The SLFP is in deep crisis
For the first time in our history, there is no Sri Lanka Freedom Party candidate contesting the Presidential elections.
A record number of 34 men and one woman trooped into the National Election Commission office in Rajagiriya yesterday seeking the highest office in the land, but there was no-one representing the SLFP, a matter that worries party activists at the grassroots.
Mohamed Niroshan Nawaz, 34, is the SLFP Muslim Community Coordinator for the troubled town of Digana in the Kandy District. He told RepublicNext that there is considerable frustration and disquiet among his party members.
“We have no real leadership at the national level and we don’t want work with the SLPP. We don’t have a place to go,” he says.
In the past few days the crisis has exacerbated as the SLFP has shown that it is deeply divided between supporting the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna or another formation. It has decided that it cannot contest and win on its own, particularly with the incumbent President Maithripala Sirisena as their leader.
The Party spokesman Weerakumara Dissanayake confirmed that it will not be putting up a candidate. “That issue is out of the way,” he told reporters.
Some seniors have opted for survival and already jumped ship in the past few days. Senior Vice President of the Party Nimal Siripala De Silva announced on Sunday, Oct 6 that he will back the SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Former Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala also indicated he leans towards the SLPP alliance as he says the SLFP cannot enter into a coalition with the United National Party. Former Minister Lasantha Alagiyawanna says he has written to President Sirisena urging him to back the SLPP.
But ever since the Court of Appeal dismissed a petition that challenged Gotabaya’s suitability to be a candidate over his citizenship issues, the SLFP has not been able to come up with a united stand. The Party’s Central Committee, SLFP sources told RepublicNext, remains divided.
Several rounds of talks have been held promises made that an announcement would be made. But after they cancelled a press conference on Sunday, the party has stayed mum.
On Sunday the party spokesman Dissanayake conceded to reporters that the SLFP was facing a deep crisis. He said that whatever decision the party was to make “we cannot leave anyone out as in this election every vote will count.”
Political Scientist Prof. Jayadeva Uyangoda, says the SLFP “is in the mood to extinct itself. It is facing a crisis and this leadership cannot find a way out.”
President Sirisena announced in September that the party would be looking at building a coalition to contest the Parliamentary General Election next year, rather than the Presidential elections. But there has been wide speculation that he was hoping to be the SLPP-backed candidate, in case Gotabaya was disqualified due to his numerous cases.
The situation says Uyangoda is not good for the political landscape in Sri Lanka. In the fray today, he says is the SLPP, which is “A Neo-Conservative party Right of the UNP. It does not represent the SLFP.”
He says that the party of the Bandaranaikes “provided an important Social Democratic force, it is not there anymore. The current crisis has given the space for the party to be revived along its old policies,” he said adding that “it needs a Bandaranaike to revive the SLFP.”