Basil offers support to President on condition he disowns Lanza’s alliance

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  • Masterstroke by SLPP strategist for presidential election; but Lanza goes ahead with his campaign of winning SLPP MPs
  • Confusion and controversy over resignation of Mullaitivu judge; contradictory statements issued by parties involved
  • Probe committee wants Channel 4 to testify before it; seeks affidavit with proof from whistleblower Mowlana
  • New Police Chief to be appointed soon, as Police Commission says no more extension for present incumbent


By Our Political Editor

A political alliance that sought to support President Ranil Wickremesinghe at an election has become shaky due to recent developments.

Triggering the unease is the outcome of a recent meeting President Wickremesinghe had with Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) founder and main strategist Basil Rajapaksa. The latter sprung a surprise offer – full support for Wickremesinghe’s candidature at a presidential election. In return, he appealed to the President to disown the proposed New Alliance. With that political masterstroke, Rajapaksa hopes the SLPP, now in the doldrums, could be revitalized as a powerful political party once again.

The man behind the New Alliance is Gampaha District parliamentarian Nimal Lanza. He successfully canvassed support from some forty parliamentarians. Operating from an office at the Presidential Secretariat, he has been canvassing MPs. As the numbers grew, he hired an office at Lake Road in Rajagiriya. Those who veered around to back his initiatives so far have been mainly SLPPers. Other than them, a segment, including some ministers, was also independently supportive of President Wickremesinghe.

The turn of events came after President Wickremesinghe invited Lanza, who met him almost every week, to brief him on his work, to join him for a meeting with Basil Rajapaksa. That was to be a potential reproachment between two old friends. Before he fell out, Lanza’s visits to meet Rajapaksa at his residence in Battaramulla were always with a hamper full of short-eats. The day’s visitors were served the short-eats and told who brought them all the way from Negombo. He was so close to him. Lanza was now unhappy at the request. He had explained that he was once a close ally of Rajapaksa and had parted ways only after he had not heeded his advice and accepted the finance portfolio. He had pointed out that he had spent most of his time and effort away from him. Hence, there was no way he was going to meet the former minister and SLPP founder though he had no personal issues with him. Other highly placed sources said Lanza had other issues with the government over a property matter in Muthurajawela. He was opposed to a state agency undertaking filling work closer to one of his properties. Lanza, however, has dismissed this accusation.

When the Basil Rajapaksa faction in the SLPP, small but influential, first learnt of Lanza’s initiatives, they were not worried. However, the growing numbers of SLPP parliamentarians who expressed support—prompting the Gampaha District parliamentarian, who had served earlier as both State and Deputy Minister, to title his group the New Alliance and find an office—began to raise concerns. The exercise was to politically marginalize the SLPP. Thereafter, he wanted the alliance to back Wickremesinghe with members who did not favour the idea of joining the United National Party (UNP). This was during a time when this SLPP faction was mulling over a presidential candidate other than Wickremesinghe. Among the names then under consideration was that of a leading businessman because of his easy financial ability. All this was a clear indication that contrary to speculation, Namal Rajapaksa MP, was not going to be the presidential candidate.

On the sidelines of the Berlin Dialogue Forum sessions, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and held bilateral talks with him

Though not regularly seen in his office at the Presidential Secretariat nowadays, Lanza has not given up the task he has been carrying out. A spokesman continues to brief the Sunday media every week about his gains. Yet, a source familiar with the goings-on said he has been at the receiving end of queries daily over the new development. Some of those who raised the issue opined that potential backing by the SLPP would bolster Wickremesinghe’s position. This is supported by UNPers, some of whom had a discussion with their SLPP colleagues at the Shangri La Hotel last Tuesday. Yet, Lanza has not stopped his campaigning for the New Alliance altogether. This week, he brought under the alliance’s fold the 40th trade union. Most of these unions were earlier with the SLPP.

