UNP-SLFP fissures widen political stage to hot up in the New Year

22 December 2016 12:14 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Alongside, the SLFP section with the government also harbour negative thoughts against the UNP about the current state of affairs and contemplate the need to form a government of its own. 
A major obstacle lies in its path in forming a SLFP-led government

issures within the national unity government between United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) look widened now because two latest cases where the two sides cannot see eye to eye have emerged.  
One is the move to hand over an 80% stake of the Hambantota Port to China Merchants, a leading multi-national company to form a joint venture to operate it. This is primarily a project proposed by the UNP. In principle, the SLFP has always been opposed to the concept of privatization most of the time barring on a few occasions, mainly during the term of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Today, it has come to terms with the Private Public Partnership model, proposed by the UNP, for revitalization of state institutions currently run at a loss or with a marginal profit. That is in principle only. In sharing equity under the PPP model, the SLFP believes it should be 60% - 40 % at least. In other words, the State should retain the majority equity. In this context, the party considers that the handing over of 80% stake amounts to the outright sale of the country’s national assets.   
For that very reason, the SLFP headed by President Maithripala Sirisena holds dissenting views with the UNP. But, the party is to come out openly against it and comment.   
The UNP follows a different policy in this respect. It believes in the reduction of the country’s debt burden as a basis to propel the economic growth for it to make realistic its ambitious target of creating one million employment opportunities, a promise repeatedly made in the run up to the last parliamentary election.   
A large component of the foreign loan obtained by the previous government for the construction of the port is to be absorbed by the Chinese company while sharing equity with the Sri Lankan authorities under the proposed model.  
Secondly, the Development (Special Provisions) Bill, worked out by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management (CCEM), has led to discontent among the SLFPers holding posts in the government and others sitting with the opposition.   
The bill seeks to concentrate a wide range of powers vital in decision making regarding development activities in the hands of a single minister. Those, opposed to the Bill, interpret this as a move to create a super minister who can always act regardless of others.   
Amidst objections to the Bill, the Cabinet took it up for discussion on Tuesday. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, however, stressed the importance of a single window body for the approval of investment proposals to expedite development in the country by attracting Foreign Direct Investment. He said he would talk to the Chief Ministers in this regard tomorrow.   

 

 

"In sharing equity under the PPP model, the SLFP believes it should be 60% - 40 % at least. In other words, the State should retain the majority equity. In this context, the party considers that the handing over of 80% stake amounts to the outright sale of the country’s national assets"

 


With such differences emerging constantly within the government, an intense political atmosphere is expected in the coming year.   
 On the one hand, a section of UNP remains disgruntled as they find it uncomfortable to be with SLFP in governance. Inter-ministerial issues have led to this situation in main. The appointment of Cabinet Ministers from one party does not get with those in the other in the event they hail from the same electoral districts. One example is the appointment of MP Gamini Vijith Wijeyamuni Zoysa as the Minister of Irrigation. He is a SLFPer hailing from the Moneragala district. He now holds a post that enables him to address the needs of agricultural people by way of irrigation development in Moneragala. Yet, it has led to a clash with Public Administration Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara who is from the same electoral district. With his portfolio, Minister Madduma Bandara can attend to the needs of his people to a lesser extent only. Both have to canvass votes from the same district. They are pitted against each other. But, one naturally has the advantage over perks in his Cabinet post. Dissension is caused in this manner, and it has resulted in public criticism of each other.   

 

 

"For the first time, after blowing hot and cold, the President announced that steps would be taken to conduct the election during the early party of the next year. Though a lot of people believe that it will be conducted in March"

 


The same discontentment is found between Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera of the SLFP and State Minister of Fisheries Dilip Wedaarachchi representing the UNP in the Hambantota district.   
The SLFP section with the government also harbours negative thoughts against the UNP about the current state of affairs and contemplates the need to form a government of its own. A major obstacle lies in its path in forming a SLFP-led government, though. That is because any political understanding between incumbent President Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who commands the support of the rank and file of the party. Also, MR commands the support of 51 members of the SLFP- led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).   
So, some members of the SLFP loyal to the President are all-out to look to other options that can pacify both sides and bring about some sort of unity. One proposal is to nominate MR’s elder brother Chamal Rajapaksa as the unifying force. In the Rajapaksa family, the former Speaker is seen as the only one acceptable to the President. However, he is not that popular among the rank and file of the party.   

 

"On the one hand, a section of UNP remains disgruntled as they find it uncomfortable to be with SLFP in governance. "


LG Polls likely in May

Such contemplation is found amidst preparations for the local authorities’ election. For the first time, after blowing hot and cold, the President announced that steps would be taken to conduct the election during the early party of the next year. Though a lot of people believe that it will be conducted in March, plans are underway for it in May only.   
Given political tension between the SLFP and the UNP, it is highly unlikely to expect them to contest the election together under a common symbol. As such, it is learnt, the SLFP section with the President makes various overtures to the Joint Opposition or the MR faction of the UPFA. Sources close to the Joint Opposition said it was not inclined to accept any of such political offers due to the bitter experience it had during the parliamentary election in August, last year. So, it is slated to be a three-pronged battle.  


MR instructs JO leaders on preparing for LG Polls

The Joint Opposition is also bracing for the election with their district based committees at work. Former President Rajapaksa chaired a meeting with the then leaders of the JO early this week, and gave instructions.  
The newly formed ‘Sri Lanka Podu Jana Party (SLPP)’ will form a new alliance with other parties in the JO ahead of the elections. Also, its members representing the SLFP are in contact with their colleagues in the government for a possible understanding to contest the election.   


Govt. mulls web media control 

In the cyber space, the ruling side is subjected to scathing criticism, and the government is perturbed over the trend. The Cabinet that met on Tuesday took it up for discussion, and a lot of Ministers, such as Patali Champika Ranawaka and Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe stressed the need to regulate the activities of internet media.  
However, Foreign Affairs Minister Mangala Samaraweera who believes in western ideals on media freedom is averse to muzzle web based media. The west is championing the rights of web journalists, and once Norway, in its policy statement to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) likened it to attempting to halt a waterfall with one’s hands.   


Tajikistan President donates a Buddha statue to Mahanayake

Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon, who visited Sri Lanka recently, made it a point to visit the Mahanayake Thera of Malwatte Chapter and gifted him a replica of one of the world’s largest Buddha statues, discovered in his country during archaeological excavations. He mentioned it to the Mahanayake Thera and handed over to him the gift.  

 

  • LG Polls likely in May

  • MR instructs JO leaders on preparing for LG Polls

  • Govt. mulls web media control


Tajikistan, a neighbour of Afghanistan has discovered the statue of a sleeping Buddha, built during the period of emperor Kanishka. That is one built during the fifth century A.D.  
After the destruction of the Bahmiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, this is considered the largest in Central Asia.   
Tajikistan, among others, aims at attracting more tourists. So, the visiting President might have contemplated the possibility of attracting Buddhist tourists to his country.   

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