Irate Ranil rings Maithri in London
Posted on July 26th, 2016

By Gagani Weerakoon Courtesy Ceylon Today

Last week with the re-launch of www.manthri.lk, which keeps track of the performance of Members of Parliament (MPs) in a scientific way, Verite Research an independent think tank who operates the website revealed the voters, how their elected members have performed in the new Parliament that came into power after 17 August 2015.
It was not long ago that statistics revealed, it costs Rs 4.6 million of tax payers’ money per each sitting day and this website enables citizens to know how their elected members are performing.
According to Verite Research, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) is the top scorer where five of its seven members in Parliament are listed amongst the top ten.

JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake tops the list of 20, followed by Sunil Handunnetti. While Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa is ranked fifth, party’s propaganda Secretary Vijitha Herath and Bimal Ratnayake had secured eighth and tenth places respectively in the top performers list.
The United National Party (UNP) is second best performer with four of its 83 MPs in the top ten. Buddhika Pathirana (Matara) is the top performer and third in the overall ranking. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has secured fourth place in the list of the top 10, while Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake is at seventh position and Media and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Gayantha Karunathilaka the ninth. The only member of the Joint Opposition who is among the top ten, is its leader Dinesh Gunawardane who is ranked sixth.
Only Tamil MP in this group of top 20 performers is M.A. Sumanthiran of the Tamil National Alliance who is positioned at 13.

Fate of the govt

Even though their performances may not be reflected in Verite Research, the Joint Opposition is all set to put their maximum effort in toppling the yahapalana government and the first mega step towards this will take place next Thursday (28) with the commencement of the anti-government paada yathra from Kandy to Colombo.
The talks of overthrowing the government from power came to limelight as the MoU between the UNF and the UPFA was signed only for a two-year period, and with the expectation that either Prime Minister Wickremesinghe or President Maithripala Sirisena would make the first move to form a separate government, the Joint Opposition too seemed to buy time.

However, the government, in a bid to put these efforts as well as rumours at rest, too, decided to work out a plan. Accordingly, Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and General Secretaries of the UNP and SLFP, Ministers Kabir Hashim and Duminda Dissanayake took it upon themselves to clarify matters.
PM Wickremesinghe told Parliament that no matter what opponents do or how much they try, this government cannot be defeated any time soon. A few hours afterwards, General Secretaries of the two parties Hashim and Dissanayaka holding a joint press conference in Parliament revealed about the plans to extend the two year period of the MoU signed to form a unity government by another three years.
Dissanyake revealed that the agreement in this regard will be prepared soon and the government will continue till 2020 with no hiccups.

It’s a matter of coal
Even before the government could take a deep breath from the controversial Treasury Bond issue where officials appointed under the Yahapalana Government were accused of corrupt deals amounting to millions of rupees, the government came under corruption allegations over an alleged coal tender scam that apparently took place during the time Minister Champika Ranawaka was in office as the Minister of Power and Energy, while the 100-day yahapalana programme was in practice.
Voice Against Corruption, led by JVP Politburo member and Provincial Councillor Wasantha Samarasinghe lodging a complaint with the Anti-corruption Secretariat indicated that Minister Ranawaka should be directly responsible for the deal.

Samarasinghe’s complaint followed a press conference held by the Joint Opposition, where DLF Leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara also shared same sentiments.
The Joint Opposition urged the government to appoint a special Select Committee to investigate the controversy-ridden coal tender for the Lakvijaya power plant.
Nanayakkara charged that the alleged involvement of the previous Power and Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka in calling for tenders from coal suppliers had led to the adoption of a higher bid.
“As we learnt, there were a few other bidders who could supply coal for a lower price than the selected bidder. This is a plan by the government to misuse public funds,” he alleged.

However, Nanayakkara added that due to the change of ministerial portfolios, the blame had been shifted to the present Power and Renewable Energy Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court issued an order suggesting that the government call for fresh tenders to supply coal for the Lakvijaya power plant and dismissed the petition filed by Singapore-based Noble Resources International Ltd., as it was a foreign company and therefore could not be shielded under Sri Lankan law.
The government appointed a three-member committee to monitor the tender procedure of the Norochcholai Coal Power Plant and Prof. K.K.Y.W. Perera, Prof. Lakshman R. Watawala and Prof. Janaka B. Ekanayake are the members.

On the other hand Minister Ranawaka catergorically denying the allegations said he had nothing to do with the fraudulent coal deal and called for a parliamentary subcommittee to investigate the matter.
Addressing the media at the JHU Headquarters at Battaramulla, Ranawaka said those behind the deal were members of the Rajapaksa family and their henchmen and coal purchases from 2009 onwards should be probed.
He was sure that during the period the controversial coal deal had taken place he was no longer the Minister of Power and Energy. He had asked the then Minister holding the portfolio to suspend the controversial deal, he said.
He even told media of resorting to legal action against former Minister and Joint Opposition member Vasudeva Nanayakkara and others who made false allegations against him linking his name with the controversial coal deal.

Champika’s U turn
However, Ranawaka who claimed he has had no involvement in the tender procedure took a complete u-turn when he elaborately explained himself at last week’s Cabinet meeting.
He pointed out that the coal tender has not incurred a Rs 1,800 million loss to the country but in fact has made a profit. While he did not take steps to disassociate himself from the deal as he earlier did, Minister Ranawaka this time passed the ball to the Auditor General.

