(The Sri Lanka Freedom Party Media Unit has released a booklet under the heading”Megenath Sithanna:Pakshaya Rekaganna” meaning”Think about this and protect the party”.It was reportedly written by cabinet minister S.B.Dissanayake and published by Thilanga Sumathipala M.P. The following is a summary of the booklet translated into English and published in “The Island”newspaper.)
The pamphlet starts off by comparing the election campaigns of Mahinda and Maithripala and asserting that in comparison to the former, the latter had no campaign going; yet contrary to all expectations, MS won.
Despite all the efforts of those who supported Mahinda, Maithripala prevailed. After the defeat, the party wanted Mahinda to be the opposition leader and a national list MP was even persuaded to resign and MR also agreed to sit in parliament and be the opposition leader. But the next day he backed out saying that his family was dead against it. After that the SLFP central committee met and removed MS, Rajitha, MKDS and Duminda from the party. By that time MS had become president and he could not be punished or lawfully removed from the party. Yet MS was sacked from the party and MR was confirmed in the position of Chairman. In terms of the constitution of the SLFP, a member of the party who becomes president automatically becomes president and his predecessor automatically becomes a patron of the party. Then our MPs began to join the newly elected president in groups. In order to prevent a split in the party, a meeting was arranged between MR and MS.
At this discussion, MR agreed to hand over the party to MS and the latter was even given the go ahead to appoint his own officials. The SLFP CC was convened and the sacked members reinstated and MS formally made the chairman. MS promised the CC that he will do his utmost to bring the SLFP back to power and stated that he loves the party. MS did not make major changes in the party. Those appointed by MR to the CC, the executive committee and the All Island Working Committee were not removed and he did not exercise his power to appoint 23 members of the CC and 25 and 50 members respectively, to the other two bodies.
The new party Chairman brought a new way of thinking into the party and took steps to establish democracy, protect human rights, combat corruption and nepotism, to establish the freedom of speech within the party etc. MS requested the party to commit themselves to these goals and he invited the party to join his government. It was not a case of joining a UNP government but joining Maithri’s government since he is both our party chairman and the leader of the country. If we join this government we can change the executive presidential system. And the SLFP had a duty to join the national government. The need to set up a national government was to face the Geneva challenge from a position of strength and to get the United Nations to agree to a local solution. The pamphlet praised the war victory which was won by ‘our’ government and acknowledged that it was won under Mahinda. It acknowledged that Gota and SF were also key players in this victory. They said however that the SLFP led government could not win the peace. Though the Tamils benefitted most from the ending of terrorism, MR could not win over the Tamils. India helped us during the war and we gave them various undertakings but these were forgotten after the war. India fell out with us. The USA and Europe also fell out with us. Instead of understanding that India was our neighbour and the West the destination of most of our exports we got close to their rivals. Non-alignment was completely forgotten.
As soon as MS assumed power he was able to postpone the release of the UNHRC commission of inquiry report. If it came out, some of our key people could have faced war crimes charges and we may have been deprived of the Western market due to sanctions. MS has rebuilt relations with India and the West and is also keeping China on board. Maithripala will not betray our war heroes. He will put an end to our human rights and war crimes problems through an internal solution. But for that we need to build a national government of both the national political parties. MS will not allow the division of the country. The main force that made MS the president was the UNP. So Ranil was made PM and others were given ministerial portfolios. That was his duty.
As soon as he became president he invited our party to join the government but our party preferred to stay out of the government and support the 100 day programme. Later a decision was made by our parliamentary group and the party CC to join the govt. some of our members accepted portfolios while others remained in the opposition after thinking carefully about the party rank and file and the forthcoming election. At the last election 95% of Muslim voters voted against MR. Around 1.2 million Muslims had cast their votes and MR got only about 58,000 of these. Usually at least 200,000 Muslims would vote with us. The next time we will get at least 400,000 Muslim votes. Last time MR got 20% of the Tamil vote. This can be increased to at least 40% with the help of the upcountry Tamils. They got only 29% of the Catholic vote, this can be increased to 40%. The last time we got 59% of Sinhala Buddhist votes. MS got something between 1.2-1.4 million votes that the UNP would never have got but which were cast for the Swan. We must get this vote next time as well, so we must change our ways. We must go back to the middle path, and eschew nationalistic and religious extremism. Now our party has embarked on the path of winning the confidence not only of the Sinhala majority but the Tamils, Muslims, Burgers Malays etc. This is the paradigm shift that was introduced by MS.
