The internal clashes in Maithri-Ranil Yahapalana Government Ravi’s fate hangs in the balance
Posted on December 24th, 2015

BY Gagani Weerakoon Courtesy Ceylon Today

The internal clashes in Maithri-Ranil Yahapalana Government has reached a point where it has put the fate of Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake hangs in the balance with several senior Cabinet colleagues openly criticizing him. In addition, it proved that every effort taken by Karunanayake to pacify his party colleagues have backfired adding salt to the wounded relationship between him and Premier Wickremesinghe.
This column last week reported the clash between Ministers Kabir Hashim and Ravi Karunanayake leading to a Cabinet reshuffle.
This political saga started unfolding after the new government was elected following the 17 August general election.
Clash deepens
Following elections, a committee led by Wickremesinghe was appointed to decide on the boards of directors and heads of institutions. Thus Wickremesinghe issued a directive to all directors and chairmen to resign from their respective posts paving the way for nominees of the committee to be appointed.
However, there were no changes suggested for institutions headed by reputed people like Hemaka Amarasuriya, but suggested new members to the board of directors in each institution.
Even though others took this order seriously, it seemed those who were appointed by Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake were deaf and blind to the order despite several reminders from the top. These institutions included the People’s Bank, Litro Gas Company, Hotel Hilton, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and Hotel Taprobane.
As the chairmen and board of directors in these institutions which were under the Finance Ministry during 100-Day Programme remained in their positions firmly without any hesitance, everyone began to pay attention to the matter. These constant underground investigations by government hierarchies and interested parties were able to finally find a clue.
It seems that these officials had received strong legal advice telling them there is no reason to be afraid as the law is such that any change of positions should come bearing the signature of the Treasury Secretary.
Despite mounting pressure for those holding office to resign, Treasury Secretary Dr. R. H. S. Samaratunga remained silent as he was pressurized by Minister Karunanayake not to take any action.
As this tug-o-war continued, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, who had reached the limits of patience submitted a Cabinet paper proposing powers of appointing chairpersons and the boards of directors to the Minister and the Secretary of the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development.
President Sirisena, referred the Cabinet paper to the Attorney General as there are legal provisions that the matter should be placed before Parliament before making any changes.
Secretary to the Ministry of Public Enterprise Development, Ravindra Hewavitarana, met the Treasury Secretary to discuss how they could settle the matter at their level by appointing the new members.
The Treasury Secretary had in return informed Hewavitarana to send the list of nominees and that he would give his decision after studying the list. After seeing these reports, it was learnt, that Minister Karunanayake had approached his Secretary to verify facts. Upon learning of having such a meeting taking place, Karunanayake once again gave strict instructions not to change any position holder.
However, by the 16 December Cabinet meeting, Attorney General had sent his observations. He had informed the Prime Minister that according to the law it was the Prime Minister that was entrusted with powers to issue the Gazette notification approving the list of boards of directors and chairpersons to public institutions since the first Cabinet of D.S. Senanayake in 1948.
This practice had changed since 1978, with the induction of the Executive President as the Head of State. It is the President who has powers to issue a Gazette notification with the recommendations of the line minister.
Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had proposed to bring in new laws by amending the current Act. His proposal to introduce a new clause where each minister and his secretary will be allowed to decide on nominating people to top seats in the respective ministries was approved by all Cabinet Ministers. However, the Gazette notification will be issued after both the President and the Prime Minister had signed. This move was taken keeping in mind that the government would abolish the Executive Presidency.
With Cabinet giving green light to this proposal, everyone is watching as to what will happen to those appointed by Minister Ravi Karunanayake.
Ranil puts Ravi in place
On the other hand, it seems Karunanayake is magnetic to problems these days as he once again came under the anger of his leader Wickremesinghe during a Cabinet meeting.
Karunanayake had convened a meeting of UNP MPs at his residence and promised a handsome package to compensate for the cancellation of duty free vehicle permit.
However, several MPs were concerned about the practicality of this plan and it was Mass Media and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Gayantha Karunatileka, who voiced his concerns to the Cabinet.
When Gayantha asked as to what the progress on giving car permits to MPs was Karunanayake said the decision to stop the permits remain intact, but the Finance Ministry has come up with a plan to compensate MPs.
“We have decided to give a Rs 25 million car loan for each MP. We will also arrange a package where MPs will get a monthly allowance of Rs 150,000 and another allowance to their office staff that amounts to about Rs 400,000 in total,” Ravi explained.
