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,
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.
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
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
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.
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