Leadership crisis rocks SJB | Sunday Observer

Leadership crisis rocks SJB

12 June, 2021

UNP Chairman Vajira Abeywardana said that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) which was mired in a leadership crisis was on the verge of disintegration. He said the leadership crisis within the SJB has paved the way for the emergence of leaders such as Patali Champika Ranawaka and several others as future leaders adding that this could result in the SJB splitting into several factions.

Abeywardana said it was a political tragedy that those who boasted of capturing the UNP and Sirikotha could not even secure the power of the Party they had formed less than a year ago. Referring to a recent incident where the Parliamentary Group of the SJB had pledged allegiance to the Opposition Leader, Abeywardana said that no Leader of the Opposition in Sri Lanka or in any other country in the world had got his Parliamentary Group to express confidence in his position before.

He said that a person holding the post of Leader of the Opposition should not have confidence in the post but should win the trust of the people to become the Prime Minister or the President of the country in the future. Abeywardana went on to say that the UNP does not interfere in the crises of any party and that the UNP stands only for the people’s crises. UNP Chairman Abeywardana expressed these views at a discussion held with senior members of the UNP through Zoom technology on Thursday (June 10) chaired by Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

False information

However, the Parliamentary Group of the SJB has passed a resolution to provide unconditional support to its Leader and Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa. A statement issued by the SJB said that the decision was reached to dismiss false information being spread to claim there were internal issues in the SJB and among parties affiliated with it.

SJB Parliamentarian Patali Champika Ranawaka has also dismissed claims that his faction is attempting to oust Sajith Premadasa as Opposition Leader. Ranawaka told reporters. “We will not sling mud in such a manner. If we want to criticise something, we will do so in a straightforward manner.” He also dismissed claims that he is backing Ranil Wickremesinghe to take over as Opposition Leader. He said, “I don’t know whether Ranil Wickremesinghe will enter Parliament. I haven’t contacted him since 2019. It is up to him to decide whether he wants to enter Parliament.”

SLIF 2021

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who delivered the keynote address at the Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021 invited investors across the world to join on a transformational journey by investing in Sri Lanka. He said, “The Government’s vision is to make the Colombo Port City a key service hub for one of the fastest growing regions in the world. We encourage business leaders from all nations to make full use of the unique strengths and many opportunities that the Port City affords by investing here.”

``My Government has ambitious plans to unleash a decade of transformational and rapid economic growth to double our national output from its current level to 8,000 Dollars GDP per capita by 2030.” He said “Our unique geostrategic position, political stability, robust institutions and social infrastructure, educated and capable workforce, and high quality of life are some of Sri Lanka’s current strengths. We will leverage these to set the platform for our growth target,” the President said.

President Rajapaksa said for centuries, Sri Lanka has been a hub that connected the East and the West. With world-class port infrastructure in Colombo and in Hambantota, the country can provide services even to the largest container ships that traverse the busy Indian Ocean. He said the country is well positioned to be a transshipment and logistics hub for the region. Therefore, the President said vast opportunities are available to make investments in this area.

He said the Government has taken a strong policy stance in support of healthy, organic agriculture. Sri Lanka will be able to supply high quality agricultural produce to health-conscious consumers in the region in the future. Many opportunities for investment will be created in this context in the fields of new technologies and farming practices.

RW to be sworn-in

There is media speculation that former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is likely to be sworn in as a Member of Parliament on June 22. UNP Chairman Varira Abeywardana had told the media that the Commissioner of Elections will be notified of the nomination next week and Ranil Wickremesinghe will be sworn in after the Gazette notification is issued.

The UNP Working Committee which met recently unanimously approved the appointment of Party Leader Wickremesinghe to fill its National List seat slot in Parliament. Abeywardana said Ranil Wickremesinghe, a mature politician, is the most suitable person for the post of UNP MP and the only Leader currently who can provide a solution to the crisis situation facing the country

SJB General Secretary MP Ranjith Madduma Bandara told Parliament the national security of the country and the health sector services to the people have been crippled due to the mismanagement of the Government.

He was moving an Adjournment Motion suggesting the security of the country should be strengthened and the relief to the public due to the pandemic should be provided amply. Madduma Bandara said that the Government is allowing the Covid-19 pandemic to spread in the country.

He said that the country has failed to import vaccines for Covid-19 although it has been almost eight months since the WHO approved them. He added that even the available vaccines are not provided systematically. The MP said that the issues are daily arising with regard to the travel restrictions. In the meantime, there is discrimination in providing the Rs. 5,000 relief to affected families.

Responding to the MP, Ports and Shipping Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardana said it was hilarious that former Minister Madduma Bandara, within whose ambit of the Police was under Good Governance Government, speaking of the national security today, because he could not prevent the Easter Sunday attacks amidst the intelligence reports from Sri Lanka and foreign countries.

He said that although intelligence units in the country and the foreign intelligence units including India had warned of the Easter Sunday attacks beforehand, and weapons were found in Kaththankudi, then Minister Madduma Bandara failed to contact the intelligence, CID and other authorities and prevent the attacks.

