SLFP and UNP battle internal dissent | Sunday Observer

SLFP and UNP battle internal dissent

Former Kaduwela Mayor G.H.Buddadasa speaking at the press conference by rebelling SLFP organisers, who protested against the SLFP-SLPP tie up. Pic by Hirantha Gunathilaka
Former Kaduwela Mayor G.H.Buddadasa speaking at the press conference by rebelling SLFP organisers, who protested against the SLFP-SLPP tie up. Pic by Hirantha Gunathilaka

As the country entered into a crucial election year, with three major elections lined up one after another in the coming months, the two main parties - the SLFP and the UNP were struggling to iron out internal differences and keep the parties intact.

While the SLFP was struggling with a major split, with those who are disgruntled over the decision to team up with the SLPP trying to shift allegiance, a group of UNP vocal back benchers launched a major showdown last week to grab ministerial positions in the new government.

Yet, seniors of both parties denied any trouble within.

UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera speaking to the Sunday Observer denied that a group of SLFPers were waiting to join the Government. “ Its a lie ,” he said adding that there was no major crisis within the party as reported in the media.

Former Minister Amaraweera’s name too has figured in a list of alleged SLFP MPs who would vote in favour of the upcoming Budget and subsequently may join forces with the Government of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.

A group of SLFP grassroot level organisers held a press conference on Thursday criticising the decision to join forces with the SLPP led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. It has been announced, with the President’s blessings that the SLFP would be siding with the SLPP at any future election. If the coalition will precede the election or if it will be after the election remains a matter to be decided on later.

The critics however, said this group of organisers were manipulated by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga and that they were trying to scuttle the progress of the SLFP - SLPP possible tie-up, and support the UNP to hang on to power, a claim vehemently rejected by the group at the press conference.

The group comprising Kaduwela SLFP stalwart G.H.Buddadasa and SLFP Kesbewa organiser Rajika Kodituwakku warned that the intended tie up, if allowed, would be the party’s swan song. At the press conference held to vent their anger and caution the President, the group said it was a mistake to brand them as traitors to the party. “We have only the best interest of the SLFP and we would not leave the party for any reason,” they said shooting down allegations that the group was poised to cross over.

SLFP Senior Vice President W.D.J.Seneviratne said the dissidents group does not consist of members holding important positions in the party except for the former Kaduwela Mayor Buddadasa.

He too held the notion that the group was backed by those vying to cross over.” An SLFP group simply crossing over to the Government will not make a national government. The SLFP has firmly decided not to join the Government, so there will not be an official status to their cross over,” he said. Former SLFP Acting General Secretary Prof.Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, said the country has reached a decisive year with three crucial elections to be held this year. He said although the proper sequence would be Provincial Council election, Presidential election and Parliamentary election, which election will come first is determined by political compulsions.

He said the SLFP had managed to overcome major crises, such as the assassination of its founder, a coup against Mrs. Bandaranaike, an assassination attempt on former President Chandrika Kumaratunga but it has always emerged stronger. “The conspiracy against the current leader will also be exposed soon,” he said adding that after independence the SLFP had been in power longer than any other political party.

The SLFP has begun reviving and reorganising their local party organisations ahead of elections. He said after January 8, the President will launch a number of public services and promotional activities to increase its membership.

We have invited all progressive forces to join us in future elections and we will offer a national development program with a focus on addressing the huge disparity in the distribution of national income he said.

In Sri Lanka, the disparity in income distribution is such that the poorest 20 per cent of the population share a mere 4.5 per cent of the income, while the richest 20 per cent enjoys 49.5 per cent of the total income.

The new Acting General Secretary, Dayasiri Jayasekera said there were clashing ideologies, arguments among its members but they were all hallmarks of an active system and a democratic party, denying infighting and rebellion among members.

Jayasekera was appointed the Acting General Secretary by the SLFP Central Committee on Thursday to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Prof.Piyadasa. He resigned last week without making public the reasons to do so.

Amidst the chaos, President Maithripala Srisena appointed five new Governors to the Western, Central, North Central, North Western and the Eastern Provinces. Authoritative sources said, President Sirisena was disappointed over the behaviour and lack of support by certain Governors during the crisis from November 26 to December 20, during the sudden government change. This led to his decision to show some of them the door.

A top provincial authority said he was disgruntled by a meeting of alleged SLFP-would-be-dissidents held at the residence of former Northern Province Governor Reginald Cooray. The former Governor on Friday denied that it was a secret meeting of dissidents, stressing that the President was well aware of this meeting and there was no involvement by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga.

