Sirisena in fresh bid to checkmate Mahinda

By Shamindra Ferdinando

In a desperate bid to thwart the formation of a new party led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa- in the run-up to forthcoming local government polls, the SLFP yesterday assured Rajapaksa loyalists nominations.

Vast majority of members of dissolved local government bodies have called for the formation of a new alliance under former President Rajapaksa’s leadership.

Urging Rajapaksa loyalists to reach an understanding with President Maithripala Sirisena, Irrigation and Water Management Minister Gamini Vijith Vijithamuni Zoysa yesterday said that those who had challenged the new leadership wouldn’t be deprived of nominations.

Minister Zoysa said that even an understanding was possible

with those facing disciplinary action over various matters.The Moneragala district MP was responding to a query at the weekly media briefing held at the SLFP party office.

Minister Zoysa said that the party would hold interviews to select candidates. When the media pointed out that the SLFP had had recent interviews to choose candidates, Minister Zoysa said that having fresh interviews wasn’t an issue. Having taken into consideration political developments, the party decided to call for fresh interviews, Minister Zoysa said, adding the new leadership was ready to reach an understanding with those who had post-presidential polls issues.

The SLFP yesterday called the media briefing to announce decisions taken by the Central Committee.

Responding to media queries, Minister Zoysa acknowledged that the party would experience a debilitating setback unless divided factions reached a consensus. Failure to shed differences would give victory to the UNP at local government polls, thereby weakening the party at national level, one-time Rajapaksa loyalist said.

After having handed over the leadership to Maithripala Sirisena immediately after January, 2015 presidential polls, former President Rajapaksa had been trapped by elements hell-bent on causing a split in the party, he alleged

Minister Zoysa emphasized that previous SLFP breakaway factions had not succeeded in politics at any level. The Moneragala MP recalled the failed project launched by actor turned politician Vijaya Kumaratunga and his wife Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga. Mrs Kumaratunga had subsequently returned to the party and comfortably secured presidency after having successfully led the Southern and Western Provincial Council campaigns and the August 1994 parliamentary polls campaigns, the minister said.

Commenting on former SLFP National Organizer Basil Rajapaksa’s recent call for a national political movement, Minister Zoysa said that one-time strongman seemed to have conveniently forgotten that he left the country immediately after the last presidential polls. Basil Rajapaksa deserted the former President after having accepted the responsibility for his brother’s defeat, Minister Zoysa said, adding that those around Mahinda Rajapaksa caused his second defeat at August 2015 parliamentary polls.

The former President would suffer a similar fate in case he gave leadership to a new political outfit, Minister Zoysa said. The Minister asserted Basil Rajapaksa was no longer a factor due to him causing damaging rift with ministers during the previous administration.

The SLFP had various options to meet any eventuality, the Minister said. According to him various interested parties had been conspiring to undermine ongoing efforts to unify the party.

Minister Zoysa also revealed Central Committee decision to invite former Transport Minister and Kalutara District MP Kumara Welgama to take major responsibilities in spite of earlier differences. Minister Zoysa insisted that there was absolutely no problem with MP Welgama while dismissing what he called some irrelevant media queries regarding the SLFP bid to involve the Rajapaksa loyalist.