The ruling United People’s Freedom Alliance(UPFA) gave further rise on Monday to speculation in political circles about a snap presidential election in January next year.
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, the key personality involved in positioning the party for a snap election, convened a meeting with the private staff members of UPFA MPs, including those holding ministerial posts, at Temple Trees on Monday.
Sources close to the Minister said the staff members were assigned to make the logistical arrangements for the election campaign to be launched later next month. So, they were entrusted with work such as dispatching posters and other necessities in time to be put up countrywide, as part of the campaign. Besides, they were assigned the task of countering ‘malicious propaganda’ against the UPFA in the cyber space, particularly in social media networks such as Facebook.
Besides, a separate meeting was conducted the same day with the secretaries appointed for each electorate to coordinate the campaign during election time.
At all these meetings, the Minister tried to be cautious not to refer to a presidential election. Instead, he talked about a national election. However, at one point, probably at the slip of the tongue, he mentioned the presidential election.
The UPFA is to focus mainly on strengthening the women’s wing ahead of an election. Minister Rajapaksa emphasised that it was all the more important to woo female voters to the UPFA fold.
“Woman voters play a pivotal role. They constitute the bulk of the voter population. We have to appeal to them,” he reportedly told the gathering.
The main opposition United National Party (UNP) is also bracing for the election. In this effort, the party has appointed a group of 20 members. The group called ‘G 20’ is engaged in mobilising the strength of all the common thinking parties. Already, the party has made representatives to various political entities in the opposition both at formal and informal levels.
Foremost among all, the party believes the executive presidency has become a bane for the country, and that it should be abolished forthwith while ensuring parliamentary supremacy in governance. The UNP is slated on strategising its campaign based on these aspects. It says a sense of decency should be introduced to governance.
Besides, the party is to include measures in its manifesto to ensure relief for the people in terms of the reduction of the cost of living.
"The group called ‘G 20’ is engaged in mobilising the strength of all the common thinking parties. Already, the party has made representatives to various political entities in the opposition both at formal and informal levels. "
So far, the G 20 has met a couple of times. Apart from the members of the party’s Leadership Council, several MPs, who previously remained disappointed with the party hierarchy over different issues, have been assigned responsibilities in this new group.
They are Puttalam district MP Palitha Range Bandara, Moneragala district MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara, Kurunegala district MP Asoka Abeysinghe and Ratnapura district MP Talatha Athukorale. The party’s Uva Province Opposition Leader Harin Fernando is also a member of it.
The G 20 is slated to meet again on October 17 to discuss and to work out strategies.
Ven. Madhuluwave SobhithaThera, who spearheads a political movement for good governance, particularly for the abolition of the executive presidency, is working out a set of political proposals to be presented to the prospective candidates at the presidential election. Last Monday, he met former MP Mano Ganeshan, the leader of the Democratic People’s Front, in this regard.
Ven. Sobhitha Thera has noted that he will support any candidate accepting to implement these proposals upon election to office.
Mr. Ganeshan, as a politician representing ethnic Tamils, asked Ven. SobhithaThera to include some proposals to address the political rights of the minority communities. Mr. Ganeshan has a vote base among the Tamils concentrated in the Colombo district.
The Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), an ally of the Government, also met Ven. Sobhitha Thera yesterday at Sri Naga Vihare in Kotte, and discussed the current political situation and socio-economic situation on a broad range of aspects. Here, the MEP led by Water Supply and Drainage Minister Dinesh Gunawardane discussed the need for new electoral reforms, the revision of the tax system, lessening the burden on the ordinary masses, and the new income generation activities
Mr. Gunwardane also said though the university intake had been increased, thousands of students still dropped out at the two national examinations. He, therefore, said vocational education should be improved to accommodate such dropouts. The discussion primarily centred on issues confronting the general public in areas of health, education, maternity health, cost of living, relief measures and the development of the local economy.
"Besides, they were assigned the task of countering ‘malicious propaganda’ against the UPFA in the cyber space, particularly in social media networks such as Facebook."
The MEP presented a copy of the resolutions adopted at its annual convention. MEP Vice President Somaweera Chandrasiri, Assistant Secretary Maithri Wijesinghe, party’s youth wing Chairman Yadamini Gunawardane and Central Committee member Lalith Rohana Liyanage attended the discussion along with the leadership.
Ven. Sobhitha Thera stressed that the education system should be modified for the national economic development as a matter of urgency, even as articulated by Anagarika Dharmapala and C.W.W.Kannangara (dubbed as the father of free education).
