By Nuwan Senarathna
President Maithripala Sirisena yesterday rallied his party followers with pledges to establish a Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP)-led Government in 2020, as under the 19th Amendment more powers have been devolved to the Prime Minister, and made no mention of contesting for a second presidential term.
Addressing the 68th Sri Lankan Freedom Party (SLFP) National Convention, held at Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium, President Sirisena said that in the forthcoming Presidential Election, a broad progressive front would be created to counter the United National Party (UNP), and said in 2020 the SLFP will be a vital faction in forming a new Government.
“In accordance with the 19th Amendment, the next President will be powerless. The Defence Ministry too will be with the Prime Minister. Therefore, more than thinking of the next Presidential Election, we should pay attention to electing the next Prime Minister,” the President said.
President Sirisena called upon his supporters to strengthen the party structure, enabling to form a SLFP Government in 2020.
He said that a new path for development should be selected, and the people should try and understand which political structure possesses the best vision. The SLFP should form a political movement free of corruption, malpractices, and unethical political practices.
“The entire political system has become corrupt, dishonest, and immoral. Our responsibility is to build a political force which is pure, without corruption, people-oriented, and ethical, to oust the current governance by the corrupt, elitist, and anti-populist groups.”
According to President Sirisena, patriotism is the last refuge of the political scoundrel, as evident from the actions of some politicians. He urged the people to properly study what politicians say to pick the best political leader for the country.
President Sirisena said the SLFP should be strengthened to defeat the UNP, and the party should take the lead to create a new political culture in the country. “We will mobilise people’s movements. We will create the 2020 Government, adhering to SLFP policies. Be prepared to show our strength. Let us build the party and mobilise a new force within the next few months,’ he said.
Referring to the delay of Provincial Council elections, the President said it is unfortunate that the Provincial Councils have become ineffective. He pointed out that the Prime Minister had failed to present the review committee report to hold the election, after the delimitation report was defeated in Parliament.
“Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is the key person who should be held responsible for preventing the Provincial Council polls from being held. I believe the Provincial Council system is over, and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe hit the final nail in the coffin. ”
President Sirisena said during the last four and a half years, he had to face challenges within the Government. He noted he had to fight within the Government against corruption and mismanagement, and to uphold public interest.
“I fought within the Government to prevent corruption, robberies, and malpractices, and to safeguard the interests of the people. Bank robbers and the corrupt people should leave politics. All the documents are ready for the extradition of former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran. Documents are also ready to punish the leaders responsible for the Central Bank scam.”
President Sirisena said he believes corrupt elite groups have come together, which has been one of the biggest challenges he had to address during the past four and a half years. “People do not know who those elite groups are. They should be exposed. They were all against me, therefore I had to fight against them.”
‘Even though whatever allegations were levelled against us for the past five years of my tenure, I was committed to building a corruption-free country, as well as attempting to ensure democracy. The neo-liberalism concept is not suitable for our country. During my tenure, I was able to ensure maximum freedom and democracy in the country. As I said earlier, not a single civilian was targeted by the guns of the State during this time. I am proud to state that no media institution was burnt down, no journalists were threatened.”
President Sirisena said that the country should achieve balanced development, and the development process must be sustainable and efficient. He also said that the country must move towards a green economy, and emulate the success of emerging economies based on smart technology.
“I firmly believe our success lies in investing more on smart technology and robotic engineering. We should move towards a technology-based economy to achieve our economic goals. The development projects should preserve the environment for future generations. ”
The President said that the Government and Opposition leaders hold discussions with Tamil leaders purely to get their votes. “But nobody has a genuine plan for reconciliation. They are only thinking about the number of votes in the North of the country. It’s a tragedy,” he said.