There is a strong point weighing in Lanza’s favour in the crisis looming now. A sizeable number of those Lanza has won over to the New Alliance say they do not want to remain as members if there is to be any unity or merger with the SLPP where there is Basil Rajapaksa and his faction. They do not want their names revealed now due to prevailing uncertainties. Naming them, therefore, would draw formal denials. That is not all. At least two of them warned that they may preempt everything by returning to the SLPP fold early. Perhaps this factor made Lanza buoyant. He told a confidant, “I left Basil and went to support President Wickremesinghe. Why should I go back to him? He is not the most wanted in the SLPP.”

On the other hand, Basil Rajapaksa has launched a peace initiative among his brothers whilst initiating moves to strengthen the SLPP. First is among family members and ex-presidents, Mahinda Rajapaksa, and Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Relations were soured after Gotabaya as President removed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. On Friday night, both brothers, former presidents, sat at the same table at a gala ceremony at Shangri La Hotel to mark the Chinese National Day. An estimated 1,000 guests were present. Interestingly, it was Mahindananda Aluthgamage MP, who was present, who received a call asking him to come to the entrance to meet him. He greeted Gotabaya Rajapaksa first and led him to the ballroom. Also at the same table was Chinese Ambassador Qi Zhenhong. Two other former presidents who were present were Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Maithripala Sirisena.

The large turnout included armed forces commanders, cabinet ministers, diplomats, and a host of other invitees. Both Chinese and Sri Lankan schoolgirls sang the national anthems of the two countries. Two giant television screens displayed the address of Ambassador Zhenhong. He catalogued the number of projects in which China has assisted Sri Lanka and assured that China’s support would continue.

Basil Rajapaksa has been pursuing efforts to cancel the nominations that were held for the local council elections though no dates were fixed for a poll. He originally made the appeal to President Wickremesinghe during a meeting. Thereafter, the “Ministerial Consultative Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government,” took up the matter for discussion. A news release they issued said that it had “unanimously consented to cancel the nominations submitted for the Local Government Elections given that those who have submitted nominations have faced great difficulties due to the postponement of the elections.”

Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who has been out of the public eye in recent weeks, made an appearance at China’s 74th National Day reception at the Chinese built Shangri La Hotel in Colombo. Four former Presidents, including himself, were present at the function.

The news release went on to say: “The unanimous consent was given at the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government held yesterday (20) in Parliament chaired by Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister and Minister of Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils and Local Government.

“A discussion was held regarding the obstacles faced by the field officials to run for elections in their electorate and the status regarding the amendment to the relevant Act to remove such obstacles. The officials present stated that according to the instructions received by the Attorney General, if an amendment is required to revert legislation to its former state, a 2/3 majority and a referendum are required for the said purpose.

“Furthermore, a progress review regarding systematizing the transferring of Secretaries to the Provincial Councils, and the transferring of Divisional Secretaries as mentioned in the service constitution was discussed at the Ministerial Consultative Committee meeting held. Attention was also drawn to the fact that provincial council government officials are not placed with due diligence. Accordingly, the Prime Minister also emphasised that the transfers of all administrative officers including divisional secretaries should be done properly.

“Given that there is no new decision on making new recruitments to the public service now, and since there are vacancies in the provincial and overall public service, considering the already existing employees who have passed the Management Service officer to grade III limited competitive examination to fill the existing vacancies was also discussed at the Committee meeting.

“State Ministers including Janaka Wakkumbura, Ashoka Priyantha, the Leader of the Opposition Sajith Premadasa, Members of Parliament and officials representing the respective institutions and departments were present before the Ministerial Consultative Committee on Public Administration, Home Affairs, Provincial Councils & Local Government Chaired by  Dinesh Gunawardena, Prime Minister, and Minister.”

However, the cancellation of the local polls cannot be carried out by a ministerial order or a cabinet decision. Elections Commission Chairman R.M.A.L. Ratnayake told the Sunday Times, “In the event the nominations for the Local Council polls need to be cancelled, it should be submitted as an Act in Parliament and passed. It is only thereafter the nominations which have already been accepted could be cancelled.”

