Ranil and Sajith Wage War Against Each Other

CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 30 2020
Ceylon Politics Ranil and Sajith Wage War Against Each Other

Gagani Weerakoon

 "I was deeply shocked and saddened to learn about the untimely demise of Arumugam Thondaman, Leader of Ceylon Workers Congress (CWC) and the Minister of Community Empowerment and Estate Infrastructure Development who served the best interests of the downtrodden plantation workers belonging to all the communities.

"He carried forward the mission pioneered by his illustrious grandfather Saumyamoorthy Thondaman and worked relentlessly to remove the grievances of the upcountry Tamil community. While Thondaman recognised the imperative need to solve the problems faced by the Tamil community, he steadfastly refused to subscribe to the notion of a Separate State for Tamils in this country despite the heavy pressure exerted by the powerful terrorist organisation that existed at that time. I convey my deep condolences on the demise of this true son of Sri Lanka. May God give peace to his soul!" wrote President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his condolence message when he arrived at Parliament premises to pay his last respects to the late CWC Leader, Arumugam Thondaman. 

The remains of  late Ceylon Workers Congress Leader and Minister of Community Empowerment and Estate Infrastructure Development Arumugam Thondaman lay-in-state at the assembly hall of Parliament on Thursday (28) from 10.45 a.m. to 11.30 a.m.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, former Speaker of Parliament  Karu Jayasuriya and former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa were among those who paid their last respects. 

Cabinet Ministers, former parliamentarians, foreign diplomats, Government officials and Parliament staff members led by Secretary General Dhammika Dasanayake also arrived at the Parliament premises to pay their last respects.

Thondaman was elected to Parliament in 1994 from the Nuwara Eliya District for the first time and represented in Parliament for 26 consecutive years. During his political career, he held many Cabinet Ministerial portfolios such as Estate Infrastructure, Livestock Development, Housing, Plantation Infrastructure, Youth Empowerment, Socio-Economic Development and Rural Community Development.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa informed the  Cabinet meeting that the present caretaker Government will strive to implement some of the key demands made by late Minister Thondaman on behalf of the country's upcountry people. He had said that the late Thondaman had made a few requests to the present administration on behalf of the oppressed people in the estate sector.

He had insisted that at a time when the Government had been in the process of implementing some of those requests, Thondaman had passed away.

He had further informed that after the demise of late CWC Leader S. Thondaman, his grandson Arumugam Thondaman had worked hard to uplift the lives of the people in the estate sector.

The Premier had also maintained that the sudden demise of the former Minister would be an irreparable loss to scores of people in the plantation sector.

Meanwhile, the politbureau of the CWC unanimously decided to name Jeevan Thondaman (26), son of the Late CWC Leader, Arumugam to contest the General Election in his father's place.

A group of representatives led by Deputy Leader of the CWC, Senthil Thondaman met Prime Minister Rajapaksa and requested him to grant nominations to Jeevan to contest the General Election from the Nuwara Eliya District to fill the position left vacant.

The CWC would contest the next General Election under the Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Sandanaya and has already submitted nominations. The Prime Minister had praised the CWC's decision to nominate the late Arumugam Thondaman's son to replace him in the nominations list. Meanwhile, the CWC is yet to name their next leader.

The CWC leader who would have turned 56- years-old on Friday (29) collapsed at his residence and was rushed to Thalangama Base Hospital. According to Party spokesman, the former Minister was pronounced dead on admission to hospital.

The late CWC Leader met newly appointed Indian High Commissioner Gopal Baglay that afternoon and discussed bilateral cooperation for community development, including the ongoing Indian Housing Project in the plantation sector and the landmark Jaffna Cultural Centre. 

Born on 29 May 1964, Thondaman was elected to Parliament on 16 August 1994 from the Nuwara Eliya District. He succeeded as Leader of the CWC in 1999 following the death of Founder Saumyamoorthy Thondaman. The late Thondaman is a product of Royal College, Colombo.



PM's half century

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa who won the Parliamentary Election on 27 May 1970 and entered Parliament setting a record as the youngest-ever to be elected, completes 50-years of becoming a Parliamentiarian. However, he took oaths as an MP on 7 June 1970 when the Parliament was convened.

