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Hashan's wife gets SLFP membership from Namal

Former Sri Lanka cricket captain turned politician Hashan Tillakaratne has always been a non-controversial character, be it in his playing days as a cricketer or as a politician. He has always played his role to the perfection without making a big noise to gain the attraction of media.

But his charming wife, popular television presenter Apsari Singhabahu Tillakaratne dropped a bombshell at the very beginning of the 2014 Provincial Council election campaign. National cricket selector Hashan was in Kandy, keeping a close eye on the performance of the Sri Lanka youth cricketers, when his wife decided to make a crucial political decision.

It took everyone by storm when Apsari climbed the UPFA stage when her cousin brother and millionaire businessmen Ajith Subasinghe launched his campaign at Gothatuwa New Town on Wednesday under the patronage of parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa. Apsari obtained SLFP membership from Namal, much to the delight to the UPFA supporters who warmly welcomed the former Sri Lanka rugby captain and the founder of the Tharunyata Hetak movement.

Several parliamentarians, including Colombo District MP and former Sri Lanka cricket chief Thilanga Sumathipala, were on stage when Apsari obtained SLFP membership from Namal. Thilanga, who has been a close friend of Tillakaratne family since his playing days, greeted Apsari for her bold decision and extended support for the candidature of Subasinghe.

But Hashan's wife had to face numerous questions from media and UNP supporters in Piliyandala and Avissawella areas where the former Sri Lanka captain has been actively involved in UNP politics. Apsari said she joined the UPFA to support her close relative.

She may have had other reasons to do so as UNP has not given the due recognition to Hashan who had successfully contested the last Western Provincial Council under the UNP ticket. In 2005, Hashan was made UNP's joint organiser of the Avissawella electorate with Sagara Senaratne. In 2010, he was forced to resign and later called for interviews for a fresh organiser post. But a top Colombo UNP stalwart has been blocking Hashan for obvious reasons.

Though Hashan was promised Ratmalana electorate, it was later given to Srinath Perera, totally underestimating the contribution made by the former Sri Lanka captain. Hence, he decided not to contest the 2014 Western Provincial Council elections in disgust.

Though Hashan had not informed this to the party, none of the UNP leaders, except Karu Jayasuriya, even had courtesy to inquire from Hshan, as a sitting PC member, whether he is seeking re-election. Neither the UNP and Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe nor the party's Colombo District leader Ravi Karunanayake had asked Hashan whether he would be contesting the Western Provincial Council elections.

It was under such a scenario that Apsari accepted the SLFP membership from Namal last week. It could perhaps be an indication that Hashan too is likely to join the SLFP shortly with the hope of contesting the next general election under the UPFA ticket.

Muzza is Gota's man, alleges Ranil

The traditional Nawam maha perahera of Gangaramaya, Hunupitiya began on Friday night under the patronage of the Chief incumbent of the temple Ven. Galaboda Ganissara Thera and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The President placed the casket containing the relics on the tusker at the commencement of annual Navam Maha Perahera.

The President was seated between the Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mayor of Colombo M.J.M. Muzzamil. They got an opportunity to have a brief pow wow during the proceedings.

After sharing a few words with Ranil and Muzzamil, the President turned to Ranil and said that Colombo's Mayor is not joining the Government. "We have asked him to join if he wishes but the mayor wishes to remain in the UNP," the President told the Opposition leader. "No Sir, he may not join the Government but he is Gotabaya's man," Ranil replied.

The UNP leader, perhaps, would have referred to the close association with Mayor Muzzamil has maintained with Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa in developing the Colombo city to a brighter, cleaner and a green city. Irrespective of petty party politics, the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence and Urban Development has been closely working with the mayor to develop Colombo and its suburbs.

It is a pity that Ranil has not understood that the Defence Secretary development plan has been hailed by all, mainly the people in Colombo city in which the majority of people are UNPers. But Muzzamil has been ill-treated by the UNP as a result and even his wife did not get nominations to contest the Western PC on the UNP ticket.

UNP's decision not to give nominations to Feroza Muzammil, wife of the Mayor of Colombo A.J.M. Muzammil, will add more problems to the main Opposition.