There were many accusations against the previous SLFP led government – family rule, one family dividing up most of the ministries between them, the taking of billions of rupees in commissions, spending Rs. 100,000 for something that can be done with Rs. 1000, allocating one million for something that can be done with 100,000 and stealing 900,000, spreading terror throughout the country, destroying media freedom, the wielders of power behaving like kings and queens, all came against us like a storm. In the midst of this, the people forgot the leader who had saved the country from the 30 year scourge of terrorism. The people forgot the new roads, hospitals, clean water, improvements in education, the urban beautification. Everything was forgotten. The rapid economic growth was forgotten by the people. People thought that large projects and development was for earning commissions. We lost the intelligentsia, government servants and the police and army.
Our own people’s representatives were unhappy. MS was promised the premiership in 2005 but never given to him. Money was not passed for the Moragahakanda project which was a dream of his. The moment the money was allocated, the ministry was taken away from Maithri. Is that the right way to do things? Was the way Chandrika Kumaratunga our previous leader who brought our party back onto power after 17 years, treated in the right manner? After removing Shirani Bandaranayake if the next senior judge was made CJ, the lawyers would not have turned against us. Some ministers were given only name boards as ministries. All power was concentrated in the family. When mosques, Christian churches, butchers shops and Muslim business houses were harassed, was it right for the powers that be to turn a blind eye?
If this situation had continued for another two years, family domination, intoxication with power, the terror and corruption would have increased. But our country was not so unfortunate. A snap presidential election was called. Our own general secretary provided leadership to the undercurrent of opposition that had built up within our own ranks. He was joined by some other members of our party, and by the JHU and CBK. They were joined by the UNP, two Muslim parties and two up-country Tamil parties. (The TNA is not mentioned). The full force of the UPFA and state power was marshalled against Maithripala but against all odds, he won. MS became president RW became prime minister and what appeared to be UNP government was formed. Our party members faced victimisation and harassment.
A week later our adversary became our party chairman. Now the party is faced with several other challenges the main one being to unite CBK and Mahinda with MS. Our party members love Mahinda but they are suspicious of and have doubts about Maithri. Our members will take some time to realise that Ms did not harm our party or our country but that he saved both the party and our country. In the meantime, several other groups and political parties are trying to divide our party and to form a new alliance. Yet the truth is that the snap election, the defeat of our party chairman and the victory of our party secretary, are things that happened because of the good fortune of our party and our country. Now we have an opportunity to be released from allegations of family domination, nepotism, intoxication with power, terror, corruption, waste and robbery.
There are many good things that we got from the Rajapaksa era. But there are also many bad things. We must drop the bad things. There are things like reforming the arbitrary presidential system which has been promised by three of our presidents on five occasions. It can be done. The present electoral system which results in massive waste should be changed at least now. Though we won the war, we could not win over the northern Tamil people who benefitted most from the end of the war. India which helped us to win the war fell out with us after it ended. The USA fell out with us. The UN went against us. They are gunning for our war heroes and armed forces members. An international war crimes tribunal is in the offing. Economic sanctions are on the horizon. This is the biggest danger facing our country.
In the face of this challenge we have no option but to leave aside all differences and unite. The Geneva report is to be released in September. If MS has both main political parties with him, he can ask the USA, the UN and India to allow us to settle our own problems. That is the only way to save our war heroes. Once an election is held and another election follows soon after that, the defeated party is usually completely and utterly defeated. We are now faced with that danger.
Yet our leader is the national leader. We too have ministers and deputy ministers. The UNP has a prime minister but the leader of the country is our leader. There is the 1.2 to 1.4 million votes that the Swan got which the UNP will never get. The reason why we did not get these votes is because the brothers and their cronies had concentrated all power in their hands. It is true that we love Mahinda Rajapaksa but if the party is divided we will not be able to avoid a defeat. The UNP will win a resounding victory and we will be relegated to the opposition for the next 15 to 20 years. There are people among us who think if the party is defeated they will be able to capture power within the party. They think that if they are to take over the party, the UNP should win and Maithripala should be rendered helpless. There are some nationalists and religious extremists who want to divide our party and form new alliances. It is imperative that the party be saved from these people.
In this short period, Maithripala gave up the palatial official residences , he stopped food from being brought from five star hotels to ‘the palace’. He reduced the money allocated to the president by 95%. He stopped the use of helicopters by everyone in the family. He stopped chartering a plane when going overseas. He gave up the arbitrary powers of the presidency of his own free will. He reduced presidential security by 80%. At this decisive moment do not think of breaking up into groups and cabals and trying inflate some and deflate others. An election is in the offing and we should be careful. Everybody should stay with the party and obey the party directives. We must control our emotions and act with restraint. Let us protect with our very lives the party, the alliance, the people and the country. – Sri Lanka Freedom Party