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SLFP dissidents boycott talks with Prez over defection as PM rules out resignation

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Shantha Bandara receiving his letter of appointment from President Gotabaya Rajapaksa (pic courtesy PMD)

Udaya says treachery caused irreparable damage

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Ongoing efforts to reach a consensus among those political parties that contested the last parliamentary election on the SLPP ticket have suffered a double setback over the SLFP-led demand for Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa’s resignation and a rebel MP accepting a state ministry. Former President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP, has asked President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to constitute an interim Cabinet leaving all other Rajapaksas out.

The SLFP has received the backing of the 11-party dissident group to push for an interim Cabinet, sans the Rajapaksas, sources say. The President received 41 lawmakers of the dissident group at the President’s House on Sunday (10). However, Premier Mahinda Rajapaksa on the following day responded to the SLFP’s request made on the previous day in talks with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, in his address to the nation.

Without referring to the demand for his removal made by a section of those elected on the SLPP ticket, Premier Rajapaksa declared he was confident of resolving the crisis though it couldn’t be possible within the next few days.

The SLFP parliamentary group has resolved to accept the formation of an interim cabinet under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who holds the defence portfolio. The SLFP, in line with the 11-party dissident group’s strategy, has also asked for the restoration of the 19th Amendment at the expense of the 20th.

However, swearing in of Kurunegala District MP Shantha Bandara, one of the 14 SLFPers in Parliament as State Minister of Promoting the Production & Regulating the Supply of Organic Fertilizer, and Paddy and Grains, Organic Foods, Vegetables, Fruits, Chilies, Onion and Potato Cultivation Promotion, Seed Production and Advanced Technology Agriculture, on Monday late afternoon has undermined the talks between the SLFP and the President, SLFP sources told The Island. The SLFP has also removed Shantha Bandara from the positions he held in the party.

Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) leader Udaya Gammanpila yesterday told The Island that the grouping decided to call off the second meeting with the President scheduled for 7 pm Tuesday (12) following the swearing in of Shantha Bandara in place of Shasheendra Rajapaksa. “We never expected the President to engineer a defection at a time we are engaged in discussions. In fact, we discussed a way out of the crisis and with the greatest difficulty managed to secure the support of all political parties, represented in Parliament except the JVP, to explore the possibility of an interim administration. We had no option but to pull out of talks. We are really disappointed in the President’s action,” the former Energy Minister said.

Lawmaker Gammanpila said that the dissident group engaged in talks with other political parties on behalf of the President and was largely successful in reaching a consensus before swearing in of Shantha Bandara derailed negotiations.

Former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Dr. W.A. Wijewardena on Monday declared that political stability and a government with at least a simple majority was nothing but a prerequisite for talks with the IMF scheduled to begin in Washington on Monday (18).

Responding to another query, MP Gammanpila said that though names of three lawmakers had been mentioned as possible defectors, finally only Shantha Bandara received the State ministerial position. Blaming Highways Minister Johnston Fernando, who is also the Chief Government Whip for the unexpected defection, lawmaker Gammanpila said that current uncertainty couldn’t be addressed by such treachery.

MP Gammanpila said that the defection couldn’t have taken place at a worst time as the Opposition, too, took a courageous stand to avert further deterioration. But, utterly foolish political move on the part of the government ruined everything, the former minister said. Meanwhile, the SLPP leadership has adopted a wait and see policy in the wake of its founder being deprived of the finance portfolio. Authoritative sources said that the SLPP was watching the situation in the wake of a section of those elected on its ticket and appointed through its National List deciding to operate as a separate group. The dissidents included about a dozen SLPP members, including Susil Premjayanth, who was sacked from the state ministry he held last year following his criticism of the SLPP policies.



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Speaker proposes how to steer SL out of crisis

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Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena has handed over a set of proposals to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, spelling out how to resolve country’s economic crisis.The proposals made by the Speaker pertain to a number of important sectors and highlight the importance of providing relief to low income groups.

