Mahinda-Maithripala talks end in stalemate, as MR’s
quest for PM candidacy shot down:
The much hyped talks between President Maithripala Sirisena and
former President Mahinda Rajapaksa ended in a stalemate on Wednesday
with both parties failing to reach a compromise on their most vital
proposal - to nominate former President Rajapaksa as the UPFA Prime
Ministerial candidate at the next General Election and the other
Sirisena meets former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the
President’s office in Parliament.
Both parties agreed to discuss the issues, which cropped up at the
inaugural meeting of the Central Committee on the future well-being of
Government sources confirmed President Sirisena had come to his
Parliament office around 12.45 pm while former President Rajapaksa had
reached the venue at 1.45 p.m. Reliable sources confirmed that the
former President had arrived deliberately late to express his
displeasure over two representatives who had accompanied the President
for the discussion.
The media earlier reported that SLFP General Secretary, MP Anura
Priyadharshana Yapa and SLFP National organiser, Susil Premjayatha would
be in the President’s delegation, but at the eleventh hour Ministers M K
A D S. Gunawardena and Duminda Dissanayake had also accompanied
The meeting lasted for around 45 minutes and following the talks,
President Sirisena left the Parliamentary complex before former
Former President Rajapaksa’s delegation comprised UPFA
Parliamentarians Prof. G.L. Peiris, Kumara Welgama, Bandula Gunawardane,
Dullas Alahapperuma and Mahindananda Aluthgamage while President
Sirisena’s included Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva, Ministers
Dr.Rajitha Senaratne, M.K.A.D.S. Gunawardena, Duminda Dissanayake, SLFP
General Secretary MP Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and MP Faiszer Musthapha.
The five factors of the former President included the Prime
Ministerial candidacy, issue relating to the dissolution of Local
Government Bodies on May 15, contesting the next General Election under
the UPFA banner, nominations to candidates and the alleged
politicisation of the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID).
Though the discussions ended without a satisfactory outcome, both sides
reached a consensus to discuss the matters within the SLFP Central
Committee in the future. The former President’s delegation stressed the
need for cooperation and collaboration with other parties in the UPFA.
Despite the deliberate attempts by the pro-Rajapaksa faction to
pressurise the party hierarchy to nominate former President Rajapaksa as
the UPFA Prime Ministerial candidate, their hopes were shattered as
President Sirisena had categorically announced the party’s decision not
to nominate a Prime Ministerial candidate before the next General
The President made his position very clear on the disadvantages of
nominating a Prime Ministerial candidate prior to the election which
would have a negative impact on the party’s vote base. Cabinet Spokesman
and Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne at a media briefing in Colombo
the following day said the failure and shortcomings of former President
Rajapaksa will be subject to scrutiny by the SLFP Central Committee when
the proposal to nominate him as the UPFA Prime Ministerial candidate is
taken up for discussion.
The President was also of the view that there was no tradition within
the SLFP to appoint a Prime Ministerial candidate so that the matter
will be referred to the SLFP Central Committee. Dr.Senaratne emphasised
since Maithripala Sirisena is the President, it won’t be a matter who
becomes the Premier. However, the Minister pointed out it was an irony
for the former President to requested the Prime Ministerial candidacy
from the very same person whom he refused to appoint as Prime Minister.
Even though the discussion was held behind closed doors a large
number of journalists had flocked to the main Parliament entrance at
Jayanthipura to obtain first hand information on the outcome of the
Delegations which represented both sides aired their views to the
media on the decisions reached at the talks. Irrigation Minister Duminda
Dissanayake who represented the delegation of the President told
journalists the discussions were successful. The discussion was centred
on issues of the SLFP and its forward march, he said.
Minister Dissanayake who categorically rejected reports on divisions
within the party stressed there were no two camps such as Maithri and
Mahinda within the SLFP and the talks were conducted between the party
Chairman and the Patron. “It was a very cordial and successful
discussion,” he told the media.
Minister Dissanayake assured the SLFP will not be split and there is
no reason for it. The Party’s Chairman is the country’s President while
former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Patron is actively involved in
party activities. “Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga
is also a Patron of the party and she is also committed to carry out the
party mechanism. All party members are bound to act according to the
decisions taken by the SLFP Central Committee.” He recalled how they
adhered to the principles when former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was
the Party Chairman and also assured that they would follow suit under
the chairmanship of the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena.
Although Minister Dissanayake said talks were successful, UPFA
Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma who represented the former President
told the media that discussion ended in a stalemate and that talks would
continue. Alahapperuma said the purpose of the discussion was to
strengthen the SLFP based on five major points put forward by them which
also included the nomination of former President as the UPFA Prime
The pro-Rajapaksa group said their objective is to form a SLFP led
UPFA Government after the next General Election.
They requested the President to put forward the Prime Ministerial
candidate issue to the SLFP Central Committee. MP Alahapperuma was
hopeful they would be able to fulfill this aspiration as it was the wish
of the people. Even though a full agreement was not reached at the both
factions agreed to continue the talks for the victory of the UPFA.
While MP Alahapperuma told the media that a decision was taken to
withdraw the gazette notification on the Financial Crimes Investigation
Division (FCID), the Government Ministers who joined the talks on behalf
of President Sirisena categorically rejected the comment made by the MP.
Kalutara District UPFA Parliamentarian Kumara Welgama who was
instrumental of preparing the groundwork for the discussion told
journalists that they failed to get a satisfactory response to their
much anticipated Prime Ministerial candidate issue and the dissolution
of Local Government bodies.
MP Welgama was optimistic that they would receive a positive response
from the party hierarchy on the Prime Ministerial candidate at future
talks. Although both parties agreed to hold another round of talks the
date has not been fixed.
The MP maintained the view if both factions can reach a compromise on
the Prime Ministerial candidate issue, it would help solve other
internal issues in the party. The MPs who accompanied former President
had also proposed to allow the former President to handle the UPFA
election campaign and include him in the UPFA Nomination Board.
MP Welgama who described himself as a hardcore SLFPer said his aim is
to solve the internal crisis in the party. However, this kind of issues
cannot be dragged on and a compromise should be reached soon, he said.
The pro-Rajapaksa faction said they would go ahead with their plan to
hold political rallies. MP Welgama said if the discussion ended on a a
positive note their aim is to bring former President Rajapaksa and
incumbent President Sirisena and all other UPFA leaders on to one
political stage. Although Minister Duminda Dissanayake attempted to
convince that there is no division within the SLFP, MP Welgama told
journalists the people were well aware that two factions are currently
operating within the SLFP.
The issue on political rallies organised by certain UPFA coalition
partners demanding the nomination of former President as the Prime
Ministerial candidate was taken up for discussions. A consensus had been
reached that SLFP Parliamentarians would not take part in rallies
following the decision taken by the SLFP Central Committee. A senior
SLFP Minister who represented the President’s delegation said the former
President’s faction too didn’t oppose this proposal made by President