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Sunday July 14th, 2024

Attacks on Wimal maybe a sign of a seismic shift in the ruling alliance

ECONOMYNEXT – There’s bitter invective being directed at a government Cabinet Minister these days by a faction of the ruling alliance and that is prompting speculation whether some cracks are appearing in the Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Peramuna (SLNPP).

Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansha is the target for the hate speech and is being attacked for his call for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to be given a bigger role in running the ruling alliance, side-lining Prime Minister Mahinda.

Weerawansha’s comments which appeared in the Sunday Sinhala newspapers the Lankadeepa and the web-only Aththa did not explicitly ask for the PM’s removal as party leader.

The ruling alliance was internally stressed last month when Weerawansha and several other smaller alliance partners vehemently opposed the handing over the East Container Terminal of the Colombo Port to a joint Indian-Japanese venture.

Weerawansha joined Trade Unions, far-left and Nationalist Parties to stage demonstrations bringing enough pressure on the government leadership for it to say it will not go through with the deal, although officially the agreement has not been cancelled as yet.

An angry Indian government said that it had been “promised at the leadership level” that the tripartite agreement signed by the last government would be honoured. That implied that either President Gotabaya Rajapaksa or Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had made the pledge to New Delhi.

At that time the General Secretary of the alliance MP Sagara Kariyawasam upbraided Weerawansha for his actions.

This weekend Weerawansha’s comments over the party leadership made matters worse.

It drew another sharp reaction from Kariyawasam who demanded that the Minister withdraw the statement and issue an apology.

Kariyawasam, who reports to the Party’s National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa, told reporters Weerawansha “does not have a right to make decisions regarding the SLPP as he does not belong to it.” Weerawansha leads the tiny National Freedom Front which is an alliance partner of the SLNPP.

“We are very disappointed that, as the leader of a party that has joined our alliance and as a member of the cabinet with collective responsibility, he has made such a lowly, third class comment,” Kariyawasam said. Several younger SLPP MPs also attacked Weerawansha in public.

The Rajapaksa Brothers, President Gotabaya, Prime Minister Mahinda and Basil at a felicitation ceremony for Weerawansha last year/PMD handout

In a riposte, Weerawansha told reporters outside a courthouse in Negombo yesterday that he was a foremost loyalist of the Prime Minister, creating the “Mahinda Sulanga movement” and setting the foundations for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. “If that is something wrong I have done then I will apologise,” he said.

He also took credit for proposing the candidature of Gotabaya Rajapaksa for the Presidency.

As he spoke in Negombo, the SLNPP Parliamentary Group meeting being held in Parliament exploded in arguments over Weerawansha’s statement.

Multiple sources told EconomyNext that several SLPP MPs including State Minister Nimal Lansa launched blistering attacks on Weerawansha.

When another State Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara tried to intervene asking the Members to refrain from criticising a colleague who was not present, the veteran was reportedly abused.

The Prime Minister then intervened and calmed the situation down, sources said.

Later in the day at lunch, Weerawansha was seen in earnest conversation with the PM in the MP’s lounge.

After the meal, when the Leaders of the Parties in the alliance met, Rajapaksa had said he had not seen any statement where Weerawansha had said he wanted the PM removed from the Party Leaders position.

Party sources said that the attacks on Weerawansha are particularly because he led the opposition to the handing over of the ECT to India.

The people who wanted that to happen are not happy with Weerawansha, they said. “the current attacks are all part of that.”

The Prime Minister has put together one of the most varied coalitions in Sri Lanka’s political history. The parties that have joined him range from the former radical left with Nanayakkara to the Sinhala supremacist Weerawansha.

Embedded inside the party are the entrepreneurial Ajith Nivard Cabraal. Also in the party is former United National Party Cabinet Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe who is warming the backbench.

But increasingly there have been whispers from the smaller parties in the alliance about the lack of important ministries and powers allocated to them.

The most number of complaints have come from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which entered into the alliance after lengthy negotiations with the SLPP National Organiser Basil Rajapaksa.

Of the alliance partners, the SLFP holds the most number of seats with 14 while Nanayakkara is the only member from his party and Weerawansha has two. All of them contested under the Pohottuwa banner.

The General-Secretary of the SLFP Dayasiri Jayasekara on occasion has voiced concerns that their party apparatchiks at the ground level have not been able to hand out jobs to their supporters and they have not been able to fulfil the promises they made.

Another Senior SLFP official said that the promise of two National Seats that was made to them after the Parliamentary elections were not kept and the one seat was given to Dr Suren Raghavan who has less than a year as a member of the party.

He also complained that the number of high posts, such as Chairmen of government Corporations and bodies that were handed out to SLFPers were very few.

“They have brought the alliance together but don’t know or don’t want to maintain the alliance through frequent consultations and consensus-building,” the source complained.

Alliances that the SLFP ruled with, such as the United Left Front under Sirimavo Bandaranaike, he pointed out “worked hard to keep the alliance and also ensure capable people in the smaller parties got good posts and key ministries.”

“This is not happening with our alliance, they (the Rajapaksas) dominate and take decisions around their table,” he said.

But the greater concern it appears to be is probable, near retirement from politics by the Prime Minister.

One former SLFP MP said that Weerawansha “is very close to MR and he may be worried that in the future when Mahinda retires, he may have no place.”

Commentator Victor Ivan agreed that there will be moves to prepare for a post-Mahinda era for the party and the alliance.

“Mahinda has certain skills, public relations and inter-personal skills and charisma that other leaders do not have and that is how he has attracted all these people. He calls people on their birthdays and even compliments the opposition on a good speech,” Ivan said.

