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The battle begins...:

MS should be popular at SLFP hqrs, not at Sirikotha - Dullas

Former Youth Affairs Minister Dullas Alahapperuma in an interview with the Sunday Observer launched a scathing attack on President Maithripala Sirisena's recent speech. He said the President should continue to maintain his popularity at the SLFP headquarters and not at Sirikotha.

The Presidentís recent remarks may be popular among UNP supporters but those words are a grave political mistake

Alahapperuma, a one-time media personality with a flair for eloquent political speeches is today an ardent campaigner of the " Bring Back Mahinda" campaign. The SLFP Senior Vice President and UPFA Matara District Leader described President Maithripala Sirisena's recent speech as a grave mistake made knowingly or unknowingly. The SLFP stalwart said the UNP and JVP supporters may be jubilant over the President's statement but it would give a different impression to the SLFP and UPFA supporters.

Q: Did the SLFP try to oust President Maithripala Sirisena from the party leadership? Is that why he managed to get a restraining order on the SLFP Central Committee meeting?

A: It is tommy rot. The SLFP member who filed a petition at the Colombo District Court to issue an enjoining order to suspend the SLFP Central Committee meeting is a junior politician. He was appointed as a member of the SLFP Central Committee two months ago. As a politician, he is inexperienced and immature. But due to his attempt, speculation was rife that attempts were being made to oust the President from the party leadership. We categorically denied it and explained the true reasons of calling that Central Committee meeting.

Q: What led the party hierarchy to call a special SLFP Central Committee meeting on July 15?

A: The SLFP Central Committee was summoned for two main reasons. One was to request the party leadership to immediately suspend the party membership of six SLFP politicians who will contest the General Election on the UNP ticket. It is absurd that the SLFP Treasurer, two Vice Presidents and three Central Committee members are contesting from the UNP. No political party would grant permission to their members to contest from another party. If they do so, they will be expelled from the party. After the SLFP Central Committee meeting, we had also planned to call the SLFP Executive Committee and clearly outline the party's stance on the election.

Q: Do you think the SLFP party hierarchy should take disciplinary actions against the SLFP politicians who are contesting the upcoming General Election on the UNP ticket.

A: Definitely. I personally believe SLFP Treasurer S.B. Nawinne, Vice Presidents Rajitha Senaratne and M.K.A.D.S. Gunawardena and Central Committee members Hirunika Premachandra, Arjuna Ranatunga and Vadivel Suresh should be removed from the SLFP with immediate effect. By doing so, President Sirisena should at least give a signal that he truely represents his party. This is the first time in the SLFP's history, a few of its party leaders are contesting from the UNP.

Q: What do you think of the comments made by President Maithripala Sirisena on the entry of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to the electoral fray? Do you think of it as a betrayal of the SLFP? Do you think the comments will be an advantage to the UNP?

A: Actually this is an act of stabbing the SLFP in the back. I don't know as to why the President was compelled to make such a damaging statement. The UNP and JVP supporters may be jubilant over the President's statement. This would give a different impression to the SLFP and UPFA supporters. If the present stance taken by the President is correct, he should be popular in the country or within his own party. Otherwise, he should be a popular political figure within the international community. After that controversial statement, the President can only retain his popularity with the UNP. If the SLFP Leader is popular among the UNP then there is no use of such a leader. The President's speech is a sort of a "dead rope" by the international forces. I honestly think the President may be worried over that statement.

Q: Now there is a serious division within the SLFP. Under these circumstances, do you think the UPFA will be able to win the election?

A: Earlier there was a division within the SLFP. After the President's speech, the division within the SLFP was completely done away with. At present, all the coalition partners of the UPFA have rallied round to ensure the UPFA's victory.

Q: Do you think the UPFA cannot win without Mahinda Rajapaksa? If so, doesn't it reflect badly on the other leaders of the UPFA?

A: This election looks like a referendum on the country's national security and the future. Those who want to ensure the country's national security and future will move towards one direction while those who don't seriously bother about it would go into another direction. Therefore, individual factors are not important to secure victory. The former government too made certain mistakes such as removing of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake and the imprisonment of Sarath Fonseka. This had an impact on the decline of the vote base. How many notorious characters like Mervyn Silva were in the former Cabinet. A few characters of that Cabinet were branded as the symbols of indiscipline. Therefore, the people took us to task at the last Presidential election.

Q: If the UPFA wins in a big way, will you compel the President to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister despite the President's announcement that this will not be done?

A: Not at all. Surely Cabinet Spokesman Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne is a dental expert but his Thursday's statement proves his ignorance in constitutional matters. According to the Constitution and parliamentary traditions, some accepted norms are followed when appointing a Prime Minister. For example, we extended our support to implement President's Hundred Day Policy Manifesto. Then we realised the promises in the Hundred Day Program are not implemented as pledged so we moved a No Confidence Motion against the government. Then the parliament was dissolved. Who wants to create anarchy in the country once again ?

Q: There are allegations that a large number of candidates with serious allegations against them have been given nominations by the UPFA, especially those who are loyal to the former President. Will this be a disadvantage to the UPFA?

A: Nominations have not been given to those who have been charged with serious allegations. Can we find any other serious charge than the controversial Central Bank treasury bond issue? Even the country's Head of the State who addressed the nation said that some mistake has been made by the Central Bank.

But the person who appointed the Central Bank Governor is contesting as the UNP Prime Ministerial candidate.

I would like to call upon the media to show at least a single person who has been accused of a more serious charge than this.

Q: Even the President in his speech admitted that he had advised the Prime Minister to take action against the Central Bank Governor about the controversial bond issue. Will the bond scam be one of your campaign issues ?

A: President Sirisena in his address said that Prime Minister has committed a grave mistake. But the media hasn't the courage to report that. After the President made that comment, no state media institution highlighted it.

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