There were several other matters of importance this week. Among them:


Like the fallout from the disclosures made in Dispatches programme by Britain’s Channel 4, the government was worried over a new campaign that has been launched in social media abroad. This was over the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge and Magistrate T. Saravanarajah. He had cited the order he delivered in the Kurunthoormalai case and claimed there were threats to his life. The Sunday Times learnt that moves to stop him before he left the country came too late.

The Department of Archeology has been trying to build allegedly in violation of the court order a Buddhist Temple in Kurunthoormalai. The order concerned declared that the Archaeology Department Director had repeatedly violated three court orders previously issued and tried to build a Buddhist vihara illegally. Since delivering this order, Saravanarajah has been under threat, it was claimed. First to what the social media tried to make out quoting him:

X – “Constant pressure was applied by the government to reverse the orders I had issued in Kurunthoornalai case.

X – Members of Parliament and others belonging to the majority community have issued threats against my life, both in Parliament as well as outside it.

X – The police protection afforded to me (the judge) was recently reduced, whilst the intelligence officers continued to surveil me.

X – The Attorney General invited me (Judge) to meet him in his office on 21.09.2023 and during the meeting he compelled me to reverse the orders that I had issued in the Kurunthoormalai case.

X – Moreover, two cases have been filed against me personally in the Court of Appeal in connection with the Kurunthoormalai case.

X – I have had to resign from all my judicial posts due to life threats, pressures, and harassments that I have been subjected to since delivering the order. The above said are just a handful of examples of the threats, pressures, and harassments I received.

X – I sent the resignation letter to the Secretary of the Judicial Services Commission through registered post on 23-09-2023.

X – This incident demonstrates the state of rule of law in the island. If a Tamil judge is subjected to such threats, one can only imagine the conditions under which the Tamil people are suffering, let alone Tamil activists.

A high-ranking Attorney General’s Department source, who did not wish to be identified for obvious reasons, answered the accusations. According to the source, Saravanarajah is seeking asylum in a foreign country. He said:

  • The judge is the 1st Respondent in three (3) Writ Applications 474, 482 and 528 of 2023. He has been named in person, whereby his several orders are sought to be quashed and mala fides levelled against him. Following a request (dated 14th September) made to the Judicial Service Commission by the District Judge and Magistrate, the AG was directed to assign counsel to undertake his defence. A copy of this letter had also been sent to him. The Sunday Times has seen the correspondence in this regard.
  • In total there are seven (7) Writ Applications filed apart from Saravanarajah, his predecessor Judge has also been named as a Respondent challenging his order made when he was Magistrate, Mullaitivu.
  • A written request was made by Judge Saravanarajah through the Judicial Service Commission to the Attorney General to safeguard his interest in the above-named cases.
  • Pursuant to his request, a consultation was held with the Judge in the AG’s Chambers with the participation of three Senior Counsel who are handling these cases.
  • Being a Judge, courtesies were extended to him to have the consultation in the Attorney General’s Chambers.
  • It has to be noted that the Judge attended this consultation as a client meeting his Lawyers, fiduciary relationship. Notwithstanding the fact he is a Judge, he was a client as he was a named Respondent in three Applications.
  • He was not summarily summoned. The meeting took place pursuant to his written request.
  • At the meeting, there was no pressure exerted on him and it was very cordial. The judge gave instructions and we discussed with him various issues.
  • It was stressed by the Counsel that the Court of Appeal will be apprised that the practice of naming sitting judges as Respondents should be eschewed and the judge should be discharged. Without prejudice to the above various other legal issues were discussed, to which the Judge agreed. Since the matters are sub judice, it is inappropriate to discuss advice given to a Client by his Lawyer. However, the submissions to be made to the Court of Appeal were made known to him.
  • It is stressed that at no stage was any pressure exerted on the Judge to change his orders.
  • The Attorney General could have taken the path of least resistance and refused to appear for the Judge and asked him to retain his own Counsel. Such a course of action was not followed and was acted on his instructions and advised him on the proposed submissions we were to make in the Court of Appeal.


