Suspension of COPE an omen of Parliament dissolution!
All set for early elections General ..or Presidential?
Is ‘thirteen’ unlucky
On the 13th of January, President Ranil Wickramasinghe presented his second budget to Parliament as Minister of Finance. 13 is commonly regarded as an unlucky number. Although it is unclear whether it was for this or another reason that the President presented the budget on the 13th, many controversial political upheavals unfolded one after the other inside and outside the Parliament. As contentious as these political upheavals are, the attention of the country was focused on these political upheavals rather than the President’s budget. The political revolution based on cricket was one of the revolutions. The second was the simultaneous release of several contentious political court decisions.
A powerful political operation that no one knew about was tied to this budget that the President presented to Parliament on the 13th. The President prepared the budget two months ago with this political mission in mind. The reason for that was that the image of the president and the government started to collapse as no one expected with the failure to receive the second instalment of the loan that was supposed to be provided by the International Monetary Fund. According to a poll conducted by Verity Research, a well-known survey agency, the popularity of the government had dropped to 9%. That is why this budget was left as the only trump card and option for the government to raise the popularity and the image of the government and the president which was collapsing.
The image declined
Accordingly, the President and the government had planned to launch a big propaganda project in the country through several popular budget proposals such as increasing the salaries of government employees by 10,000 rupees, increasing pensioners’ allowances, etc. But as no one expected, that operation was attacked like an atomic bomb when Sports Minister Mr Roshan Ranasinghe exposed cricket fraud and corruption to the country. Also, with opposition leader Mr. Sajith Premadasa working to confirm Roshan’s revelations with further evidence, the eyes of the country were not focused on the budget, but on Roshan Ranasinghe, on the Cricket Board, and on Sajith Premadasa. Also, through this, it was possible to see how some division had emerged in the government itself, and how the heads of the government were thunderstruck.
What happened through this was the complete collapse of the political operation prepared by the government. Accordingly, the President and some very close people related to the UNP around the President took steps to hold several rounds of discussions in this regard last week. In these discussions, attention was mainly focused on the next steps to be taken regarding Sports Minister Roshan Ranasinghe, who caused the government great embarrassment. A UNP strongman representing the Colombo district, who is not currently in the parliament, strongly emphasized in this discussion that Roshan should be fired from the post of minister immediately.
Get rid of him. Kick him out End it…’ etc., this Colombo UNP stalwart insisted, but several other people there said that action should not be followed, and that if Roshan is removed at this time, it will be more disadvantageous for the government. Therefore, they pointed out to the President that no serious action should be taken against Roshan until the situation calms down a bit.
In addition to this, the President had a special discussion last week with a few other people close to him on how to recover from this crisis. The President’s opinion was that with the presentation of the budget, people’s attention on the cricket crisis will decrease and the budget will become a major topic. After that, the people will talk about the budget. But it was also seen that it turned on its ear because even though the budget was presented, it was not able to draw that much of public attention.
There were several other reasons that influenced the President and the government to pay more attention to this year’s budget. One of the main ones was because next year is an election year and this will be the last budget. The government will have to face a presidential election and a general election next year, depending on the political strength of this budget. Accordingly, everyone was of the opinion that this time a popular budget should be presented that would give relief to the people as much as possible. But there was also a technical issue that had tied the government’s limbs so that it was not possible to provide relief in this year’s budget like Santa Claus distributing gifts.
That is a condition imposed by the International Monetary Fund. Due to the fact that the government has passed the Central Bank Act on the recommendations of the Financial Fund, the government cannot mould money to the desired preference. In the past, former Finance Ministers Mahinda Rajapaksa and Basil Rajapaksa gave relief to the people by minting money through the Central Bank in this way. Due to this continuous process, it was so serious that the country was dragged to the point of bankruptcy. But at this time it is not possible to mould money, so the president had proposed to increase the salaries of government employees through increasing the tax burden in this year’s budget.
However, despite plans to raise the image of the government through it, it has fallen on all fours, and immediately last week, a special discussion was held between the president and his close friends. Only a few people who currently hold high positions in the UNP and a few people who are very close to the President participated in this very crucial discussion.
Almost all of these people had pointed out to the President in the past that holding the presidential election first is very beneficial for the government, and through that, Mr Ranil Wickramasinghe can get the presidency once again. But it was special to note that all these people who initially demanded a presidential election changed their position and submitted a completely different request to the president in this discussion which was held in the face of the sudden crisis that arose after the presentation of the budget.
Which election first?
