Two more UPFA defectors speak out for Sirisena


Dissident SLFPers Jeevani Kariyawasam, Member of the Chilaw Municipal Council and Sarath Sandanayake, UPFA member and Chairman, Eheliyagoda Pradeshiya Sabha addressing yesterday’s news conference. (Pic by Kanishka Hewage)

By Maheen Senanayake

Dissident SLFPers Jeevani Kariyawasam, Member of the Chilaw Municipal Council and Sarath Sandanayake, UPFA member and Chairman of the Eheliyagoda Pradeshiya Sabha yesterday appealed to the public to choose their president carefully at a press conference held yesterday at the Opposition Leader’s office.

The UPFA defectors who arrived at the press conference accompanied by UNP stalwart Ravi Karunanayake spoke briefly of their own experiences on the ground in their respective areas.

"First of all please remember that if you lend something to Mahinda, and in this case the presidency, he will never return it", said Jeevani Kariyawasam. "I work on the ground in my area and I would like to point out that there are approximately 14 public officials in every Grama Niladhari division. I would like to tell all these people that they are not duty bound to obtain votes for Mahinda Rajapaksa. What they receive as part of their employment contract is their entitlement and that does not in any way bind them to subscribe to the government’s political views."

Sandanayake, who crossed over yesterday, said " There is a common voice gaining momentum against the Executive Presidency, as the government has slowly taken control of the power and authority vested in the local government structure – the Municipal and Urban Councils, Provincial Councils and the Pradeshiya Sabhas through the Ministry of Economic Development."

According to experts, the Divi Neguma bill usurped the powers of the Provincial Councils as a means of further diluting the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. The Divi Neguma Department functions under the Ministry of Economic Development.

Provincial Councils were established in 1987 during the Peace Accord whereas the Pradeshiya Sabhas were established by the late President RanasinghePremadasa through the Pradeshiya Sabhas Act No. 15 of 1987.

Explaining further, Kariyawasam said "The authority vested in the Mayor by the Municipal Council Ordinance No. 17 of 1865, is only second to the president’s and this too has been stolen by the Rajapaksa government. The problem with that is that the law provided for the local body to first earn revenue from their areas and then utilize the funds for the development of the locality. Now the revenue is syphoned out of the region."

As of January 2011 there were 335 local authorities (23 Municipal Councils, 41 Urban Councils and 271 Pradeshiya Sabhas.

Jeevani Kariyawasam who crossed over on December 12 also called on the 51% of the women in the country whose vote will count on January 8 to exercise caution and to become more politically aware in deciding on their next president.

"Remember that when you vote for Mahinda you are also voting for crimes including rape, gang rape, theft etc.," she said. "It is an illusion to think that Mahinda is a good man and that it is those around him who are doing all these things. When you vote for him you are also voting for these and other crimes."

Sandanayake pledged his support to presidential candidate of the New Democratic Front Maithripala Sirisena.

Kariyawasam who hails from a political family re-iterated that the incumbent government has hitherto utilized the strategy of creating two competing members in all local bodies – supported separately by two of the brothers. Through this mechanism they have been able to urge both members to out do the other by resorting to ‘scoring points with the Rajapaksa clan by hook or by crook’.

"This is how they motivate their party members to break the law," she alleged.

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