Colombo, May 17: Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Wednesday appointed former parliamentarian Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, former Vavuniya Government Agent PSM Charles, and Ceylon Workers Congress member Senthil Thondaman as Governors of the North Western, Northern, and Eastern provinces respectively.
On Monday, three provincial Governors were removed by the President. They were Jeevan Thiagarajah (North), Adm.Wasantha Karannagoda (North West) and Anuradha Yahampath (East).
Media reported that Navin Dissanayake is likely to be appointed as Governor of Sabaragamuwa province after Tikiri Kobbekaduwa quits the post. Kobbekaduwa is presently overseas.
It is said that the President removed Northern Province Governor Jeevan Thiagarajah because he was not getting on with local Tamil politicians. Given his military background, the North Western Province Governor Adm. Karannagoda was not getting along with provincial officials. Additionally, his continuance in the post had become untenable after he was designated by the US State Department on charges of human rights violations during the war, especially the enforced disappearance of 11 youths from Colombo.
Karannagoda’s ouster should pave the way for reconciliation with the Tamil minority generally in Sri Lanka. Same is the case with Anuradha Yahampath, Governor of the Eastern Province. She had alienated the Tamils with her close identification with the Sinhala-Buddhist majoritarian cause. She used to assist Adm. Sarath Weerasekara when he visited Geneva to plead the cause of the Sinhala-Buddhist majority at the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
The ousted Governors were appointees of Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Gotabaya has now lost clout in Sri Lanka, including the Rajapaksa clan.
The current appointees answer some of President Wickremesinghe’s politico-electoral needs. Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena, a Sinhala Buddhist politician from South Sri Lanka, is close to Basil Rajapaksa, a leading light of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), which supports President Wickremesinghe in parliament.
PSM Charles is known for her loyalty to the government of the day besides being a good administrator with experience in rehabilitation of war refugees. She is one of the few Tamil civil servants who had risen to the top in recent history. She is expected to vibe with the Tamils of the Northern Province besides running the administration efficiently.
Senthil Thondaman is an active young politician from the Indian Origin Tamil community belonging to the Ceylon Workers Congress and the illustrious Thondaman clan. Senthil is close to the Rajapaksas, especially Mahinda Rajapaksa. He has good ties with DMK leaders in Tamil Nadu also.
The three new appointees, being close to Mahinda and Basil Rajapaksa, President Wickremesinghe is assured of the continuous support of the SLPP in parliament. Such support could be extended to his candidature in the Presidential election expected to be held in 2024.
Navin Dissanayake, the prospective Governor of Sabaragamuwa Province, is from President Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP). He is a son of the Late Gamini Dissanayake, a UNP stalwart.
President Wickremesinghe has initiated these changes to improve the image of his government and bring about ethnic harmony and reconciliation ahead of his bid for the Sri Lankan Presidency in 2024.
He has held talks with the Tamil parties, especially the Ilankai Tamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) headed by R.Sampanthan to find a workable and largely acceptable solution to the Tamil question.
To show his commitment to the Tamil cause, he has put a stop to Archeology Department’s conducting excavations in the Eastern Province with funds provided by Buddhist monks backed by overseas Lankan Buddhists. The Tamils have been complaining that these excavations are carried out only to prove that the Eastern Province had been a traditional homeland of the Sinhala-Buddhists and not that of the Tamils.
Recently, Wickremesinghe told Archeology Department officials not to excavate with funds given by Buddhist monks but with government funds only.