Everyone had pointed out to the president that under the current situation, it is impossible to hold a presidential election and win at all. The group pointed out to the President that if a presidential election is held and he loses not only the government but also the politics of the UNP will end, and therefore the best option is to go for a general election as soon as possible. In that case, they informed the President that no matter who wins the general election, Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe will remain in the office of the President and that the opportunity for several MPs from the UNP to come to the Parliament would arise through that.
According to the information that we have come to know, the President, who initially had the intention of holding a presidential election, has also changed his mind to hold a general election in view of this explanation. The surprising fact that could have been seen there was that almost all the UNP stalwarts, who were saying that the presidential election should be held first, have now come down to the fact that a general election should be held.
On the other hand, due to the fact that the economic crisis is showing signs of increasing in the future, the best option for the government is to hold a general election instead of holding a presidential election. Accordingly, it is clear that the heads of the government, who were thinking of going to a presidential election, will have to make up their minds to hold a general election, willingly or unwillingly.
The bud is also ready
With the emerging political upheaval in this way, the leaders of Pohottuwa also received the message that the government is making plans to go for an emergency general election. Accordingly, after checking the messages from different places, they also came to know that the news was true. Basil Rajapaksa, the mastermind of Pohottuwa, immediately decided to prepare the necessary plans to prepare Pohottuwa for an emergency general election. The first decision taken was to hold the second conference in Pohottu next month. Basil’s aim was to hold the general conference reorganize the party and prepare the party for a general election by March.
Also last week, Basil took steps to call a special discussion of the seniors of the party. Many people have pointed out that the president said that the salary increase of public servants will be done in January, but since the payments will start in April, it can be assumed that a general election will be held around March.
Roshan’s atom bomb
The cricket bomb set off by Sports Minister Mr Roshan Ranasinghe has now caused a big fire within the government, within the parliament and within the COPE committee. The bomb was ignited within the government due to the fact that due to the disclosure made by Minister Roshan, he fell on all fours without giving an answer and because it was not possible to market the budget as thought and planned.
Accordingly, the President appointed a ministerial sub-committee led by Foreign Minister Ali Sabri without Roshan Ranasinghe to discuss with the International Cricket Council. It was also announced by the Presidential Media Unit that the Cabinet has decided that interim cricket committees cannot be appointed without the approval of the Cabinet. But Roshan, who rejected this announcement issued by the President’s side in the parliament, said that no such cabinet decision was taken.
Roshan was active
In addition to this, last week Roshan made many other serious revelations as well as any further actions. One of the revelations was that he declared in the Parliament that there was a threat to his life and that he was receiving anonymous calls. Roshan, who did not stop there, took steps to file a complaint before the Criminal Investigation Department.
Also, in the case assigned before the Court of Appeal against the Cricket Interim Committee, the presiding judge withdrew from the trial due to the accusations levelled in Parliament, and it was a special event that three other judges took steps to withdraw from the trial as of last week. Accordingly, the presiding judge arranged to appoint a new panel of judges for that purpose, and the appeal court had also taken steps not to extend the interim ban on the cricket interim committee due to a pledge given by the sports minister that he would not take any action regarding the interim committee until next Monday.
In addition to this, last week, the chairman of the cricket selection committee, Mr Pramodaya Wickramasinghe, issued a statement and made a big revelation about match-fixing, brokers, and a conspiracy to steal cricket and conspirators. Accordingly, steps were also taken to inform the sports misconduct prevention investigation unit to conduct an immediate investigation regarding the announcement issued by Promodaya last Thursday. Accordingly, it has been learned that a notice has already been given to Pramodya to appear before the investigation unit on the 21st.
The COPE explodes
However, last week the cricket crisis further erupted due to several incidents that happened in the COPE Committee. Last Tuesday, the heads of the cricket organization were called before the Cope Committee and according to that, Chairman Shammi Silva and others took steps to join it. The party and opposition MPs also participated in the 2-hour long discussion, and the presence of JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake after some time before the COPE committee too was witnessed. But Anura Kumara was not seen questioning the cricket president Shammi Silva.
However, this COPE committee meeting became a big controversy based on 2 things. The first incident was when opposition MPs were about to question the Cricket Chairman in the COPE Committee when they were allegedly interrupted by COPE President Ranjit Bandara. The most serious accusation was made by the opposition leader Mr. Sajith Premadasa. Sajith made a serious revelation in the Parliament that when the Ranjit Bandara was signalling to certain people not to speak it was released on social media, and due to this, serious doubts have been raised about the activities of Ranjith Bandara.