The Speaker has said Sri Lankans working or doing business overseas or foreign investors depositing USD 100,000 with the Central Bank for a period of two years should be paid a 10% interest per annum in Sri Lankan rupees and allowed to credit the interest to any account preferred by the depositor. He also proposes that the government issue a vehicle import licence worth USD 25,000, six months after an individual makes a fixed deposit while also allowing him to pay a standard tax of USD 10,000 to the government for that vehicle.Speaker Abeywardena has proposed how to reduce energy costs, release adequate stocks of LP gas to the market, boost domestic production food production, stabilise the banking system.

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MR had not decided to resign on 09 May, says Weerasekra

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

SLPP MP Rear Admiral (retd.) Sarath Weerasekera says Prime Minster Mahinda Rajapaksa had not decided to resign on 09 May 09 although the SLPP MPs had been asked to bring supporters to Temple Trees for a meeting.Weerasekera said so when The Island asked him why he had skipped the Temple Trees meeting.One-time Public Security Minister said that the then PM Rajapaksa had, during a conversation with him on 08 May had denied reports that the latter was planning to resign the following day. MP Namal Rajapaksa, however, had asked a group of MPs and others to bring supporters to express support for the PM, MP Weerasekera said.

Weerasekera said he had been among those contacted by MP Namal Rajapaksa.The former Navy Chief of Staff said that the failure on the part of law enforcement authorities and the military to respond swiftly and decisively to a threat of breach of law and order had led to a disaster at time global attention was on Sri Lanka due to the deteriorating financial situation.MP Weerasekera questioned why police had refrained from firing at least once into the air when mobs arrived at some MPs’ houses, which were destroyed. For over 48 hours mobs had ruled the country, the MP alleged, demanding an explanation why shoot-on-sight orders had not been issued as soon as mobs started to attack MPs’ houses.MP Weerasekera said that serious accusations made by SLPP members, particularly Wimal Weerawansa, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana and Mahindananda Aluthgamage couldn’t be ignored. They accused some sections of the SLPP of conspiring to unleash violence and the police and the armed forces turning a blind eye to countrywide retaliatory attacks.

Newly-appointed Public Security Minister Tiran Alles said that he would order a thorough probe into the May 09 incidents. Minister Alles said so when The Island asked him what he would do against the backdrop of allegations of the police facilitating attacks on protesting public in the Kollupitiya and Fort police areas.MPs, Weerawansa and Dr. Ramesh Pathirana alleged in Parliament that Maj. Gen. Jagath Alwis, Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration and C. D. Wickremaratne, Inspector General of Police prevented Deshabandu Tennakoon, Senior DIG, Colombo from mob attacks on the protesting public.

Former Minister Weerasekera said that the government, the SLPP and the police should come clean on this matter. MP Weerasekera said that the government mishandled the challenge posed by those who cleverly exploited the economic crisis. “Perhaps one of the major blunders was allowing the public to block roads. Now, it has become a style. Interested parties also exploit the media and social media. The government seems clueless,” MP Weerasekera said, urging the government to review the developments.MP Mahindananda Aluthgamage, too, told The Island, the top SLPP leadership ignored repeated warnings. The former Agriculture Minister questioned whether those who had advised the Cabinet of Ministers chaired by the President deliberately deceived them.

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Lankan-born Cassandra elected to Australian Parliament

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She beat another candidate of Sri Lankan origin, Ranj Perera

Cassandra Fernando of Sri Lankan descent has been elected to the Australian Parliament.Cassandra, an advocate for essential workers and the Federal Labor Candidate for Holt.She migrated to Australia with her family when she was 11.She began working at Woolies Dandenong Plaza as a teenager. She now represents workers in the retail and fast food industries, fighting to improve their pay and conditions. She has also volunteered to tutor migrants and refugees from non-English speaking backgrounds so they can make the best of every opportunity.

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