This explanation not only surprised the Premier, but completely angered him as he was completely kept in the dark about this financial plan.
“How are you going to give all these things? It is with great difficulty that I stopped recent general strike. We must build the economy first. If MPs were given vehicle permits people will storm Parliament. We must first address the burning issues of the public,” as Wickremesinghe continued to reprimand Karunanayake saying so, the latter explained that he arrived at the decision after discussing it with party leaders.
Karunanayake’s explanation only made things worse as Wickremesinghe retorted “I say I am the Leader of this party and the government. You better do what I say and not the other way around.”
President Sirisena who realized things were getting out of control quickly decided to end the Cabinet meeting. After that, even though Karunanayake was seen trying to explain matters to Wickremesinghe the latter left the premise giving a cold shoulder to Karunanayake.
Ranil’s retirement plans
The UNP Working Committee which used to make headlines in the past met last Thursday (17) at the party headquarters, Sirikotha. As it was a day of budget debate several WC members had not attended the meeting.
An unusual statement made by Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe on his retirement plans had taken everyone by surprise.
He had pointed out the need of having second and third generation leaders in the party, while declaring that he has no desire to be the leader eternally as he is old now.
“I am old now. We must build a strong second and third layer leadership in the party. On the other hand, it is difficult for me to concentrate on party affairs in full while running the government. We must also start planning for our 70th Party Convention in February 2016,” he said.
He also appointed a committee comprising Prof. Ashu Marasinghe and Kavinda Jayawardena to attend to public matters from Sirikotha.
It is also expected that the UNP Leader will name four persons who will take the party ahead.
However, the attention of many of those who were at the meeting was diverted from Wickremesinghe to someone else. As the outburst of Wickremesinghe has already reached all corners in the political arena, everyone was expecting a counter attack from Karunanayake at the Working Committee.
Karunanayake on the other hand was blind to all those inquisitive eyes and remained glued to his mobile phone from the beginning to the end of the meeting.
Namal shut out by president
President Maithripala Sirisena met several ministers who came to Parliament though the SLFP National List, prior to his visit to the Vatican and the core topic was reforms to be introduced to the party. The President initiating the discussion said, he will be presenting the motion to abolish Executive Presidency in Parliament on 9 January 2016.
“I came into power promising the people that I will take measures to abolish the Executive Presidency. I will keep my word and will move the motion to abolish this curse by the name of Executive Presidency on 9 January,” he said.
While he was talking about abolishing the Executive Presidency, another minister asked him as to how they should go ahead with first year anniversary celebration on his induction to the office of the President.
They were of the opinion that these celebrations should be held in an elegant and fitting manner. Accordingly a committee headed by Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva was appointed to look into the preparations.
According to a suggestion by another minister it was agreed to appoint two or three members of the Rajapaksa allies to the committee as well.
While one suggested the name of MP Bandula Gunawardena, Minister Dilan Perera suggested that MP Namal Rajapksa also be included in the committee.
President Sirisena who remained composed quickly moved to shoot down this suggestion.
“Do not put Namal for any committee at this time,” he said.
Mahinda-Dilan clash
SLFP ministers made sure not to mention about young Rajapaksa after that and instead spoke about reforms.
Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe while noting that the party still lacks preparations for the upcoming Local Government polls suggested that they should start party reforms from the electoral base as well as grass root level.
While nodding in agreement with Samarasinghe President Sirisena also promised that he will come to each electorate to address the people.
Meanwhile, Minister Dilan Perera raising another issue said,the police FCID only displays President Sirisena’s portrait at the entrance, but does not have a one of Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
As everyone seemed to be bemused by his remark Perera explained that it could be a conspiracy to tarnish the image of the President.
“This could be a conspiracy to project that FCID as the work of you and the Prime Minister. After all, it is mostly our party members that are summoned to the FCID for questioning. They must be thinking it was you who’s behind these,” he said.
However, this was quashed by Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who termed it as a completely absurd idea.
“When I assumed duties at the Ministry of Vocational Training we also tried to put a portrait of the Prime Minister along with the President’s. But the office of Prime Minister informed us not to, as the Premier does not like it,” he said.
Following this, a heated argument erupted between Mahinda and Dilan.
Civil movement disappointed
President Sirisena’s declaration about abolishing the Executive Presidency came in the wake of another meeting he and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe had with Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya, who has now replaced the late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobhitha Thera, as the convener of the National Movement for a Just Society.