However, Cooray was not among the five Governors appointed on Friday and it remains a question if he will be reappointed a Governor to the four provinces– Southern, Sabaragamuwa, Northern and Uva – of which the top seats are yet to be filled.

A team of seven UNP MPs including MPs Mujibur Rahuman and Hesha Withanage have vowed that they will sit as independent members inParliament if the UNP leadership will not heed to their longstanding demands, one being the expulsion of corrupt members and pleas to give them responsibilities in the Government to prove their worth to their voters.


SLFP organisers fire warning shots against SLPP

By Maneshka Borham

Just a few days into the new year rumours of a rift within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) began to make the rounds in the political arena. The rumours claimed that a number of disgruntled district organisers was attempting to rally together others in dissent of the SLFP’s possible marriage to the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP).

Perhaps firing the first warning shots this week, a press conference was held by several organisers of the SLFP led by district organiser of the Kesbewa seat, Attorney-at-Law Rajika Kodithuwakku. Denying that this was an internal revolt within the SLFP, Kodituwakku preferred to call it a struggle in order to bring the party back to its original ideology.

About seven district organisers openly attended the dissenting press meet. “This is merely the beginning” Kodituwakku warned adding that many more, in fact almost 30 district organisers are prepared to join them.

According to Kodituwakku, a number of former SLFP parliamentarians, Provincial Ministers, local government members and even Ministers have joined their ranks. “They are advising us on how to continue with our struggle and ensure it is a success” he revealed. Kodituwakku claimed that their effort is to make sure their views become the majority view of the party. He stressed that this is in no way a revolt against the Chairman of the SLFP, President Maithripala Sirisena.

Kodituwakku said they decided to reveal the crisis in the party to protect democracy within. “We have more freedom now to discuss the issues within the party,” he said adding that this is their effort at the moment. “We only want to protect the SLFP and ensure its success” he assured.

The Coordinating Secretary to President Sirisena till January 3 when he resigned from the post, Kodituwakku claimed many in the SLFP informed the Chairman of the party of their dissent against the appointment of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister on October 26.

Kodituwakku and other district organisers claimed they are against the SLFP aligning with the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. According to Kodituwakku, it is a question of the SLFP’s dignity as a political party in the country. “By taking the membership of the SLPP it was clear that Rajapaksa and his supporters showed they do not intend to carry on their political journey with the Sri Lanka Freedom Party,” he said adding that, therefore, the duty of all SLFP members is to protect the SLFP.

According to Kodituwakku, the party suffered great losses as the SLPP was promoted instead of the SLFP at the ground level. As more members have voiced their support to the group, Kodituwakku said the struggle will only intensify. “We must break away from the SLPP,” he said adding that if not, he and other SLFP members will be forced to join hands with any group that supports them to get rid of the Rajapaksa ideology from the SLFP. As the ground level SLFP members remain divided after the entrance of the SLPP Kodituwakku said the group is determined to defeat the opponent party at the upcoming elections. The group claimed it was the non-implementation of the SLFP Central Committee decisions that eventually led to the SLPP making gains while the SLFP suffered defeat.

Surprisingly also joining the group was SLFP stalwart and Kaduwela district organiser G.H Buddhadasa. Once the Mayor of Kaduwela Municipal Council, Buddhadasa has been an SLFP member for 42 years. “It causes me great pain to be part of this press conference,” he said. Having started the group to protect the SLFP over two months ago, he says the numbers expressing their support have increased. “ Twenty-four seat organisers have joined us, along with 18 SLFP MPs” he revealed. According to him, it is this support that has made members like him to voice their dissent.

“I have always been an SLFP member no matter who crossed over,” he said. Buddhadasa also expressed his disappointment having faced a staggering defeat at the last local government elections after contesting on an SLFP ticket due to the SLPP’s entrance to the political arena. “This is what has become of the SLFP now,” he said referring to the SLFP’s shocking defeat.

According to Buddhadasa, this is a fight to protect the SLFP. “Our aim is to form an SLFP government in 2025,” he said recalling that it has been the SLFP that ruled Sri Lanka the most number of years since 1948. “It is a party such as this that has now become the third force in Sri Lankan politics” he noted likening the SLFP to a shop without goods. “I will do anything to defeat those who are trying to destroy the SLFP” Buddadasa said.