The son is also in the COPE
After the revelation made by Sajith, his phone was kept busy since that evening. That is because various people have started informing Sajith about the agreements made between Ranjith Bandara and the cricket board in the past and the relations with the cricket board. At that moment, some people had taken steps to forward the related files and photos to Sajith through WhatsApp.
During these calls, Sajith was informed by a special person about another matter which no one knew. It is that Ranjith Bandara’s son Kanishka Bandara has also participated in the COPE committee meeting. When this information was reported, Sajith was furious. The reason for this was that a question arose as to on what basis Ranjit Bandara’s son would sit in the COPE committee when he was forbidden to sit and speak even in the finance committee as the leader of the opposition. Also, information was reported to Sajith that Ranjit Bandara’s son had taken a seat in the COPE committee not only in this COPE committee meeting but also in several COPE committee meetings held before that.
Accordingly, Sajith immediately started talking to various people to find out whether this story is true or not. By that night, Sajith confirmed that all the information was true and took steps to bring all the related photos. That is to reveal all this information in Parliament on Thursday.
Accordingly, on Thursday, Sajith revealed both these details in Parliament. Sajith also took steps to table the documents regarding the agreements made with the Ranjith Bandara Cricket Association. Then Sajith, who revealed information about Kanishka Bandara’s son, Ranjith Bandara, sitting in the COPECommittee, took steps to question the speaker whether there was permission for it. The speaker said that not allowing the opposition leader to sit in the Finance Committee and speak was a wrong act, and it was not possible for outsiders to sit in the COPE Committee. The Speaker told Sajith that he would look into it.
The letter is out
However, when we looked into this further, we also came to know that Mr Narendra Fernando, the Sergeant-at-Arms of the Parliament, had given permission to Kanishka Bandara on Ranjith Bandara’s request. Narendra had issued the related letter on 13.10.2022. It also says:
As expected by the referred letter, as you act as the Chairman of the Committee on Public Affairs of the Parliament, your Coordinating Secretary, holder of National Identity Card No. 199970420789, Mr R.W.T.M.D.K. Bandara I hereby give permission to to access the relevant duty station at the Parliament complex subject to the security requirements approved by the Parliament for the work of the Committee on Public Business in the Parliament…’ the letter stated.
Accordingly, the demand of Sajith and the opposition was that Mr. Ranjith Bandara, who has been accused of serious charges, should be immediately removed from that position and another member should be appointed as the chairman of the COPE committee. It was the opposition’s position that Ranjit Bandara should not sit as its chairman, especially since the cricket board is to be called before the COPE committee again within the next few days.
No confidence motion is ready
If the speaker does not listen to the request, Samagi Jana Balawegaya has to take another special decision against Ranjit Bandara. That is to bring a motion of no confidence against Ranjit Bandara in the COPE committee and ask for a vote to remove Ranjit Bandara from the position of COPE chairman. According to the news, SJB has now prepared plans to bring the motion of no confidence to the COPE committee and to get the signatures of the MPs for that purpose during the weekend.
Meanwhile, last week we made a special disclosure through the ‘Inside Politics’ column and said that when the issue related to cricket arose, two of the MPs sitting independently in the opposition had met the SJB MPs in Parliament and launched an operation to cover up the cricket issue. Apart from the fact that these two MPs were engaged in this operation in Parliament, we also reported how they made this request by making phone calls to some MPs.
However, last week, the SJB MPs took steps to complain to Sajith about these two MPs. There they asked Sajith to reveal to the country about these MPs who are playing the double game from the opposition. Also, their position was that steps should be taken not to give nominations from Samagi Jana Balawegaya or Samagi Jana Sandhanaya to these two MPs in any future elections. Sajith, who had heard the allegations of the MPs, said that he would expose such double-dealing MPs to the country in the future and that they would not be nominated in any way.
Presidential press conference
The President met media heads and newspaper editors last Tuesday amid such an atmosphere. Moments after the discussion started, the text messages received on mobile phones said that in order to get the ICC ban lifted cricket, the President had decided to form a cabinet sub-committee under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Mr Ali Sabri, and the cabinet had decided that interim committees cannot be appointed without the approval of the cabinet.
It was stated in the short message that this notification was made through a special announcement issued by the Presidential Media Unit. However, Minister Roshan Ranasinghe made a statement denying this news in Parliament a few minutes after the text message was released. Roshan said that no such decision was taken in the cabinet. It was also possible to see how the message was received on mobile phones at the moment of the President’s press conference. Accordingly, when one of the reporters who were present asked the President about this, the President said that he would recover the fallen cricket just as he recovered the fallen country.
