When it comes to politics, even learned academics are no different from seasoned politicians. Academic turned politician and former Northern province Governor Suren Raghavan made a U-turn this week when he accepted the portfolio of State Minister of Education Services and Reforms. The appointment came just days after he put a post on his Facebook [...]


Raghavan joins Gota in political roundabout


When it comes to politics, even learned academics are no different from seasoned politicians. Academic turned politician and former Northern province Governor Suren Raghavan made a U-turn this week when he accepted the portfolio of State Minister of Education Services and Reforms. The appointment came just days after he put a post on his Facebook page calling on President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign due to the massive country-wide protests.

The day after the appointment, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) removed Mr Raghavan from all positions he had been holding in the party. However, party officials downplayed the fact that he was appointed as a National List MP under the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), and not by the SLFP.

The worst comment came from one of his personal assistants who served him during his tenure as Governor. Hours after Mr Raghavan accepted his portfolio, he too put up a trilingual post on Facebook with the word ‘Shame.’

A trader selling horns outside the Presidential Secretariat. Pic by Akila Jayawardana

Traders join ‘‘Go Home Gota’’ groups not protest, but to sell products

A good trader will always find a niche market for his products regardless of the situation. Things are pretty bad for street vendors and pavement hawkers since ordinary folk suddenly lost their buying power for consumer goods, even essential items.

This forced street vendors to adopt new strategies to make a living. As the country’s people are on the streets protesting against the government and demanding the immediate resignation of the President and his government, they too switched to selling products relevant to the protests.

One common rhythmic sound frequently heard on streets these days is ‘kaputu kaak kaak kaak’–caused by passing vehicles to express solidarity with protesters.

A street vendor took his business of selling plastic horns to the Galle Face Green hoping for quick business among the protesting crowd.

He was visibly tired of blowing his own horn around the protesting site and finally put up a temporary stand with horns hanging on sticks in front of the iconic colonial building that is modified as the current Presidential Secretariat. A black cloth wrapped around the fences reads in block letters: “Go Home Gota.”


SJB MPs hold costume parade in Parliament

At times, it seemed as if the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) MPs were holding a costume parade in Parliament this week.

On Tuesday, many of their MPs wore headbands inscribed with the words “Go Home Gota” to Parliament. On Wednesday, after a protester died in a Police shooting in Rambukkana, they turned up with stickers inscribed with the words “Le Epa” (No Blood) stuck to their outfits. SJB MPs were all in black on Thursday to mark the third anniversary of the Easter Sunday attacks.

Despite their many outfit changes, the party has not been able to put the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) under much pressure. Even its much publicised No Confidence Motion against the government is yet to be tabled, with party high ups insisting that it will be tabled “at the right time.” When that “right time” or Nakatha (auspicious time) will come is anyone’s guess.

India strongly supports Sri Lanka’s claim for IMF aid

As Sri Lanka is holding talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to secure emergency relief under the Fund’s Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI) to urgently import essential goods, especially fuel as the country’s reserves are depleted, there is another actor making the case for the country behind the scenes–neighbouring India. An Indian delegation led by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman met the Sri Lankan delegation headed by Finance Minister Ali Sabry on the sidelines of the IMF discussions.

The IMF has subsequently informed Minister Sabry that India had also made representations on behalf of Sri Lanka for an RFI.

“It had been communicated that the IMF will consider the special request made despite it being outside of the standard circumstances for the issuance of an RFI,” a statement from the Treasury said.

However, at the virtual media conference held from Washington with the Sri Lankan media, the Minister said Sri Lanka was not going to ask for the RFI. Now, which is which.

During the talks with Ms Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF, the Indian Finance Minister had stressed that the “IMF should support and urgently provide financial assistance to Sri Lanka. The Managing Director assured the Finance Minister that the IMF would continue to actively engage with Sri Lanka,” a statement issued by the Indian Finance Ministry on their Minister’s visit
to Washington said.

MPs have heated debate for lunch

Given the scale of the current economic crisis, the people are watching Parliament proceedings intently to see how their lawmakers plan to resolve the country’s pressing issues.

Anyone looking to Parliament for a quick solution though, would have been disappointed at the way the MPs preferred to hurl insults at each other rather than debate serious policy issues. On Wednesday, MPs even got into a heated debate on whether to break for lunch, or not.

When Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa proposed that MPs forgo their lunch break and continue the debate on the Police shooting in Rambukkana, House Leader Dinesh Gunawardena said such a move went against what the Opposition Leader himself agreed to during the earlier party leaders’ meeting.

“We agreed to continue the debate on the following day depending on new information that comes to light,” Mr Gunawardena said.

“That is not what this is about. When people in the country are going hungry, how can those here insist on breaking for lunch? Let them go and eat if they want, but let us continue with our debate,” an incensed Mr Premadasa shot back.

The Opposition Leader found an unlikely ally in former Health Minister Keheliya Rambukwella.

“Given how the situation has now changed, there is no point in talking about the lunch break. This is shameful talk. Please allow the debate to continue,” he told the Speaker.

A clearly rattled Mr Gunawardena then said the Government had no objection to continuing without the lunch break.

“But see how many of them (Opposition MPs) will actually stay during the break. This is all for show,” he added as a parting shot.

The final word on the matter may have come from the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who later said the people want all 225 MPs booted out so they may have to go and have their lunch in the future at Galle Face.


Another chaotic day at the Maharagama UC; Chairman flees in Police jeep

The Maharagama Urban Council which is never short of controversies again came to the spotlight after its chairman had to flee in a Police jeep after labourers attached to the council stormed into his office.

This week’s incident occurred after Chairman Tiraj Lakruwn Piyaratne, who had earlier appointed a labourer as his driver, subsequently demoted him to be a labourer.

The labourers expressed anger over the incident by storming his office and protested over the action of the chairman by hooting. He had to seek Police help to leave his office.

The council meeting held two weeks back also was eventful as some members smacked the vice chairman of the council with half a loaf of bread.

The incident was sparked off when
Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) member Nishantha Wimalachandra shouted that a Rs 2.8 million worth vehicle was bought for the vice chairman, who is also the father of the chairman, without following a procurement procedure. After making the accusation, the member suddenly tossed half a loaf of bread at the face of vice chairman Sunil Piyaratne, who is also an SLPP member.

However, Sunil Piyaratne denied the claims made about him and prepared to fight the member who threw the half loaf of bread. The rest of the council members stopped a fully fledged brawl occurring by pulling the aspiring pugilists to separate sides.

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