Whither battle of Rajapakses head
Is the opposition’s effort enough to pressure for elections
Who will mark 50 yrs. next?
Government do not want elections
After hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets and struggled democratically to depose former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, not only the people of Sri Lanka, but also the international community, hoped for the establishment of a new government with a new mandate. Because the president, who was elected by 69 lakh people, attempted to flee the country. The prime minister elected by 68 lakh people had already left office. Given this context, and the fact that both mandates had been abolished, holding elections as a necessary step toward establishing a democratic government with a new mandate was recognised not only by the majority of the country, but also by the international community.
However, Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe, who took power after Gota, had promised Pohottuwa from the start that elections would not be held until the end of Parliament’s fixed term. The President had also announced it in Parliament not once, but several times. Furthermore, the president’s administration is currently attempting to postpone the March 20 local government election by any means possible.
The games played by the government
In the past, the government has worked to launch several strategies for this purpose. One of them was to declare that there are more than 8,000 councilors in the local government bodies and it should be reduced to 4,000. The second was the declaration that the power of local government heads should be decentralized to a group. The third was the appointment of a new committee for delimitation under the leadership of former Election Commissioner Mahinda Deshapriya.
The fourth was to bring the village council system to the fore again according to the concept of the former speaker Mr. Karu Jayasuriya. In this regard, Karu and a civil activist, Victor Ivan, even came to the cabinet and took steps to inform the cabinet ministers. But with the opposition taking steps to inform the people from time to time about all this, the government realized that the job of postponing the vote is quite difficult.
The latest game in the cabinet
Accordingly, the government had taken steps to implement several new plans by last week. One of them was to present a proposal to the cabinet that youth representation should be 25% in local government bodies and to regulate expenses and take steps to pass it without much noise. The second plan was to quickly appoint representatives to the Constituent Assembly established through the 22nd constitutional amendment and through that to appoint representatives favorable to them to other commissions including the Election Commission and take steps to postpone the elections.
According to this second plan, at the party leaders’ meeting held in Parliament last Monday, Minister Susil Premajayantha informed the party leaders that the Constituent Assembly should be formed before the 13th and that the three independent representatives who are currently vacant should be appointed as soon as possible. Due to Susil’s continuous raising of these matters, Sajith, who had doubts about it, said that applications have already been invited from civil citizens for this purpose, and three proper representatives should be appointed through them. Sajith said that it will take some time. But in view of the government’s influence, Sajith had a suspicion that there was some hidden plan here.
Under this situation, SJB seniors also met on Monday and took steps to discuss this emergency of the government. There, almost everyone pointed out to Sajith that the government is trying to postpone the local government elections through this, and immediate action should be taken against it. Accordingly, on Tuesday, SJB MPs Laxman Kiriella, Nalin Bandara, Thushara Indunil, S.M. Marikkar took steps to reveal the government’s plan to the country by commenting on this in Parliament. There, Marikkar said that the opposition leader will not appoint civilians to the Legislative Assembly until the government conducts the local government elections. Under this background, the government’s plan to postpone the elections through the Constituent Assembly was seen to have gone awry.
Will Punchihewa conduct elections?
Something should also be mentioned regarding the Chairman of the Election Commission. We had previously mentioned in this column that its chairman Mr. Nimal Punchiheva is very close to Rajapaksa. Recently, JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake had also taken steps to mention this openly in the Parliament. But when SJB and other political parties in the opposition met representatives of the Election Commission from time to time and discussed this matter, the Commission indicated that the election would be held on time and that the work would begin as soon as the 2023 voter list was prepared.
But later, when the commission was talking about holding the election suddenly, a group of the opposition including Sajith went and discuss it with the commission. The commission said that all the activities are at the final stage and that the gazette announcement of holding the election can be issued by December 9-10. Accordingly, Sajith came out and expressed a positive response about the commission and announced that the commission would call the election by December 9 or 10.
