Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga, who returned to the country a few days back after leaving Sri Lankan shores in disgust following the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) decision to give nominations to former President Rajapaksa, finally decided to break her lengthy silence today.
Delivering a long awaited statement Kumaratunga called on the SLFP members and all citizens to reject Rajapaksa again at the upcoming polls and elect candidates with integrity to march forward with the mandate given on January 8.
Kumaratunga said she had decided to place the country before her party at this crucial juncture. She accused Rajapaksa of ruinng the SLFP and country and spreading racism and using the religion for political ends.
The following is an English translation of the full statement issued by Bandaranaike in Sinhala.
Upcoming Election and the Country’s Future
A silent revolution took place on January 8 in the country. It was a victory achieved by the citizens for the establishment of democracy. As a person who contributed to that victory, I consider it my duty to explain my stand with regards to the upcoming general election which I consider is a very crucial one. Patriotic citizens who respect freedom and democracy rose against the cruel suppression of the Rajapaksa regime in a heroic manner for a harmless struggle. It enabled them to unseat the suppressive regime with the use of ballots and not by force. The struggle which was conducted in a peaceful manner, without shedding a single drop of blood was to ensure the victory of a noble vision. This noble endeavour will be etched in history in gold. Rajapaksa contested elections while exploiting state resources, the armed forces, Police and the media. He exploited religion for his petty gain and shamelessly resorted to spread racism. It is a foregone conclusion that a country gets isolated, when a ruler attempts to be in power for ever by undermining human rights and ruling without foresight. The future of such a country becomes entirely bleak.
Fortunately we were able to avoid such an unfortunate event.
So it is the duty of all patriotic citizens to stand up irrespective of differences to protect the victory achieved on Januaray 08 with so much sacrifice.
The SLFP is a people’s party which was founded on the pillars of true democratic principles and good governance.
My late father S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike built SLFP with so much commitment and sacrifice for the benefit of the country. In this endeavour he successfully marshaled the five forces – the Sangha (Clergy), Veda (Physicians), Guru (Teachers), Govi (Farmers) and Kamkaru (Workers). The noble aim of the party was to work for the benefit of the masses and not personal gain. I recall with respect that after the demise of my father, my mother became the world’s first woman prime minister and garnered both local and international fame. After the demise of my parents, I was fortunate enough to lead the party.
Despite many setbacks and challenges I re-organized the party and took it to victory. I was committed to this task even despite threats to the safety of my children. I was able to take the party which had tasted defeat for 17 long years to victory. In this journey I became the Chief Minister, the Prime Minister and the country’s President on two occasions. Under my leadership the country achieved many notable triumphs in ensuring good governance and economic development. After my terms ended I decided to retire with dignity and respect.
At the time of my retirement, despite opposition from a majority within the SLFP I decided to hand over the leadership of both the party and the government to Mahinda Rajapaksa as I had some confidence in him. But after assuming leadership Rajapaksa who chose to undermine democratic norms also ruined the the party’s noble vision in a manner we did not expect. While uprooting all progressive expressions he acted as a dictator, driving the party towards ruin. I witnessed with such sadness the manner in which the party was been taken towards destruction.
In the backdrop of the country becoming a playground of a single family and a few of their friends who used state resources and power for ulterior gain I decided to align with forces who were fighting to re-direct the country towards a people friendly rule and re-establish good governance. While bringing all Sri Lankan forces committed for such a cause under one roof we tried to lay the foundation for a political culture of consensus.
I decided to bow down to the requests of the leaders of civil society organizations and some leaders within our party itself who had been talking to me for some time. A majority wanted to usher a change under my leadership. But I did not have any desire to remain in politics. I always detested attempts made by leaders to remain in power for ever. But as the country was spiraling out of control I decided to identify another leader from the party and with the support of sections of the SLFP, the United National Party, civil Society organizations and other patriotic forces put forward him as a common candidate to contest Rajapaksa instead of me. After doing this I acted with commitment to ensure his victory.
After this our aim was to form a national government and rebuild the country while ushering political reforms. We also wanted to re-build the SLFP.
After the January 08 victory people were fortunate to enjoy a government which ensured good governance. But unfortunately the defeated leader was biding his time to launch a counter revolution. With the help of some political leaders within the party and the UPFA he tried to scuttle the political reforms and the country’s forward march. He tried to wreck the good governance rule. Despite such obstacles I must note that the new government was able to do some noteworthy work for the benefit of the people. The most important role of the new government was to ensure democracy, media freedom, human rights and create a background where all communities could live together in dignity while enjoying equal rights. The efforts made to increase salaries and bring down the cost of living are commendable. Also they have initiated efforts to eradicate corruption from the state sector which is a gigantic task.
The efforts to identify those engaged in corrupt activities during the previous rule and punish the responsible are ongoing. Also efforts taken to control the drugs, ethanol trade and to stop political
violence against opponents cannot be taken lightly. While the government tried to introduce a people friendly governance policies, those close to Rajapaksa in parliament tried to block them. In the backdrop of conspiracies launched by the defeated former ruler growing day by day the parliament had to be dissolved. However, this became a much more complicated matter than expected. I think these events have had a negative impact on low abiding citizens. The attempts made by the defeated ruler and his corrupt followers to seek another mandate from the people has become a problem for respected party candidates. But I am most disturbed to see the lack of desire shown by some party seniors towards a proper restructuring of the SLFP. I am also saddened by their personal decline.
But hereby I like to explain my stance to true SLFP members who love the party. The question in front of us is whether to align with the people who destroyed the party principles and dragged the country towards ruin or support the people who are trying to take the country towards victory and have the vision and commitment to do so. After studying this deeply my decision is that we should build the country first. For this it is imperative to protect the victory we achieved on January 08.
The love and devotion I have for the SLFP will never change. I will always be committed to strengthen our true policies and through it to usher a righteous rule in the country. We need to establish good governance for us and our children to live in this country in a dignified and respectful manner. At the upcoming elections we have to defeat those forces who are trying to destroy the chance we got to create new nation. I appeal to all SLFP members to shed differences and join the political parties, civil society organizations and all progressive forces which came together on January 08 to ensure a new political culture of consensus instead of a political culture of dissent.
I truly believe those power-mad political forces who are trying to spread myths to create disunity should be defeated. To ensure good governance I appeal to all citizens to elect erudite politicians at the upcoming polls, who can carry forward the January 08 victory and make the parliament an institution which fulfills the aspirations of the people in a dignified manner.
Let’s work together to realize the dreams of a new nation.