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 Post subject: Politics Sri Lankan Style!
 Post Posted: Thu Feb 22, 2007 9:10 pm 
Politics Sri Lankan Style!

Sri Lankan Cabinet may have entered the Guinness book of records with the largest cabinet in the world. But Bandaranaike’s antics will entitle him to his own dubious distinction tomorrow when he would have been sworn in as a minister, been sacked from his portfolio and then sworn in again for the same post, all within twenty one days.


Bandaranaike circus
The Nation / 18FEB2007

The curtain rose on the Bandaranaike circus this week with the chief protagonist Anura Bandaranaike deciding to join the Rajapaksa bandwagon without so much as a murmur.

It was a display of how fickle the Sri Lankan political arena is. In any case the swift shifting of alliances by Anura Bandaranaike was not a surprise to many who know his nature and his maverick ways.

The first reaction of Bandaranaike when he heard the President had stripped him of the ministerial portfolio on February 9, was to lash out at President Mahinda Rajapaksa in anger.

“I’m glad to be out of the carnival of clowns,” was his immediate reaction. But later when he was confronted with the consequences of losing his ministerial perks, Bandaranaike was writhing in pain.

The removal from his ministerial portfolio brought Bandaranaike many hardships including the withdrawal of his security and that he would be compelled to vacate his official residence Visumpaya at very short notice.
Bandaranaike contacted Defence Ministry Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa to clarify the actual situation with regards his security. On Saturday last week the sentry point at his gate was reduced to just one policeman. This was the normal security provided to every parliamentarian.

As the drama was unfolding a business tycoon who is a mutual friend of both Rajapaksa and Bandaranaike sprang into action. He telephoned the President before the President left for Male and asked him as to why he stripped Bandaranaike of the portfolio when they were such close friends at one stage during their early political career. He requested the President to restore Bandaranaike’s portfolio and take him back to the cabinet.
The President was also amenable to the proposal and did not mind mending fences with Bandaranaike who had been his “close buddy” for many years, at least until Rajapaksa was nominated as the Presidential candidate.

Soon after the President gave his green light the business tycoon phoned Bandaranaike and told him that the President was ready to accommodate him and he should be ready to make up with the President.
Bandaranaike had a sigh of relief on hearing this, but told the friend that he would think over the matter and get back to him later. Thereafter Bandaranaike was busy consulting various people including a member of his family who told him that it was his call and he had to take a decision accordingly. The family member had also told him that he should remember that the SLFP was founded by his father and sustained by his mother.

By this time Mangala Samaraweera who returned to the country had not spoken to Bandaranaike on his future plan of action and Bandaranaike felt that he had been left out by Samaraweera, but on hearing that Samaraweera was virtually under house arrest Bandaranaike phoned him to clarify matters. This was the last occasion these two spoke since Samaraweera was cautious not to reveal his plans to Bandaranaike.
Bandaranaike who was happy to hear that the President was ready to mend fences with him had actually told a go-between after the sacking that he could become the Foreign Minister and that Rohitha Bogollagama should move out to another ministry.

When this was conveyed to the President, he rejected the proposal saying that it would be unfair on other senior SLFPers who had abided by the party whip. The President had said that he would be accused of giving plum jobs to those who revolt against the party whip if he was to give Foreign Affairs to Bandaranaike. However the President had said that the maximum he could give to Bandaranaike was the Aviation Ministry. It too would have nothing much with only the Civil Aviation Authority coming under it and not even the Airport. The main work being signing treaties with foreign countries.

However when Anura Bandaranaike was told that the Foreign Ministry was out of the question he opted to have the Ports and Aviation Ministry that was held by Mangala Samaraweera. Bandaranaike did not have much concern for his colleague as long as his grievances were addressed. A senior SLFPer who had closely associated Bandaranaike had quipped “That is the way of the Bandaranaike’s.”

In trying to patch up with Anura Bandaranaike, President Rajapaksa got over the accusation of being unfaithful to the Bandaranaikes who had formed the SLFP. Political critics were hurling accusations that Rajapaksa was hell bent on dispatching the Bandaranaike’s to the political wilderness since he was not comfortable with the Bandaranaike’s being around him.
In actuality, President Rajapaksa who proclaimed that he was the son of Bandaranaike policies was being quite sympathetic towards Anura Bandaranaike who was his longstanding friend. He was aware that the political path taken by Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike had paid him dividends fifty years later. But his instincts showed that he was strong man with qualities of a typical southerner.

