Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had held secret discussions with some Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) parliamentarians with some discussions taking place while she was overseas last week, on forming a new front which will work against Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa, The Sunday Morning learnt.
The SLFP meanwhile signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with SLPP presidential candidate Rajapaksa yesterday (19), extending the party’s support to him. The SLFP earlier signed an MoU with the SLPP, pledging support to the latter’s presidential election campaign.
The proposed SLFP-SLPP alliance is to be formed on the 31st of this month under the name of “Sri Lanka Nidahas Podujana Peramuna”.
It is learnt that discussions between Kumaratunga and senior SLFP members were aimed at forming a new front which would possibly support United National Party (UNP) presidential candidate Sajith Premadasa, SLFP sources said.
Sources said that the attempt is to secure the support of SLFP parliamentarians to back Premadasa and not to obtain UNP membership.
The SLFP had recently decided to support the SLPP’s presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the presidential election.
However, Kumaratunga had opposed the alliance, saying if Rajapaksa wins it, it would be the end of the SLFP.
Speaking to The Sunday Morning, senior SLFP member Kumara Welgama, who had opposed the SLFP decision to back Rajapaksa, said he was involved in the talks with Kumaratunga on forming the new front to protect the SLFP.
He said that Kumaratunga was overseas last week and was expected to return to the country yesterday but her return had been delayed.
“I am the first person to object to the decision taken by the SLFP to support Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the election. From the beginning, I insisted that I would not support Gotabaya and that position will not change,” Welgama stressed. Asked about other SLFP parliamentarians expected to join Kumaratunga, Welgama said he could not comment but insisted that there were several SLFP members who were still against the SLFP working with the SLPP.
“I have the backing of many SLFP organisers and supporters,” he said.
Meanwhile, The Sunday Morning learnt that some SLFP parliamentarians who expected to join Kumaratunga had made a u-turn after receiving assurances from Rajapaksa.
When contacted, SLFP General Secretary Dayasiri Jayasekara told The Sunday Morning the SLFP would decide on the course of action that needed to be taken on the SLFP members who go against the party decision once they form a new front.
“We cannot take a decision right now as they have not yet formed a new party. If they form a new party, we will consider future action,” he said.
Meanwhile, SLPP presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa had yesterday assured SLFP organisers who attended the signing of the MoU that he would ensure the SLFP would be granted its due respect in the SLPP campaign and afterwards.
He had said he was a man of his word and that he would take the responsibility of all SLFP members supporting his campaign.