President Maithri’s deafening silence rings alarm bells
Posted on August 19th, 2019

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON Courtesy Ceylon Today

The Government, led by the United National Front elected in August 2015 General Election, completed four years yesterday  and the party leaders gathered at Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne’s residence for a decisive discussion to take a final decision regarding the new alliance.

UNP General Secretary Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam, Ministers Ravi Karunanayaka, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Mano Ganeshan, Rauff Hakeem and Senaratne joined the meeting. However, Ministers Ravi Karunanayaka, Mano Ganesan and Patali Champika Ranawaka left the premises, without expressing their views to media, concluding the meeting.

The discussions, however, was noticeably not attended by the Sajith Premadasa faction, even though the main aim of the discussion was to decide on the formation of the Democratic National Alliance, its constituency and its constitution mainly, ahead of the Presidential Election under the leadership of the UNP.

However, the formation of the alliance continues to get postponed with two factions not being able to reach a consensus. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe faction and most leaders in UNF are of the view that the UNP Presidential Candidate should be named after or simultaneously with announcing the DNF alliance. However, Deputy Leader Premadasa and his camp are adamant that the candidate (presumably Premadasa) be named first.

This stalemate in forming an alliance or naming candidate may take UNP-led Government to a compromising situation with various leaders having now started giving mixed signals about continuing to support UNP.

In such instance, Minister and the Leader of the Tamil Progressive Alliance (TPA) Mano Ganesan earlier in the week said that he is not ready to go to the cemetery with the United National Party (UNP) if they do not take a correct decision.
He said this while attending an event held in Deniyaya, Matara.

“We don’t want to form an alliance by force. There is no connection between the forming of the new alliance and appointing the Presidential Candidate. We are the ones who decided that the Presidential Candidate should be from the UNP. I am the person who presented this proposal in January. In 2010 and 2015 the Presidential candidates were persons external to the UNP. Though Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka is a member of the UNP now, he was not at that time. We allowed the UNP to decide on a candidate. Therefore, the sons and the grandsons of Senanayakes, Premadasas and Jayewardenes should take the correct decision in this situation,” he added.

He further said that it will not take long to name the Presidential Candidate through holding an election by the Executive Committee.

“The Party members know that we don’t have any connection with their delay and the cause for the delay is the UNP. Some internal members prevent the naming of the candidate requested by the people. We have a suspicion that they have a connection with the Opposition. We can’t wait any more. We request the UNP to name their candidate. We are ready to have discussions with the relevant candidate and we are ready to support him if we will be able to work with him. If not, we will leave and the UNP can contest with their candidate,” Ganesan added.

He further said that it is not enough only to win the Presidential Election as they will be required to face the General Elections also.

He highlighted that the TPA is ready even to contest alone.
“The UNP is trying to push their Party to the grave even after coming to power after 18 years and they make conspiracies within the Party.  I believe that the grassroots of the UNP will understand this fact,” he added.

It is in the midst of this that reports emerged stating that a group within the UNP is planning to overthrow the leadership, during the general convention of the Party, on 6 September, if Sajith Premadasa is not made the Presidential candidate. They are also planning to present nominations for other posts in the Party, except that of the Chairman.

Sources said the name of former Minister Imtiaz Bakeer Markar will also be included for the post of General Secretary.

They are also expected to nominate names for the Central Committee.
These steps will be taken to announce Premadasa as the candidate after taking over power as there was no response from the Party Leadership on the request made to announce Sajith as the Presidential Candidate.

It is also reported that Premadasa will be proposed as the Presidential Candidate at the general convention as he will get the majority of votes of the younger generation, the floating votes and a majority of the 150,000 new voters.
It is also known that a letter signed by parliamentarians, including senior members, was handed over to Prime Minister Wickremesinghe requesting that Premadasa be named the Presidential Candidate.

Meanwhile, sources report that a close relative of Wickremesinghe is forcing him to be the Presidential Candidate.

It is also known that she has informed the PM that according to an analysis done by her it is clear that he could gain 90 per cent of the Tamil and Muslim votes although 30 per cent of the Sinhala votes could win the election.

It is also noteworthy that PM Wickremesinghe has intensified his tours around the country, especially the North and the East declaring open development projects in the past week.

However, whether deputy leader Premadasa is serious about his candidacy and whether he will not give into UNP leader’s decision at the last minute, like he did once in the past where the MPs who backed him were compelled to leave the Party, will only be revealed at the penultimate hour.  

Maithri concerned

President Maithripala Sirisena requested everyone to refrain from making statements which are detrimental to the national security of the country.
He said this after declaring open the Sri Lanka Army’s Special Forces Regimental Centre at the Regimental Headquarters in Naula. The President further said that no one should make statements that would endanger the future of the Motherland as well as the nation to achieve narrow political gains.

President Sirisena extending his gratitude to the Security Forces for their contribution to protect the National Security, Independence and Democracy of the country said that the entire nation is indebted to them for their service.

The President said that no one could be allowed to underestimate their invaluable service to achieve degraded political interests adding that he was deeply saddened to hear statements made by certain persons, who have led the Army, disguised under narrow political agendas.

