ECONOMYNEXT – Industries Minister Wimal Weerawansa must immediately retract and apologise for a statement he had made to a weekly newspaper regarding the leadership of the ruling Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), SLPP Secretary General MP Sagara Kariyawasam said.
Speaking to reporters today, Kariyawasam claimed that Weerawansa in an interview given to yesterday’s Sunday Lankadeepa had called for the removal of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa from the SLPP’s leadership, suggesting that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa be appointed in his place.
“Minister Weerawansa must keep in mind that this is not his party; nor does he have a right to make decisions regarding our party. He doesn’t even have the right to make such a comment. As a party, we’re of the position that he must apologise to the people for his remark and retract it immediately,” said Kariyawasam.
However, in the Sunday Lankadeepa interview, Weerawansa did not explicitly call for the prime minister’s removal from the SLPP leadership. A verbatim translation of his comment, originally made in Sinhala, is as follows:
“President Gotabaya Rajapaksa as then Secretary to the Ministry of Defence had served this country exceptionally well. Since assuming duties as Head of State, he is not engaged in politics as someone with a lot of experience in that area. What should’ve happened was that he should’ve been appointed leader of the SLPP. Without doing this, isolating him in the President’s Office is not appropriate. What that would do is weaken the bond between him and the [government] MPs, between him and the political regime. That is not good for the well-being of the government or the country. I don’t understand in whose interest and wishes that this dangerous situation is allowed to develop.”
A visibly annoyed Kariyawasam demanded that the firebrand National Freedom Front (NFF) leader issue an immediate apology.
“We are very disappointed that, as the leader of a party that has joined our alliance and as a member of the cabinet with collective responsibility, he has made such a lowly, third class comment,” he said.
Weerawansa was not available for comment at the time of writing.
This is the second time this month that Weerawansa has drawn the ire of Kariyawasam. Last Tuesday (02), the SLPP secretary criticised the minister for going public with his party’s opposition to the now-scrapped East Container Terminal deal. His actions, Kariyawasam said, were detrimental to the unity within the ruling coalition.
Responding to the allegation the next day, Weerawansa told reporters that it doesn’t matter what others think about him except the people. Constituent parties of the ruling coalition have a role to play within the government without being political slaves to any one faction, he said.
Reported by Imesh Ranasinghe and Himal Kotelawala (Colombo/Feb08/2021)