A sudden message was delivered to the office of the Leader of the House of Parliament last Tuesday, calling for arrangements to conduct a party leaders’ meeting immediately at 5.00pm on the same day. The meeting, normally scheduled for the third sitting day of every parliamentary week, was advanced to the very first day of this parliamentary week after the main opposition United National Party (UNP) asked for a special debate on the August 1 incident in Weliweriya, in which three youths were killed, and scores of others were injured.
A full-day debate on the Weliweriya incident
The UNP’s proposal was discussed at this meeting in under 30 minutes. The government agreed to set August 21, for a full-day debate, on the matter as an adjournment motion.
"While Weliweriya people were mourning the death of three youths, the political parties, mainly the UPFA, the United National Party(UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance(TNA), swung into election mode in the Northern, North Western and Central Provinces"
People in and around Weliweriya protested against a factory which they said had been responsible for polluting the ground water in the area. The unrest that prevailed for more than two weeks culminated in the deployment of the army to disperse protestors, and the subsequent killing of three youths on August 1.
Vasu in criticism mode
The incident dominated the news, and there was dissension even among the members of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). When the UPFA had its parliamentary group meeting on Monday, it was National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara who struck a note of criticism first.
Minister Nanayakkara said the use of live bullets was totally unwarranted for the dispersing of a protesting crowd. Instead, he said, the lawful riot control methods such as the use of tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets should have been adopted.
Pabaa and Sudarshini’s concern
“Today, this incident has brought the government to disrepute. It is always pragmatic to have a sociological analysis of issues before jumping into conclusions as happened in Weliweriya. There can be unscrupulous elements among protestors. That can happen anywhere. For me, there seem to be such disruptive elements within the top layer of the government. Therefore, the use of excessive force was ordered,” he thundered.
Also, two female MPs from Gampaha- Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle and Upeksha Swarnamali were critical of what happened in Weliweriya.
Yet, only Deputy Minister of Housing Construction and Engineering Services Lasantha Alagiyawanna who is also from the Gampaha district, had different views. He tried to drive home the point that there was a sinister element that provoked the people for an outcry despite repeated assurances to resolve the problem.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, after listening to views by all, remarked that it was always advisable to have a proper analysis and understanding of the problem before resorting to any action.
PC polls fray deepens
While Weliweriya people were mourning the death of three youths, the political parties, mainly the UPFA, the United National Party(UNP) and the Tamil National Alliance(TNA), swung into election mode in the Northern, North Western and Central Provinces, shortly after allotted preferential numbers of the candidates in the fray were announced by the Election Department on Monday.
After former UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara switched allegiance to the UPFA to contest the provincial council elections, the campaign in the North Western Province has become more vibrant. Mr. Jayasekara’s entry to the fray, according to him, as the chief ministerial candidate, has enraged other UPFA stalwarts including the former chief minister, Athula Wijesinghe.
The intra-party rivalry for preferential votes in the Kurunegala district is getting increasingly intensified. Mr. Jayasekara has already started criticising the former chief minister for what he called ‘the collapse of school education’ in the province. At an election rally last week, he slandered the former chief minister on this issue. Making such remarks, Mr. Jayasekare is trying to motivate voters to put a cross in the box containing his preferential number on the ballot paper.
Countering his arguments, Mr. Wijesinghe said people would re-elect him with the highest number of preferential votes enabling him to qualify for the chief ministerial post for the third consecutive time.
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA), which rides the wave in the North, is now working on the party’s manifesto to be released on August 11. Party leader R. Sampanthan, National List MP M.A. Sumanthiran and Chief Ministerial Candidate C.V. Wigneswaran are among the key players involved in the formulation of the manifesto. A credible power-sharing arrangement with the centre and the improvement of the living conditions of the people will feature the TNA’s manifesto to be placed before the public.
Northern voters’ enthusiasm
At previous national elections, the voter turnout remained relatively low in the North. It was always between 45 to 50 percent, suggesting that people were not keen to participate in such elections. However, reports from the North indicate that a great measure of enthusiasm has been generated among the general public in the North this time, probably due to the significance of the formation of the Northern Provincial Council in their perspective. Notably, this election was declared amid attempts to dilute the provincial council powers, a move which was vehemently opposed by minority political parties. Meanwhile, the international attention is also drawn towards this crucial election.
UNP’s ‘electrifying’ promise
The economy will be the key campaign issue for the main opposition UNP this time. In the central province, the party is planning to make an election promise that it, if elected to office, will even reimburse increased electricity tariffs charged from people. The party’s Kandy district leadership is now trying to print a leaflet bearing this promise, to be distributed among people when canvassing for votes.