While, the meeting was mainly to discuss on celebrating induction of President Siirsena on 9 January and the third month death commemoration and alms giving of Ven. Sobhitha Thera, Prof. Wijesuriya had not forgotten to voice the displeasure of the civil society movement about the way government was functioning.
Though it was not held as an official meeting, Prof. Wijesuriya had expressed strong opposition to Prime Miniser Wickremesinghe for not taking action against those who were corrupt and deviating from establishing good governance.
JVP to counter yahapalanaya
While the government is planning to celebrate the dawning of the so-called change on 8 January, one of the main political parties who were responsible for bringing President Sirisena to power Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is planning a massive agitation campaign.
Accordingly, they will launch a massive public protest demonstration and a street march on 8 January 2016, which marks the first year of the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe Government.
JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake will spearhead mobilizing all its trade unions throughout the country alongside many other civil society organizations for this protest demonstration.
“The people are rallying in large numbers against this government and we are confident that our protest and the march will be a success. It is through such exercises that we will be able to pressure this government into toeing the line of the masses and not otherwise,” he said.
He also pointed out that the so-called national government had assumed power having robbed the peoples’ votes through bogus promises. He cited workers in the state, private, plantation and many other sectors being deceived, as examples.
Dissanayake said that the people were feeling the pinch very badly due to the government’s economic policies leading to escalating prices of essentials, politicization of the process of providing jobs for the youth and the imposition of unjust taxes on the wage earner.
Major revelation by AKD
Last Monday, while participating in the political talk show ‘Salakuna’ of Hiru TV, Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe was seen attacking JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake single handedly.
He even went to the extent of revealing matters discussed at the National Executive Committee which was in effect during the 100-day yahapalana government and revealed certain remarks allegedly made by Dissanayake.
Wijeyadasa who did not have anyone to counter his lambast was behaving like a bull in china shop but many predict, will be in hot water once Anura opens his mouth tomorrow.
The JVP Leader who phoned the TV channel was promised same airtime to defend himself. The programme is to be telecast tomorrow (21) and Dissanayake is all set not only to defend himself but to reveal earthshattering secrets about what happened at the National Executive Committee that also concern President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe.
Maithri’s horoscope doing rounds
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was in the midst of a small gathering at Abhayarama Temple, Narahenpita, where he talked about ongoing investigations about him and his family members.
This did not take much time to reach the ears of President Maithripala Sirisena. He was discussing what he got to know with SLFP Ministers when they met before he left for Rome.
“Mahinda had said that he can negotiate anything with Ranil but it is because of ‘Siriya’ that he cannot get anything done. He was not talking about anyone else. I am the Siriya he was referring to,” he explained to those who were confused as to who this ‘Siriya’ is.
President also said that some people are going to various astrologers with his horoscope to see what lies in the future.
“Mahinda has said that according to my horoscope I will be in power for two more years only and after that they could gain power. What they are indirectly saying is that I will die in two years. They are going round the country saying that I will last only for two more years,” he said.
When the President said that, another minister revealed that the news about his horoscope first came in a website run by MP Wimal Weerawansa.
“That appeared in a news website run by Wimal Weerawansa quoting that blind astrologer,” he said making President Sirisena to divulge another secret.
“I know about that. Ever since that rumour started circulating, Indika Thotawatte is calling me every day asking for an appointment with me. He keeps on insisting that he never said such a thing and in fact it is wrong. He was even willing to come on any TV or Radio channel to deny what was being circulated. I told him I will meet him after returning from Italy,” President Sirisena said, while also adding that he cannot believe how much some people have become slaves of astrology.

One Response to “The internal clashes in Maithri-Ranil Yahapalana Government Ravi’s fate hangs in the balance”

  1. Nanda Says:

    “Wijeyadasa who did not have anyone to counter his lambast was behaving like a bull in china shop but many predict, will be in hot water once Anura opens his mouth tomorrow.”

    Anura opened his mouth. He was very mild but precise. He made a very “open public” statement giving President, PM and few others as witness. He also proved Wijedasa was a liar. Wijedasa’s Modus Operadi was clear. Just another UNPeer.

    But one thing I gathered from that interview ( reading between lines) was that JVP would launch a another violent campaign in 2-4 years. More Sinhalese are going to die – what a waste was our 2010 great mandate ?.

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