goes for Ravi's jugular
President Chandrika Kumaratunga is go
ing hammer and tongs these days attacking a selected band of Cabinet
Ministers who are questioning or harassing her on various deals.
has become a seasoned fighter who can handle single-handedly 32
hostile ministers of the UNF government at cabinet meetings and
yet go with the principles of cohabitation politics. But the controversy
over the handbag appears to have dealt a serious blow to the cohabitation
While the President
reiterates that Minister Ravi Karunanayake made the allegation at
a cabinet meeting that she carried a bomb in her handbag, Prime
Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says Minister Karunanayake did not
refer to a bomb.
colleagues of Mr. Karunanayake also say that the minister only expressed
concern over a handbag fitted with ultra modern video equipment.
The dispute over the superspy handbag deepened when the President
and the Prime Minister exchanged letters on the eve of the latter's
visit to the United States.
in her second letter said the Constitution gave her unfettered discretion
to sack any minister.
advised that the relevant provision applicable to the removal of
a minister of the cabinet is article 47 or article 44 (3) as the
case may be and the President has unfettered discretion in that
matter," the President said.
Mr. Wickremesinghe's claim that since the UNF cabinet was constituted
in consultation with the Prime Minister, the removal of a minister
also should be done in the same manner.
to state categorically that there was no agreement arrived at between
us concerning the interpretation you now seek to place on article
44 (1) (B) of the constitution.
I appointed your nominees to the cabinet of ministers on December
12, 2001, consequent to the UNP victory at the Parliamentary elections,
there was no discussion as to the principle pertaining to the act
of selecting and appointing cabinet ministers," the President
hardline UNPers do not agree with the position taken by the President
regarding the removal of a minister, most of the UNPers think that
the executive president is vested with enormous power and her power
in this regard is unlimited and unquestionable.
against Minister Karunanayake is being spearheaded by Anura Bandaranaike,
the President's brother and advisor.
who has been in the opposition virtually throughout his 25-year
political career (The exception was when he was a minister for a
year or so in the last UNP regime), is getting closer to President
Kumaratunga, his one-time political rival, prompting critics to
say that he was trying to be the next presidential candidate.
has announced that he would be the PA's next presidential candidate,
causing ripples in the PA top order. One PA top runger who does
not fancy Mr. Bandaranaike as the presidential candidate told this
column that the President's estranged brother could not fit into
the SLFP and the best place for him was the UNP.
was for a short period in the UNP. He could not make a mark as a
UNP frontrunner due to various factors. His appointment as Speaker
of Parliament was one such factor.
believed that the UNP consented to a proposal from the PA to make
Mr. Bandaranaike the Speaker largely because most UNPers saw it
as an opportunity to sideline him politically, but Mr. Bandaranaike
himself was known to have coveted the post.
came after Mr. Bandaranaike's two sisters, Chandrika and Sunethra,
got together to bring back the "naughty boy" back to the
family fold and decided to make him the Speaker.
he became Speaker, Mr. Bandaranaike has been at logger heads with
Mr. Karunanayake. He wanted to take Mr. Karunanayake to task for
remarks he made to the press regarding the conduct of the Speaker,
but the PA government slipped into a serious crisis before Mr. Bandaranaike
could take any action. The political battle between Mr. Bandaranaike
and Mr. Karunanayake has been raging since then.
At a recent
meeting in Ampara , an angry Mr. Bandaranaike lambasted Mr. Karunanayake
for the remarks he allegedly made.
was there in the cabinet, I would have stuffed it (the bomb) in
his mouth," Mr. Bandaranaike said, charging that all this was
part of a plan to force her to leave the presidency. But he said
the Bandaranaikes would not run away. His remark was also apparently
aimed at his rivals in the PA.
PA, there is a running battle between Opposition Leader Mahinda
Rajapakse and Mr. Bandaranaike for the candidacy at the next presidential
elections which is to be held in 2005.
Most of the
back benchers are rallying round Mr. Rajapakse who represents a
seat from the backwoods of the country.
is banking on his sister and the anti-Rajapakse lobby in the party.
The President's close allies such as Mangala Samaraweera will definitely
support the nomination of Mr. Bandaranaike.
is buoyant these days after the Bribery and Corruption Commission
cleared him of the allegations made against him by Minister Rajitha
Samaraweera is still not totally out of trouble. He is facing charges
relating to a shooting incident in Akuressa during the last general
elections. The Attorney General is now finalising papers to file
indictment in the High Court.