But as of last week, a problem arose again based on a special message received by the opposition from within the commission. In that message, it was said that the Election Commission has not done any of the necessary preliminary work for the election. It was further informed in the message that the commission had not prepared the necessary budget documents, for recruit officials, etc. Accordingly, it was seen how the opposition’s suspicion that the government is playing some game to postpone the election intensified through this message.
Sajith GL in a special discussion
Accordingly, Sajith immediately discussed this matter with Professor GL-Dallas, who represents the opposition. There G.L. Dallas also said that the government’s plan to postpone the vote through the appointment of the Constituent Assembly should not be allowed. Another doubt arose for the group that usually after the budget debate is over, the parliament is traditionally adjourned until the New Year, but this time it was not done so due to the calling of a special parliamentary meeting on the 13th. Although the government called the parliament to answer the questions of the members, everyone felt that there was some trick to postpone the election.
However, under this background, Chairman Nimal Punchihewa had taken steps to call the representatives of the Election Commission on Tuesday. There, Punchihewa had informed the officials to start the activities of holding the local government election. Wednesday was a busy day, but since many essential duties were to be done, the officials of the commission accordingly decided to come to duty on Wednesday and prepare the necessary arrangements.
But while the representatives of the commission were carrying out their election duties in this way, the Chairman Nimal Punchihewa received a phone call from the ‘Rajya Rahas’ column. After that call, Punchiheva, who met again with the officials of the commission, said, ‘The cabinet has passed a resolution about election expenses and youth representation. It was also learned that it will be submitted to the Parliament. So there is no need to rush. Let’s see a little more…’ However, all the other officers of the commission unanimously said that it was an answer that Panchihewa did not expect at all.
A stunning reply to Punchihewa
Chairman, what is the meaning of this? You tell me in the morning to start work on vote. In the evening, ask to stop. We cannot do that. This is a commission. Our duty is to conduct vote on time. Now only the court can stop the vote. Therefore, we will continue with our duties…’ was the answer given by the commission officials to Punchihewa. As they said, they came to work on Poya Day on Wednesday and took steps to continue the election related activities.
However, we believe that the reply given by the commission officials to Punchihewa went to the top of the government before long. Because on Thursday morning, Justice Minister Wijayadasa Rajapaksa presented a bill to regulate election expenses to the parliament, he must have been well aware of that background.
Accordingly, from Thursday afternoon, Sajaba and Dullas, G.L. group had few rounds of discussions among the parties about the new trump card of postponing the government’s elections. There, both sides discussed the measures to be taken against the government if it tries to postpone the vote through this bill. They took steps to inform Sajith of all those decisions.
The commission is divided into two
However, after submitting this proposal to the Parliament, Vijayadasa took steps to hold several more rounds of negotiations with the representatives of the Punchihewada Election Commission regarding the conducting of the election. There, Panchihewa had first informed that the government has submitted a new proposal to the parliament as he said earlier. But the other officials of the commission decided that no matter what the government does, the work started by the election commission should be continued. Also, the position of the officials was that the announcement of holding the election should be published first.
Accordingly, in an announcement issued by the Chairman of the Election Commission Mr. Punchihewa on Thursday evening, it was stated that the announcement regarding the calling of the local government election has been decided to be issued in the last week of December. But even after the release of this announcement, many people in the opposition pointed out that even though the commission has the ability to issue the announcement by now, it has taken steps to postpone it until the last week of December, which raises serious doubts that the chairman of the commission has given the government the time required to postpone the election.
Basil gets to work
Against this backdrop, Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, the mastermind of Pohottuwa, took steps to start the party’s election campaign activities last week for all to see by bringing representatives of the local government constituencies representing Pohottuwa to discuss. There, Basil first called the local government representatives representing the Kurunegala district. Basil informed the Pohottu representatives of the situation and informed them that the election may or may not be held and that they should be prepared to face any situation.
