The Central Bank (CB) report was released on Tuesday announcing that the county’s economy had grown by 7.3 percent in 2013, one percent increase from 6.3 per cent growth rate reported in 2012. However, the Research Division Head of the CB, Swarna Gunatilake in her presentation, referred to it as a marginal growth against that of the previous year.
The use of the word ‘marginal one per cent’ was not to the liking of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. P. B. Jayasundare. They were so much up set so that they looked at each other’s face upon hearing this remark. Dr. Jayasundare reprimanded Ms. Gunatilake publicly in his address at the function.
“One per cent increase of the economic growth rate is a major achievement. So, it should not have been called a marginal growth. Earlier, it was even difficult to maintain a growth of three per cent. Now, it is above seven per cent,” he said.
The President also expressed his unhappiness over the remark that downgraded the achievement of his government in the economic sphere. Later, the journalists, who were present at the scene, approached Ms. Gunatilake after the event and asked her about the validity of her remark at this forum. She said she made a mistake by calling it a marginal growth. She would have been taken aback since she came under fire from both Dr. Jayasundare and the President.
Come what may the Central Bank figures, even the recent poll results forced the government to re-strategise its economic policies, with particular focus on income generation for the people.
Actually, the sizeable drop of the ruling party’s vote bank has politically stunned its members who, until now, remained complacent over successive election victories with thumping majorities against the Opposition
Actually, the sizeable drop of the ruling party’s vote bank has politically stunned its members who, until now, remained complacent over successive election victories with thumping majorities against the Opposition. However, the reduction of its vote base by 250,000 in the Western and Southern Provinces has chilled the government members. They interpret the results in different perspectives. At the post election Central Committee meeting of Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the results were looked at through different prisms.
Among them, North Western Province Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara , a fresh addition to the Central Committee, lamented the failure on the part of the government members to counter the allegations made by the Opposition, particularly regarding drug trafficking, the import of Ethanol to be used as a spirit in manufacturing liquor and rampant corruption among the government ranks.
“The Opposition based its campaign on these three main allegations. We must have a retrospective analysis whether we countered these allegations in the proper sense. We should have asked the Opposition, especially the UNP, to substantiate their allegations with evidence. They accuse the government of drug peddling. We must have asked them to prove it,” he told President Mahinda Rajapaksa who chaired the meeting.
Apart from correction of such shortfalls, party seniors discussed the need to rework its priorities in implementing its policies. Despite massive infrastructure projects including a port, an international airport and a highway, the SLFP –led alliance polled a less number of voters in the Southern Province, in comparison to the poll results of 2009. The government, led by SLFP as the key ally led by the President, has now been awakened to the reality that people’s income level has not increased despite the fine infrastructure laid at a huge cost.
Along with the improvement of their quality of life due to better physical infrastructure, their income level has not increased sufficiently
In the recent annual budget, the government prioritised over infrastructure development, especially road construction over public welfare and income generation activities. Even, public servants were denied decent salary hikes since the government wanted to pump in money from the state coffers, or from borrowings for infrastructure development. The infrastructure network is fundamental for an economy to take off. But, the general public cannot wait till the benefits seep into their hands from an economic growth triggered by such infrastructure.
Commenting on such results, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said the government would redirect its policies for the improvement of people’s income level at this moment.
“Along with the improvement of their quality of life due to better physical infrastructure, their income level has not increased sufficiently,” he told Daily Mirror.
Likewise, he said there was a drop in the number of votes polled from electorates close to Ratupaswala where a military crackdown on a public protest against the contamination of their drinking water resulted in three deaths.
Now, the election is over. Only 3000 voters have cast preferential votes for Mr. Lansa from Kelaniya at the behest of Mr. Silva.
“We have a drop in our vote bank in Negombo where a garment factory worker died in clashes with police during a protest. Also, the problem in the rubber plantation sector has also affected the ruling party. In the overall context, we have won comfortably. People are not ready for a regime change at the moment,” he said.
Small Export Crop Development Minister Reginald Cooray , at the SLFP Central Committee ,remarked that the government should drop its nationalist approach in politics, and instead embrace national politics.
Mr. Cooray, despite being with the SLFP, has policy differences with the party hierarchy over key policy matters. He is an advocate of power sharing with the minorities. At this election, he campaigned for the government. As a person with musical skills, he entertained the crowd with famous songs. Participants even danced according to the rhythm of his music.
Hirunika gets a piece of advice from Dayasiri
Hirunika Premachandra, the daughter of late Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra, topped the preferential votes’ list of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). After the preferential votes were announce, she got a call from Mr. Dayasiri Jayasekara who asked her not to be misled by ill-advisers in politics.
“I congratulate you. You topped the list. So, your close aides might ask you to demand various positions in the Western Provincial Council. You should not be misled by them. You have to build up your political path,” he told Hirunika.
Mr.Jayasekara did not stop at wishing Hirunika. He even phoned his former colleagues of the UNP.
The Opposition based its campaign on these three main allegations. We must have a retrospective analysis whether we countered these allegations in the proper sense. We should have asked the Opposition, especially the UNP, to substantiate their allegations with evidence. They accuse the government of drug peddling. We must have asked them to prove it
“I phoned and wished Mr. Bandulalal Bandarigoda who received the highest number of preferential votes from the Galle district in the UNP list. Also, I wished S.M. Marikkar who came first in the UNP list of the Colombo district,” he said.