The three-member Committee of Inquiry now examining the disclosures in the Dispatches programme has invited Channel 4 to testify before it. The idea is to urge Channel 4 to adduce proof of the matters it brought out with claims from whom it calls “whistleblower” Hanzeer Azad Mowlana.

The Committee has also sought to deliver a letter to Mowlana. The Committee, realising that the prospects of his coming to Sri Lanka are highly unlikely, has sought an affidavit from him. Such an affidavit, the Committee wants, with proof of the claims he has made.

The Committee is headed by retired Supreme Court Judge S.I. Imam and includes Air Chief Marshal Jayalath Weerakkody and President’s Counsel Harsha A.J. Soza.

These developments come as Hanzeer Azad Mowlana released a two-page statement in London reiterating the details he gave to the Channel 4 broadcast. However, he did not give any proof of the statements he made.

The lengthy statement noted: “From 2006 to February 2022, I have worked for Shivanesathurai Chandrakanthan alias Pillayan, a Member of Parliament, State Minister of Rural Road Development, former Chief Minister of the Eastern Province and leader of the political party Tamil Makkal Viduthalai Pulikal (TMVP), which had earlier been a militant group. I was the Propaganda Secretary as well as the spokesperson of the TMVP. I was not a fighter. Indeed, I have never been trained to use arms. Because of my position I had access to important and secret information related to the Easter Sunday suicide attacks as well as many political killings that took place during the period of the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa.

“On 21 April 2019 on Easter Sunday a terror attack killed 269 persons including 45 children, 40 foreigners and injured more than 500 others. Only when the media revealed the identity of the suicide bombers after the attack did I realise that I had strong evidence about the masterminds and other perpetrators and the motivation for this terror attack. I have in no way been involved in preparing or carrying out these terrible and devastating attacks.

“Following the defeat of the Mahinda Rajapaksa government in 2015, Pillayan was arrested and imprisoned in the Batticaloa prison under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) in connection with the murder of former Tamil National Alliance Member of Parliament Joseph Pararajasingham, who was shot dead on Christmas Day 2005 at the St. Mary’s Cathedral, Batticaloa. As a secretary to Pillayan, the court had granted me permission, along with his lawyers, to meet Pillayan to discuss legal matters. During a visit in September 2017, Pillayan told me that some Muslim prisoners from Kattankudy were with him in the same cell. A father, his son and six others had been remanded for extremist activities and attacks on another Muslim group in Kattankudy. They were from an organisation called National Thowheed Jamath (NTJ)…….”

He then went on to repeat the accusations made in the Dispatches programme of Channel 4 –ones that were flatly denied by the former Director General of Military Intelligence, Major General Suresh Sallay.

Sallay, now retired, is the head of the State Intelligence Service. He has flatly denied Mowlana’s accusations.

He was on a visit to the United States early this week together with Sagala Ratnayake, Chief of Staff and security advisor to the President, From Washington D.C., Ratnayake flew to Berling to join President Wickremesinghe who made the inaugural speech at the Berling Global Dialogue.


President Wickremesinghe will name a new police chief this month.

This is because the Police Commission has written to the Presidential Secretariat that no further extension of service would be granted to the present Inspector General of Police, Chandana Wickremeratne.

The note of caution came when the Police Commission extended his term of office for a three-month period from July 9. This second extension of the term expires on October 9.

Though he was due to retire from the post of Inspector General of Police on March 26, he was granted an extension till June 26.

The Police Commission deadline comes as there were widespread complaints of a deterioration of the law-and-order situation. Almost every day murders are being committed and even parliamentarians have come under threat. There has also been widespread criticism at the Public Security Ministry over the worrying situation with allegations that only selected police higher-ups were having their way.