Even though Basil mentioned to them that the election will be held in this way, Basil is currently in the position of postponing the election somehow, the ‘State secret’ column has heard. The reason is the result of the secret poll conducted by Basil. Last week, we made an extraordinary revelation in this column and said that Basil had conducted such an opinion poll, and the finding indicated Samagi Jana Balawega got the first place, the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna the second place, and Pohottua the third place. We also pointed out that the opinion poll showed a big gap between SJB and Pohottuwa who is in third place, and because the results cannot be released, the document containing the opinion poll has been locked in a drawer in Basil’s room at the Battaramulla party office.
Ranil Basil Vajira in a secret meeting
However, after receiving the results of this opinion poll, a special discussion was held between the President, Basil, Vajira Abeywardena and several others last week, according to unofficial sources. It has been learned that the possibility of postponing the election by a year has been discussed in this discussion. According to the information we have, they have also taken steps to seek legal advice on the same during this discussion. We have information about who asked for legal advice and who gave legal advice, but we will not disclose that information at this time. We are also ready to reveal them in the future if necessary.
However, the legal advice received here said that they cannot intervene in that matter, and it is a very difficult matter. But it is said that the legal advice further states that the election can be postponed for a maximum period of 06 months by bringing a delimitation bill to the parliament. Accordingly, this is the only option left to the government to postpone the election.
JVP with the government
On the other hand, not only the government and Pohottua, but also the Janata Vimukthi Peramuna are in a position where the local government election should not be held and it should be postponed. The reason for this is that although the JVP is in second place in the opinion polls, there is a big gap between them and the Samagi Jana Balawega. Therefore, their demand is not the local government election but the general election. It is for that reason that the JVP does not exert much influence on the government regarding the local government elections. Significantly, while only the SJB and Dullas groups have launched a fight for the local government elections, the government, Pohottuwa and JVP are all in the position that the local government elections should not be held.
Parties everywhere for the government
These days, due to the festive season of December, parties are seen everywhere. Variety of parties and Dinners parties seen very often. Due to the high prices of food and drinks and the huge increase in the cost of living, for the common people these, dinners and parties full fun are only a dream, but it is not so for the ministers and the elite.
December is a month that has no shortage of parties almost every day. Confirming this, Government had taken steps to hold a dinner party for all the ministers and their wives of the ruling party in Araliyagaha Mandure last week. We reported this last week through the ‘Rajya Rahas’ column. There we pointed out that steps had been taken not to serve liquor at this party, and as a result Minister Prasanna Ranatunga brought liquor from outside and kept it in the Araliyagaha Madru premises and drank it with the friendly ministers.
The selfie with the president
However, as of this week, we have some new information about this party. One of them was that although the wives had been invited, no minister’s wife had attended. Also, due to a certain incident that happened during the party, there was some trouble in this party. The reason for this was the actions of someone who had been working in the Presidential Media Unit for some time.
Although this party was restricted to MPs only, this person from the President’s Media Unit along with MPs who were close to him had also participated in the party at Araliyagaha Madura that day. During the party, while this person was taking selfies with various ministers, the President also came to the place, where he also took a selfie with the President. He also took steps to post it on his Facebook page. That’s where the problem arose. Seeing this, many MPs complained to the top and said that the representative of the President’s Media Unit posted a selfie taken during the party on his Facebook page, and people may get angry seeing such photos at this time when the people of the country have no food.
Media unit spy !
Upon receiving this complaint, the heads of the Presidential Media Unit immediately called the person concerned and took steps to notify him to remove the photo immediately. Apart from that, since the complaints had started pouring in continuously, steps have been taken to remove that employee from the Presidential Media Unit.
However, the party held at the Araliyagaha Mandiraya did not have much of a ‘go’ because liquor was not provided, wives did not participate, and there was no music that the MPs could feel. Because of this, the ministers started whispering in different places, and as a remedy, it was suggested to organize another super style party. None other than Minister Prasanna Ranatunga took responsibility for organizing the party.
