IMF tranche, Paris Club debt restructuring, or Chinese debts, holding SL hostage?
Can a three- or four-letter ‘pot’ candidate win Rajapakse’s support?
Who is fooling whom Basil or Ranil
Problem after Problem
Last week, we revealed to the country for the first time through this column how the statements made by President Ranil Wickremesinghe in the meetings held during his visits to Cuba and America caused great controversy. There we pointed out that this controversy arose through the president’s pro-China statement during his visit to Cuba and his statement that the ‘Aukus’ security operation jointly conducted by the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia was a mistake during his visit to the United States. We also reported how the foreign affairs ministry of this country received strong international displeasure at that moment due to this statement made against the United States while in the United States.
Consequently, we are ready to report another incident that happened during the President’s American visit through the ‘inside politics’ column. It was another incident that happened based on the President’s ‘Aukus’ statement. Based on the strong international displeasure, many asked the President to make a speech praising the United States in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly in order to calm the political controversy that had arisen. Even though the President, who understood that there had been some disturbance from the Aukus speech, spoke in praise of the United States in his address to the General Assembly, neither the international media nor the Sri Lankan media paid much attention to it.
The German Journey
In the meantime, the President reserved his time for his visit to Germany while he was in America. Last week, we made a special disclosure about the German visit and said that none of the high-ranking state leaders had planned to attend, and the only other president who attended was the President of Kazakhstan. We claimed that all others were of ministerial level and representatives of the business class. Despite this, the President used the days to visit Germany because he would have the opportunity to meet the German Chancellor there, and because Germany is a very influential country in the Paris Community in the program of restructuring foreign debt. Although the Paris Club was initially in a positive position in the foreign debt restructuring program, the debt restructuring program is still in a slow state due to their silent policy delaying the related program.
President, who came to Sri Lanka at the weekend after his visit to America, stayed in Sri Lanka only for two days. At that time, high-ranking representatives of the International Monetary Fund were in Sri Lanka to discuss the provision of the second tranche, the discussions between the President and they took place on Sunday. According to the information we have come to know, the representatives of the International Monetary Fund have mentioned the information uncovered during their first review before the President. In particular, the representatives of the financial fund pointed out that there is a risk of postponing the second tranche due to the fact that the state tax revenue has not been raised, the necessary reforms to stop corruption have not been carried out, and the foreign debt restructuring has been stalled.
From the information we have here, it is further said that the president has requested the financial fund to give him more time as usual in this discussion. It is reported that the president has informed the representatives of the financial fund that these reforms can be carried out after the second loan instalment is given and that the goals can be achieved by the time the third loan instalment is given. But at that time the representatives of the financial fund informed the president that the situation was not acceptable from the information received by the ‘inside politics’ column.
There are no responsible people
After that meeting, the President went abroad again on Monday to participate in the Berlin Global Meeting held in Germany. However, since the President is also the Minister of Finance, the representatives of the IMF had a lot of problems regarding some issues raised by the President in the discussion with the International Monetary Fund. Accordingly, in order to resolve the problems, the representatives of the financial fund had planned to meet with the Finance Ministry Secretary, Mr. Mahinda Siriwardena, who is the most powerful officer after the President. But even then, making a special revelation in this regard, SJB Member of Parliament Mr. S.M. Marikkar said that both the President and the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance were abroad when the representatives of the Financial Fund visited Sri Lanka.
While investigating the matter, the officials of the Financial Fund also came to know that the Secretary of the Ministry of Finance had also gone abroad for some purpose. When this situation was reported, the International Monetary Fund got angry because there is no official in the country who is responsible for discussing and deciding on such an important matter. The end result was that the representatives of the financial fund decided to take further action regarding this response. According to the information we have, it is said that the representatives of the financial fund have made a complaint about this to their headquarters located in America. Many people are of the opinion that it is a very serious situation to present such a complaint to the headquarters of the International Monetary Fund. Mr. Peter Brewer, head of the Sri Lankan Monetary Fund, called a press conference and mentioned that the second instalment to Sri Lanka has been postponed indefinitely.
