Minister Susil Premajayantha speaks about the crisis within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the need for both factions to unite
Q : Isn’t the crisis within the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) getting progressively worse?
A : The crisis is mainly in relation to policy matters. One within the unity Government and the other involves the country, the village. There are 14 Ministries operating within the Government. The rest of the Ministries belong to the United National Party (UNP). Here, the implementation of plans and economic affairs come under the Prime Minister.
The Ministry of Finance is helmed by the UNP. It is through these two that the formulation of the country’s entire economic plans and financial matters are done. It is there that the main part of governance lies. Mainly, when taking policy decisions, there is a difference between the policies of the SLFP and the UNP.
It is because of this difference that for the past six decades, power shifted between the two said parties. However, even though the two Parties have got together, the gap in the policies remains. However, had a common policy been formulated at the onset, this crisis that is there at present would have not arisen.
Q : You are speaking about the mismatch between the two Government Parties. I am asking about the internal crisis within the SLFP.
A : Just because a group of elected MPs join the Government and President Maithripala Sirisena becomes the Chairman of the SLFP, the Party members in the village have not got used to the difference in the policies.
The UNP members state that even though their Government is in power, they cannot get their work done. The SLFP member states that even though we are there in the Government, it is not according to our ideas that these people are doing the work.
At every juncture, this contradiction and disparity emerges. Thus, the question as to who represents the SLFP members who do not represent the Government arises. The excess members of the Party have been able to easily represent them. A host of party members are with them. We are trying to join these two groups together and go on this journey. It is at these two points that the Party’s crisis has arisen.
Q : Is it confirmed that SLFP Ministers are leaving the Government?
A : When a certain point emerges, certain media are clever at creating news stories along the same lines. Sometimes even the MPs and Ministers who are alleged to be leaving do not know that their names are among those who are alleged to be leaving.
There is only one such Minister. It is to ask questions along those lines that the story that a group is going to leave gets created. However, the SLFP joined the unity Government two years back, with a basic document signed by the Secretaries. Afterwards, the central committee of the Party approved it. Now the problem is that the two years are nearing completion.
However, a decision was arrived at to stay on in the Government till December 31, 2017. That is why certain Ministers state as to whether by staying on in the Government for these two years, we have been able to realize our expectations. We must reflect on whether the expectations of the people who represented us, have been fulfilled, and take a decision based on that.
Q : Former Deputy Minister Arundika Fernando frequently criticized the Government. The result is that he was removed from the ministerial post.
A : It was Fernando who during the past couple of weeks, unbeknownst to certain MPs and Ministers, had been making many statements. In the morning he meets one leader. In the evening he meets another leader. In the morning he expresses one view and in the evening he expresses another.
One cannot yet say as to how the educated and intelligent voter will react to this contradiction. Therefore, when we take decisions we must think about the Party, the country and the Party membership and take all aspects into account and then make statements.
This is the result of such not being the case. The President has the power to remove any Minister. It is much better if politicians issue statements intelligently. If such was the case this kind of problem would probably not arise.
Q : The power is with Sirisena. Yet, the people are with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Therefore, is the group in the SLFP attempting to have their feet on both the sides and balance things?
A : No. This is not a balancing act. As the SLFP, the Party thinks of how to establish a mechanism through which the two factions can on certain common matters be brought to a common place. That is what should take place in the next couple of months.
If that happens, the solutions to this problem can be found. It is the election in the village that will come in the future. It is two and a half years into the unity Government that we are going into this election.
We must form presumptions about how the voter will behave at the election. It is based on decisions taken in such a manner that things would be beneficial to both the sides. If the Deputy Minister had acted carefully, this situation would probably not have arisen.
Q : The budget is coming. Still, all the Government can talk about is the relief given during the 100 days programme. Today, inflation has rapidly risen. Will any relief be provided in this budget?
A : Yes, today, inflation is too much. The price of goods has increased. There is a reduction in strength. Relief must be provided through this budget. As the SLFP, we gave 12 people friendly development proposals to the last budget.
However, not one of the said proposals came out in the proposed manner. The proposals that came out only barely touched on the original ones. There is a disparity between the budgets put forward during the past two years, the proposals contained in them and what was realized of them. That itself proves that they were not successful.
Now the Government is two years old. Yahapalanaya (good governance) is two and a half years old. Only two more years are left. Thus, we will have to see whether within this short period left, we can regardless of what we promised, are able to make the people happy by doing certain things that would make them happy.
That is why we state that as the two years come to a close, the occasion has arisen for us to take a decision as a Party. If not, State governance will have to undergo a drastic change.