Govt. Hierarchy on Alert About a ‘Deal-hub’ at a Governor’s Residence
|By Gagani Weerakoon|
A special Party Leaders’ meeting of the Government is set to be chaired by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat at 6:00 p.m. on 28 December.
Government sources said that among the topics on the agenda would be how to face the challenges posed by the country during the New Year as well as what measures need to be taken to counter the continued threat posed by the people through the continuing COVID-19 pandemic situation.
It is said that following this meeting, the Government would reveal to the public the measures they intend to take with regard to countering the impact of the pandemic, especially to the economy.
The Party Leaders are also slated to discuss what measures the Government would need to take with regard to reviving the stalled economy of the people especially with regard to the loss of jobs and the shutting down of employment firms, among others.
They are also due to ponder on the possibility of pressing ahead with the delayed Provincial Council Poll during the course of next year.
A house in Colombo owned by a Governor of an underdeveloped province has now become a deal-hub of few mega scale smugglers: According to the informed, on the monopoly of importing coal, sugar, cement and coconut oil. Not only that, apparently, even the discussions on handing over Colombo Port East Terminal to a foreign country is also taking place under the mediation and influence of these group of high-handed smugglers. This group of smugglers meets frequently at this particular Governor’s house.
It is also reported that a powerful media station owner is also among the said importers. Plans for the large scale imports, obtaining approval for them and following up are all carried out in the Governor’s house.
Government insiders who now have got a hunch of these underhand deals have insisted last week that Government hierarchies should intervene and put an end to such dark deals.
Prasanna in volleyball match with Geetha
Minister Prasanna Ranatunga last week headed to Bentota. That was in order to inaugurate a day-night volleyball playground built by the Tourism Development Authority, and among those in attendance were Geetha Kumarasinghe and Chandima Weerakkody. He first took part at the event and Prasanna was tasked with striking the ball first. He fired the ball and it landed right at the middle on the other side. The next invitee was Kumarasinghe. Geetha’s shot struck the net and she lamented. Prasanna then consoled Geetha. Chandima then said that this was not a game that could be played by all. It was his chance then. His strike went totally out of the field. Then Prasanna also laughed at Chandima saying that this game is not suitable for certain people. Afterwards a group of hoteliers and tour guides who were present had then begun to convey their grievances to Prasanna. One said the CEB had sent them red notices to interrupt their electricity connection. They urged the Minister to extend the grace period granted to them to pay their water and electricity bills.
A tour guide urged the Minister to reopen the BIA or else they will continue to face economic woes well into 2021. Parasanna assured that the BIA would be reopened shortly but based on health guidelines.
During the past week the President, PM Mahinda Rajapaksa and ex-Minister Basil Rajapaksa telephoned Minister Ranatunga regularly to inquire from him about the possibility of the reopening the BIA. Ranatunga in return, inquired from the health authorities about the possibility of the airport reopening.
The programme initiated by Basil where he continues to have ‘a dialogue with the village’ was held at Temple Trees last Monday morning. He said that by early next year the Western Province should be devoid of any single COVID-19 positive patient. After the meeting Basil, Prasanna, Lanza, Milan, Upul and Piyal spoke about the present political situation here. Lanza said that scores of people in the tourism industry were presently in the red and suggested that reopening the country for tourists would be a boost to those involved in the industry. Prasanna too agreed with the suggestion that the country has to be reopened for tourists. Then Milan Jayathilaka inquired as to what problems were there in not being able to reopen the airport. Prasanna said that decisions cannot be taken ad-hoc and only based on recommendations of the health sector. Upul said he had seen a remark made by MP Rajitha Senaratne claiming that no tourists will come here despite the reopening of the airport. Then Milan said that Champika had claimed that if the airport is reopened it will pave the way for the emergence of a tourism cluster. Prasanna charged that the intention of people like Champika and Rajitha is to keep the country shut down and opined that it would be to their advantage if the economy continues to crumble. Lanza then added his two cents worth saying that the Opposition here is one of the most bankrupt and alleged that they are only concerned about saving their own skin and say to hell with what happens to the masses. Piyal Nishantha too criticised the conduct of the SJB-led Opposition. Prasanna said that the Government would not halt the process of bringing down Sri Lankans stranded overseas. He said already 50,000 have been brought down to Colombo and that a further 50,000 who had registered will also be brought home.
Namal, Bandula get hopper treat
Minister Dr. Bandula Gunawardene and Minister Namal Rajapaksa participated in the opening ceremony of the Product Exhibition of Young Entrepreneurs at Independence Arcade. The event was organised by a group including the popular singer Bathiya Jayakody.
