A split in the SLFP and the formation of a new party is imminent.
Speculation is rife that the symbol of the proposed party would be the ‘lotus’. But, the lotus is a sacred flower for Buddhists and Hindus. It is associated with the Buddha and Buddhists; it also personifies purity, majesty, beauty, grace, richness, fertility, wealth, serenity and knowledge.
The Nelum (lotus) Mawatha, Jayanthipura, Battaramulla, was reawakened a week ago as the Maha Sangha chanted seth pirith at the opening of new office by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Speculation was rife that the emblem or symbol of the proposed party would be the ‘lotus’. The organizers claim 1401 out of the 1437 UPFA members attended the Kochchikade summit of LG bodies and endorsed a call for the President to handover the SLFP to MR as the only remedy for preventing a split. With Sirisena and Rajapaksa loyalists slinging political insults at each other over the divide, partisan hostility is deepening more than ever before in the six-decade history of the party.
According to MR, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party was divided by the then General Secretary of the party, President Maithripala Sirisena on November 21, 2014 by leaving the party with a group of party members. The reality is Sirisena is the most democratic leader ever produced by the SLFP in its entire history, and is becoming more popular among UNP supporters and minorities though he is looked at unfavourably by rank and file of his own party. After some hostile verbal attacks and counter attacks between groups supporting Sirisena and MR since the signing of the UNF-UPFA accord, several SLFPers loyal to Sirisena openly accused Joint Opposition’s non-SLFP leaders of trying to destroy the party; some went even further accusing that they have come to deal with the UNP for this purpose. All attempts to bring about reconciliation between the two camps have failed.
Will a Lotus Bloom in our Political Mud hole?
A major split is imminent: as Daily Mirror columnist Izzadeen said a few weeks ago, “Politics is a head-deep mud hole. Those who walk into it, even if they wear the world’s best mud-proof suits, cannot claim while being in it that they are clean.” The Buddha was the the perfect example of the Dhamma. The Dhamma is likened to the lotus. The lotus governs the images of Buddhist art and symbolises the Buddha and his Dhamma simultaeneously. The Buddha statue rests on the lotus. The mural paintings in temples depict the lotus. The lotus is the icon and emblem of the creative writers. In paying him reverence, the devotee places it at the feet of the Buddha. The lotus is one of the auspicious symbols of Buddhism; it is symbolic of the purpose of the Noble Eightfold Path; the steps in Buddhism that bring followers from the suffering to a state of enlightenment. It starts life in the mud as a closed bud, and then blooms into a gorgeous flower by rising through the dirty water. The lotus growing out of the muddy pond reminds them of the Buddha and his journey towards Enlightenment.
Attempts to divide the SLFP
Attempts to form a new party with the blessings of Mahinda Rajapaksa were discussed at a recent SLFP executive committee meeting. The internal bickering created by a faction within the party and the moves to form a new party aided and abetted by a few ‘outsiders’ along with a powerful faction of the SLFP backed by seventy percent or more of provincial councilors and local government members and also the majorityof grass-root members and sympathisers has irked the President who by virtue of the party constitution has been endowed with the leadership. Addressing the decision making body, the President said, “This is a party which we preserved through enormous sacrifices. Any split will only result in the electoral defeat of the party compromising the interests of the rank and file.” Some present SLFP leaders who feel that they are being sidelined by the Maithri faction for the mere reason that they backed Rajapaksa at the two elections.
The Joint Opposition, mainly comprising MPs of the SLFP, has requested that they be recognised as a separate group in Parliament.
At a meeting held on Friday, to discuss a wide range of subjects pertaining to the party’s future, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party’s Central Committee declined to endorse a request by some SLFP members in the Joint Opposition to be recognised as a separate entity in Parliament. The CC according to party senior John Seneviratne, SLFP MPs sitting in the opposition benches could criticise the government, but they would not be recognised as a separate group as long as they were members of the SLFP. While the ‘National Government’ of the United National Party (UNP) and the SLFP rules the nation, a faction of the SLFP loyal to the Rajapaksas is opposed to the government. They have publicly pooh-poohed threats of disciplinary action/expulsion from the party, and seemed to have paid no heed to them.
