JO to become ‘Ekabadda Podujana Peramuna’ | Sunday Observer

JO to become ‘Ekabadda Podujana Peramuna’

The Joint Opposition (JO) front liners say that at the moment they are preoccupied with the major task of forming a new broad political alliance Ekabadda Podujana Peramuna with the actual participation of all constituent parties in the JO to rally round all democratic forces that are at the forefront to topple the incumbent Government and form a people - oriented progressive government. The JO members told the Sunday Observer that they would also launch countrywide agitation campaigns to pressurise the Government to hold Provincial Council Elections as early as possible as they are long overdue.

However, within the JO, there are those holding divergent views as some of the heavyweights have openly expressed their opposition against the likelihood of former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa being made the presidential candidate. JO front liner MP Kumara Welgama did not mince his words when he openly said that they only want a democratic leader at the helm and who is nobody else but former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

UPFA Ratnapura district MP Vasudeva Nanayakkara said that the JO has decided to form a broad political alliance Ekabadda Podujana Peramuna to rally all progressive forces to topple the incumbent Government. This new political alliance will include the members of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and it will have its own organisational structure and executive positions. At present, the JO has bolstered its strength with the inclusion of 16 SLFP MPs who defected from the Government so that the alliance could successfully throw a challenge to the Government.

He said the JO has planned to conduct countrywide agitation campaigns to pressurise the Government to conduct Provincial Council Elections which are long overdue.

MP Nanayakkara further said the JO has not yet taken any decision about its presidential candidate 2020. However, he said his party’s political stance is that MP Chamal Rajapaksa should be the JO Presidential Candidate and he supports him as a moderate leader who is best qualified to take a balanced view.

UPFA Galle District MP Chandima Weerakkody said that it is most opportune to form a broad political alliance embracing all progressive forces who are willing to join hands with them to face the current political realities. Of the 95 SLFP MPs, over two thirds are now in the JO. I believe, the JO will make a formal request to the Speaker to recognise 69 MPs in the JO as a separate political group. Asked how practical it is for the JO to muster two thirds for a resolution to be passed to dissolve the Parliament, MP Weerakkody said it is a difficult target, but we can canvass for two thirds. But, at present the people expect a change so that we should be able to bow down to the people’s expectations. Commenting on SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara’s decision not to join hands with the JO, Weerakkody said 16 SLFP MPs in the Government took an unanimous decision to quit the Government and join hands with the JO. If someone takes a single handed decision, it is entirely up to him. But the remaining 15 SLFP MPs accept former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leadership.

JO Parliamentary Group Leader Dinesh Gunawardena told the Sunday Observer that there is a general decision of the JO that they demand a General Election, because this Government faced a huge electoral defeat at the February 10 Local Government elections which means this Parliament and its political mandate are over. However, much they try to pump oxygen to the Government, it has already lost its mandate. Both the economy and the political stability are at stake. The only way to regenerate trust and confidence of the Parliament is to have a General Election. That is what we stand for. This can rejuvenate the country and international confidence in us.

But the JO has not rejected any of the members who have crossed over to the Opposition and even those who will be crossing over in future. We will certainly work with them.

Meanwhile, highly informed sources said it was agreed to initiate the alliance, Ekabadda Podujana Peramuna at a JO Parliamentary Group meeting held at the official residence of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on July 10. After the meeting, responding to queries by journalists whether there was any discussion on bringing Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the forefront, UPFA Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama stated that they want a democratic leader and that democratic leader is nobody else but former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Asked whether he dislikes Gotabaya Rajapaksa, MP Welgama stated that he does not dislike him and added that Gotabaya Rajapaksa can be a stakeholder of the Government, but the Head of State should be none other than Mahinda Rajapaksa. Welgama categorically stated that they want to make Mahinda Rajapaksa as the country’s Leader.Meanwhile, JO heavyweight Dullas Alahapperuma at a media briefing held on Wednesday (July 11) said that a decision was taken on July 10 to further continue their struggle in Parliament as independent group. It was also decided to organise ourselves as a new political alliance with the consent of all party leaders who represent the JO.

Commenting on difference of opinions expressed by some JO heavyweights on fielding Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the Presidential Candidate, MP Alahapperuma said Gotabaya Rajapaksa is one he had ever come across during his entire life who loves challenges and pursue after victory relentlessly. I am of the opinion that he is a fine gentleman of rare qualities.” However, Alahapperuma toed the middle line by saying that his colleagues in the JO are entitled to express their own opinions. He noted that there are two things that are absolute within the group; the first is that Mahinda Rajapaksa is the leader of the JO and they are ready to accept whatever decision he makes on the Presidential Candidate.

Meanwhile, Administrative Secretary of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Renuka Perera told the Sunday Observer all 69 MPs in the JO would contest the next General Election under the SLPP symbol. If any MP in the JO has not obtained the SLPP membership, they are strategically involved in the SLPP political activities in their respective electorates. The 54 MPs in the JO extended their support to the SLPP over the past two and half years. The SLPP has also extended its fullest support towards the initiative taken by the JO to form the alliance Ekabaddha Podujana Peramuna to successfully win future elections.

UPFA Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekara told the Sunday Observer that he will not obtain membership of any other political party but continue his politics with the SLFP. He said if any SLFP MP in the JO obtains the membership of SLPP, he will definitely lose his parliamentary seat. “We cannot be asked to take SLPP membership by threatening us and we are not ready to succumb to such undue pressure.” Jayasekera said at present no SLFP MP in the JO has obtained SLPP membership.

He challenged any SLFP MP to do so. Having clearly understood the legal position, some are forcing us to obtain SLPP membership. “I am not ready to go to any temporary political ‘shelters’ such as the SLPP by leaving my permanent political home - the SLFP,” he said.