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Sunday, 28 September 2014





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Desperate bid to remain party leader after 31st election defeat:

Santa Claus Ranil offers UNP posts

Was UNP’s Chief ministerial candidate Harin Fernando dreaming of keeping the UNP in the Opposition once more by handing over power of the Uva Provincial Council to the UPFA?

Political observers said that Harin’s statement after the UNP’s defeat at the Uva Provincial Council elections last weekend gives such a meaning, uncovering the hidden agenda of certain quarters within the party who were delighted that the party has suffered its 31st election defeat under the shaky leadership of Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.

It was no surprise that the rebels and reformists within the UNP were daydreaming of a defeat so that they could exert pressure on Ranil to step down and bring in Sajith Premadasa.

The UNP’s dream and that of Ranil was nothing else, but to win the Uva Provincial Council elections. If that had happened, Harin would have become the Chief Minister. But now, it appears that Harin was never aspiring to become the Chief Minister after his controversial statement following the UNP’s defeat - that he had achieved his target at the Uva Provincial Council elections.

Harin boasted that he pushed the UNP to a winning position even after his party failed to take control of the Uva PC. At the same time, he had admitted that the UNP had not attracted the votes of the plantation Tamils sufficiently in the Badulla district. This trend, he said, had prevented the party from getting an overall majority in the district.

UPFA Chief Ministerial candidate Shashindra Rajapaksa obtained the highest number of preferential votes from the Moneragala District securing 96,619 votes. Ananda Kumarasiri of the UNP secured the highest number of preferential votes with 24,421 votes from the district.

UNP Chief Ministerial candidate Harin Fernando received the highest number of preferential votes from the Badulla district with 173,993 votes while Anura Vidanagamage finished on top of the UPFA list from the same district with 59,316 preferential votes.

It seems that some UNPers have responded to Parliamentarian Ranjan Ramanayake’s call to support the JVP’s chief ministerial candidate Samantha Vidyaratne, as he has obtained 14,161 preferential votes.

UPFA wins with comfortable majority

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) won the Uva Provincial Council in convincing fashion winning 19 out of the 34 seats on offer, polling a total of 349,906 votes. The UPFA made a clean sweep of Moneragala bagging all three electorates in the district with huge majorities and won six of the nine electorates in the Badulla district.

The UNP bagged 13 seats and the JVP two. The Democratic Party of Sarath Fonseka not only failed to win a seat but received a paltry 6,076 votes from the entire Uva Province. Political observers say the UPFA’s victory at the Uva Provincial election shows that the people have reposed faith in the UPFA, led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The UNP won by slim majorities in Welimada, Hali-ela and Badulla polling divisions. The Welimada polling division was won by the UNP with a majority of a mere 750 votes. The UPFA’s victory in the backdrop of a vicious campaign launched by the UNP in connivance with the JVP and Democratic Party is a clear endorsement of the Government’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous Sri Lanka, transcending political differences, these observers noted.

The UPFA won the Moneragala electorate by a majority of over 22,000 votes, Wellawaya by over 21,000 and Bibile by over 16,000. The UPFA polled 33,307 votes in Bibile which was badly affected by the drought while the UNP secured only 16,229 votes.

The UNP gained only 13 seats in the Uva Provincial Council while the JVP had to be content with a mere two seats. The UPFA’s 19 seats included the two bonus seats by virtue of winning both districts that make up the Uva Province.

In the Moneragala district, the UPFA secured eight seats by polling 140,850 votes with the UNP taking the second slot with five seats.

Political analysts pointed out that the UNP lost their stronghold Passara where the party held its 68th anniversary almost on the eve of the election. “The people have delivered a slap in the face to the Democratic Party which was unable to secure even a single seat”. They said the people have rejected the Democratic Party which launched a massive election campaign motivated by the slight uptick in voting for them, in the Western and Southern provincial council elections.

Susil: UPFA lacked new faces

General Secretary of the UPFA Susil Premajayantha has said that failure to field young and new faces in the Badulla District prevented the UPFA extending its victory margin at last weekend’s polls.

Addressing the media at the SLFP head office, Environment and Renewable Energy Minister Premajayantha said the media must not compare the 2009 and 2010 PC polls results with the Uva PC polls results as they were held at a time the entire country was basked in euphoria of the victory against terrorism.

