Did SLFP jump the gun by approving Maithri as Presidential candidate?
Posted on February 13th, 2019

BY GAGANI WEERAKOON Courtesy Ceylon Today

 The proposal was read out by Dissanayake in the presence of the General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekara and Senior Vice Chairman Nimal Siripala de Silva and was seconded by former Anuradhapura District MP, Tissa Karalliyadde. Those who were present, at the electoral balamandala reorganising Convention, raised their hands in approval.

Sirisena, who is the Seventh Executive President of Sri Lanka, came to power in January 2015, defeating former SLFP Chairman and incumbent Opposition Leader, Mahinda Rajapaksa.

According to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, President Sirisena’s term in Office ends on 9 January 2020. However, the President can call a Presidential Election anytime after 9 January 2019. The Constitution requires that 9 December 2019 be the last day by which a Presidential Election could be held.

Although he is eligible to contest for the Presidential Post for a second time, President Sirisena had initially pledged during the 2015 Presidential Election, that he would not contest again. However, he later indirectly indicated his willingness to contest by stating that he had a zillion unfinished duties and responsibilities to fulfil and does not plan to retire until these were accomplished.

Meanwhile, on Thursday (31) President Sirisena, while declaring open an SLFP party office in the Punchi Borella area, hinted that this year will give birth to a new Government − which he said would entirely be an Election year.

The President stated that it is up to the people of the country to identify the forces and people opposing the country and ensure their defeat.

He stated that the battle to defeat corruption, which is commonly used as a slogan during election seasons, has not been successful and instead corrupt forces have been strengthened. Illegal activities such as racketeering and smuggling drugs have spread to all corners of the country, according to the Head of State.

President Maithripala Sirisena noted that he recently took over the reins of the Police and is in the process of making internal changes to strengthen the battle against corruption, which he stated cannot be won overnight.  He urged the people of the country to join hands with a group of people who truly love the nation, for the country to be taken forward.

Even though, the President and Prime Minister, both indicated, from time to time, as this year being an Election year, no party has been able to come to any agreement as to what Election should be held first.

Threatened to resign

It is in this backdrop that the Chairman of the Elections Commission, Mahinda Deshapriya threatened to resign if the Provincial Council Elections were delayed further.

Addressing the Media, at the Commission office on Monday (28), Deshapriya said that he would resign, if the PC Polls are not held before 10 November, as a means of expressing his vehement protest against the extended delay.

There is no difference between a delayed poll and a corrupt poll, Deshapriya said, criticising the Government for the undue delay. My heart aches when I think that Elections should be held urgently,” he lamented.  The Polls in six Provincial Councils were pending, namely that of the Eastern, North Central, Sabaragamuwa, Northern, Central and Wayamba Provinces.

The Southern Provincial Council completes its term on 10 April while the Western Provincial Council will complete its term on 21 April, he said.

There are those who said that all the Provincial Elections should be held on one day while there were others who stressed on the need to conduct Elections for those Councils which have already been dissolved,” he said, adding that the Commission was not prepared to conduct Elections to suit each and everyone’s agendas.

Deshapriya appealed to the Speaker, the 225 Members of Parliament, the Cabinet of Ministers, the President and the Prime Minister to safeguard the sovereignty of the people and their universal franchise by conducting the Polls as soon as possible.

Responding to questions as to why the Commission was not going to the Supreme Court regarding this delay, he said that they are at a loss as to who should be held responsible for the situation. He said the Commission was only able to seek legal advice on conducting Elections.

However, it is the responsibility of the voter, or civil society organization to go to Court regarding the matter, Deshapriya said.

National Government

As President Sirisena was talking about establishing a fresh Government this year, Leader of the House, Minister Lakshman Kiriella on Friday (1) informed Speaker Karu Jayasuriya of their intention to form a National Government.

Kiriella writing to the Secretary General of Parliament requested that a resolution on forming a National Government be moved in Parliament on 7 February for approval.

The request was made under Article 46(4) of the Constitution which reads, Notwithstanding anything contained in paragraph (1) of this Article, where the recognised political party or the independent group which obtains highest number of seats in Parliament forms a National Government, the number of ministers in the Cabinet of Ministers, the number of ministers who are not Cabinet of Ministers and the number of Deputy Ministers shall be determined by Parliament.”

The letter sent by Kiriella reads, Whereas the UNP which obtained the highest number of seats in Parliament has formed a National Government, Parliament determines in terms of Article 46(4) that the number of Ministers in the Cabinet of Ministers shall not exceed 48 and the number of Ministers who are not Cabinet Ministers and the number of Deputy Ministers shall not exceed 45.’

