SJB on verge of major split – Johnston Fernando | Sunday Observer

SJB on verge of major split – Johnston Fernando

17 October, 2021

Chief Government Whip and Highways Minister Johnston Fernando said the main opposition, Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) is on the verge of a major split in the coming weeks. He said serious cracks have appeared and the SJB is on the verge of splitting into several groups. The split is certain and what is not certain is whether it would be four or five groups.

Responding to questions by journalists who asked the Minister to comment on recent statement by SJB MP Diana Gamage that the party would split into several groups, the Minister said SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa had lost twice and party followers had no hope that he would be able to steer that party to a victory.

The Minister said, “The Opposition Leader’s immaturity is the main reason for the inevitable split. In the face of this crisis, he goes to paddy fields in the rain without an umbrella to show that he stands for the cause of farmers. These are cheap theatrics. Such performances are actually to save his own skin and are not for the benefit of farmers.”


At a ceremony to mark the launch of developing the Palapathwela-Galewela road in Matale under the 100,000 km road development project, Minister Fernando said various theatrics by the Opposition Leader such as walking along paddy fields in the rain would not help wash away the sins of the Central Bank robbery committed by those now in the Opposition.

That would not exonerate the Opposition Leader’s responsibility in the Central Bank Treasury Bond scam. The Minister said the people will not be fooled by these Opposition gimmicks and theatrics. He said the country’s economy had been ruined by those now in the Opposition by allegedly propping up the Yahapalana Government to rob the Central Bank.

New electoral system

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that steps will be taken to amend the Constitution and introduce a new electoral system to the people as promised. President Rajapaksa said corruption and fraud would not be tolerated and that all officials should for the people by making a commitment in this regard.

The Government will not offer any excuses but will forge ahead with its development and welfare drive. Addressing a ceremony as the chief guest at the Sri Lanka Army’s 72nd Anniversary event at the Gajaba Regiment Headquarters in Saliyapura, Anuradhapura on October 10, President Rajapaksa urged all Sri Lankans to extend their support to take the country forward under the ‘One Country, One Law’ slogan without corruption.

President Rajapaksa said, “The people elected me as the President of this country with high hopes. From the day I was elected, during the past two years we had to face such a situation that the world has never seen before in its history. We have been fighting for the past two years to control the Covid-19 pandemic. We were compelled to take various measures such as lockdowns and implementations of various restrictions to control the spread of this disease, these measures had a huge impact on our economy. But I do not make any excuses.”

“However, we have done a lot of work for the people under these circumstances. The people may have a sense of displeasure towards me and the Government for not delivering as they expected. I accept that. Not only me but all ministers and MPs should accept it.

However, I promise on behalf of the people that we will move the country forward with new vigor by controlling the Covid pandemic and by opening up the country under new normalcy. Everyone needs to work together for this purpose,” he said.

Mass Media Minister Dullas Alahapperuma told reporters, the President has not admitted that he had failed to deliver to the public. Said at the weekly Cabinet press briefing, the Minister said that the President had only said that he and his Cabinet must accept that they could not meet the full expectations of the public.

The Minister said the President never confessed that he is a failure but made a humble self-criticism regarding unfulfilled wishes of the 6.9 million Sri Lankans who voted for him.

Minister Alahapperuma said, “There were times in our country when MPs’ resignation letters were in the wallets of some so-called leaders during authoritarian periods when I too worked as a journalist. Therefore, please do not interpret this as a sign of weakness or the collapse of the Government,” he said.

Cost of Living

JVP Parliamentarian Vijitha Herath said the priority today is not a new Constitution, electoral system, or elections, but solutions to the people’s burning Cost of Living issues.

At a press conference at the JVP Headquarters, he said, “The President told the 72nd Army Anniversary Day that a new Constitution and electoral system will be introduced. That is not what people ask today. The 20th Amendment to the Constitution did nothing good for the people. The people are facing a lot of problems.

The people will rise against this Government. They can no longer be fooled. Amid all these issues, the Government is attempting to secure power through elections.” He said what is the use of a Government if prices of essential items are determined by businessmen.

Teachers’ salary anomalies

A discussion between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and teachers’ and principals’ trade unions was held at Temple Trees on Tuesday, October 12. During the discussion, the Premier said that the Government will agree to increase salaries in two stages as a solution to the struggle by the trade unions to eliminate teacher-principal salary anomalies.

The Prime Minister, who intervened to resolve the issue, summoned the representatives of the Teachers’ and Principals’ Trade Unions to Temple Trees on Tuesday and presented the proposal. Premier Rajapaksa said that the Government was sensitive to the problem of teachers and principals and accepted that salary anomalies should be eliminated.

The Prime Minister said their requests could not be granted at once as the revenue to the Treasury were limited due to the Covid-19 pandemic. He told trade union representatives that the Government was proposing a solution to the problem based on the need to continue the education of children without further hindrance.

According to the trade union representatives, the discussion between Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and the teachers’ and principals’ trade unions ended without a solution. Ceylon Teachers Union Secretary Joseph Stalin told reporters on Thursday, October 14 that if there is no solution by October 21, the alliance of unions engaged in the strike will “take a decision.”

However, Chairperson of Sri Lanka Podujana Education Services Union, Wasantha Handapangoda said that their union agreed with the Government’s proposals. A picture was also circulated in the social media where Joseph Stalin was having a close chat with Prime Minister Rajapaksa.

