‘SLFP will not quit strong, stable Govt’ | Sunday Observer

‘SLFP will not quit strong, stable Govt’

Science, Technology and Research Minister Susil Premajayantha, categorically denying media speculations that a group of SLFP Ministers in the Government are trying to quit the Government, said. “if the SLFP wants to continue with the Government, they should think afresh and discuss the main issues that need to be addressed, and the issues to be prioritized, and then take a collective decision, and implement it”. UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said, “there is no big dispute among the SLFP Ministers to leave the Government at this late stage and added that they would be able to patch up all internal issues and complete the full tenure of the Government”.

Minister Premajayantha told the Sunday Observer, there is no truth in media speculations that a group of SLFP Ministers in the Government have decided to quit. It is true, there is some pressure exerted by the voters who voted for them. After completing two years in the National Unity Government, as a party, we have to evaluate the performance and our contributions. Our Party Leader President Maithripala Sirisena at a recent meeting with the SLFP group advised them to wait and watch, as we have enough time till the end of this year. So we will wait and see what the changes would be.

On Wednesday (September 6), we had the SLFP Group meeting together with the Central Committee members and discussed about party matters and how we should move forward after the SLFP’s 66th Anniversary. Now, we are heading for Local Government elections, probably in January next year.

Majority

Suppose after the determination of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution, Provincial Council elections are called for the North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provinces, we have to get ready for it. So we discussed our strategies on how we should organize the party for future elections.

The Minister said, we remember, after January 8, 2015, the UNP formed a minority Government on January 10 with 45 members. There are instances where Governments have functioned without a majority. Asked if a group of SLFP Ministers will leave the Government and eventually join the Joint Opposition ranks, Minister Premajayantha said there is no such decision at the moment. From time to time we discuss with the Party Leader and at Central Committee meetings whether we could be satisfied with the performance of the past two years and how we are going to work together, while preserving our identity. There are instances when the Government takes hasty decisions.

They should first discuss with their coalition partner and come to some agreement with regard to passing Bills in Parliament or taking decisions about issues such as the Hambantota Port. Even in a single political party, some Ministers may hold different views.

Two major political parties with two different ideologies are now experiencing such differences. We have signed an agreement with the UNP after taking a decision at the SLFP Central Committee. The President recently has advised to refrain from taking hasty decisions till December.

Asked whether the Government’s new brainchild, ‘Vision 2025’, would be a success in view of internal clashes leading to political instability, Minister Premajayantha said this should have been launched two years ago. When India was getting ready for 2020 about 15 years ago, they had 400 groups comprising academics and professionals and held many workshops and discussions with cross sections of society. They studied how other countries worked in similar situations. After a comprehensive study, India prepared their ‘Vision 2020’. That is how we should do. We have to ensure the participation of not only the coalition partners but also of civil society and university academics. When we prepare a vision for the country, the people should feel ownership of that. When a vision for a country is formulated for a certain period, all past data should be obtained to ascertain where we are at the moment and where we wish to be by 2025. According to Central Bank Reports, GDP growth rate in the first six months of the year is 3.8 percent. This is where we have to start. Then our GDP will be 6.5 or 7 percent by 2025. In order to achieve this target, we should develop the three sectors- industry, services and agriculture.

We have to set targets for the industry and service sectors. If we can’t achieve these targets by 2025, we have to review it and see what we should do. We must have a continuous monitoring and evaluating system by the Central Bank and the Department of Census and Statistics. Accordingly, we have to introduce new laws, strategies and technologies. That is how we should prepare a vision for the country. We must also have a plan of action and every citizen should be held responsible for that.

The Minister said, “whether we can go ahead and complete the full tenure of the Government would depend on performance, and how they address critical issues”. Asked whether the differences among the SLFPers will cause a split within the party, Minister Premajayantha said a section of the SLFP Parliamentarians are in the Opposition and they do not wish to work with the UNP.

Dissatisfaction

Sometimes, SLFPers in the Government and in the Opposition have common issues. Probably, the SLFPers in the Government would have to support to run the Government, and then take a decision whether we should continue or not. After 2020, we have to go for General Elections. When we started the Government in mid 2015, the two major parties with the support of experts selected 10 or 15 key areas like foreign policy, agriculture, education and health. We have to get together and iron out any differences and prepare a program setting out targets on how to achieve them.

Minister Premajayantha said SLFP Ministers in the Government have not taken any final decision to quit the Government. But, from time to time, they tend to reveal their dissatisfaction even in public. We could have a survey to find out whether the people are satisfied with the performance of the Government, after two years. It would be a good way to get a feedback, to feel the pulse of the common man.

UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told the Sunday Observer, that no decision has been taken by any group of SLFP Ministers to quit the Government at this juncture. “I think the matter has been sorted out following the discussions the President held with these Ministers. There is an issue among a few SLFP Ministers, but they will not quit the Government. We have already discussed with them and we will conduct further discussions to sort out the issues raised by them.

There is no big dispute among these Ministers to leave the Government at this late stage. We hope we would be able to patch up internal issues and complete the full tenure of the government. These SLFP Ministers have categorically stated that even if they leave the Government, they would remain in the SLFP without aligning themselves with the Joint Opposition. As I see, there is no basis for most of the issues raised by some of these SLFPers in the Government.

They are their personal views expressed on certain issues. However, the differences among the SLFPers will not cause a split in the party. Such problems do crop up when two major parties join hands to form a National Government. But we are confident the Government’s new brainchild”, Vision 2025 economic plan will be a success, despite minor issues between the two main coalition partners. This doesn’t mean that the SLFP and the UNP will jointly contest the 2020 General Elections. Our intention is to form an SLFP Government in 2020 and the UNP may also try to form a Government of their own in 2020. Whatever Government is formed, there is nothing wrong to formulate an economic vision for the country”.

State Minister of Finance Eran Wickramaratne told the Sunday Observer, this Government is a strong and stable one. “The Government has more than two thirds majority in Parliament so that it will continue its full term. In any organization, whether a school board, company or the Cabinet itself, collective responsibility should be upheld.

Defeated

Once a final decision is made, members should support and back that decision. No SLFPer is going to leave the Government because of corruption charges.

What they want is if there is corruption in the present or previous Government, it should be investigated and justice meted out. Mahinda Rajapaksa is a defeated former President. I don’t think anybody in their proper senses would want to be on a losing side. Commenting on the Government’s newly launched ‘Vision 2025’, Minister Wickramaratne said this is a broad roadmap agreed between many political parties of which, the main political parties are the SLFP and the UNP.

This roadmap is a consensus of what the broad policy should be. This would be followed by the present and future governments, irrespective of which party is in power. That is why it is called ‘Vision 2025’ and it is a medium term roadmap. 

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