In the wake of removing several Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organizers by President Maithripala Sirisena, a move which has been described by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa as an attempt to weaken the party, fresh efforts have been initiated by some party stalwarts to reconcile its key members.
Ousted SLFP organizers whilst accusing the party hierarchy led by the President of attempting to split the SLFP, have forewarned of the formation of a new political party.
Former party organizer, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena who was one among those ousted accused the President of sidelining them from the party and pushing them into a position of having to form a new political party.
Party sources revealed that stalwarts including Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations W.D.J. Seneviratne had commenced discussions with several of its dissidents in order to keep the party intact.
Meanwhile, MP S.M. Chandrasena on Thursday confirmed that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would be attending the party anniversary celebrations scheduled for September 4 only if he was in the country at the time.
At the time the edition went to press, Rajapaksa was in discussions with his supporters on whether to attend the event or not.
The SLFP would be celebrating its 65th anniversary on the said day. Rajapaksa had previously received an official invitation to attend the ceremony which was handed over by W.D.J. Seneviratne.
Abeywardena said that certain SLFPers were conspiring with the United National Party (UNP) to defeat the SLFP. He further said that they would decide on whether or not to attend the SLFP anniversary ceremony once they receive the invitation. “We have not received any invitation as yet. We will discuss and decide once we receive them,” he added.
Senior Vice President of the SLFP, W.D.J. Seneviratna who handed over the official invitation to the Party anniversary celebrations to Rajapaksa personally, said that it was the responsibility of all those involved to act in such a manner as would not cause a rift in the Party.
If the Party was to split and a new political party was to be formed, the loss resultant due to such a course of action would only be to the SLFP, he outlined.
While not claiming any knowledge of or responsibility over the efforts to bridge the growing chasm between the pro-Sirisena faction of the SLFP and the pro-Rajapaksa faction of the Party, the Minister maintained that efforts to unify the Party would continue undeterred and unabated, as such was of paramount importance for the existence and continuation of the Party and also in the Party’s best interests.
Party Media Spokesman, Minister Dilan Perera and MP Kumara Welgama were not available for comment.
Elsewhere, SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake had highlighted that while the party’s constitution allowed for the suspension of its members who were found to be in contravention of the party’s code of conduct, the move of removing prominent former district and electorate chief organizers was not an act of political revenge but merely one of re-organising the party. President Sirisena is reported to have expressed interest in the formation of a SLFP-led government in 2020.
President Sirisena recently appointed 40 new Party organizers including 16 electoral organizers to electorates and districts. It is also reported that those who held organizer posts including Pavithra Wanniarachchi, C.B. Ratnayake, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Keheliya Rambukwella, Jagath Balasuriya and Gamini Lokuge, have also been replaced.
Abeywardena said that they had not yet discussed or decided on the formation of a new party.