lanka.
Malay soldiers, who fought in the armies of colonialists and the Sinhala King, created the modern Malay community in Sri Lanka. We share a common heritage, Asia having overthrown the shackles of colonialism, today stands on the threshold of a shared future of development.
The 21st Century belongs to Asia. The powerhouses that drive global economic growth as China, India, Japan, Korea-the Tiger economies- and the newly industrialised countries of ASEAN such as Malaysia. Culturally and politically too, Asian countries are once more growing into a mighty force.
One such important success stories of Asia in recent times is the launch of the Chinese International Development Bank together with other Asian Nations. Today, the West that was opposed to this has come to recognize the value and wants to be a member of this grouping.
Unfortunately, together with the high growth has come a disparity in the income in our countries. Income of 65 families of richest of the world; equals 3.5 billion income of poor of the world. This is the disparity that we all give our attention to. Unless action is taken to overcome poverty -- which lays the foundations not only for future social instability but in barriers of growth itself -- we shall not be able to create a just society for all our people.
Together with the elimination of poverty, there should be increased access by all citizens to their basic needs. One of the fundamental needs, on which all life depends, is water, which is becoming increasingly scarce, and what is available is often polluted with chemicals. Researchers warn that this climate change in next 30 years in Asia would lead to a one billion more people becoming “water-stressed”.
The montane rainforests which safeguard the watersheds of Asia have been depleted. That very depletion has contributed to global warming, the retribution for which comes in the forms of extended droughts, cyclones, catastrophic floods, super-storms, which in turn contribute to the shortage of water.
Dear Chairman, the Buddhism has a saying, derived from the Jayamangala Gatha, the Chant of Joyous Victory,” he said.
Black Coffee treat from PM to JO members
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe met with a delegation of the Joint Opposition in the parliamentary complex to discuss issues. The PM hosted them for a treat of black coffee in the meantime.
MP Dallus Alahapperuma jovially asked, “Sir, would your black coffee treat entail some controversy for us? The Premier responded saying that he had never faced any problem by offering black coffee.
Then, MP Udaya Gammanpila quipped and said, “Yes, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa also did not have any issue by hosting anyone for black coffee. But, there was a problem after the treat of hoppers. He had even lost his General Secretary.”
In response, the PM revealed that the chef who made the hoppers on that occasion is working for him at Temple Trees at the moment.
“That chef came and introduced himself to me saying he was the one who had made the hoppers for the meal that preceded the defection of President Maitripala Sirisena from the then government,” the Premier shared in a lighter vein.