I take pride in the fact that I built the strongest SLFP government in our party’s history during my tenure in power. That government was so strong that it could be defeated only by conspiratorially creating divisions in the party and a section of the SLFP joining the UNP in its campaign of vilification and false propaganda against my government. The UNP by itself was in no position to defeat the SLFP government that I built. Even after the defeat of my government, the president of the country is the present leader of the SLFP. The cabinet is equally divided between the UNP and the SLFP in what has been called a national unity government. Yet the policy of this government is decided by the UNP, resulting in a situation where the SLFP has been held captive and forced to follow the UNP line. The SLFP is now in danger of losing its identity as a political party.
Demonstrations by farmers against the abolition of the fertiliser subsidy have now become a daily occurrence. The president’s order to fix the price of a bag of fertiliser at Rs. 2,500 will be about as effective as the price controls on dhal and dried fish. An SLFP government would never have abolished the fertiliser subsidy which was one of the main incentives to cultivate paddy. Yet when the UNP government abolished this production subsidy, the SLFP members in the government had to endorse that decision.
Professional groups in this country have been agitating against the decision of the UNP government to sign an Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement with India. The UNP Prime Minister says that he will go ahead with the agreement regardless of the opposition to it. During my government too, a similar agreement styled CEPA proposed by India was under discussion but we had to reconsider it after giving due consideration to opposition from Sri Lankan stakeholders. Today the SLFP members in the government have no option but to silently consent to the arbitrary actions of the UNP.
The UNP government accepted and adopted as their own the American sponsored UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka which betrayed our armed forces and the country by agreeing to institute a war crimes court with the participation of foreign judges, prosecutors and investigators while SLFP members of the government stood by helplessly. It was an SLFP government led by me that won the war against the LTTE. Today, the UNP with the acquiescence of a section of the SLFP is engaged in exacting revenge from those who won the war against all odds.
The 2016 budget had no SLFP characteristics at all and was based on the UNP’s neo-liberal economic outlook. It sought among other things to privatize every government owned enterprise including the Norochcholai power plant and the operations of all harbours and airports. It also sought to abolish the government pension for new recruits to the public service, the fertiliser subsidy and free school uniforms programme. Yet the SLFP members serving in the government had to vote for this budget.
SLFP members who have stood up against this capitulation and have tried to maintain the identity of the party have been penalised. Several SLFP electoral organisers, PrasannaRanatunga, DilumAmunugama, KanthiKodikara, DhanasiriAmaratunga, Duminda Silva and SenarathJayasundera among others have been removed from their positions. The two parliamentarians among them PrasannaRanatunga and Dilum Amunugama sat in the opposition and played a major role in protecting the identity of the SLFP both inside and outside parliament. Members of our party should ask themselves as to whose interests are served by removing such parliamentarians from their positions as electoral organisers. Apart from all this, members of the SLFP in the government have had to stand by and watch while their colleagues serving in the opposition are systematically vilified as rogues and murderers and dragged before police investigative bodies, commissions of inquiry and the courts.
There clearly is a concerted effort on the part of the UNP to destroy the SLFP completely. SLFP members in the government should decide which is more important to them, the UNP led government or the SLFP through which they were elected last August to represent the people on an anti-UNP, anti-government platform. When President MaithripalaSirisena took over the position of SLFP chairman, it was expected that he would look after the party rank and file, uphold party policies and protect the identity of the SLFP even though he was elected President on UNP votes. Regrettably, that has not happened.
Former President of Sri Lanka
1 March 2016