Thursday, February 22, 2024

Divisions in SJB come to the fore

by malinga
February 11, 2024 1:20 am 0 comment 664 views

The 76th Independence Day was celebrated with charm and pride last Sunday, in which Prime Minister of Thailand Srettha Thavisin, was the guest of honour.

The Prime Minister of Thailand, who visited Sri Lanka at the invitation of President Ranil Wickremesinghe, was expected to stay here for a few days, but could not do so due to his illness.

Even though he was down with influenza, he informed President Wickremesinghe he would come to Sri Lanka for one day as promised. He made sure to stay in Sri Lanka until all the festivals in the country were over. It was a matter of happiness for the Prime Minister of Thailand that President Wickremesinghe and the Director General of Government Information, Dinith Chinthaka Karunaratne included a letter in the Thai language in the commemorative souvenir issue issued for Independence Day and welcomed the country’s Prime Minister in the Thai language on Independence Day.

The following day when the Thai Prime Minister went to the airport, he had told Minister of Foreign Affairs Ali Sabry that he would have stayed in Sri Lanka for a few more days had it not been for his illness and participation in some work. Prime Minister Thavisin had said that this was a special opportunity given to him recently.

There was no need to take any additional provisions from the Treasury as the instructions given by the President to conduct the 76th Independence Day commemoration in a dignified manner at minimal cost.

The President thanked all the parties for holding the Independence Day celebrations with the money allocated to the institutions involved in the Independence Day celebration.

Urumaya program

After Independence Day, President Wickremesinghe’s most important task was to participate in the inauguration ceremony of awarding 10,000 freehold titles to the people as part of the first phase of the Urumaya program which hopes to give freehold titles to two million people who do not have their own land.

The inauguration ceremony of the Urumaya program was held at the Rangiri Dambulu International Cricket Stadium premises.

President Wickremesinghe and his entourage were received by State Minister Pramitha Bandara Thennakoon and Dambulla UNP Organiser Priyan Wijeratne. Minister Tiran Alles, President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake and MP Wajira Abeywardena also came with the President.

UNP Working Committee member Dinouk Colombage had organised a tea party for the President and the guests at his farm in Dambulla and the people who went there exchanged pleasantries.

“Sri Lanka’s High Commissioner to India Shenuka Seneviratne used to be famous because a picture of her dancing with Namal went viral on social media. This time she became famous because a picture taken with Anura Dissanayake went viral,” said Sagala Ratnayaka showing the picture to the President and the others.

Minister Tiran Alles asked the President what was the purpose of Anura Dissanayake and others’ visit to India.

“When an election is near, India does things like this. But the SJB Leaders are the most worried about this trip,” the President said and looked away with his usual smile.

“Gujarat is a state run entirely with a neoliberal capitalist system. I don’t know if Anura remembers what they said. Indian expansionism has to be lifted from their five classes,” Wajira Abeywardena said, making everyone laugh.

The President also met a retired agricultural officer at the Dambulla farm and said the Government hopes to seek the support of retired people o to develop the agriculture sector.

After tea, the group came to the stadium and Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and SJB Parliamentarian Gayantha Karunathilaka were also present. Lands Minister Harin Fernando and the President in their speeches also recalled the former Minister of Lands Gayantha Karunathilaka saying that it was he who presented the first proposal to give freehold deeds to the people.

The people who received the freehold titles were very emotional because that was the biggest gift they received in their lifetime. Later the President opened the swimming pool at the Rangiri Dambulla Stadium.

Commending the bravery of the Air Force paratroopers, President Wickremesinghe asked the Air Force Commander about the well-being of the paratroopers who were injured during the training sessions for the Independence Day celebrations.

The President instructed Minister Harin Fernando to join hands with the ruling party members and continue the program at district level and electoral level as he cannot participate in all the occasions of awarding the Urumaya title deeds.

That night they stayed in Anuradhapura and Sagala Ratnayaka went to the Anuradhapura Sacred City the same night and worshiped Ruwanweliseya and Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi around midnight.

On Tuesday evening, President Wickremesinghe met the UNP Management Committee.

General Secretary Range Bandara presented a report about the party district conferences to the President and said that the Anuradhapura Convention organised by Minister Manusha Nanayakkara was successful. Pointing out that the party organisation activities in 12 districts had been successfully completed and there had been some deficiencies in some other districts, General Secretary Range Bandara inquired about the participation of UNP organisers in the Urumaya freehold titles awarding programs.