Currently, the number of members in the Cabinet has been limited to 30, while the number of non-Cabinet, Deputy and State Ministers is at 27. With the establishment of a National Government, 18 more Cabinet Ministers and 18 other ministerial appointments could be made.

The proposal should be debated and passed in Parliament through a vote.

Meanwhile, the JVP claimed that the UNP was shamelessly trying to increase their ministerial portfolios by forming a National Government with the SLMC which has only one seat in Parliament.

JVP Propaganda Secretary and Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath alleged that although the UNP formed a Government of its own after the end of the political coup, which took place on 26 October 2018, now there was a crisis within the Party.

The main reason for this crisis is that their MPs cannot work without having ministerial portfolios. Every one of them wants a Ministerial post. The MPs who received portfolios are not happy about the posts they were given. There are clashes within the UNP about dividing Ministerial, Deputy Ministerial and State Minister portfolios among them,” Herath further claimed, alleging that, As a result of these shameless and selfish fights, now there are no Secretaries for certain Ministries. There is no Cabinet Minister for Labour. There is no responsible Minister today to find a solution to the daily wage issue of the plantation sector workers”, he said.

Just because these people cannot live without a portfolio, now they are trying to form a National Government again with the participation of the SLMC, which has only one seat in Parliament. Literary the SLMC is already inside the Government. It supports every move of the Government in Parliament.”

Seyed Ali Zahir Moulana is the only MP who was elected to Parliament after contesting directly on the SLMC ticket representing the Batticaloa District. Several other SLMC Members including the SLMC Leader, Minister Rauff Hakeem were elected to Parliament on the UNP ticket in the 2015 General Election.

Maithri disassociates

Meanwhile, President Sirisena who attended a religious ceremony in Horana on Thursday flanked by former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa and UNF Minister Daya Gamage insisted that he has no idea what the new Constitution looks like or what the content would be.

He also said dragging the Constitution- making process for four years, in his opinion, was a mere political game by those involved, to distract and create uncertainty among the people in the South and cheat those in the North.
President Sirisena said if a constitutional amendment to be made for the sake of making a better country, he expects a change to strengthen Parliament and not to accomplish other motives.

He made these remarks while participating at a religious event held to offer the newly-built Uposathagaraya of the Sri Jayawardhanarama Raja Maha Viharaya at Olaboduwa, Horana to the Maha Sangha at the  historical Olaboduwa Sri Jayawardhanarama Raja Maha Vihara in Horana.

The President further said although some people talk about a new Constitution, he has not yet received such a thing, and that he wasn’t made aware of it so far. Talking about a Constitution is somewhat disturbing Buddhists of the South while on the other hand it is also deceiving the people of the North, said the President.

If a Constitutional amendment is to take place prominence should be given to establish a stronger Parliament and that he would fully support it, he added.
The negative effects of lacking a strong Parliament will destabilize the capability to make correct decisions for the future of the country, as well as taking political stability backwards, the President pointed out.

He charged that foreign forces are operating against the motherland today through different directions, and the patriotic programme which is conducted by him is often being criticized by certain parties due to such interference. If the power of foreign forces is being used to manipulate state power and to take decisions accordingly, it is not at all suitable for the independence of the country, said the President.

Furthermore, the President said it is the duty of everyone today to build a political system and a social environment that creates unity and harmony among all Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims.

SriLankan plan

State Minister of Finance and Mass Media, Eran Wickramaratne and his ten-member committee submitted their report to President Maithripala Sirisena, on ‘Policy recommendations to restructure a strategy for the loss-making SriLankan Airlines’ last week.

The President while accepting the report commended the team for submitting it in time, while noting that most other commissions and committees would call him on the last day to ask for an extension.

The report had stressed on the importance of a strategic partner to save the airline industry and has designed three viable options in moving forward with restructuring options for the overall restructuring of SriLankan Airlines, which are: Closure and Start Up, Management Contract, and the Debt Restructuring and Internal Capital Generation. The committee wanted the Government to focus on ‘Management Contract and Debt Restructuring and Internal Capital Generation’ to reap revenue.

Wickramaratne noted that rather than calling it a reconstructing report it could be adopted as a concept for SriLankan Airlines to move forward.

Last year alone, SriLankan Airlines’ loss was about USD 185 million and we had other business from catering and engineering returning about USD 85 million profit. The net loss was USD 100 million plus.’

