Events of the past week once again created fears
and uncertainties in the public mind of what would or could
happen tomorrow. The deteriorating security situation and many
other problems kept people concerned about the general lookout
for the immediate future particularly on the security front.
Dashing hopes of relief on the cost of living
front, another fuel price hike was announced bringing in its
wake the inevitable price increases of goods and services. The
cost of living rose day by the day while the terrorist
activities did not show any signs of abating. Last week’s
Kebetigollewa bomb established the contrary.
Under these circumstances, President Mahinda
Rajapakse is surrounded by a tight security net and a host of
advisors lives in a tense atmosphere. His easygoing lifestyle
once upon a time is now a thing of the past. He has enjoyed
travel around the country but his security advisors have limited
his movements and he has in recent days been forced to spend
most of his time at Temple Trees.
Yet last week he took a decision to attend a
party at Fifth Lane, Kollupitiya close to Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe's private home. His host, Dhammika
Attygalle was celebrating his birthday and the president
accompanied by two friends, Dr. Ajith Ranawaka and Nalaka
Bamunusinghe turned up for the occasion.
When President Rajapakse and friends arrived, a
number of members of the Attygalle and Wijewardene families were
already there - among them Asitha Perera, Shalitha Wijesundera,
Devinda Senanayake and others. Rajapakse remained until the
birthday cake was cut and Attygalle, a Director of the Upali
Group, was wished a very happy birthday. He spent around an hour
at the party before returning to Temple Trees.
Once again on Saturday (June 10) the president
went on another unexpected visit when he attended the wedding of
journalist Ajantha Agalakada of the Lankadeepa. The event was at
Robert Gunawardene Mawatha, Kirulapona in insecure surroundings.
So no one expected the President to come though his media
director, Chandrapala Liyanage and Dr. Ajith Ranawaka had
Among the wedding guests many were taking bets
on whether the President would turn up. However a few persons
were quite certain he would come the last minute. He did with
Dalas Alahapperuma spending 15 minutes chatting with journalists
some of whom he knew and others he was meeting for the first
Ranil goes South and to India
While a President loaded with national cares
pleased friends by attending some social occasions despite
security considerations and his very tight schedule, Opposition
Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe went for a short holiday in the
South. With storms continuing to blow within the UNP,
Wickremesinghe is a very worried man that was perhaps why he
wanted to take a holiday on the sunny beaches of the South.
Before Wickremesinghe went on his holiday, Dr.
Jayalath Jayawardene called on him. Jayawardene had returned
after a tour to Andra Pradesh and immediately after his visit he
had to attend parliament which was in sessions that week. There
he had seen notices displaying the names of members newly
appointed to various parliamentary advisory committees for the
different ministries. But his name was not on the list of those
appointed to the Health Ministry’s Advisory Committee.
An agitated Jayawardena, believing the omission
to be on the part of his party, came to see the UNP leader about
this. He was asked to take it up on Tuesday when the UNP
parliamentary group was due to meet. Jayawardena was not
satisfied. He had other grouses, having been promised a place on
the delegation to the Inter Parliamentary Union meeting and
finding that the chief party whip had sent Ranjit Aluwihare
instead despite the leader’s orders.
``It’s a shame not only for me but for you
too,’’ Jayawardena told Wickremesinghe who tried to pacify him
by praising Jayalath for his recent Indian visit taking
artefacts of Buddhist importance to various places there. This
apparently placated Jayawardena.
Wickremesinghe on Tuesday saw those MPs from his
party appointed to various parliamentary advisory committees
along with chief opposition whip Joseph Michael Perera. He told
the UNP members they had a great responsibility and it was
important that they should point out wrong doings in ministries
at the consultative meetings and also bring these matters to
The same evening, the UNP working committee met.
Several new members brought into this policy making body both by
Wickremesinghe and Karu Jayasuriya attended this meeting at
which S.B. Dissanayake was also present.
Participants said that there was some hot air at
the three-hour discussion with Wickremesinghe focusing on the
need for the UNP to play a role in moving the peace process
forward. He sought the views of members of the committee to an
invitation from the Peace Secretariat asking the party to
nominate a member to the All-Party Advisory Committee.
"What shall we do?,’’ He asked. The majority was
of the view that the UNP should not nominate anybody to this
committee. They argued that while participating in the All-Party
Conference was appropriate making a nomination to the Advisory
Committee should be avoided.
"We will ask the government to present a
solution leaving us free to agree or disagree with it, they
Thereafter, internal problems of the UNP
including the most important proposed reorganisation came up for
discussion. The majority favoured a quick reorganisation but
Wickremesinghe thought otherwise. Rajitha Senaratne was very
critical alleging that Wickremesinghe was opposed to the
reorganisation and was postponing it under various pretexts.
Ravi Karunanayake too threw his weight behind
this argument while S.B. Dissanayake also urged that the UNP
reorganisation cannot be delayed.
The working committee also discussed the
situation in the CMC with some members demanding to know what
had resulted from the investigations of the committee appointed
to look into the circumstances that led to the UNP list for the
CMC being rejected on nomination day. Wickremesinghe said that
it will take some time for the committee to finalise its report
and a number of members said that appointing committees will not
solve the party’s problems.
Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya was not present at
both the working committee meeting and the earlier discussion
with UNP members of the parliamentary advisory committees. He
was away in China on the invitation of the Chinese Communist
Party. The UNP delegation included Gamini Lokuge, Gayantha
Karunatillake, Amara Piyaseeli Ratnayake, Milroy Perera and D.M.
