Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q. The SLFP Central Committee recently decided to take action against its members who had acted against the party principles. Can you explain as to what action would be taken?
A. The decision to take action against members who violated party principles was taken by the SLFP Central Committee. There have been instances where actions have been taken based on the party constitution, against those who had violated party principles. Therefore, actions would be taken in a similar manner. We cannot say at this juncture as to what type of action would be taken and when.
Q. There were reports that the initially the party had decided to take action only against 10 members. Why not others?
A. I’m not in a position as to respond to that question since disciplinary action taken against these members. But what I can say is that we have commenced taking action against members who have violated party principles and these 10 members are the first lot.
Q. Does the SLFP Constitution provide explicit provisions for the party to take prompt action against members who have acted in violation to party principles?
A. No. The SLFP Constitution allows us to take action against wrongdoers. The Constitution does not stand in the way in any manner. However, I would like to state that the SLFP Constitution gives the opportunity for the other party to present his explanation in order to conduct a thorough investigation. I would say the SLFP Constitution is more democratic.
Q. There are members of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA), who are not part of the SLFP, who are also involved in the issue. Would the SLFP, as a lead party of the coalition, take action against the non-SLFP members too?
A. That is up to the Executive Committee of the UPFA. They would have to convene a discussion and come to a decision on the matter.
Q. When will the Executive Committee of the UPFA meet?
A. We will convene a meeting in the near future.
Q. There are investigations conducted by the Financial Crimes Investigations Division (FCID) on several SLFP members. Would those aspects also be taken into account when taking action against members of the party?
A. Both, investigations by the FCID and violating party principles are two different aspects and are not related. The party would only look into issues pertaining to actions against party principles and values. Investigations against our members conducted by other bodies would not be taken into account.
However, in future we would not allow those who have been proven guilty of any crime to contest under our party. People do not need wrongdoers to represent them.
Q. But what if these members are proven guilty? Would the party take action against them?
A. There have been instances where the SLFP had removed membership of those who were involved in criminal activities including murder. My view is that people would not support those who have indulged in criminal activities when they are put forward by any party. Therefore, the party would follow the necessary steps when considering them for nominations.
Q. What strategic actions has the party planned out in order to avoid such internal crises in future?
A. There is no split within the SLFP at the moment. What we have is a situation where several people having differences of opinion. So far, all decisions pertaining to the SLFP have been taken by the Executive Committee and the Central Committee of the party. No one in the opposition has so far expressed opinions on breaking away from the SLFP or forming a separate party.
What we are trying to do is to unite all the members and make them fall in line towards the interest of the party.
Q. What about speculations of a new party being formed by some of the SLFP and UPFA members?
A. As I mentioned earlier, nothing has been told officially. We also came across various reports in the media. But there has been no official intimation of a new party. We generally discuss party internal issues with the Central Committee. The Central Committee also includes SLFP members who in the Opposition. None of them have mentioned this issue.
Q. Don’t you think that this kind of instability within the party would be beneficial for the UNP, even though you are part of the National Government?
A. Clearly, any internal rift within a major party would be beneficial to all other political parties, especially to a mainstream political party.
Q. How does the SLFP plan to deal with such a situation?
A. Both parties in the National Government have the responsibilities of strengthening their respective political parties. Even though we are part of the National Government, we do not have any problems with the other party, nor are we trying to sabotage each party. We as SLFPers should work towards strengthening our party.