Organized by a businessman
When the International Monetary Fund made this statement, the President was in Berlin after starting his German tour. During his visit to Berlin, the President had planned to attend another special event. That is an interview with ‘Deutsche Welle’, one of Germany’s main television channels. This interview was not arranged by chance, but there was a story behind it. That is, this TV interview was planned to be held before the President left for Germany. The initiative was taken by a Sri Lankan doing business with Germany. The main plan was to give a lot of publicity to the President’s visit to Germany through this interview which was prepared with the intervention of this businessman who is very friendly to the President and with the agreement of the President.
However, the President met the German Chancellor before holding the televised press conference and held discussions, but the expected favourable situation did not emerge from those discussions. Even though Germany is a strong member of the Paris Society, the problematic situation existed because the President did not receive the response he was hoping for in the foreign debt restructuring. It was in such a background that the President joined the Deutsche Welle television discussion.
The president is angry
That’s why, a few moments after the start of this Deutsche Welle interview, the President was seen to face the discussion impulsively. There, the President was so impulsive that the journalist could also see how the president used some harsh language. Once the President attacked Channel 4 there. Once again, the president attacked the West. On another occasion, the President hinted at some division between the Cardinal and the Bishops’ Conference over the Easter attack.
However, two opinions have emerged in society regarding this rude behaviour of the President. The media friendly to the President had taken measures to propagate this event by attributing some heroism to it, and some had pointed out that it was not a very wise act for the President to attack Western countries in this way at a time when the country was bankrupt and trying to recover from the crisis with international support. Also, by hinting that there is a division between the Cardinal and the Bishops’ Conference, some people were of the opinion that not only the Catholic Church but also the Catholic community itself has been hurt. Accordingly, many are of the opinion that the president caused the same damage in Germany through the Deutsche Welle interview as he did by making a pro-Chinese statement in Cuba and by criticizing the ‘Aukus’.
The stories told by the MPs
On the other hand, since last week was a parliamentary week, this Deutsche Welle interview of the President had become a main topic among the ministers. Although almost all the members of the opposition spoke condemning this behaviour and the language style of the President, many of the members of Pohottuwa said with great joy that ‘Ranil is now well dressed for Mahinda’. In particular, Mr Sagara Kariyawasam, Secretary General of Pohottu, also held a press conference and said that it is a pleasure that the President has come to Pohottu’s position and declared that he will not accept the Geneva reports.
Also, some Pohottu members of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa compared this interview to the BBC interview given by President Mahinda Rajapakse during wartime. The reason was the words like ‘Western community’ and ‘human rights’ that Mahinda used in the press conference, the President has used the same words in the Deutsche Welle discussion. But the difference was that Mahinda gave the interview that day with restraint and the President behaved somewhat impulsively in his interview.
However, the question is whether Ranil can match Mahinda. Mahinda has been considered historically as an anti-western leader. Ranil is considered a pro-Western ruler. Therefore, many people who know about Ranil say that Ranil suddenly changed his pro-Western policy because he did not receive the kind of help expected from Western countries. For example, in debt restructuring, the program of the European countries led by the Paris Club has not yet been announced. During his visit to America, the President met the head of the International Monetary Fund, Mrs. Kristalina Georgieva, and appealed to her the program of the Paris Club, but it was not successful. Also, during his visit to America, he asked for an opportunity to meet the President of the country, Mr. Joe Biden, and discuss face-to-face, but he did not get that either. It was also mentioned that while the president was in Germany, the financial fund would delay giving its second instalment to Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the President has to go to China empty-handed to start debt restructuring talks in the middle of this month.
By now, many people are of the opinion that that reason for the pressure that came out through the President’s Deutsche Welle discussion.
Dinner with the journalist
However, it didn’t take long for the other people who travelled to Germany with the president to realize that something was wrong with the Deutsche Welle interview. Accordingly, an operation was launched from their side to manage the immediate damage. The unofficial information we have says that on the day of the interview or the day after, the journalist who led the Deutsche Welle discussion was invited to a dinner by the President. It has been further learned from the unofficial news that he had a friendly discussion with the journalist at the dinner and requested not to take this incident too far.
