A discussion the Rivira Sunday Edition had with Minister of Labour and Trade Union Relations, Senior Vice Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), W.D.J. Seneviratna regarding future actions of the SLFP and the prevalent political situation.
Q: Joint Opposition (JO) MPs say that the SLFP May Day rally was a failure.
No. The SLFP May Day rally was extremely successful. This time, we had two May Day marches. All everyone talks about is the crowd that came to the Getambe sports stadium. The Getambe stadium was filled to the brim and overflowing. Also, the six-kilometre distance from where the marches started and the May Day rally ended was one sea of heads. This crowd remained in the rally starting from near the Girls High School, Kandy, till the Getambe stadium was reached. The same was the case near the Gannoruwa junction. To look at the May Day rally and say that only a small crowd came, is wrong. One must look at both the marches. In both our marches, there was a massive crowd.
Q: The JO commented to media that the Government was intimidated by the crowd that turned up for the JO May Day rally, your comment.
I don’t know about that. However, we are not intimidated. What is there to fear? However, my opinion is that the SLFP should stay together as one. What a crowd it would have been if we in these two groups came together and held one May Day rally?
Q: When the SLFP-United National Party (UNP) formed a joint Government, it was said that the, coalition would only be for two years. Now the two years have ended. Are you all going to continue to stay on in the unity government?
In the future, we are going to sit together as one Party and discuss the matter. Afterwards, we will decide on what should be done. We may even leave the Government. Or we can continue as the unity government. That must be decided by the President and the Central Committee (CC) of the Party.
Q: In the discussion about Minister, Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka being offered a new post, Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne attacked you. What’s your comment?
Regarding that, I have told the Party what needs to be said. Now, it is not I who has to do something, but the Party. I am one of the Senior Vice Chairmen of the Party. Therefore, the Party must decide to do something about this. In actuality, there are internal discussions within the Party regarding this.
Q: In reality, was the statement made by Dr. Senaratne at the Cabinet meeting false or was yours?
I spoke the whole truth. What I said then, the Prime Minister confirmed in a statement made at the last Parliament. Responding to a question by Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna MP Vijitha Herath, he said that no discussion or decision had been taken with regard to appointing such a committee or to appoint Fonseka to it. Thus, what I said is proved by his statement. Consequently, it is obvious that Dr. Senaratne lied. Can the Cabinet spokesman lie to the country? He has always been like this. However, co-Cabinet spokesman, Minister Gayantha Karunatileka does not behave like that or lie like that. It is not good to sling mud at anyone. The SLFP led United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) must take measures about Dr. Senaratne’s conduct.
Q: He doesn’t have any connection with the SLFP or the UPFA, does he?
Yes. That is true. Yet, he was appointed by the President. On the other hand, he is criticizing us. Therefore, as a Party we have to take a decision.
Q: What are the decisions you plan to take in this regard?
As a Party we will take a very serious decision. Initial discussions are underway. Things cannot be allowed to continue as is. We cannot remain silent in this regard. At the Cabinet meeting, the President expressed his regret regarding the said incident.
Q: Dr. Senaratne levelled a serious allegation against you, that you have one foot in the cult of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the other in the Government. What’s your comment?
I have not kept my feet anywhere that he has made mention of. My feet are in one spot. That is the SLFP. From that point, I have joined the Government and am continuing the work. This is very clear. I work very honestly as a Minister of this Government. I don’t betray the Government’s policies or act contrary to them. As long as I am in the Government, I will never act to pull the Government by its leg. I take advice from the President and the Prime Minister and continue the work of the Ministry.
There are some people who have their feet in seven or eight places. There are individuals who have been in seven or eight parties. Dr. Senaratne too is like that. If there were 10 parties in the country, he has been in seven or eight of them. However, we are not like that. He has no right to criticize my political activities.
Q: Aren’t these criticisms an obstacle to the future stability of the unity Government?
Why not. These criticisms are definitely a barrier to the existence of the unity Government. Now because of such irresponsible, dastardly statements, the Government has come to the stage that it will hang. Everyone in the SLFP is talking about this. They are discussing. Our Ministers in the SLFP are asking as to why certain Ministers of the UNP are behaving like this.
Q: Have you spoken with Ministers of the UNP in this regard?
Many Ministers of the UNP came to me and spoke to me at the last Cabinet meeting and said that Dr. Senaratne’s statement was false. They too know how we work.
Q: Aren’t ministers themselves talking of the need for a Cabinet reshuffle?
The SLFP has spoken with the President regarding this. I never spoke against any Minister. Yet, there are certain views about certain Ministers. Therefore, these must be considered and acted upon.
Q: What will happen to the SLFP MPs who didn’t come to Getambe?
When the CC is summoned, a decision will be taken regarding this.
Q: Isn’t there a plan to get the Rajapaksa led group to join the Party?
What I mean is that these two groups must get together. The leaders are of the same view. However, there are those on both sides who are hindering the process. There are those like that in the JO. They have put forward racist policies and are attempting to implement such. Therefore, they are opposed to this unity. In the same manner, there are some on this side too that are opposed to the unity. Yet, the vast majority likes both sides.
Q: There are certain allegations with regard to electorate and seat organizers of the Party being removed, your comment?
In actuality, I think that inquiries should have been made from them. Also, it is good if the Party reconsiders this decision. It would have been good had action been taken following a disciplinary inquiry. To sack persons without doing so, is not only against the basic policies and principles but also harmful to the Party’s survival. Because of the sad state that the Party has fallen to, certain organizers are inactive. It is difficult for them to get down to the village level in organizing activities. This is because the Party is divided. The people are saying in one voice that they will not take part in Party activities until we get together.
Q: However, aren’t they also neglecting their responsibilities? Why can’t they take the journey forward with the Chairman of the Party?
When the President democratically becomes the President and has now become the Chairman of the Party, all must join in the journey with him. Other leaders too must fall in line. They too must join the President on this journey. If there are any issues, they must be discussed and solved. The President and the other group must get together and discuss and come to an understanding.
Q: Why isn’t this taking place?
At the completion of the two years, they will get together in such a manner and discuss. We will see, shall we?