President Wickremesinghe said there that he will give instructions to get the party organisers to participate in the program. It was also decided to hold party rallies at the provincial level under the patronage of the President and to start the first rally in Kurunegala.

The Party Leader, Ranil Wickremesinghe also informed Ronald Perera, the Chairman of the Committee that was appointed to look into election affairs and report to the Management Committee that he should act as a Deputy General Secretary of the party.

Minimum cost

President Wickremesinghe on Wednesday morning attended the ceremonial opening of the fifth session of the Ninth Parliament. The President told Parliament that there is no need for parades and ceremonies and advised to organise the event at minimum cost and allow only traditional activities.

The President also instructed Secretary Saman Ekanayake to pay the expenses of the tea party for the Ministers, parliamentarians and invited guests at the President’s personal expense.

The President ended his Policy Statement in Parliament by inviting everyone to join hands.

The tea party was full of interesting conversations. During the President’s speech, the SJB parliamentary group led by Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa left the Chamber, but a group including SJB Chairman Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka remained in the Chamber and also attended the tea party. Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena asked the President, “Isn’t there a division in the SJB too?”

The President said with a smile, “There will be many more things in the future.”

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was next to them couldn’t stop laughing after listening to what the President had said.

After the tea party, the President came to his office in Parliament. Many Government and Opposition MPs were present. Among them was SJB Chairman Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. It was also significant that only the two of them knew what was discussed between them. An SJB MP who met the President said that the SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa had informed those present during the President’s Policy Statement not to give the SJB time to speak in Parliament.

Anura Dissanayake’s visit to India also became a central topic.

“One of the reasons why India invited Anura is the loss of faith in the main Opposition Samagi Jana Balawegaya. Usually they invite the Opposition Leader. That is the tradition. But it hasn’t happened,” President Wickremesinghe said.

“The SJB is now split into several factions. The party Chairman does not accept the Party Leader’s decision. Many SJB MPs were also present in the Chamber during the President’s speech. Kins Nelson went to Uganda with the President. Gayantha Karunathilaka also attended the ceremony to distribute Urumaya title deeds. An SJB MP is also going on the President’s trip to Australia,” Prof. Ashu Marasinghe said.

The ruling party MPs who asked what Sarath Fonseka had said. The President smiled and said nothing.

It was answered by MP Wajira Abeywardena, “Daya Ratnayake does not have a large voter base. Youth don’t know who Daya Sandagiri is,” he said.

The President’s invitation extended to the SJB and NPP during his Policy Statement was also discussed. MP Madhura Withanage told the President that they will not support because they are being teargassed.

“How many teargas canisters were used during the Good Governance Government against the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) MPs? How many of them were arrested? But they thought about the country and the economy and decided to work with me. As such, it is sad that these people are just trying to confine the country’s economy into a tear gas bullet.

“I saved then President Ranasinghe Premadasa. If he had been defeated by the impeachment motion and gone home, his son would not have had to do politics,” the President said.

President Wickremesinghe left Sri Lanka that night to attend the Indian Ocean Summit in Perth, Australia. He returned to the country last night.

During the past week, Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa was very busy with the Sakwala program.

SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara and Chief Opposition Whip MP Lakshman Kiriella drew attention to the Opposition Leader regarding the reconvening of Parliament which was prorogued.

No Confidence Motion

At the same time, MP Prof. G. L. Peiris, representing the Opposition, drew the attention of the Opposition Leader to the possibility and necessity of bringing a No Confidence Motion against the Speaker.

MP Kavinda Jayawardena told the Opposition Leader that it is essential to enforce the law against Minister Keheliya Rambukwella. Opposition Leader Premadasa told Kavinda Jayawardena, “It must be done because the Samagi Jana Balawega and Samagi Jana Sandhanaya are taking the lead in giving publicity to the fraud and corruption in the health sector.”

All those who contributed to defeat the No Confidence Motion brought by the Opposition against Keheliya are the respondents here.

MP Kavinda Jayawardena said, “Let’s bring another No Confidence Motion against Keheliya”. Before that, we should make a written request to the Attorney General to implement the law against Keheliya.”

The Opposition Leader said that it is important to contact Opposition Parliamentarian Wasantha Yapa Bandara for that. Later, MP Kavinda Jayawardena called MP Bandara and asked him to come to the Opposition Leader’s office. The two MPs drafted a letter requesting that former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella be brought before the law and then handed over the letter to the Attorney General’s Department.

MP Wasantha Yapa said, “If the Attorney General is not there, what should we do?”

