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The Political Column

30th August 1998

Internal and inter-party rows hot up

By our Political Correspondent

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    The government's powers to change laws governing any aspect of the con duct of elections by having recourse to emergency regulations promulgated under the Public Security Ordinance will be removed," the PA manifesto of August 1994 proclaimed.

    But the government has done exactly what it promised not to do. It has used the provisions which it once saw as "obnoxious" to achieve its objective.

    Various excuses are given, including the war in the North and the East, which the government says is at a critical stage.

    Coming alive in the face of such blatant double standards, the main opposition UNP is taking the case to the Supreme Court and to holding islandwide protest meetings against the postponement of elections.

    Justice Minister G.L. Peiris came under siege at a panel discussion organised by the Foreign Correspondents' Association of Sri Lanka on the postponement of elections. The minister defended the move saying it was purely because the war was at a critical stage. He assured that the critical stage would be passed within the next few months and the elections held by January.

    But the other panelists slammed him from all sides. UNP frontliner Tyronne Fernando ridiculed the government's promise saying it would claim again in January that the war was still at a critical stage. He described the postponement as a political coup against the people.

    Even more scathing was the fire from within the government lines. The LSSP's Vasudeva Nanayakkara said other PA parties were not consulted on the postponement.

    In cynical vein, he said the government need not have feared defeat at the PC polls because the ballot boxes would in any event have been stuffed.

    Law expert, Rohan Edrisinha, also accused the government of setting a dangerous precedent on which others could use the war or the so-called people's will to put off more national elections (See related news copy on page 1).

    However, the UNP's campaign against the postponement of elections is not yielding the expected results. UNP teams met foreign diplomats in Colombo also but the diplomatic community in general too did not take it too seriously since they felt PC elections are only of peripheral interest.

    Former Ambassador Charles Mahendran headed the UNP's delegation to explain matters to the diplomats.

    But the UNP has no intention of giving up its campaign. As another move against oppressive anti-people measures UNP Chairman and Colombo's Mayor Karu Jayasuriya has written to the Human Rights Commission complaining about the alleged harassment of UNP supporters in Colombo on the day of the Hyde Park meeting.

    Mr. Jayasuriya says that this is the first time such incidents occurred in the city since he took office as Mayor of Colombo and he believes that it could create a bad precedence, if authorities do not take corrective action.

    The letter to the Chairman of the Human Rights Commission says: "I am addressing this letter to you regarding a few incidents that occurred in Colombo on August 14. These incidents not only tend to threaten the free and normal style of the people in the city and impose a fear among the peace loving citizens of Colombo but also appear to be a threat to democracy.

    "It is reported that early on August 14 about 30 people in two to three jeeps attacked innocent youth belonging to a particular political party. This occurred at Havelock Road, where the young people were pasting posters about a legitimate meeting to be held in Colombo that evening.

    One youth was mercilessly attacked. He suffered serious injuries to his head and body and was warded at the General Hospital, Colombo. Three others also suffered injuries. Their identity cards were destroyed and monies removed. The same armed group had also attacked young people at Borella.

    As Mayor of Colombo it is my responsibility to ensure that Colombo continues to remain a peaceful city - a city which has always been politically friendly to all political parties. This is why I have addressed this issue to the Inspector General of Police and the Secretary, Ministry of Defence to seriously look into this matter and take remedial measures. I am yet awaiting their response. "Our concern in this issue is even greater as the vehicles involved have been identified and are presumably from a nearby service camp. If this be true, the involvement of service personnel in the furtherance of political activities is indeed a matter that should be stopped immediately. "I am bringing this information to your notice for necessary action".

    While the protest campaign continues, internal squabbles in the party are also continuing. The sudden war of words between party frontliners Tyronne Fernando and Anura Bandaranaike is causing concern at the highest levels. It began when Mr. Fernando gave an interview to Monday's Daily News, slamming Mr. Bandaranaike, saying he could not get things overnight and he had to work for that.

    He claimed Mr. Bandaranaike had not got a single vote for the UNP as a candidate. He said Mr. Bandaranaike should understand the party. "The party was no more an 'Unge nedeyange party' (Party of kith and kin)".

    "He cannot get things overnight. Some of the people want him to be 'this and that'. But he has to work for that just like Sajith, Navin and Rukman. We are all equals in the UNP and are in the same race," Mr. Fernanso said.

    Mr. Bandaranaike shot back an angry reply and told the party leader he would raise this matter at the working committee meeting. He obviously feels there is a concerted effort in the UNP to get rid of him. The latest is that many UNPers want to raise this issue at the next Working Committee meeting. Analysts say that party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe may allow anyone to have his say but the leader will eventually have his way. The party is likely to give more power to the General Secretary to act swiftly in such matters and ban members from issuing media statements as and how they please.