Applying JR’s wisdom
Meanwhile, the UNP parliamentary group decided on Tuesday to appoint an advisory group assigned with the task of instructing the party’s working committee and the leadership on measures to be taken to mount pressure on the government for an early general election in 2014. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing this meeting said a similar committee had been appointed ahead of the 1977 elections by then leader, the late J.R.Jayewardene.
Following advice by such a body, the party was propelled to a landslide victory in 1977. The UNP, after being in the opposition since 1994, barring the two-year tenure between 2002 and 2004, now looks to an electoral victory. At the meeting, the UNP leader stressed the importance of maintaining the unity of the party.
Harrison, Gajadeera at loggerheads
UNP MP for the Anuradhapura district P. Harrison locked horns with Prison Reforms Minister Chandrasiri Gajadeera on two occasions during the last two parliamentary weeks. On the two occasions, MP Harrison directed questions on the massacre of 27 inmates in the Welikada prison on November 9, 2012 . The reason for the sudden raid on prison wards, the number of those killed and steps taken to control the situation were the matters raised by the MP in his questions. Minister Gajadeera answered them, with an assurance that the committee, conducting investigations into the incident, would submit the report this week.
Minutes after the question was answered, the two members happened to meet on the corridor of Parliament. Regardless of political differences, the two exchanged pleasantries, and MP Harrison asked for some details which, the minister could not divulge inside the chamber through the official channel.
Drugs shoved in rectum
The Minister was quick to note that the prison system was plagued with drug smuggling even with the connivance of jailors. He said that some people take drugs into prison cells concealing the stuff in their rectums, but the prison authorities had no necessary machinery to detect such offenders.
“We are planning to have a modern detector which can sense such concealments in the body. The prison intelligence authorities have traced such activities. Jailors sometimes aid and abet these drug traffickers. We do not publicise our methods used to contain prison frauds for obvious reasons,” he told Mr. Harrison.
Raid on Welikada prison
However, this raid on prison wards is likely to have ripple effects internationally. It was evident when UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera, in a supplementary question on Tuesday, asked whether the Minister considered the ‘Welikada prison massacre’ a serious violation of the commonwealth charter.
“Now Sri Lanka is getting to ready to hold the chairmanship of the commonwealth for the next two years. Against this backdrop, do you consider this massacre a serious violation of the commonwealth charter?” he asked.
The Minister replied that he had done his part as the subject minister, and therefore, he was not bothered about other implications. Yet, Mr. Samaraweera continued to pester Mr. Gajadeera for his desired answer. It eventually led to heated cross talks between the two, and what transpired was not audible in the press gallery.
‘Ouster’ of Shirani Bandaranayake
A British parliamentary delegation was in Sri Lanka a couple of weeks back. The delegation was having a luncheon interaction with a delegation of Sri Lanka Parliament on July 15. The British MPs inquired about the constitutionality of the procedure adopted in the impeachment of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake.
Leader of the House Nimal Siripala de Silva and Deputy Speaker Chandima Weerakkody were among those from the government at the meeting. They defended the procedure whereas the opposition MPs such as Vijitha Herath of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna(JVP) and Sijeewa Senasinghe of the UNP were critical of the process calling it an undemocratic act that denied natural justice to Ms. Bandaranayake.
At this time British MP Simon Danczuk, pointed to MP Herath in particular and asked for his views as a member who represented the Parliamentary Select Committee that probed charges against the former Chief Justice.
Mr. Herath gave a detailed account of what happened at the Select Committee, and it was to the annoyance of the government members present. Despite the presence of British members, the government and opposition members engaged themselves in cross talks.
Trial on British national’s death
MP Danczuk is keen on Sri Lanka’s law and order issues. He visited Sri Lanka previously to lobby for speedy legal action against the perpetrators of the crime that killed British national Kuram Shaikah Zaman (32), a prosthetic expert who was working in the Gaza Strip, on the eve of the 2011 Christmas Day in Tangalle. The victim was from the constituency of Mr. Kuram. On several occasions, he expressed his dissatisfaction in the manner the legal case was being handled by the Sri Lankan authorities.
After the luncheon interaction, Mr.Danczuk also met Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem to know the progress on investigation into this incident.
Any object about the size of a cell-phone,cannot be retrieved after it has entered the rectum which is 6" long and distends upto 3-4 inches. The abdomen has to be opened up by a surgeon,and the object pushed out after the anal sphincter muscle has been relaxed by anaesthesia. Ask any surgeon. This canard about objects smuggled in the rectum is to coverup smuggling in food and other parcels.
Ask any surgeon. This canard about objects smuggled in the rectum is to coverup smuggling in food and other parcels....')" type="button" class="btn btn-outline-secondary btn-sm" style="padding-top: 0px; padding-bottom: 2px">Reply
Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.