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Amid CHOGM Rush, Lanka Blows Hot for Coal

Amid CHOGM Rush, Lanka Blows Hot for Coal

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Published by: Thavam on Oct 20, 2013
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By Our Political Editor-
Sunday, October 20,2013
BOI recommends huge investments in foreign coal companies toensure supplies, but some ministers raise questions
State institutions rushing in the rain to complete summit projects;doubts remain as to how many leaders will come
Hakeem, Bathiuddin clash openly at President’s tea party; UNP’s crisistalks makes slow progressIt was a ‘home’ and ‘home’ encounter between partners of the UnitedPeople’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) with President Mahinda Rajapaksa beingforced to play the role of the ‘neutral umpire’. It all began after he swore inUPFA councillors for the Northern Provincial Council (NPC) at a ceremony on Thursday evening at ‘Temple Trees’.Seated on the same side of the table for the tea party, next to each otherwith President Rajapaksa were Industry and Commerce Minister RishadBathiuddin, Justice Minister Rauff Hakeem. Bathiuddin’s brother Rizkhan hasbeen elected on the UPFA ticket for Mannar District. Two members of the SriLanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), Ameed Mohamed Niyaz (Puttalam District)and Jawarsha Mohamed (Kurunegala District) took their oaths amongothers. Their party leader Hakeem who had just returned to Colombo after atrip to the United States was also on hand.A reported clash betweentwo rival Muslim factions inAnuradhapura became thesubject of conversation. Atthe table were otherinvitees and cabinetministers too. Rajapaksanoted that a televisionstation had reported that‘anthavadis’ or extremistshad attacked a group of Muslims. He said that thesuggestion was that Sinhalaextremists backed by the Government were responsible for the attackthough in fact it was an internecine clash. “Now, you all will delete the
UPFA councilors pose for a photograph with President Rajapaksa after they were sworn inby the President this week. Picture courtesy EPDP
reference to a factional clash and say Anduwey anthawadis (Governmentextremists) were attacking Muslims,” said Rajapaksa without pointingfingers at either Bathiuddin or Hakeem. Yet, where this ‘political ballisticmissile’ was being directed was clear. Rajapaksa has been particularlyworried about a publication that has been distributed to visitors to a WestAsian country alleging attacks and harassment of Muslims in Sri Lanka. The exact details of how the clash occurred in Anuradhapura are still notclear. One Sinhala newspaper account said that, “A tense situation prevailedat prayers to mark the Haj festival in Anuradhpura on Wednesday. This wasafter a faction of the Tawheed sect objected to a group of female devoteeswho turned up for prayers at the grounds located within Zahira Collegepremises. Police were called to defuse the tension. Members of the Thawheed group had torn curtains and fenced the area preventing thefemale devotees from entering.
 They had organised prayers at the Zahira College grounds and wanted thedevotees to call over for prayers. The secretary of the Jumma Mosque in thearea also helped the Police to defuse the tension, but an argument brokeout with members of the Thawheed group. As a result of the dispute, thefemale devotees could not pray in the mosque.” Members of the Tawheedsect, small in number, are viewed as being more radical in the pursuit of precision in Islam compared to the conventional followers who form a vastmajority.However, the television station in question had its own version – that aSinhala extremist group had attacked Muslims on Haj festival day.Bathiuddin was the first to respond to Rajapaksa’s remarks. He replied“Nehe Nehe” or no, no Sir. That drew an angry retort from the President.“Mama dannawa ney vena deyval. Ehema thamai prachara arang yanney,”(I know what is going on. That is how propaganda is carried out),” he said. That was to see Bathiuddin drop a bombshell against his arch-rival Hakeem.“He contests elections separately. He goes abroad frequently. If he is withus, we must have a policy,” exhorted Bathiuddin in what seemed anattempt to deflect accusations against him. Minister Bathiuddin was a keyplayer in the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC) and crossed over in 2004when President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga held office.He told Rajapaksa pointing his head at Hakeem, “Sir, meyagen likithawaillaganna anduweng yan nethai kiyala (Sir, get a letter from him saying theywill not leave the Government).”Hakeem turned red and was infuriated. “I am not resorting to anytreachery,” he shouted loud. He said Bathiuddin was trying to “corner” himin the presence of other people.
I am not cornering you,” shouted back Bathiuddin.Hakeem rose from his chair and walked towards Rajapaksa. He placed hishand on Rajapaksa’s shoulder and exclaimed “Sir Kattiya inna velaveymawa kong karanna hadanawa. Sir ekka ona deyak saakachcha karala apita
puluwang visandaganna. Meyath ekka mata vedak nehe (Sir, when peopleare present, he is trying to corner me. With you Sir, we can discussanything and resolve it. I have nothing to do with him.”Rajapaksa pacified Hakeem. He said, “Rishad ithing deshapalana kathakeranawa. Mang oyawa kong keruwe nehe ney. Baya venna epa (Rishad istalking politics. I have not cornered you, have I. Do not fear).”An enraged Hakeem said he would meet the President later and made hisexit. Among the ministers present were Maithripala Sirisena (also GeneralSecretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party), Susil Premajayantha, (alsoGeneral Secretary of the UPFA) and Nimal Siripala de Silva (also Leader of the House). This is not the first time Bathiuddin has expressed his outrage in public.During talks to resolve issues arising out of the attack on a mosque inGrandpass, he urged Police Chief N.K. Illangakoon to resign since he hadnot been able to take measures to prevent it. Illangakoon was to point outpolitely that he had been appointed by the President and would hence notheed the Minister’s gratuitous advice to quit office. Later, Bathiuddin wasgiven a severe reprimand by President Rajapaksa over the issue. On theother hand, the SLMC decision to go it alone at the PC polls in Septemberhas irked the UPFA leadership considerably. That it should come amidstaccusations at the UPFA Government over attacks on Muslims, an issuewidely publicised in some Islamic states, has further aggravated thesituation. Though some in the high command of the SLMC feel they shouldquit the UPFA, Hakeem is strongly of the view that such a move would becounter-productive. He has argued that it would only sever the link andleverage the SLMC had to raise issues and resolve them.In view of the swearing-in of northern provincial council members of theUPFA on Thursday morning, the weekly meeting of ministers was scheduledfor the same morning at the Presidential Secretariat. Ahead of that sessionat the Presidential Secretariat, President Rajapaksa swore in NorthernProvince Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran for a string of ministerialportfolios he has chosen to hold. They are: Finance and Planning, Law andOrder, Lands, Road Development, Electricity, Housing and Construction,Water Supply, Cooperative Development, Social Services and Rehabilitation,Women’s Affairs, Industries and Enterprise Promotion, Tourism, LocalGovernment and Provincial Administration, Food Supply and Distribution.Accompanying Chief Minister Wigneswaran for the event was TNAparliamentarian M.A. Sumanthiran.

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