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Sunday, 23 August 2015





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Government Gazette

SLFP’s new reality

Overcomes internal disputes, endorses national government, agrees to work without Cabinet portfolios:

Things appear have taken a positive turn for the beleaguered Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) following the unanimous decision by the party’s Central Committee to sign a MoU with the United National Party (UNP) on Friday (21) for the formation of a national government. The signing of the MoU, which coincided with Ranil Wickremesinghe's swearing-in as Prime Minister for the fourth time, was an epoch-making event in the annals of the country's political history.

President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe watch the signing of the MoU between UNP General Secretary Kabir Hashim and SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake. Pic: Samantha Weerasiri

Neither the UNP nor the SLFP managed to secure an overall majority to form a government in the August 17 polls. The UNP secured 106 seats, just seven seats short of the required 113, while the UPFA managed to secure 95 seats.

Amidst speculations of rifts in the SLFP over post-poll internal politics, 46 Central Committee (CC) members who attended the CC meeting under the patronage of President Maithripala Sirisena on Thursday (August 20), fully endorsed the formation of a national government with the UNP-led United National Front (UNF) for Good Governance. In a meeting replete with epoch making decision, one of the highlights was the presence of former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, after a lapse of 10 years.

Significantly, United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Colombo District parliamentarian, Susil Premajayantha, who was sacked from his posts as General Secretary of the UPFA and National Organiser of the SLFP a few days prior to the election, also attended Thursday's Central Committee meeting.

Encouraging fillip

According to media reports, Premajayantha had attended the meeting and refrained from confronting President Sirisena over the sacking, on the instructions of former President Rajapaksa, who had wanted him to cooperate with Sirisena and resolve issues. It was also for this reason that Premajayantha had decided not to present a separate national list to the Commissioner of Elections. As things stand, it is the national list prepared by the new General Secretary of the UPFA, Vishwa Warnapala that will now be accepted by the Commissioner of Elections.

The endorsement given by the SLFP to form a national government is an encouraging fillip to President Sirisena's initiative to continue his good governance program. Newly appointed SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake, and UNP General Secretary Kabir Hashim signed the historic MoU for the formation of the national government. A six-member committee was also appointed under the chairmanship of former President Kumaratunga, to discuss the modalities of the national government.

The committee comprises Nimal Siripala de Silva, Mahinda Samarasinghe, Dr. Sarath Amunugama, S.B. Dissanayake and Susil Premajayantha.

SLFP party sources while pointing out that the national government in the making would help solve many of the burning issues in the country were optimistic that it would also help avert divisions within the party. “Hopefully, party members will contribute to continuing a SLFP-UNP national government for the stipulated time frame,” they confided.

UPFA Parliamentarian Nimal Siripala de Silva told the media that the SLFP Central Committee, which met on Thursday under the patronage of President Sirisena, had an extensive discussion on the prevailing political situation.

“At the Central Committee, we gave our approval to the President to form a national government. We also drew the President's attention to the principle that under whatever government, SLFP policies should be preserved. ” He also explained that they had agreed to extend the party’s support to a new government for a limited time frame, but without accepting Cabinet ministerial portfolios.

“The committee appointed under the chairmanship of former President Kumaratunga would decide on what policies the SLFP should extend its support to the national government,” he said, adding that the committee would also look into the incidents that took place within the SLFP in the recent past.

Extensive discussion

Separately, President Sirisena also had an extensive discussion with a group of newly elected SLFP parliamentarians on Thursday (August 20), on the party’s future politics and the proposed national government concept and stressed that the party should take people oriented decisions regarding issues of national importance.

At that meeting, Sirisena appointed another committee headed by SLFP Ratnapura District parliamentarian, W.D.J. Senewiratna, to prepare a report based on the ideas of the SLFP parliamentarians on the concept of forming a national government. Other members of the committee include Susil Premajayantha, Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, Keheliya Rambukwella and Kumara Welgama.

While these developments appear positive, highly informed sources however said a section of the UPFA parliamentarians including a few SLFP stalwarts are vehemently opposed to the formation of a national government. Conforming this, General Secretary, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and UPFA Colombo District parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila said the SLFP's decision to form a national government with the United National Front (UNF) for Good Governance goes against the mandate, as the people voted for the UPFA in protest of the UNF's manifesto. He pointed out that it was not mentioned in the UPFA's manifesto and that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during the UPFA's election campaign, head categorically rejected the national government concept. He said it was clear what happened to those who acted against this mandate at the General Election and warned those who act against the mandate would face the same fate at the next General Election.

UPFA Challenge

The next challenge before the SLFP led UPFA coalition is to appoint an Opposition Leader for the next Parliament. A group of 65 UPFA parliamentarians elected to the new Parliament have made a strong request from former President Rajapaksa to accept the post of the Opposition Leader.

A section of UPFA MPs who met at the residence of Western Province Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga on Thursday (August 20) had also signed a letter addressed to President Sirisena, seeking his approval to appoint former the President as the Opposition Leader. But Rajapaksa has expressed his desire to remain as a backbencher, paving the way for a SLFP senior to accept the post.

The SLFP crisis first erupted when President Sirisena denounced his predecessor's candidacy on the UPFA ticket, claiming Rajapaksa was given nomination due to undue influence exerted by his loyalists.


The day following the nominations Rajapaksa was appointed as the head of the UPFA Elections Operations Committee. Later an attempt by his loyalists to have an emergency SLFP Central Committee meeting was thwarted through a motion filed in the Colombo District Court by SLFP member Prasanna Solangaarachchi. The Court issued an injunction order preventing the convening of the Central Committee without prior permission from SLFP Chairman, President Maithripala Sirisena.

Many SLFP stalwarts blamed Sirisena’s antagonistic remarks about Rajapaksa for badly damaging the UPFA’s chances of winning the August 17 polls. In fact, in shocking statement on July 14, he predicted Rajapaksa's defeat.

Rajapaksa made his political come back at the UPFA's maiden election rally held in Anuradhapura on July 17, but the fight always appeared an uphill task.


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