Professionals pledge support for President’s program | Sunday Observer

Professionals pledge support for President’s program

28 May, 2023
President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials at the discussion with Japanese officials.  Pic: Courtesy PMD
President Ranil Wickremesinghe and officials at the discussion with Japanese officials. Pic: Courtesy PMD

President Ranil Wickremesinghe and his delegation left the country on an official visit to Singapore and Japan on Tuesday.

The President who visited the Malwathu and Asgiri Maha Nayaka Theras also engaged in his usual duties on Monday.

At the meeting of the Cabinet and at the meeting of the Government Parliamentary Group, he said that all MPs of the ruling party should be in Parliament on Wednesday, May 24 when the vote to remove the PUCSL Chairman is taken.

Although the President left the country on Tuesday morning, he was constantly in touch with the affairs in Sri Lanka over the phone. Due to the Singapore Prime Minister being infected with the Covid-19 virus, the President discussed with his representative and Minister of Law and Home Affairs K. Shanmugam. The activities of the Shangri-La Conference, one of the leading security conferences in the region, were also discussed.

While the President was in Japan, Party General Secretary Range Bandara contacted him and informed him about the party’s affairs.

It was about discussions with a group of professionals who are not members of the United National Party (UNP). Party Deputy Leader Ruwan Wijewardena, National Organiser Sagala Ratnayaka and others were present. This group told the party leaders that they would support the President’s program independently without joining the party machinery.

During his visit to Japan, President Wickremesinghe contacted Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga and Parliamentary Affairs Adviser Prof. Ashu Marasinghe to look into the participation of Government MPs in the motion to remove the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission.

Gold smuggling incident

President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake received a telephone call from the Director General of Customs. “Sir, an MP of the ruling party has been caught by Katunayake Customs officers with a stock of gold and mobile phones,” he said.

“Did the investigation confirm that the MP was involved in this?” The President’s Secretary asked.

“Yes Sir, he also has three receipts,” the Director General replied. President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake immediately informed President Wickremesinghe about the matter.

“We cannot violate the law. Take legal action against the MP. Also inform the Prime Minister about this,” the President told Ekanayake. Acting on the President’s advice, he immediately contacted the Director General of Customs and instructed him to send a confidential report to the Speaker as the person arrested was a Member of Parliament.

After that, the news of an MP being arrested with three kilos of gold and a stock of mobile phones spread across the country. The Director General of Government Information, Dinith Chinthaka Karunaratne, who met the President’s Secretary that afternoon, said that the MP was fined Rs. 7.5 million and released.

“This is an offence under the Customs Ordinance. The Customs cannot do anything other than ordering a fine or paying the lost tax to the Government. If you don’t pay, you will be sued. This is the law. This is what is done to any citizen who commits these wrongs,” senior lawyer Dinesh Vidanapathirana said.

“The Chief Incumbent of Mihintale Rajamaha Vihara is going to collect money from the people saying that the Government doesn’t give enough money for the State Poson festival,” the Director General of Government Information said switching the topic.

“Throughout history, the Poson Festival was conducted with the support of the private sector - Sithulpawwa, Thanthirimale and Mihintale. We only allocated money for basic requirements. No matter how many economic problems there are, we have done it this time as well,” was the reply of the President’s Secretary.

“Since a group of other bhikkhus have already responded about the work that Mihintale Nayaka Thera is doing, let’s not talk about it,” said MP Wajira Abeywardena joining the conversation.

The President’s Office and Parliament coordinated with each other with the arrival of MP Wajira Abeywardena. However, the news that several MPs are unable to come to Parliament came with this. President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake provided facilities for State Minister Lohan Ratwatte, MP Gayashan Navanandana and Anuradhapura District MP H. Nandasena who is suffering from an illness to come to Parliament.

President meets former Japanese PMs

President Wickremesinghe met several former Prime Ministers of Japan on Thursday. The President met Yasuo Fukuda, Yoshihide Suga and Taro Aso and discussed economic cooperation between the two countries at length. President Wickremesinghe who met Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida appreciated Japan’s support to help Sri Lanka recover from the economic crisis.

The President also drew the attention of the Japanese Prime Minister to the Light Rail Project and with the start of the debt restructuring program, he gave the green light to recommence the project.

Three challenges

President Wickremesinghe participated in the lecture at the ‘Nikkei Forum: Future of Asia’ in Tokyo and spoke about the three challenges facing Asia. The Prime Minister of Japan, Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister Tran Hong Ha, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai participated in this conference.

President Wickremesinghe held bilateral discussions with these leaders. President’s Chief of Staff Sagala Ratnayaka was also present.

Ratnayaka left for Galle last Sunday to attend the certificate awarding ceremony of the UNP social media activists training workshop. When the Colombo district activists invited the party’s National Organiser Sagala to come to Colombo, the Matara activists protested and Sagala had to make a lot of effort to settle the matter. The proposal to appoint Sagala as the UNP Organiser for Colombo West was adopted at the Colombo East and Colombo West Balamandala meeting at former Deputy Mayor Titus Perera’s Kirulapana office the following day.

