General election: President will lead SLFP campaign; victory assured-Nimal

Latimer House Principle that the UNP espoused forgotten  by them


by Shamindra Ferdinando

Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala de Silva yesterday said that the on-going SLFP general election campaign had received a tremendous boost with President Maithripala Sirisena promising to spearhead the project.

The SLFP parliamentary group received an assurance from the President at the Presidential Secretariat on Wednesday evening.

A confident de Silva told The Island yesterday that President Sirisena’s assurance to the SLFP parliamentary group couldn’t have come at a better time. MP de Silva, who is also the Senior Vice President of the SLFP emphasised that President Sirisena’s early declaration as regards his role in the campaign would facilitate re-vamping of the organisation against the backdrop of the presidential poll defeat.

The meeting at Presidential Secretariat took place after MP de Silva moved into the Opposition Leader’s Office earlier in the day.

MP de Silva said that they had an opportunity to clarify some critically important issues including the SLFP’s role, both in and outside parliament. The Opposition Leader quoted President Sirisena as having said that the SLFP parliamentary group could criticise government initiatives. Welcoming constructive criticism on the part of the SLFP, the President had asserted that even members of the government, too, could adopt a critical approach.

Responding to another query, MP de Silva said that the SLFP parliamentary group had assured President Sirisena that it wouldn’t do anything inimical to his 100-day project meant to bring immediate relief to the people. The Badulla District MP insisted that 127-member SLFP group would support President Sirisena’s project backed by a coalition of political parties led by the UNP.

Both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have pledged to go for the next general election soon after the successful conclusion of the 100-day project.

The Opposition Leader pointed out that President Sirisena represented the SLFP’s interests at the newly established National Executive Council (NEC) tasked with deciding policy.

"We will support the new government’s efforts to provide relief to the people, but we cannot turn a blind eye to attacks on some public officials," the Opposition Leader said, noting that the SLFP couldn’t condone removal of Chief Justice Mohan Peiris under controversial circumstances.

When The Island pointed out that the previous government, too, had removed the then Chief Justice Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake unceremoniously, the Opposition Leader shot back: "The UPFA lost presidential poll because the electorate obviously didn’t condone some of our decisions. The new government promised good governance, accountability and a level playing field. Therefore, the victors shouldn’t repeat UPFA’s mistakes."

He said that the SLFP would let the public know that the 100-day project wouldn’t be a reality unless the largest single party in parliament solidly backed it.

Asked whether the SLFP now regretted having passed the 18th Amendment to the Constitution at the expense of the 17th Amendment to pave the way for the then President to seek a third term, MP de Silva said that some of those now in the new government had voted for the 18th Amendment. The SLMC, the JHU, All Ceylon Makkal Congress (ACMC) as well as a group of UNPers who had switched their allegiance to the then SLFP leader backed the 18th Amendment regardless of what some of them said today, he added.

 "We realize ground realities," MP de Silva said, recalling how the UNP had demanded that Dr. Bandaranayake be probed in accordance with Latimer House Principle as Sri Lanka held membership of the Commonwealth. The UNP insisted that instead of unilateral decisions, the country should follow Latimer House Principles as other Commonwealth member states, he said. But, Mohan Peiris had been removed without following what the UNP had been preaching since the previous government announced its decision to remove Dr. Bandaranayake, the former Irrigation and Water Resources Minister noted.

The MP recollected health minister of the new government Dr. Rajitha Senaratne being on a committee that decided Dr. Bandaranayake’s fate. De Silva, too, had been a member of that committee.

The recent threatening of Chief Justice Peiris in Colombo as well as another incident involving UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma revealed that some politicians engaged in violence, though President Sirisena and Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe repeatedly called for an incident-free post-poll period, De Silva said.

The Opposition Leader stressed that the SLFP remained committed to unitary character of the country.

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