The main opposition United National Party (UNP) was in a panic during the last couple of days after speculation was rife in political circles that its MP for the Matara district Mangala Samaraweera was planning to switch allegiance to the government, ahead of the snap presidential election.
In fact, MP Samaraweera has remained disillusioned with the party for sometime on the grounds that it is not doing what it has got to do in view of the presidential election. His main grouse has been with the party’s Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa.
Against this backdrop, he put forward some conditions to the party to be adhered to , in view of the presidential election. In the meantime, he was even approached by the top brass of the government with inducements , to lure him back into the government’s fold . But, the UNP was not ready to afford to lose him at this juncture.
"Mr. Samaraweera , together with MPs and Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake met with some influential foreign diplomats accredited to Colombo on Tuesday , and discussed matters related to the party’s strategy to win the presidential election."
Therefore, the party stalwarts approached him during the last couple of days and tried to convince him to stay with the party .
“We discussed matters with him. Mr. Samaraweera is disappointed that we are not doing what we have got to do. As of now, we have managed to convince him to stay back,” an MP said, on condition of anonymity.
However, Mr. Samaraweera , together with MPs and Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayake met with some influential foreign diplomats accredited to Colombo on Tuesday , and discussed matters related to the party’s strategy to win the presidential election.
It means that Mr. Samaraweera is well aware of the UNP strategies being planned for the election. Hence, it will be a major blow to the UNP if he is roped into the fold of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance(UPFA) . In case it happens, MP Samaraweera , with his skillful ability to handle political propaganda, can inflict irreparable damage to the UNP during the election campaign. It is not a positive sign for a party like the UNP that is trying to gain the upper hand in politics after having been in the opposition since 1994, barring the two year period between 2002 and 2004.
Mr. Samaraweera has ferociously criticized President Mahinda Rajapaksa in recent years , and his aptness to take on the President is a useful tool for the UNP during an election . So, the UNP will mobilize all its possible negotiation skills to retain Mr. Samaraweera with them at this moment.
Another UNP MP who insisted on anonymity, said Mr. Samaraweera agreed to remain with the party after assurances to sort out his grievances.
SLMC hard pressed
The UPFA, in its preparation for the snap presidential election, is planning to wind up its series of meetings with its allies during the course of this week. Already , the party has met with a number of its allies which reaffirmed their support to the candidacy of the President. However, the party is yet to reach a common understanding with the parties such as the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC).
A committee has already been appointed to discuss the proposals put forward by the JHU for constitutional reforms ahead of the election
The UPFA is trying to woo the SLMC these days . Already , UPFA Secretary Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha and SLMC General Secretary MP M.T. Hasan Ali have met for a preliminary round of discussions on matters of mutual concern .
"Hard pressed by the sentiments of the ordinary party supporters concentrated mainly in the Eastern Province, the SLMC is unlikely to commit itself to the government at the moment"
The two sides are planning to meet with each other shortly. But, the SLMC is under pressure from the rank and file of the party to take a radical decision this time. Most party men do not want to remain with the government any further. The anger within the Muslim community against the government was visible at a recent meeting in Addalachchenai , Ampara. A couple of party activists at this meeting, expressed their views in support of the government . Incensed by such pro-government remarks, other participants shouted them down in the presence of the party leadership.
Hard pressed by the sentiments of the ordinary party supporters concentrated mainly in the Eastern Province, the SLMC is unlikely to commit itself to the government at the moment. Instead, it is seeking some firm assurances from the government for some of its demands raised initially . The creation of a separate administrative system along the coastal belt of the Ampara district for the Muslims is one such demand that draws the attention of many. In fact, it has been a demand raised from the time of the party’s founder leader, the late A.H.M.Ashraff. But the party has renewed it suddenly .
UNP gives up fact finding mission
The UNP had planned yet another fact finding mission to the Legal Draftsman’s Department last Tuesday . Yet, the party could not undertake it as the officials of the Department had been convened for a meeting with the President on the same day. So, the party is now planning to reschedule it for another day. In this mission, the UNP team led by MP Ajith P. Perera expected to find out what happened to the draft bill outlining a national drug policy.Earlier, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena charged that this Bill went missing mysteriously. He also said he suspected foul play behind the disappearance of the Bill from this Department. The UNP is trying to find out what happened.
Next, the UNP is planning to undertake a fact finding mission to the National Institute of Education (NIE) in Maharagama.
"In this mission, the UNP team led by MP Ajith P. Perera expected to find out what happened to the draft bill outlining a national drug policy. Earlier, Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena charged that this Bill went missing mysteriously"
CWC action draws a flak from its rank and file
Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) extended its unconditional support to the government at the presidential election. However, the party’s action has draw a flak from the rank and file in the estate sector. The party organizers , assigned at estate level, find fault with the CWC leadership for not making this support conditional to addressing some of their demands at this hour.
The CWC is currently engaged in an exercise to pacify its grassroots level organizers stationed at estate level.
Karuna attacks UNP
For the first time during a parliamentary debate, Deputy Resettlement Minister Vinayagamurthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman criticized the UNP, and even referred to the alleged supply of weapons to the LTTE during the time of the then President, the late R. Premadasa. Karuna was a military wing leader of the LTTE before he fell out with its leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in 1994 and defected from the organization. Later, he teamed up with the government. He is privy to most activities done by the terrorist outfit both overtly and covertly with the successive governments under peace deals.
Angered by critical remarks on the party, UNP MP Ajith P. Perera shot back at Karuna and held him responsible for the massacre of Buddhist monks in Arantalawa and Muslims in Kattankudy.
Karuna replied that he did not endorse the LTTE activities and that was the reason for his defection .
“I did not like the attitudes and approaches of the LTTE. That is why I left it,”he said.
After joining mainstream politics, Mr. Muralitharan has not normally been hard on his critiques. Now he seems to be keen on countering allegations against him in the political front.
President offers an artificial limb to UNP MP
UNP MP for the Gampaha district Ajith Mannapperuma had his leg amputated after he met with an an accident on the Southern Expressway. After his recovery , President Mahinda Rajapaksa offered to help him in fitting an artificial limb. However, the UNP MP politely refused to accept it saying he has already ordered one from the United States. He said it would be delivered to him soon.
Recently, the President happened to meet Mr. Mannapperuma .
He casually remarked, “If you accepted the artificial limb I arranged for you, you would have been able to walk properly by now.”
Yet, the UNP MP responded saying that he had ordered one from the US by the time he received this offer from the President.
JVP to prevent holding the presidential election
"In this exercise, the JVP has already talked to some MPs of the Tamil National Alliance and the UNP. Also, it met with Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera who is spearheading a campaign for good governance"
The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is now trying to form a broad front challenging the constitutional right of the President to seek a mandate for his third term . This will be an extension of the public seminars conducted by the party, to drive home the point that it is an unlawful election.
The JVP argues that though the two-term limit on the presidency has been removed by the 18th Amendment , the incumbent president cannot seek a mandate for the third term as he was elected to office in 2010 under the previous constitutional provisions only.
In this exercise, the JVP has already talked to some MPs of the Tamil National Alliance and the UNP. Also, it met with Ven. Omalpe Sobhitha Thera who is spearheading a campaign for good governance. This is the initial political strategy being worked out by the JVP to prevent the election being declared.
Yet, if the presidential election is declared, the party will opt for political strategies aimed at defeating the President.