The Prime Minister appears in command of all his powers although occasionally he has shown some physical weaknesses.

Is this the beginning of seismic events in the SLPP that precede the exit of Mahinda? Time will tell. (Colombo, February 10, 2021)

By Arjuna Ranawana

Comments (2)

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  1. Noor Nizam says:

    Former President and now Prime Minister Honourable Mahinda Rajapaksa is a born leader and a “Statesman”. He is fully loved by the people. Political dogs like Winal Weerawansa can bark, but the Sri Lankan people as a Nation cherish his leadership in politics.
    Noor Nizam – Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher, SLFP/SLPP Stalwart and Convener “The Muslim Voice”.

    1. Hector says:

      Why don`t you ask them to give your people the burial rights

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  1. Noor Nizam says:

    Former President and now Prime Minister Honourable Mahinda Rajapaksa is a born leader and a “Statesman”. He is fully loved by the people. Political dogs like Winal Weerawansa can bark, but the Sri Lankan people as a Nation cherish his leadership in politics.
    Noor Nizam – Peace and Political Activist, Political Communication Researcher, SLFP/SLPP Stalwart and Convener “The Muslim Voice”.

    1. Hector says:

      Why don`t you ask them to give your people the burial rights

Ex-US President Trump shot at in campaign rally

ECONOMYNEXT- Republican nominee to the upcoming polls and former US President Donald Trump has been shot during a campaign rally, media reports said.

The bullet grazed the ear of Trump, who is reported to be doing well.

The gunman was shot and killed by secret service snipers within second of firing the shots at Trump.

At least one civilian was killed reports said.

Television footage showed blood in Trumps ear.

As he was hustled out of the venue by Secret Service officials Trump was seen shaking his fist in the air. (Colombo/July14/2024)

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UNESCO DG to discuss archaeological endeavours in Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka: President

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s president has said that he will discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city with visiting UNESCO Director General Audrey Azoulay.

Azoulay will visit Sri Lanka from July 16-19 and take part at the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Sri Lanka’s membership of UNESCO at the Nelum Pokuna Theatre in Colombo.

She will also travel to UNESCO World Heritage Sites around the island, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

“I have invited the Director General of UNESCO to visit Sri Lanka and discuss initiatives for long-term archaeological endeavours in the Anuradhapura city. Several universities overseas have shown interest in supporting us for these activities, and we are moving forward with their collaboration,” Ranil Wickremesinghe said.

“Anuradhapura boasts a rich history spanning over a millennium, once renowned as a hub of trade and economics. Preserving and exploring this ancient city’s archaeological treasures remains a significant endeavour.”

“New archaeological efforts in the Anuradhapura district are now imperative,” Wickremesinghe said during a ceremony to inaugurate a 150-kilowatt solar power system installed by the LTL Group at the Sri Maha Bodhiya premises in Anuradhapura on Saturday (13).

Wickremesinghe pointed out that UNESCO has undertaken extensive archaeological projects in Angkor Thom in Cambodia, and Luang Prabang in Laos.

“However, we have not taken the necessary steps to implement these activities in Anuradhapura city. Therefore, I have advised both the Department of Archaeology and the Cultural Triangle to undertake these initiatives.”

These efforts are part of a comprehensive program aimed at establishing Anuradhapura as a globally renowned city, Wickremesinghe said.

While Sigiriya has gained international fame, Sri Lanka has not adequately highlighted Anuradhapura’s historical significance as a major trade and economic center in the past, the president pointed out.

“Cities like Tanjore (Thanjavur), Madurai, and Sanchipuram are often discussed, yet Anuradhapura, the fourth city, has been overlooked. Therefore, it is crucial to develop Anuradhapura city.”

As part of these initiatives, preparations are underway to establish new hotels in Anuradhapura, which will contribute significantly to its development, Wickremesinghe said. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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Government committed to improving living conditions in Jaffna: Sri Lanka PM

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka’s prime minister, who is in Jaffna “to monitor the progress” and “get a little feedback” has said the government is committed to improving living conditions of the people in the northern peninsula.

“This government is dedicated to improving the living conditions of the Jaffna Peninsula,” Dinesh Gunawardena told a Jaffna District Coordinating Committee meeting on Friday, according to a statement by his media division.

“In order to increase the living conditions, we have embarked on an increase in most of the expenditure needed by the departments, and also special allocations for rural and urban development in the local government area.”

Nationalist Gunawardena met with Tamil politicians at the Jaffna Divisional Secretariat Office and participated in the distribution of rice and egg incubators for low income families.

“A special privilege to be with you all, in order to monitor the progress made by all of you, as well as to get a little feedback where we stand today in relation to the reports given.”

Gunawardena joins a string of leading political figures who have visited the north ahead of upcoming polls.

The government was, he said, “committed to improve the services and living conditions, therefore, to provide the necessary infrastructure for developments, which means much to your area.”

The prime minister said he appreciated the efforts of farmers because “farmers are all private sector, I would say. Let us not forget, farmers are all in the private sector, either in the ownership or in the tenancy. They are private contributors to the national development of the economy.”

The poverty numbers are “fairly managed” in the country. Gunawardena said, pointing out that poverty was a key problems in any economy. “Any country, you would agree with me, the richest country, in the United States even, food stamps have been given. So all economies the world are going through difficult situations in relation to the poor.

“We have to look after the poor especially in these remote villages of the Northern Province…”

Minister Douglas Devanada, MPs M A Sumanthiran, Angajan Ramanathan, C Vigneshwaran, Dharmalingam Siddharthan, and other officials participated in the meeting. (Colombo/Jul13/2024)

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