The setting up of UNP Balamandalas is currently being implemented according to the plan of General Secretary Range Bandara and they are setting up Balamandalas, exceeding the target given by the President. But there has been talks that the General Secretary faced a lot of inconvenience because those who promised the President that they would participate in the Balamandalas have failed to do so.

The UNP Management Board consists of 14 party activists including Navin Dissanayake and Ravi Karunanayake. The General Secretary is waiting for the President to return to Sri Lanka to inform him of the senior politicians including former Ministers who promised at the Management Committee chaired by the President to participate in the Balamandalas but are not participating in them.

This week too UNP Balamandala meetings will be held in Anuradhapura, Kandy, Galle, Kurunegala, Badulla and the Hambantota districts.

A woman told the General Secretary that a group of people were asking money promising foreign jobs, and saying that the money has to be given to General Secretary Range Bandara. She asked if this was true.

The General Secretary who refuted the claim asked her to file a complaint with the Police against the concerned people immediately. The UNP through Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara referred the trainees to the Foreign Employment Bureau as a voluntary service.

General Secretary Range Bandara also decided to inform the people about this through the media as a group of people who knew about the matter tried to do this work for money.

A group of diplomatic representatives of the United States of America met President’s Secretary Saman Ekanayake last week to discuss free trade agreements.

The President’s Secretary said that since trade agreements have been started with several countries such as Japan and Thailand, it would be possible to sign agreements with America soon. President Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived in Sri Lanka on Saturday and left for Mahiyangana to participate in a religious ceremony.

Removal of PUCSL chairman

The proposal to remove Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission Janaka Ratnayake from his position was brought to Parliament on Wednesday. Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who knew that the Opposition from the beginning had prepared plans to defeat the proposal, frequently exchanged ideas with the Chief Government Whip Prasanna Ranatunga and the SLPP parliamentary group about it.

“There is no problem with our MPs, there have been some messages from the Opposition as well,” Premier Gunawardena told Prasanna. “That’s right; there is no problem with the people of ‘Pohottuwa.’”

Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena came to Parliament on Wednesday morning and met a group of members of the ruling party.

“The Opposition’s plan is still working,” the MPs said.

“No, the plan of the Opposition will be defeated as a few members of the Opposition will help us by not coming to Parliament at that time. We will show the Parliamentary strength of the ruling party this time, but it is mandatory that we all should be in Parliament when the vote is taken,” the PM said.

As stated by Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, 123 votes were received in favour of the motion to remove the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission from his position and only 77 votes were received against. Some MPs sitting in the Opposition also voted in favour, while some were absent at the time of voting.


Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa also looked into the matter after receiving information about the failure of the authorities to provide funds for the religious activities to be held in Mihintale in connection with the State Poson Festival.

Sajith who spoke to the Chief Incumbent of Mihintale Rajamaha Vihara Ven. Walawahangunavewe Dhammarathana thera discussed the matter at length with him.

“Ven. Arahath Mahinda Thera is our second Buddha. Mihintale is the birthplace of Buddhism in our country. In 2019, when you were the Minister of Cultural Affairs, the Mihintale sacred site was declared a national heritage. The Poson festival was also declared a state festival.

The ‘Mihindu Perahera’ was gazetted as the first perahera in Sri Lanka. At that time, Rs.5 million was allocated for this cultural event. The Government does not sponsor to conduct such an important event,” the Chief Incumbent said.

Sajith Premadasa promised the Chief Incumbent that he would question this in Parliament. Accordingly, Sajith did not forget to raise the issue in Parliament.

“Usually during the Poson festival, nearly three million devotees come to Mihintale. The Mihintale Aloka Pooja has been held for many decades. However, no financial provision has been set aside to do any of this. “Even though the President has sent circulars to the District Secretaries asking them to hold the Poson festival similar to the Vesak festival, not a single cent has been allocated for this purpose. Allocate money from the Buddhasana Fund or President’s Fund for this purpose,” Sajith said.

Two days before the debate on the removal of the Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, the Executive Committee meeting of the Opposition Party Collective took place in Parliament. The situation in the country was discussed at length and attention was also paid to the threat posed to the Public Utilities Commission.

“At this time, we are not opposing based on a person. The Government is interfering with an independent commission. Therefore, we must take all possible measures against it,” Sajith Premadasa said.

Opposition Leader Premadasa started the debate from the Opposition side. He started the speech with a quotation from the ‘Vasala Sutra’. Throughout the entire debate, the Opposition presented constructive arguments and the failure of the Government to properly respond to them was a remarkable feature.

“Even though the Government won, it is clear today how distorted Parliament is. The person who said that the electricity tariff should be reduced was defeated and the person who said that the electricity tariff should be increased won,” Eran Wickramaratne said.

“The whole country has come to know who are the Vasalas and who are the Brahmins,” said Sajith after the voting.

On Thursday evening, Sajith went to meet a special person and that was Leader of the Tamil National Alliance, R. Sampanthan. Sajith and Sampanthan are politicians who respect each other and Sajith even invited Sampanthan to launch his housing programs.

The discussion dragged on for a long time and the political situation in the country was discussed at length. Special attention was paid to democracy and the decline of the economy.