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SLFP Keen To Unite Members While Making Changes – Duminda Dissanayake

Pictures and text by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

  •  In the event any SLFP member who fails to join the SLFP May Day rally and instead attends any other party rally, then the Central Working Committee will take a decision with regard to the matter
  • If a party organiser is ineffective, then it is detrimental to the party as a whole and it also affects the supporters. They will lose confidence in us and get disgruntled
  • The President has a certain amount of power vested on him by the Constitution. However, President does not want to take decisions on his own and wants to work together with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet
The Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) says despite some members being removed from organiser posts  in the party, the SLFP is still keen to unite all members. Sri Lanka Freedom Party General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake says party leader Maithripala Sirisena is keen to unite and form a strong SLFP. He says the President wants to unite the party for the benefit of the supporters and the people of this country. He made these comments in an interview with The Sunday Leader.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-

Q:  What is this conflict or challenge that is being spoken of with regards to the May Day rally?

A:  There is no challenge nor is there any conflict.

 

Q:  However, what is this hype about a true SLFP rally?

A:  Yes the true SLFP rally will be held at the Kandy, Gatambe grounds and every SLFP member has been sent their letters of participation by registered post.

 

Q:  In the event any of the SLFP members attend the Podu Jana Peramuna May Day rally, will they be expelled from the party?

A:  I am not aware of the Podu Jana Peramuna May Day rally. However, G.L. Pieris’s party is said to be having a May Day rally. It is compulsory for the SLFP members to attend the SLFP May Day rally. In the event any SLFP member who fails to join the SLFP May Day rally and instead attends any other party rally, then the Central Working Committee of the party will take a decision with regard to the matter.

 

Q: T.B. Tennakoon was a pioneer in the May Day celebrations. However the party has removed his son Janaka Bandara Tennakoon from his post as the party organiser?

A:  Yes he was removed from his post as the party organiser.

 

Q:  Your father was also actively involved in the party, and as such why was such a decision taken?

A:   The institution that you work for had taken you to do an honest job and if you work for it as you were expected to, then the institution will keep you. However, if you do not perform as you are expected no matter how good you are, will the organisation keep you? No. This is common practice, not just in organisations even in political parties this is the common practice. They only keep those who can perform their duties effectively.

Party organisers are appointed to work for the party and ensure the victory of the party, for the people who voted for the party. The party leadership cannot meet the members all the time. Hence it is the duty of the party organiser to make sure he/she maintains that link between party and members. However, if he or she fails in his task, then it is detrimental to the party as well as the members and the party supporters. It will have a negative effect on the party progress too. The inefficiency of the party organiser will hamper the party’s future progress and stability. At the same time, if the party organiser fails in his task, then even the party supporter stands to lose and even the party members will not receive the benefits. The President had given him many chances to rectify his actions but he had failed in his duties repeatedly despite the warnings and the opportunities given to correct his shortcomings. Eventually this decision had to be taken for the greater good of the party and its members and supporters.

 

Q:  Party organisers are persons who have their vote base. Will this decision not affect the party?

A:  We all have a vote base. Yet if we act without protecting the voter and party, then we have to take some decision and it is something that has to be done. All of these organisers commenced their journey from ground level. Hence there is nothing to stop another party organiser building his/her own vote base. Anyone can do it. The new candidate may not be able to achieve the previous persons level overnight, but I am sure they will get there. In order to protect the party and the party supporter we had to take this decision.

 

Q: Will there be more such changes in the future?

A:  The party is being restructured and yes if required these sort of changes could take place.

 

Q:  In order to restructure the party is it sufficient to move people around?

A:  No it is not sufficient and that is why we had to take certain tough decisions. We had to think of the party as a whole and the voters. If a party organiser is ineffective, then it is detrimental to the party as a whole and it also affects the supporters. They will lose confidence in us and get disgruntled. That is why we had to take this decision. It is not a decision that was taken targeting anyone individually. There is no one to talk on behalf of the party. If all concerned can get together and increase the vote base of the party then that is what is required. If the village gets rewards, then there is no division such as SLFP or UNP, everyone will collectively get together and choose the right candidate. However, if we sit on a side as separate parties due to personal differences, then everyone is in trouble and in the end the people of this country are the ones who stand to lose. We cannot simply ignore this and do nothing. That is why we had to take this decision.

Q:  Do you have any plans to reunite those who have been divided?

A: Yes we do. There is no doubt about that and we want to unite the party. It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who handed over the leadership of the party to President Maithripala Sirisena. From that point on the President has been trying to unite the party. It is his wish that the party reunite and form a strong SLFP. The President wants to unite the party for the benefit of the supporters and the people of this country.

However, it is these factions themselves who have broken away from the party and formed their own factions and who are now shouting slogans. The President is always ready to unite the party. It is not him but it is Mahinda Rajapaksa that has to make his mind up to put aside the differences and unite with the party in order to serve the people and the country better.

