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
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
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
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
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.
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.