Among his well -wishers were Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of the Maldives, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Haseena.

The Indian Premier, who spoke to his Sri Lankan counterpart for over 20 minutes, congratulated him for completing half a century in his political journey and recalled the cordial rapport Rajapaksa had with India. Meanwhile, PM Modi also conveyed his condolences to the Premier on the demise of late Minister Arumugam Thondaman. 

 Bangladeshi Premier Haseena phoned Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and congratulated him on the completion of 50 years in his political career.

During the conversation, the two Premiers exchanged pleasantries and also reaffirmed to work together for the socio-economic development of the region, the Press secretary said.

The two leaders wished continued peace, progress and prosperity of the people of the two countries, he further added.

Maldives President, Solih extended felicitations to the Premier on completing 50 years of service to the neighboring nation, as a parliamentarian.

In a Twitter post on Wednesday afternoon, the President 'happily' noted that during PM Rajapaksa's long political journey, he has also been a 'great champion' of close ties the Maldives and Sri Lanka have enjoyed over the years.      

New Indian HC

The newly appointed Indian High Commissioner in Sri Lanka, Gopal Baglay paid a courtesy call on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat Friday morning (29). He presented his credentials to the President via a video conferencing ceremony on 14 May marking a historic moment in Sri Lanka's diplomatic relations.

During the discussion that followed, both President Rajapaksa and the Indian Envoy reaffirmed two country's commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations exploring new avenues of cooperation.

President Rajapaksa recalling his cordial telephone conversation with the Indian leader on last Saturday (23) thanked the Government of India and its people for the generous assistance extended to Sri Lanka during the current difficult period. 

Baglay conveying greetings from Indian Prime MinisterModi commended President Rajapaksa for his leadership in the successful battle against the COVID - 19 pandemic. 

The President and the Indian High Commissioner stressed the need to expedite the implementation of already agreed joint projects for the benefit of both countries. Areas such as tertiary education, tourism, information and communication technology, agriculture and agri-based products were mentioned for enhancing bilateral cooperation. 

The Indian High Commissioner said that India was ready to provide more opportunities for Sri Lankan scholars to study in India in their chosen fields. 

President Rajapaksa pointed out the need to develop people to people relations in addition to economic and trade cooperation.

Both the Sri Lankan President and Indian envoy agreed that in order to overcome challenges posed by the COVID- 19 pandemic mutually beneficial cooperation between countries of the region should be consolidated.

Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga was also present at the discussion.  

UNP vs SJB

The UNP on Wednesday (27) decided to suspend the Party membership of over 80 of its members for handing over their nominations to contest the General Election from another party. 

This includes former Deputy Leader of UNP, Sajith Premadasa, Vice Chairman Ranjith Maddumabandara, Lakshman Kiriella, Mangala Samaraweera,Thalatha Atukorale, Mujibar Rahuman, Ajith P. Perera and Nalin Bandara. 

Previously, explanations had been called for from those UNP members. 

However, a final decision regarding their suspension was to be taken at the UNP Working Committee meeting scheduled for Friday (29) at which the explanations given and appeals made by over 80 UNP members in question would be discussed prior to appropriate action being taken.

In a statement issued in this connection, General Secretary of the UNP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam added that the Party Leadership was compelled to take action under Section 3(h) of the Party's constitution against the UNP members in question who have violated Section 3(c) of the Party constitution by obtaining the membership of another political party and by submitting nominations for the General Election through that party. 

"Any UNP member who either signs nominations or intends to do so after obtaining the membership of a political party other than the UNP, is required to obtain the UNP Working Committee's prior approval in writing, in accordance with Section 3(c) of the Party constitution," Kariyawasam said, adding however that none of the Party members who have been accused of violating the Party constitution, had obtained the UNP Working Committee's prior approval in this regard in writing.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, Former United National Front (UNF) Parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara too concurred with Kariyawasam and said that supporting another political party while being a member of the UNP is tantamount to violating the UNP's constitution and that therefore this decision to suspend the membership of over 80 UNPers had been taken. "The UNP's constitution stipulates that a current UNP member cannot either support or contest an election under another political party other than the UNP. This is a rule that exists in the constitutions of every political party".

