Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga - Pic by Shehan Gunasekara
- Stops short of endorsing Sajith
- Claims SLFP agreement to support SLPP is illegal
- Reiterates Rajapaksas are destroying SLFP
- CBK, Welgama urge SLFP faithful to rally under ‘Api Sri Lanka’ banner
Former president and Sri Lanka Freedom Party adviser Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga yesterday called on all SLFP members not to vote for the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna candidate at the upcoming Presidential Election.
However, the veteran politician stopped short of endorsing Democratic National Front (DNF) candidate Sajith Premadasa at a convention organised by the Api Sri Lanka faction of the SLFP at the Sugathadasa Stadium yesterday.
Kumaratunga claimed that although she had received invitations from the Rajapaksas, she attended the DNF MOU signing last week but did not sign the memorandum herself. The convention was attended by Rajitha Senarathna, Arjuna Ranatunga, Rishad Bathiudeen, Mangala Samaraweera, Mano Ganesan, SLFP organisers and politicians from a range of parties.
The former president charged that Mahinda Rajapaksa was once again attempting to destroy the SLFP and that the party and country would suffer if the SLPP’s Gotabaya Rajapaksa won the upcoming election. Kumaratunga opined that Sri Lanka was best governed by coalition governments. However, she blamed all parties in the present Government for the way the 2015 election mandate was used.
«The Rajapaksas thrice tried to break the SLFP but we are not easy to destroy,» she stated.
She also argued that the agreement endorsed by the SLFP, supporting Rajapaksa as the SLPP candidate, was illegal, pointing out that members of the party’s senior ranks were not consulted or allowed to view the agreement.
Addressing the party faithful, Kumaratunga urged people to vote for the best policies presented in the candidates’ manifestos, not just blindly for an individual.
«This country’s future is in your hands. This is a decisive hour for our beloved party and the country,» she stressed.
Kumaratunga argued that Rajapaksa›s manifesto was filled with fairy tales and called the pledges to end corruption in the document laughable. She alleged that due to corruption by the previous government of Mahinda Rajapaksa, the road infrastructure built gave Sri Lanka the most expensive roads in the world.
She also accused the Mahinda Rajapaksa of giving members of his Cabinet free rein to engage in corruption as long as they did not get caught.
«I can back up my allegations with facts,» she said.
Kumaratunga also claimed that she had evidence of some Cabinet members attempting to derail anti-corruption investigations.
Parliamentarian Kumara Welgama rejected calls by the SLFP General Secretary for disciplinary action to be taken against party members who did not support the SLPP.
«Come with us, don›t fear the repercussions. Let›s unite and save the party from these people,” he urged.
Welgama declared that he would not be intimidated by the threat of disciplinary action nor threats to his life.
«No matter what challenges come, we will not falter and we will not give Rajapaksa the SLFP,» he stressed.
Welgama told the audience that he could not tell them whom to vote for but emphasised that he would not vote for the SLPP.
Criticising Rajapaksa›s manifesto, Kumaratunga questioned whether any more journalists would be made to suffer the fates of Lasantha Wickrematunge or Prageeth Eknaligoda.
«He has nice words in the manifesto. I want to ask him how he will ensure media freedom and freedom of the public,» she said.
The former president blamed the Government for not marketing its achievements to the public and claimed that much of the work it had done in the past four years was unknown to the public.
However, she said that she could not guarantee a new Government would fare any better.
«The last time I endorsed a person or group, I learned a good lesson,» she said.
Kumaratunga called 2015 a wasted opportunity, warning that if a future government was to similarly let the public down it could lead to another insurrection.
However, Kumaratunga in her closing remarks labelled the multiparty oversight committees proposed in Premadasa›s manifesto a good initiative, pointing out that only with such oversight and accountability could good governance be achieved.