United Peoples Freedom Alliance(UPFA) national list MP Kamala Ranatunga is to be “requested” to resign her seat “willingly” by the Rajapaksa Government in order to fill the vacancy created with Former Eastern province parliamentarian and recently elected Provincial Councillor SMM Ameer Ali.
This move is being enacted in a bid to appease two constituent Muslim parties of the Government namely the National Congress led by Local Govt and Provincial Councils cabinet minister ALM Athaullah and the All Ceylon Peoples Congress led by cabinet minister for Industries and Commerce Rishad Badhiutheen.
Both Athaullah and Badhiutheen and their party members are disgruntled with the current situation where the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) led by Rauf Hakeem has entered into a better political arrangement with President Mahinda Rajapaksa regarding the Eastern Provincial council.
President Rajapaksa has acceded to Hakeem’s request and not appointed a Muslim chief minister from either of the parties.Instead he has appointed Najeeb Abdul Majeed of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party(SLFP) as the chief minister on a rotational basis with Hakeem’s concurrence.
After a period of two and a half years Najeeb will give way to a nominee of the Muslim Congress to be appointed chief minister for the next two and a half years.
The SLMC has also been allocated two provincial ministerial posts in a board of four ministers.
This in effect means that neither the National Congress(NC) nor the All Ceylon Peoples Congress(ACPC)have been given any worthwhile post in the administration.
They have only been offered the largely ceremonial posts of Chairman(thavisaalar) and deputy –chairman (Pirathi Thavisalar).
This despite both parties winning six seats among themselves in the Provincial polls where they contested on the UPFA ticket.
Badhiutheen’s party won three seats in Batticaloa district and Athaullah’s party won three seats in Amparai district.
When it came to the question of a Muslim chief minister the UPFA constituent parties namely Badiutheen’s ACPC and Athaullah’s NC presented a common front. Both parties wanted MSS Ameer Ali of Oddamavaddi to be the chief minister. Ameer Ali was elected to the council from Batticaloa district. He is from the ACPC but enjoys close rapport with Athaullah.
Ameer Ali had been elected to Parliament from Batticaloa district on the Muslim Congress ticket in 2004.He had later broken away from the SLMC and was a founder member of the All Ceylon Muslim Congress.
The All Ceylon Muslim Congress changed its nomenclature to All Ceylon Peoples Congress after the Rajapaksa regime hierarchy disapporoved of Parties naming themselves with ethnic or religious titles. Athaullah too followed suit by renaming his National Muslim Congress as National Congress.
Ameer Ali was made Disaster Relief services minister in the previous Govt but lost elections in 2010.In the recent provincial poll he won contesting from Batticaloa district with 21,271 preferences.
Despite the track record of abject subservience to the Rajapaksas by the Athaullah and Badhiutheen parties , they were treated very shabbily by the ruling hierarchy after provincial polls. In a bid to secure control of the council with Muslim Congress support the constituent parties were given step motherly treatment.
Earlier it was the resistance of these parties to allocation quotas to the SLMC in finalizing the nomination lists which resulted in the SLMC contesting separately. If not for the NC and ACPC the SLMC would have contested on the UPFA ticket.Now Hakeem had stolen a march over them by placing himself in a king maker position in a hung council.
While Athaullah and Badhiutheen were prepared to meekly go along with the dictates of President Rajapaksa, party stalwarts from the east particularly the elected provincial councillors were defiant.
These eastern elements prepared to revolt against the Rajapaksa regime at the provincial council by refusing to accept the chairman and deputy chairman post offers.
They threatened to either vote with the opposition or refrain from voting if and when other names were proposed for voting as Chairman and deputy chairman by the UPFA.Given the fact that the Tamil National Alliance with eleven and United National Party with four have fifteen seats in a thirty – seven member council, the combined action of NC and ACPC could have resulted in opposition candidates capturing the chairman and deputy chairman posts.
In a concerted move by both parties a hard hitting statement warning of dire consequences was issued by former eastern provincial minister SM Zubair. Zubair a member of the ACPC from Batticaloa district had been elected this time also.
Under these circumstances where an in internal threat loomed large from unexpected quarters , the UPFA hierarchy was forced to engage in conciliatory moves. They were constrained to shower a few appeasing concessions so that Athaullah and Badhiutheen could utilize them to pacify party dissidents.
Accordingly a decision has been taken to accommodate, Ameer Ali, the common chief ministerial candidate of both parties as a deputy minister. In order to do that he will be appointed shortly as a national list MP.
National list MP Kamala Ranatunga has been asked to resign her seat so that Ameer Ali can be appointed. Kamala a single woman without any support base in the party will turn seventy-five on October 19th.She is not expected to demur and will most probably be compensated amply for her “sacrifice”.
With this arrangement the Govt hopes to quell the revolt in NC and ACPC ranks and turn the cyclone into a breeze.
If the parties comply with the fresh formula they would accept the Chairman and deputy chairman posts.
In that event former provincial minister Uduma Lebbe from Amparai district will become chairman and former provincial minister Zubair from Batticaloa the deputy chairman. Uduma Lebbe is from Athaullah’s party and Zubair from Badhiutheen’s party.
If they feel that it is a comedown for them to accept these posts after being ministers some other replacements may be found.
It appears from these developments that under the Rajapaksa regime only those who shout defiantly will get rewards as stated aptly in the proverbial Tamil saying ”Azhutha Pillai Paal kudikkum” (the child who cries will get to drink milk)
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org