A delegation from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) held talks in Colombo over the second tranche of US$ 330 million Extended Fund Facility (EFF).

Though there is no doubt the facility would be granted, the billion-dollar question remains when. Peter Breur, Senior Mission Chief for Sri Lanka, told a news conference on Wednesday that the next tranche is not time-bound. “More work still needs to be done to sustain the reform momentum and put the economy on a path towards lasting recovery and economic growth,” he declared.

During talks, the absence of Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena was felt. That was when issues were raised, and answers were not forthcoming for the delegation members. After all, one of them noted privately that their visit was scheduled with sufficient notice given. It turned out that Treasury Secretary Mahinda Siriwardena was in China.

Reported in these columns last week where the contents of a letter Siriwardena wrote to Defence Secretary Kamal Gunaratne complaining that there were threats to his life as well as to his family revealed. That was because an MP and a former Central Bank Governor Ajith Nivard Cabral have testified against him and Central Bank Governor Nandalal Weerasinghe. He charged they had accused them of being responsible for the country’s bankruptcy before a Parliamentary Select Committee.

Last Sunday, after the report appeared, Patali Champika Ranawaka, referred to the Sunday Times report at a public meeting in Homagama. He alleged that the former Central Bank Governor was at the top of the list of persons who made the country bankrupt. However, Cabral has denied similar accusations against him in the media. Ranawaka charged that Cabrall had advised then President Mahinda Rajapaksa to obtain loans at higher interest.

Ranawaka added: “Two years have passed. The Inland Revenue Department or the Ministry of Finance has been unable to claim the money lost from the Sugar tax fraud. However, doctors, engineers, lawyers, and administrative officials are heavily taxed. Those people are leaving the country. As a result, there would not be specialist doctors at hospitals. There are no nurses, and the elderly are having complications. When the engineers at the Electricity Board leave, they cannot operate the Ceylon Electricity Board. They must obtain engineering service from abroad.

“Sixty pilots have left the country. They refrained from taxing the rich and taxed the experts who developed with difficulty. Therefore, this has caused the experts to leave the country. The professionals should be taxed but they should be taxed justly. We must change this. We must answer their queries. The liquor smugglers have not paid their taxes of Rs 6.6 billion. When I queried why not, they tried to but said they did not have data about two companies. They have sold liquor, earned money, and evaded tax amounting to Rs 1.4 billion. Nothing is known about the two companies. They are taxing the doctors and the engineers to further the fall of the country.”

President Wickremesinghe returns from Germany today and one of his top priorities will be to prepare for the budget next month. In Berlin where he attended the inaugural session of the Global Dialogue, he noted whilst speaking in the geopolitical context that “for a country like Sri Lanka, we have learned to live with pressure from America, India, and China. I mean, that’s nothing new for us anymore. The United States is witnessing an acrimonious run-up to the 2024 election year, which will detract from its ability to lead in this instance. It is creating a vacuum, because if the US wants a new order, the US must lead. But we know from now onwards, till the end of next year, that leadership will gradually reduce as they start focusing more and more on their 2024 elections. So then what happens to the rest of us? Then, on the other hand, you are finding a challenge to G7 and QUAD, which is the expansion of the BRICS, what you call the BRICS Plus. The South is now looking for alternative leadership. And we can see the G20 has been downgraded. So, in this situation, are we going to act in 2024?”

As the IMF delegation returned to Washington DC after talks, the government announced a Social Security Levy. That is to be imposed on consumers through the Lanka Electricity Company possibly through the bills it issues for consumption of electricity. That the consumers are being squeezed more to meet the IMF demand for more revenue generation is known. How much more they would have to face after the budget remains to be seen. Then President Gotabaya Rajapaksa drove Sri Lanka into bankruptcy. The citizens are now paying a heavy price for no fault of theirs.