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Presidential Commission ruffles UNP’s feathers

24 January 2019 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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It’s the time limit encompassing the prime period of the National Unity Government between the United National Party (UNP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).  After   he fell out with the UNP leadership and his UPFA closed ranks with the government, President Sirisena vowed to appoint such a commission to probe corruption and frauds perpetrated during the period

It was half in jest that some of the Ministers, including the likes of Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga, thanked President Maithripala Sirisena for the appointment of a Presidential Commission to probe allegations of fraud and corruption during the period between January 15, 2015 and December 31, 2018. 

It’s the time limit encompassing the prime period of the National Unity Government between the United National Party (UNP) and the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA).  After   he fell out with the UNP leadership and his UPFA closed ranks with the government, President Sirisena vowed to appoint such a commission to probe corruption and frauds perpetrated during the period. The President’s move is clear- to fix the UNP ahead of the Presidential Election to be declared around mid-October  and conclude before December 9, this year. 

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), along with its alliance partners, has not yet decided on the common candidate.  But Gotabaya Rajapaksa has indicated his intention to be the candidate, not once but twice. Once he implied his intention twice to the press,    a premature enthusiasm has been generated in respect of the presidential elections

The appointment of the presidential commission ruffled the UNP’s feathers since it feared that findings   would dent its reputation ahead of a national election. The President has, in fact, asked for the final report to be submitted by the Commission by June, this year.  Therefore, it was only in jest that the UNP Ministers thanked the President regarding this at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

That they thanked the President in jest, however,   became obvious when Minister of Highways and Road Development Kabir Hashim asked the President at the same meeting to take prompt action against wrong doings of the previous government that ruled the country before January, 2015. The President referred to the Presidential Commission to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC), and said he had done his part in this respect.

“I appointed a commission. Its mission is now accomplished. It is for the Attorney General to proceed with litigation,” the President said.

The UNP is annoyed that it is being singled out by the President  

The UNP indirectly asked the President as to why it was only targeted   for corruption and fraud with no action being taken against the former rulers. Politically, the   President has now teamed up with the former rulers. 

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe also added to the discussion. He said the Cabinet was collectively bound to all the decisions taken during the period concerned. As such, he said the entire Cabinet would be collectively bound if there were any decisions leading to corruption and fraud at that time.

During the period, the President’s UPFA was party to the government. Alongside, the President also chaired the Cabinet meetings.   As such, the Prime Minister, in his remarks, implied that the President would also be held responsible, or to account for any wrongdoing by that Government. 

All in all, the appointment of the latest Presidential Commission increased    acrimony between the President and the UNP, as both sides brace for the presidential election to be conducted later this year.  The President is also a prospective candidate. Already, he has done enough political damage to the UNP by exposing the Central Bank’s bond fraud through a similar Commission.  Another exposure, if there is any, will make a lethal political blow to the party ahead of vital elections. So, the UNP’s antagonism is understandable at this hour. 

Likewise, the President’s action can be counter productive for him in a way since it is possible that the UNP would try to implicate him or his close aides in some questionable transactions done during the period concerned.  Accordingly, it is all set to trigger another diatribe between the President and the UNP in the months to come. One can expect it when the commission proceeds with its deliberations.

The UNP has not yet decided on its presidential candidate. But, there are aspirants like Housing and Construction Minister Sajith Premadasa. In the meantime, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya is also promoted as a possible candidate by some sections of the party. 

Gotabaya increases political engagement 

Former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who indicated his desire to contest the presidency at the next election, stepped up his political engagements this week. As part of his political interaction, he held a meeting with the UPFA MPs representing the Gampaha District on Monday regarding his ‘Eliya’ programme to be conducted in their constituencies. Eliya is the programme serving as the launching pad of Gotabaya Rajapaksa to enter politics.  In his address to the Gampaha district legislators of the UPFA, Rajapaksa said though he did not engage politics in the past, he was very knowledgeable of politics as someone hailing from a long standing political family. 

While interacting with the MPs, he discussed the constitutional proposals included in the report presented to Parliament recently. Rajapaksa said the report should be rejected forthwith. 

The Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), along with its alliance partners, has not yet decided on the common candidate.  But Gotabaya Rajapaksa has indicated his intention to be the candidate, not once but twice. Once he implied his intention twice to the press,    a premature enthusiasm has been generated in respect of the presidential elections. There are nine more months to go for it. In politics, this is a long period. Vagaries of politics   are so much so that anything can happen during such a long period.  

The UNP indirectly asked the President as to why it was only targeted   for corruption and frauds with no action being taken against the former rulers. Politically, the   President has now teamed up with the former rulers

Sri Lankan watchers in the international arena have upped the ante as of now.  So, Gotabaya’s moves are now under the radars of the countries interested in Sri Lanka’s political developments.    

He has to renounce his US citizenship first to be eligible to contest for presidency here. In this instance, Section 349(a) (5) of the United States’ Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) (8 U.S.C. 1481(a) (5)) is the section of law governing the right of a United States citizen to renounce abroad his or her U.S. citizenship. That section of law provides for the loss of nationality voluntarily and with the intention of relinquishing nationality:

“Making a formal renunciation of nationality before a diplomatic or consular officer of the United States in a foreign state, in such form as may be prescribed by the Secretary of State,” it says.  

Be that as it may, within the SLPP- led political camp, there are those who are averse to Gotabaya Rajapaksa being given nomination. Kalutara district MP Kumara Welgama is openly against it. Besides, MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara advocacy candidacy for MP Chamal Rajapaksa. 

In Parliament, Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chamal Rajapaksa are seated next to each other. Seated in front of them in the government sides, are Chief Government Whip Gayantha Karunatilake and Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella.   On Tuesday, the four of them were making fun remarks aimed at each other. At one point, the Opposition Leader signaled to Kiriella that he wanted to go out of the Chamber. Then, Kiriella pointed his finger at Chamal Rajapaksa and said, “You going leaving the common candidate with us.”
The four of them had a good laugh over this remark. 

Mahanayake Theras praise Gayantha 

Recently, Land Minister Gayantha Karunatilake received laurels from the Mahanayake Theras of Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters for his programme of distribution of title deeds. The Mahanayake Theras praised him when he called on them recently. 
Under this programme, Karunatilake offers title deeds to Buddhist Vihares throughout the country.  


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