The Sri Lanka Freedom Party is today controlled by people who do not understand the ‘Bandaranaike philosophy,’ otherwise they would never ally with the United National Party, said Joint Opposition bigwig MP Dullas Alahapperuma, in an interview with
Alahapperuma, who resigned from his Matara District SLFP leadership early this week, said the Joint Opposition would continue to protest against the removal of party stalwarts.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: Why did you resign from SLFP Matara District leadership?
A: As I have stated before, I took this decision in protest of the SLFP removing several party stalwarts from organiser posts.
Q: But Minister S.B. Dissanayake claims there was no such position called Matara District leadership in the SLFP?
A: I am surprised that Minister S.B. Dissanayake, who is known as a politician who makes responsible and wise statements, has said something so foolish. On the other hand, when these positions were given to us, he was with the UNP. Minister S.B. Dissanayake left the party in 2001 and was the National Organiser of the UNP, so I don’t blame him if he is unaware of these positions in the party. How would he know about SLFP positions given to us in 2005 and 2006 when he was the National Organiser of the UNP?
If there was no such position, then why did President Maithripala Sirisena appoint Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena as the Matara District SLFP Leader?
Q: What happened at the Joint Opposition meeting held on Monday?
A: The SLFP Parliamentarian group of the Joint Opposition made two important decisions. Before the general election, S.M. Chandrasekera lost his organiser post. Since then nearly 14 SLFPers have lost their organiser posts and Sanath Nishantha lost his party membership. At the meeting we collectively decided to show our protest against removing these organising posts SLFP stalwarts.
Mahinda Rajapaksa instructed us to consult the electoral committees (Asana Bala Mandala) before reaching a final decision about the SLFP Convention. President Rajapaksa said we shouldn’t reach a decision without discussing the matter with them. Therefore we will convene electoral committees for a discussion. They can consult respective members and organisers below them before reaching a decision.
These are the two key decision reached at the Monday night meeting.
Q: How will you protest against the removal of organiser posts of SLFP MPs?
A: In the first week of July 2015, party leadership removed S.M. Chandrasena and Kanchana Wijesekera from their organiser posts. This year in the first week of August another group of senior SLFP members lost their organiser posts. Among them were two SLFP Vice Presidents and a Vice Secretary. In the first attempt they took away organiser posts from two members, second time it was Prasanna Ranatunga and Dilum Amunugama, third time Geetha Kumarasinghe and Salinda Dissanayaka and few days ago seven of our senior MPs lost their organiser posts. Sanath Nishantha’s party membership was suspended. Altogether 14 SLFP members have been victims. In future we will protest and take action against these decisions of the SLFP. We are yet to decide how and what to do. But we will definitely show our protest.
Q: The former President said he is to attend a conference overseas on the same day of the SLFP Convention. What impact will this have on the final decision of the rest of the Joint opposition SLFP Parliamentarians attending the Convention?
A: President Rajapaksa not attending the meeting will not have any influence on our decision. We will reach a collective decision on this after meeting the electoral committees. President Rajapaksa is the leader of our group; he too will agree with the decision we make. In fact he is the one who instructed us to meet them.
Q: When will the next meeting be held? When will you reach a final decision?
A: We will meet within the next few days. We have to reach a final decision within a week. The SLFP Convention is just 10 days away. We will have to take a decision before that.
Q: Since most of you are now without organiser posts, do you have the authority to convene a meeting with the electoral committees?
A: Yes according to the Party Constitution, we are members of the Executive Committee. Although I resigned from my Matara District leadership, I am still a member of the Executive Committee and in our group we still have MPs who hold positions in the SLFP. Therefore technically we can convene a meeting with the electoral committees.
Q: What are your thoughts about Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena replacing you as SLFP Matara District leader?
A: The best person to ask this question is Minister S.B. Dissanayake. Please ask him if there was no post as district leader, why such an appointment was made. Please ask him whether this position was vacant all these years.
Q: Western Province Chief Minister Isuru Devapriya addressing a media briefing said seven Joint Opposition Parliamentarians have held discussions with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to join the Government. Your comments?
A: Please don’t waste your time and my time on naïve statements made by such immature politicians. Devapriya is an infant where politics is concerned and politicians of such calibre will do or say anything to get some publicity. We shouldn’t waste our time on them.
Q: He also said the Rajapaksas are the next in line to lose organiser posts. Your comments?
A: Let me reiterate, asking my comments for statements made by politicians like Isura Dewapriya is an insult to me. He has a right to show the world how politically naïve he is, but we shouldn’t be insulted by asking to comment on statements made by such individuals.
The number of registered voters in the Western Province is nearly three million. Unfortunately our party made a very wrong decision to appoint a Chief Minister who secured only 18,000 votes and now we see the result of such wrong decisions made by the party.
I blame the media for giving unnecessary publicity for politicians of this calibre. I urge the media not to make the mistake of creating another ‘Mervyn Silva’.
Q: What is the next step of the Parliamentarians who lost their organiser posts?
A: On Monday we reached a decision to protest against this decision. We will decide our next step soon. Before the general election two of our members lost their organiser posts. What did the people do? How did they react to that decision? Kanchana Wijesejera was the sixth in the Provincial Council election and he secured 36,000 votes. At the general election he got 88,000 and became the third in the district. This is how SLFPers reacted to the decision for taking away Kanchana Wijesekera’s organiser post. S.M. Chandraskera who secured over 100,000 votes was replaced by Duminda Dissanayaka who got some 60,000 votes. At the end of the day we have to think about the response of the people.
Let me emphasise on one important fact. After the SLFP joined the National Government only three Parliamentarians who joined the Government were elected by the people at the general election. Of the three, only one person promoted the National Government concept openly. Other than these three MPs, all the others who accepted positions in the National Government were defeated. This clearly proves people do not accept the SLFP marriage with the UNP.
Q: Although you claim to safeguard the party, the continuous battle between the two groups further weakens and damages the SLFP. Your view?
A: No, I don’t agree with that argument. The rift in the SLFP was created due to the marriage between the SLFP and the UNP. They blame us saying that by having a faction we are weakening the SLFP and strengthening the UNP. Now who entered into a marriage with the UNP? After signing an agreement for two years, now they say it will continue for five years. This is the biggest political joke. They can’t deceive the people. People defeated all the bigwigs in the party. This is the best answer. In a future election people will give a verdict that is clearer and stronger than the last time. Then the so-called SLFP will see who divided the party and whether it was us or them.
The SLFP was formed as an alternate for the UNP. The current leadership of the SLFP does not know this Bandaranaike philosophy. If they knew it, they would never enter into this marriage with the UNP. In 1977, the day after election results were announced, the UNP destroyed a statue of Bandaranaike. It was severely damaged and dragged on the road. It was the UNP who robbed the civic rights of Sirimavo Bandaranaike. How can you ally with such a party?