SLPP leader spells out his party policies | Sunday Observer

SLPP leader spells out his party policies

The leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Prof.G.L.Peiris says, his party whose ideology mirrors that of the SLFP is heading for a landslide victory at the upcoming local government elections.

Denying allegations that former Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s role within the SLPP had been a subject of contention or concern, Prof.Peiris said, he has considerable strengths with regard to organization and logistics, therefore, “his contribution is respected by the membership.”

Within the three months of its formation, the party has built up 20 lakhs of members and the SLPP leader attributed this ‘no-mean feat’ to Basil Rajapaksa’s organizational prowess.

Excerpts:

Q.What stood in the way to bring together the SLFP and your party, Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna, at the recent talks?

A. It was a simple proposition. Of course, getting together is a good idea in principle. But, it is impossible for us to team up with a political party that is in alliance with the UNP, because that is fundamentally contrary to our principles. There was no way we could join the SLFP so long as it was in alliance with the UNP. If they detached themselves and came out of the alliance, then we could have joined them.

The Sri Lanka Freedom Party never stood for the policies which are now being implemented in the name of that party, for example, the large scale alienation of national assets.

The first thing Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandarainake did was to get back Katunayake and Trincomalee bases. He nationalized transport and Mrs.Sirimavo Bandaranaiake brought in land reforms. Mahinda Rajapaksa brought back Sri Lankan Airlines which was leased to Emirates, so that was very much the philosophy of the SLFP. We thought there was a basic contradiction in working with the UNP at national level and working with us at local government level. There is an erosion of confidence as well.

Q. Since you will be going your own ways at the election, the SLFP vote will be split among the two camps, so don’t you think this would give an undue advantage to the UNP ?

A. No, we do not agree with that. Everyone says that. It depends on the scale of the split. If it is 50/50 or 60/40, then there is a problem. But, we don’t think the split is going to be like that because the grassroots SLFP supporter does not look upon President Maithripala Sirisena as the leader of the SLFP. It will be all too evident from the outcome of this election.

The distribution of all sorts of jobs and gifts violating election laws will not be helpful in alienating a significant part of the SLFP vote to secure victory for the President’s camp. We are confident about it.

Q. There is talk of an early Presidential election. Who will be the SLPP Presidential candidate?

A. There is plenty of time to decide that. The election must be held between November 9 to December 9, 2019.

Now, we have five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously holding the view that President Sirisena’s term is five years.

Q. Is there a possibility for the SLFP and the SLPP to get together after the election and secure power in the local councils? The SLFP Ministers in the government also had said, they would continue efforts to bring the two factions together.

A. There is no sincerity in that at all. They know that they cannot win on their own. So they are now trying to use Mahinda’s name and his photograph for the election. We have made no such decision to join forces after the election.

Q. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is openly canvassing for SLPP despite being an SLFP member. How ethical is this?

A. Our position is that the true philosophy, values and ideology of the SLFP are embodied in our party. Today, the SLFP has become a tail of the UNP. The neo liberal policies of the UNP are being implemented through the SLFP.

It is particularly sad that the sale of the Hambantota port, for example, was done by an SLFP Minister who lost the election and was brought in through the National List.

There is nothing ethical about that.

Q. There is an allegation that former Minister Basil Rajapaksa is the livewire behind the SLPP. Some of the Joint Opposition members are not pleased with it?

A. No, that is not the case at all. Different people contribute to the party in different ways. In a matter of three months this party has accumulated 20 lakhs of members, which is no mean achievement.

Basil has considerable strengths with regard to organization and logistics. His contribution is respected by the membership. We work as a team and each contributes according to his talents and skills.

Q. It is said that a major reason that bought down the Mahinda Rajapaksa government is the nepotism factor. Observers say the same curse of nepotism is now creeping up the SLPP?

A. No, it is not the case. What is the nepotism in the SLPP? Belonging to a family is not a qualification as well as not a disqualification to be elected. The Rajapaksas have been elected to Parliament over and over again.

Q. Independent election observers say some village criminals have made it into the candidate lists of most of the major political parties as well as the SLPP. Your comments?

A. We have done our best to screen candidates… and put forward candidates whose integrity is clear. But, there may be a few niggers in the woodpile. If it is the case the solution lies in the hands of the voters.

They have the right to reject those with criminal records. We expect a politically conscious and savvy electorate to use their sense of discrimination and weed out elements they regard as undesirable.

Q. Is former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa a member of the SLPP?

A. No he is not. You don’t need to be a member of the party to give leadership to the principles of that party. He has a reputation as a very able administrator.

Q. There was a rumour that the former Defence Secretary was asked to stay away from the country. Your comments?

A. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa left the country to be with his son, his only child. This theory that has been floated is not true at all. A stay order has been obtained from the Court of Appeal preventing his arrest. So, there is no danger of an arrest.

The stay order has been extended till January 25. We have no reason to believe he would be in any danger thereafter.

Q. What will be your next step after the local government election?

A. We expect to be able to control the vast majority of the local bodies. This is not wishful thinking, wherever we go there is a strong desire to make a change. There are so few people who are satisfied with the performance of the government. This is an election that the JO has got for the people.

If they reject the policies of the government there is no point in voting for both the UNP and the SLFP because they are both integral parts of this government. Each is trying to shift the blame to the other, but that is a futile exercise.

Q. There is a school of thought that the next presidential election should be held in 2019. Are you in agreement with that?

A. That matter has been resolved beyond doubt by the ruling of the Supreme Court. The new President has to take office in the first week of January 2020. Therefore, the Presidential election should be held towards the end of the year. There is no ambiguity now.

Q. Even if the SLPP wants to make the former President the next Presidential candidate, it cannot be done according to the present Constitution. In that case what is the alternative?

A. There is absolutely no legal bar against him from becoming the Prime Minister. The idea that Presidents are more powerful than the Prime Minister is entirely fictitious, it depends on the personality. Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was more powerful than any President. Take also the example of Myanmar.

Q. Who would you be grooming to run for Presidency at the next election?

A. That will be decided at the right time, what we are doing now is organizing the party, formulating its policies, communicating with the people and creating public opinion. That is the need of the hour, the grassroots level organization. President Maithripala Sirisena’s candidature was announced only two months before the election - cometh the hour, cometh the man. 

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