Later Wasantha Handapangoda in a television program commented on the dialogue that took place between the Prime Minister and Stalin. She said, “Stalin went and told the Premier, “Sir I am Joseph Stalin. Now a mudslinging campaign is levelled against me alleging that I have received Rs. 8.5 billion. Sir please look into that matter.” Then the Prime Minister told Stalin, ``We will make a safe for him to keep that money”.”

During the same television program, Stalin admitted what Handapangoda said about his conversation with the Premier was true.

Tough action

Speaking at a public event in Colombo on Thursday, October 14, Public Security Minister Sarath Weerasekera promised tough legal action against any school teacher unionists who attempt to sabotage Government plans to reopen some schools on October 21.

He said, “If teachers’ salaries are low, we must definitely give them higher pay. But there is something like this: We destroyed terrorism. Whether the root cause of that terrorism was fair or not, terrorism cannot be justified, because it is innocent civilians who die due to it. Similarly, whether or not the teachers’ grievance is fair, we cannot justify their strike because it is our children who suffer.”

SLPP Parliamentarian S. B. Dissanayake told reporters that the President and the Prime Minister have been trying to resolve the issue amicably.

He said, “Teachers should come to school and start work. Otherwise, we have to defeat and suppress the strike and restart the schools. It has been done in the past. Advanced rich countries such as Singapore have done it. Otherwise, they will still be like us.”

Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa questioned the Government as to why it could not control the prices of essential commodities such as gas, cement, and milk powder when prices are skyrocketing. He said that the present Government has proved that it has neither an ability to build the country nor at least the ability to manage the economy.


He called on the Government to step down immediately and hand over the responsibility to a group that can build the country while noting that the Government is not capable of solving the serious problems the people are facing at the moment. The Opposition Leader said that all sources of income for the people have been blocked and at the same time malnutrition is on the rise in the country and added that all people in the country have fallen into a state of extreme helplessness.

Economy weakened

Power Minister Gamini Lokuge said the Government cannot be blamed for the increase in the prices of essential commodities, as this is directly related to several factors including the increase in the prices of goods in the world market.

At a media briefing, the Minister said, previously the economy was strong enough to provide concessions, adding that the economy has now been weakened and the Government is unable to provide concessions.

He said if the Covid-19 pandemic could be managed effectively, the country will return to normalcy within two to three months. Minister Lokuge said “Willingly or unwillingly, the country has had to face the Covid-19 crisis whilst ensuring that salaries of those in the public sector have been paid without any delay, while the payment of pension has also not been interrupted.”

Comments ‘twisted’

Minister of Industries Wimal Weerawansa in a Facebook post stated that the trust placed in the present Government has begun to erode in the eyes of the public, as this Government is doing what it has not promised at the last national elections.

The Minister had also found fault with a few social media sites which had twisted his comments related to the President and the Cabinet. Weerawansa called for a broader dialogue within the Cabinet ahead of taking critical decisions related to the country’s national resources or assets, rather than striving to take overnight decisions which could be detrimental to the Government. The Minister also called for the President to step into active politics, rather than only playing a peripheral role, as it could go a long way towards resolving many issues.

TNA leadership stakes

TNA Jaffna district Parliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran said that next to the leader of the Tamil National Alliance R. Sampanthan, he is the most suitable and qualified to lead the party. He said that he is ready to accept the post and he exceeds the qualifications needed to handle this responsibility.

At a recent press briefing, he said the TNA worked with the Government of Good Governance to find solutions to the problems of the Tamil people. But nothing came of it. Sampanthan took the lead in this. But the people are not in the same position. They change from time to time. The good Governance Government collapsed. As a result of that collapse, the TNA also suffered. The weaknesses of that Government also affected our party. But by now the TNA has become very strong.

Sumanthiran said, “Many accuse us politically of selling the problems of the Tamil people and gaining privileges from various Governments, but that does not happen. The party always stands for the welfare of the Tamil people. Many acknowledge that I am fit to lead this party in the future. I am ready to accept that position.”

Dr. Swamy meets President

Dr. Subramanian Swamy, a senior politician of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a member of the Rajya Sabha in India, engaged in a cordial meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday, October 13.

Dr. Swamy, who has held several ministerial portfolios, advocated a strong and friendly relationship between Sri Lanka and India and held the strong view that India should assist in defeating terrorism in Sri Lanka. Dr. Swamy, who is an economist and statistician, was also a speaker at the conferences organised by the President during his tenure as the Defence Secretary. President Rajapaksa expressed his pleasure to meet Dr. Swamy during his visit to Sri Lanka.

“Expulsion illegal”

Parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera has been removed from Ape Janabala Pakshaya (AJP). According to party sources, Ven. Galagoda Aththe Gnanasara Thera is to be appointed to replace Ven.Rathana Thera in Parliament.

AJP National Organiser Dr. Susantha Kodithuwakku has said that the Party on Friday, October 15 informed the Elections Commission about the removal of Ven. Rathana Thera. He said Ven. Rathana Thera was accused of acting against the decisions of the party, undermining the public’s trust in the party. He said following an inquiry, the party had taken the decision to remove him.

Meanwhile, Ven. Rathana Thera has said that the decision to expel him was illegal and that legal action would be taken in the future regarding the illegal document that allegedly led to his removal.

He said that he had learned that a Secretary of the party had sent the letter and added that the secretary had no authority to send such a letter and that only the Chairman of the party had the authority to send such a letter.