    Reports over the weekend said party Chairman Karu Jayasuriya was intervening to settle the fight between Mr. Bandaranaike and Mr. Fernando. But some insiders feel a showdown is inevitable at the next Working Committee meeting. The UNP is also facing problems over an allegedly virulent (and described by some, as vulgar) speech made by Rajitha Senaratne at a meeting in Matara.

    Dr. Senaratne's speech was relayed over the National TV Rupavahini by the government, obviously to cause embarrassment to the UNP.

    According to Rupavahini Dr. Senaratne had allegedly used obscene language to denigrate the sex life of a minister. But Dr. Senaratne says he was quoted out of context and what was relayed over the Rupavahini was not in sequence.

    Dr. Senaratne was later summoned by party leader Wickremesinghe who inquired into the matter.He explained his position in a statement handed over to the party leader. The statement says:

    "The inaccurate publicity and distorted propaganda carried out by the state controlled electronic and print media during the past few days using only a section of my speech at Uyanwatte, Matara a few days ago has compelled me to issue this statement to correct the position and also to urge those responsible to save our children from being victims of unnatural sexual offences which are committed by the category of people whom I mentioned during my speech at Uyanwatte. It is imperative that the state and the religious dignitaries take prompt action in this regard as it would help to strengthen the government's Bill now before Parliament to prevent child abuse.

    "During my speech at Uyanwatte, Matara I spoke in a sequence to outline the development and achievement under the seventeen year UNP rule and the current crisis situation of the incumbent government.

    Having spoken about the open economy that existed then, the technological revolution, the competitive market, I recalled the large and small scale irrigation tanks built by the UNP and questioned whether this government had built a single major irrigation tank for the last four years.

    "As I spoke in Sinhala I said, "Api vau amunu banda namuth me rajaya dekke Amethiwaru Kasada Banda Vitharai" (We built irrigation tanks but today we only see marriages of ministers), I noted that one minister married at 63 after his son married and the other also married shortly after his daughter married.

    "Then I referred to another minister who had the heart to marry an ace woman sprinter but failed as she had already been married though she kept it a secret till she gained international fame.

    I explained that marriage to the opposite sex at young or old age was a natural thing.

    "Addressing the mammoth gathering in Matara where the people believed in natural things, I said that there was a minister from the South who believed in unnatural things and wished to associate with members of his own sex for pleasure. This I said with evidence as this minister had openly claimed it on many an occasion in Parliament

    "During the debate on Ace Sprinter Susanthika Jayasinghe on November 13, 1997 Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera who spoke in defence of his colleague S.B. Dissanayake - I quote from column 1021 of the Hansard - "For me she (Susanthika) looks like a Black American youth.

    If one said that I followed her it could have been a truth." This is the translation in English).

    "During this debate when UNP's A.H.M. Azwer interrupted Mr. Samaraweera , the Minister noted that had he come across Mr. Azwer 25 years ago he would not have spared him.

    Later during the No-faith motion against him in Parliament on August 04, 1998, Minister Samaraweera mentioned that he did not wish to marry a woman only to go for weddings and for him to sleep with security men.

    Therefore, these statements of Mr. Samaraweera clearly spell out his sexual tendencies and one could conclude that he is only interested in making pleasure with members of his own sex.

    "Now I would like to refer to Section 365 and 365(A) of the Penal Code. Section, 365 ''Whoever voluntarily has carnal, intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine. (Explanation - penetration is sufficient to constitute the carnal intercourse necessary to the offence described in this section).

    Section 365 (A)—Any male person who, in public or private, commits, or is a party to commission of, procures or attempts to procure the commission of any male person of, any act of gross indecency with another male person, shall be guilty of an offence, and shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years or with fine, or with both, and shall also be liable to be punished with whipping.

    "It is a known fact that when a cabinet minister in the British Tony Blair government faced homosexual charges, the minister in question resigned to save the face of the government and to avoid court action.

    "Recently much publicity was given over the news bulletin of the state controlled radio for the demands of a Gay Club.

    It quoted the President of the Club saying that the so called lesbians of the opposite sex had decided to have a separate club as their needs were different from the homosexuals.

    It is a pity and a matter for regret at national level that these clubs which operate contrary to the Penal Code and the wishes of the people of this country is given wide publicity through the state radio under the stewardship of the incumbent Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera. Once again I reiterate that Mr. Samaraweera had made his sexual desire known at the highest place of the land - The Temple of Democracy - The Parliament.

    "During my speech at Uyanwatte I mentioned that the President of the Gay Club had openly claimed that its 500 membership included two cabinet ministers.