MP Kavinda Jayawardena said, “Let’s hand it over to a representative of the Attorney General”.

The MPs who went to the Attorney General’s Department met the Attorney General and both MPs handed over the letter to him. The two MPs came out of the Attorney General’s Department and said that they had confidence that the law would be implemented.

MP Jayawardena then came to the headquarters of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya to draw up the plan to take the process forward with the Party General Secretary.

A poster campaign was proposed to oust former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella from the Cabinet. Steps were taken to design and print the posters. The arrangements for the printing were prepared by Mohammed Rumi, a committee member of the anti-corruption force in Moscow.

On the night of the visit of the former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella to the Criminal Investigation Department, the electoral organisers of the Colombo district took steps to put up posters in and around Colombo.

Dr. Chamal Sanjeewa told a meeting chaired by SJB General Secretary Ranjith Madduma Bandara that the activities of the SJB with the participation of civil society were a great strength in the struggle carried out by civil society during the process leading up to the arrest of the former Minister Rambukwella and his resignation from the post of Minister.

At this meeting, which was convened to discuss strategies to make civil society activists more involved in the struggle against the Government and it was also decided to organise a discussion with civil society activists in the next few days with General Secretary Madduma Bandara regarding anti-corruption.

General Secretary Madduma Bandara has been assigned to coordinate it with former MP Mujibur Rahuman and Convener of the Anti-corruption Force Niroshan Padukka.

The Party Leader discussed with the MP Kiriella about the action taken by the party during the President’s Policy Statement to reconvene Parliament.

MP Kiriella said that the President will come to Parliament and present the Policy Statement in different forms and suppress the country’s problems without providing any solutions.

The General Secretary said that the President’s speech should be protested based on this situation.

MP Kiriella said that they will come to the Chamber on that day and leave while protesting the President’s Policy Statement. The Opposition Leader instructed all the Opposition members about it. Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella informed the members of the decision through his office staff. It was also recalled at the Opposition parliamentary group meeting in the morning before Parliament reconvened.

As discussed, although the MPs of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya and the Samagi Jana Sandhanaya withdrew from the Chamber, several MPs representing the SJB remained in the Chamber.

Members of the SJB, who came out of the Chamber, told the Opposition Leader that some action should be taken against those who acted against the party’s decision and remained in the Chamber during the President’s speech.

Many MPs were of the opinion that when a decision is taken as a party, it is important to act accordingly.

MP Kiriella said that personal opinions should not be used in collective decisions. It was decided not to allocate time for the debate to the Members who did not comply with the party’s decision.

During this discussion, the MP Hector Appuhamy said that it is a very serious situation to ignore the decisions of the Supreme Court while passing the Online Safety Bill.

MP Nalin Bandara said that it should be raised in Parliament.

On Thursday, the Opposition Leader and MP Kiriella decided to ask the Minister of Justice about it.

MP Appuhamy said that the responsibility of implementing this Act has been assigned to the Minister of Public Security, which is clearly a precedent for turning the hand of repression into a weapon of the Government.

MP S.M. Marikkar said that this Act should be implemented by the Minister of Mass Media.

The MPs spoke about Anura Kumara Dissanayake’s visit to India.

General Secretary Madduma Bandara said that the JVP Leader Rohana Wijeweera conducted the first class of the first Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna called ‘Udarata Sodapaluwa’ against India. It is said that during the 88-89 period, the anti-Indian protest was carried out until there was a boycott of Indian goods and that they also killed three Indian investors who visited a sugar cane plantation in Monaragala.

MP Kavinda Jayawardena said that the JVP, which boycotted Provincial Councils due to its opposition of India, not only contested Provincial Council elections but also asked why the polls were not held.

MP Rohini Kaviratne said that not only bhikkhus, religious priests, civil society activists, political activists as well as Daya Pathirana of the Independent Students Union who left the JVP and had previously worked with them were killed under the guise of opposition to India.

MP Kiriella said that the politics involved in calling the JVP Leader to India, who led the agitation and strike against the recent Indian investments in Sri Lanka and the Indo-Sri Lanka trade agreement, should be understood.

“Has Anura bought India or has India bought Anura? Is this a deal made by Ranil Wickremesinghe to teach Anura a lesson by getting India to permit Ranil, Adani and Ambani to work freely in Sri Lanka?” MP Thushara Indunil said.

The Opposition Leader said that they will implement the programs without panic. “We’ll get to see the actions of political dealmakers.”

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