The pople in Jaffna, both adults and children, were in revelry on Monday as they saw the historic and iconic Yal Devi train reach Jaffna after a gap of 24 years. People of villages straddling the 38 kilometre railway line from Palai to Jaffna stood in front of their house gazing at the train passing by. Schoolschildren with national flags in their hands lined up besides the railway track to greet the train with President Mahinda Rajapaksa on board.
The Colombo-Jaffna train service ground to a halt completely in January, 1990 after the LTTE terrorists carried out a bomb attack.
After the war was over, the government, under a US $ 800 million Line of Credit from India, undertook to reconstruct the railway tracks in the North. Accordingly, the work on the track up to Jaffna is now complete allowing the Yal Devi to ply on it. The President was in the North for three days for discussions and inaugurations. He was in Kilinochchi on Sunday, and at a function, he was amazed to find a Tamil schoolgirl speaking fluent Sinhala. Then, he inquired about the success behind her bilingual skills.
The schoolgirl said that she studied up to the G.C.E. Ordinary Level Examination at Kotahena, Colombo, and chose to do her Advanced Level studies in Kilinochchi under the newly introduced Technical Scheme. The cut off for university admission point is low in Kilinochchi. Therefore, she has chosen Kilinochchi for her studies with the hope of securing university entrance easily.
After the inauguration of the train service the following day, the President participated in the Jaffna District Development Coordinating Committee meeting conducted in the Weerasingham Hall. The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) which controls the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) did not attend it despite being invited for it. The President was critical of the TNA, and said some road development projects could not be implemented in Jaffna due to lack of cooperation from the TNA. Afterwards, Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda, the chairman of the Committee, addressed the meeting, and took a swipe at the TNA. “If you offer plain tea to the TNA, they will ask for milk tea. If you give them milk tea, they will demand plain coffee. Even if you give them plain coffee, they will go further and ask for milk coffee. Their demands are endless and impractical. Any government cannot satisfy them,” he said.
Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) leader V. Anandasangari, who was with the TNA and later fell out, has written to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In his letter, he had made a scathing attack on the TNA, while revealing its alleged links with the LTTE in the past. He has even found fault with the TNA leader for his exclusion from the delegation that went to India to meet with Mr. Modi.
“A delegation claiming to be that of the TNA (Tamil National Alliance), now supposed to be comprised of five political parties namely the ITAK, TELO, EPRLF, TULF, PLOTE met you recently. But this delegation that met you in India was comprised of four members from the ITAK and one each from the TELO and EPRLF with none from the PLOTE although its leader polled over 40,000 votes and came third at the recently held Northern Provincial Council elections. As usual they never discuss anything with the TULF leader who is in politics for more than 55 years. The reason is obviously on orders from their top,” he said.
He said, “Your Excellency, I do not know what transpired at the meeting this delegation had with you. No local paper carried any details except some reference to your expectations and advice etc. But after going through an interview given to the press by a Member of Parliament who was in the delegation, I hasten to deny, although belated, some references made by him relating to the relationship of the TNA with the LTTE and about the mandate the TNA repeatedly got from the Tamil people, through various elections, to speak for the Tamils. The relationship the TNA’s constituent parties have among themselves and with others are not at all cordial as claimed.
It is the same story about the TNA as well. The TNA was started by four parties of which TULF was one. The TULF was replaced by ITAK without any reference to anybody or to the party concerned. All concerned parties should now accept that both the TNA and the ITAK had been revived by dishonest means on the instigation of the LTTE to look after their interest. It is this TNA that nominated candidates for all electoral districts in the North and in the East for the 2004 elections, Mr. Thamilselvan retaining half the number of slots in each one of the electoral districts. Of all the members elected to the 2004 Parliament, the majority belonged to the LTTE. Not only that, the worst part was the declaration the four secretaries of the four parties made was carried in the manifesto issued by them for the 2004 Parliamentary elections. The signatories were Mavai Senathirajah,G.G.Ponnambalam, Presanna Indrakumar, and Suresh Premachandren representing the ITAK, ACTC, TELO,and the EPRLF respectively.
Wild Life Conservation Minister Gamini Vijith Wijayamuni Zoysa remains disappointed since he was not formally thanked by Uva Province Chief Minister Sashindra Rajapaksa upon his swearing in to hold office for the second term.
“I worked for the election campaign of the Chief Minister. I even asked people of my electorate to mark a preference for him. Yet, I did not receive formal thanks. However, my name has been mentioned in a thanks-giving note. I am happy with it at least,” he said at a recent function in Bibile.