Why can’t Mahinda Rajapaksa open his mouth and ask all party members to unite? They are the ones who are dividing the party for personal gain. The SLFP being united is of no use. It is only if all 90 members get together that we can do something fruitful and make a change. Just 40 of them being divided cannot do anything and it is detrimental to all.

 

Q:  What is your response to the allegations that every government is engaged in corruption and fraud?

A:  We did not waste the government money in order to serve our own purpose and neither have we robbed. Perhaps the previous governments would have done that but we did not. There are no owners to this country and we are against persons obtaining palaces and exclusive bank accounts with public funds. People who want these are the ones who are trying to destabilise the whole process. They are in fact doing grave injustice to the party supporters as well. If Mahinda Rajapaksa could have called for the whole country to unite to fight terrorism, why cant he now call for unity to rebuild this nation? This is what he should be doing instead of trying to divide the party for his own gains. By what he is doing it is having a negative impact on the country’s future generations. This is an opportune moment when we can make a positive change in this country and create a new political change for the betterment of the country and not for personal glory. At this juncture we have to put aside personal differences and try to work together even with persons we dislike for the greater good of the country and the people. This is the quality of great leadership.

 

Q:  If this continues and the Joint Opposition separates from the SLFP, won’t it affect the party?

A:  What can we do? I don’t think the party vote base will reduce. Even in the past parties have split up and this is part of politics. However when they realise that they cannot survive these fractions return to the main party. However, in the event they do decide to break away from the main party, then it is really unfortunate. The voters will understand that these factions are only trying to break up the party for their own gains and not for the people. The voters of today are intelligent and they understand. They are not fools. These people want to protect the Mahinda brand and try to resurrect it and move forward for their own personal glory and benefits. They don’t care for the country or the people. Neither do they care for the party. So far they have done nothing for the betterment of the party either. They have only concentrated on glorifying themselves and building their own assets. The villages received no benefits and the people suffered in the end. When Mahinda Rajapaksa handed over the party to President Sirisena, there was only a push cycle at the party headquarters. 

 

Q:  What decisions has the government taken with regard to the garbage issue?

A:  If we can convert this garbage to compost, that is the best solution. We have made arrangements to set up a compost manufacturing facility at Guhagoda. Accordingly for the first time in Sri Lanka, within two years this project will commence and compost will be manufactured using our garbage.

 

Q:  So far the country lacked proper preparedness to face disaster situations. At least now are we prepared?

A:  Yes we are working on that. So far no government has resolved the country’s burning issues and now everything is on our head but we want to go for permanent solutions to these issues and not just patch them up temporarily and cover up issues. Instead of leaving these issues for another party to resolve, we as the national government are determined to find permanent solutions to these issues.

 

Q:  Even the farmers have these same issues. What plans has the government got to address these issues faced by the farmers?

A:  Due to the dry spell experienced in the country the farmers could not cultivate during the past season. Hence we gave them Rs. 10,000 as compensation and of that Rs. 1350 was to insure the farmers. Now I am being blamed for it. Yet because of that insurance, in the event of any natural disaster, the farmers can receive Rs. 40,000 as compensation. Therefore the farmers now have nothing to worry about. Their future is secure. The farmers will also receive a pension when they retire. We have done everything possible for them.

 

Q:  But, the farmers in Welimada are accusing the government of not even talking with them?

A:  The farmers have no proper plan and they simply watch the previous harvest and engage in cultivation without planning their crops properly. Then what happens is there is an excess supply and insufficient demand. This then becomes an issue because they cannot sell their produce and they are unable to get a proper price for their produce.

When they cannot sell their produce they lay the blame on the government, but when there is a demand and they profit then they take the credit. This ball passing game has to stop and all parties need to work together to a proper plan if we are to resolve this issue. The Govi Jana Seva, farmers and agriculture Department should all come together and devise a plan in order to overcome these issues and find a proper solution that will benefit the farmers and the consumers alike. I am the 23rd Agriculture Minister and so far no one has come up with a solution, but we are working on a proper plan to resolve this issue.

 

Q:  The President and the Prime Minister are on two stands regarding the Cabinet reshuffle, which is detrimental to the country. The President cannot take a decision within the Unity Government. Doesn’t this indicate a sort of conflict of interest and crisis within the unity government?

A:  No there is no crisis within the government. When two parties work together it is inevitable that these differences of opinions will arise. However, in the end the government will arrive at a decision that will benefit the country and not any party or individual.

The President has a certain amount of power vested on him by the Constitution. However, this President does not want to take decisions on his own and wants to work together with the Prime Minister and the Cabinet and take collective decisions that will benefit the country. He wants to rule the country for the greater good of the people and not for his personal glory or gains.

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