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Rukman - Rajitha clash: Ranil rules Rajitha out

As the issue on the Colombo Municipal Council drags on, UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe finally succumbed to party pressure on Tuesday when he agreed to fully implement reforms in the party with effect from September 1. Wickremesinghe who was playing with the reforms in a half baked manner, on Tuesday told his Political Affairs Committee that the reforms had been accepted and set the date for implementation. Under these reforms, the descendent from the historic 'Botale Walawwa' in Dedigama, Rukman Senanayake will assume the position of party chairman. This appointment will be ratified by the Working Committee on Tuesday. Authoritative sources disclosed that Rukman's name will be proposed by Deputy Leader, Karu Jayasuriya and seconded by the outgoing chairman, Malik Samarawickreme.

Rukman's appointment that has the backing of the majority is likely to be another issue for the UNP. There is a group led by S. B. Dissanayake who is not in favour of Rukman as the next party chairman. Dissanayake who was overseas was scheduled to return to the country this weekend. This group claims that Rukman is an inactive man and the UNP needed an outgoing vibrant personality to lead the party as chairman. Despite, pressure already exerted the SB group, Deputy Leader Jayasuriya has recommended Rukman's appointment as chairman. Wickremesinghe has given the nod. Under the proposed reforms, the UNP will have a host of 'top' officials in the rank and file. There will be a Leader, Deputy Leader, Chairman, several Vice-Chairmen, National Organiser, Treasurer, General Secretary, Deputy General Secretary and ten Assistant Secretaries. It is learnt that Ranil, Karu and SB will hold their present positions while several new faces would be introduced.

Attempt

S. B. Dissanayake's attempt to create two posts for deputy leader has been turned down. Instead, he would have to continue in his present capacity as National Organiser. Tissa Attanayake looks to campaign for the post of General Secretary as N. V. K. K. Weragoda has already tendered his resignation. But, majority of the UNPers are in favour of the outspoken Lakshman Seneviratne from Mahiyanganaya. It is also proposed to elevate Attanayake as a Vice Chairman along with party seniors such as Mohamed, Dharmadasa Banda, Gamini Lokuge, Jayawickrema Perera and a few others to bring Seneviratne as General Secretary.

Seneviratne has stood by the UNP in good and bad times like his father, the late Capt. C. P. J. Seneviratne, a respected politician of the Jayewardene era. Despite differences in the party which is fragmented at present, a majority supports the move to appoint either Rajitha Senaratne or Ravi Karunanayake as Deputy General Secretary. It is learnt that these two names have already been included in the list of Assistant Secretaries. But, the UNP has now given thought to have one of them as Deputy General Secretary to strike a balance.

There are moves to bring in new faces into the Working Committee and Kandy District MP, former Plantation Minister, Lakshman Kiriella is on top of that new list. Wickremesinghe, according to party sources has already authorised Kiriella's inclusion into the Working Committee. When the Political Affairs Committee met this week, it was proposed to implement a 90 day programe to coincide with the centenary birth anniversary of late President, J. R. Jayewardene with religous functions, essay and debate contests at national level.

Following this item on the agenda, the majority in the committee moved that the committee be dissolved as vital information of that closed door committee leaked to the media and at times they were distorted and exaggerated. It was also pointed out that some committee members seized the committee as a forum to sling mud at the leader. Rajitha Senaratne accused Rukman Senanayake of that crime against the leadership. It turned out to be a heated argument. Rukman shot back saying he would not stoop to such a low level and added that he came from a different breed and was never interested in cheap publicity. Ranil Wickremesinghe came into defend Rukman to add that Rukman was one man who was never interested in giving interviews to the media or to speak to the press. Rajitha's allegation was dismissed with Ranil's comment.

Wickremesinghe then told the committee that it was not advisable to dissolve the committee though the majority proposed it and stressed the need to act with collective responsibility in the interest of the party. "The option is open, let us continue to see the progress", Ranil quipped with a smile. After the meeting, some members expressed joy at Ranil's decision to keep the committee as they claimed it was a 'good shot' at Milinda Moragoda who resigned from the committee recently questioning the validity of that committee.

"At least once in a way Ranil must hit Milinda in this manner", a senior UNPer who is at loggerheads with Moragoda was heard whispering to another. Meanwhile, the CMC administration appears to be in a mess with former UNP councillors pressing upon the 'Spectacle' group members to resign. Already, a former deputy mayor, Titus Perera is vying to get into the council to the same position. Deputy Leader of the 'Spectacle' group, Rajendran last week agreed to request one councillor to resign to make way for Perera. But, Rajendran was disturbed when Perera wanted his post in the Council. Perera is a supporter of Mohamed Maharoof who supports the three wheel driver turned Mayor, Imtiyaz Uvais. Rajendran said he was prepared to heed to the directives of Ranil Wickremesinghe but, not for any move by Maharoof to have his men brought to the council at the expense of his group. The anti-Maharoof group in the UNP has launched a full-scale war against the Mayor for his inability to run the administration.

Sirisena Cooray who now 'guides' the Mayor is reported to have written to Rajendran requesting the latter to help bring in Perera as deputy mayor. A copy of this letter has reached the anti-Maharoof group. They have brought it the notice of the UNP who has expressed shock over Cooray's move without consulting the party leadership. Rajendran has stressed that the deputy mayor post should only go to Azath Sally in the event the 'spectacle' group makes way for former UNP councillors to enter the CMC. Also, he has demanded that the Mayor should resign and quit the CMC to have such a program implemented.

Sally polled just a thousand less than the strongman Cooray in the 'indirect' UNP poll to the CMC. Raendran told Wickremesinghe last week that differences in the 'Spectacle' group was caused by none other than Maharoof and requested the UNP leader to keep Maharoof off the scene if the UNP wanted a viable solution to the CMC problem. He also said the strong anti-Maharoof group has now prepared the ground to give 'shocks' to Maharoof in the near future if Maharoof continued to play 'dirty' behind the curtain.

Investigation

The committee appointed to probe the 'tippexing' of the UNP nomination list to the CMC which was rejected has been told to commence investigations. The list had been touched with tippex twenty-two times, sources revealed. Apart from T. M. Sanghadasa's name, another name (with held for inquiry purposes) too had been tippexed. Wickremesinghe is learnt to have told the committee to find out on whose directives this has been caused by the aides employed for the job. In this connection, Wickremesinghe's Secretary, Naufer Rahuman, Moragoda's private secretary, S. Collure and Cooray loyalist, W. M. Tennekoon are on the mat. Sanghadsa has already pointed the finger at Maharoof stating that the latter played the lead role behind the curtain given this situation, the two-member committee probing the charges will have a tough task before them. Party seniors have urged for a fair probe and do not want confidantes of Wickremesinghe to go scot free after the party suffered a severe setback due to irregularities allegedly committed by those confidantes.

 

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