Basil gives Jayalath a character certificate

On the 29th president Mahinda Rajapakse attended a religious ceremony in the precincts of the Somawathi Chaitya and spent much of the day there. In the meantime opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe spent that weekend wondering what steps to take next. On the 28th Friday he spent the whole day discussing the future of the party with party seniors and others who held various views on what should be done. Tissa was associated with Ranil in these discussions. Ranil told Tissa that a large number of people were giving him calls asking for appointments to meet him. He said that he had told them to get appointments from the general secretary. He also told Tissa that various people were making statements to the press about the party reforms and that this was wrong. He told Tissa to be mindful of who these people are and what they were doing. He said that these people will have to be severely warned. Having assigned duties to Tissa, Ranil went south for the weekend. Tissa went to Kaduwela, Kolonnawa and Gangodawila to open pandals and danselas.

The president spent the whole of Sunday at Temple Trees and on Monday he participated in a discussion on developing the Mahamevuna Uyana in Anuradhpaura. A conference was jointly organized at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute by the Elections Department and PAFFREL. Even though all political parties had been invited, only a few attended. The UNP was represented by Karu Jayasuriya and Tissa Attanayake. Speaking on this occasion Karu Jayasuriya said that the present problems in the electoral process can be solved only by changing the electoral system and implementing the 17th amendment.

In the meantime various organizations were presenting their views to the UNP reforms committee. The Jathika Yovun Peramuna and the Former MPs Guild and trade unionists were among them. Chandra Gankanda of the Former MPs Guild put forward the view that the UNP was not a sole proprietorship but a public company and that just as dividends were paid when the company was profitable, everybody had to bear the responsibility when it was making losses and that when the party loses, the responsibility can’t be foisted on one person and the others wash their hands off. Srinal de Mel said that while people were fighting over the leadership, nothing had been done to protect the trade union members who had been subject to political victimization for years. He said that if things continued like this people will not join UNP trade unions in the future.

Gamini Jayawickrema Perera also presenting his views said that today’s politics was very different and that he had spent his entire life working for the party and through the party the people of the country. But today under the present system people took no notice of all that. He said that to come forward under this system you did not have to work for the country or the people. You have to be an actor or a singer or a man of wealth and if you have none of these, you have to be at least a young girl wearing a short frock.

On Monday the 31st the politburo of the Jathika Nidahas Peramuna met. The party chairman stressed the need to build up the party and to take the views of the party to the grassroots level. The JNP secretary Priyanjith Vitharana said that all this should be expeditiously done and the party prepared for the local government elections. The politburo decided to commence the party reform from June 1st.

On June 1st, the party leaders of the UPFA met at Temple Trees. Maithripala Sirisena, Nimal Siripala de Silva, Basil Rajapakse, Champika Ranawaka, Dinesh Gunawardena, Wimal Weerawansa, Athaulla, Vasu and others were in attendance. The main matter under discussion were the constitutional reforms and the change in the provision limiting presidential tenure to two terms. Prof G.L.Peiris presented his views on what changes should be made to the 17th amendment. One of the suggestions made was to turn the police commission into a unit within the public service commission. Weerawansa suggested that instead of abolishing the police commission, it should be retained as a body that looks into complaints and suggestions made by the public.

The Uva Province chief minister now meets the public on three days of the week on Monday in Bibile, Tuesday in Moneragala and in Badulla on Wednesday. Last week the CM paid a sudden visit to the District Farmer Training Institute in Bibile. His purpose was to find out what could be done to revive orange growing in Bibile. The staff of the training institute hosted the CM to lunch on the premises. This was not an easy task because the CM was accompanied by around 250 supporters on the tour.

Last week a luxury train service from Katunayake to Colombo was inaugurated. Minister Kumara Welgama, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Rohana Dissanayake Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Namal Rajapakse and others rode on the inaugural ride from Katunayake to Colombo.

The JVP politburo met on the 2nd under the chairmanship of Somawansa Amarasinghe. The main topic discussed was the CEPA agreement to be signed between India and Sri Lanka. Somawansa said that if this agreement is signed, Indian goods will flood Sri Lanka and local industries will collapse. The Indian goods will have a monopoly and at that stage they will begin to increase prices. He said that the JVP had opposed CEPA when it was first mooted in 2006 and that minister Jeyaraj Fernandopulle had said in the parliamentary advisory committee meeting that it would not be signed and the minister G.L.Peiris had also given them the same pledge but that stance seems to have changed now.

Lal Kantha said that the World Trade Organisation had tried to remove all barriers to free trade in goods and services but that this had met with stiff resistance and that they were now encouraging bilateral agreements to achieve the same end. This was all a part of the neo-liberal agenda. Anura Kumara Dissanayake said that Sri Lanka has promised India that this agreement will somehow be implemented.

The cabinet met on Wednesday. Since this was a day when the chief ministers of PCs also attended cabinet, all CMs were present with the exception of the SPC CM. After the usual business of cabinet was over, one of the items discussed as a cabinet paper presented by the Public Administration minister to allow public servants to buy the government houses they reside in during their tenure of office when they retire. John Seneviratne said that this was a decision made in 1991. The president said that the housing units owned by the government could not be sold to retiring public servants and further discussion was postponed for another day. The president requested the CMs present to pay stamp duties to the local government bodies under them.

Last week, Udaya Gammampila turned up for the JHU central committee meeting armed with fresh details about the doings of the Tamil Diaspora. He had received a lot of new details from France, Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Italy. He told the CC that ceremonies to commemorate Prabhakaran had been held in many countries and money was being collected for the transnational government. He also said that the Sinhala Tigers who had held Pongu Tamil celebrations in Colombo had now left the country and were working with this Tamil Diaspora and that these elements could form links with leftists in the south. The JHU later met Gomin Dayasiri, S.L.Gunasekera, Gunadasa Amarasekera, Tilak Paranagama and former Solicitor General Douglas Premaratne and explained the new situation to them. A press conference was to be called to explain matters about the unfavourable international situation.

As the debate on whether the party leader should be elected proceeded apace in the UNP, another contest for the deputy leadership was brewing. If the top posts within the UNP become elective, some are waiting to throw in their hats. Last week, representatives of the provincial councilors committee made representations to the UNP reforms committee. The opposition leader of the NCPC Kasturi Anuradhanayake, Asoka Dhanawansa, B.Bandarigoda and others attended this meeting. Their first suggestion was that PC members be recognized as the second tier leadership within the party. M.J.M.Muzammil said that minorities should be represented in the top posts of the party. What the PC members said was that all posts other than that of the leader should be made elective when a consensus could not be reached. SPC emember Krishantha Pushpakumara said that the party leader must at least now smile at party people and learn to like them.

That night those present at this discussion attended a function at the Taj Samudra Hotel to felicitate the opposition leader of the Delhi territorial government who was in Sri Lanka on a pilgrimage. Basil Rajapaksa, Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene and Karuna Amman were among the ministers present. Basil introduced Jayalath Jayawardene to the visiting Indian dignitary as a good straight talking MP who was a challenge to the government.

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