Further, he added that similar disciplinary action will be taken in due course against Provincial Councillors who support other parties while still being UNP members.

When contacted by Ceylon Today, General Secretary of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), Ranjith Maddumabandara, who is among the over 80 UNPers who have been thus suspended, said that neither he nor anyone else within the SJB had been officially notified regarding the said suspension and neither had they been requested to provide explanations concerning their SJB membership and nominations submitted from the latter for the Parliamentary Election. 

"The SJB has a membership of over 80 Former UNF MPs while the UNP has only 15 Former UNF MPs. Therefore, it is evident that the SJB is the main force and not the UNP," he further added.

He also claimed that 42 out of the 69-strong UNP Working Committee membership and the majority of UNP political organizers (95 per cent) had pledged allegiance to the SJB.

Commenting further about the UNP Working Committee's conduct, he further claimed that it always sought to chase UNPers out of the Party as opposed to working towards uniting the Party.

Meanwhile, former Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa's position as the United National Party (UNP) Deputy Leader was not renewed during the UNP Working Committee meeting on Friday 29 May.

After the Presidential Election, the Working Committee extended the term of UNP members for four months till 31 March 2020. During the Committee meeting yesterday, all these positions, which lapsed on 31 March, were further extended till 31 December 2020, except the Deputy Leadership of Premadasa.  

While no member has been appointed to the position of UNP Chairman or Treasurer, the Committee emphasised that the position of the General Secretary does not need to be extended as it is a position personally appointed by the Party Leader.   

Meanwhile, over 40 of the 65 United National Party (UNP) Working Committee members had on Friday decided to bring a no confidence motion against the UNP Leader Wickremesinghe, a senior Party member of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya said.

He also said that together with Wickremesinghe, the motion of no confidence is also against certain former Ministers who have opposed the decisions of the UNP Working Committee and were supporting the Government.

This decision has been arrived at following a meeting held at the SJB headquarters.

The motion of no confidence is based on such members working against the UNP policies in favour of the Government, misleading Party representatives and working against the decisions of the UNP Working Committee. He added that these 40 members have also joined the SJB and that an alliance will only be formed upon the approval of the UNP Working Committee.

Leader of the SJB, Premadasa was also present at the meeting.

General Secretary of the SJB, Ranjith Maddumabandara, speaking at the meeting, had said that that this no confidence motion is against those who have betrayed the Party and worked against the will of the public, adding that legal actions will be taken against certain UNP Working Committee decisions while support will be given to those affected by such decisions.

Meanwhile, The UNP Working Committee also ratified the appointment of 8 new WC members who were appointed on 22 May 2020.

UNP Leader Wickremesinghe has told that he will not enter into any agreement to form a national government responding to allegations that he was keeping the UNP split and confusing voters because he has a deal with SLPP to win the government a two-thirds majority at the upcoming Parliamentary elections.

He told Working Committee members gathered at the Sirikotha headquarters that the primary responsibility of all citizens is to safeguard the people from the COVID 19 pandemic.

"We as an opposition party will criticize what is wrong and support what is right. It is the responsibility of the government to safeguard the people from the pandemic," he said.

However, after the defeat of Sajith Premadasa at the Presidential Elections we decided to hand over the government and move into the Opposition, he said.

After the end of the General Election, we will rejoin the UNP and go back to the Party headquarters in Sirikotha as it is within our rights to do so, former Parliamentarian Ajith P. Perera said.

 Perera claimed that UNP Party Leader Wickremesinghe and UNP General Secretary Akila Viraj Kariyawasam have leveled false allegations that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) has closed their head office in Etul Kotte based on old documentations of the head office property. Perera noted however that after the conclusion of the general Election, the SJB hopes to return to the UNP head office, Sirikotha, and opined that because Sirikotha belongs to the members of the UNP, it is within their right to return.

Perera also said he is fairly confident that the SJB will receive a higher number of votes than the UNP at the election because more than 80 per cent of the candidates of the UNP have now joined the SJB and added that therefore returning to Sirikotha will not be a difficult task after the Election.


CEYLON TODAY | Published: 2:00 AM May 30 2020

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