By Gamini Jayaweera –
The SLFP rebel members well supported by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the “Gang of Four” namely Dinesh, Vasu, Wimal, and Udaya are ignoring and violating the official instructions, warnings, and deadlines given by the SLFP Leadership and the Central Committee on several issues which are detrimental to upholding the discipline and the unity of the party. The warning letters issued by the General Secretary of the SLFP based on the decisions taken by the Central Committee, were torn or burnt by the rebels in public thus humiliating the leadership and the CC of the party. The negative response exhibited by the SLFP rebel members for the recent announcement made by the SLFP CC banning the SLFP members’ participation in the anti-government rally at Hyde Park organized by the “Joint Opposition” need to be dealt with promptly and authoritatively, if the SLFP wants to survive as a major political force in the country. As Lance Armstrong said, “There comes a point in every man’s life when he has to say: Enough is enough.”
On Sunday 13 March, the General Secretary of the SLFP Mr. Duminda Dissanayake publically declared that all SLFP MPs including the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa had been informed that they would be barred from attending any meetings, rallies, conferences or discussions that were not organised by the SLFP. He went on to inform the media that the ban would also be applied to the forthcoming anti-government rally scheduled to be held on 17 March.
On 16 March, the Treasurer of the SLFP and Social Empowerment & Welfare Minister Mr. S. B. Dissanayake publically warned the SLFP parliamentarians that they could lose their parliamentary seats if they would attend the “Joint Opposition’s” rally at Hyde Park on 17 March. He went on to say “The SLFP Central Committee has taken a decision that no SLFP member should participate in a meeting or rally organised by other parties other than the SLFP without prior permission from the party,”.
The rebel SLFP MPs including the former President Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, attended the rally at Hyde Park organized by the “Joint Opposition” despite the official warnings from the General Secretary and the CC of the Party. At the Hyde Park meeting, the General Secretary of the SLFP was ridiculed by some speakers and the SLFP rebel MPs were cheering and applauding the speeches given by the “Gang of Four” indicating that they would whole heartedly agree with those statements. Most of the speakers at the Hyde Park rally were directing their criticism towards the President, his government, and the SLFP ministers who had taken ministerial posts in the present government.
After the rally at Hyde Park, the SLFP Vice-President and newly appointed UPFA General Secretary, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera stated that the SLFP parliamentarians who had attended the “Joint Opposition” rally at Hyde Park on March 17 in defiance of the decision taken and imposed by the CC of the party, would not be punished as they had not criticized the party or its leadership. He further stated that they had observed the speeches but no SLFP member criticised President Sirisena, only NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa had denounced the President and his government. But Minister Amaraweera has ignored the fact that all the SLFP rebels on stage were cheering and approving the statements made by Wimal, Udaya, Vasu, and Dinesh to the delight of their supporters in the audience. The behavior of the Minister Amaraweera appears that he also wants to keep one foot in the “Joint Opposition” and the other foot in the MS Camp as exactly the same way most of the senior members of the SLFP behaved during the Presidential and the General Election.
Minister S.B. Dissanayake speaking recently, has also changed his position about the rebel MPs, to say that it is difficult to control the rebel MPs with strict warnings. He further stated that his biggest concern of the SLFP at present was to avoid a split in the party at all costs. It appears that Mr. Dissanayake is not much concerned about the members of the party acting against the wishes of the leadership and the CC. How can you run a party when some members are acting independently, ignoring the policies advocated by the leadership and the CC of the party? Turning a blind eye to the unacceptable and negative behaviors of the SLFP rebel members by the party leadership and the CC, will undoubtedly inflict an irreversible damage to the party’s progress in the long run. It appears that the SLFP CC is paying a very high price for trying to avoid a split in the party which seems to be inevitable.
Naïve CC Members
If the SLFP wants to get the policies right to achieve their vision, they cannot have callous and undisciplined individuals who sanction infighting and bickering to undermine the leadership and the CC of the party. This reminds me of Minister Mahinda Samarasinghe’s recent statement: “The aim of the Joint Opposition is to cripple the work of the government to create a political environment where their personal ambitions can be achieved.” If so, we do not see any problem in taking actions against the rebel members.
It appears that it is naïve of the Minister Amaraweera, Minister Dissanayake, and some other members of the CC to believe that the rebel members of the “Joint Opposition” are waiting in the wings to make peace and join the “Yahapalanaya” government, if no disciplinary actions are taken against them. The rather naïve members of the SLFP CC have been cleverly misled by the rebel SLFP members who are marking time until they are confident that they have sufficient support in electorates to set up a new political party under the leadership of the former President. They do not have to hurry and set up a new political party because they can make use of the well-established SLFP electoral machinery to advance their positions in their electorates until the last minute. It has been reported that they are organizing another anti-government rally in the very near future. They know very well that in this instance SLFP CC is “blowing a lot of hot air” with no strategy in place to deal with them. It is a fair and reasonable question to ask whether the SLFP CC is naïve, gutless and spineless to take disciplinary actions against the rebel party members for disobeying the party orders.
On 21 March, former President and SLFP Patron Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, quite rightly so, hit out at the SLFP rebel MPs and Local Government members who participated at the Hyde Park rally organized by the “Joint Opposition” stating that they would be removed from the SLFP in the very near future. She accused that the SLFP members who have stolen the public property have joined the “Joint Opposition” bandwagon and some murderers are also among these fraudsters.
