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Maithripala issues ominous warning to govt.‘2/3 majority won’t guarantee stability’

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLFP leader and former President Maithripala Sirisena, MP, has warned the SLPP-led government that the support of coalition members shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Sirisena has warned of consequences of the SLPP’s current attitude towards its constituent partners, which he said, could even break it up.

The former President issued the warning less than a week after the presentation of Budget 2022.

The SLPP parliamentary group comprises 145 members with the SLFP accounting for 14 members. The SLPP has 117 members.

The SLPP has reached an understanding with several MPs elected on the Samagi Jana Balavegaya ticket.

In an interview with ‘Siyatha’ telecast live on 17 Nov. on the eve of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa completing two years in office, Sirisena said the fate of the previous governments which suffered defeat in spite of having 2/3 majority, could befall the incumbent administration, too, unless it coexisted with other parties in the ruling coalition. The SLFP leader said that the parliamentary strength was no guarantee stability.

The former President said the SLPP’s knee-jerk response to controversial issues and strained relations among partners was not acceptable.

‘Siyatha’ anchor Udeshan Idemegedara discussed a range of issues including the strained relations between the SLPP and its constituents, ongoing farmers’ protests, an unprecedented dispute with China over the rejection of a consignment of carbonic fertiliser, Treasury bond scams as well as sabotaging of the China-Sri Lanka Friendship Hospital in Polonnaruwa, built with a Chinese grant of $ 60 million.

Lawmaker Sirisena called the failure on the part of the current dispensation to fully operationalize the Chinese gift despicable.

The hospital specialises in treating kidney ailments, a widely prevalent and recurring concern in the region, especially among farmers. MP Sirisena questioned the rationale in depriving those diagnosed with a kidney disorder medical experts have identified as Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown Etiology (CKDu), a condition for which causal factors remain unknown.

However, the much debated Easter Sunday carnage was not discussed at all in spite of the then President being named by a Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) appointed by himself in late 2019. The National Thowheed Jamaat (BTJ) carried out multiple suicide attacks on April 21, 2019.

The SLPP’s stand that those who were uncomfortable with its policies could walk out of the government was nothing but a recipe for disaster, MP Sirisena said.

The SLFP has thrown its weight behind some SLPP constituents including the National Freedom Front (NFF) and the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) campaigning against a controversial energy deal with the US-based New Fortress Energy.

The ex-President indicated that the SLFP wouldn’t be hasty in response to the developing situation though there were calls for the party to quit the government and go it alone at whatever the next election. The long delayed Provincial Council polls are on the cards though no date has been fixed yet in the absence of consensus on how the polling should take place. The parliamentary and presidential elections are three years away.

Some of those who had adopted a tough posture towards smaller parties obviously didn’t realize ground realities, MP Sirisena said, pointing out President Mahinda Rajapaksa led administration collapsed in 2015 though it obtained a 2/3 majority at 2010 parliamentary election. The 2/3 majority enjoyed by the incumbent government had given the incumbent government a false sense of security, MP Sirisena warned. The SLFP leader attributed the current turmoil to the pathetic failure on the part of SLPP leadership to examine debilitating setbacks suffered by previous governments.

Responding to another query, a smiling former President acknowledged that the SLPP was not different from the SLFP at that time he quit the then Mahinda Rajapaksa led government in late 2014. “Twenty nine MPs followed me,” lawmaker Sirisena declared, asserting that the SLPP leadership seemed to be either reluctant or averse to required changes in political strategy.

The former President blamed the UNP for doing away with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s economic as well as foreign policies. “If successive governments followed the Bandaranaike policies, the country wouldn’t have been in current predicament today.”

MP Sirisena said that since President JRJ opened up the national economy following the 1977 general election, successive governments badly mismanaged the economy and squandered foreign exchange.

Declaring that during his tenure as the President, Sri Lanka earned the respect and admiration of the international community for pursuing policies acceptable to them, lawmaker Sirisena warned that the country couldn’t overcome current challenges without the backing of the international community.

