20A: Beware of foreign agendas - Dayasiri

SLFP MP Dayasiri Jayasekera discussed the party’s restructuring initiatives between May 08 and 15 as well as the future plans of the 16 rebel MPS.

By Rathindra Kuruwita

Q: Out of the 16 Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) MPs that voted for the No Confidence Motion only SB Dissanayaka got on stage at the SLFP May Day Rally. Most of you remained with the crowd, while others didn’t attend, does that indicate a split in your group?

A: The 16 MPs that voted for the No Confidence Motion had several opinions about attending the May Day rally. Some were of the opinion that we should not attend party events until the restructuring process is complete but most of us felt that we had to attend this rally. However we also decided not to get on the stage and instead remain with our supporters. However we insisted that SB Dissanayaka must be on stage as he is the Treasurer of the party.

So, there is no split among us but there were some disagreements about what to do on May Day. We have however come to an agreement on what to do in the future.

Q: If you compare your rally with the United National Party (UNP) one and the Sri Lanka Podjana Peramuna (SLPP) meeting, are you happy about the turnout?

A: We can be happy about the May Day rally. We were able to show our strength. Chenkalady, Batticaloa is not the most easily accessible place but a large number of people came. This shows that people are still enthusiastic and that we have the ability to organize and mobilize our supporters.

If we compare our rally with the one held by the United National Party, the UNP had retreated to an indoor stadium. A political party in power has never done that and its an indication of the collapse of the party. The lesson we have to learn is that if we don’t extricate ourselves from this coalition government, we will be reduced to that level.

Q: The party restructuring process is to take place between May 08 and May 15. What are your minimum expectations?

A: During the last Central Committee meeting (CC) we agreed that the party reforms will be carried out between May 08 and 15 and the President has assured us several times that he will fully restructure the party, which is essential if we are to win.

During the last CC meeting, in late April, we agreed on the need to change the secretaries of the SLFP and the UPFA. We are also adamant, and a lot of SLFP MPs agree, that we must leave the government. If we don’t extricate ourselves from this mess we won’t be able to revitalize the SLFP.

We were able to attract a large crowd on Monday (7) but we will lose electorally if we stay in the government as people are disgusted. The government has handled everything in the worst possible manner, the more we stay in, the more the SLFP is associated with these blunders.

We need to become an effective opposition party as soon as possible and start motivating and mobilizing the grassroots. By sitting with the opposition we also have the chance to unite and create a common front with other progressive elements, from the SLPP to NFF.

Q: The SLPP made significant gains in the February local council election and by your own admissions the SLFP is in a relatively weak position. Thus will you be able to stand out as a strong opposition force?

A: I don’t think this is about one party bending the knee to another. We all have a similar agenda and right now we must focus on opposing the bad policies of the government.

Q: You have spoken extensively on the importance of reconciliation, however the impression that the public has is that the SLPP is not interested in reconciliation. Thus can you say both SLFP and SLPP has a similar agenda?

A: Yes, I don’t think that anyone who comes into power can ignore reconciliation. Whoever becomes president next needs to come up with a proposal to address the grievances of the Tamil people. It is not only about getting the votes of the Tamil people or about countering the propaganda of the pro LTTE diaspora who spread malicious lies. We need to address their grievances because they are fellow Sri Lankans, we must do it for ourselves and for a bright future for all.

Q: The 16 SLFP MPs crossed over to the opposition on Tuesday (08). Do you think that the other SLFP MPs would join you?

A: They must if they want the SLFP to survive and thrive. The unity government now functions without an agreement and I think the SLFP has to think long and hard about what it is going to do now. I think, Most SLFPers think that the smartest thing to do is to extricate ourselves from the government, sit in the opposition, consolidate and think about a common candidate for the next presidential election.

On the other hand the UNP is of the opinion that we are holding them back and that they can do much better on their own. It is also obvious that they can form a government because 122 MPs voted against the NCM. So why should we stay on, making everyone unhappy? So the best thing for everyone is for the SLFP to leave the government.

That way the UNP can form a government and we can escape from being a party to a government that bungles things up colossally. Let the PM implement his neo-liberal agenda and let him implement the 10 point agreement that he signed with the TNA. If we stay on the people will associate us with economic policies that will bring people to their knees and with a political agenda that will lead to instability.

Q: You said that SLFP will need to think about supporting a common candidate. During the May Day speech President Sirisena said he won’t retire in 2020. How does this factor in?

A: I said we need to look at finding a common candidate after we consolidate. I don’t think we should really focus on that now, it’s something we have to do a year later. Right now we have to immediately restructure and propose an agenda that can mobilize people and give them hope.

Also we don’t know what the political landscape will be in June 2019. The JO is thinking about fielding Gotabhaya, Basil or Chamal at the next Presidential election. The UNP is thinking about fielding Ranil and the President on Monday said he won’t retire after 2020. I doubt anyone can really say who will emerge as the candidate from the JO or UNP or SLFP, so instead of woolgathering another year, let’s worry about the immediate.

So once again, I don’t think we should worry about 2020 now. We are in a bad spot now but we have time to regroup and consolidate and become a strong player. We have 18 months and our energies should be there. Its too early to think of who will lead Sri Lanka in 2020 and for us to devote our energies to that right now is suicidal.

Q: What do you think needs to be done to revitalize the SLFP?

A: First of all we must end our association with the UNP and position ourselves as a separate force. SWRD Bandaranaike came out of the UNP and established the SLFP as a third position party and from that time on our party had a different identity which is not compatible with the neo-liberal UNP. In 2015, due to external circumstances we had to form a unity government with the UNP and we signed a two year agreement with them. After two years its obvious that the two parties can’t co-exist and that we are actually making things worse for each other. This ‘marriage’ has been disastrous for the SLFP and judging by what is going on in the UNP it has also factionalised the party. So the best thing is to separate and rebuild.

Q: The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will present 20A, to abolish the Presidential System, in Parliament later this month? What is your stance on this?

A:The presidential system is a double edged sword. At times it has stabilized the country, while at other times it led the country towards totalitarianism. I think by the 19A, the President was stripped of many of the powers he had and some of these powers had been subtly transferred to the Prime minister. Things have become worse now as no one has the power to do anything.

If the JVP wants to scrap the executive presidential system, they should also talk about how we should amend the 13A to ensure that the country does not become divided after scrapping the position of the executive president. SLFP believes in the full implementation of the 13A, which is linked to the executive presidential system. Under 13A, it is the link between the President and the Governor of a province that keeps the country together. If we scrap the executive presidency without addressing the devolution of power, we will be in a serious crisis.

So I can’t help but feel that 20A is what the UNP and certain Western forces want and I find it really disappointing that the JVP has become a cat’s paw of neo-liberals. When the provincial council system was introduced the JVP opposed it and unleashed violence to stop people voting at the first provincial council election in 1987. Now, instead of telling us what it wants to do about 13A, it wants to bring in a constitutional amendment that will destabilize the country. Constitution making is not easy and we have to find a way of ensuring that people have freedom as much as stability, the 20A is not about finding that balance, it’s an attempt to carry out the West’s plans mindlessly.

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