From Mul Pituwa to Lake House Mul Putuwa
Veteran Sinhala journalist Bandula Padmakumara, anchor of the well-known Swarnavahini morning programme Mul Pituwa (Front Page) will be the new Chairman of Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd., the publishers of many state-run newspapers including the Daily News and Sunday Observer.
His appointment, rumoured for several weeks, was delayed in the wake of protests by some trade unions and journalist groups at Lake House. It was laid to rest on Thursday by President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he summoned the board of directors led by acting Chairman Sarath Kongahage (substantively Director, Editorial), senior editorial managers and trade union representatives for a meeting followed by lunch.
“Bandula is my personal friend. He may have worked against me in politics but he is my nominee for Chairman,” President Rajapaksa told the gathering. Mr. Padmakumara was one time Director (Editorial) at Lake House under then Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe's United National Front (UNF) Government.
The President urged those present to give their fullest co-operation to Mr. Padmakumara. Some of those present, who had not been in favour of the appointment, were told to garland him upon arrival to take office. Some unions had planned to hoist black flags and stage protests during a strike.
President Rajapaksa was to say the organisation was running at a loss. He was disappointed that it had not been able to credibly project either him or the Government to the public.
From Mul Pituwa (Front Page) to the Mul Putuwa (the first chair) at Lake House is a long journey for Mr. Padmakumara, one time Editor of the Lakbima newspaper and Secretary of The Editors Guild of Sri Lanka. His recent years were with Swarnavahini where his chores began at 3 am and ended only after his popular morning programme. That meant it was compulsory reading of all print media for him.
President Rajapaksa also made use of the opportunity to hit out at ousted Minister Mangala Samaraweera.
He said he had not offered the former Ports, Aviation and Foreign Minister a portfolio during a discussion at Temple Trees before departing to Barbados for the World Cup Cricket Final. He had come over there for a chat, to watch the Sri Lanka-New Zealand match and to enjoy some hoppers. He said that the UNP's ongoing campaign about the three Rajapaksa brothers, President Mahinda, Defence Secretary Gotabhaya and Senior Advisor Basil, was the brainchild of Mr. Samaraweera and his colleague, Sripathi Sooriyarachchi. It was only thereafter that the UNP had picked up the campaign, the President said .The remarks meant Mr. Samaraweera may not be taken into the Cabinet ,at least for the present . However, Mr. Samarweera told The Sunday Times that he had made no decision on the matter and dismissed reports he would return to the Government fold as a back bencher. “I have not given thought to any such thing,” he said, adding that there had been no more dialogue since his last meeting with President Rajapaksa, brokered by Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana.
Mr. Moulana told The Sunday Times yesterday Mr. Samaraweera would meet the President tomorrow, but the sacked minister said he had received no such intimation.
President Rajapaksa also revealed that JVP's Anura Kumara Dissanayake, UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Samaraweera-Sooriyaratchchi combination had planned to form a Joint Alliance to oppose him.
However, JVP Parliamentary Group leader, Wimal Weerawansa had scuttled the move which would otherwise have been a reality.
Mr. Rajapaksa said it was only Railways Minister Dullas Allahapperuma, who was “his man” in the Cabinet. All others were those who had remained during the time of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Yet others had come over from the United National Party (UNP). President Rajapaksa declared “I am only the Captain. My team is not exactly mine”.