Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 19 July 2015





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Government Gazette

Behind Closed Doors

Corridor talk, legal grumbles and portfolio manoeuvres

Legal eagles question EC’s ban on President’s speech

In an interesting turn of events, the Elections Commissioner, last week, told the media that he would instruct electronic media stations to stop telecasting President Sirisena’s recent address to the nation in which he commented on the UPFA nominations.

This ruling by the top elections officer sent ripples across some political circles last week as they felt the Elections Commissioner had no ‘authority’ to impose a ban of that nature.

Several lengthy discussions took place among legal eagles over challenging the Elections Commissioner’s statement before the Supreme Court.

Their main contention was that the President made his speech as an address to the nation and, therefore, the Elections Commissioner was not in a position to prevent TV and radio stations from telecasting it.

On the other hand, they argued, the President was not a candidate of the Parliamentary election and his ‘privileges’ should remain intact.

Irrespective of its outcome, the possible ‘battle’ between the Elections Commissioner and the legal experts will add tension to the mounting political contest as the country counts down to a crucial Parliamentary election.

Corridor talk

Following the President’s special statement on Tuesday over the UPFA nomination saga, an Advisor to the President, who held a key position in the country’s transport sector a few years ago, was seen having a conversation with a colleague inside the Presidential Secretariat.

The Advisor seemed disappointed over the fact that the President did not attack the UNP and its leader over the Treasury bonds issue.

“He was about to say something interesting about the bond issue but he swallowed it,” the Advisor said voicing his disappointment.

“He should have attacked the UNP a little harder,” he added. The Advisor, who has a doctorate, was unaware of the fact that a journalist, who was there to cover the President’s speech, was eavesdropping on the conversation. Interestingly, this Advisor is widely known as a person who is close to the JHU and its circles.

Although the UNP is anathema to him, all his close friends are now contesting the Parliamentary election from a UNP-led alliance, under the ‘elephant’ symbol.

Beating the deer skin

It is no secret that the SLFP is in upheaval over the President’s declaration that nomination to the former President was given against his will.

Those SLFP seniors angered by the President’s statements, know that they were not in a position to act against their party Chairman as his position was safeguarded by the party constitution. Knowing that they could not challenge the President in a decisive manner, certain party seniors made a childish decision to remove all his pictures from the Opposition Leader’s office. Even the minor staff members of the Opposition Leader’s office were making fun of the patently vindictive decision made by their bosses on Thursday.

They said the conduct of the SLFP seniors resembled the story of the unsuccessful hunter who kept beating the deer skin every night.

Duminda blocked by rival

Duminda’s Silva’s removal from the UPFA nominations list came as a surprise to many as the party had even decided to give nomination to Premalal Jayasekera, who is in remand in connection with a murder in Ratnapura. Several party officials visited him in prison to get his signature for nomination papers for the Ratnapura district. At the same time, in place of Sarana Gunawardena, his wife was allowed to contest from Gampaha, keeping the Gunawardena legacy alive in the electoral race. It was against this backdrop that Duminda Silva’s nomination papers were rejected.

Informed sources of the UPFA told the Sunday Observer that Duminda Silva’s nomination was rejected due to the influence of one of the senior-most officials in the party who is also a contestant for Colombo. The official played a crucial role in the nominations process due to his key role in the party. The party bigwig had calculated that the inclusion of Duminda Silva in the list would shut him out of Parliament for the next five years as Silva’s vote-bank in Colombo was strong. That same ambitious UPFA politico was the happiest when Patali Champika Ranawaka and Hirunika Premachandra, candidates for Colombo, decided to contest the election on the UNP ticket.

Portfolio manoeuvres

Former SLFP MPs, who were previously in the pro-Sirisena camp, have now embarked on a desperate mission to attract pro-Rajapaksa voters through various publicity stunts.

As part of this plan, three Deputy Ministers resigned from their posts last week in protest over the President’s statement about giving nomination to former President Rajapaksa.

Although the announcement of their resignation was done with much media fanfare, the MPs, who represented Parliament for five long years, were not aware of the fact that the cabinet turned into a caretaker one with the dissolution of Parliament and the announcement of election. In that context, their resignations do not make any impact on the government and its affairs due to the caretaker nature of the cabinet.

It would be interesting to see whether the three Deputy Ministers have managed to fool their electorates by a pointless resignation a few weeks before the election.


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