"The President and the government were extremely popular at that time as the polls were held soon after the victory on the conclusion of the humanitarian operation. Though there has been a drop of voter support for the UPFA at this election, we have been able to win two very strong UNP bastions of Mahiyangana and Passara constituencies in spite of it being won by the UNP in 2009, which is a huge victory for the UPFA,” he stressed.

Asked whether the government was ready to change its election strategies in future following Saturday’s election results, Minister Premajayantha said the government changed its strategies from election to election.

The minister did not rule out the possibility of conducting the Presidential election in 2015 as speculated by many and added the government was ready to face any election as it had won eight out of nine PC polls held in the recent past and polled almost double of what UNP had polled at these elections.

JVP - further into political wilderness

The JVP new their fate even before the nominations were called for the Uva PC. Hence, all JVP members were instructed by the party leadership to follow various strategies to cover their political nudity.

Their main strategy was to lodge as many as election-related complaints at NGOs monitoring elections. At the same time, the JVP candidates were strictly instructed to take only the actual complaints to the police as the police would hold immediate investigations. If the complaints were found false, police apprehended those who had lodged them. Hence, the JVP was clever enough to lodge their false complaints only to the NGOs monitoring the elections.

The JVP bagged only two slots, a seat each from Moneragala and Badulla districts, at the Uva Provincial Council polls. Instead of talking about their political nudity, the JVP attempted to undermine the UPFA’s victory, alleging that the ruling party suffered the worst electoral setback.

Addressing a post-election press conference, JVP leader Parliamentarian Anura Kumara Dissanayake said the UPFA, as the ruling party, declared this election as a launching point for its political programme targeting the next Presidential election.

Dissanayake said the government went to polls in the Uva Province, as the last of a series of such Provincial Council elections, in the hope of securing the highest victory as a morale boost.

He made a subtle attempt to paint a wrong picture by adding the votes polled by the JVP and the UNP, which would never unite at a general or presidential election. “The UPFA received the narrowest victory at this election. In Badulla, the opposition has outnumbered the government in the total votes polled,” the JVP leader said in a desperate attempt to cover their political bankruptcy.

The JVP leader, which was boasting of gaining power at Uva PC seemed to be more than happy with the two seats they managed to secure. “Last time, we had only one seat. Now, we have two seats. We did not have a representation in Moneragala last time. There is one this time,” he said. However, he admitted that the party could not win enough seats to be a decisive factor in running the council.

Attanayake resigns

Most UNP seniors were shocked by the popularity of Harin Fernando among their party supporters. Some identified Harin as a threat to their political careers and discussed appropriate matters.

UNP General Secretary and parliamentarian Tissa Attanayake on Monday submitted his resignation from the party’s Leadership Council headed by Karu Jayasuriya. He had sent his letter of resignation to UNP national leader Ranil Wickremesinghe with a copy to Jayasuriya.

In his letter of resignation, Attanayake said he was deeply hurt by the behavior of some members in the leadership council during the past few months, alleging that some members of the leadership council had criticised him for his stance with regard to Hambantota District parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa.

The UNP General Secretary also accused these members of criticising him publicly through media. Therefore, he said he could no longer sit in the leadership council.

“The situation in the leadership council does not allow me to remain in it and I cannot continue as a member of the leadership council against my conscience,” he said.

On the following day, UNP Assistant Leader Joseph Michael Perera said that he had resigned from his post to pave the way for younger members to take over.

Sajith regains UNP deputy leadership

After years of struggle within the party, the reformist group, UNP MP Sajith Premadasa was finally re-appointed deputy leader of the UNP by the party’s Working Committee on Monday. Colombo District MP Ravi Karunanayake who showed severe opposition to Sajith’s return as the deputy leader, was appointed assistant leader.

Ranil was forced to make some lavish appointments after Harin proved his popularity among the UNPer, but the UNP leader made sure that the majority of the new appointments goes to his confidants.

For an instance, Kurunegala District MP Akila Viraj Kariyawasam was brought from nowhere to be appointed deputy general secretary and parliamentarian Eran Wickremeratne as treasurer.

At the same time, Ranil attempted to satisfy all by appointing parliamentarian Thalatha Atukorala as the secretary of election affairs and parliamentarian Ranjith Madduma Bandara as senior vice president. In making such appointments, Ranil was planning to woo inside support to cement his UNP candidature for the next presidential election.

