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Cold war continues bewteen uncle Basil and nephew Namal Rajapaksa

Nov 6, 2010 6:54:09 PM- transcurrents.com

Bollywood super star Vivek Oberoi’s wedding took place last Sunday in a five star hotel in Bangalore. Among the Indian Bollywood super stars, Indian government and opposition politicos who were present on the occasion there was also a special guest. He was none other than Sri Lanka’s (SL) heir to the Rajapaksa Dynasty, Namal Rajapaksa.


Bollywood actor Vivek Oberoi and MP Namal Rajapaksa - pic: indi.ca

The latter became personally acquainted with Vivek Oberoi at the Indian International Film Awards (IIFA) ceremony when they were held in Sri Lanka. Among the superstars who attended the ceremony despite the criticisms leveled by the Bollywood superstars against the IIFA being held in Sri Lanka was Vivek Oberoi.

After Oberoi struck up a friendship with Namal Rajapaksa, he went on a tour of the North East and went to great lengths to build up the image of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government. Namal may have been invited for Oberoi’s wedding because of this friendship. It is learnt that Namal who attended the wedding invited Oberoi to visit Sri Lanka again.

It is interesting to note that due to the IIFA ceremony an opportunity arose for Namal to get to know the Bollywood superstars, Indian government and opposition politicos. But apart from this Sri Lanka gained nought out of this lavish ceremony. It was the view of many when Namal played cricket along with the superstars that the IIFA awards function was held here just to make Namal a ‘superstar’. The government organised the IIFA ceremony in Sri Lanka at least officially to promote Sri Lanka’s tourism industry.

The Tourist Board which is under the purview of Basil Rajapaksa ,the uncle of Namal, booked rooms in five star hotels for two weeks to provide accommodation for these Bollywood film and stage artistes. But to the dismay of the hotel owners, even though several months have elapsed since the IIFA ceremony was held, the Tourist Board has not been able to pay the hotel bills incurred from the IIFA ceremony.

The amount of money owed to Hilton Hotel alone is Rs. 25 million. Going by the statistics, the IIFA ceremony instead of boosting the tourism industry for which it was organised has crippled it. It is reported that notifications by the five star hotels to the Tourist Board requesting the settlement of bills has drawn no response or reply.

It was Basil Rajapaksa, the Minister for Economic Development who took the decision to hold the IIFA ceremony in Sri Lanka and made all the arrangements for it to take place in the country. It was his desire to give a boost to the tourist industry which comes under him as the Minister of Economic Development, and bolster his image. But midway, Namal Rajapaksa hijacked the IIFA programme and made it his ‘business’ in order to build up his own image.

By inaugurating a super luxury train service from Katunayake Airport to Colombo in view of the IIFA function, he took over the IIFA programme. Thereafter, Basil was nowhere in the IIFA scene. Now, strangely the luxury train service commenced by Namal for the IIFA is also defunct. Payments due to the hotels have not been made. The monies expended on the infrastructure facilities to renovate roads have also not been recovered. In the end, there is no one to take responsibility for this debacle which led to a cold war between the uncle and nephew in their competition to build their own personal images.

Unfortunately the antagonsim between the uncle and nephew has not been confined only to the IIFA ceremony. This has spread even to the rehabilitation and re-structuring programmes in the North. Basil launched the rehabilitation and re-structuring programme under the name of ‘Uthuru Vasanthaya’. Basil was engaged in this programme before Namal entered parliament at the last general elections in April.

But after Namal was elected as MP, the President appointed him as chief of the rehabilitation programme. After this appointment, Namal along with his Nil Balakaye MPs began probing the rehabilitation and re-structuring activities in the North. He received immense publicity in the state media. His image grew as the leader of the development programmes of the North eclipsing that of Basil.

This image building war between them has now taken another turn : that is pertaining to who should head the foreign investments into Sri Lanka and for the development operations in the South.

After the war, China’s Shangrila hotel chain planned to enter Sri Lanka and construct a five star hotel. Namal and Foreign Minister Dr. G. L. Peiris coordinated this effort. But, when Namal directed the representatives of the Shangrila hotel chain to the Tourism Ministry under the Ministry of Economic Development of Minister Basil Rajapaksa in connection with the purchase of a land for the construction of the hotel, the Ministry had delayed getting land in Colombo for this purpose.

Finally the Shangrila representatives abandoned the hotel project idea and left Sri Lanka. Yet, when the Shangrila hotel chain subsequently approached Basil with the hotel project, he had earmarked the Army Headquarters playground for this purpose. This project is now being handled by Basil.

In addition to this cold war between uncle and nephew, another issue has sprung between President Mahinda and Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena, within the SLFP. We reported last Sunday the struggle taking place between Mahinda and Maithripala to capture power within the SLFP in relation to the SLFP Headquarters at Battaramulla, and how that conflict is getting heated up.

The beginning of this war dates back to when Maithripala was abroad. The President summoned the Health Ministry secretary and gave an order that the outpatient dispensaries (OPDs) of all government hospitals should be kept open for 24 hours. The President thought this decision will earn him popularity via the media. No sooner Maithripala returned to the island he had a discussion with his officials regarding this decision taken without his knowledge.

Although the opening of the OPDs for 24 hours was a good idea there isn’t adequate nursing staff for this. He therefore changed the decision. Maithripala gave a directive that the OPDs shall be kept open only until 8.00 in the night as before. Sources close to the Ministry say that Maithripala’s action was a slap in the face of Mahinda eventhough he made this change in a subtle manner and not to make Mahinda feel insulted in any way. However, Maithripala emerged the victor.

Amidst the cold wars within the government, the President had to deal with a controversial file affecting his status before he embarked on his China tour. That file contained a report on the President’s impending British tour. This was a report filed and sent by the Sri Lankan High Commission in Britain. It was stated that it would be best if the British tour of the President to address the Oxford Union be postponed.

As opinions and feelings are running high in Britain against the President’s tour, this is not an appropriate time for the President to embark on the tour, was the underlying message. Our earlier article had already reported that the President’s British tour was hanging in the balance and his meeting with the British Prime Minister was doubtful. The latest information has only confirmed our report.

Indeed, the Times of India’s latest report that Mahinda is unlikely to go on this British tour because he is haunted by the fear that he could be arrested when he goes there was also revealed by us in our earlier articles.

At the same time, because Minister Samarasinghe could not efficiently and effectively handle the issue of Sarath Fonseka and had muddled it up at the annual general meeting of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), there are signals that it has turned detrimental to the government. What Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said was, the IPU had cast aside the case Fonseka filed on the withdrawal of his parliamentary privileges and human rights violations.

But, when DNA MP Tiran Alles inquired about the veracity of Samarasinghe’s announcement from the Secretary of the IPU, the controversy further escalated. Contrary to Minister Samarasinghe’s announcement, the IPU has after a closed door meeting in this regard, decided to include Sarath Fonseka’s issue at its annual general meeting in January.