Trying times for S.B. in bringing two warring factions together
The Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare S. B. Dissanayake who has taken over the task of bringing the two factions of Mahinda and Maithri together was recently interviewed on the political issues connected with that effort.
Investigations are centred around Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family: some believe it is Maithripala Sirisena’s work to separate the party -- SB.
Q What is the present position in your broking effort in getting Maithri-Mahinda together?
There is no necessity for a brokerage in this matter as Maithri and Mahinda had been friends for a long time. With the decision of Maithripala Sirisena who happened to be our party secretary to come forward as the common opposition candidate and winning the elections it was the former president who agreed to make President Maithripala Sirisena as the leader of our party. However today there appear to be two factions known as Mahinda and Maithri factions.
Q Do you agree that there is a division in the party now?
Yes there is a split. President Sirisena has also allowed them to be in two camps. He allowed this in order to secure the unity of the party. This had made the party divide into two camps in Parliament and outside it. It had not led to the disunity of the party. From the time the SLFP came to the fore there had been groups who held different views. There were groups from the right, left and centre.
Q But today isn’t it a difference of opinion that has become the core issue but the leadership?
No it is not the leadership. The former president was able to step down and hand over the leadership to Maithripala Sirisena and give his blessings to to continue to lead the party.
"There are strong fears among several members against whom serious allegations of corruption have been leveled they would not get nominations. There are others who were caught in the act of accepting bribes who also fear they’ll not get nominations"
Q In other words, Mahinda is an obstacle in the peace move?
No, but while certain groups of our own party who are around him are striving to maintain this unity, certain political parties who are dependent on us are attempting to break the party for their benefit. This is what we are attempting to discourage.
Q What are the results of your broking up to now?
There is no brokerage. Our attempt is to maintain the unity of the party, which is important when considering our party’s aim in coming to power as a single force in the future. There are many issues in the joint opposition with some trying to push the campaign of forming a new party.
Q Did you discuss this matter with the President?
Yes I discussed it with the Mahinda Rajapakasa and the President and also continue dialogue with groups on both sides. There were issues that had surfaced with the investigations centred around Mahinda Rajapaksa and his family members. Some believe it’s the work of Maithripala Sirisena to separate the party.
"Yes there is a split. President Sirisena has also allowed them to be in two camps. He allowed this in order to secure the unity of the party"
Q Is there any truth in it?
No, during the last presidential election, there were slogans for a drive in anti- corruption, anti-wastage and the abolition of unilateral power and the introduction of a new electoral system. Now there are investigations being conducted. This had made certain officials working with us also to be present at these investigations.
Q Are there requests from the Mahinda group to stop these investigations?
Yes. Those who are attempting to break the party agitate that the investigations should stop. There are others who demand that these investigations should be quickened and the guilty made known and punished. Therefore it is prudent to allow the police and the law makers to continue these investigations and secure the unity of the party.
Q There was a proposal from the Maithri sector for Mahinda Rajapaksa to retire from politics to stop these investigations.
How can we stop these investigations and what is the methodology we can use?.
Q Even President Mathripala had opined that the FCID is not wanted.
The President too has issues with regard to certain matters that are been investigated by the FCID. Some SLFP members who are with the President also have issues with it. These have to be rectified.
"The former president was able to step down and hand over the leadership to Maithripala Sirisena and give his blessings to to continue to lead the party"
Q You have said there was no financial fraud at the Divi Neguma?
There had been defects in policy decisions when granting loans in the Divi Neguma programme. I was questioned as to whether there was fraud in the purchase of iron pipes and giving them to the Pradeshiya Sabahs. There was no fraud and the entire transaction had been done correctly and according to procedures.
Q Presently SLFP chairmen, mayors and members of Pradeshiya Sabahs are staging protests and holding press conferences demanding Mahinda Rajakasa?
That is being done by both sides. There are groups who say ‘we will not harm the unity of the party and we are not leaving it’ while there are others who threaten that if Mahinda Rajapaksa forms a new party, they would contest from that party. There are several issues here. There are strong fears among several members against whom serious allegations of corruption have been levelled they would not get nominations. There are others who were caught in the act of accepting bribes who also fear they’ll not get nominations. They are now engaged in a campaign to ensure that they get nominations.
Q Are you certain about it?
Yes. One was caught red-handed while taking a bribe in Kalutara. Then there was another member who forced a teacher to kneel in the Puttalam area. He was not given nominations despite being a popular person. There were also several issues regarding those who were found guilty of rape. They will never get nominations.
Q Then who is behind a new party?
It may be Basil Rajapaksa. I can see him making an attempt to form a new party. He is the one who said,’I will not get involved in politics, I left and I take the responsibility for all the wrong doings of the past” suddenly appearing. I suspect that he is under contract of someone else. There are many who are willing to split the party, and it is clear that he has come forward to do that.
Q If at the next local government elections SLFP contests without Mahinda, what is your assessment of the future of the SLFP?
If Mahinda leads the party at the next elections, his loss would be worse. There are many in our party who are with him. But due to his conduct and those who were close to him many are now with Maithripala Sirisena. Therefore it is timely and prudent to have these two factions and those SLFP members who voted for Maithripala and those who refrained from voting brought together. With Maithripala Sirisena as the chairman of the party we can be sure of a victory.
Q There is some thinking that if not for Bandaranaike and D.A. Rajapaksa walking out of UNP that there would not have been a SLFP as commented by the Rajapaksa family itself?
It was an argument that held good at that time. They walked out against imperialism and colonialism and to build a new political thinking upholding our national values.
Q The joint opposition views that those defeated candidates who had come to Parliament through the national list had betrayed the party.
There are a few who came to Parliament through the national list. They have now joined this government led by our party leader. If we do not join our leader whom are we to join?