What counts is the counting, not the voting
The United National Party's main policy making body, the Working Committee, wants a Committee to probe how the counting of votes took place at the January 26 Presidential polls. Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will announce the names shortly.
At last Thursday's meeting of the Working Committee, it was mentioned that a detailed booklet prepared by attorney Daya Pelpola on the conduct of the poll had been given to all district organisations.
However, the document made no references to procedures to be followed during counting of ballot papers at the upcoming general elections. The counting is now arguably the most decisive phase of an election.
Messing around with Mangala
With the Presidential Elections over, SLFP (Mahajana Wing) leader Mangala Samaraweera, chose to fly to Singpore for medical reasons.
He spent a few days there and returned to hear the bad news. People purporting to be from the Ministry of Defence had telephoned his travel agent and demanded to know the hotel he was staying in Singapore. The travel agent was in for some choice language after denying any knowledge.
Was it someone from the MoD as claimed or were there others trying to cash in on the situation?
The philosophy of phony twist
Here is a media question-and-answer session that was played out before United Nations spokesperson Martin Nesirky at the noon briefing at UN headquarters in New York on Thursday.
It related to UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon's telephone call last week to President Mahinda Rajapaksa after he won the presidential elections.
Question: Thanks. Yesterday your office provided a readout of the Secretary-General's call to the President of Sri Lanka…
Spokesperson: That's right.
Question: I definitely appreciate that readout, but I wanted to -- the Government itself, several hours before you offered that readout, put out its own readout, and its headline on the Government website is: "Ban Ki-moon congratulates President on victory". And in a six-paragraph readout they don't mention Mr. [Sarath] Fonseka or any… It's really like sort of cognitive dissonance, the two readouts. Is it fair to… Does the UN have any issue with the gloss that the Government put on the call, that it was essentially a congratulatory one, and that the UN is happy with the Government's performance, which has, since this announcement, included tear-gassing of non-violent protests in the streets and a threatened five-year sentence to Mr. Fonseka? What's the response to that?
Spokesperson: Well, you sort of answered your own question at the beginning: that Governments will characterize messages, phone calls as they see fit.
We've characterized and explained what happened in that phone call, and not least that the Secretary-General very specifically brought up the arrest of General Fonseka, and that he urged the Government to make sure that the due process of law was respected, and indeed that the personal safety of General Fonseka was guaranteed. So that was very clearly said.
I know that the Secretary-General told me that personally when giving a readout on the telephone call. And I don't think that I would want to go further in characterizing what the Government of Sri Lanka says about the phone call from its perspective. We've said what we believe we wanted to say about the phone call that was made on the initiative of the Secretary-General.
Question: Just one follow-up: If the global media coverage of the call ends up covering more -- let's say I understand that the Government is sovereign but at some point, the government is portraying it as the Secretariat is congratulating it as they do the things that have been discussed, I've seen situations in which the Secretariat has said Sudan's characterization is incorrect. They did it to Zimbabwe at one time. So, I guess, at what point… You are satisfied with this [interrupted]?
Spokesperson: That is not what I said. I didn't say I was satisfied. So don't put words into my mouth. What I said was that I am not going to characterize what the Government of Sri Lanka has said from its point of view about the phone call. We've said, and made very clear, the points that we want to make. And that's where I think I want to leave it. Okay.
Question: Can I follow up?
Question: Thank you. Martin, just in addition, how concerned are you actually, are you at all, taking in regard the monitoring system that you obviously have in place, that this congratulatory note -- it's a rather philosophical answer that I'm seeking actually from you -- can be somehow used from the Government when the officials, higher officials, meet the Secretary-General and then they go back and use it for the purpose of the election year, let's say, and anything else?
Spokesperson: Well, I may be many things, but I am not a philosopher. And just on this particular topic, I don't really want to go off and generalize about these things. On this particular topic, a readout was given, the call was made at the instigation of the Secretary-General, and I think I would leave it there.
From three-wheeler to full suit
JVP Leader Somawansa Amarasinghe last Tuesday arrived in a three-wheeler to address a news conference at the Rajakeeya Mawatha office of retired General Sarath Fonseka.
As he entered a journalist said "mokada bayawelada" (Why, are you scared) . Mr. Amarasinghe replied "Api Rajapaksalata baywela deshapalanaya karanne ne" (We will not be scared for Rajapaksa to do politics).
The next day, Anoma Fonseka was to address a news conference at their rented Queen's Road residence. Mr Amarasinghe and JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva, both attired in full suit walked in for a separate meeting, when a journalist remarked 'Ada Lassanai", Mr. Amarasinghe quipped "Api hemadamath lassanai" (We look nice everyday)
on polls chief
Among cases to be filed in Court in the coming week by the United National Party (UNP) is one asking the Commissioner of Elections to observe the rules during conduct of the upcoming Parliamentary elections.
UNP deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya told the party's Working Committee on Thursday that this was one among the six cases to be filed.
What a state of affairs. Now, the parties are telling the Elections Commissioner to abide by the rules, not vice-versa.
Amidst alarm bells, JVP woos UNP
UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's office in Cambridge Terrace had an unusual visitor. It was one time arch rival and JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe.
He was joining UNF leaders and Anoma Fonseka, wife of retired General Sarath Fonseka, to brief the Colombo-based diplomatic community on the latter's arrest by the Military Police.
Diplomats from the United States, the European Union, Britain and Australia were among those who attended.
The JVP leader is also keen to have the UNP reconsider its decision to contest the parliamentary election under its Elephant symbol.