SLFP in fresh bid to scuttle dissidents’ May Day rally

by Shamindra Ferdinando

The SLFP yesterday announced plans to hold interviews next week to select electoral organisers in an obvious bid to discourage dissidents, particularly members of Provincial Councils from attending Joint Opposition May Day rally at Kirulapone.

SLFP General Secretary and Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake yesterday said that the first round of interviews would commence next Tuesday (April 26).

Addressing the media at SLFP headquarters, Anuradhapura District MP Dissanayake said that a committee comprising senior SLFPers headed by former Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne would conduct the interviews at party headquarters.

Dissanayake succeeded Anura Priyadarshana Yapa soon after the conclusion of January 2015 presidential polls.

Asked by The Island whether the move was meant to intimidate dissidents thereby sabotage the Joint Opposition rally, Minister Dissanayake said elected members of the party couldn’t under any circumstances act contrary to the wishes of the party leadership.

Recently, President Maithripala Sirisena replaced Minuwangoda SLFP organiser and Mahinda Rajapaksa loyalist Prasanana Ranatunga with his brother Ruwan in spite of strong opposition by supporters.

Responding to another query by The Island whether incumbent electoral organisers could lose their posts unless they participated at the Galle rally organized by the party, the SLFP General Secretary strongly denied acting in a threatening manner. According to Minister Dissanayake, many SLFPers have been vying for party organiser posts and the party felt the urgent need to initiate a fresh process.

Acknowledging that an influential section of the party along with constituents of the UPFA had been working against the overall strategy adopted by President Maithripala Sirisena, Minister Dissanayake said that they wouldn’t be allowed to sabotage the Galle rally.

Referring to some recent media reports, Minister Dissanayake said that some of those who had been challenging President Maithripala Sirisena’s authority were obviously hell bent on causing a split within the party. Minister Dissanayake insisted that former President and Kurunegala District MP Mahinda Rajapaksa couldn’t shun the SLFP May Day rally.

Former President Rajapaksa had no choice as far as the SLFP May Day rally was concerned, Minister Dissanayake said, reminding that the Kurunegala District MP joined President Maithripala Sirisena on stage at first post January 2015 SLFP convention held in Polonnaruwa.

Former President Rajapaksa had to pay a very heavy price for failing to discipline some of his loyalists. The Agriculture Minister alleged that the entire country and the vast majority of SLFPers reacted angrily to the failure on the part of the former President to take punitive measures against wrongdoers.

Minister Dissanayake recalled the then Chairman of the Tangalle Pradeshiya Sabha, Sampath Chandra Pushpa Vidanapathirana causing irreparable damage to the party due to his alleged involvement in the killing of British citizen Khuram Shaikh Zaman, (32) in late December, 2011 and the rape of his partner.

Strongly defending President Sirisena’s criticism of those Provincial Council members as well as Local Government members accountable for major incidents, Minister Dissanayake said that such public attacks were meant for them. Vast majority of disciplined members of PCs and Local Government bodies shouldn’t be upset over criticism directed at wrongdoers, the minister said.

The SLFP General Secretary said that the party should tender a public apology for the acts of misconduct of its elected members.

Minister Dissanayake vowed to take disciplinary action against those who violated party discipline after the May Day.

Responding to another query, the SLFP General Secretary said that the Galle rally would be essentially an SLFP May Day rally.

Minister Dissanayake maintained that diabolical attempts were being made to sabotage the SLFP rally.

The top SLFP official dismissed claims that the SLFP May Day rally had been moved out of Colombo for the first time. "We once held May Day rally in Haputale."

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