The Mayor of Colombo was dejected after UNP nomination board's decision to reject his wife Feroza Muzammil's application to contest from Colombo District on the UNP ticket. In less than 24 hours after her rejection, Feroza Muzammil resigned from the National Executive Committee of the UNP. Subsequently, Muzzamil too stepped down from the UNP's executive committee in disgust.

More counting officers

UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake said last week that the Elections Commissioner has agreed to provide more vote counting officers for next month's Provincial Council elections. He said that it would to ensure transparency and credibility of the vote counting process and also to allow the political parties to open an office at every counting centre to carry out their election-related activities.

Tissa said that the Elections Commissioner has admitted that some former provincial council members have not handed back their official vehicles, residences and other state assets, and assured that he would take steps to charge such politicians with misusing state property.

Attanayake expressed these views following a discussion held at the Election Secretariat where political party representatives and police officers met with the Elections Commissioner.

"The Elections Commissioner promised us that he would direct the police to remove illegal posters and cutouts from February 17," Attanayake added.

Susanthika in Gammanpila's campaign

Olympic silver medallist Susanthika Jayasinghe was among the distinguish gathering when former Western Provincial Council minister Udaya Gammanpila launched his election campaign under the patronage of Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the Sri Lanka Foundation Institute auditorium last week.

The Defence Secretary said that with the Geneva sessions coming up in March, the forthcoming Western and Southern Provincial Council polls was a good opportunity for the people to show that they were still with the government and the President.

"We have rehabilitated 12,800 LTTE cadres and released them into the society. We have built houses and resettled people in the North while thousands of houses have been allocated for low-income families in Colombo without considering their nationalities, religious or political parties. We held Provincial Council elections in the North and appointed their representatives into power. So we have practiced good governance instead of just talking about it and limiting it to words," the Defence Secretary said.

He said this government found solutions for the garbage issue, which was prevalent in the country just as the LTTE terrorism issue."Some people ask why the Defence Secretary was removing garbage in the country. That's because if we can serve the public by removing garbage and cleaning the society then we shall do it for the people's benefit. We have worked closely with the Colombo's Mayor. So close, that even his wife didn't get nominations to contest the upcoming election from the UNP. That itself shows the good governance of the UNP," Rajapaksa explained.

The Defence Secretary said the ultimate objective of those who bring resulutions against Sri Lanka in Geneva is to remove President Mahinda Rajapaksa from office and topple the government so that they could have a weak Government and a leadership that would dance to the tune of the West.

"They know that with the current regime and President they cannot divide this nation or fulfill their political agendas. So this upcoming election is a good opportunity for Sri Lankans to show that they are with President Rajapaksa and the government," he said.

Shiral, Maithri challenge expulsion

UNP rebels and former Provincial Council members - Shiral Laktileke and Maithri Gunaratne who have not been given nominations from the party to contest the forthcoming elections are continuing their battle against the party leadership. While some Ranil loyalists attempt to push them towards the Government, the duo have vowed to remain in the party to continue their battle for a change in the party leadership.

When the petitions filed by Shiral Laktileke and Maithri Gunaratne, against their expulsion from the party was taken up before the Court of Appeal last Thursday, the Bench ordered the Disciplinary Committee of the UNP, cited as a respondent, to file objections on March 13.

In their course of action, the two petitioners say that the reasons for their expulsion amongst others are the allegation that they had a connection in respect of the attack against Siri Kotha - the UNP headquarters. They also allege that their expulsion is against the Party Constitution.

The petitioners pray for a writ of certiorari quashing the decision to expel them from the UNP.

Karu talks on UNP nominations

The UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jaysuriya said that the party was compelled to leave out several capable people from its nomination lists to contest the elections to the provincial councils because of the large number of applicants seeking nominations on the party ticket.

Karu told journalists the party would ensure that these applicants have a stable political career in the future. He said there were a large number of applicants from the Districts of Colombo, Galle and Kalutara and the nomination board did its best to select the best candidates but in the process had to reluctantly leave out a few of the applicants.

Karu added that some media organisations had confused matters and exaggerated them by carrying out a vituperative campaign. He said there was no doubt that this election too would be far from free and fair when considering how the ruling party was conducting its election campaign.

The LC chief alleged welcomed the smooth leadership change in the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and said all opposition political parties must work together to defeat the common enemy. But he has not uttered a word on the growing demand for a leadership change in the UNP.