It was decided to hold the party at the Water’s Edge Hotel as the the Urban Development Authority comes under Prasanna and the Water’s Edge Hotel comes under it. No information has yet been reported on how the related payments have been made. Accordingly, the provision of the highest quality whiskey and brandy was seen being accepted by various ministers. Prasanna also took step of bringing a top-notch band to the party. Prasanna also took steps to invite all the ministers’ wives.
The Rajapaksa family was invited
In addition, Prasanna took steps to invite former President Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa, and former Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, Rajapaksa family ministers Chamal Rajapaksa, Shashindra Rajapaksa and Namal Rajapaksa to the event. Prasanna arranged a special table for all of them. Accordingly, this party was seen as the first time Gotabhaya met with ministers after his arrival in Sri Lanka. Prasanna also took steps to prohibit anyone from bringing their mobile phones to the venue of the party, except for the ministers, due to a big ruckus by taking a selfie with the President at the party held at Araliyagaha Mandiraya.
However, on the same day of this party, the President had received invitations for another party. It was the celebration of 50 years of legal profession of Mr. Ashoka De Silva, a former Chief Justice. Because Ranil wanted to go to that event, Ranil was seen arriving at the Water’s Edge party early.
Boycott or absence
But some trouble was noticed because the members of the Rajapaksa family who had been invited to the party did not attend. On several previous occasions, we have taken steps to report on the disagreements within the Rajapaksa family in this column. There we said that some division has arisen among the members of the Rajapaksa family due to some political conflicts that occurred in the past. Because of this, we did not get to see how all the Rajapaksa family members were together at the same time at Gotabhaya’s events.
A similar incident happened at the Water’s Edge party. Gota arrived for the party in the same car with Chamal and Shashindra. At that time, Ranil was also involved in the party. According to the information we have, Mahinda and Basil were also ready to participate in the event. But Mahinda and Basil did not participate in the Water’s Edge event at the last minute, I don’t know if it was because Gotabhaya came or because of some other reason. Also Namal, who had been invited, did not participate in the event.
Brandy from Susil to the VIP table
Unaware of this, Prasanna Ranatunga had taken steps to reserve one table for the family members and the president. Education Minister Susil Premajayantha had taken on the responsibility of compiling liquor for that table. Accordingly, Susil brought highly expensive X.O. A bottle of brandy and placed them on a stool near the table reserved for the Rajapaksa family and the President. This “X.O. Rumor” bottle of brandy usually costs more than 50,000 rupees in Sri Lankan currency. But only Gota and Ranil were at that table, at this expensive X.O. was also tasted by the other ministers as well.
Normally when Gota was in the office normally all eyes of the function is focus towards him and all would come closer and bow and address sir and my lord and bend to two to three and try to pose for photographs.
Gota goes from table to table
But none of this was seen that day. In short, not many ministers came near the seat where Gota was sitting. Occasionally, one or two senior ministers approached Gota and spoke to him, but that too was limited to only a few minutes. Accordingly, Gota was often in conversation with his personal secretary, Sugishwara Bandara. Gota was seen avoiding many of the young MPs present at the party. However, when the party started, Sugishwara Bandara also noticed that the ministers did not come near Gota. Accordingly, Sugishwara told Gota to go to the table where the ministers were sitting and talk to all of them.
According to this advice from Sugeeshwara, Gotada went to the tables of all the ministers and talked to them just like a newlywed couple at a wedding going from table to table and talking to the people present. When he arrived, the ministers stood up and politely spoke to Gota, but Gota did not get a big response there either.
However, usually at a wedding ceremony like this, the bride and groom go from table to table only once. But the special event that was seen at this party was that Gota went from table to table and talked with the MPs twice. It is not known whether Gota did it intentionally or out of forgetfulness. But before Gotha left the party, it was seen that some whispers had emerged among the MPs about Gota going from table to table and talking to the MPs.
