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Friday August 19th, 2022

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

View all comments (2)

Comments (2)

Your email address will not be published.

  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

Sri Lanka schedules 3-hour power cuts for Aug 20, 21: regulator

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka will impose power cuts of up to three hours on Saturday August 20 and Sunday August 21, Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL) Chairman Janaka Ratnayake said.

All areas (A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V and W) will have power cuts of 1 hours and 40 minutes between 10.30 am and 06.00 pm and 1 hour 20 minutes from 06.00pm to 10.00 pm.

Click here for a detailed schedule.

The state-run Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) said supply interruption time and restoration time will vary within 30 minutes as indicated above.

Sri Lanka’s daily scheduled power cuts that were reduced to one hour in July with power generation from hydro power plants contributing more than 50 percent to the main grid reducing thermal power plant use was extended to three hours last week due to a breakdown at the Norochcholai coal power plant.

According to officials, the breakdown happened in Unit 1 of Norochcholai which will take around two weeks to repair.

The Minister of Power & Energy said Unit 2 is undergoing scheduled maintenance work while Unit 3 will continue to operate. West Coast and other fuel power pPlants will be used to manage the supply, the ministry said. (Colombo/Aug02/2022)

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Sri Lanka guidance peg edges T-bond yield edge down

ECONOMYNEXT – Sri Lanka Central Bank’s guidance peg for interbank transactions edged down on Friday (19), while yields in Treasury bonds picked up slightly and in T-bill remain unquoted in dull trade, a day after the Central Bank announced the policy rates will remain stable, dealers said.

A bond maturing on 01. 06. 2025 closed at 27.95/28.05 percent on Friday, slightly up from 27.90/28.00 percent on Thursday.

No T-bills were quoted on Friday, dealers said.

Meanwhile Sri Lanka’s central bank announced a guidance peg for interbank transactions further weakened by three cents to 361.00 rupees against the US dollar on Friday from 360.97 rupees.

Data showed that commercial banks offered dollars for telegraphic transfers between 368.00 and 370.00 for small transactions.  (Colombo/ Aug 19/2022)

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Sri Lanka records 10 new COVID-19 deaths in 48 hours as case numbers rise

ECONOMYNEXT –  Sri Lanka recorded 10 COVID-19 deaths in the 48 hours from August 17 to 19 taking the country’s pandemic death toll to 16,640, health ministry data showed.

Sri Lanka is experiencing a slight increase in COVID-19 cases with the relaxation of public health restrictions relating to face masks and public gatherings.

Health authorities said the situation will be monitored constantly and have asked the general public to continue to follow basic hygiene measures in order to control the spread of the virus again in the community.

In August alone 2,924 new cases were recorded in Sri Lanka, with 84 deaths attributed to the disease.

So far in 2022, from January onward, health authorities have identified 81,157 patients to date.

Epidemiology unit data showed that 874 patients are currently receiving treatment, out of which 716 are receiving home based care.

The spread of the virus has increased with the use of public transport rising after an easing of a fuel crisis.

Sri Lanka is also facing difficulties in securing essential medicine supplies for the health sector due to a forex shortage.

Health officials said if the number of COVID-19 patients rise to a level the health sector cannot manage,  with the added issues of fuel and medical shortages, the health system might collapse.

“It is the responsibility of us all. There is no use trying to forcibly control people. We all have the responsibility to reduce or stop the spread of the virus before it gets out of control. We have been living with it for the past two years,” Deputy Director General of Health Services Dr Hemantha Herath said. (Colombo/Aug19/2022)

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