UNP now backing Cooray: Whither WPC?
By Santhush Fernando
A series of political developments rest on the future of Reginold Cooray, until last week Chief Minister of the Western Province.

He resigned in the wake of a no-confidence motion moved by the opposition UNP in the Council. With the collapse of the UPFA, the SLFP members were not sufficient to sustain him in office. Hence he quit.

In the wake of moves by the council’s opposition leader Kithsiri Kahatapitiya, the JVP moved to prevent the UNP from taking control of the council. This was on a request by Minister Mangala Samaraweera to JVP's General Secretary Tilvin Silva and Parliamentary Group leader Wimal Weerawansa. The JVP politburo met and decided it would support SLFP's Nandana Mendis. He was sworn in as chief minister. The decision came after the politburo was told that Mr. Samaraweera had made the request on his own and not on behalf of any other leading personality of the UPFA.

Now, the UNP group which said it had no confidence in Mr. Cooray is willing to allow him to return as chief minister. In a move to sideline the JVP these members have said they would altogether forget the allegations made against Mr. Cooray in the no-confidence motion. If the move succeeds, Mr. Cooray will return to his original post. If it does not, he would have to keep to a previously planned arrangement -- a return to Parliament.

Who will be called upon to resign so he can be brought in on the national list? Government sources say President Kumaratunga is now not in favour of calling upon either Wijedasa Rajapakse or Mervyn Silva to resign to make way for Mr. Cooray.

These sources said they may call upon Dr Viswa Warnapala, now the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and currently Acting Minister to resign. Dr. Warnapala is at the centre of a heated controversy after utterances he made during the official visit to Sri Lanka of Indian External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh.

Dr. Warnapala who had received Mr. Singh at the Bandaranaike International Airport had later accompanied him in the same car to Colombo.
During the journey he is reported to have altogether ignored protocol and made very critical remarks about the Joint Mechanism or P-TOMS.

So much so, an embarrassed Mr. Singh was later to ask Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar as to who Dr. Warnapala was and how he came to be a deputy minister.The same sources said Mr. Kadirgamar had also brought this reportedly unbecoming conduct by Mr. Warnapala to President Kumaratunga’s notice. During a light hearted moment, a VVIP is said to have told Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapakse, that "you have a good friend" who crticised those from "Radala Walawwas" (feudal residences).

Meanwhile, the JVP, though threatening to withdraw support from the UPFA administration of seven provincial councils if the P-TOMS agreement was signed, has decided on a compromise, party sources said yesterday.

They said withdrawal of JVP support might bring down the administration in all PCs and thus enable the UNP to take control. Thus the politburo decided on another course of action which would prevent the UNP from taking control.

North Central Provincial Council (NCPC) JVP Group Leader Sarath Indrananda said his party would not allow the UPFA administration to fall and the UNP to take control. Similar views were expressed by JVP group leaders in other provincial councils. But the specifics of the compromise were not clear.

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