The government’ s preparations for a snap presidential election are gathering momentum at the moment with the opening of election co-ordinating offices at each electorate and engaging its political allies to mobilise their fullest possible support.
A number of the organisers of the ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance(UPFA) have already opened offices in their respective electorates for the co-ordination activities of the election campaign once it is declared shortly after November 19. The government presented a populist budget, ahead of this snap election, last Friday.
Buoyed by the announcements of various concessions covering all segments of society, the ruling party accelerated its work for the election during the past week, addressing meetings across the country.
In the meantime, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the largest ally of the government headed by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, had talks with a number of allies over the week. Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulihal (TMVP) led by former Eastern Province Chief Minister Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan met with SLFP National Organiser, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa last Friday and discussed some issues concerning his party engaged in political work in the east. The party has not been in the limelight for quite some time, particularly after Mr. Chandrakanthan was not re-appointed for the chief ministerial post of the Eastern Provincial Council.
TMVP fundamentally decided to support the President at the election. But, it demanded solutions to some matters concerning the party in the province.Mr. Chandrakanthan was elected to the Provincial Council this time from the Batticaloa district and was the only Tamil member to be elected under the betel symbol of the UPFA. But, he remained somewhat distraught with the government over his exclusion from the ministerial board of the council this time. Yet, he was appointed as a presidential co-ordinator overseeing development activities in the east in general, and in Batticaloa in particular.
During the meeting with Minister Rajapaksa, he asked for a bigger role in the co-ordination and execution of development activities . He stakes a claim for this purpose on the basis that he represents a party with a minimum vote base of 40,000,which TMVP believes , is large enough for a party formed not that long ago.
Besides, TMVP urged the government to recognise it officially as a party representing the eastern Tamils on par with the Tamil National Alliance(TNA). So, the TMVP wanted the government to hold talks with it when evolving a political solution to the national question, instead of talking only to the TNA.
The government had, however invited the TMVP twice to make its submissions to the Parliamentary Select Committee on constitutional reforms . Yet the party refused to participate on both the occasions, demanding official recognition as a stakeholder to statutes regarding the evolution of a solution to the national question. The Minister instructed his officials to look into this request, and sort out the matter as soon as possible. TMVP was delighted over the minister’s prompt response.
Another issue concerning the party is the large number of liquor shops operating in the Batticaloa district. The party brought to the notice of Minister Rajapaksa, that certain politicians were behind the operations of liquor shops. Out of the total of 90 liquor bars approved for the entire eastern region, 68 operate in the Batticaloa district. Also, Batticaloa is the district with the highest liquor consumption in the country. Against this backdrop, the TMVP politburo said it had become a major social problem in the district now, and therefore the government should act against those politicians making money from liquor businesses .
Minister Rajapaksa agreed to refer the matter to be considered by the District Development Co-ordinating Committee of Batticaloa. Mr. Chandrakanthan also co- chairs its meetings .
TMVP identifies itself as a party appearing for the rights of eastern Tamils . When the party applied for registration once, it even considered the possibility of using the fish as its symbol , and it was to capitalise on the fame of mythical singing fish of Batticaloa. However, it was registered later under the boat symbol.
The party says the eastern Tamils are discriminated by the northern Tamils. It even accuses the TNA of leaving Batticaloa members out from key positions in the party. Yet,Ilankai Tamil Arachu Katchchi, the largest ally of the TNA , appointed Batticaloa member S. Thurairatnasingham as its General Secretary. TMVP believes that appointment was made as a measure to counter TMVP criticism in this respect .
Lanka Sama Samaja Party(LSSP), a party aligned with the government, had its Central Committee meeting last Sunday and decided to support the President at the snap presidential election . Yet, it was not an unanimous decision as 13 of its central committee members including leading legal professionals such as Lal Wijenayake and Dr. Jayampathi Wickramaratne were against the move. But, party stalwarts Senior Minister Prof. Tissa Vitarana and Deputy Agriculture Minister Y.G.Padmasiri strongly advocated their positions that the party should support the President despite his shortcomings. Later, there was a vote and 26 members were in favour of supporting the President while 13 opposed it.
