Amara invites Maithree to take over Seva Vanitha

by Shamindra Ferdinando

Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe’s wife, Maithree has been invited to head the Seva Vanitha Organisation, ministerial sources said while expressing the belief that she would accept the invitation.

Women’s Affairs Minister Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake has urged Mrs. Wickremesinghe to take over the organisation assuring her of the ministry’s support to her endeavours. "There is nothing left of the crisis-ridden organisation," the sources said. The sources were optimistic that they would be able to re-organise the organisation.

"We would be electing new office bearers soon after Mrs. Wickremesinghe accepts the top post," the sources said while expressing confidence that they would be able to revive the organisation that captured front-page attention of national newspapers last year [during the previous administration] when two senior members — Kusum Wickremanayake and Pamitha Jayakody — levelled charges and counter-charges over allegations of corruption, jealousy and hatred. Their battle forced President Chandrika Kumaratunga to order an inquiry. Whatever the outcome of the probe, Mrs. Kumaratunga endorsed Mrs. Wickremanayake’s claim for the top post. She replaced the then Women’s Affairs Minister Mrs. Hema Ratnayake who failed to retain her seat at the October 2000 parliamentary elections.

Seva Vanitha comprises women ministers and spouses of ministers — this time both cabinet and non-cabinet members. Apart from the main organisation, there are separate Seva Vanitha groups headed by women ministers or spouses of ministers, the sources said while pointing out that according to its constitution, the organisation should be headed by the first lady. In the event of the President being a woman, the wife of the premier would lead the organisation. The wife of the Leader of the House and Women’s Affairs Minister are the third and the fourth in line for the post.

Seva Vanitha was once headed by Mrs. Elena Jayewardene. She was followed by Mrs. Hema Premadasa. However, during President D. B. Wijetunga’s term of office, his wife declined to accept Seva Vanitha leadership. In her place, the then Women’s Affairs Minister Mrs. Renuka Herath ran the organisation.

During the previous administration, Mrs. Srimani Athulathmudali and Mrs. Hema Ratnayake head the organisation before Mrs. Kusum Wickremanayake took over the job only to lose it suddenly when President Kumaratunga dissolved parliament to avoid the UNP sponsored no-trust motion in October last year.