Political Column
By a special correspondent

Not exactly the campaign trail, but……

By Out Political Editor
The Prime Minister though an expert in electioneering may not exactly get on the campaign bus again, but he has rallied his troops, and is addressing the nation. The Prime Minister is starting from the North Central province, and party faithfuls such as those in Kekirawa were making arrangements at the time of going to press. The North Central province seems to be an apt place for the Prime Minister to start his "janathava denuvathkirime viyaparaya'' (campaign for educating the people) as the NCP was where the SLFP held a successful public rally last week , with some of the party's top guns involved.

Though the Cost of Living was seen as the main sticking point in the eventuality of an election, UNF MPs were upbeat and some were thinking aloud before the NCP meeting saying that the 'cost of living was still largely an urban problem, while people such as those in the NCP were actually enjoying a production boom, and an upturn in their fortunes.'

SB Dissanayake was saying so at the parliamentary group meeting. He said that there will be 'record harvests' this year, which will ensure that the price of rice will go down, and will no longer contribute to the cost of living burden. Dissanayake was also not too perturbed by the new "be prepared attitude' that was being taken by his own party. The PA disarray will ensure that there will be no election, he said, and pointed out that there are too many running for the post of Prime Minister in the PA ranks which will make it impossible for the President to call an election without splitting her party right down the middle.

Cat and dog, and golf stories too
Cat and dog fights are not uncommon in politics, but even so, when Minister Karunanayake and President Kumaratunga go at each other, it is a treat. Last week the President brought up the issue of a new golf links that has been established, according to the President, irregularly, by a friend of Minister Karunanayake.

This issue has been one of the President's hobby horses, and when it was brought up at Cabinet level last week Karunanayake was in some discomfiture. But he said soon that all is well and that the 'who 's who' of the deal will be disclosed when the report is out.

The President was not biting. 'Where is the report' she asked. The Cabinet Secretary said that the report will be made available soon. End of round 1.

Round 2 was when the President said that she is opposed to a new lottery being mooted by Minister Milinda Moragoda, who was hoping to get a Norwegian company to float a lottery for funding scholarships for students.

Minister Karunanayake said at the outset (talk about cat and dog) that he doesn't like Moragoda's idea as it will undermine the already established lotteries, out of which incidentally Mahapola student scholarships are being funded as well.

It took a while for the President to realise that she and Karunanayake were fighting on the same side of the argument. When the Prime Minister pointed this out to her snidely, she said "I withdraw what I said -- I take back my position on that lottery.'' One cat neutralised -- another cat and dog still fighting……

Mothers and sons
The election bogey was upsetting MPs both from the government and the opposition side of the political divide. While Mangala Samarweera was bragging to his various opposition politicians who queried him about an election saying that 'we will go for the polls win them and then carry on the peace process', others were not very upbeat.

All was not very hunky dory in the PA camp, and this was also underlined from the fact that lawyer Sripathi Sooriarachchy came for some Presidential talking-to sometime after the unveiling ceremony for the new Hatton National Bank towers. Mangala Samaraweera was celebrating his mothers birthday sometime later that day, and on seeing Sripathi, the President gave him a pep talk saying 'you are making trouble for all of us with your Lakmina paper and its so called disclosures.'' Lakmina created a furore recently with a story of internecine PA plot to assassinate the President.

Talking of mothers, however, Minister Ashraff's mother who had been awarded rupees one million compensation for Minister Ashraff's death, will not receive the said one million even posthumously, according to a cabinet decision.

When the compensation package for Ashraff's wife, son and mother running into 8 million was announced, Minister Ravi Karunannayake protested that those who were in the helicopter along with the late Ashraff were also entitled to compensation. Else he said that this kind of awarding of large-figure compensation packages will be seen as an exercise by politicians for politicians. Others such as Minister G. L. Peiris was heard to agree. Karunanayake also said that in the case of Minister C. V. Gooneratne (example cited by the President) he died while pursuing government policy, and Ashraff died and on a private party mission.

However the Prime Minister intervened at this point to say that the general issue of compensation should be taken up later -- but that the Ashraff package which has been decided by a committee appointed by the President should be implemented. It was decided that other than the one million earmarked for the late Ministers late mother, the rest should be paid accordingly, as decided.

Federalism is all the rage, but where do we stand?

Federalism is all the rage, and especially after a team of Ministers and MPs from both sides of the divide returned from Belgium, there was more to hear about the Federalism factor in current Sri Lankan politics.

Vishwa Warnapala the economics don in the PA was a called to talk to the PA parliamentary group on Federalism, at which talk he took the opportunity to lash out at the UNF peace process that he said was hollow process which had no credibility.

But he was positive about federalism as a concept and some of the MPs were seen to be quite impressed about his general exposition on the issue. But in this backdrop some impish MPs were pressing on about the President's attitude to the UNF's peace process, and they also said that it is not very good to see various PA MPs taking varied stands on the peace issue.

The President after much coaxing, finally allowed that the PA was for the peace process but was in disfavour of the way the UNF was setting about it - -and about some aspects in particular.

That seemed to clear the minds of at least some MPs but others wanted a more open and candid discussion and asked for a seminar on the issue of Federalism. The President seemed to be willing to organise the event.

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