Former Pesident Mahinda Rajapaksa wants the SLFP MPs and ministers, who had joined the government, to soon make up their minds as to which side they belonged to.
Opening his public relations office at Nelum Mawatha, MR said, “The people voted for the SLFP to be either in the Government or in the Opposition,” He further emphasised that there was no real opposition in Parliament though there was an Opposition Leader and a Chief Organiser and the duties of and opposition were being performed by the UPFA MPs of the Joint Opposition. He said,“They too are not given enough time to express their opinion in Parliament.”
Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former defence secretary asserted ‘that no one could politically destroy the Rajapaksas even if they were jailed or killed’ and emphasised on the necessity of anew political party as SLFP polices are not being implemented under this Government.Gotabhaya , second most powerful man in the previous regime noted that military persons have turned to be good politicians elsewhere in the world, but unfortunately in Sri Lanka most of them have demonstrated their incompetency.
When in opposition frictions among the leaders, as we have experienced in many instances in the past, bedeviled and caused repeated problems to the nation at different times. The UNP was in tatters after leaders in the calibre of Gamini Dissanayake and Lalith Athulathmudali quit during the Premadasa Presidency, though the party was in power. Then again as an opposition party they suffered heavily in 2007 when Karu Jayasuriya led history’s nastiest defection by taking 17 seniors to the UPFA, followed by another two dozen or so at regular intervals thereon.
Splits in the British Colonial era
Splits in our political organisations date back to the British Colonial era. The Ceylon National Congress formed 97 years ago, later paved the way for the creation of the United National Party. D S Senanayake, a staunch supporter of CNC, which devoted their attention to reforming the politico-administrative structure of the country, had differences of opinion with more senior members on the question of agitations on the form of independence, whether it should be a Dominion status or full freedom, which caused him to leave the Congress. DS, the gentleman par excellence never conspired to form factions leading to splits, instead he resigned. The first major split in the UNP, and the highly successful one was triggered by SWRD Bandaranaike in 1951, when he crossed the floor of the House with a few other members to launch the SLFP, which won a general election five years hence.
Vijaya Kumaranatunga-Chandrika breakaway
The next was in 1964; the first SLFP debacle initiated by its number two, C P de Silva who led a team of senior party men causing the down fall of Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s government. CP who broke away formed the Sri Lanka Freedom Socialist Party [SLFSP] to contest the 1965 elections in coalition with the United National Party but received only 3.2% of votes. The five MPs elected later joined the coalition government led by the UNP. Thereafter the SLFSP merged with the UNP. The Vijaya Kumaranatunga-Chandrika-Ossie defection could be termed the most damaging mass exodus from the Sirimavo-led SLFP which occurred in the 1980s. In 2001, S.B.Dissanayake machinated a defection from the PA into the UNP causing the fall of the CBK administration followed by a defeat at elections.
The SLFP members of the Joint Opposition, numbering around 40, if the move materialises unlike in the previous defections would in addition to the parliamentarians, it will take care of a huge slice of the PC and LG membership and their grass-root level support base as well. Hence we call it unique and unprecedented in Sri Lanka’s history.
Defections, cross-overs, forming alliances or new parties are common occurrences in the game of politics played by politicians.. However, the Lotus Sutra in the Buddhist scripts represented the sign of unity. A leader does not negate the existence of others; his role is to bring out the full potential of all. The Lotus Sutra instructs of the great ‘hidden treasure of the heart.’ It teaches a vigorous way of living, in which we inhale the enormous life of the universe itself.
The lotus should not be allocated to any political party to be used as the party symbol. The Lotus is a sacred flower for Buddhists and Hindus. It is symbolically equal to the Buddha for Buddhists. Lotus symbolises purity, majesty, beauty, grace, richness, fertility, wealth, serenity and knowledge.