In addition to this, unofficial sources also state that the group has made a kind request to the journalist to reconsider the broadcasting of certain incidents that were quite heated during the discussion. According to the unofficial sources, the video was released after some editing.
The story of the budget
Amidst all this, the 2024 budget is to be presented to the Parliament by Finance Minister Mr. Ranil Wickramasinghe next month. In the face of the existing pressure, the people are also waiting for any relief in this year’s budget. Before the President left for America, Basil had expressed his views on the budget in the discussion held with Mr. Basil Rajapaksa, the national organizer of Pohottuwa. Also, during the meeting held with Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Basil had emphasized that since this is the last budget to be presented before the presidential election, a popular budget should be presented that will provide relief to the people.
In addition to this, even Pohottuwa MPs who are currently attending press conferences are saying that relief should be given to the people in the upcoming budget. Mahinda also made a special statement to the media last week and said that the electricity bill has increased now and it is difficult for people to pay the electricity bill.
Samagi Jana Balawega is also preparing for the budget these days. Since it is the last budget before the presidential election, SJB has planned to start an organized campaign regarding the budget. It is learned that SJB has planned to point out the behaviour of the MPs in Pohottuwa and the negative situation that the people will have to face through the budget.
Four letter candidate
Three weeks ago, we made a revelation about who the next presidential candidate of Pohottu will be through an extraordinary disclosure in the ‘inside politics’ column. Mr. Ranjith Bandara, a senior in Pohottuwa, hinted that a three-letter person would be the presidential candidate of Pohottuwa, but we clearly said that the presidential candidate of Pohottuwa is not a person with a three-letter name, but a four-letter person. Although we have clear information about who the presidential candidate is, we said that we will not disclose it for ethical reasons. But after our disclosure, some websites and social media published news speculating that the candidate of the four-letter is the millionaire businessman Dhammika Perera, but as a responsible media, this is not the opportunity to reveal who the correct candidate is.
However, at the moment, the decision-makers including Basil, the mastermind of Pohottuwa, have taken the decision to present this four-letter candidate to the President. This is because the Rajapaksas know very well that the future of Pohottuvu and the Rajapaksas rests on this choice of Pohottuvu. Therefore, the leaders of Pohottuwa have decided to face the presidential election with this four-letter candidate with full strength. Accordingly, one is clear. That is, the presidential candidacy of Pohottuwa will not be the president at all.
The president is also in the game
It is not that the President did not have any doubts in this regard from the beginning. It was for that reason that the president had entrusted the work of breaking the pothole to Nimal Lanza, who was a member of the Potpottuwa parliament and was close to him. Since the beginning of Lanza’s operation, we have taken measures to report its latest status in the inside politics column from time to time. First, we explained how Lanza launched this operation from the Presidential Secretariat, then how the operation was launched from the official residence of former President Gotabhaya Rapajaksha at Bauddaloka Mawatha, and then how it was done by opening a new political office at Lake Drive in Rajagiriya. We also pointed out how the MPs of Pohottuwa initially promised to join it and then put the ‘cut’ on Lanza. Then we said that there was a plan to appoint Mr Anura Priyadarshana Yapa as the leader of that alliance.
Accordingly, this time we are preparing to reveal from the inside politics column about the latest status of this new alliance of Lanza and Anura Priyadarshana Yapa. A few days ago, a special discussion was held at Anura Yapa’s home in Kurunegala regarding the formation of this new alliance. As many members of Pohottuwe who had expressed interest in joining it had been invited to participate in this discussion, Lansa and Anura Yapath thought that more than 40 members of parliament would participate in it. But in the end, it was a special event that only two of the MPs from Pohottuwa had participated. Only Nimal Lansa and Trade Minister Mr. Nalin Fernando. In addition to this, only a few of the organizers of the Pohottuwa constituencies had arranged to participate in the meeting, so the meeting turned out to be a final failure.
