Ranil went beyond JR’s policies | Sunday Observer

Ranil went beyond JR’s policies

Excerpts from a recent interview with veteran SLFP Trade Unionist Lesley Devendra by Duminda Aluthgedera

Q: Is the Sri Lanka Nidhahas Sevaka Sangamaya which is part of the ‘Pancha Maha Balawegaya’ of the SWRD Bandaranaike era, now associated with the symbol ‘Hand’ or Pohottuwa or does it remain independent at present?

A: The Sri Lanka Independent Workers’ Union was registered in 1958 as a trade union and continued to function during the tenure of the United Front Government and UNP Government, as a Leftist Movement. Despite persecution under the JR and Premadasa dispensations we firmly stood our ground. Although it happened to us under the UNP-SLFP coalition government since 2015, as an SLFP affiliated trade union we struggled within the Government protesting that the SLFP should not work with the UNP, but without success. Accordingly, we decided to leave the SLFP and function as an independent union.

Q: Has your dream not come to fruition today?

A: We as a trade union sounded the alarm that we cannot move ahead with the UNP, before those MPs and Ministers of the coalition government gave up their portfolios. Today Mahinda Rajapaksa is the Prime Minister and as such we have no difficulty at all in working with the incumbent government.

Q: What have you got to say about the decision to summon trade unions and political parties to Colombo to mobilise their support for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa?

A: Our support is not only for Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa but also for President Maithripala Sirisena and his political vision as well. We, together with the SLFP and the Podujana Peramuna and the Leftist parties extend our support to this Government.

Q: The SLFP trade union and the Podujana Peramuna trade union are two entities with SLFP membership. Will they stand together in the future?

A: We are all members of the same party. Some sections joined the Mahinda camp, others, the Maithri camp. Now that both have got into the political mainstream, the working class of this country sees no difficulties ahead. It is true that there was a split of trade unions in view of the political situation that existed in the country.

Q: The former Prime Minister summoned all trade unions to Temple Trees seeking their support. Is there no such need for the President or the Prime Minister?

A: A few days ago when the President summoned all our trade unions, we pledged support to him. The President told us to celebrate this victory in peace and tranquility and cautioned us to be mindful of attempts at disseminating wrong information to foreign countries. It is our bounden duty to align ourselves with the Left. Last Monday we demonstrated our strength to the UNP in street protests.

Q: Are those leaders who do not follow party policies only in the UNP?

A: Ranil Wickremesinghe went beyond JR’s policies. J.R. Jayewardene introduced the concept of an open economy, repressed the Left and deprived Sirimavo Bandaranaike of her civic rights on bogus grounds and acted as a dictator. Yet he did not pursue a policy of depriving the country of its resources. Both, the then Cabinet and the Government are ignorant of what Ranil Wickremesinghe did. Even his party people were in the dark when he attempted to hand over the Colombo Port East Terminal to India.

As in the times of Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the present day SLFP leaders are dedicated to protecting the country. The SLFP has a history of giving pride of place to agriculture and developing an indigenous economy. On the contrary, the UNP had chosen a different path.

However, we have since abandoned the alliance with the UNP and reunited all our factions for our future political odyssey.

Q: The very people who defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa have brought him back to power today. Could not there be any room for differences to surface between the President and the Prime Minister again?

A: Not at all. President Sirisena knows what kind of Government is needed for the country.

It is because of his understanding of the situation that President Sirisena appointed Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, the only world leader who eradicated the scourge of terrorism. He can outsmart Ranil Wickremesinghe many times over to develop the country. We are confident that there will be benevolent governance and accelerated economic development.

Translated by K.D.M. Kittanpahuwa.