Despite the marginal increase in its vote base at the March 29 Provincial Council Elections compared with the 2009 election, the internal squabbles within the United National Party(UNP) were visible even at the very first Working Committee meeting held on April 3.
UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya presented a broad overview of the election results, highlighting the importance of team effort to propel the party to new heights in future. Party Chairman Kabir Hashim also made similar remarks.
Shortly after such presentations, the factions within the party traded allegations against each other, compelling the moderates to remark that it would not bode well for the proposed election to the Uva Provincial Council to be conducted within the next few months.
MP Sajith Premadasa, who is at odds with the party leadership, faulted the Leadership Council for discrepancies in the preparation of nomination lists. The exclusion of Colombo Mayor A.J.M. Muzamil’s wife, due to the insistence of a Colombo district MP, was seen by him as a mistake.
If not for that mistake, he said, the party could have polled more votes from the Muslim community in the Colombo district. The rejection of nomination for some members contributed to the further erosion of party’s vote base at some electorates, as said by Mr. Premadasa who is elated over the increase of total votes polled by the UNP in the Hambantota district under his leadership.
Incensed by Mr. Premadasa’s remarks, UNP National Organizer Daya Gamage retorted saying the Leadership Council should not be criticised as it did a great deal of work for the party in view of the elections.
Asserting such remarks, Lionel Ipalawatte who was elected to the Southern Provincial Council this time, took on Mr. Premadasa.
“We are with the leader. We learnt to respect and be with the leader from your father the late Mr. Ranasinghe Premadasa. We still stick to that principle when carrying out political work,” he said in response to MP Premadasa’s criticism.
Working Committee member Ananda Kularatne and Chrisanta Cooray also had verbal fights with Mr. Premadasa.
The next diatribe involved the National Organiser and former MP Ranjith Aluvihare. Mr. Gamage reprimanded Mr. Aluvihare for not doing his assignment for the election in the Galle district. The party had assigned him to work in Galle. Instead, he had chosen Hambantota. This evoked the ire of Mr. Gamage.
“During the Central Provincial Council election, I campaigned for Mr.Aluvihare in the Matale district. Yet, he did not work in Galle despite being assigned by the party,” he said.
Mr. Aluvihare retorted at this point saying he did not do any campaign work in Galle because of his dislike towards Galle district leader Vajira Abeywardane.
“I do not like Vajira because he is patronised by the government. Therefore, I did not work in the area,” he said.
During such cross talks, there were references to MP Ravi Karunanayake over his involvement in the selection of Colombo district candidates. Eventually, he stood on his feet and said, “I did not intend to make any comment today. Yet, there were references to me. So, I am compelled to speak up. The UNP does not follow a policy of promoting the spouses of its leaders. If there is a departure from this policy, let us all field our spouses next time,” he said.
MP Karu Jayasuriya, in his final remarks, added that there was an invisible force trying to sabotage the party’s forward march, and he would reveal such elements at the appropriate time.
Dayasiri in tug of war with CEA
Chief Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara sought an immediate meeting with Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Susil Premajayantha on April 8 to discuss the Central Environment Authority (CEA) trampling the powers of his Provincial Council regarding the environmental affairs.
The North Western Provincial Council adopted a statute in 1990 for the establishment of a separate environmental authority to deal with the subject within the province. This Wayamba Environment Authority can act fully independent of the CEA.
“A certain official of the CEA charges Rs.13,000 from stone quarries in the province. That is unlawful. We have the power to do it. In fact, the Wayamba Environmental Authority had the power to do the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Norochcholai Coal Power Project,” he said.
Dayasiri met with Minister Premajayantha, and clarified his position. He sought the minister’s intervention to stop the CEA from trying to handle environmental matters in the province.
“Otherwise, I vowed to file a case against the CEA. The Minister agreed to settle the issue,” he said.
Mervin in a fresh political dilemma
Public Relations Minister Mervin Silva is in a political dilemma now since he could not secure enough votes from the Kelaniya electorate for Nimal Lansa, a ruling party candidate. In fact, prior to the election, he has vowed to get more votes from Kelaniya for Mr. Lansa than for Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga. Instead, Kelaniya Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman Prasanna Ranaweera and his members posed a fresh political challenge to Mr.Silva saying they canvass more votes for Mr. Ranatunga. Mr. Ranaweera and his team were demanding the removal of Minister Silva from Kelaniya as its electoral organizer.
In this case, the initial agreement was to remove Mr. Silva in case he failed to secure more votes from Kelaniya for Mr. Lansa.
Now, the election is over. Only 3000 voters have cast preferential votes for Mr. Lansa from Kelaniya at the behest of Mr. Silva. Nevertheless, Mr. Ranatunga received 15,000 preferential votes from Kelaniya. Emboldened by the people’s electoral verdict, the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman and other members of his Council planned to conduct a media conference this week and asked Mr. Silva to resign from his post in Kelaniya, since he could not win the political challenge.
However, the Gampaha district political leadership warned the Chairman against this move. So, he had to shelve the move. The disappointed Pradeshiya Sabha members including Mr. Ranaweera have now toughened their stand not to organise people for May Day Rally from Kelaniya. They notified it to the political authorities of the district. Earlier, they used to bring several busloads of people to the rally.