UNP loses Sally's support

It seems that controversial UNPer Azath Salley is in two minds on his political future. The former Deputy Mayor of Colombo who crossed over to the Government and later returned to the UNP had earlier declared that he would not support the UNP in the upcoming Provincil Council elections.

But Sally says that his decision is only applicable to next month's PC polls.

The leader of the National Unity Alliance (NUA) Salley, clarifying on a statement made by him and published in local media, stated that his party would not be extending its support to the UNP only for the upcoming provincial council elections.

The UNP Central Provincial Councilor stated that the decision has been reached because the leader of the UNP had not delivered on his promise of providing the NUA with three nominations for the districts of Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara. "This we believe is due to their inability to go beyond the infighting that is prevalent in their ranks and their unwillingness to make necessary changes that will establish a coalition of strong candidates who can bring about a new government," he said.

GL gets China's support

Vice-President Li Yuanchao of the People's Republic of China during his discussions with the Minister of External Affairs, G. L. Peiris on Tuesday in Beijing, expressing unequivocal support towards safeguarding Sri Lanka's self-respect, sovereignty and territorial integrity, stated that "China - Sri Lanka bilateral relations is a time honored Friendship under whatever circumstances". Upholding the view that human rights should be dealt with based on the principles of equality and mutual respect, both the Vice-President and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China articulated in clear terms the attitude of the People's Republic of China on matters pertaining to human rights in Sri Lanka and expressed full confidence in Sri Lanka's ability to chart an appropriate course for its people and strongly condemned the use of human rights as a device to interfere in the domestic affairs of a country.

Professor Peiris, who concluded a three-day official visit to China at the invitation of his counterpart, had productive and in - depth discussions with the Chinese dignitaries in providing substance to the elevated status of "strategic co-operative partnership" between Sri Lanka and China.

Vice-President Li Yuanchao made reference to the salient features of the "Mahinda Chinthana" and expressed confidence that the approach reflected in this thinking would provide a strong base for fulfilling the aspirations of the Sri Lankan people. He assured Minister Peiris of China's resolute support in this regard.

Reflecting on the special and warm relations the two countries share, the Vice-President identified Sri Lanka to be an important component of the Maritime Silk Route and invited the country to play an important role in this initiative. Professor Peiris welcomed this proposal as a means of strengthening co-operation in respect of maritime matters among the countries of the region. This initiative was discussed in parallel to building an Asian community in sustaining the growth momentum and drawing on the synergies of Asian economic development.

Improving bilateral trade and tourism were also discussed as important modules in achieving the full potential of the strategic co-operative partnership. China agreed to fast track negotiations to conclude the Free Trade Agreement in promoting mutually beneficial trade. Noting the extensive increase in Chinese out-bound tourists, Vice-President Li supported broadening the scope for Sri Lanka to explore tourism promotion opportunities in China as a further means of strengthening people to people interactions.

China endorsed Sri Lanka's proposal to constitute a Joint Commission mechanism between the two countries at the level of Foreign Ministers in enabling periodic review of the comprehensive partnership between the two countries.

Russia applauds SL reconciliation effort

Apart from China, Russia and Iran too have extended their support for Sri Lanka against international conspiracies. Russian Federation Foreign Affairs Ministry Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights Department Director Anatoly Viktorov said that the measures taken by the leadership and the people of Sri Lanka to overcome post-war challenges are impressive.

"I am sure that goodwill and national movement towards reconciliation and economic restoration will help address them properly. Much has already been done for that purpose," he said.

"Some countries often threaten or imply sanctions against other countries which they consider to be violators of human rights. Russia rejects such an approach," he said.

"Those sanctions only increase the suffering of people and contribute to aggravating their situation.

Everyone must firmly uphold general principles of technical assistance in human rights promotion. It must be provided on request of the state concerned and politically neutral. No state must be forced to accept technical assistance," he said.

Russia strongly rejects threats or implying sanctions against other countries considering those to be human rights violators, Viktorov added. "We are of the view that although human rights could be a legitimate concern of the international community, they must not be used as a pretext for interference in internal affairs or, even worse, use of force," he told a press conference at the Colombo Hilton on Friday.

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