against Marapana turns out to be 'no-confidence' on opposition
main national ceremony to mark the first anniversary of
the ceasefire agreement was held yesterday evening at the
Independence Square with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe
in attendence. The Prime Minister and ministers are seen
releasing pigeons to mark the event. Pix by M.A.Pushpakumara
The 42 vote
defeat of the no-confidence motion brought against Defence Minister
Tilak Marapana was seen by party insiders and various others as
a vote of no confidence against the opposition, on its ability to
muster forces and launch any credible and organised attack against
in the PA side of the parliamentary divide however had warned of
the government's pre -emptive strike in bringing this motion against
the Minister of Defence. One such was Jeyaraj Fernandopulle who
has been involved in many a drama this week (
sketchbook below.) Fernandopulle met PA heavyweight Anura Bandaranaike
(without whom anything important in the PA does not seem to happen
these days) on the morning of the vote, and said this pre emptive
strike would make the opposition look rather small, when the final
votes are counted. This in fact was what happened.
Not only did
the opposition lose badly and thereby let slip the real strength
in parliament in terms of numbers -- but also, the opposition showed
its slip by portraying itself as an outfit that could not even get
its key players together for a key vote.
Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake was late, and therefore could
not vote. Lakshman Kadirgamar was at a meeting with the President,
Jeyaraj Fernandopulle was not only left hanging onto his own theories
-- which of course turned out to be correct -- but he was earlier
in the week told that he is not in a new pruned list of party organisers
and candidates for any forthcoming election. He and other senior
party members had been left out of this list, it was said.
It was clearly
Fernandopulle's winter of discontent and he was heard to complain
that he had held Katana in the most trying circumstances when even
stalwarts such as Vijaya Kumaratunge had failed to win Katana in
Bandaranaike himself convened a meeting and informed various aggrieved
organisers of the PA that there was no truth to the story being
spread that eleven key names had been left out of a prospective
list of party candidates.
The Jaffna meeting
and that birthday bash
Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Jayalath Jayewardene has never
been having the press and the kind of reception that Minister Moragoda
has had -- and even though the Minister had never shown that he
has been cheesed off about this fact, it has been a fact. Both Ministers
have been in the forefront of the peace initiatives, but Minister
Moragoda has been getting patted on the back, while on occasion
even the LTTE has more or less boycotted Jayewardene.
This week there
was an escalation of this picture, but Minister Jayewardene was
getting along in his own way. While Minister Moragoda was appointed
to the Chair of the Foreign Aid Committee, and was due to emplane
shortly for India to organise the visit of the Prime Minister, soon
to follow, Minister Jayewardene was visiting Jaffna with the French
Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Minister Moragoda, never
the one to be outdone, was meeting a World Bank delegation and the
Norwegian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, concerning future
investments and aid to this country.
seemed to have scored one better this time than anyone around --
he held the meeting of the Ja Ela district UNP Working Committee
in Jaffna last Sunday, because he had taken his Working Committee
members on a tour of that city and its environs. But business of
his electoral district could not wait he said, and held the Working
Committee meeting in a public assembly hall in Jaffna.
Ravi Krunanayake's birthday bash in the meantime becoming a springboard
or a staging point for PA discontent? This was one of the hush hush
rumours that seemed to be going around after this bash which was
well attended with the Gypsies serenading the assembled Ministers,
Members of Parliament and other assorted people in politically connected
for this rumour was that ex-Minister Fowzie was having a conversation
with the Prime Minister - -and it was known that Fowzie was one
of those who had vociferously voiced his opinion about the so called
list of party candidates which turned out however to be a canard.
However, Fowzie was heard to say (not at the party though) that
he is in a party of ingrates, and that he has been blocked on various
previous occasions when he wanted to contest for various posts on
the PA ticket. Minister Fernandopulle was also among the large gathering
present, and of course Minister Moragoda, Ravi Karunanayake's longstanding
friend in politics and close confidante (not by a long shot) was
also among the honoured guests.
came for some snide comments about the so called candidate's list
at the party, but he took it in good spirit, probably because there
was an abundance of good spirits around.
of good spirits, at another spirited party thrown by SriLankan Airlines
for global BBC sales representatives, Chairman Daya Pelpola with
the UNP lawyer credentials, eyed the Beeb men and women ( and the
young women of SriLankan of course
) and made a political speech.
"We have a peace dividend' he bellowed, and in his overtly
political tone about peace and its unexpected surplus and bounty,
he said "let's party.'' Well he might not have said 'let's
party' in exactly those words - but party he did. SriLankan CEO
Hill called others to party but said he will not join in this exercise
of 'letting the hair down.'' One comment from the sidelines: "Is
that because he doesn't have any hair left to let down?'
John, Karu and
the electric chair
There was some
comic relief that enlivened the UNP parliamentary group meeting,
especially after certain issues when Interior Minister Johhn Amaratunga
figured as the man of the moment.
was all agog at the fact that the decentralised budget for MP's
had been raised, considerably, from 80 to 100 million. Minister
Amaratunga said that this was to be appreciated by all, and that
the World Bank initiative was something that all MPs will be happy
The Prime Minister
cut in at this point to say that this was not a World Bank idea,
and that this was in fact due to concerted efforts by him due to
the fact that from his experience he had figured that the decentralised
budget was never adequate. The Prime Minister was not about to give
the World Bank the credit for something that he felt was achieved
through his good offices.
Minister Amaratunga was to figure again in the thrust and parry,
when he said that he will very soon seek to concretise his plans
to reintroduce the death penalty in this country. He said that the
death penalty is a good way of curbing crime, and said that it will
be a way of ensuring that hoodlums are directly held accountable.
By death penalty what he meant was the re-introduction of a specific
means of carrying out the death sentence - - that of hanging.
But when he
said that he wants to reintroduce the practice of hanging, Minister
of Power and Energy Karu Jayasuriya intervened to say that the electric
chair should replace the gallows, as it was a kinder and gentler
means of carrying out capital punishment. The Prime Minister then
cracked up all those present by quipping that that's all well and
good as long as Karu Jayasuriya provides the electricity to see
that the electric chair works. Karu Jayasuriya though a little red
in the face then said that there will never be another power crisis
in the country.