President bags East with Hakeem’s help


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Ex-CM Chandrakanthan shakes hands with his successor, Najeeb Abdul Majeed

(Pic Nalin Hewapathirana)

Consequent to an understanding between the SLFP-led UPFA and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Najeeb Abdul Majeed, was yesterday sworn in as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Provincial Council.

Political sources told The Island that the agreement had been finalized in the wake of the Tamil National Alliance offering the Chief Ministerial post to a member of the SLMC if the two parties could join hands to run the EPC.

Of the 37-member council, the UPFA won 14, including two bonus slots at the Sept. 08 PC polls, whereas the SLMC secured seven seats. The TNA obtained 11, UNP 4 and the National Freedom Front (NFF) 1.

The NFF, a constituent party of the UPFA, too, has pledged its support to the UPFA. With the finalization of the agreement, the ruling party group at the EPC comprises 22 (14 UPFA, 7 SLMC and 1 NFF).

SLFP nominee Majeed contested on the UPFA ticket from the Trincomalee district. He was among seven successful Muslim candidates at the EPC polls, whereas only one Tamil UPFA candidate (former Chief Minister Sivenesathurai Chandrakanthan) won a seat.

Earlier in the day, President Mahinda Rajapaksa told TNA leader R. Sampanthan that the government had finalized the EPC matter.

The meeting took place on the invitation of the President.

Majeed took his oaths as the Chief Minister of the EPC before President Rajapaksa at Temple Trees yesterday in the presence of presidential secretary Lalith Weeratunga, EP Governor Rear Admiral (retired) Mohan Wijewickrema, SLMC leader Hakeem, National Congress (NC) leader A.L.M. Athaulla, All Ceylon Muslim Congress (ACMC) leader Rishad Bathiudeen, UPFA General Secretary Minister Susil Premjayanth, SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena SLFP Treasurer Dallas Alahapperuma and former EPC Chief Minister Sivenesathurai Chandrakanthan.

Sources said that the UPFA offered the ministerial post to a Muslim, who contested on UPFA ticket, whereas the TNA had offered it to the SLMC.

The SLMC, which contested the last parliamentary elections in April 2010 on the UNP ticket, switched its allegiance to President Rajapaksa. The UPFA strongly objected to the SLMC having a special arrangement in the East, while being a constituent party of the UPFA.

In line with the agreement between the UPFA and the SLMC, the latter would receive two ministerial posts in the EPC administration. The remaining two ministerial posts would go to Chandrakanthan, a former LTTE combatant and Wimalaweera Dissanayake.

The NC and ACMC would receive the posts of EPC Chairman and Deputy Chairman, respectively, sources said.

However, party sources stated among the Ampara district SLMC candidates M. Mansoor, A. M. Jameel and the Batticaloa district member Habiz Nazeer Ahamad two of them would be named as the provincial council ministers.

The SLMC was opposed to appointing a Chief Minister from the National Congress and All Island Muslim Congress.

The following is the full text of the TNA statement issued a few hours before the new CM took oaths: "Following an invitation from Mr. Lalith Weeratunga, Secretary to the President to the TNA leader Mr. R. Sampanthan on the night of 17th September 2012, for a meeting at the President’s House on 18th morning, a meeting took place between the President and Mr. Sampanthan as arranged. Ministers Maithripala Sirisena and Prof G. L. Peiris were also present at the meeting.

The President congratulated Mr. Sampanthan on coming a good second at the Eastern Provincial Council Elections and Mr. Sampanthan stated that if the Elections had been free and fair the TNA would have come first. Sampanthan further stated that as per the mandate received by the TNA and the SLMC, the TNA invited the SLMC to form a government and offered the SLMC the Chief Ministership. The UNP would have backed such an arrangement. The President responded by stating that he was quite prepared to sit in the opposition and indicated this to the SLMC and also referred to the offer made by the TNA to the SLMC. He however stated that now things were finalized.

Sampanthan stated that the eleven members elected to the Eastern provincial Council from the TNA should be-able to function freely and independently and without any deterrence or discrimination. If this did not happen it would mean that the Tamil people were being punished and that this should not be allowed. Sampanthan also stated that five of the elected Provincial Council members from the TNA were approached and harassed with offers of vehicles, houses, money and contracts to cross over to the Government and that the Telephone numbers and vehicle numbers of these persons, believed to be military intelligence personnel, were available. The President initially denied this but later agreed to look into the matter. Mr. Sampanthan also raised the question of resettlement in Sampur and in Valikamam and the appointment of civilians as Governors of the Northern and Eastern provinces and the appointment of Tamil speaking civilian officials as Government Agents of Trincomalee and Ampara. The President responded by inviting Sampanthan to attend the Parliamentary Select Committee and stated that these matters could be addressed when that process commenced. Mr. Sampanthan responded by stating that the TNA has never taken up the position that it will not attend the PSC, but has only insisted that commitments made must be implemented before attending the PSC sessions. It was agreed that this matter would be further pursued on the return of the President from his visit to India."

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