SLFP seniors in JO splinter the party - Minister S.B. Dissanayake | Sunday Observer

SLFP seniors in JO splinter the party - Minister S.B. Dissanayake

Senior SLFP Ministers, S.B.Dissanayake and Mahinda Amaraweera believe that the SLFP MPs in the Joint Opposition (JO) cannot have one leg in the SLFP and the other elsewhere. It is time for all SLFPers to get together to strengthen the party and charter the future course for a stable SLFP Government in 2020. If the SLFP is weakened, it would loosen its grip on the voters and end up in virtual defeat at an election. SLFP veterans, Kumara Welgama and Mahindananda Aluthgamage are no exceptions. They were removed from the organizer posts as they failed to fall in line with party decisions. However, MPs Welgama and Aluthgamage say, so far they have not taken any decision to contest separately at the upcoming Local Government and Provincial Council elections and added, they are still in the JO and have not joined any other political party.

A couple of days ago, President Maithripala Sirisena removed the JO stalwarts and SLFP seniors, Kumara Welgama and Mahindanada Aluthgamage from their SLFP organizer posts of Matugama and Nawalapitiya electorates. The President, as the SLFP Leader has appointed nearly 50 new organisers including former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga as the new SLFP organiser for the Attangalla electorate.

MP Welgama, a longstanding Kalutara district SLFPer who had served the party since the time of the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, has held the organizer post for the past 35 years. Former Deputy Minister of Trade, Priyangani Abeyweera has been appointed as the SLFP organiser for the Matugama electorate while Provincial Councillor H. A. Ranasinghe is organizer for Nawalapitiya.

An SLFP senior told the Sunday Observer, the party hierarchy will also have to take a decision regarding four other party seniors in the JO, Chamal Rajapaksa,Vidura Wickramanayake, Ranjith de Zoysa and Arundika Fernando who still act as SLFP electoral organisers. He said, the SLFP MPs in the JO were removed from their organizer posts in view of their non-cooperation, and supporting the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna. Former State Minister Piyankara Jayaratne was also removed from the Anamaduwa organiser post recently and Wayamba Provincial Councillor Ananda Sarath Kumara appointed instead.

Social Empowerment and Welfare Minister, S.B. Dissanayake told the Sunday Observer, the SLFP joined hands with President Maithripala Sirisena as former President Mahinda Rajapaksa handed him the party leadership with the consent of all SLFP MPs, including Kumara Welgama. At the SLFP Group Meeting, everybody had agreed to this decision. After that a group of SLFP MPs sat in the Opposition with the approval and the blessings of the President. However, if these SLFP MPs in the Joint Opposition shirk party responsibilities and work as organizers of another political entity, it is a matter wanting in party discipline. MP Welgama has been appointed the Badulla organizer of Sri Lanka Podu Jana Party. MP Aluthgamage is organizing the Podu Jana party’s meetings in Nawalapitiya. So we had to replace them with new organizers for the two electorates. I think, it should have been done much earlier. As a party, we have to get ready for the forthcoming elections.

Rejecting claims by JO MPs that the SLFP leadership attempts to weaken the party, Minister Dissanayake said, it is the SLFP seniors in the JO who attempt to disintegrate the party by being involved in the organization of another political party. In the SLFP’s history whenever attempts were made to disintegrate the party by dissident members, the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike expelled them from the party. For example, party Deputy Leader Maithripala Senanayake, SLFP Youth Federation President Anura Bandaranaike, Deputy Leader Stanley Thilakaratne and General Secretary S.K.K. Sooriyaarachchi too were removed from the SLFP as they worked against the party. Later on, party Deputy Leader T.B. Illangaratne, the late Premier Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s daughter Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, Vijaya Kumaratunga, a popular political figure in the party then, and party General Secretary Ratnasiri Wickremanayake were removed from the party. The Minister said, the party high command had to remove these senior organizers Kumara Welgama and Mahindananda Aluthgamage as they have breached party principles.

UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera told the Sunday Observer, the removal of these SLFP seniors from organizer posts was not a hasty decision. From the outset, the party hierarchy requested them to work for the party and involve themselves in recruiting new members and convene SLFP central, youth and women organizations. As none of these responsibilities were fulfilled, we had to appoint new organizers. However, if they are willing to join the SLFP and work for the party, we are ready to re-instate them in their former organizer posts. Members join the party as newcomers and subsequently become seniors by dint of hard work and commitment to strengthen the party.

MP Welgama speaking to the Sunday Observer, said, he is a senior SLFPer, but at present the SLFP is with the UNP. After Maithripala Sirisena became President, the SLFP Central Committee met and said, they were going to form a Government with the UNP and gave its consent. When all remained silent, I stood up and opposed that decision and walked out.

At present, the SLFP is controlled by the UNP. Always, we have been the beasts of burden for the survival of the party. I was given the electoral organizers post by late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike. After a lapse of 35 years, I have been removed from that post.

Welgama said, the National Government formed by the SLFP and the UNP is more advantageous to the UNP. I am a Vice President of the SLFP Central Committee and appointed to the post on a proposal by the SLFP All Island Committee. Therefore, I should have been removed with the consent of the All Island Committee. So far we have not taken any decision to separately contest at the upcoming LG and PC elections. We are still in the JO and have not joined any other party. Podu Jana Peramuna is also an anti-Government party. As the JO, we would join hands with any political force to topple this Government, but we continue to remain SLFPers.

JO front liner Mahindananda Aluthgamage told the Sunday Observer, top portfolios of the SLFP are today held by a group of SLFPers who desire to form a UNP Government by 2020. Their intention is not to form an SLFP Government but to make Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe the President by 2020. Their plan is to remove senior SLFP organizers and disintegrate the party. At present, there is an ideological dispute between the SLFP and the Joint Opposition. A group of SLFP MPs are in favour of forming a Government with the UNP while members in the JO are opposed to it. We are of the view that both SLFP factions should get together without forming a Government with the UNP. In 2015, their strategy was to make Maithripala Sirisena a nominal President and hand over the Government to Ranil Wickremesinghe paving the way for former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to take control of the SLFP. As they failed to do so, now they attempt to realize that goal in 2020. We have to form a new political force. At this juncture, the SLFP should quit the Government and stand against it. At the August 17 General Elections, the people gave the mandate to the SLFP to be in the Opposition, not in the Government.