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UNP braces for elections

2018-09-06 00:00:46
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The UNP is sending the message that the party is gearing up for the elections

It has become apparent that the election mode has been activated in the country. So to speak, the United National Party (UNP) has called for a meeting of its Kandy District electoral organization on September 9. It clearly sends the message that the party is gearing up for the elections.   

Normally, the district committees of political parties meet regularly like once a month. However, the district organizations are convened normally when crucial political events are on the cards. As such, it is obvious that the UNP is bracing for elections.   

  • Despite the UNP’s obvious readiness to face such elections, uncertainty, however, prevails in political circles
  • Probably, the UNP launched Enterprise Sri Lanka and Gamperaliya programmes bearing future elections in mind
  • In another instance, the UNP MPs raised concern about the lack of cooperation from the local authorities
  • The Ministers got the opportunity to have a good laugh at the Cabinet meeting

According to inside sources of the UNP, the party is getting ready for the provincial council elections to be conducted during the first quarter of next year. The party has already assigned its organisers to revive its grassroots level machinery in view of such upcoming elections.   

Already, the elections are overdue for three provincial councils- Sabaragamuwa, North-Central and Eastern Provincial Councils. Besides, Northern, North-Western and Central Councils will stand dissolved early next month. Then, the stage will be set for the elections to five out of the nine provincial councils in the country.   

Despite the UNP’s obvious readiness to face such elections, uncertainty, however, prevails in political circles whether there would be any election prior to the presidential elections, scheduled at the end of 2019. Come what may, the Presidential Elections must be conducted by November, next year somehow or other unless the Constitution is amended to postpone them. It is a period stretching for a little more than one year. 

Therefore, it is understandable for any political party to position itself politically now.   

Probably, the UNP launched Enterprise Sri Lanka and Gamperaliya programmes bearing future elections in mind.   

Under the Enterprise Sri Lanka programme, loans are issued at low-interest rates for entrepreneurs. In this instance, the Government only took the policy decision to release loans through the private and commercial banks. Loan approval is discretionary for the banking authorities depending on the eligibility of applicants.   

Granting of loans

This seems to have ruffled some UNP MPs. They have been under the impression that loans would be approved by the banking authorities on recommendations by area politicians representing the Government. So, they directed a question in this respect at the party’s parliamentary group meeting last Monday.  “What is the purpose of giving loans if they don’t give us any political mileage at the end?” one MP asked.   

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne briefed the MPs on the Enterprise Sri Lanka project in detail and said it was the discretion of the bankers to approve loans or not. He said it was a project aimed at improving entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka which is low compared to other countries in the region.   

He also asked the MPs to be mindful of the fact that only the depositors’ money was used by the banks in giving loans. He said the Government should ensure that the banking system would not suffer by giving loans on an ad hoc basis.   

The State Minister said these programmes should not be mixed up with the allocations for the projects outlined under the decentralised budget for MPs.   

Gamperaliya hindered by SLPP led local authorities 

In another instance, the UNP MPs raised concern about the lack of cooperation from the local authorities in the implementation of the Gamperaliya programme. A bulk of the local authorities is controlled by Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). The MPs said they faced practical problems in making Gamperaliya a success as a result.   

UNP to form broad alliance under new symbol with like-minded parties 

Meanwhile, ahead of major elections, the political parties which are aligned with the UNP have proposed to form a broad alliance under a different name and a symbol and register it with the Election Commission.   

Basically, it was suggested by Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) Leader Minister Rauff Hakeem, Tamil Progressive Alliance Leader Minister Mano Ganeshan and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne. They have been together with the UNP under the banner ‘United National Front (UNF)’. However, they have found that it is difficult to accommodate a party like ‘Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)’ under the same political label.   

Accordingly, the proposal is to form a broad alliance similar to the political formation such as the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Most SLFP Ministers, who are currently with the Government, will be party to the proposed alliance. Recent political remarks by some of these SLFP ministers also point to such a political development.   

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Irrigation Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Fisheries Minister Gamini Wijith Wijayamuni Zoisa are reportedly favouring a political understanding with the UNP under such a modality

Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, Irrigation Minister Duminda Dissanayake, Fisheries Minister Gamini Wijith Wijayamuni Zoisa are reportedly favouring a political understanding with the UNP under such a modality. In recent times, going by their remarks, they have identified themselves more with the UNP albeit their political upbringing with the SLFP-led political force of the country.   

The Cabinet of Ministers set aside as much as 40 minutes to discuss about the protest rally that was to be conducted by the Joint Opposition yesterday. They stressed the need to use necessary force in case protestors disrupted order.   

Ladies do not like Mangala, says President 

Despite all this, the Ministers got the opportunity to have a good laugh at the Cabinet meeting. That happened when Justice Minister Talatha Athukorale and Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera were featured in an argument. Athukorale put forward a Cabinet paper requesting financial allocations to a certain project. But, Minister Samaraweera declined to allocate money for it. Despite the Minister’s rejection, she kept pestering the Minister for financial allocation. And it prompted President Maithripala Sirisena to remark, “It is typical of ladies to keep asking and asking,”

Athukorale, in a jovial sense, turned to the President and complained against Samaraweera to the President. She said she was ill-treated by the Minister.   
Then, the President said, “I know the ladies do not like Mangala,”   

The entire Cabinet roared in laughter following the President’s response.     


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