Outside Politics

1st October 2000
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This bus belongs to me

This bus belongs to me

Among a large fleet of vehicles used by an influential candidate in a southern constituency is a bus that is wrapped up from top to bottom with posters. They carry the photograph of the smiling politico and calls upon the public to vote for him. The only spaces blank are the doors and windows. It took a bright spark in an opposition candidate's team to discover why, like chocolates, the entire bus was wrapped up in posters. The bus belonged to a State run service. Its logo and other details were well concealed by the posters. That included even the numberplates. The long arm of the law was hesitant to reach out for the bus. The posters seemed a warning not to do so. 

If that was bad enough, insiders say, there was another polls operation by the supporters of the same candidate that kept all rivals at bay. 

A group of toughies set out in vehicles past midnight to remove posters, cut outs and other placards of rival candidates. Before crack of dawn, there was only propaganda material of the candidate in question that was left. So much so, passersby are baffled there is no election activity by any political party than one. 

Polls on wheels

In a tiny bazaar at Walagedera, along the Alutgama Matugama Road, a left party candidate was in the thick of his polls campaign. 

There were no bodyguards, no toughies in bus loads and no posters. He had only a Megaphone and alighted from a three wheeler where his large photograph floated in the air like a windsock at an airfield. Our man stood in front of a crowded bus stand and screamed loud about corruption and mismanagement. For passengers waiting for a bus, it seemed an appropriate moment when the candidate castigated the World Bank for ruining the country's transport services and causing hardships for the people.

Just then the bus to Matugama arrived at the scene and all passengers boarded it. There was no audience but the candidate went on with his tirade for a few more minutes, before boarding the three wheeler, looking for another crowd. 

Points to ponder 

TNL television network's popular Janahanda programme last Friday on the polls campaign and violence brought out many points for voters to ponder over. Former UNPer and now Muslim Congress candidate for Colombo district, A.J.M. Muzzamil, struck a different note from his late leader, M.H.M. Ashraff, about the Yellow Ribbon campaign for a free and fair polls. Mr Ashraff made a Rs 100,000 donation for the campaign several hours before boarding the ill fated Mi-17 flight that crashed. Mr Muzzamil, however, not only doubted the effectiveness of the campaign but also chided Olympic bronze medal winner Susanthika Jayasinghe for wearing one. 

When the programme invited public comments, Ravaya Editor, Victor Ivan, shot off a quick query to Mr. Muzzamil. As a Sri Lankan citizen, was Susanthika not entitled to wear a ribbon and thus express her feelings ? 

But, more embarrassment was to come when queries were raised over a terrorist suspect being a candidate for the National Unity Alliance (NUA), the off shoot of Muslim Congress. They were referring to Sivagnanam Ahileswaran, who was, only two months ago, arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. 

The detention order for his arrest declared Ahileswaran as "being a member of the LTTE terrorist organisation supplied information to the leader of the said organisation in Batticaloa regarding the situation of and security arrangements to Dalada Maligawa and planned to assassinate Deputy Minister of Defence in Kandy and failed to give information regarding unlawful activity to a police officer

When the question of Ahileswaran was raised by UNP Parliamentarian, R.A.D. Sirisena, Mr Muzzamil replied he was not the same person who was on detention under the PTA. It was another person altogether. 

This was to bring in avalanche of responses. Shot in the leader of the Sihala Urumaya, S.L. Gunasekera, in his inimitable and articulate style. He said the NUA should expel their Secretary for asserting that Ahileswaran had signed the nomination paper for the polls in front of him whereas he had remained in Bogambara prison. "The NUA has begun their polls campaign on a fraudulent note," he declared. Chipping in was UNP's candidate for Kandy district, Keheliya Rambukwella. He dropped a bombshell by saying that the NUA candidate and the person arrested under the PTA were one and the same. His photograph together with that of SLMC member M.L.A.M. Hisbullah, had appeared in many towns in the eastern province. 

An uneasy Mr. Muzzamil was to change his stance and declare that the party hierarchy would take a decision on the matter shortly. Then it came to the shooting incident at Getambe where it was alleged that a son of Deputy Defence Minister, Anuruddha Ratwatte, was involved. Minister Ratwatte, however, denied at a hurriedly summoned news conference in Kandy that any of his children were involved in a shooting incident. He added that even Mr. Keheliya Rambukwella, had not said that in his complaint to the Police. 

But Mr. Rambukwella declared during the Janahanda programme that he did accuse a son of Minister Ratwatte of allegedly shooting at his vehicle in a complaint made to the Police. 

He also alleged that the son in question had driven past another meeting he addressed seated in the front seat of a vehicle. He was brandishing a pistol and was patting his face with it. There were armed men in the vehicle with weapons pointed outside. He said he expected the Police to arrest them. Instead, a senior Police officer who was at the scene stood to attention and saluted the son, he alleged.

However, a member of Minister Ratwatte's political campaign yesterday denied his son was involved. 

Colours of Bangkok 

Believe it or not. A powerful candidate running a fierce campaign in the hills received a large stock of colour posters some weeks ago from a close supporter. They were all printed in Bangkok !! 

World Bank aid!

A witty Opposition politician says it's aid from the World Bank, commenting on the multi million rupee polls campaign of an academic turned politician who extolls his own virtues.

The remarks came when the politician was told that this candidate had signed a deal running into millions of rupees with a private TV channel to broadcast his polls ad. There was a post script too. The cloth banner resembling a scroll which adorned every tree and lamp post, the witty man said, could have made dresses for at least 5,000 needy children. 

Tiger target 

Prime Minister, Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, who is leading the People's Alliance election campaign declared during rallies last week that he had received death threats. One had come in the form of a letter written in Tamil. 

Even before he made the declaration, he was undoubtedly a target for the LTTE. The Presidential Security men detailed for his protection are well aware for none other than the Department of Internal Intelligence has warned them. 

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