ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday March 23, 2008
Vol. 42 - No 43

UPFA-TMVP alliance to pick CM after polls — if elected

By Our Political Correspondent

JVP expects general elections this year

The JVP believes the government is preparing for a snap general election in July or August.

Party frontliner Anura Kumara Dissanayaka told The Sunday Times that soaring living costs and other crises left the government with no option but to hold a snap general election before the next budget.

The JVP believed the proposed provincial elections in the Eastern Province were intended to test the ground for a general election.

At the last general elections, the JVP contested in alliance with the government and it has see-sawed in its support for the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration in recent months, while giving a lifeline to it in the crucial budget vote in December last year.

The conduct of provincial council elections to the East has become a high priority matter for the Government. Whilst political parties are busy talking of alliances and candidates, the defence establishment is busy planning security and deployment of troops. The ruling UPFA is to forge an alliance with the Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP) to contest the provincial elections in the East. Early this week, TMVP candidates who won the local polls were escorted under heavy security to Colombo. They were accommodated at the Galadari Hotel and later taken to “Temple Trees” for a meeting with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They took their oaths before Mr. Rajapaksa.

TMVP leader Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan created a mild stir when his party’s newly-elected local councillors were to be taken from their five-star hotel to Temple Trees. A bus had been arranged for this purpose but Pillayan, perhaps considering his new social status, refused to travel in the bus. He therefore, missed the event at Temple Trees but had a one-on-one with Mr. Rajapaksa the next day. The President was said to be not too pleased with Pillayan’s behaviour the previous day.

One of the subjects discussed, Pillayan later told visitors to his hotel, was a proposal not to nominate a Chief Minister designate till the PC elections were over. This was on the grounds that the TMVP which would contest in an alliance with the UPFA should win Muslim votes in the area. It had been agreed that the Chief Minister would be picked on the basis of how candidates fare at the poll.

Meanwhile, the main opposition United National Party (UNP) is hoping to forge an alliance with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC). One time deputy minister M.L.A.M. Hisbullah is being mentioned as Chief-Minister candidate, though the party hierarchy says no such decision has yet been taken. The Government is also wooing Mr. Hisbullah and the SLMC.

Disaster Relief Services Minister M.S.S. Ameer Ali, the one-time SLMCer, is the Rajapaksa administration’s chief point-man with the Muslims in the East. Within the UNP, the continuing meddling in the Eastern orginisational apparatus by MPs from the Colombo and Gampaha districts is causing a rupture in the ranks. Batticaloa district chairman Arsaratne Sasitharan has already had a run-in with Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene with complaints going to the party leader himself.

The UNP leader had a party organised by Galle district MP Vajira Abeywardene for all the party candidates and organisers at the Convention Centre in Colombo last night in a move to rally the faithful for what looks increasingly like the possibility of early elections – either late this year or the next. General Elections are due in 2010, and with the soaring Cost of Living, President Rajapaksa is almost certain to call for elections before that date. In many ways, the impending Eastern Province election is a test-run for all parties concerned.

SLMC’s Assistant Secretary Nizam Kariyappar told The Sunday Times that disarming the TMVP was one of the demands made by the party during discussions between party leader Rauf Hakeem with Presidential Advisor Basil Rajapaksa ahead of next week’s nominations.

The demand came as similar concerns were being expressed by other Muslim groups including the National Unity Alliance (NUA) led by Minister Ferial Ashraff. “It is the responsibility of the main political party which brought the TMVP to politics to ensure that the group is disarmed,” Mrs. Ashraff told The Sunday Times. She said she would meet with UPFA leaders tomorrow to work out electoral arrangements.

The Eelam People’s Democratic Party (EPDP) led by Minister Douglas Devananda yesterday declared that it would be contest the Provincial polls on its own. The EPDP earlier held discussions with the PLOTE and the EPRLF in an effort to jointly contest the elections, but the talks failed as all three parties did not want to contest under any other symbol.
Meanwhile the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was in a dilemma over the provincial elections as its members in the east have come under pressure to contest the elections on the TMVP ticket.

On Friday the TNA met to reconsider its stance, but failed to arrive a final decision. “We will make a clear statement on the party position on Monday,” TNA MP Mavai Senadhiraja said. Meanwhile the UNP and the JVP have also declared they will be contesting the provincial elections. The elections are being held to elect 35 members to the eastern provincial council after 20 years. More than 700,000 voters are eligible to vote in the three districts – Trincomalle, Batticaloa and Ampara. Nominations are to be received from March 27 to April 03 and elections will be held in May.


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