Swaminathan who are expected back in Colombo today (Sunday).
Last Wednesday Ranil left for India on a private
visit. He attended a pooja at the Thirupathy Temple festival and
another in Andra Pradesh. He is also due back on June 18.
The JVP politburo which met at its Pelawatte
party headquarters with Somawansa Amarasinghe in the chair
discussed among other matters the recent visit of the government
delegation to Oslo. Amarasinghe said that he has spoken to the
president about this and said that the JVP must help the
government whenever international pressure was exerted on it. He
said it is difficult for the government to take correct
decisions under pressure.
Amarasinghe also appraised his politburo of the
president’s decision not to reply to Erik Solheim on the five
questions he had raised saying that the JVP should appreciate
the president’s stance. "We must protect the country's
independence and stand erect,’’ Amarasinghe said.
He also brought up the report of the SLMM issued
in Geneva saying that what the Tigers have said in Oslo relating
to the CFA suggested that they have already declared a State of
Eelam. He regarded the LTTE’s Oslo visit as a propaganda ploy
for the benefit of the international community.
Tilvin Silva expressed the view that it was
foolish for the government to have sent a delegation to Oslo
saying that if any meetings were necessary that they should be
held here in Sri Lanka.
The JVP unanimously agreed to nominate Mr. Anura
Dissanayake to the All-Party Committee to formulate a solution
to the ethnic problem. Dissanayake’s name was proposed by Mr.
K.D. Lal Kantha and the decision that he be nominated by the
party was taken unanimously.
The JVP politburo had also discussed a strategy
for removing Western Province Chief Minister Reginald Cooray.
JVP MP Wasantha Samarasinghe’s recent visit to Norway where he
had met groups opposed to Erik Solheim was also discussed as
were some protests that the party is organising in Norway.
Mervyn clowns on chopper
The recent assassination of Danny Hiththetiyage,
a close associate of the president, created waves in political
circles. Rajapakse was keen in attending the funeral but his
security people were dead against it.
The president however decided to go and flew to
Hakmana along with a few close associates including Dalas
Alahapperuma, Lalith Weeratunge, Gotabhaya Rajapakse and Mervyn
The helicopter was landed on a ground in Hakmana
and the president’s party motored to the funeral house and
offered their condolences. Although his security chief wanted
him to fly back to Colombo, he decided to drive to Tangalle
where he relaxed with members of his family including his wife
and his eldest son, Namal, holidaying here from Cardiff
University where he is a first year student.
Always the clown, Mervyn Silva both raised eye
brows and provoked mirth by making a speech from the back seat
of the helicopter in which the presidential party was flying
back to Colombo. Extolling President Rajapakse, he said that he
was a god-sent saviour who will save the country from its
From Mahinda, Mervyn got on to Gotabhaya
Rajapakse who he said was the only leader who could unite the
armed forces and destroy the country’s enemies.
The last scene was yet to be played. The grand
finale was at Temple Trees where Silva prostrated himself at the
president’s feet and swore life long allegiance to Rajapakse
saying that he was the only leader who could save the country.
President reacts to Kebetigollewa
When the news of the Kebitigollewa massacre
reached President Rajapakse who first heard of the incident on
the phone from Minister Tissa Karaliyadde, he summoned an
immediate meeting of the National Security Council and discussed
the situation as well as the government’s possible response. He
also directed his Press Secretary, Mr. Chandrapala Liyanage, to
send a media team including the foreign media to the scene so
that the world would know all about the bestiality of the
Rajapakse who was anxious to visit the scene
also issued orders for necessary blood and medical supplies to
be air lifted to Kebitigollewa and Anuradhapura dealing with the
disaster. His security officials strongly ruled out a visit
citing past precedents. They said that previous presidents have
never made such visits after similar attacks and urged that
Rajapakse, on security considerations alone, should not visit
But the president, throwing caution to the
winds, made arrangements to fly to the scene with a few of his
confidantes the same afternoon, surprising the people of the
area, doctors and staff at the local hospital and others who saw
Rajapakse stood silently before the bodies of
the victims of the worst terrorist attack since the ceasefire
was signed in February 2002 with grief written all over his
face. He spoke to the distraught villagers and offered them what
comfort he could. Many people begged for protection from the
The president who conferred with local police
and military brass and was briefed on the actual ground
situation in the area was shocked to hear that the paucity of
buses had made well over 100 people pack themselves into the
targeted bus. He acknowledged that many services in the rural
outback were in bad shape and ordered immediate remedies.
Cost of living
A group of government parliamentarians who
called on President Rajapakse recently to discuss the rising
cost of living attributed increased fuel prices to much of the
problem. Rajapakse said that he knew more about the problems of
the ordinary people than most of these MPs and invited
suggestions to give the poor some relief.
The president has divided the government
parliamentary group into four so that he could have separate
meetings with each of them on cost of living related matters.
The first meeting was last week when a group including the prime
minister, Messrs. Nirmala Kotelawala, P.B. Ekanayake, C.B.
Ratnayake, Mahindananda Alutgamage, Sripathi Sooriyaratchchi,
Dilan Perera, Rohitha Bogollagama, Mervyn Silva and Nirupama
Rajapakse were present.
A 12-point agenda has been set for the meeting
but many parliamentarians were debating among themselves on
whether to freely air their views or remain silent.
Prime Minister Wickremanayake was the first to
break the ice saying among other things that while the
government had implemented a number of good policies, the people
were not properly informed. That got the discussion going and
several MPs voiced their views.