By Chamodi Gunawardana
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s (SLFP) new district organisers yesterday refuted allegations made by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, stressing that all new appointments were made independently and not at the behest of the United National Party (UNP) as alleged by Rajapaksa.
Issuing a statement on Tuesday, Rajapaksa charged that President Maithripala Sirisena had undermined the SLFP by removing past SLFP organisers such as Prasanna Ranatunga and Dilum Amunugama. He slammed the move and insisted that the SLFP was struggling to maintain its identity while being a part of the Unity Government.
Speaking at the SLFP weekly media briefing, newly appointed Panadura Organiser Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe said that Rajapaksa did not have the right to criticise the party leader’s decision.
“President Sirisena has started a great program to reorganise the party and these new appointments were the first step of that. We believe his decision to remove some former organisers from their position will strengthen the SLFP,” said Samarasinghe.
Western Provincial Council Minister Gamini Thilakasiri added that changes of SLFP organisers’ position were not as significant as highlighted by Rajapaksa.
Bringing out examples from the party’s history, Thilakasiri said this kind of ‘immediate changes’ had occurred in 2005 and no one treated it as a conspiracy hatched by the UNP.
“We couldn’t go ahead with members who really wanted to tear the party into pieces. We only need members willing to stay with the party until they retire from politics,” he said.
Commenting on the progress of the party reorganising program, State Minister of Finance Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said President Sirisena has appointed a six-member committee including him, the UPFA General Secretary, the SLFP General Secretary, Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, S. B. Dissanayake and Dr. Sarath Amunugama to look at reorganising. He further said if someone really cared about the progress of the SLFP as they claimed, they would never try to create a separate party.
“The next election will be held under a new electorate system and those who want a new party will have no future under that system,” stressed Abeywardena.
Showing the red light to SLFP members attempting to create a new party, he said if those groups continued their attempts, the SLFP central committee would definitely sack them. He also said President Sirisena is expected to make more changes with respect to district organisers.