The duo visited many stalls in the exhibition while discussing many topics. Meanwhile, they visited an exhibition stall where the two women there were preparing some food items. Those women were from the village where Rajapaksa’s wife is from. After hearing they are from the same village Namal said, “We thought of coming to her village tomorrow with our child. We expect to talk with you all then.”
In the meantime, the two women invited the Ministers to taste hoppers made of rice flour. The two Ministers were so confused to have the hoppers since there is significance to hoppers in political history in the recent past.
“Hoppers are a food that cannot be eaten or ignored under any circumstance,” Gunawardene said, recalling the history related to hoppers.
“We will eat hoppers together, and if we are leaving we will be leaving together,” Rajapaksa said.
“It is fine to eat then. If I am leaving it is with the son of the hero who saved the country. It is fine,” Gunawardena said without thinking twice while eating the same hopper shred with Rajapaksa.
UNP Leader Ranil Wickremsinghe headed to Sirikotha last Wednesday in order to chair the Working Committee (WC) meeting that had been convened. He had to also certify the appointment of Acting General Secretary of the party Shamal Senerath as the latter had to be given official approval with regard to the party’s financial affairs.
Wickremasinghe had previously mentioned to party officials that the WC meeting should be held with the participation of around 20 members, due to the COVID-19 situation in the country. As it had been informed beforehand to WC members arriving from outstations that their presence was not necessary only less than 20 members were present at the meeting.
During the meeting a talk on instituting disciplinary action against those who had supported other political parties at the last election without relinquishing the UNP membership was held. Most were of the view that the party membership of such persons should be suspended forthwith. However, a group of UNP LG members had sought redress from Court after the party had suspended their membership. At the start of the WC meeting, the party leader inquired from PC Ronald Perera the present situation with regard to the disciplinary inquiries of the party rebels. Ronald Perera said that as per advice from the party leader they intend to seek views from the rebels for their violation of the party disciplinary code through technology having set aside two rooms at the party headquarters.
He said the judicial process was getting delayed due to the COVID-19 situation. He said some 80 to 90 cases had got piled up. Wickremesinghe said that the party cannot allow the cases to drag on due to the COVID-19 situation as nobody would know for sure when the pandemic could be totally eradicated from the country. He suggested that from a place like the BMICH at least two to three rooms should be obtained to hear the cases against the party rebels. He warned, otherwise the cases that were filed this year would not be able to even heard next year. Hence the UNP Leader was of the view that the cases should be transferred to elsewhere from Sirikotha. Then Shamal Senerath wondered whether an issue would crop up moving Court cases to other places. Afterwards Wickremesinghe suggested to lawyers of the party that the issue should be broached at length between the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) and the Attorney General.
He proposed that cases could be heard without allowing all and sundry to take part while only allowing the lawyers of both petitioners and respondents to be there. He said through such measures they will be able to hear the cases having avoided contracting COVID-19. As per the agenda for the day the next item was the certification of the appointment Shamal Senerath as the Acting General Secretary of the UNP.
After the WC had granted its approval to it, the party leaders submitted a proposal to thank the outgoing party General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam. Though the WC had agreed to officially convey their thanks to Kariyawasam, the latter’s non appearance at the meeting had raised a few eyebrows. A few of the WC members were of the view that had Akila been present it would have been apt to see him acknowledging the support rendered by the WC during his tenure as the General Secretary of the UNP. Afterwards a discussion took place regarding the party’s portfolios. The members then exchanged ideas regarding the nominations of Palitha Range Bandara and Ravi Karunanayake to fill the void created by the resignation of Kariyawasam as the General Secretary. Discussions had also taken place regarding the party posts such as National Organiser and Treasurer as well. Finally the leader had proposed that the party should finalise the posts having discussed it with party seniors at least by the first week of next month.
Burials vs. cremations
Afterwards the leader submitted a detailed report to the WC on the issue concerning the burial of Muslims who die from COVID-19.
He opined that as the issue concerns not only Muslims but people of other faiths as well a final solution to it should be reached jointly by religious leaders and health authorities and asserted that politicians should not get mired in it.
After the completion of the WC meeting on Thursday, Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardene, ex-MPs, party activists and doctors had arrived at the party leader’s residence. Sandith Samarasinghe said that the issue concerning the non-burial of Muslims who die from COVID-19 had become a raging topic in the country. A doctor said that the country was yearning for a seasoned political leader like the party leader on this issue. He said dumping dead bodies and keeping them in refrigerators would not be a long lasting solution and stressed that the only solution would be to cremate the bodies. Range Bandara then inquired whether the bodies are loaded into refrigerators after a proper disinfection process. Then the medical professionals explained that no matter the amount of disinfection the dumping of fresh bodies would enable the virus to survive and spread and affirmed there was a threat of it. Having listened patiently to the views of the health experts the Party Leader noted that as the issue was complicated the onus was on the Government to intervene in the matter and resolve it to the satisfaction of the country.