Eat, drink and dance
In the last period, the Ministers of Pohottuwa were seen hiding without making much noise and did not participate in any ceremony, but after some time they got a chance to eat and drink and be merry as they thought. There was also an orchestra to match, so Mahindananda first entered into singing. Minister Prasanna and his wife came first to dance to Mahindananda’s songs. Even so, everyone was well aware of one. They were doubtful that someone will photograph the hapenings of this party. The reason for this was that the person who took the photos in the Araliyagaha Maduraya along with a member of parliament was seen present.
Another party for Ranil
Meanwhile, two other special parties were held last week. One of the parties was held at the Shangri-La Hotel in Colombo. It was on the occasion of President Ranil Wickramasinghe’s 50th anniversary as a lawyer. The other party was held to mark the 50th anniversary of former Chief Justice Ashoka de Silva’s legal career. It was held at the Colombo Hilton Hotel. Before these two parties were held, another meeting in the legal field was also being organized. It is the annual convention of the Sri Lanka Bar Association.
Due to the fact that this conference is the biggest event of the association, a special discussion was also held regarding the invitees. Some had said that the President should be invited. But another group said that the president should not be invited because he is not a president elected by the people, but a president elected by the parliament. Accordingly, for the first time in history, a controversial situation had arisen in the bar association regarding the chief guest.
Ticket priced at Rs.8000
The ceremony to mark the 50th anniversary of the President’s career as a lawyer was organized at the Shangri-La Hotel despite this controversial background regarding the chief guest in the Bar Association. It was a special event that almost 1000 lawyers were invited by the President to the ceremony. All those activities were undertaken by UNP President Mr. Vajira Abeywardena. It was also seen that a ticket was priced at 8000 rupees. The event was organized in such a way that 10 lawyers could sit at one table. Accordingly, since there were 10 chairs in one table, the value of that table was 80,000 rupees. In this way, 10 lawyers related to the UNP were seen to have booked 10 such tables at the same time with Vajira. However, the majority of the lawyers had come there for free without taking any ticket, according to the ‘Rajya rahas’ column.
At first glance, the President’s 50th anniversary as a lawyer was organized as a super party. It had also taken steps to provide alcohol without restrictions. Also, many people who saw the super-style food and drinks that were reserved were seen whispering that such a banquet cannot be enjoyed for 8000 rupees anyway. It could be seen how MPs who are lawyers were also present there representing every political party.
Mahinda comes but leaves in worry
However, one of the most special events to see here was the presence of Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa as a lawyer. But Mahinda did not stay long during the fuction. Mahinda was seen standing up shortly after the ceremony started. When investigating the reason, we found out that the announcer who announced the event did not mention the name of Mahinda who was a senior lawyer as well as a former president and former prime minister when the event started. Many people who witnessed the incident thought that Mahinda was in a bit of trouble. Accordingly, Mahinda stayed for a few more minutes and left the Shangri-La Hotel. However, it was a special event that Chief Justice Jayantha Jayasuriya and several other judges stayed for most of the ceremony.
Former Chief Justice’s party
The 50th anniversary celebration of former Chief Justice Ashoka De Silva’s legal career was held a few days after that. Ranil and Ashoka were contemporaries in the law school and later Ashoka had worked as a teacher in the Royal College. No politician was invited to this ceremony held at the Hilton Hotel, and many Supreme Court judges including the Chief Justice were present. In addition, senior lawyer Mr. Faiz Mustafa was also among the guests.
At this very elegant event, one of the guests asked Ashoka that Ranil and Ashoka were contemporaries, but how come Ranil rise above Ashoka. Generally, Ashoka is seen in the legal profession as someone with a smiling face who always cracks jokes. Accordingly, Ashoka smiled and gave a wonderful answer.
‘So see how long it took him to get to the top of his field? But it took me a while to get to the top of my field. Before he became the President, I became the Chief Justice…’ was Ashoka’s reply.
By Special correspondent