By Kamal Nissanka –
J.Asitha Perera , former member of parliament has passed away on the 15th Sunday, September 2013. Asitha was one of the founding members of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka in 1987. He contested the Colombo district under the Liberal Party symbol in the first ever provincial council elections in 1988. In the initial stage Liberal Party was leaning towards the Sri Lanka Freedom Party with the aim of becoming an alliance partner. This was fruitful for a certain degree but with its defeat in the 1988 presidential elections and 1989 general elections, SLFP was not in a position to offer a national list seat for the Liberal Party as agreed.
During the next couple of years the All Party Conference of President R.Premadasa set a forum for the liberals to get closer to United National Party. There was an understanding with President R. Premadasa to be a partner in the UNP alliance at 1994 elections. Assassination of R. Premadasa by LTTE created a different political situation within the UNP and by 1994 Mr.Sirisena Cooray was replaced by Dr Gamini Wijesekara as Secretary of UNP under Mr.D.B.Wijetunga and Mr.Ranil Wickramasinghe.
Liberal Party wanted to implement the agreement reached with UNP at the election but new UNP leadership was reluctant to offer liberals a place from UNP electoral lists or through national list.
It was few days more to the nomination date and Liberal Party felt that discussions with UNP would not bring any results and started discussions with Mr.M.H.M.Ashroff leader of the newly formed Sri Lanka Muslim Congress. The discussions were fruitful and SLMC agreed to offer the first national seat it gains to the Liberal Party and our party had to spend a sufficient amount of finance to the electoral campaign.
Liberal Party strategy worked out and the SLMC obtained a seat from national list. The agreement was that the national seat should be given to Dr. Chanaka Amaratunga, the leader of the party.
By the time the cabinet was sworn in Mr. M.H.M.Ashroof became the minister of ports. It was at this time President Chandrika Kumaratunga was reluctant to see Chanaka being appointed as a national list member from SLMC. Iin the meantime members of the supreme council of the SLMC was also reluctant to nominate Chanaka as he was critique of Iranian regime and sympathizer of Salmon Rushdie who wrote “Satanic Verses”
The situation created Mr. Asitha Perera an opportunity to go to parliament. However Asitha Perera in our last committee meeting before the appointment as a national list member from SLMC agreed to step down as national list MP after the speaker was appointed.
However that promise was never fulfilled by Asitha and therafter he never came for Liberal Party committee meetings and eventually became a member of the SLMC. At the time of his appointment to the parliament he was the senior vice president the Liberal Party.
That is how Chandrika administration got the crucial one vote in the parliament to survive in 1994.
We all came to know that chances of Dr Chanaka Amaratunga to go to parliament were remote. However at one point Chanaka wanted to appoint Major General Y. Balarathnarajah who was also in the SLMC national list from the Liberal Party to be nominated instead of Chanaka. This approach of Chanaka might have created distrust in Asitha Perera as he was the senior most next person of the Liberal Party.
With this series of bitter events Dr Chanaka Amaratunga was frustrated and his close liberal intellectuals also departed from him and two years later in August 1996 he faced with a tragic death.
Today Liberal Party is witnessing the death of J.Asitha Perera ,first Liberal Party member of parliament who within couple of days after his appointment as an MP became a Sri Lanka Muslim Congress member.
*Kamal Nissanka – Secretary General, Liberal Party of Sri Lanka