In addition, in the last few weeks, a message given to Mr Anura Yapa by a third party related to the President said to get ready to get the position of Minister of Health. Although Anura Yapa had expressed his consent to this, when Pohottu got this news, the party immediately sent a message to the government saying that if other Pohottu MPs are given ministerial positions in addition to the names given by their party, their party is ready to take a strict decision. Accordingly, Anura Yapa’s ministerial dream had ended right there.
President’s MP team
After the President’s controversial Deutsche Welle interview, the government’s parliamentary group meeting was held last Monday. Since the President’s participation in the meeting was a bit late, the back row MPs who were present in the meeting were laughing and telling each other some of the things that they had guessed that the President would come and speak at the meeting.
One MP imitated the President saying, ‘I am going to give money to the MPs to build roads…’ and another MP imitated the President and said, ‘I am going to give them jobs…’. In this way, a senior Pohottu MP laughed and told a wonderful story while the back row MPs of Pohottu were imitating the President by making jokes.
Didn’t I tell you that nothing the President says will happen? You didn’t listen to what I said. Now you yourself understand what is happening…’ was the speech of that MP. However, this story was not allowed to go further because the President along with three others attended the MP group meeting at that time. Those three were Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe, Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena, and Finance Ministry Advisor Mr. H. Samaratunga. The President had accompanied these three to explain the situation to the MPs after the decision to delay the second instalment by the financial fund. The reason for that was because the President assumed that the confidence of the Pohottuwa MPs had been broken by that decision.
Lack of interest
However, when the President used to come with senior officials like this, the Pohottu MPs joined the discussions with great interest, but on that day, a completely different situation was seen. On that day, none of the Pohottu members of parliament had taken much notice of these officials who accompanied the president. And they did not show much interest in questioning the officials in this regard. This was not unknown to the President.
But only MP Sarath Weerasekera took steps to question it, and he asked how could fulfil the serious conditions mentioned the financial fund, in that case, Weerasekara said that there will be more pressure on the people. Weerasekera pointed out that products such as eggs, potatoes and onions are being imported from abroad, and because of this, egg, potato and onion farmers in this country are facing a severe crisis.
There the presidential advisor Mr. H. Samaratunga said that if the living committee was informed about the harvest season for potatoes and onions in this country, they could discuss and decide on how to tax them. With this reply of Samaratunga, trade Minister Nalin Fernando stood up as no one expected. Nalin strongly attacked it and said, ‘You are speaking as if we are wrong. People need to be provided with somewhere to eat and drink for less price at this time. We cannot make hasty decisions about it. There is the Life Committee of the Ministry of Finance to take decisions about it. While talking about the time to peel the onions, it’s all over here,’ he said.
The President also understood that the comments coming from Nalin’s statement were not good as the MPs of Pohottuwa also gave a boost with various gestures. The President immediately intervened in the discussion and said, ‘These three officials now have to go to a special discussion. Therefore, we will release those people.’ In that way, the President immediately expelled the three members, Nandalal, Mahinda Siriwardena and Samarathunga from the discussion, and after a few moments, he ended the meeting of the group of MPs.
A message from SLFP to Sajith
Meanwhile, opposition leader Mr Sajith Premadasa received a special message from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party last week. As everyone knows, with the decision of Maithripala Sirisena to remove the former General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party Mr Dayasiri Jayasekara from that position, the party is currently in a serious crisis. The current members of the party point out that there is absolutely no way forward for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party with Maithripala. According to this, last week, several members of the SLFP sent a message to Sajith through a famous person who is not related to politics.
In that message, it was said that he had met two SLFP stalwarts the other day, and they were ready to join SJB together with a few others as a group or join the alliance formed under the leadership of SJB. This special person also took steps to put a list of names of SLFP MPs in Sajith’s hands.
Accordingly, after looking at the list of names carefully, Sajith announced that he was ready to bring all the other MPs to the party except for one name. It was Sajith’s position that one of the MPs could not join the party as he had been accused of serious charges. Therefore, Sajith took steps to inform this special person that if they want, they can directly join SJB, otherwise they can join the SJB-led alliance, which is their wish. Accordingly, Sajith took steps to inform that person that he is ready to organize a special discussion with those MPs in the near future.