He also advised that the topic should not be used to seek cheap political gains. Then Ruwan said that a new form of the virus had been detected from both the UK and Denmark and warned that Sri Lanka should not drop its guard in this regard. Ashu Marasinghe charged that the present Government had already turned the issue into a political media circus and advised them to take serious cognisance of it and resolve it urgently. Vajira Abeywardena then said that the value of the Party Leader to the country is presently being felt by the masses. Afterwards the Party Leader advised the party members to unite in the New Year towards the revival of the party’s political journey before leaving to attend a wedding in Kadawatha area as an attesting witness.
The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) compiled the Party constitution on Saturday (19), subjecting to an extensive democratic system the method of appointing the leader of the Party. Appointment of the Leader of the Party is by the National Executive Committee. When appointing electorate organisers, obtaining ideas of their activities of the relevant area will be done, and it will take place based on the approval of the Working Committee, taking into consideration recommendations of the Management Committee.
At the same time, members of the Working Committee will be restricted to 75 individuals and the board of officers will be limited to 23. As all appointments made by the Leader will be done based on Management Committee recommendations and the approval of the Working Committee, the Leader of the Party cannot act arbitrarily, a spokesman of the Party said.
In addition, the Party Leader will appoint electorate organisers according to opinions of activists of the relevant areas and based on the recommendations of the Management Committee and the approval of the Working Committee.
At the same time, the Leader of the Party will be appointed by the National Executive Committee. 50 members will be named for this Executive Committee and the remaining members will be elected through a vote held by the Working Committee.
According to the new constitution, the appointments made by the Party Leader will be based on recommendations of the Management Committee and the approval of the Working Committee and the Party Leader will not be able to act arbitrarily.
Its members have been granted the authority to summon the Working Committee, and accordingly a group of not less than 1/3 could submit a written request. Such a summons will give priority to Buddhism. The content of the Party constitution includes, among others, protecting the rights which have been guaranteed through the Constitution of the country to all religions, confirming within diversity good faith, of the identity of the Nation which is comprised of all ethnicities, protecting the supremacy of the people, the supremacy of the law, justice, social justice, securing fundamental rights, giving pride of place to innovation based on knowledge and moving forward on a competitive economic path and confirming the journey forward with unity, protecting and safeguarding the rights of elders, children, women, citizens with disabilities and advancement.
SLFP CC to meet
The Central Committee of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is scheduled to meet at the Party Headquarters on 30 December, Party sources said.
The meeting which is to be chaired by Party Chairman, Parliamentarian Maithripala Sirisena at 7 p.m. on the day, is expected to take a decisive turn, sources said, due to several Party seniors planning to air their views on the step-motherly treatment meted out to SLFPers by the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna-led Government.
The Party’s future political journey is also set to be discussed at length during this meeting. A senior figure from the Party said that during this meeting, the reorganisation of the Party would be deliberated on at length.
Three of the Party seniors such as its General Secretary, State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, the General Secretary of the United People’s Freedom Alliance, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera and a senior Vice President of the Party, Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had stated already that the SLFP will not be hasty in attempting to ditch the present Government. However, Jayasekara had stated that the SLFP has already sought a meeting with the President to discuss their grievances.
Wijeyadasa’s letter to PBJ
Member of Parliament Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe sent a letter to the President’s Secretary, requesting an explanation in regard to the donation of Rs 920 million given by the Muslim World League to the relatives of the victims of the 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday bombings.
Dr. Rajapakshe has pointed out in the letter that because money of that donation has been received for the welfare of the victims and injured of the Easter Sunday bombings, it was necessary to know what happened to it.
He has sent this letter to the President’s Secretary on 27 November and copies have been sent to the President, the Prime Minister and Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.
In July 2019, a conference of the Muslim World League under the title, the National Peace Conference, was held at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo.
Dr. Rajapakshe, in the letter, has pointed out that Media had reported that Dr. Muhammad bin Abdul Karim Issa, Secretary of the Muslim World League, who was present at the conference, had donated a sum of US$ 5 million for the welfare of the relatives of the victims and injured of the Easter Sunday bombings. The letter further states that then President Maithripala Sirisena, incumbent Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga were also present at the conference.