Prez furthers patriotic agenda as rift with UNP widens

25 October 2018 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


President Maithripala Sirisena has said that the Government has done enough in implementing the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka 

The gulf between President Maithripala Sirisena and the United National Party (UNP) is widening by the day. Alongside, President Sirisena is increasingly toeing the ‘patriotic agenda’. The national minded approach   of the President came to the fore once again at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting as he expressed dismay over the move to recall Lieutenant Colonel Kalana Amunupura who served as the commander of the Sri Lankan Army contingent deployed for UN peace keeping in the West African nation of Mali.  

Lieutenant Colonel Amunupura is serving in Mali with a contingent of 199 personnel under his command. The deployment of this contingent for peace keeping duties in Mali was done after a vetting process in keeping with UN requirements. 

  • Sri Lanka is now likely to make fresh diplopic efforts to renege from its binding to the UNHRC process.
  • Sujeewa pinpointed UNP Chairman Highways Minister Kabir Hashim for not gearing up the party machinery

What apparently bewildered the President is the recall of Lt Colonel Amunupura merely on allegations purported to have been made by Yasmin Sooka, a Human

Rights lawyer who served in the Darusman Committee or the committee appointed by the UN Secretary-General after the war concluded in Sri Lanka to probe allegations of rights violations. Sooka’s role has been disputed by many in political circles here. 

The President reportedly asked as to how Lieutenant Colonel Amunupura could be recalled sans an inquiry. He is now serving in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).  His term of assignment will, however, end in December, this year.  

Then, it transpired at the Cabinet meeting that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka was involved in vetting troops bound for peacekeeping duties under the UN. 

In all indications, there is a wide chasm now developed between the President and the UNP. It became even more obvious when he said that the UNP of D.S. Senanayake (the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka) was no more

It led to the President having misgivings about the Human Rights Commission here.  Often heard is the rhetoric that the current Government won over the entire world, and saved soldiers from being haulled up before any war crime tribunal.

The President himself made pronouncements to this effect on and off. Against such a backdrop, the President said the Government had done enough in implementing the UNHRC resolution on Sri Lanka and ensuring minority rights, but the international community did not reciprocate it with any leniency.  

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe stressed the point that the Sri Lankan delegation should seek clarity further on the implementation of the UNHRC resolution in March, next year under these circumstances.

Champika exposes UK duplicity

Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka took a line similar to that of the President at this instance. He said the United Kingdom, a leading country of the core group that worked on the resolution on Sri Lanka, was dealing with LTTE activists in that country with velvet gloves, but with tough hands against activists of other terrorists outfits such as the ISIS.

In this instance, he referred to how the LTTE activists arrested in connection with the protest during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s address to the Oxford Union, were dealt with   in a soft-hearted manner and set free within a few hours. 

According to the Minister, it has happened because of the current policy of the Government in regards to the UN process.  He asked the Government to initiate action to withdraw from the co-sponsorship of the UNHRC resolution 30/1 adopted on October 1, 2015. 

The Government is riddled with differences on many a front. Difference of opinion in regards to the UNHRC process in Geneva is much more pronounced as evident at the Cabinet meeting. 

It was reported that the President was in the dark regarding the decision to co-sponsor the resolution at that time.   Sri Lanka is now likely to make fresh diplopic efforts to renege from its binding to the UNHRC process.

UNP tries to get act together   

The UNP is poised to prompt to replenish its vote base ahead of the future elections due next year.  The party faced a debacle at the Local Government Polls on February 10. 

The party’s parliamentary group had a confab with Leader Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on Monday. According to sources, the UNP discussed the need to address the unemployment issue by giving more appointments to graduates.  

Besides, Deputy Minister of Power and Energy Ajith P. Perera stressed the point that the Government should constitute the next Trial-at-Bar at High Court to accelerate litigation against corruption and frauds during the former rule.  

Afterwards, State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe,  now facing corruption charges, bemoaned that the party was not extending its cooperation to him to present his case and absolve himself of any wrongdoing.  He pinpointed UNP Chairman Highways Minister Kabir Hashim for not gearing up the party machinery to counter allegations against him.   

He is accused of seeking commissions to clear hurdles for investment in an electric rail project in Sri Lanka.  The company, formed by some expatriate Sri Lankans, has made open allegations against Senansinghe.

“I am the one who voiced against corruption during the Rajapaksa era fearlessly for five years.  Today, there are calculated and concerted efforts by some with vested interests to bring false and unfounded accusations against me. Mr.Kabir Hashim, as the party Chairman, maintains stoic silence in the face of these allegations. This is an affront to the party. It is not a mere attack on me alone,” he said. 

Also, he expressed his gratitude to Deputy Minister Nalin Bandara Jayamaha and Minister Harin Fernando for standing by him in countering these allegations.  

Afterwards, Galle District MP Bandulalal Bandarigoda, Kegalle District MP Sandeeth Samarasinghe and Polonnaruwa District MP Nalaka Kolonne pledged to throw their weight behind Senansinghe in defending his case. 

“So far, only Law and Order Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara has directed an impartial investigation based on my complaint,” the State Minister said.  
He was also critical of the mainstream media highlighting some of the allegations against him without ascertaining their veracity. 

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne underpinned the need to use available media regulations to prevail upon journalists to report the verifiable truth. 

President’s RAW claim put to rest  

In addition, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake inquired about the President’s claim that India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had a hand in the alleged plot to assassinate him.  Consequent to the allegation by the President at last week’s Cabinet meeting, Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, a close confidant of the President, four Cabinet Ministers were having links with RAW, and they would be exposed soon.

Ramanayake inquired about all these from the Prime Minister at the group meeting. The Prime Minister, however, said the President had denied it, and therefore the matter had been put to rest.“There is nothing more to it,” he said. 

Kiriella the emerging Buddhist leader for UNP?

For the first time after 15 years, Asgiriya Chapter conferred the highest accolade of Sasanamamaka Janaprasadana to Public Enterprise Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella. Last time, it was offered to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. 

Speculation is now rife that Kiriella will cash in on this conferment to project his image as the emerging Buddhist leader of the UNP. The lack of appeal among the Sinhala Buddhists is a concern for the UNP.  May be, the new accolade from the Buddhist chapter will ensure political benefits for Kiriella to fill this void. 

In all indications, there is a wide chasm now developed between the President and the UNP. It became even more obvious when he said that the UNP of D.S. Senanayake (the first Prime Minister of Sri Lanka) was no more. With this development, the UNP is trying hard to get its act together before the next elections. 

PM briefs President on his Indian visit  

Soon after Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe returned from India, he called on President Maithripala Sirisena and briefed him about the outcome of his interactions with the Indian leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi.    

Besides, he notified the Cabinet that Indian High Commissioner Taranjith Singh Sandhu would get back to the government with his New Delhi’s response to the proposed Indian investments in Sri Lanka.

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