Party supporters won’t be left in the lurch - MP Duminda | Sunday Observer

Party supporters won’t be left in the lurch - MP Duminda

Explaining the reasons as to why a particular group of SLFP MPs in President Maithripala Sirisena’s camp abstained from voting at the Third Reading of Budget 2019, SLFP National Organiser MP Duminda Dissanayake said the President is the Head of the Government and the Cabinet and also holds three ministerial portfolios and as such he is necessarily a stakeholder of the Government. Consequently, the SLFP group in the President’s camp took a decision after much deliberation not to vote in favour or against the Budget. In fact, it was a decision taken by the party in the larger interest of the country and its people. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the SLFP heavyweight said they have no idea whatsoever to leave their party and join the UNP, leaving supporters who safeguarded the SLFP during recent crucial times in the lurch as they had stood firmly by the party and the President.

Q: When a group of SLFP MPs in the President’s camp voted against the Budget 2019 why did several other SLFP MPs including you abstain from voting?

A: The President is the Head of the Government and the Cabinet so he is necessarily a stakeholder of the Government. As I always tell the media, the SLFP Chairman is the Head of the Government. Therefore, the SLFP group in the President’s camp took a decision not to vote in favour or against the Budget.

Q: When three rounds of discussion were held between the SLFP MPs aligned with the SLPP and other MPs in President Sirisena’s camp on the Third Reading of the Budget, how did it fail to reach a consensus?

A: As the SLFP group aligned with the President, it was a decision we arrived at those meetings to abstain from voting.

Q: However, some MPs such as S.B. Dissanayake, Dilan Perera and Lakshman Wasantha Perera of the President’s camp voted against the Budget. How do you explain this ?

A: It was not a collective decision of the party but merely a personal decision taken by them to vote against the Budget.

Q: Does the SLFP MPs’ abstaining from voting mean that they indirectly supported the Budget 2019?

A: The President holds three ministerial portfolios. In addition, he is also the Head of the Government as well as the Cabinet. In such a situation could anyone expect us to vote against the Budget? A massive program of development work has been launched by the three ministries coming under the purview of the President. A number of special projects have also been implemented to develop the Polonnaruwa district. Under these circumstances, it is obvious that we cannot vote against the Budget. Actually, it was a decision taken by the party in the larger interest of the country and its people.

Q: How could the SLFP and SLPP pursue further discussions to form a broad political alliance if both parties could not even reach a consensus on such a matter as the Third Reading vote of the Budget 2019?

A: Of course, there is nothing wrong in continuing discussions. As a party, we are always ready to have discussions with any political party. Similarly, all major parties discuss with other political entities to form broad political alliances. In future, we will have to face several elections especially the Presidential Election which will come first. Therefore, it is logical for us to discuss with all parties to form a broad political alliance to win the next Presidential Election. If the SLPP accepts President Maithripala Sirisena as the next Presidential candidate and extend its support, nothing prevents the SLPP or any other party from aligning with the SLFP. In the past, the SLFP always contested elections under various political alliances to ensure victory. We are always ready to join hands with any political party which is willing to accept and go ahead with the SLFP’s political ideology. For example, in the past, the SLFP formed an alliance with the JVP and even formed a coalition Government. In the recent past, the SLFP and the UNP which have completely different political ideologies joined hands and formed the Yahapalana Government. In the circumstances, the SLFP is ready to align with any political party to form a stable Government.

Q: Is there any difference of opinion among the SLFP MPs in the President’s camp?

A: Our party decision is that we should form a broad political alliance to contest future elections. A large number of political parties ha ve already joined hands with us. In order to further broaden our alliance, we are ready to hold discussions with other stakeholders in the political arena. Whatever discussions are going on, right from the beginning, the SLFP maintained the view that President Maithripala Sirisena should be the next Presidential Candidate.

Q: However, some SLFP MPs aligned with the SLPP hint that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be the SLPP’s Presidential Candidate. Has any final decision been reached between the two parties on the selection of a Presidential Candidate?