He said that Auditor General has mistook the coal tender deal for the spot bidding system and it is in fact him who should be responsible for sending a wrong message to the society that the deal was corrupt.
Ranawaka who did not stop at finding fault with the Auditor General has also called for strict regulations to control media as it is enjoying a ‘wild ass freedom’ at the moment.
However, his remarks had not been endorsed by his Cabinet colleagues who in fact joined in solidarity with Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera who pointed out to Ranawaka that the government should not think about stern action against media as it came to power to establish media freedom.
“Even though he said earlier that he has no involvement, today’s explanation appear as if he was admitting his responsibility and involvement in the coal tender deal,” several Ministers opined after the Cabinet meeting.
Maithri angry
With Ranawaka mentioning media behaviour it was none other than President Sirisena who started criticising the State media mechanism saying not only has the State media so far failed to counter allegations against the government, but these institutions do not give adequate publicity to the development work carried out by the government.

President Sirisena was seen openly criticizing a top official at the Government Information Department and said he did not object when Prime Minister Wickremesinghe came with the suggestion to appoint this particular individual to the post as he was not aware of the person.
The irate President revealed to the Cabinet members that this top official is in fact, on a mission to create issues between him and the Prime Minister and he no longer wishes to trust the official as confidential telephone conversations he had with the top official were found reported in certain websites as well.

SLFP to defend AG
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Ministers who gathered at UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera’s residence last week decided to stand by the Auditor General. This decision was reached following Minister Ranawaka’s attack on the Auditor General.
“Already, UNP ministers are after the Auditor General over the Treasury Bond issue and now Champika is trying to put the blame on the Auditor Gerneral over the coal tender deal. This practice as well as his call for media control is uncalled for. We should not let Ministers to criticize the Auditor General as it will lead to the public losing faith. Therefore, we must not encourage such practices and in fact should stand by the Auditor General,” those who gathered discussed and reached a consensus.
Apart from this matter the tenure of the national government was also discussed and the decision to extend the time period and the press conference at Parliament Complex was a result of this meeting.
Following this, the Ministers also decided to have another discussion with President Sirisena on the VAT issue as there is a growing opposition to the complicated VAT implementation.
Ranil calls Maithri in London
State Finance Minister Lakshmana Yapa Abeywardena holding a press conference on behalf of the government said that the VAT (Amendment) Bill will not be taken up for a second reading on the 20 July, despite earlier reports by the government to that effect.
Minister Abeywardena pointed out that a new case related to the increase in VAT had now been filed in the Supreme Court, and therefore the Bill could not be taken up in Parliament until that case was heard. Further, as it is customary for the SC to leave at least a three week time period between hearings of a case, it was clear that the Bill will not be taken up on the 20th, he opined.
The Minister went on to state that the SLFP parliamentarians in the government will take the opportunity to discuss the matter during this period, and present a broad set of proposals to President Sirisena.
A committee had been formed by the SLFP including Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Mahinda Amaraweera and Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena and several others to discuss details pertinent to the VAT issue; including the revision of VAT from 11% – 15%, the rise in the prices of essential goods despite VAT not being charged on them, the possibility of introducing another form of direct taxes, and steps to be taken to ease the pressure on the common people without affecting the government’s revenue.
This press conference however, had angered Prime Minister Wickremesinghe and after evaluating voice cuts of Abeywardena, he telephoned President Sirisena who was on a private visit to London to attend his daughter’s graduation.

He complained that Minister Abeywardena had made derogatory and controversial statements regarding VAT which should not have been made. President Sirisena took it upon himself to talk to Abeywardena in this regard.
He telephoned Abeywardena who explained to the President that all he said was the final decision will be reached by President after Prime Minister and President discuss the matter in detail.

Another US ship to dock
With indications of USA focussing on securing its presence in the Indian Ocean floating, the US Embassy in Colombo announced the arrival of the USS New Orleans (LPD 18) with the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), in Sri Lanka today for a port visit.
This is the second US Navy ship to visit Sri Lanka in the past four months, following the visit of the US 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge in March.

The ship and embarked MEU are in Sri Lanka to increase bilateral ties with the Sri Lankan Navy and provide US support and training for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, it stated.

“The 21st century is in many ways the Indo-Pacific century, and Sri Lanka is well-positioned to take advantage of its strategic location,” said US Ambassador Atul Keshap. “The United States looks forward to working with the Sri Lanka Navy as a key force for maritime security and stability,” he said.
Approximately 200 sailors from the Sri Lanka Navy will participate in the two-day humanitarian assistance and disaster relief training, led by members of 13th MEU and experts from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“We look forward to exchanging best practices with our Sri Lankan partners,” said Major John Arnold, Commander of the 13th MEU Forces on the USS New Orleans. “Opportunities to exchange expertise on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief help us understand how to best integrate with our regional partners during crisis response,” he said.
The USS New Orleans is operating in the US Pacific Command area of operations as part of a seven-month deployment to the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Its crew and embarked Marines are also looking forward to experiencing Sri Lanka’s vibrant culture and engaging with its people during their visit.

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