MP Sirisena declared that not even China and the United States could overcome present-day challenges without international support. However, the current dispensation seemed to be blind to external challenges and what needed to be done.

Responding to another probing query, the former President stressed that the international community wouldn’t help a country without taking into consideration major issues such as fundamental rights, corruption and media freedom. Referring to recent talks between Chinese and US leaders in the wake of an extremely dicey situation over possible Chinese military threat directed at Taiwan, the MP said that the international reaction to a particular situation would depend on the concerned country’s leaders.

The SLFP leader strongly criticized the top SLPP leadership for causing an utterly chaotic situation and an unprecedented tragedy by banning agro-chemicals overnight. Having realized the government lacked proper strategy to implement the transfer from agro-chemicals to carbonic fertilizer, MP Sirisena had offered to share his experience with those in charge of the project. The former President said that he called his successor and offered help and soon received a call from Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage requesting his involvement. The MP said that he never received an invitation.

He urged the government to explain the situation at least before the next Yala season as now Maha season was underway. The SLFP leader pointed out that the resignation of the Agriculture Secretary as well as some other senior officials in that sector underscored the simmering crisis.



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Wimal asks for PSC probe into top officials’ complicity in violence

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Colombo HC lawyers concerned over shocking developments

By Shamindra Ferdinando

National Freedom Front (NFF) leader Wimal Weerawansa, MP, says a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) should be appointed to investigate the role played by IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Public Security Ministry Secretary Maj. Gen. (retd.) Jagath Alwis in the recent SLPP hothead attack on those demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and the Cabinet of Ministers, including Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Weerawansa yesterday (18) told The Island that Parliament should inquire into the unprovoked attack that triggered an extremely violent response by the public as well as those awaiting an opportunity to unleash violence on selected group of lawmakers on 09 May.

The former Industries Minister said he was confident that Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam, PC, would look into the issues at hand.

Responding to another query, Weerawansa said that Senior DIG Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon’s claim that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary had interfered with his (Tennakoon’s) plan to disperse the SLPP mobs couldn’t be easily dismissed.

MP Weerawansa declared, in Parliament on Tuesday (17), that the IGP and the Public Security Ministry dissuaded the Senior DIG from performing his duties although he had received specific instructions from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to stop the march on Galle Face. The former JVPer questioned whether those conspirators wanted to show the world the failure on the part of the police and the armed forces to maintain law and order.

Asked whether police headquarters and the Public Security Ministry had responded to his accusations, Weerawansa said he hadn’t been contacted by them so far.

Pointing out that the Human Rights Commission of Sri Lanka (HRCSL), inquiring into 09 May turmoil had recorded Senior DIG’s statement, Weerawansa said that the outfit could issue an interim statement on the matter.

The Colombo High Court Lawyers’ Association said that the shocking revelation, made in Parliament, should be expeditiously inquired into.

The Association’s President Attorney-at-Law Lakshman Perera said that the ongoing investigations had taken an unexpected turn in the wake of high profile specific allegations pertaining to the conduct of the IGP, as well as the Public Security Ministry Secretary. Pointing out that the HRCSL and the CID had already recorded DIG Tennakoon’s statement, pertaining to the incidents, and the officer was among a group of 22 persons slapped with a travel ban by the Fort Magistrate, lawyer Perera said that the CID couldn’t turn a blind eye to accusations directed at the head of the department as well as Secretary to the relevant ministry.

Lawyer Perera said that investigations couldn’t be completed without verifying accusations made in Parliament.

Lawmaker Weerawansa said that the question was on whose behalf the IGP and the Public Security Ministry Secretary intervened at a time the country was under emergency and after the Senior DIG in charge of Colombo received specific instructions from the President himself.

Although the SLPP goons did not shed any blood or cause any serious injuries, unlike the well-organized mobs that caused havoc across the country thereafter, MP Weerawansa said that he couldn’t comprehend why the police and the armed forces allowed the situation to develop to an extremely dangerous level.

