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Herath questions significance of SLPP second convention

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Charitha Herath

‘Pact with Ranil makes whole exercise meaningless’

By Shamindra Ferdinando

Dissident SLPP MP Charitha Herath yesterday (14) said that the ruling party would hold its second convention today against the developing crisis that threatened its very existence just eight years after its formation.

The general consensus was that the SLPP was under the thumb of UNP leader and President Ranil Wickremesinghe, Herath said, adding that it was the truth the party did not want to admit, Prof. Peiris said.

Herath said so when The Island asked him how he, as a dissident member of the government, viewed the SLPP’s second convention to be held at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium today (15). He compared the SLFP-led 1956 coalition that collapsed in 1959 with the debilitating setback suffered by the SLPP last year. Perhaps, the SLPP should have undertaken a detailed examination of its rapid rise and unprecedented fall within eight years before calling for its second convention, the one-time Media Ministry Secretary said.

Herath is among 12 MPs elected and appointed on the SLPP ticket and National List respectively, who quit the government parliamentary group in July last year. The group included Prof. G.L. Peiris and Dallas Alahapperuma.

Responding to another query, MP Herath said that having secured nearly seven million votes at the last presidential election held in Nov 2019, the SLPP candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa failed to capitalise on an excellent opportunity to undertake comprehensive political reforms. Had President Rajapaksa tasked an appropriate team to undertake the project, he wouldn’t have had to face the 2022 public protest campaign that forced him out of office within four months, Prof. Herath said.

Unfortunately, the SLPP for some strange reason still touted 7 mn votes received at the presidential poll and near 2/3 majority secured at the parliamentary election in August 2020, Prof. Herath said. The ground reality is the parliament doesn’t reflect the actual political environment, the MP said, underscoring the irrelevance of the 2019 mandate against the backdrop of the UNP leader exercising the powers of the executive.

Commending Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s 2019 presidential election manifesto, Prof. Herath said that neither the President nor the party at least tried to implement the promises made. Instead, they resorted to strategies that ruined both the government and the country thereby paving the way for Wickremesinghe who couldn’t even retain his Colombo district seat at the last election to gain power, the MP said.

Prof. Herath said that today the SLPP had nothing to offer. Having elected Wickremesinghe as the President, the SLPP, on its own, abolished the right even to talk about the mandates received at 2019 and 2020 national elections. “There is no new narrative, therefore having a second convention is nothing but a meaningless exercise,” Prof. Herath said, asserting that the SLPP was experiencing leadership crisis.

Would the SLPP, too, end up like the UNP and the SLFP, Prof. Herath asked. At the last general election, the UNP was reduced to just one National List MP, whereas the SLFP secured 14 seats out of which only one was elected on the SLFP ticket. That, too, was in Jaffna, the MP said.

The remaining 13, including its leader Maithripala Sirisena entered parliament on the SLPP and today except for a few, others switched their allegiance to Ranil Wickremesinghe, MP Herath said. In spite of boastful claims, the SLPP is in a very bad wicket. A large section of its parliamentary group was most likely to throw its weight behind the UNP leader at the next presidential election, MP Herath said. “The SLPP is aware of that possibility. It doesn’t know how to respond,” Prof. Herath said, drawing public attention to President Wickremesinghe’s refusal to accommodate several SLPP nominees in the cabinet.

The MP said that the SLPP was much weaker after several groups left the parliamentary group. In addition to Prof. Herath’s group, the National Freedom Front (NFF/6 MPs), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU/1 MP), Yuthukama (1 MP), Sri Lanka Mahajana Pakshaya (1 MP), Democratic Left Front (DLF/1 MP) and four MPs led by Anura Priyadarshana Yapa distanced from the party.

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