In addition to the LSSP, the Communist Party of Senior Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera and the Democratic Left Front of National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara are the other leftist allies of the government. Initially, they asked for postponement of the snap presidential election widely believed to be conducted in January, next year. The three parties signed a common letter and sent it to the President earlier . But the President did not listen . Instead, he notified the leaders of all the parties in his government t that he would go for an election, and asked all of them to co-operate with him . Now, the leftist parties are holding internal discussions with their rank and file . There is dissension among some members of these parties over remaining with the government any further. They are eager to see the President unseated at any cost. However, the leadership of these parties want it otherwise. They are not willing to go against the President though they have criticism against the President in some aspects.
So, these two parties are expected to take decisions to be with the President in view of the election.
Three MPs of the United National Party(UNP) - Ravi Karunanayake, Mangala Samaraweera and Karu Jayasuriya, met with visiting Commonwealth Secretary General Kamalesh Sharma. The party complained to him that the government which hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), had breached all the 16 principles outlined in the commonwealth charter. The party delegation briefed him with reference to specific events that took place in recent times. Also, these three MPs are reported to have brought to the notice of Mr.Sharma, the incident in which a few UNP MPs were attacked within the premises of Sri Lanka Ports Authority recently during a fact finding mission and the subsequent legal action against them.
The party sought the assistance of Mr. Sharma for the deployment of election observers from the Commonwealth, right from the start of the presidential election slated to be declared. In this case, the UNP appreciated the role played by the Commonwealth on previous occasions in observing elections here.
The UNP delegation noted that President Mahinda Rajapaksa should be above all in upholding commonwealth principles for free and fair elections , as the present Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth.
At one point, the UNP said it would initiate legal action against the removal of the two-term limit on the presidency of Mr. Rajapaksa. Mr. Sharma , at this point, asked how long it would take for delivering the court ruling. His request was taken in light spirit by the participants who had a laugh about it.
The UNP also briefed him about the infringement of media freedom which formed part of the bedrock of democracy and development in the modern society.
The UNP G 20 met once again yesterday and discussed the strategies for the presidential election campaign. For the formulation of its election manifesto, the G 20 decided to seek the views of all its MPs. The group will meet again next Wednesday.
The Northern Provincial Council conducted a medical camp for its members on Tuesday. Two members were tested with high contents of alcohol in their blood samples . They had been drunk by the time, and everyone was astonished that these two members could not abstain from alcohol consumption even when coming for a medical check-up.
The Northern Provincial Council had a session the same day. During the session, Deputy Chairman Antony Jeyanathan took a swipe at Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran and his ministers for not being responsive enough to their requests in discharging their duties in the province. He accused them of not even responding to a letter or granting an appointment to meet them to raise issues concerning the general public in the north. Tension prevailed in the council following such remarks, and it led to heated arguments and cross-talks involving those concerned.
UNP MP Rosy Senanayake raised a question in Parliament yesterday on the re-release of cattle and buffaloes in large numbers to the national parks such as Udawalawe and Lunugamwehera, despite it being unlawful.
In reply, subject Minister Gamini Wijith Vijayamuni Zoysa gave the numbers of cattle and buffaloes released grazing in the wild of the national parks .
Ms. Senanayake was tough on the minister in raising her supplementary questions. The minister only said in lighter vein, “Please be kind to me as you are to others . I would like to give you an answer. Though it is unlawful, there are no grazing fields for cattle and buffaloes . Therefore, their owners release them to the national parks for grazing . It has created a shortage of elephant feed inside these parks. If I restrict the release of cattle and buffaloes, they will fall prey to rustlers . I want to prevent these animals from being butchered by rustlers for beef.”
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