By Himal Kotelawala
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) yesterday accused unnamed members of colluding with the rival UNP in an attempt to break up the party.
Speaking to journalists at the weekly SLFP press briefing in Colombo, Minister and UPFA Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera said that the party was aware of “certain agreements” that have been reached with the objective of helping the UNP form its own Government.
“Those who wish for a UNP-only Government know that such a victory is possible only in the event the SLFP is split. We know that certain agreements have been reached. We know that friendships are being maintained. We know that meetings are taking place not just at night, but during the day too,” said the Minister.
A minority in the SLFP are working towards making this a reality, he said, charging that these MPs have taken up the responsibility of breaking away from the SLFP and forming a new party.
The freedom given by President Maithripala Sirisena to these SLFPers to sit in the Opposition and criticise the Government is being grossly exploited, he said.
The SLFP has reportedly invited these aspiring defectors for nominations for the upcoming local government polls, but it appears patience is growing thin in the upper echelons of the party.
Minister Amaraweera spoke darkly of a trap being set up for small-time, grassroots SLFP leaders at the Pradeshiya Sabha levels who will ultimately suffer the consequences of this development.
“This trap has been set for grassroots level SLFP leaders who have worked for the party. None of them have left the party and formed a new party,” he said.
“Since the day I became the Secretary of the UPFA, I tried my level best to bring these people together. But then I realised, however much I try, even with the blessings of the President, this could not be done because one group had already decided to form a new party. If there’s a group which plans on destroying the party by forming a new party, there’s no point in us inviting them repeatedly. They have their own underhand deals,” he added.
Amaraweera also said the faction trying to break away was content with the SLFP not forming a Government in the foreseeable future.
“There’s a lot of people who want the SLFP to win - at the local government level, at the provincial level and even form a Government in 2020. But there is a minority who will be content with not forming a Government until 2030 or 2035, the way I see it. They’re the ones trying to break this party up,” he said.
Commenting on the issue recently raised by firebrand UPFA MP and Joint Opposition stalwart Wimal Weerawansa on acting independently in Parliament, Amaraweera echoed sentiments previously shared by SLFP bigwigs.
“The National Freedom Party is not a member party of the UPFA. It has not entered into any agreement with the coalition,” he said, adding that Weerawansa and his colleagues function as UPFA MPs.
Anyone who wishes to leave the party and be independent is free to do so, said Amaraweera. However, they must write to the UPFA seeking permission to do so, in an individual capacity.
“Anyone can hand over a letter and resign. That’s democracy. If anyone wants permission to leave, we will give them that permission. We have no desire to force anyone to stay. But no one is leaving,” he added.
Govt. committed to protect war heroes
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) says the President and the Government will always uphold and protect the war heroes that risked life and limb to serve the nation, but will not hesitate to prosecute anyone proven to have committed any wrongdoing.
Speaking at the weekly SLFP press briefing yesterday, Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera said that the Government would not put the soldiers in harm’s way but would not shy away from taking legal action where necessary.
“We will not put them in harm’s way. We have already saved them from the main dangers they faced: the electric chair, international war crimes tribunal and international judges. Internally, too, we will not allow them to be harassed. However, if a soldier has committed any wrongdoing under the guise of fighting terrorism, we will not hesitate to punish them,” he said.
Alluding to the murder of Premawathie Manamperi in 1971, the Minister said that in the past too military personnel had had to face justice. In 1989 too, he said, a handful of individuals were prosecuted.
“If any wrongdoing has taken place, whether it was for political reasons or at the whim of some other person, justice will be meted out. If journalists were murdered or harassed, if civilians were killed or harassed, [those responsible] cannot be ignored just because they’re from the Army,” he said.
Both the people of this country as well as the world at large are awaiting this, said Minister Amaraweera.
“That’s why the international community allowed us to carry out these investigations in our own country locally. It was the assurance that wrongdoers will be punished that enabled us to lower the risks we faced internationally,” he said.
“Some are saying the country is in danger, and that a new war is imminent. We will never allow another war to break out in this country,” he added.
Under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, particularly as Defence Minister, urged Minister Amaraweera, terrorism will not be allowed to raise its head again. The Government pays the most attention to national security, he added.
“No matter what anyone says or what statements they release, nothing happens that will put national security in jeopardy. False allegations of army camps being removed, being pelted with stones are being made on a daily basis. These stories are made up to mislead the public. This Government under President Sirisena will never let anything of this sort happen,” he added.