In fact Rajapaksa told a gathering of SLFP organizers that he could very well be the “Meda Mulane Rajapaksa” opening a window as to what Rajapaksa could be. However he also had the utmost respect to the two senior Bandaranaikes who maintained high standards in politics.
Quite contrary to their parents, the Bandaranaike children did not follow such high standards and traditions in politics, and at times gave heartaches to the mother Bandaranaike when they acted in their own maverick ways. Mother Bandaranaike even kept her son in the darkness when it came to crucial political decisions. One such instance was when they moved an impeachment motion against then President Ranasinghe Premadasa with the help of former Ministers Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali.

In the present context it could be said that Minister Mangala Samaraweera followed in the footsteps of mother Bandaranaike when he kept his colleague in total darkness when he did not inform Bandaranaike of his political plans on his arrival in the country. Bandaranaike was lamenting over Samaraweera’s failure to contact him on his plan. But Samaraweera was acting wisely knowing very well the ways of Bandaranaike as a politician.

Samaraweera’s failure in fact was one reason for Bandaranaike to contemplate on joining with the President. Bandaranaike brought in various arguments to justify the re-entry to the cabinet of President Rajapaksa and finally decided to join back than expediting his march into political oblivion.

By this time arrangements had been made for Bnadaranaike to meet the President as soon as he returned to the country from the Maldives. The plan was that his friend from school days Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and Western Province Governor Alavi Moulana to talk to Bandaranaike before he met the President on Wednesday.

As scheduled the President and Bandaranaike met at Temple Trees and spoke for a very long time where they buried the hatchet.

“You could have been my Prime Minister if not for Chandrika’s dead ropes,” the President told Bandaranike during the conversation. At the meeting the President was willing to give back only the National Heritage Ministry which was given to him after the cabinet reshuffle. The President had however said that he would give him more responsibilities depending on his performance.

Anura’s birthday bash

Anura Bandaranaike who was at the centre of the political drama unfolding in the country celebrated his 58th birthday on Thursday in style in the company of many friends and politicians. President Mahinda Rajapaksa who was invited to the party on the previous day when Bandaranaike patched up with the President at the Temple trees, arrived at Visumpaya – Bandaranaike’s official residence- around 7 pm. Former President Chandrika Kumaranatunga was also to arrive around that time but Anura Bandaranaike had arranged it such that his sister would arrive after the President left.

Bandaranaike was jubilant and hugged the President on his arrival. The President was at Visumpaya chatting with Anura till 8.30 pm and left.
Soon after President Rajapksa left former President Kumaratunga arrived. At the same time, UNP MP Ravi Karunanayake and Sunday Leader Editor Lasantha Wickremetunga walked in. Among the guests was Advertising Agency chief, Pradeep Amirthanayagam and UNP Western Provincial Councilor and Dompe organiser Gamini Gunaratne.

Wickremetunga was seen in deep conversation with Chandrika Kumaratunga. Shortly afterwards, Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe arrived and everyone got up and welcomed him. Speculating on Wickremesinghe’s presence at the party, some wondered whether Wickremesinghe’s presence was to give the impression that Bandaranaike was still in truck with the UNP while having patched up with the President. There were concerns among Bandaranaike’s friends as to whether attempts were underway to stop him from joining the government.

At the dinner Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremesinghe were seated at the same table and they engrossed in conversation for more than an hour.

After dinner it was time to cut the birthday cake. The Birthday boy fed the first piece to his sister Chandrika Kumaratunga, the second piece to Ranil Wickremesinghe and the third piece to Lasantha Wickremetunga.
With the cake having been served, now it was time for the dancing session to begin and the first to take the floor was Anura Bandaranaike accompanied by his sister. With more joining in, Kumaratunga told Anura Bandaranaike to get Ranil Wickremesinghe on the floor, even pulling him by his hand. However Wickremesinghe declined.

As the dancing proceeded the sing song session began and Chandrika Kumaratunga was seen gyrating with gusto as the song “Rejina Mamai Ape Rajje” (I am the queen of my kingdom) was being played, while others were circling and dancing around her.

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