“But he is talking of the security of the country which is ridiculous,” Minister Abeygunawardana said. The Minister said that Ranjith Madduma Bandara was a close associate of former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. Therefore, he could have addressed all those issues while they were in the former Yahapalana Government. As they failed to do so, they were forced to sit in the Opposition by the people.

US $ 15 b in investments

Addressing the second day of the Sri Lanka Investment Forum 2021 on June 8, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa said he is confident that Sri Lanka can attract at least USD 15 billion in foreign direct investments (FDI), through the Port City.

Premier Rajapaksa said, “We all accept that Sri Lanka’s growth should be accelerated. For that, capital investments should be expanded considerably. We also know that a high investment is needed for infrastructure development and to improve production volume. For that, we hope to continue the Government’s capital investment programs.”

He said that the Government hopes to shoulder a great duty in the process of increasing investments, adding that they are in the process of attracting a minimum of USD 15 billion in investments within the next five years via the new Port City.

The Premier said the Government has already started to put a number of measures in place that would make Sri Lanka an attractive country for investors from all around the world, explaining that these measures are aimed at ensuring that local and foreign investors will be able to establish profitable ventures without unnecessary barriers.

Russian support

Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena in a recent telephone conversation with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov expressed his deep appreciation for the support extended by Russia towards Sri Lanka in addressing the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Foreign Minister Gunawardena welcomed Russia’s assistance in accessing the Sputnik V vaccine to support Sri Lanka’s nationwide inoculation program and also the ongoing cooperation between the institutes of epidemiology and biotechnology in producing the vaccine.

The Foreign Minister also reiterated Sri Lanka’s appreciation to Russia for the support extended to Sri Lanka in multilateral forums, including in the UN Human Rights Council. Bilateral consultations being scheduled within the framework of the two Foreign Ministries, as well as the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation, were among other issues discussed.

Split imminent

Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage told the Parliament that Ranil Wickremesinghe is to enter Parliament next week and that the Samagi Jana Balawega will be split into two. The Minister said that several members of the SJB have already met Wickremesinghe, who will replace Sajith Premadasa as Opposition Leader soon.

Meanwhile, it is reported that several leading Bhikkhus and SLPP MP Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe have held several secret meetings at a leading temple in Colombo to form a new political party targeting the upcoming elections. It is reported that two prominent bhikkhus who backed the present Government at the 2019 Presidential Election and two other Buddhist monks representing the Opposition had spearheaded this move.

SJB Parliamentarian Hesha Withanage said that as Ranil Wickremesinghe is a recognised ex-Parliamentary member and Prime Minister, he doesn’t believe that he would be spineless enough to re-enter the Parliament according to the agendas of the Government.

He was responding to a journalist’s question at a media briefing about the statement made by Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage in Parliament on members of the SJB showing support for Wickremesinghe to re-enter Parliament. Withanage said, “The Government has an agenda to bring back Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister and they need votes to get him back. This is why they are drawing attention to this matter.”

He also said that this decision was taken because the current Government and its strategies are collapsing. The MP said, “But I believe that Ranil Wickremesinghe, who we have worked with, is strong enough to resist this because he has always been opposed to the Rajapaksas and their ways of ruling the Government. He will not accept this invitation.

CPC will not be privatised

Minister of Energy Udaya Gammanpila said that certain groups with vested interests are engaged in maliciously spreading false information alleging the privatisation of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC). Speaking during a press conference in Colombo, he said that a Cabinet paper previously submitted by him is being misused for this purpose. He said that the Petroleum Corporation will not be privatised.

“I promise the people that the privatisation of the CPC will not be allowed as long as we are there,” he said, adding that a feasibility study is under way to increase the capacity of the current refinery from 38,000 barrels per day to 45,000 and to establish another refinery with a capacity of hundred thousand barrels per day at Sapugaskanda.

Despite Minister Namal Rajapaksa being entrusted with additional portfolios, Minister of Mass Media Keheliya Rambukwella dismissed reports that there are plans to appoint him as the Prime Minister. He told the weekly Cabinet media briefing that from time to time there are many rumours that are spread. Minister Rambukwella said, “There may be a rumour that someone is to be appointed to some position today, and by tomorrow there may be something else. Such matters should not be taken seriously.”

UNP General Secretary Palitha Range Bandara said that the 69 Local Government members representing the party, who joined the SJB will be expelled from the UNP based on the verdict given in the Supreme Court case.

He made this comment to the media subsequent to a press conference held at Sirikotha Party Headquarters a couple of days ago. Range Bandara said that the above decision will be taken according to the Supreme Court ruling given, rejecting the petition submitted by these Local Government members even without taking into consideration or hearing it.

The UNP General Secretary said Party Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has informed him to appoint new members to replace the LG members who are being removed from the Party. He said that the verdict given by the Supreme Court reflects the fate that befalls those who oppose the Party, through the law.