CBK, Anura keep away from
by Shamindra Ferdinando
Courtesy The Island 03-10-2005
Contrary to reports, President Chandrika Kumaratunga is unlikely to
join Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakses presidential election campaign
shortly. Kumaratunga yesterday left on a semi-official visit to France
after presiding at Fridays executive committee meeting at Janadhipathi
Mandiraya, where she declared that the ruling coalition would resolve
the north-east crisis on the basis of a federal resolution.
She is scheduled to address the 33rd session of the UNESCO General
Conference tomorrow (3). She is one of the two world leaders scheduled
to address this years conference, the other being President of
Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor.
Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake will act as Minister of Defence.
According to the Presidential Secretariat, Ministers Mangala Samaraweera
and Dinesh Gunawardena will act as Ministers of School Education and
Higher Education. Deputy Ministers Dilan Perera and Lasantha Alagiyawanne
will act as the Ministers of Media and Transport, while Deputy Minister
D. M. Dassanayake will act as Minister of Relief, Rehabilitation and
Kumaratunga would return shortly, the sources said. But she would leave
for Japan after a brief stay in Colombo. The sources speculated that
Kumaratunga probably would not be in Colombo when Rajapakse hands over
his nomination papers on October 7 for the November 17 presidential
elections. But other sources said that she would be back before October
Kumaratunga is also expected to meet French President Jacques Chirac
during her stay.
Kumaratunga returned last Tuesday evening after being away for over
two weeks. Foreign Minister Anura Bandaranaike is likely to be back
from California on the eve of the nominations. Bandaranaike chosen as
the prime ministerial candidate is yet to address a campaign meeting,
while Kumaratunga addressed a gathering in Colombo once. Some speculated
that Bandaranaike may meet Kumaratunga in France but others dismissed
Prime Minister Rajapakse was going ahead with the campaign, party sources
said, expressing confidence in what an insider termed as joint Rajapakse-JVP
strategy. He said it was absurd to appoint a committee to work out Rajapakses
presidential elections manifesto. The committee was named on Friday,
he said, adding that its chairperson Kumartunga and member Bandaranaike
were both out of the country.
Kadirgamars successor is believed to have visited the Foreign
Ministry only once. Susil Premjayanth, Maithripala Sirisena, Sarath
Amunugama and Mangala Samaraweera are the other members of the committee.
Amunugama returned from an overseas visit yesterday.
Party sources said that another committee had been appointed to coordinate
with political parties that have pledged backing for Rajapakse. Sources
said that this committee would not serve any real purpose.
"We are simply wasting time," an official said accusing an
influential section of undermining the Prime Ministers campaign.
However, the vast majority of party seniors and the grassroot-level
leadership have pledged their support for Rajapakse, he said.