by Shamindra Ferdinando
UPFA Gen. Secretary Susil Premjayantha and SLFP Gen. Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa yesterday said that rival factions within the former ruling party had sunk their differences and were ready for the August 17 general election.
The SLFP had been able to avert a post-January 8 presidential poll split, though some issues remained to be resolved, they said.
The party called the media briefing yesterday in the wake of further turmoil consequent to Premjayantha’s announcement last Friday that President Maithripala Sirisena was agreeable to accommodate Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Former MP Yapa said that the main constituent of the UPFA had identified its weaknesses that had led to their defeat at the January polls and was in the process of tackling disputes.
Yapa emphasised that the SLFP was a modern political organisation capable of facing challenges. The former minister underscored the political significance of President Maithripala Sirisena taking over the leadership of the SLFP and having a dialogue with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Acknowledging the difficulties experienced during negotiations, Yapa said that their effort wasn’t meant to strengthen the positin of any individual but to clear hurdles in the opposition’s path.
Responding to queries, the SLFPer stressed that giving nominations to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be subject to any per-conditions. Decisions would be made by the Central Committee in accordance with President Maithripala Sisisena’s guidelines.
Referring to a section of UPFA members, including SLFPers using Abhyaramaya, Narahenpita as a base for bring-back-Mahinda campaign, Yapa denied the existence of divisions. “There are no camps within the SLFP. We are united,” he said, adding Abhyaramaya wouldn’t be used hereafter.
The dissident group also called off a meeting earlier scheduled to be held in Anuradhapura on July with the participation of Rajapaksa.
The SLFP General Secretary declined to comment on the JHU ‘s decision to go it alone at the forthcoming election in protest against President Sirisena accommodating his predecessor.
Asked whether those who had been accused of corruption and narcotic offences would be denied nominations, Yapa said that the media should wait till the release of nominations.
The 10-day period for submitting nominations for the election commenced on July 6.
Yapa insisted that it would be unfair to deprive anyone of nominations on the basis of mere allegations.
Premjayantha expressed confidence that President Maithripala Sirisena would keep his word as regards an arrangement with his predecessor and everything could be finalised by July 13 afternoon.
Recollecting his experience with preparing nominations for a decade or so on behalf of the UPFA, Premjayantha said the entire process would be finalised two days before the deadline.
An irate Premjayantha lambasted the UNP for ‘sabotaging’ the 20 Amendment to the Constitution in spite of the SLFP and constituent members of the UPFA throwing their weight behind the 19 Amendment to the Constitution.
The former minister said that the UNP had spurned a golden opportunity to get rid of Proportional Representation system and pave the way for a mixed system.