UNP re-organisation: Media men to the fore

by Shamindra Ferdinando

A former TNL political affairs commentator and producer Chandana Sooriyabandara has been appointed UNP organiser for Senkadagala electorate. He has replaced Chanaka Ilapperuma, a Kandy municipal councillor.

Sooriyabandara is from Watapuluwa, Senkadagala electorate constituted in 1960. It had been represented by Shelton Ranaraja (SLFP), Noel Wimalasena (UNP) and Harendra Dunuwila (1989 parliament). But since 1994 no one had managed to win Senkadagala.

Sooriyabandara anchored the Janahanda political affairs programme before joining the Swarnavahini. Subsequently he joined Sirasa where he held an influential position.

He was introduced at a meeting at the Kandy YMBA on Friday presided by Tissa Attanayake, MP, a member of the party’s political affairs committee. Political sources described the appointment as the first step in the former TV presenter getting a chance to contest the next parliamentary elections.

Party sources claimed that these appointments are being made as part of the process to strengthen the grass-root level organisations ahead of the forthcoming presidential elections.

A committee headed by former party chairman N.G.P. Panditharatne had investigated the party’s defeat at the last parliamentary election and submitted its findings to the party. The committee was commissioned by UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The report based on statements obtained from partymen in many parts of the country had been sharply critical of the top leadership. It had also pointed out serious lapses that had contributed to their defeat. Panditharatne yesterday declined to comment on his findings claiming that it was an internal document. When pressed for details, he said that he personally handed over the report to Mr. Wickremesinghe with a copy to party Secretary N.V.K.Weragoda and comments, if any should come from Weragoda.

Sooriyabandara is the second television anchor to be made an electoral organiser with his colleague Buddhika Pathirana being the first. Pathirana handled TNL’s Janahanda before moving on to Sirasa where he played a pivotal role in running political programmes.

Pathirana successfully contested the last provincial council elections in the south and was subsequently rewarded with the responsibility to organise the Akuressa electorate. Pathirana polled the highest preference votes at the last PC elections.

Manusha Nanayakkara, once with the Swarnavahini (Live at eight) before joining the state-run Rupavahini during the previous government is also being considered as an electoral organiser. Nanayakkara had been with Minister Arumugam Thondamana for a brief period during the previous government. He is an opposition member of the Alliance-run Southern Provincial Council.

A senior party official said that the young councillor had indicated an interest in nursing an electorate in the Galle district. Manusha had come third at the last PC elections. "We haven’t taken a final decision on his appointment," he said. A decision is likely this week.

The official acknowledged that Didula Bogahakumbura behind two major Swarnavahini political programmes, Deshapalana Sathiya and Kiniheera is also being mentioned as a new electoral organiser. Bogahakumbura is widely believed to be in the fray for the post of Hali-ela organiser.

The official dismissed speculation that Shan Wijetunga (Swarnavahini) and Chatura Vidyaratne (ex-Divaina and Lake House) were being considered for Biyagama and Kelaniya electorates respectively. Although the electoral organisers’ posts were yet to be filled, Wijetunga and Vidyaratne were not in the fray, he said.

He also emphasised that there was no truth in speculation that former Government Information Director Ariya Rubasinghe and Saman Atavudahetti of the UNP Media were being considered as organisers for electorates in the Matara and Gampaha districts respectively.

Phoenix chief Irvin Weerakkody was recently made Maharagama organizer of the UNP He preferred Kotmale.

Sirikotha said that about a dozen electoral organisers’ posts remained to be filled. Vacancies remain in Colombo, Gampaha, Nuwara Eliya, Hambantota, Matara and Kalutara. The Galle list is almost finalised.

Meanwhile Speaker W.J.M.Lokubandara had handed over the leadership of the Badulla district to colleague Lakshman Seneviratne while Rukman Senanayake had given up leadership of Kegalle district. Senanayake had been replaced by Mano Wijeratne. Political sources said that although some speculated about the possibility of Kabir Hasim being given Senanayake’s post it went to with Wijaratne.



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