    I further said that the people now knew the name of one minister and I would even use the fairer sex to find out who the other minister was. When I used the term in Sinhala "Samalingikayo" (Homosexuals) the village gathering appeared difficult to understand, therefore it was necessary to use the colloquial term in the village language ''Ponnayo''.

    Then there was loud applause from the large gathering and they listened till I concluded my speech at late night though they had transport problems to reach their homes.

    "Even in the telecast shown over Rupavahini later the applause by the gathering was clearly heard and none of them was seen moving as claimed by the state false propaganda machine. I regret that the Rupavahini deliberately cut out a section of that large gathering when it was telecast.

    "It is also pertinent to note that the state controlled Daily News is being used as the main print organ to sling mud at me.

    On Wednesday the paper ran a story to say that a group called "Hela Mithuro" and an unknown Journalist named Manohari Hewawasam had condemned my speech at Matara. In my view these "Mithuros" today bloom like flowers and fade away.

    "Media sources say that they have never heard of this Manohari quoted in the Daily News in Journalistic Circles.

    "The State Media which described my speech as obscene failed to use the same term or even to telecast or broadcast the obscene and derogatory remarks made by Minister Samaraweera during the no-faith motion on him in Parliament.

    "Mr. Samaraweera who launched a scathing attack on the "Sunday Leader" Editor, Lasantha Wickramatunga said: The new darlings of the United National Party are the clique behind this - this hermaphroidite from the slums of Kotahena."

    Does the Minister think that using obscene language in Parliament a decent act to insult Editors of newspapers?

    "When I reached Matara that day for the meeting, posters had come up with my photograph with the headline "WANTED". I had prior information about this poster as it was disclosed to me by a confidant of Mr. Samaraweera that his boss Mr. Samaraweera was instrumental in that campaign to discredit me.

    "Be that as it may I thank the Media Minister for at least telecasting the most important section of my speech as it had created an awareness among the people that even cabinet ministers were members of Homosexual Clubs violating all decent norms in this civilised society and the country.

    "I urge Justice Minister Prof. G.L. Peiris, the architect of the Bill to prevent Child Abuse to find out the name of the other cabinet minister in the Gay Club as such men are enemies of our decent society.

    I also request him to bring legislation in keeping with the provisions of the Penal Code to ban all these dastardly and unnatural clubs which would destroy our children and future generations.

    "I most respectfully request the Maha Sangha and other religious dignitaries in the nation to contribute to help the government in this regard to save our nation and our children from indecent men in these unnatural and obscene clubs."

    While the UNP was trying to sort out its problems, President Kumaratunga met key ministers and MPs to appoint committees to handle party propaganda in various sectors.

    Ministers were put in charge of improving the image of the government among public sector employees, teachers, skilled workers, white collar workers and others.

    The President's aim, it appears, is to go for parliamentary elections, with the hope of getting an absolute majority to push the package through.

    The President also hosted some Ministers and others to dinner at Temple Trees. Some left early to attend the birthday party of Minister Lakshman Jayakody at Hotel Taj Samudra. At a separate meeting with several Ministers the President had wanted them to devise a scheme to generate some income for Provincial Council members who lost their allowances following the dissolution of Provincial Councils.

    The President had reportedly told them that Minister S.B. Dissanayake would look after almost all the PC members in his district, indicating that he is a wealthy man.

    The advice given to the government is that the cases filed by the UNP against the postponement would go in favour of the UNP and it would be rather awkward for the government to hold elections at that stage.

    Hence the government is considering as to how and when it should hold elections without facing legal embarrassment.

    In another development UNP top rungers John Amaratunga and Tyronne Fernando have raised objections against the Selection Committee obtaining assistance from the Attorney General to probe a resolution against the Bribery Commissioners.

    They point out that the AG appeared for the Commissioners in the fundamental rights case filed by former Director General Nelum Gamage and therefore there might be some conflict of interests.

    However the committee chairman overruled the objections, saying he would give his reasons later.

    Soon after the proceedings ended. Minister G.L.Peiris and Jeayraj Fernandopulle met UNP's Karunasena Kodituwakku in the corridor.

    Dr. Peiris asked Dr. Kodituwakku what he meant by the "People's Court".

    Dr. Kodituwakku at last week's meeting of the UNP Parliamentary group had said they should take the case of the Bribery Commissioners to people's court, apparently meaning that they should bring about more public awareness of the issues involved.

    Dr. Peiris asked what his definition of a people's court was.

    Dr. Kodituwakku said what he saw as a people's court was the people's verdict at an election.

    Now the CID is probing how the letter written by the Bribery Commissioners to the Select Committee was leaked to the media. The investigations have been launched after the CID received complaints that the Commission had failed to maintain confidentiality with regard to the complaints received by it.

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