The HRCSL in its initial reaction to the unprovoked attacks on those who had been demanding the resignation of the government condemned the violence caused by a group of people who made it very clear that violence was their intention.

HRCSL Chairperson retired Supreme Court Justice Rohini Marasinghe said: “The failure of the police to prepare for this eventuality and prevent and manage the violence and destruction is a gross failure of public order. There must be an immediate inquiry into this matter. The inaction of the police to prevent the clash is condemned.”

The Island brought the latest developments to the notice of the HRCSL yesterday as MP Weerawansa said that those who conspired and planned the project that involved those at the helm of Temple Trees then and the SLPP should be arrested. The conspirators shouldn’t be allowed to escape justice while the CID arrested those who carried out the actual attacks.

Police spokesman SSP Nihal Thalduwa said that the department couldn’t respond to what transpired in Parliament. Acknowledging that he was aware of the allegations made in Parliament, Attorney-at-Law Thalduwa said in case their response was sought through proper channels, whatever the queries would be answered.

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Dr. Pathirana says IGP, Public Security Ministry Secy. allowed goon attacks

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Galle District parliamentarian Dr. Ramesh Pathirana has reiterated that IGP C.D. Wickremaratne and Secretary to the Public Security Ministry, Maj. General (retd) Jagath Alwis had facilitated the 09 May unprovoked attack on anti-government protesters.

The former Minister Pathirana declared in Parliament yesterday (18) that National Freedom Front (NFF) leader MP Wimal Weerawansa’s allegation, pertaining to the origins of the violence, was true.

Dr. Pathirana said that he was among those who had brought supporters to attend a meeting chaired by the then Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. The vast majority of those who attended the Temple Trees meet on May 09 wanted to thank the war-winning President as he gave up active politics, the MP said. However, some unscrupulous members had instigated the participants there.

Dr. Pathirana said he had been at Temple Trees at that time and as he feared violence could erupt due inflammatory speeches, contact was made with Senior DIG in charge of Colombo Deshabandu Tennakoon. Dr. Pathirana said that the senior police officer had assured him that the police were ready to face the situation and confident of preventing those who attended the Temple Trees function from reaching Galle Face.

“Thereafter, I left Temple Trees for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. There were several other members. When trouble erupted, President Rajapaksa immediately got in touch with Senior DIG Tennakoon, who revealed he had been asked not to use force by the IGP himself.”

Dr. Pathirana said the President had asked the senior law enforcement officer why he didn’t carry out instructions issued by him (the President).

The Galle District MP emphasised that the IGP and the Secretary to the Public Security Ministry were responsible for the violence at Kollupitiya and Fort police areas which triggered violence in many parts of the country. (SF)

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New Deputy Speaker not from Rajapaksa political dynasty

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Newly-elected Deputy Speaker Ajith Rajapaksa said that he was not a member of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s clan.

The Hambantota District Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lawmaker said so when The Island asked him whether he, too, was a member of the Rajapaksa family now under fire over the continuing political-economic-social turmoil.

Rajapaksa polled 109 votes at a secret vote held in Parliament on Tuesday (17) to secure the Deputy Speaker’s post. MP Rajapaksa defeated Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) MP Rohini Kaviratne, who polled 78 votes.

The SLPP rebel group members refrained from voting for Rajapaksa after the top SLPP leadership ignored their appeal to fill the vacancy through consultations with the SJB.

Rajapaksa succeeded SLFP’s Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, who quit the post twice, the second occasion after beating SJB’s Imthiaz Bakeer Markar at a secret vote.

Deputy Speaker Rajapaksha said that he had served as the Chairman of the Ambalanthota Pradeshiya Sabha in 1997. Subsequently, he became a member of the Southern Provincial Council.

Asked whether he was a resident of the Rajapaksas’ home base, Deputy Speaker said that he was from Pallerotta, Ambalantota. (SF)

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