No Nandalal and Siriwardena
However, when the budget was presented, the main purpose of calling this press conference was to explain the issues related to the budget as well as the issues related to the economy. But the faces of the two main people who could talk about the economy, the Governor of the Central Bank, Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe, and the Secretary of the Treasury, Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena, were not seen at the meeting. Even though these two were regular members of the government discussions related to the economy, the absence of both of them had become a problem for the media heads. Accordingly, in addition to the President, the President’s Senior Advisor Sagala Ratnayake, Mass Media Minister Bandula Gunawardena, President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake and Finance Ministry’s Senior Advisor H. Samaratunga were present.
However, when a considerable period of time had passed since the discussion began, suddenly the door of the House opened and the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance, Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena came to the discussion table. Mahinda Siriwardena came with a big smile on his face. The reason for this was nothing else, but the fact that the Supreme Court had taken steps to reject the fundamental rights petition that had been submitted to the Supreme Court by several parties against Mahinda Siriwardena due to the non-provision of funds required for the local government elections. Everyone could see that the President had a pleasant smile on his face as the information about the judgment had already been reported to the President.
The next verdict come
Meanwhile, another special case that no one knew about was unfolding before the court. That is the announcement of the decision of the Supreme Court against a group including the Rajapaksas with several groups who led the country to bankruptcy. The Supreme Court had ruled that the Rajapaksas were responsible for bankrupting the country with that decision. Accordingly, within a few moments, the President’s chief security officer came and handed over the mobile phone to the President.
While answering the call, everyone could see how the President’s face, which had been pleasant until then, darkened. Also, the President was also seen asking the person who gave him the call some facts. Accordingly, one of the things that many people understood was that someone had informed the President over the phone at that moment that the decision of the Supreme Court that the Rajapaksas and the group should be held responsible for the bankruptcy of the country. It is not known whether the call was made by a strong person related to the legal field or someone from the Rajapaksa family, but many people speculated that the call was received by the President from one of those two places.
Journey in 2025
During the questioning round, it was also seen how the President revealed a number of other good facts. An editor questioned why the implementation of salary increases given in this budget has been delayed by months. The President replied that some proposals will be implemented after about 6 months. The President pointed out that this is just a start and that the journey of developing the country will start from 2025. Then another media chief questioned the President regarding the government employees and trade unions demanding a salary increase of 20,000 rupees. The President’s smiling reply confirmed that the principle of confidentiality protected by the Finance Ministers while preparing the budget has been broken.
We discussed this for months. Our plan was to increase the salary by 10,000 rupees. But it was leaked. That was the time when the trade unions started taking to the streets asking for 20,000 rupees…’ was the answer given by the President.
Then another question was addressed to the President whether the budget received the approval of the International Monetary Fund or any message. Laughing at that, the President said that he had not yet received a message from the Financial Fund, and that he had discussed with the Financial Fund and prepared this budget according to its instructions. There, once again the President recalled his usual speech and mentioned that he will have a difficult journey until the month of May.
Our story is confirmed
The next question was about the International Monetary Fund. The most special event that came to be seen there was that this question was addressed based on a special revelation that we made last week through the ‘Inside Politics’ column. Last week we said on this channel that 3 new conditions have been presented for the second instalment which has been delayed by the financial fund. This is how we discovered it.
The International Monetary Fund had recently taken steps to hand over a special report to the government based on governance. Through that report, 3 special proposals had been submitted to the government, and it was stated in the report that these proposals should be implemented immediately.
The first proposal was that the President, Ministers as well and government officials should issue statements of assets and liabilities. The second proposal was to make the Bribery or Corruption Investigation Commission an independent and transparent body. Although both of these proposals are feasible, the third proposal was quite serious. The third proposal said that the Legislative Assembly cannot be accepted as an independent institution, and since the appointment of high officials is done through the Legislative Assembly, an independent committee free from political interference should be appointed above the Legislative Assembly to review those appointments.
The Financial Fund had taken steps to talk not only with the government but also with the opposition leader Mr. Sajith Premadasa regarding these proposals. There they emphasized that only if these proposals are fulfilled, the currently signed staff agreement to provide the second installment can be submitted to the Executive Council and passed.
However, the government has given the green light only to the third proposal, the proposal to appoint another independent committee above the Constituent Assembly. It is known that the other two proposals have not yet received a good response from the government.
