ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Vol. 41 - No 38

SLFP southern councillors rally behind Mangala

SLFP local councillors in two key southern districts, Galle and Matara, have rejected a move to endorse President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s decision to sack Ministers Mangala Samaraweera and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi.

Instead, they adopted a resolution yesterday calling upon President Rajapaksa to re-appoint Mr. Samaraweera and Mr. Sooriyarachchi as ministers and hand them back their portfolios.

The decisions came at two separate meetings of SLFP local councillors in Galle and Matara. Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva had been assigned by President Rajapaksa to summon the two separate meetings to obtain their endorsement of his decision to sack the ministers. On February 9, three Ministers – Mangala Samaraweera (Ports and Aviation), Anura Bandaranaike (National Heritage) and Sripathi Sooriyarachchi (Non Cabinet – Minister of Port Development) were sacked. Later, Mr. Bandaranaike made up with the President and is to be sworn in again tomorrow as minister.

Before yesterday’s meeting, posters had sprung up in Galle town calling on the SLFP to take immediate action to get Mr. Samaraweera back to the cabinet and end the conflict within the party.

The opposition to the decision to remove Mr. Samaraweera from the cabinet was expressed when Mr. de Silva arrived at the venue and was being hosted to tea. As the minister attempted to explain the reasons for the removal of the minister, a Municipal Council member said he believed the decision was wrong and it should be rectified.

However Mr. de Silva told more than 200 local council members who attended the meeting said that the President had removed Mr. Samaraweera for a series of valid reasons which had been explained to the SLFP executive committee. The minister said the sacked ministers had been making adverse remarks against the party. He quoted reports in several newspapers and the letter Mr. Samaraweera sent to President Rajapaksa.

But, Galle Muncipal Council member Faiz Lathif moved a resolution that Mr. Samaraweera and Mr. Sooriyarachchi should be given back their ministerial positions. The resolution was supported by Galle Municipal Councillor Kumara Dhammika.

At least eight other members who addressed the meeting called on the President to review his decision.

In Matara six of the organizers who spoke at the meeting said they believed the decision to sack the ministers was wrong and should be rectified.

District organizer Nazar Ikram moved the resolution in favour of Mr. Samaraweera and was seconded by Matara MMC Pragathi Jayasekara.

Arguments broke out between some of the members and Minister de Silva during the two-hour meeting.

On Friday night there was pandemonium at a meeting of Western Provincial Council members and local councillors of Kelaniya and Moratuwa at Temple Trees. President Rajapaksa was expected to preside, but he did not turn up. Instead it was chaired by SLFP General Secretary Maithripala Sirisena.

In his speech Mr. Sirisena was highly critical of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga. Later when Justice Minister Dilan Perera began to criticize Mr. Samaraweera, there was cross-talk that led to booing and shouting. In the melee, Western Provincial Councillor Upali Kodikara tried to move a proposal endorsing President Rajapaksa’s action. However there was no one to second it.

However, a resolution commending President’s development programme was adopted.

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Copyright 2007 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.