The Government has ensured the country’s National Security to the topmost level, jointly with the Security Forces the President said adding that there is no room in Sri Lanka for any acts of terrorism.

The President paid floral tributes to the War Heroes Memorial in the premises. Secretary General of Defence Major General Shantha Kottegoda and Head of the Security Council, Commanders of the Armed Forces, Colonel Chandimal Peiris, Commander-in-Chief of Special Forces and Chiefs of the Army were also present at this occasion.

President Sirisena however, was not much vocal about ongoing political developments ever since last Sunday where Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) announced former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its Presidential Candidate.

The SLFP which continues with bilateral discussions with the SLPP also made aware that they will announce their final stance on the Presidential Election and candidate at Party’s 68th Convention to be held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium on 3 September.

President Sirisena’s noncommittal stance on the elections has rung alarm bells in the minds of many people as he carries quite a reputation in taking entire country by surprise through decisions made on the eleventh hour.

Despite the two main parties already having entered the Presidential Election campaign and speculations still being ripe about fielding an alternative candidate as a third force, many political analysts are of the view that there is a good chance of the Presidential Election not being held as planned.

These speculations have emerged with President Sirisena seeking Supreme Court opinion on holding Provincial Council Elections and with questions being raised about Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Sri Lankan passport.

The Supreme Court has informed the Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) to forward their written submissions, if any, before 21 August, in connection with the views which have been sought by the President concerning the delayed Provincial Council Polls.

In a letter addressed by the Registrar of the Supreme Court, to the President of the BASL, it has been stated that at a time when the report on the Delimitation Committee has not been produced as yet, that the President had sought the view of the Supreme Court on the conducting of the Provincial Council Polls under the old system, based on the provisions of Article 129 of the Constitution.

The Registrar has pointed out that in this situation, the members of the BASL also have recourse to submit their views and should do so before 12 p.m. on 21 August.

The Supreme Court hearing on the matter is to be held on 23 August, while the Court’s verdict on the issue is to be conveyed to the President, a week later.
On the other hand, Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya on Thursday (15) decided to appoint a five-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court to consider President Sirisena’s request for the Court’s views on the possibility of staging the delayed Provincial Council (PC) Polls before the next presidential election.

Hence, the ‘special jurisdiction case’ will be taken for consideration before Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and Justices Buwaneka Aluwihare, Sisira de Abrew, Prasanna Jayawardene and Vijith K. Malalgoda at 10 a.m. on 23 August.

The President has sought the Supreme Court’s view on three points, regarding the delayed Provincial Council Polls. The President has asked whether there is any legal impediment to his publishing the Delimitation Committee Report and stage the Provincial Council Elections in certain electorates based on provisions of Sections 13 and 14 of the Provincial Council Election Act, No. 2 of 1988. The President has then asked whether there is any legal hindrance for his ordering the conducting of the Polls based on provisions contained in the Amended Provincial Council Pols Act, No. 17 of 2017.

The President has also sought the views of the Supreme Court on whether there are any impediments to his ordering the Provincial Council Elections to be conducted based on provisions of Act, No 2. of 1988 related to the preferential voting system.

Meanwhile, President Sirisena has been asked to take action against Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa – who was named the Leader of the SLPP and other SLFP MPs who ‘joined’ SLPP. SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara, too, was vocal about taking disciplinary action on the matter. However, the President remains silent about the matter too.

Campaign for Commander

In an unprecedented trend a social media campaign is in place to decide who should be the next Army Commander.  Incumbent Commander, Lt. General Mahesh Senanayake who is on his second service extension is bound to retire earlier this week with his term coming to an end.

The next top contender for the post is Maj. General Shavendra Silva who is currently serving as the Army’s Chief of Staff and on a service extension till 31 December this year. He was given a six-month service extension in June. A massive congratulatory campaign has started in social media calling Silva, the next Army Commander.

Maj. General Sathyapriya Liyanage also a top contender to the post in the event of Lt. General Senanayake is not given a service extension. Maj. General LIyanage was appointed by the Army Commander as the chief of Overall Operation Command where all Army, Navy, Air Force and Police areas within the Western Province and Puttalam District were placed under and was responsible in bringing the situation under control in the immediate aftermath of Easter Sunday terror attacks.

However, defence analysts are of the opinion that President Sirisena will take current security situation into serious consideration when appointing the next Army Commander. This also means there is a possibility of granting incumbent Army Commander a third service extension, in a similar way, President Sirisena granted Lt. General Senanayake’s Predecessor Lt. General Chrishantha de Silva three service extensions.

JVP candidate

The Jathika Jana Balawegaya (JJB) is likely to announce that the Leader of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake, as their Presidential Candidate. The announcement is to be made at a rally to be held today (18) at Galle Face Green.

The Jathika Jana Balawegaya says that Dissanayaka is suitable for the position due to his experience, love for the country and stance against corruption.  

A statement made by JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva, during a media briefing on Friday (16), clearly confirms that the JVP leader will probably be the Presidential Candidate. The rally is scheduled to be held today at 3:30 p.m.

 BY GAGANI WEERAKOON 02:00 AM Aug 18 2019

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