SLFP will be soon reduced to half a dozen MPs - SLPP warns

... rules out giving up ‘pohottuwa’ to facilitate agreement


By Shamindra Ferdinando

The Joint Opposition (JO), yesterday, warned the SLFP of dire consequences unless it reached an understanding with the SLPP in respect of the forthcoming presidential election.

Addressing the media, at the Opposition Leader’s Office, UPFA lawmakers, Susil Premjayantha and Mahinda Aluthgamage said that the time was rapidly running out for them to finalize the agreement.

Lawmaker Aluthgamage asserted that the SLFP parliament strength could be reduced to just four members once the majority of those remaining in the party switched their allegiance after the Elections Commission called nominations.

At the onset of the briefing, lawmaker Premjayantha explained as to how the SLFP gradually deteriorated after having been the dominant group within the 95-member UPFA parliamentary group elected at the last general election in August 2015.

At the time, the JO moved a No Confidence Motion (NCM) against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in early April 2018; the SLFP group comprised 36 members. Of them, 16 voted for the NCM. Except two, the remaining lawmakers of the 16 member group joined the JO leaving the SLFP with 22, MP Premjayantha said. Of the 22, two members- Dr. Sarath Amunugama and Mohan Lal Grero recently pledged their support to SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, MP Premjayantha said, adding that six were with the UNP now.

Premjayantha said that the reality was that the SLFP group in parliament had been reduced to 14 and once nominations were called half of them would switch their allegiance to Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

Lawmaker Aluthgamage said that the SLFP could end up with just four members-even smaller than the JVP and its breakaway faction, the National Freedom Front (NFF) with six and five members, respectively.

Both Premajayantha and Aluthgamage faulted incumbent SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekera for the current crisis in the party. Having voted for the NCM along with other members of the ‘Group of 16’ against Premier Wickremesinghe in early April 2018, MP Jayasekera abandoned the group, Premjayantha noted.

Attorney-at-law Premjayantha alleged that the deterioration escalated after MP Jayasekera in early January 2019 received the appointment as the General Secretary of the party at the expense of Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa.

Alleging that MP Jayasekera was the main obstacle to SLPP-SLFP consensus, lawmaker Premjayantha questioned as to why the SLFP General Secretary suddenly  raised an issue over the party symbol on which Gotabaya Rajapaksa intended to contest against the backdrop of a general agreement on both the candidate and the policies to be adopted.

MP Premjayantha was blunt in his warning to colleague Jayasekera. "Don’t waste time. You don’t have sufficient knowledge as to SLFP led alliances came to being."

The JO spokesmen emphasized that the outfit didn’t see any reason to give up SLPP’s Pohottuwa symbol under any circumstances to appease Jayasekera. They referred to MP Jayasekera’s UNP past.

They alleged that the SLFP General Secretary was either deliberately following a policy inimical to the party to facilitate the UNP project or simply was a bad administrator/strategist. They questioned Jayasekera’s competency to function as the SLFP General Secretary.

Premjayantha emphasized that it would be the responsibility of the General Secretary of the party to thoroughly brief the party leader.

MP Premjayantha paid a glowing tribute for Viyath Maga for its role in promoting Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s candidature. Referring to the recently concluded Viyath Maga Convention at Shangri-La, the MP said that the outfit proposed an agenda beyond party politics.

The former UPFA General Secretary compared wartime Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision with that of UNP’s leading presidential hopeful Sajith Premadasa. Premjayantha asked as to how someone hoped to take the country forward only on a strategy based on poverty alleviation through housing for the poor. Declaring that the SLPP wasn’t concerned who contested on behalf of the UNP-led coalition, MP Premjayantha alleged that the ruling party lacked a vision.

"We are ready to face Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa or Karu Jayasuriya. They are irrelevant in today’s political environment," Premjayantha said.

MP Premjayantha observed that those who stood by UNP leader Wickremesinghe when he was under fire over the treasury bond scams involving the Perpetual Treasuries were now backing Sajith Premadasa, in ongoing leadership contest. Lawmaker Premjayantha chided UNPers who received kickbacks from the PTL. The MP recollected as to how some UNPers undermined the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) inquiring into treasury bond scams. A smiling MP Premjayantha asked journalists whether they remembered the UNPers dubbed the foot-note gang hell-bent on sabotaging the inquiry.

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