A jubilant Sajith said that he would support UNP national leader Ranil Wickremesinghe unconditionally at the presidential election and gave an assurance that he would contribute his fullest to bring about Ranil’s victory.

“UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe nominated me as the deputy leader and it was unanimously approved by the working committee. I have got an opportunity to give my contribution and strength to save the country which is politically and economically in a mess, and take the people towards prosperity under a UNP government.

I will support our leader at the presidential election without any conditions,” he said.

Eran on uniting the party

Ranil’s strategy of satisfying all – awarding strategic positions to his confidants with the future in mind and sharing the balance among the reformist group rebels was obvious by several statements made by his close associates.

UNP parliamentarian Eran Wickremeratne said it was a historic decision to come together as one unit by shedding differences to take the party towards victory.

“The unity of the party has further been proved through the new appointments by the working committee. We have only one objective and that is to set up a UNP government very soon,” he said.

Ranil who chaired the meeting told the UNP working committee that any of them could object to the appointment of Sajith Premadasa, if they wished, before the appointment was made. However no one had objected.

Ruwan offers to step down

Following Harin Fernando proving his popularity among UNPer, Gampaha District parliamentarian Ruwan Wijewardene offered to step down from his position in the party - as the President of the party’s youth wing – the National Youth Front.

Ruwan offered to step down and make way for Harin Fernando.

“Harin had sacrificed his parliamentary membership for the UNP to contest the elections for the Uva Provincial Council. He has proved that positions are of no value when it comes to the wellbeing of the party.

Therefore, I made this decision to resign as Chairman of the NYF and give to Harin the praise he deserves,” Ruwan was quoted as saying.

Knowing that it would be an uphill task and not easy as polling preferential votes from Badulla, Harin had said he was not in a position to accept any such post at present.

He later told media that the UNP must work for the people of Uva.

“My prime concern is to work for the party more than any position but nevertheless I will work in my new post,” Harin said.

“I’m truly honoured by his gesture but I don’t want to be NYF Chairman by ousting Ruwan.

He should stay as the Chairman and I will always help him. He has already launched many programmes through the NYF with an upcoming general election in mind,” he said and added that. Wijewardene was an honest politician with good qualities.

Meanwhile, loud cheers greeted Sajith Premadasa when he came out of Sirikotha after he was appointed deputy leader, a post he earned after a long struggle.

But according to the UNP constitution, any member is free to file objections to the new appointments within seven days.

The leadership council is not likely to be abolished immediately as many of the working committee members had said the council had done the party much good.

Akila confirms Ranil as presidential candidate

UNP parliamentarian Akila Viraj Kariyawasam’s first job after being appointed Deputy General Secretary of the party was to cement his leader’s place as their presidential election candidate.

Akila told a news conference at party headquarters Sirikotha on Tuesday that UNP National Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe would be the party’s presidential candidate.

“The UNP will not field any other candidate but will have its present leader as the presidential because what people want is a leader who is not corrupt, who can develop the economy and who is not interested in earning commissions,” he said. Overjoyed by his new position and plans to replace even Tissa Attanayake in the future as the General Secretary, Akila said the UNP was going to take the people to the streets and people have shown that they were ready to do so.

President in New York

President Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived in New York City last week and addressed the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).

It was the President’s seventh address to the General Assembly, taking the Sri Lankan identity to the highest world forum.

In addition to the 69th session of the U.N. General Assembly, the President is also participated in several other major international events that took place last week including the Climate Summit 2014, the Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative and a meeting with the Commonwealth Heads of Governments.

President Rajapaksa joined former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton at the 2014 annual meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to extend Sri Lanka’s support to the Elephant Action Network that works toward the conservation of the endangered animals.

Several other leaders joined President Rajapaksa on stage for the event, including Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, the President of Gabon Ali Bongo Ondimba and the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Binh Minh. The initiative was primarily aimed at putting an international spotlight on the crisis facing African elephants.

Speaking at the event, President Ondimba called on the world to come together to take concrete action to save Africa’s elephants, pointing out that collective actions will determine the future of these majestic animals. President Rajapaksa participated in the event following an invitation by former Secretary Clinton earlier this year.

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