At the SLFP
Central Committee meeting presided over by President Kumaratunga
on Tuesday, Mr. Rajapakse asked about the party's position with
regard to other opposition parties, especially the JVP. His grouse
was that there was no clear-cut policy in the party with regard
to JVP protests with some members attending them and some avoiding
them. President Kumaratunga proposed a committee should be set up
to formulate a policy in this regard. Accordingly a committee was
appointed headed by Mr. Rajapakse. Other members of the committee
are party secretary Maithripala Sirisena, Mangala Samaraweera, Nimal
Siripala de Silva, Susil Premajayantha and Shantha Premaratne. The
committee is expected to submit its report within a month.
Committee also discussed the protest campaign scheduled for August
12 and a proposal to erect a statue of former Prime Minister Sirima
Bandaranaike at the BMICH.
told the Central Committee that some media groups were trying to
create disputes in the party by claiming there was a dispute in
the party over the presidential candidate.
He tabled a
copy of a letter he sent to a Sunday vernacular newspaper denying
a report that he would be the next presidential candidate of the
While the SLFP
is still struggling to put its house in order, it has also intensified
its campaign against the UNF government.
to be gunning for ministers Ravi Karunanayake, Rajitha Senaratne
S. B. Dissanayake and G. L. Peiris.
recently filed a petition in the Court of Appeal, asking the court
to unseat Minister Peiris over a land transaction he entered into
with the Lands Reform Commission in 1984.
In the meantime
the controversy over the import of luxury cars by the Presidential
Secretariat took a new turn when Presidential Secretary K. Balapatabendi
wrote to Finance Minister Choksy saying the vehicles in question
could be examined by a team of competent officials as promised by
the inspection was to be conducted on Friday, the 19th
July 2002. You have agreed to send a list of "qualified officials"
who would undertake this exercise.
directive of the President, I wish to bring to your notice that
up to date no such viewing/inspection has taken place nor has the
Secretariat been informed of the list of "qualified officials".
The President wishes to inform you that this decision was taken
in view of your request with regard to the allegation made by you,
about 13 missing vehicles purchased by the President's Office, in
your letter dated 26th June 2002.
insists that you send her the list of "qualified officials",
as promised by you even at this late stage in order that I may arrange
without any further delay the viewing/inspection of the vehicles
in accordance with the Cabinet decision."
appears to have disturbed Minister Choksy. He immediately fired
out a letter which said:
to your letter dated 25th July, 2002. There was no Cabinet decision
or any agreement that the inspection of the vehicles was to be conducted
on Friday, 19th July, 2002. Whilst the President requested this,
myself and other members of the Cabinet Sub-Committee who were present
at the Cabinet Meeting, stated clearly that it would not be possible
to make all the arrangements involved in identifying competent persons
from five different institutions to conduct the inspection, obtaining
the President's agreement on such persons, and arranging for them
to be present together and conduct the inspection on Friday 19th
July 2002, i.e. within 48 hours.
therefore did not fix Friday 19th July 2002, as the deadline. The
draft minutes of the cabinet meeting bears me out.
to appoint a team of qualified officials was not at my request,
as incorrectly stated in your letter under reply. The President
was not present at the cabinet meeting on 10th July 2002, when the
cabinet took the decision to do so, and so is not in a position
to speak to what took place at the meeting.
was made by me about 13 missing vehicles, as stated by you. The
letter dated 26th June 2002 written by me with the concurrence of
the other members of the Sub-Committee requested the President's
observations/clarification on the question of 13 vehicles in as
much as the list of vehicles submitted by the President to the Cabinet
dated 19th June 2002, showed the importation of only 35 vehicles
during the relevant period, whilst documents available to the Cabinet
Sub-Committee including documents that had emanated from the President's
Office (copies of which were forwarded to the "President) showed
the importation of 48 vehicles during that period. This matter was
accordingly brought to the President's notice as quite logical as
clarification of the numbers was required to enable the Cabinet
Sub-Committee to make its report to Cabinet.
has only been executing its mandate of collecting material for submission
to the Cabinet. It has made no "allegation" against anyone
during this process. The Sub-Committee has conducted itself with
responsibility and decorum right through.
to the question of inspecting the vehicles, the Sub-Committee has
submitted a note to the cabinet for its meeting on 31st July 2002."