SLFP confident of winning a majority of LG bodies | Sunday Observer

SLFP confident of winning a majority of LG bodies

UPFA General Secretary and Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said the talks between the two SLFP factions have turned futile, so there is no point in making further attempts to unite the two factions since the SLFP dissidents in the Joint Opposition (JO ) have already decided to contest the forthcoming LG elections separately. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Minister Amaraweera said the JO representatives didn’t have a genuine desire to turn the talks into a success and most of the conditions put forward by them were not feasible or acceptable. The Minister said, the SLFP has the strength to win the upcoming LG polls, but our sincere efforts were to turn it into a landslide victory, with the reunion of the two SLFP factions. There is no denial that the two factions contesting separately would allow the UNP to fish in troubled waters, but the SLFP is confident they would capture power in a majority of the LG bodies.

Q. Will the Local Government elections now be held without let or hindrance as planned?

A. The Elections Commission will fix the dates for the LG elections. The SLFP as a party has made all arrangements to face the election. We will make our deposit within the next few days. We have already prepared the lists of our candidates which will be submitted soon.

Q. What is your comment on the speculation that the SLFP faction in the Government and the Joint Opposition (JO) would join hands to contest this election as one party?

A. We tried our very best to unite the two factions to prevent any rift within the party and jointly contest the LG elections under the UPFA banner to achieve a landslide victory. However, a certain section of the SLFP dissidents in the JO undermined our efforts and attempted to portray that we are going behind them. It seems, they have no genuine desire to unite. Perhaps, they may attempt to create a rift in the SLFP and give the advantage to the UNP. However, we have the strength to win the LG elections. Our candid effort was to turn our victory into a landslide victory. If the SLFP dissidents don’t want to join hands, we can see their fate after the polls.

Q. Is there any progress in the talks between the two SLFP factions so far and are there any conditions imposed by either side?

A. There is no progress. From those who attended the discussion, it was evident they didn’t have a genuine intention to join hands or reach a compromise. We wanted to continue discussions and reach a consensus, but they put forward some unacceptable demands. Some in the JO want to form a Government in 2025 or 2030. But the SLFP wants to form a Government in 2020. That is why attempts were made by us to reach a consensus between the two factions. There is a group of MPs in the JO who have various deals with the UNP. Perhaps, they may try to sort out some of their personal issues with the UNP.

Q. There is a suggestion that both SLFP factions would contest under the People’s Alliance symbol, Chair, without using the Betel Leaf, Hand or Flower Bud. What is your comment?

A. No such decision has been taken. The SLFP would contest under the UPFA with the symbol, Betel Leaf or Hand.

Q. Can the SLFP contest under the UPFA symbol when some coalition parties in the UPFA have already joined the JO?

A. We can contest under the UPFA, there is no issue. Except three parties, all other coalition partners are with the UPFA. Some new parties have also joined us. Therefore, we have no problem of contesting the LG polls under the UPFA banner. At present, the SLFP led UPFA rainbow coalition consists of over 20 political parties.

Q. If the two SLFP factions join together, can it be seen as a betrayal of the trust placed by the voters in the President who promised to get rid of the corrupt elements in the SLFP who are now mostly in the JO?

A. Yes, it is true. Serious allegations have been levelled against some of those in the JO. As the SLFP, we tried to unite the two factions, but now this reunion would be an irrelevant topic because those particular SLFP dissidents in the JO have joined together.

Q. If you reach an agreement with the JO, what will happen to the National Unity Government? The media has already reported that the JO wants the SLFP to leave the Government before the two factions join hands?

A. There are methodologies adopted which would have no impact on the Government. Now it’s of no use discussing it further as there is no consensus between the two factions. They have given up the idea of joining the SLFP. There is no basis for the argument put forward by the JO that the SLFPers should quit the Government before the two factions join hands. A section of the JO is discussing with the UNP to form a UNP Government. Some in the JO who make a big hue and cry today, were at Sirikotha soon after the last General Elections. They went to Temple Trees expecting to get ministerial portfolios. At present, most of them are shouting as they couldn’t get ministerial portfolios. They are jealous of the SLFPers holding ministerial portfolios in the National Unity Government. They expect us to quit the Government and sit with the JO. Some of the vociferous JO members also talked to us and asked for ministerial portfolios to support the Government.

Q. Regardless of this development, have you finalised the SLFP list of candidates including women candidates?

A. We in the SLFP have already finalised our lists to field candidates to all LG bodies.

Q. If the election is still held under the Proportional Representation (PR) system, will you be going back on the promise to field 25 percent women candidates?

A. When members of the next LG bodies are sworn in, of the total number of elected members, 25 percent will be women. The forthcoming LG elections will be held under the new electoral system.

Q. Despite media speculations, Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has already submitted deposits for several LG bodies. Does this mean that both factions will contest separately?

A. Obviously. The SLFP will also make its deposit this week to contest all the LG bodies.

Q. If the two SLFP factions contest separately, wouldn’t it divide the SLFP vote base and thereby help the UNP to gain more votes?

A.Yes. It would have only a minor impact on the SLFP vote base. That is why we made an attempt to jointly contest. However, the SLFP faction in the JO contesting separately would not pose an obstacle to our victory. It seems, a section of the UNP supporters at grassroots level is also going to join hands with the SLFP. In addition, those who represented various political parties with no political interest are willing to vote for the SLFP due to the President’s firm dedication for a “pure SLFP”. The people have confidence that it is only the President and the SLFP has a genuine intention to form a clean Government, with the Pradeshiya Sabhas and Local Government bodies. Therefore, many who didn’t cast their votes will also vote for the SLFP this time. During the tenure of the former Government, serious allegations were levelled against the heads of some LG bodies. Some of them were caught red-handed while accepting bribes and some were accused of rape and murder. This time that very same group is contesting the LG elections under the Podujana Peramuna.

Q. The Prime Minister has already stated that they are going to win most of the LG bodies. Do you think the SLFP alone or together with the JO can defeat the UNP at the forthcoming LG elections?

A. There is no denial of the fact that the two SLFP factions contesting separately would allow the UNP to fish in trouble waters. But the SLFP is confident of capturing power in a majority of the LG bodies. Our aim was to secure a landslide victory by uniting the two factions. There is no point in making further attempts to unite, because those who represented the JO had no interest to turn the talks into a success. Most of the conditions put forward by them were not feasible or acceptable.

Q. With so many allegations of corruption and virtually no action being taken on any of them, how do you assess voter sentiment? Have you taken care to select candidates who are not corrupt and have a clean record?

A. During our interviews, we have selected a very good team of candidates with a clean record. They are a young, talented and an educated group capable of winning the elections.