A: If the SLPP’s choice is Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the fact remains that a dual citizen is disqualified to contest as a Presidential Candidate according to the provisions of the Constitution. It applies not only to Gotabaya Rajapaksa but also to any other person who is a dual citizen.They cannot be fielded as a Presidential Candidate. That is the Constitutional provision common to everybody.

Q: SLFP MP Wijith Wijayamuni Zoysa has said that he along with a group of SLFP MPs will contest the next General Election from a Front including the UNP. Has any decision been taken by some SLFP MPs to join the UNP?

A: They have already joined the UNP Government. All those in the SLPP including Mahinda Rajapaksa have been elected to Parliament under the UPFA ticket. In fact, it is we who saved their parliamentary seats saying that they are still members of the SLFP. But they promote the Pohottuwa. Therefore, if any decision is to be taken, it should be against both SLFP MPs who have joined the Pohottuwa and the UNP including MP Wijayamuni Zoysa. The SLFP cannot hold two different views on these two groups aligned with the Pohottuwa as well as the UNP.

Q: Although the SLFP group in the President’s camp says that the President will be their next Presidential Candidate, he has not made any decision whether he will contest or not as yet. Can you explain this?

A: The people including the journalists are well aware that the President has made it crystal clear that the dreaded drug menace will be wiped out from this country within the next two years. How can the President make such comments when his tenure ends in December this year? Surely, it means he is ready to accept the future challenges of this country.

Q: Even UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera has conceded that if the SLFP and the SLPP contest separately, the chances of winning the next Presidential and the General Elections are at stake. What have you got to say about this?

A: If three separate Presidential Candidates are fielded by the SLFP, SLPP and UNP , chances of a victory are quite uncertain. Three candidates from major political parties have never contested a Presidential Election in Sri Lanka. Although minority parties had fielded their own candidates, it was not a success. If three Presidential Candidates contest, it will create a decisive situation. Sometimes, legal problems may also crop up and perhaps the occasion may arise for the need to count a second preferential vote. The candidate who obtains 50 percent plus one vote of the preferential votes will be elected President. I don’t think any of these candidates will be able to obtain this percentage of preferential votes. If it ever happens, it will be a totally new experience in the political world!

Q: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had told the media that the selection of the next Presidential Candidate will be decided after discussions with President Maithripala Sirisena. How do you see this?

A: That is what should really happen. But we saw a couple of days ago, UPFA Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma told the media that the Rajapaksa family has already decided on the successor to Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is obvious the Presidential Candidate of the SLPP will be decided by the Rajapaksa family itself and not by the party high command or other parties aligned with it. The comments by Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and MP Dullas Alahapperuma point to the fact that the Rajapaksa family has already decided on the SLPP’s Presidential Candidate. We don’t know who is really telling the truth-Mahinda Rajapaksa or Dullas Alahapperuma.

Q: There is speculation that a group SLFP MPs in President Maithripala Sirisena’s camp are going to join the UNP. Is there any truth in this?

A: None of us have any idea of joining the UNP. We would continue as SLFPers. After President Maithripala Sirisena became the President, he was given the Party Chairmanship. Later, a group of SLFP MPs formed a new political party named, SLPP but we adhered to the SLFP throughout. There is a large number SLFPers together with President Maithripala Sirisena who safeguarded the SLFP right through. Therefore, we bear the responsibility to protect them in the interest of the party. We have no idea whatsoever to leave our party supporters in the lurch who safeguarded the SLFP during recent crucial times standing firmly by the party and the President.

Q: What is the SLFP’s stand on the proposed 20 th Amendment to the Constitution. Is the SLFP in favour or against the abolition of the Executive Presidency?

A: As a party, we have not taken a final decision on the 20 th Amendment. In future, we hope to discuss this matter extensively. Even the JVP has not officially discussed with the SLFP regarding this.

Comments