JO banks on Co-op elections | Sunday Observer

JO banks on Co-op elections

Joint Opposition (JO) front liners boast that their recent political rally at Ratnapura was a total success, to realize their future goals, and reiterated that they have already opened discussions with all anti-government forces, political parties, and intellectuals, regardless of their ideologies, to form a broad alliance to oppose the Government.

UPFA Ratnapura District MP Ranjith de Zoysa said, the day the SLFP hierarchy expels 40 SLFP MPs in the JO and other Provincial Council and Pradeshiya Sabha members from the party, for opposing the present SLFP-UNP cohabitation, they would launch the new party. He says, if the Government is not bothered about the Co-operative Society election results, they call upon the Government to immediately fix dates for the Local Government elections, so that the Government will understand the reality rather than groping in the dark.

However, UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera citing the mammoth crowd that attended former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election rallies during the last Presidential Election campaign said, a victory of a political party cannot be judged by the crowd present at such rallies.

MP Zoysa told the Sunday Observer, the JO rally themed “Aragalayata Pana Povana Nawa Janatha Bala Wegaya” held at Ratnapura on October 8 acted as a boost to realise our future goals. The main objective of the rally was to protest against the removal of senior party organisers from their posts.

A large number of people who attended the rally expressed their vehement protest over the decision taken by the party leadership to remove UPFA Ratnapura District MP Pavithra Wanniarachchi from the post of Eheliyagoda party organizer. Before the Ratnapura rally, we categorically stated, a new party will not be launched on October 8. The rally was mainly to protest against the imposition of various taxes, to increase the cost of living burden on the people, and the moves to suppress political opponents through various illegal institutions. The people have faced immense hardships due to the acts of this 21 month old, so called “Yahapalana” Government. In the circumstances, there is an urgent need for a genuine anti-government people’s movement. Whatever election is to be held, LG, Provincial Council or Parliamentary, the people are anxiously waiting to give a good response to this anti-people Government.

MP Zoysa said, if the coalition Government doesn’t fulfil peoples’ aspirations, we stress the need for a broader anti-government front .We have already commenced discussions with all anti-government forces to form a broad alliance to oppose the Government, tooth and nail. It will not be done in any secret manner. MP Zoysa said, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and all 40 SLFP MPs in the JO are still members of the SLFP. Before the Kirulapone and Hyde Park rallies and Jana Satana Pada Yatra, the SLFP hierarchy threatened to sack the SLFP MPs in the JO from the party. However, we launched protest campaigns without heeding such threats. We, in the JO love the SLFP which is our sole political heritage. However, the day the SLFP leaders expel 40 SLFP MPs in the JO and other PC and Pradeshiya Sabha members from the party, we would definitely launch a new party.

He said, the media had reported that JO members are currently busy weeding through thousands of emails and snail mails, to select and finalise appropriate names for the new party to be launched in the near future. It is also reported, the JO has received over 4,500 names via email, apart from another several thousand names via the post. A special committee has been appointed to study the mails and shortlist several names for the party.

MP Zoysa said, the candidates supporting the JO have secured victories in several Co-operative Society elections held in Ambalangoda, Puttalam, Arachchikattuwa, Madampe, Walapane, Kahawatta, Eheliyagoda and Ruwanwella. In the Arachchikattuwa Co-operative Society elections in the Puttalam district, the JO had secured 175 votes while the SLFP faction in President Maithripala Sirisena’s camp had obtained one vote. The UNP-backed candidates had received nine votes and JVP two votes. In the Madampe Co-operative Society, JO had secured 141 votes as against the UNP’s 40 and the SLFP’s one. The JO had also secured victory in the Ambalangoda Co-operative Society. They had received 47 votes while the UNP obtained 25 and the SLFP 12. The JO front liner pointed out, this is a significant victory because the number of members won by the pro-Mahinda faction is very much higher when compared to the number secured by both, the SLFP faction in the Government and the UNP. The Government attempts to undermine this victory and interpret that there in no politics in the Co-operative elections. But, the results of Co-operative society elections is a clear reflection of the people’s anti-Government sentiments. We express anti-government sentiments at each Co-operative society election. If the Government doesn’t care about these election results, we call upon the Government to immediately fix dates for the LG elections so that we could teach them a lesson.

Meanwhile, former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at a recent press conference held by the LG representatives at his political office in Battaramulla said, the Government is reluctant to hold the LG elections, and puts off Co-operative society elections as they know what the results would be. He said, the Government has failed to win even a single seat in Dambulla and added that in the past, the Co-operatives stood with the Government, but not any more. The people have a close association with the Co-operatives and this change reflects that they are frustrated with the Government, he said.

Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister S.B.Dissanayake told the Sunday Observer, it is not true that the JO won all the Co-operative society elections held recently. The SLFP won the Co-operative elections in Hanguranketha, Rikillagaskada and Hewaheta. The SLFP can win in most Co-operative elections in the Southern Province including the Habaraduwa Society. The SLFP was not really interested as Co-operative Society elections are not held on a party basis. Commenting on the JO’s recent Ratnapura rally, Minister Dissanayake said, of the 51 MPs in the JO only 37 had attended the rally. In addition, only 50 percent of Pradeshiys Sabha members and 7 or 8 PC members had participated. UPFA Kandy District MP Dilum Amunugama told the Sunday Observer, there was a huge turn out at the JO’s Ratnapura rally.

What the people are asking for is a new camp which will be, either, the true Opposition or an anti-government alliance.

They feel the SLFP is part of the Government and they don’t see it as anti-government anymore. My personal view is, we have to create a broader anti-government force. Of course, there will be a new party some day, but we didn’t officially announce that a new party will be launched on October 8. It was to protest against the removal of SLFP Eheliyagoda Organiser MP Pavithra Wanniarachchi.

The next rally will be on October 23 as a protest against the removal of Bentara-Elipitiya SLFP organiser MP Geetha Kumarasinghe. There is a dire need to form a new political party or alliance at this juncture.

Even the people say the government is not doing anything to solve the problems in the country. Therefore, they need a party to solve their problems.

MP Amunugama said, some MPs in the JO like, Dinesh Gunawardena and Wimal Weerawansa have their own parties. But the SLFP MPs in the JO don’t have a separate party and we still go as SLFPers. So,definitely there will be a new alliance before the next elections. At present, there are disputes between the two parties in the Government. We saw the recent statements made by Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara and President Maithripala Sirisena.

The President said, he didn’t know that the three former Navy Commanders and intelligence officers were produced in courts. It is clear evidence of a dispute between the two parties in the Government.

The SLFPers in the Government were voted by the people not to be in the Government, but they should sit in the Opposition. At least now, it is time for them to join the Opposition, in which instance, we are ready to work with them.

UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amarawera told the Sunday Observer, a victory of a political party cannot be judged based on the crowd at a political rally. For example, all the political rallies held to ensure the victory of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last Presidential Election campaign were full of people, but his rival candidate Maithripala Sirisena won the election.

Therefore, people’s participation is no sign of victory. Minister Amaraweera said as the UPFA General Secretary, he would try his best to join the two SLFP factions, but it is premature to comment on it.