Vice President of the SLFP, Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe says, the leader of the SLFP is Maithri, the one and only suitable person to contest the next Presidential Election and went onto say “I stayed with Mahinda during the previous Presidential Elections, I will stay with Maithri during the next one.”
Temporary reforms in the SLFP which were being talked about up to now were carried out. What is this temporary change?
A: After the past Local Government elections, the people had conveyed a message to us.
With that it became apparent that re-organization of the SLFP was a necessity.
Accordingly, it was after several rounds of talks in the Central Committee that it was decided to follow a procedure such as this.
We launched this process so that we could move into the country with a new procedure, subsequent to appointing a temporary council of officials and obtaining the required suggestions within a period of 45 days. Such re-organization is required for any Party from time to time.
When you consider the past LG Elections, overall, we obtained close to 15 per cent of the votes. That is definitely not adequate. If a SLFP Government is to be established in the future, when you consider the situation from grass root level upwards, we have to become far stronger. We hope to take this message to the country with the re-organization of branches and associations.
It is not someone who has worked full time in politics who has been appointed as the General Secretary. Is there a significant reason for that?
A: He is able to engage full time in the responsibility of that post. Unlike a Minister, he will have time to remain at Party Headquarters and he has the ability to go around the country and carry out required reforms. He is a man of very good character.
He is educated. Since, he was appointed to the post there have been good reviews about the appointment in the country. The idea in the country is that he comes from a left leaning SLFP background and he has won the trust of the President.
It seems the new General Secretary represented the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction during the last Presidential Election.
A: During the past Presidential Elections, even I was with President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I did that as he was the official candidate of our Party. If we are Party members, we have to be in that position. We are preparing for that.
Do you have any intention of aligning with the Joint Opposition?
A: We have no requirement to join them.
They are the ones who should join us. We are in the SLFP and we have not gone anywhere else. Neither have we established another Party or provided support for another Party.
If they believe they are SLFPers they are the ones who should come. What they should do is not go to Darley Road, not engage in politics from temples but join hands with us.
If that group does not come and your faction does not join them the division in the SLFP will continue, would it not?
A: We have to get rid of that division. They have to accept the fact that they are members of the SLFP. They should be with the SLFP and not with another Party. We are making an effort to try and solve this problem. We have not closed the door of the Party and anyone can join the Party and get together with us and work together.
However, there cannot be two Party leaders, only one leader can remain. The legal leader of the SLFP is President Maithripala Sirisena.
We have the opportunity to accept his leadership, and while working with the Party, establish an SLFP Government at the next election and ensure victory for the next SLFP official candidate.
The group which came into the SLFP, after the Presidential Election, once again sat in the Opposition. With this re-organization they have again been granted posts.
They only left the Government, but did not leave the SLFP. They have not joined the Flower Bud. They are seated in the Opposition as a group who came to the SLFP.
They have to be considered as a group belonging to us.
Do you consider the JO group as a group belonging to you, as well?
A: Most definitely! If they show that response, if they do not engage in politics with another Party, if they do not encourage any other Party, they are considered as a group of SLFPers. There is no problem in granting posts to these 16. Mahinda Rajapaksa was also once again appointed to our Executive Committee and our Advisory Board. I saw in a newspaper that Mahinda Rajapaksa had said that, the appointment had been made without consulting him, first.
There is no need to consult him. He is a former leader of the SLFP. He has never mentioned that he is not in the SLFP. By giving him a post as an Advisor what we expect from him is to obtain his contribution to strengthen the Party. There is nothing wrong with that.
Have you already proposed President Maithripala Sirisena as the Presidential Candidate for 2020?
A: The President said in Batticaloa that he will not retire in 2020. People are attempting to give various definitions to that. He did not say that he will contest the Presidential Election again. What he said was that he has the strength to serve the country and he wants to do so and will not retire because of those things. He has to make a decision whether he will contest the Presidential Election once more or not. We say from within the SLFP that he is the suitable candidate. We say that he should contest again.
There are problems to be seen within the SLFP and the UNP. Why don’t you consider the country and solve the problems?
A: When you consider the two main political parties, which Party does not have problems?
Similar to those problems there are big problems within the Flower Bud too! They have been unable to decide whom they will put forward to contest the Presidential Election and are engaged in a tug-o-war. The TNA is also divided. There are problems within the JVP too. Everywhere there are problems. What we are trying to do is solve those problems and move forward.
The main section of the Government is the United National Party. With 23 members we have obtained posts in the Unity Government and are working together. On one hand certain economic and political agendas of the SLFP are different to the agendas of the UNP.
For example, we have to stabilize the State sector. We as a Party are of the opinion that local businessmen should be encouraged. Our Party is also of the opinion that profit making institutions should not be privatized. The opinions of the UNP on these are different. It was the UNP which introduced the open economy system. Economic proposals are prepared and implemented based on Liberalism. On such occasions problems crop up. Within such a Partnership these conflicts occur.
What we are trying to do before revealing these things to the country, before implementing them as policies, is to hold discussions and arrive at a compromise and we have begun to orientate ourselves to implement them so that there is no harm done to the country and something that is advantageous to the people.
There are only 18 months more for the Presidential Election. As soon as a new President is appointed, most definitely a General Election will be held. Development that could be felt by the people should be carried out during this period of time.
Can you believe that development which was not done during three years would be carried out in two years?
A: It has to be done. It was because we did not do so that we were defeated at the Local Government Elections. We cannot say that we did not do anything either! What was done was not taken among the people.
Communication in our government is very weak. There are big weaknesses when you consider Rupavahini and ITN. We have not been able to transform these two TV channels into channels that are viewed by the public.
Private media is completely against this government. When people view those, confusion is created in their minds. It is very clear that they are working with the intention of putting this government into difficulties. As a government our communication is inadequate. We have to correct these things.
We have to communicate well with the people and inform them about the work we do and subsequently we have to begin working more successfully.
Just because we did not do things properly during the past three years, we are not of the opinion that it will be the same during the remaining one and a half to two years.
We have to provide the benefits we have to give the people; we have to carry out transformation of society that people expected us to do, as well as the development. Even though corruption was talked about this government has not yet been able to point out who the corrupt people are.
That was also one of the main reasons why people used their votes against this government. Within the remaining one and a half to two years we have to provide the opportunity and facility to carry out these required investigations properly and to reveal to the country if there are any corrupt persons.