He noted that generating and capitalising on catering and ground handling with future engineering services could bring profits. So the best way is to keep SriLankan Airlines with strictly financial returns,” he said.

The committee had noted that SriLankan Airlines could retain 51 per cent ownership and the 49 per cent by the strategic partner who could also invest on other business like in catering and ground handling and could also open up to other markets in the regions as well as investing in subsidiary businesses.
The recommendations also prefer that the strategic partner should be a non-competitor or to go for a non-airline partner so that the SriLankan identity would remain intact.

The Airline is currently under the President and he will soon appoint a Minister to look after the affairs of the Airline business to work on the concept paper that has been presented, it was revealed.

This is ultimately a decision to be taken based on what the investor-appetites are, for the growth of SriLankan Airlines.”

According to the concept, there could be three investors or may be one but what matters is that SriLankan Airlines will have control of the business and ownership. It does not have to be a Government, but a SriLankan- run business.”

‘By having an internal capital generation mechanism in place, the debt component can be reduced drastically based on scientific evaluations. By boosting internal capital generation, it can strengthen the balance sheet,’ the recommendations explain.

What we are thinking of trying is a viable way to align a sustainable model.

The presidential committee has produced a report containing broad policy recommendations on restructuring SriLankan Airlines. In view of time constraints, the Committee utilised information and data from secondary sources including restructuring proposals presented to the Airlines by its management and consultants covering the period from 2008 to 2018 (the period after the Government took over the management of the Airlines from Emirates). The Committee also conducted a closed stakeholder consultation with written submissions from key stakeholder groups.

The Committee is responsible to produce a report of policy recommendations to restructure SriLankan Airlines. The report must also comprise possible revisions to its vision, mission, objectives, strategies, corporate plan and action plan.

President Sirisena has requested the Committee to make their submissions within two weeks of appointment.

The Minister noted that two weeks was insufficient to talk about a crisis situation of the Airline that has had issues for the last 40 years.

4 Responses to “Did SLFP jump the gun by approving Maithri as Presidential candidate?”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    President Sirisena is a definite candidate if he is in good health and willing to contest. However, he cannot win it without getting Rajapaksa voters. Sirisena’s challenge will be to get Rajapaksa voters. Mahinda and Namal cannot contest.

    Namal will be able to contest in 2024. However, if Gotabaya contests in 2019, Namal will not be successful in 2024 either way. If Gotabaya remains popular in 2024 (which is very unlikely), he will contest again and win. If he is unpopular, Namal will not win even if he contests. That pushes Namal’s earliest success into 2029 by which time Mahinda would be long gone and Namal will not have the support of his father. Rajapaksa supporters would have scaterred and no offspring of Mahinda will be able to ever become president.

    However, if Sirisena contests, it allows a good chance for Namal for 2024. If Sirisena loses, Namal stands a very high chance of becoming president in 2024. If Sirisena wins in 2019 with Rajapaksa support, Namal will be the SLFP candidate in 2024. He has a good chance of winning.

    Further, although Gotabaya is the only capable Rajapaksa for president, Mahinda’s new reproachment with India doesn’t allow Gotabaya any place. India simply does not want Gotabaya. Both Congress and BJP leaders made it very clear. However India is very pleased with Namal.

    Mahinda must be calculating these. This is the curse of clan politics.

  2. Randeniyage Says:

    Mahinda’s personal interests are best protected by Ranil than Sirisena.
    Mahinda doen’t trust Maithree ( which is 1005 justifiable)
    It is better for Mahinda that Ranil wins than Sirisena.
    Therefore it is very likely that Pohottuwa will contest together with SLFP ( Sirisena). Needless to say who will win.

    ( Just imagine Sirisena wins and SLFP still controlled by Sirisena with Po hottowa still doing all the work. Unimaginable to me.)

  3. Christie Says:

    Who ever is backed by India and voted in by the Indian Colonial Parasites block vote will win.

    We don’t know what India is up to?

  4. Randeniyage Says:

    That trend is changing lately. This time ICPs will have 20-80 split.
    MY3, Pohottuwa and whoever Ranil supports ( could be even MY3) and JVP candidate ( could it be Mayadunne ?) will contest.
    Most important for Lanka is all crooks will be protected and Indian empire with thrive. Enough of fake Diyasena’s, we have to make one.
    Hopefully Sinhalaya will start forcing on of the crooks to remove 13A and make India just another fellow country.

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