By Shantha Karunaratne –
Mr Sirisena and Mrs Chandrika must walk into the SLFP Headquarters with thousands of supporters, drive out the stooges and take over the Party. They should summon a Party Conference and ratify the new line without delay. Now that Rajapaksa has fled who is going to challenge them? The SLFP is a party that has played a specific historical role in Sri Lanka that one may broadly describe as nationalist, populist and oriented to the needs of the rural middle classes. This is a role that the UNP is not naturally inclined to fill; therefore Sri Lanka needs a genuine political party of this type. Under the Rajapaksas the SLFP degenerated into the petty fiefdom of a clan degenerated into a den of thieves and sycophants. It has to be rescued.
The party belongs to its stalwarts not to some Rajapaksa family enterprise; especially now that this enterprise has gone bankrupt and its board of directors fled the Island. By falling under the influence of Ranil and the UNP the Sirisena-CBK faction may be forced into playing a free-market economic role beyond what it is naturally inclined to do. In foreign policy too the SLFP, especially under Mrs B, expertly balanced between the West, the ‘Socialist Block” and India. The Rajapaksas completely screwed up this balance, and did great damage to our foreign policy standing, not to mention skewing Lanka’s foreign debt into excessive reliance on China. Ranil may push the new government too far towards the West. Even if he is careful and avoids such a blunder, the SLFP needs its own policy stand to counterbalance potential unwise pressure from the UNP right-wing.
The Sirisena-CBK faction was forced into a painful compromise and to fall under the influence of the UNP since there was no other way to rescue the country at this moment. But now it needs to stand on its own feet. This group cannot gain strength and independence until it recaptures the SLFP and restores the party’s credibility with the masses and has an operational political tool to work with. Therefore recapturing the SLFP and kicking out the rotten eggs is an urgent national obligation.
One other useful side effect of this will be that it will assist the Kariyawasam-Vijaya Kumar-Lal Wijenayake-Wimal Rodrigo-Jayampathi left faction in the LSSP and the Michael Fernando left faction in the CP to push down the opportunist leaders Tissa Vitarana and DEW and take over party leadership and rebuild the LSSP and CP. As for Vasudeva’s party it is dead duck; its only hope is to beg the LSSP left-faction for a merger on a promise of unconditional good behaviour.