Mr. Udaya Gammanpila, a member of the “Gang of Four” and a leading figure in the “Joint Opposition”, immediately responded to CBK’s statement saying “She speaks whatever is in her mind without thinking twice. This may be a symptom of being a victim of the bomb blast,”. Mr. Gammanpila should apologies to the former President Mrs. Kumaratunga for making a distasteful remark about her physical injuries which she sustained due to the Tamil Tiger Terrorist attack in 1999 while she was performing public duties as the President of Sri Lanka. Mr. Gammanpila should also note that the former President is not showing any sign of mental weakness. On the contrary, she is an active Patron of the SLFP and very much mindful of what is happening in the Sri Lankan political arena. People of Sri Lanka are grateful to her for providing an invaluable contribution during the last presidential election to defeat the previous administration and saving our country from moving towards the dictatorship.
Mr. Gammanpila without being hypocritical, should take a look at himself before judging others. Mr. Gammanpila should be reminded that he, as a former member of the JHU had “lost his mind” in December 2014, within 10 days of signing a MoU with Mr. Maithripala Sirisena. The Leader of the JHU Ven. Omalpe Sobitha Thero participating in a media conference held on 12th December 2014 said “All clauses in the MoU signed by JHU with the common candidate of the opposition Maithripala Sirisena were compiled with the direction of Councilor Udaya Gammanpila. It is puzzling as to how or why he would suddenly have an issue with our decisions just ten days into signing the agreement”. At the time, according to the political analysts, it was reported that Mr. Gammanpila had told a blatant lie about his resignation from the JHU.
On 20th February 2014, Colombo Telegraph reported under the heading “Gammanpila Compares His Hero Gota To Buddha, Jesus And Gandhi”. It is interesting to note that Mr. Gammanpila had made his findings public, after he had left the JHU and joined the previous regime. Mr. Gammanpila is not doing any favors to either Gota or any other person by comparing Lord Buddha to lay people who are engaged in worldly events with greed, ill-will, and ignorance. One cannot compare Lord Buddha to even a person who has attained Sothapaththi because that person has only eradicated 3 Fetters out of the 10 Fetters which are needed to be eradicated to become an Arahath. As Abraham Lincoln once said “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”
This reminds me of certain poems in a well-known Buddhist poetry book called “Buduguna Alankaraya” written by the late Ven. Vidagama Maithriya Maha Thero. According to the story, it is worth reflecting on the reply given by one of the Ministers to another Minister in the “Raja Sabha” (Parliament), who compared the Lord Buddha to a group of wandering yogis such as Niggantanatha Puttha, Makkali Gosala, Kakuda Kachchayana, Sanjaya Belatti Putta, etc. For the interest of the general public, I quote the following three poems from the “Buduguna Alankaraya”. The people may find some of the characteristics highlighted in these poems are in common with what we experience in our daily life with some of the political, religious, and public figures in the country.
ජඩ නිවටුන් නි සා
බුදුනැයි නමක් සල සා
ඔහු කී එ බස සා
කියයි මැතිඳෙක් සෙබෙහි මෙලෙ සා
පව් පින් දෙකම නැ ත
රකිනා තපස් කම් නැ ත
ඔවුන් බුදුනැයි යෙ ත
මෙසේ අනුවණ කමෙක් නම් නැ ත
බොරුවෙන් වඩන බ ඩ
එ බැවින් දුරැර මුන් ජ ඩ
දත් සිව් වේ නොක ඩ
ගෙනැ’ර බමුණන් කරව ලෝ වැ ඩ
It has been reported that some powerful members of the CC are working very hard to bring the two factions of the SLFP and their leaders, Maithree and Mahinda, together to contest the LG elections under one banner. The two leaders, current President and the former President are very different individuals. Their thinking, their behaviors and the way they want to implement their visions, policies and strategies are miles apart. One follows the Buddhist philosophy as far as reasonably practicable to govern the country under a new political culture, in a harmonious manner, with a clear foresight of uniting various communities to live and work together to bring about sustainable peace and prosperity to Sri Lanka.
The other and his followers rely on the blessings of the Gods such as “Kataragama”, “Paththini”, “Munneswarum”, etc. to protect and bless them to run the country irrespective of their ingrained narrow minded nationalism together with ill-legal activities and bad behaviors exhibited during their previous administration. They believe that smashing coconuts in the Devalas will bring them good luck to recapture the lost power to govern the country again. It reminds me of an old saying in Yiddish, which explains the outcome of the rituals practiced by the “Joint Opposition” to regain the power as “If my grand-mother had wheels she would have been a bus.”
Some senior SLFP figures are now shedding “crocodile tears” to unite the three leaders (MS, CBK, and MR) to save the SLFP. It must be said that the very same senior figures were in the last administration’s cabinet and they knew very well what was happening within and outside the party. It was alleged that even some senior ministers had to go behind Mr. Namal Rajapaksa to get his approval to carry out some of their ministerial works though Namal was a very junior, ordinary MP. But none of these ministers raised a single word of disapproval or objection to the way in which the last regime was managing the party and governing the country. They all were silent and accepted the instructions from the members of the Rajapaksa family whether those instructions were right or wrong. The general public and the SLFP supporters want these senior figures to be part of the solution by giving their unequivocal support to the leader of the SLFP, President Maithripala Sirisena to lead the party to its former glory. The SLFP cannot have two leaders. The party needs to move on because we all know that we cannot drive forward looking in the rearview mirror.
The efforts of some senior SLFP ministers to bring Maithri and Mahinda together under one banner to run the country also reminds me of the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev statement: “Do you think when two representatives holding diametrically opposing views get together and shake hands, the contradictions between our systems will simply melt away? What kind of a daydream is that?”
Hope the SLFP leadership and the CC will wake up to face the reality without daydreaming about a reconciliation with the rebels and take immediate actions that are necessary to safeguard the party and the country.