Accordingly, the activities of providing the second instalment by the Financial Fund are currently in a serious state of uncertainty. If things were done according to the prescribed time frame, Sri Lanka is now on the verge of receiving the third instalment from the financial fund. But due to non-fulfilment of the conditions and due to the presentation of new conditions, the government is now in a situation where it will not receive the second instalment from the financial fund.
The President confirmed
The most special event that we got to see here was that this extraordinary revelation that we made was confirmed by the answer given by the President.
Several requests have been sent. We have agreed to one of those requests. They have requested to appoint another high and extremely independent body to see if the recommendations made by the Legislative Assembly are correct in making high appointments. We can come to an agreement on that,’ said the President, confirming that the disclosure we made last week was 100% correct.
After that, another media chief questioned the President about the attacks on the budget from the opposition and from within the government, and he pointed out that it is the position of the opposition members that about 70% of the budget proposals presented in the 2023 budget have not been implemented. The president also laughed and said, ‘No one in the government has said that. After presenting the budget, the opposition also congratulated me. But I don’t know if it is said in some places’ he said.
But the problem was that the President did not know that Namal Rajapaksa, who was a strong member of the government, and Iran Wickramaratne, who was a leader of the opposition who knew the economic subject, had raised strong objections to the President’s budget even when the President said so. Namal told the media not once but twice that the budget proposals presented last time have been presented in this year’s budget as well, and that no necessary proposals have been presented in this year’s budget to recover from the crisis the country has fallen into.
Also, Mr. Iran Wickramaratne, a former Minister of State for Finance, who started the budget debate in Parliament on behalf of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya, said that the President had taken the MPs on a trip to Disneyland while presenting the budget. Claiming that the budget was a ‘failure’, Iran said that the country cannot be built with this budget, which is completely ridiculous.
However, after this question, the president did not go to answer the questions of other media heads. Instead, the President did not speak further and asked the adviser of the Ministry of Finance to explain the budget. Giving the opportunity to Mr. Samaratunga.
Rajitha also shifts
On the same day after the presentation of the budget proposal by the President, the members of Samagi Jana Balavegaya held a discussion at the opposition leader’s office under the leadership of Mr Sajith Premadasa, the leader of the opposition. There, the weaknesses of the budget, the measures to be adopted by the party during the budget debate, and how to do so with factual evidence when criticizing the budget were presented at length. Accordingly, Kabir Hashim, Sarath Fonseka, Nalin Bandara, Ranjith Maddumabandara and other MPs who came out after the discussion were seen severely criticizing the budget.
But the special event that came to be seen here was that only former Health Minister Mr. Rajitha Senaratne gave a statement saying good to the budget. Rajitha said that many positive proposals have been presented in the budget, and this budget is U.N.P. It’s a budget, and only the scumbags can oppose it.
Praises the budget
In this way, Rajitha spoke well of the President and the government not once or twice. Rajitha, who praised the president on many occasions in the past, publicly said that if he is given the post of health minister, he is ready to join the government and solve the problems in the health sector. In this regard, Sajith had taken steps to call for explanations from Rajitha after receiving severe criticism from SJB MPs and seat organizers. Rajitha was also removed from the party’s affairs for a while. But later Rajitha was once again seen working together with SJB saying that the government and the president do not have a plan to build the country and that he will not join such a government at all.
However, based on Rajitha’s statement regarding the budget, Rajitha had once again started to face strong opposition from the MPs as well as the seat organizers. Almost all the people who spoke to the SJB leaders had indicated that strict action should be taken regarding Rajitha and that people with such duplicitous practices should not be kept in the party any longer.
Attack by Sujeeva
While this kind of background has emerged, last Sunday at Colombo Cinnamon Grand Hotel, SJB MP P. Digambaram prepared dinner on the occasion of Diwali. SJB representatives were invited and Rajitha was also seen participating in it. The most special incident to be seen here was when Ranjith Maddumabandara, Iran Wickramaratne, Sujeewa Senasinghe and others were criticizing the budget and Rajitha came there and a heated exchange of words took place between Sujeewa and Rajitha. Protesting the statement that the budget was good, Sujeeva asked how the opposition could do politics after making such statements. Ranjith Maddumabandara also said that the statement made by Rajitha was not fair.
Here Rajitha also started giving comments justifying his story, and Sujeewa was seen furiouse.
What minister talking about? When you talk like that, how can the opposition do politics wearing a cloth? What is good about this budget? Sujeewa scolded Rajitha to his face saying that we should be beaten by ‘Maduvalige’ for working with people like you.