Diplomatic circles were abuzz on Thursday as speculation spread that the police had been placed on standby following what seemed to be a rift in the cohabitation government.
News spread that the police had been deployed to prevent clashes between supporters of the United National Party and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in the event both sides publicly announced a political divorce.
Government sources told The Sunday Leader that a statement made by President Maithripala Sirisena and some Sri Lanka Freedom Party members on investigations being conducted on allegations of corruption by the former government led to the rise of tensions between the SLFP and the UNP.
President Maithripala Sirisena had warned that he will be compelled to take action against politicising the police Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID), Criminal Investigations Department (CID) and the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption (CIABOC).
The President, in a public statement, said he had conveyed this message to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the cabinet.
The President had also said that he will take measures to ensure the dignity of the army is protected at every cost.
Later SLFP member and Government Minister S.B Dissanayake, speaking to the media in Kandy said that President Maithripala Sirisena was kept in the dark over the notice issued by courts on some Parliamentarians and former military chiefs.
Dissanayake noted that notice issued on the State Minister of National Integration and Reconciliation A.H.M. Fowzie was unacceptable.
The case was filed over the alleged misuse of Government vehicles worth Rs. 19.5 million. Fowzie has been ordered to appear in court on October 28.
Dissanayake said that the President and the Speaker of Parliament must be informed when a Parliamentarian is summoned to court.
He also said that all the Ministers in the cabinet had also used government vehicles in the past belonging to other Ministries like Fowzie did, so the charge against Fowzie was unacceptable.
“This incident is an attempt to discredit the President,” he said.
He also said that the President should have been informed before summons was issued on former military chiefs by courts recently.
Those statements did not go well. The UNP and SLFP were suddenly not happy together. As soon as news spread that the police was placed on standby on Thursday the diplomatic community began calling some Deputy Ministers wanting to know if there was an issue.
Government gives assurance
The government assured the diplomats that there was nothing serious. The police also informed the media that the police was deployed in the Western Province to arrest criminals and that it was not related to politics.
Sources said that the matter had later been settled between the President and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe before the two leaders left on two separate overseas visits yesterday.
The Janatha Vimukthi Pramuna (JVP), meanwhile, sought a clarification from President Maithripala Sirisena over a statement he made.
The JVP said the statement made by the President was very serious and seems like one which challenges the mandate he received from the voters on January 8, 2015.
The JVP said the President’s statement that the investigations units could be operating on a political mandate cannot be taken lightly.
The JVP also said the matter was more serious since the President is the head of state and head of the Government.
According to the JVP, making any statement which could undermine the work of investigations on corruption, goes against the mandate given to the government.
Civil society who backed Sirisena at the 2015 January 8 polls had also raised concerns over the President’s statement and sought a clarification.
Sirisena came to power promising to crack down on the alleged corrupt activities of some members the former regime, including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
As a result the public statement made by the President drew widespread concerns.
The Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), a key partner in the cohabitation government, expressed its disappointment with the slow progress to take action against top officials of the former government who were accused of corruption.
JHU General Secretary and Minister of Megapolis and Western Development, Patali Champika Ranawaka said that the JHU will continue to push for legal action on corrupt officials.
He told reporters in Kandy that even the legal process in some cases involving corrupt officials is taking a back seat.
“We may face abuse for saying this but we will not be shaken. We will take the January 8 revolution forward,” he said.
He said that there was a call to establish special courts to deal with major corruption related cases but the special courts could not be established.
Ranawaka said that now the existing courts must ensure the allegations are looked into and that justice is served.
Ranawaka also said that the JHU will in future form a broad alliance and he invited those who are supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to reconsider their stand and join the JHU. (Courtesy The Sunday Leader)