Ministers Lakshman Kiriella and Kabir Hashim had a showdown at today's meeting of UNP seniors.
Recently, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had requested President Maithripala Sirisena to assign the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) which is presently under Mr. Hashim to Mr. Kiriella. But Mr. Kiriella is known to have resisted such moves. The President had conveyed this to Mr. Kiriella and the other party senior who had met the President last week.
Minister Kiriella raised this matter at today's meeting and reportedly taken Mr. Hashim to task.
“What right do you have to block this move,” he asked.
This led to a verbal tirade between the two ministers. Mr. Kiriella accused Mr. Hashim of letting down the party on four counts. He said Mr. Hashim was sworn in by the President as a minister despite instructions by the Prime Minister not to do so and was known to be having underhand dealings with the President against the party. Mr. Kiriella also said Mr. Hashim had met SLPP's presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa in secret.
“You were exposed by Minister Navin Dissanayake regarding your surreptitious meeting with Gotabaya. Then, you admitted it. I am ashamed to associate with people like you in the government,” he said and also accused him of conducting public rallies all over the country regardless of the party’s position.
“It is shameful that you do these things as the chairman of the party. You better resign from the party and do what you want,” Mr. Kiriella said.
Meanwhile, Minister Hashim told the Daily Mirror that he resisted the move to take the CPC away from him because he was the only Cabinet minister representing the Kegalle district.
“We do not have expressway projects leading to Kegalle. It is a poor district. I want to serve my people better,” he said. (Kelum Bandara)