SLFP vows to bring

MR loyalists to heel

‘No other President endured such hostile action’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

State Finance Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena yesterday warned that rebel SLFPers would face further disciplinary action, including the possible loss of parliamentary seats unless they changed their current strategy.

National List MP Abeywardena urged them to toe the party line or face the consequences. The dire warning was given at a media briefing at the SLFP party office at T.B. Jayah Mawatha, close on the heels of President Maithripala Sirisena, in his capacity as the SLFP leader replaced 22 electoral organisers.

Asked by The Island whether further action was being contemplated, Minister Abeywardena asserted that those who had been recently punished could switch their allegiance to President Maithripala Sirisena. However, if they refused to comply with SLFP directives, the party would have no option but to take remedial measures. The State Minister however assured that the party wouldn’t take hasty decisions and would follow proper procedures.

Citing veteran UNPer Wijepala Mendis being given his due position in the party following disciplinary action years ago, Minister Yapa suggested that anyone now operating outside the party control could inherit a similar fate that befell the late Gampaha District veteran UNPer.

State Minister for city planning and deputy water supply minister Dr Sudarshini Fernandopulle, Deputy Housing and Cinstruction Minister Indika Bandaranayake and Acting Western Province Chief Minister Gamini Tillekasiri flanked Minister Abeywardena.

Acknowledging that none of them had thrown their weight behind Opposition candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the January 2015 presidential polls, State Minister Abeywardena said that having comfortably won the presidency those who had been with the then president were given an opportunity to come to terms with the new situation. The President had endured the actions of those who were opposed to him for over a year before taking action, State Minister Abeywardena said. The State Minister was referring to this week’s sacking of 22 electoral organisers loyal to former President Rajapaksa.

Acting CM Tillekasiri strongly criticized former President Rajapaksa for publicly criticising President Sirisena’s decision to sack his loyalists. Asserting that no other President and party leader had acted in such a tolerant manner, Tillekasiri castigated those in the joint Opposition for continuing a hostile campaign regardless. The former President in his capacity as the leader of the SLFP as well as head of the UPFA took controversial decisions, the acting CM said.

The SLFPer strongly criticized the then President Rajapaksa accommodating as many as 40 UNPers in the SLFP/UPFA at the expense of the partymen. Tillekasiri said that in spite of him being adversely affected by the former President’s decision he never caused any issue and faithfully served the party. Tillekasiri lambasted the former President for accommodating UNPers while State Minister Abeywardena and Deputy Minister Indika Banadaranayake who were among those who had switched sides from the UNP looked embarrassed. The Acting CM continued to berate both the former President and the UNPers.

The media briefing was told that more dissidents could face disciplinary action in the near future.

State Minister Abeywardena said that contrary to various claims, the former President and Kurunegala District MP Rajapaksa had in no uncertain terms assured he wouldn’t under any circumstances quit the SLFP. Abeywardena quoted Rajapaksa as having told them on many occasions that no one could survive once he or she left the party.

State Minister Abeywardena said that the issue of MP Rajapaksa condemning the President’s decision in respect of a section of parliamentary group could be discussed at the Central Committee meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday late evening.

Responding to a query by the media, State Minister Abeywardena said that a six-member committee had been appointed to explore ways and means of securing support of political parties and groups to the SLFP. The committee comprises the UPFA General Secretary, SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake, Ministers S.B. Dissanayake, Dr Sarath Amunugama and Mahinda Amaraweera and State Minister Abeywardena. The position of UPFA General Secretary is yet to be filled in the wake of Prof. Wishwa Warnapala’s recent sudden death.

State Minister Abeywardena said that Democratic Left Front leader Vasudeva Nanayakkara would not be able to obtain a large number of votes if he contested on his own. Nanayakkara’s success depended on him contesting on the UPFA ticket, MP Abeywardena said.

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