The Sunday Leader

SLFP Is An Established Party No One Can Break It Up – Faizer Mustapha

By Camelia Nathaniel

Local Government and Provincial Councils Minister Faizer Mustapha said that the SLFP is a well established party and that no one can break it up. He says that under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, the SLFP will emerge as a strong political force and all this turbulence within the party is nothing new and that every party goes through such turbulence. Speaking to The Sunday Leader minister Mustapha said that the president and the prime minister are two capable and strong leaders and assured that the current difficulties that are being experienced will all be sorted out very soon. He said that certain decisions have to be taken sometimes and these may not be popular decisions, but ones that are needed for the betterment of the country. He said that the results of these decisions will be felt in the long run.

Following are excerpts of the interview;

Q: With the recent incident in parliament last week, what has become of our political culture?

A: I think there is a moral responsibility on political parties to enforce discipline because it’s the political parties that send members to parliament. I also believe that political parties should enforce discipline within the political parties and maintain discipline so that we will have better politicians in parliament. I believe there is a greater responsibility than the speaker, to enforce discipline within a political party. So if political parties do not enforce discipline strictly then the politicians who represent them would not keep up to the expectations of the public.


Q: There are allegations that the SLFP has become the mouthpiece of the UNP. Do you agree?

A: No I would never say that. Even during the budget the president and the SLFP intervened on several occasions to do what was best for the people. The UNP and the SLFP have been having a national government but on policies there are fundamental differences. However for the betterment of the country we have joined hands. It’s not an easy journey but we are equal partners and the President and the Prime Minister have a very good relationship but they will see rhetorics occasionally to discredit this relationship.

But I believe that the president and the prime minister will steer this country through all difficulties.


Q: Do you think that the differences in policies between the SLFP and the UNP will in any way hamper the progress of the National government?

A: I think the President and the Prime Minister both have the country’s interest at heart, so this good understanding filters down and the ministers of both sides have to be in confidence of each other, as we represent the political party and we are holding ministerial portfolio. When we hold the ministerial portfolio if we act partisan then that trust would be broken. But if we are open to all quarters and all sides, then that relationship would strengthen.


Q: How do you see the split in the SLFP and what do you see as being the main cause?

A:  President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that the SLFP is like a salon door where one can come or go. Even in the past people have left the party and gone and then come back later, so I believe that whoever leaves the SLFP is causing destruction for them, because they have achieved whatever political position through the SLFP. So I think for their best interest they will want to return to the SLFP at one point.

Sri Lanka has only two major parties, the SLFP and the UNP. There are smaller parties and some have tried to form various political parties and various times, but they never succeeded, because Sri Lanka has a two party system and that is the only way that the country will move forward. It’s like the republicans and the democrats in the US. The two party system is here to stay.


Q: Is the SLFP trying to bring back the strayed members and reunite the party?

A: Our president has been very democratic not just outside but even within the party. Our president has understood of those who wanted to remain in the opposition, but that does not mean that they should remain in the opposition and discredit the SLFP. All of us have to have the SLFP at heart.  The president will do everything in his power to keep the party together but if there have been instances where disciplinary action has to be taken, then that is a matter for the SLFP central committee to decide. This is our decision making body of the SLFP and it’s not any one person’s view but it’s the collective view.


Q:  There have been allegations that the SLFP split is because they lack proper policies. Do you agree?

A:  Every political party comes across these issues. Even the UNP at one time had these issues. But Ranil Wickremesinghe somehow kept the party together. When the UNP was in the opposition, the UNP had a very difficult course to steer. But the party survived. Similarly every political party at various times has difficult periods. I am confident that the president will steer the party in the right path. The SLFP is a very strong political party in the country and nobody can take that away.


Q: The people expected the joint opposition especially the UNP to have some proper economic policies in order to steer the country towards prosperity. What happened?

A: I think it’s not proper for me while being in the government to say that certain policies are the UNP’s or the SLFP’s. There is a greater responsibility cast upon us as a national government to steer the economy forward. There may be some setbacks or some policies we may disagree upon. But when have this collective responsibility politics it’s not fair to say its only one party’s responsibility. We have to collectively stand together.


Q: Some believe that this government may not survive the course of its duration and that it might fall apart. Are there signs of this happening?

A: I think whoever who is making these allegations should realise that mathematically the government has the majority and for a government to survive you need to have 130 or beyond. This government has a very comfortable majority to go on for another five years. Hence the rhetoric that this government will not survive does not have any basis.


Q: Government promised a lot of concessions to the people and salary increments etc. However why have the government not kept these promises?

A:  Today the global environments are not very conducive and we have a very high debt burden. However with all that we increased salaries and we are doing everything possible to make life comfortable for the common man. But the people should understand that globally we are facing very difficult times and we are trying to have very clear fiscal policy and I think certain measures need to be taken in order to give long term results. I must tell the people that you can’t judge a government in one year and six months. You have to give it some time to get tangible benefits. It is unfair for people to point a finger at us expecting overnight results. In time people will realise why we had to take certain decisions, when our efforts materialise midterm and long term.


Q: Do you think that the current government has failed to properly convey the message of their efforts to the people?

A:  Definitely I think we need to communicate better. The government communication needs to get their act together in communicating positives vibes more. We have established independent commissions, we have brought in the 19th amendment and this is the only president who gave up some of his powers as promised to the people. He is the only president who kept to his word. So I think people have great expectations on this president and this government and I am sure under the leadership of the president and the prime minister we should be able to steer this country forward.


Q: With regard to the delimitations, how far have we progressed?

A: I have been appointed to oversee the delimitation process. We were given six months but had to extend it for another six months, because the delimitation was not done properly in the past and every political party has accepted this. But these same political parties are blaming me for postponing the elections. What am I to do? You can’t have the cake and eat it. When there is severe pressure on me to do justice by having the process done properly, I can’t expedite it when public and political representation has not been consulted in the present report that has not been gazetted. So I earnestly ask everyone to give me the time and space to do this properly. I am not answerable to political parties but to the public at large. So I will do justice to the country but please give me the time and space. I have taken a responsibility and I will do it properly. Just give me time and space.


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