When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was resting at the Abhayaramaya Temple in Colombo, a police officer delivered him a note with permission for Paada Yatra final day rally to be conducted at Campbell Park. Yet, he declined to accept it.
Paada Yatra, the five-day protest march that started from Peradeniya, concluded in Colombo on Monday. The Joint Opposition (JO) or the Rajapaksa segment of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), initially reserved Hyde Park for the final rally, but suddenly the Colombo Municipal authorities presumably in deference to instructions from a higher authority, devised plans to make the grounds unobtainable by starting some renovation work on it ahead of the rally, startling the JO.
On the final day morning, Mr. Rajapaksa, along with other leaders of the Joint Opposition, met in Kiribathgoda and discussed logistics. They were required to notify the police on the route earmarked for the march. All commented on the fact that eight courts in the country had turned down police requests to stop the march in certain towns along the route. All in all, they said in unison that none of the government’s alterative offers should be accepted to conduct the rally. Accordingly, the JO declined the government’s offer of Campbell Park.
Instead, the JO decided in advance to have the rally at Lipton Circus. It is noteworthy to examine what prompted the government to assign Campbell Park and the JO to reject it.
The JO was of the opinion that Lipton Circus would be the next best option as it was located in the heart of the Colombo metropolitan sprawl. It calculated that the rally, at such a location, would attract more media and public attention, and in the end, make a better political impact.
The crowd, packed into the Lipton Circus roundabout and along the roads connected with it, would have a fine view for a photo shoot and obtain video footage for the use of the media. With all that in mind, the JO planned for Lipton Circus.
The government also foresaw it and unsuccessfully tried to compel the JO to have it in Campbell Park in the hope that the event would get played down in public and lower media attention.
Addressing the rally, Mr. Rajapaksa asserted that this was only the beginning, and that next time, there would not be any turning back. The whole purpose of Paada Yatra was in this single sentence. The JO is gearing up for public agitation against the government more and more to halt some of its projects perceived to be detrimental to the interests of the country.
The government, however, enjoys nearly two-thirds majority in Parliament, and it can enact legislation easily. The JO is unable to fight them in the House; the alternative is to agitate outside to muster people’s support.
President resolves to protect the UNP-SLFP Govt
President Maithripala Sirisena, in the face of heat from public protests including the Paada Yatra, seems looked to have strengthened his resolve to protect the present government. He said that street protests would not be able to topple his government until it completed its full term of five years. The President’s popularity appears to have waned among the rank and file of his party, but he may not give way for the JO to gain the upper hand in the party. The end result will be a new political front.
LG polls likely to assume national significance
The Paada Yatra was organised in view of the long overdue local government elections but expected to be conducted early next year. Participants intended to ratchet up pressure on the government to conduct the election as early as possible.Slogans were shouted on the subject. Another slogan that kept ringing was against the government proceeding to sign the Economy and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India.
Any national election is constitutionally barred for the next four years. That people, aggrieved by some unpopular measures of the government, have no outlet to vent their frustration. As such, the local authorities’ election is bound to assume a status parallel to a national election. Consequently, mainstream political parties are bound to face it using all their forces. Paada Yatra was a means of protest against the constitutional process, the curtailment of benefits for farmers, tax hikes and the proposed judicial mechanism to hear charges of war crimes.
Paada Yatra rattles the TNA
The protest on the constitutional process seems to have rattled the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which played a major role in installing the present unity government. In return for its contribution, a new constitution inclusive of what they call ‘credible power sharing mechanism for the North and East. The TNA wanted the government to manage public opinion in this respect in the South and deliver on its promises .
However, in the aftermath of Pada Yatra, the TNA fears whether it will snowball into mass scale public agitation throughout the country scuttling the constitution
“We supported a change of government with the hope of getting a political solution worked out. If that is not done, we will have difficulty in facing our people,” a TNA MP said.
Once irate Canada friendly with SL now
Canada was a country that remained disillusioned with the previous rule of Sri Lanka. The row escalated at that time over the allegations of human rights violations and accountability issues.
In fact, then Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper threatened to withdraw funding for the Commonwealth over rights abuses by Sri Lanka ahead of the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in November, 2013.
However, the diplomatic row seems to have de-escalated fully under the new government. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada Stéphane Dion paid an official visit to Sri Lanka on July28 and 29, the first in 13 years.
A communique by the Foreign Affairs Ministry informed: “Minister Dion called on President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister RanilWickremesinghe and Leader of the Opposition R. Sampanthan during his visit. He also met with a group of Parliamentarians of the Steering Committee on Constitutional Reforms.”
The statement said: “Following discussions with his counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, Mangala Samaraweera, Minister Dion announced two important projects; the National Languages Equality Advancement Project amounting to CAD $ 11.2 million aimed at improving the delivery of government services in both official languages, Sinhala and Tamil; the Entrepreneur Financial Centre Project amounting to CAD $ 8.8 million which aims to establish an entrepreneur financial centre with Development International Desjardins’ and the SANASA Development Bank PLC in Sri Lanka, to stimulate private sector development and job creation by improving livelihoods of entrepreneurs who operate micro, small and medium-sized enterprises.
Minister Dion, together with the Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan, witnessed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding for the implementation of the National Languages Equality Advancement Project by the High Commissioner for Canada to Sri Lanka Shelley Whiting and the Secretary to the Ministry
in-charge on 28 July.
Discussions with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mangala Samaraweera covered all areas of mutual interest including economic development, trade, investment, reconciliation, constitutional reforms, multilateral engagement, people-to-people as well as steps being taken by Sri Lanka for the implementation of the UN Human Rights Council Resolution 30/1 of 1 October 2015.
On July 28, the Foreign Minister of Canada visited Jaffna, where he met with civil society representatives and called on the Governor and Chief Minister of the Northern Province. During his visit to the Jaffna Library, Minister Dion gifted books in English and French that had won the Governor General’s Award in 2015.
The Minister also visited Canada-supported development projects in Jaffna including the Jaffna Hospitality Training Centre and the Agro-Economic Development Project (ADP) funded by Canada with UNDP and FAO support, relating to agro-economic cooperatives in the dairy and agriculture industries.”
GMOA president sees insight from Veddah chief’s remarks
The President of the Government Medical officers’ Association Dr. Anurudda Padeniya delivered an address at the function to mark the launch of the book titled’ Wakugadu Satana’ by Dr. Channa Jayasumana. In his speech, he referred to a prize-giving he attended along with Veddah Chief Uruwarige Wannialatto.
“ The Vedda chief mentioned how his community followed certain moralities even when hunting animals for a living. Veddahs do not slay pregnant wild game.
They eat bush meat in the main, but, the Veddah chief mentioned that a lot of animals are destroyed to feed people,” he said. [The Veddah chief would have meant the destruction of insects and other forms of pests in agriculture for food production.]
“Veddahs kill only one animal [at a time], but we do too many,” Dr. Padeniya said.