The joint opposition’s Hyde Park rally marked the clear division of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). The Joint Opposition is the banner used by the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction of the UPFA. Hot on the heels of the event, animosity between President Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa seem to have risen to a new level.
It was implicit when the President remarked he was not scared of chest-banging by those asking for the government to be handed over to them for running. To give it even worse effect, he said even village ‘moonshiners’ (Gamvala Kasippu Karayo) were notorious for chest banging.
The President made such remarks in his address to the convention of Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLFP) in Palamunai, Ampara last Saturday. It was an obvious reference to his erstwhile colleague and predecessor MR, who in his Hyde Park speech, decried the present state of affairs in the country, and asked the government to be entrusted with him for its efficient running. He banged his chest, an act of his character in addressing the rally.
Visibly incensed by it, the President reasserted that nobody could topple the current regime till the completion of its official term.
Be that as it may, the political feud of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the UPFA’s largest and dominant ally is now in the open. Its MPs even defied the warning by the party hierarchy not to go for it. It means exertion of the party’s official authority does not help at one point. It is a challenge, in no uncertain terms, for the UPFA leadership at the moment.
It led to more and more animosity and bitterness between the President and MR taking on each other publicly. In this context, rendered helpless are the SLFP seniors who threw their weight behind the President after the election.
Any political powwow between MR and the President is hardly imaginable. The seniors have to cope with the predicament that the Rajapaksa factor is crucial to consolidate the party for future electoral success. Nonetheless, the former President is not an option acceptable to the present leadership. So, they are giving mind to different strategy-- to accommodate the former President’s brother ‘Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’ as a choice.
In their opinion, Gotabhaya is acceptable -- both to the President and voters, and his inclusion would provide the platform for all factions to unite.
The idea, first mooted by Labour and Labour Relations Minister John Seneviratne, is to be forwarded to President Sirisena soon. It is not known yet how accommodative the President will be in this respect. The SLFP seniors believe some compromise and sacrifice have to be made for their party to get back its former glory, rather than being in alliance with the United National Party (UNP) for too long.
Let alone it is uncertain, whether the President would do anything that would upset the UNP at this moment. Actually, he is politically obliged to look after the UNP interests because it was the main strength behind his success at the Presidential Election. Yet, a lingering sense of resentment keeps pestering the SLFP seniors in the government to part ways with the UNP at one point.
Besides, the MR faction hardly talks about a new party now
MR says his loyalists say that there is no need to form a government as they could get hold of SLFP as the time passes, with the backing of grassroots members. MR says the groundswell of grassroots support would enable him to gain control of the party. Yet, this viewpoint is countered by others.
According to them, the Joint Opposition has backtracked from its initial stand after sensing political repercussions of creating a new party at the cost of SLFP.
Constitution making process initiated but Tamils upset
The motion to initiate the constitution making process has been passed in Parliament with amendments to its preamble in main. The SLFP, together with its faction in the opposition, intervened to amend the preamble.
In the original preamble, the constitutional making exercise had been mentioned as a move primarily meant to find a solution to the ethnic issue. Also, it had intended to replace the new Constitution with a new one.
But, the amendments changed that focus of the process. It is now learnt that the change of focus from resolving the national question has created consternation within Tamil polity. Tamil politicians talk about it. When the two main parties are unable even to see eye to eye in this regard, they question how it can be done in regard to the enactment of a political solution at the final stage.
Tamilini’s book translated into Sinhala
Former LTTE Women’s Political Wing Leader S. Thamilini has published her book “Oru Koorvaalin Nizhalil” (In the Shadow of a Sharp Edged Sword). Now, the book has been translated to Sinhala by Swaminathan Wimal, a senior lecturer at the Jaffna University’s Linguistics Department. The book has been sent for printing. The Sinhala version will be available before April 10.
Minister of National Dialogue Mano Ganeshan took the initiative through his Ministry for the publication of such a book. The book is controversial. She has devoted some chapters of the book for admonishing the LTTE and highlighting its wartime atrocities. By doing so, she has evoked the ire of Tamil extremists who say their case would be weakened at the UN.
Minister Ganeshan said he had come under fire from the same elements. “I am being attacked from all quarters in the cyber space,” he said.
Arduous task for UPFA Secretary
Newly-appointed UPFA Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera is assigned with an arduous task to perform. He has been appointed as the Secretary at the most trying time of the UPFA during its 12-year history. It is riddled with its worst-ever differences. First and foremost, he has to work for the revitalization of the UPFA uniting all its factions. Before he gets into his business in the new post, he now tries to get hold of vital documents. Some were remaining with his predecessor late Prof. Wishwa Warnapala and the rest with Minister Susil Premajayantha who held the post even before.
He is planning to get them back to initiate work. Openly, he has announced that the UPFA would work for establishing its own government by 2020. At this juncture, it is noteworthy to examine as to why he was appointed as the Secretary.
Mr. Amaraweera also hails from the Hambantota District which is the stronghold of the Rajapaksa clan. Besides, he is a close confidant of President Sirisena and former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. These two factors combined made him the Secretary under the current political circumstances. Alongside, he once served as the Deputy Health Minister under President Sirisena when he was the Health Minister.
It is an open secret that he was at the receiving end of internal political rivalry within the UPFA at the hands of the Rajapaksas at that time.
A silent acrimony prevailed between him and the Rajapaksas for long over preferential votes in his constituency, and Mr. Amaraweera is now trying to write a book highlighting ups and downs of his political career, starting as the Chairman of Angunukolapelessa Pradeshiya Sabha in 1991. It was the last election contested by SLFP under its hand symbol. At that election, SLFP won only a few local bodies when the UNP swept the polls in most cases. Later, he served in the Southern Provincial Council, and as an MP since 1994.
Asked about his glorious moment in politics, he said, “I was able to be in the government that ended the war. I was also in the Cabinet. The war was the most formidable challenge. Former President Rajapaksa is credited with it whatever said and done.”
Tamil Diaspora to submit constitutional proposals through video conferencing
The Tamil Diaspora groups are planning to make their submissions to the Committee on Constitutional Reforms through video conferencing. Committee Chairman Lal Wijenayake said he would make arrangements for it.
“If any diaspora group wishes to engage with us, we can make arrangements for it through video conferencing,” he said.