ECONOMYNEXT-Internal conflicts between the two main parties in the governing Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Peramuna are emerging as the junior partner, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), is grumbling that their grassroots workers are being left out of development projects.
Earlier this week, General Secretary of the SLFP Dayasiri Jayasekara fired a salvo saying that local councillors and organisers from his party at the village level are hugely disappointed as they are not getting a slice of the pie.
Jayasekara said that there is “no journey forward for the government if they are going to forget about the lower-level members of the SLFP.”
He said that even though they had asked for a meeting with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to discuss this matter several times, they were not granted time with the top man and there are no results from the discussions held with the Basil Rajapaksa on this issue.
Senior Vice-President of the SLFP Prof Rohana Luxman Piyadasa said that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna has continuously failed to involve all the member parties in the governing alliance in the decision making process.
Speaking with EconomyNext Piyadasa, a former Party Chairman, said throughout its history, the SLFP gained power through forming alliances at elections.
However leaders such as former Prime Ministers S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and Srimavo Bandaranaike respected the alliance partners such as the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) and the Communist Party and gave them responsible positions in the government.
“We didn’t look whether the party group was big or small, we went forward with the alliance while having talks regularly about any protests within the alliance,” he said.
So he said that in that manner, an alliance was formed to fight the Parliamentary and Presidential election held in 2019.
“But because of the political context and the political environment in 2018 and 2019 we were considered the junior party in the alliance with Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), even though we were the main party in previous alliances,” he added.
He said three alliance agreements were signed with the SLPP. One with the SLPP, a second with Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa separately and then a third agreement was signed to form a broad alliance named as Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Peramuna which includes 18 parties.
He also added that when forming these alliances there were certain agreements about the ministerial positions, national list and various other state jobs.
Piyadasa said that he worked as the acting leader of the SLFP during the Presidential election to work for the victory of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as then-President Maithripala Sirisena who was the party leader decided to remain neutral.
“Although we agreed initially to contest under a common symbol, depending on the social influences and other reasons and as we were close to an election victory, we arrived at an agreement to contest under the SLPP symbol,” he said.
Further, he said SLFP came to the initial agreement with the SLPP where a third of all positions were to be given to the SLFP members in the alliance.
But after contesting the election, he said the question remains whether those promises were fulfilled because the SLFP did not receive the ministerial portfolios that were promised and state ministries were not given in a broad manner while appointments on the national list were not also made as per the deal.
“When the other alliance partners got one seat each from the national list, from us they asked for two names for the national list positions. However, finally, only one seat was given from the national list to the SLFP and in doing that they did not consult our party leader or the general secretary and chose a person of their liking. This kind of thing is happening continuously,” he added.
A bone of contention has been the political move to give 100,000 jobs at the village level to people with low qualifications, despite a promise made by President Rajapaksa not to stuff the state sector.
Piyadasa complains that the SLFP members at the village level, the local councillors and organisers, have not been able to cater to their supporters through this programme.
He said although discussions were held regarding this matter with the SLPP and they agreed to resolve them, no solution has been reached.
The pressure from the grassroots was what Jayasekara reflected in his comments, Piyadasa told EconomyNext.
“I think this is a very bad political situation in the country,” he said.
Moreover, he said there is growing dissension across the country as the expected promises were not fulfilled especially the pledge to not to include relatives or close associates to government offices and certain matters of fraud and corruption.
“I think people have already started talking about them. The government has not been able to maintain the prices of food items amidst COVID-19. We could have resolved these issues by gathering as an alliance and discussing them but unfortunately, it is sad that those things are not happening,” he said.
He also said that the pressure from the people is mounting and soon they will need alternatives to these pressures.
He warned that the labour class is already presenting certain problems and especially the issue of handing over of the East Container Terminal of Colombo Port is being widely discussed.
“So as an active political party we are sensitive to those matters and we need to look for answers for them in the correct way while being ready to fulfil the demands of the people by creating thrust and pressures,” he added.
Finally, he said that the party as a whole is expecting to come to a decision after having internal discussions about how the party is going go forward and the actions needed to be taken in the upcoming elections including the Provincial Council election. (Colombo December 19, 2020-sb)
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe