ECONOMYNEXT – The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), amid some internal turmoil, celebrated its 72nd anniversary on Sunday September 03, with a number of speakers including ex-president Maithripala Sirisena hinting at possible future alliances.
Addressing a gathering that included Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena, Sirisena said that all political parties in Sri Lanka are undergoing various crises.
“Nominations must be called for a presidential election by October next year. But about 60 percent of the population have yet to decide whom to vote for in a future election,” he said.
The former president did not cite a specific survey for this finding.
When the country is in the midst of a serious political and economic crisis, said Sirisena, bringing it out of that crisis becomes a challenge. A president, a cabinet of ministers or parliament alone can resolve the crisis.
“From the president to the last citizen we must be of one mind and one goal to run the country with a plan, in order to move out of the crisis,” he said.
“Citizens of this country still haven’t been able to say we’re all Sri Lankans. Political movements have not been modernised sufficiently,” he added.
Sirisena blamed an explosion of political parties and movements over the years for what he called the disruption of unity in the country.
“More political parties have emerged creating further division in the country. Political factions have emerged that treat their party supporters as their slaves,” he said.
“This increase in political parties has disrupted the unity in this country. Some political groups have become welfare associations. Political parties mustn’t be charity organisations,” he said.
Last Thursday, August 31, the SLFP chairman invited MPs from all parties to form a common alliance. He also suggested that he is open to running for president in 2024.
In attendance at the SLFP’s 72nd anniversary celebration event were, among others, SLFP “dissidents” who had elected to “support” President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s efforts to revive the crisis-hit economy by accepting cabinet portfolios. Notable among the participants were Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Agriculture Minister Mahinda Amaraweera.
The event was held under the theme “let’s unite and prepare for change”.
Speaking at the event, Prime Minister Gunawardena said” “The country has once again reached political stability. The law has been stabilised. The economy has stabilised.”
Gunawardena also commended the broad consensus that the SLFP was building for a future Sri Lanka.
Aviation Minister Siripala told the crowd that the SLFP’s founding slogan “sanga, veda, guru, kamkaru” is now outdated.
“Let’s all think about the country before the party. Before we bring in other parties, we in the party must first unite,” he said.
“What party isn’t broken? [President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party] is split. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) are all divided. There are many crises like this.
“We must unite and show our strength. Otherwise there is no difference between us and other parties,” he said, calling party membership to identify those within its ranks who try to obstruct it.
MP Duminda Dissanayake said a “big change” is on the cards for the SLFP.
“But it’s too early to tell what that change is. In potlicis, when we do things, we can’t always talk about everything in public.
“There are some political leaders who still hold the same views they did years before. But President Sirisena is a leader who is capable of change and can see the future. There is a big change coming. You must all be ready at the grassroots level for that change,” said Dissanayake.
SLFP general secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara said a crisis situation exists in the party due to difference of opinion.
“We are engaged in talks to resolve that crisis. Today we’re in the middle of a massive geopoltical crisis.
“We must all come to one mind and we have to either do politics in the government or in the opposition. We have to choose one,” he said.
“Our leader has brought us together with great difficulty. So there is no need to have problems between us,” he added.
On August 31, Jayasekara responded to reports that sections of the party are conspiring to have him removed from the position. This was following a last-minute decision to shift the SLFP’s 72nd anniversary celebrations from Kurunegala, his electorate, to Colombo.
Speaking to reporters after Thursday evening’s party meeting, Jayasekara said he only learnt Thursday evening about the decision. Asked if it is true that the party’s general secretary doesn’t know what’s going on in his own party, he said: “I didn’t know before. But I know today.”
If Sirisena and the SLFP central committee no longer wishes to have him on board, Jayasekara said, he is happy to leave.
“I’ll remain in the party, though,” he said.
“There is no pushback against me from the bottom. It’s a few at the top level who want me out so they can go and plug this party to [President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP)],” he said. (Colombo/Sep04/2023)