By Shamindra Ferdinando
Many an eyebrow has been raised over former Economic Affairs Minister Basil Rajapaksa’s recent declaration that SLFP/UPFA lawmakers hadn’t received Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) membership.
Addressing a gathering at Maharagama over the last weekend, the chief architect of the SLPP claimed that the party was yet to take SLFP/UPFA lawmakers to its fold.
Among those present on the occasion were SLFP/UPFA lawmakers who had recently taken SLPP membership along with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
About 50 SLFP/UPFA lawmakers took SLPP membership soon after the dissolution of parliament on Nov 09.
A smiling Basil Rajapaksa said that the SLPP would be cautious in giving membership.
SLPP General Secretary Sagara Kariyawasam declined to comment on the issue at hand.
Basil Rajapaksa couldn’t be contacted yesterday.
However, MP Dr. Mrs. Sudarshini Fernandopulle told The Island that that they had requested membership from the SLPP though they were yet to receive membership. The Gampaha District MP alleged that a section of the media had misconstrued them seeking SLPP membership.
Lawmakers Susil Premjayantha, C.B. Ratnayake and Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena on Dec 13, acknowledged that they had received SLPP membership. They said so in response to a query by The Island raised at a media briefing at the Western Province Aesthetic Resort in Colombo. Premjayantha described the issue as internal when The Island sought an explanation as to how it could affect them in the face of the recent Supreme Court ruling in respect of their action against Quo Warranto petition filed by 122 lawmakers undermined them.
At the last parliamentary polls in August 2015, the UPFA received 95 seats, including National List slots.
SLPP Secretary Kariyawasam said that former President Rajapaksa accepted the premiership on Oct 26, 2018 as he believed the sacking of Wickremesinghe’s government would pave the way for an early general election.
President Maithripala Sirisena called for an election on January 05, 2019 after having dissolved parliament on Nov 09.
Kariyawasam said that though they had been compelled to review their political strategies, the party was confident of winning both presidential and parliamentary polls in 2019 and 2020, respectively.
Responding to another query, Kariyawasam, whose father Albert represented Bentara-Elpitiya electorate from 1960 to 1977, emphasized that only parliamentary poll could end continuing political uncertainty.
Hailing SLPP victory at Feb 2018 Local Government polls as the biggest electoral victory scored by a new entrant to national politics, Kariyawasam alleged that the UNP would do anything to avoid elections at any cost.
Kariyawasam cited the UNP led project in parliament that led to the postponing of Provincial Councils polls as a case in point.
Asked whether the SLPP had suffered a political setback as a result of the recent crisis that overwhelmed them in parliament, Kariyawasam said that their agenda was on track. The electorate couldn’t be deceived by mere rhetoric, Kariyawasam said adding that the people realized the reluctance on the part of the UNP to face elections at any level. Yahapalana partners delayed Local Government polls by over two years as they feared to face the electorate, they also delayed Provincial Council polls and were now fighting shy of a general election.
Pointing out the difficulty in the government proving required simple majority in parliament though Wickremesinghe received premiership, Kariyawasam said the SLPP was engaged in rapid re-organization of the party.
Kariyawasam said that the UNP couldn’t interfere with the scheduled presidential election. In terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, a presidential term comprised five years. Before the enactment of the 19th Amendment in late April 2015, those elected to the Office of the President enjoyed six year terms.