President Maithripala Sirisena said that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) will contest the upcoming local government polls under the SLFP’s traditional ‘hand’ symbol. “We are firing the first salvo towards forming a SLFP Government at this convention,” President Sirisena said at the SLFP 65th Anniversary Convention in Kurunegala on September 4.
Hinting strongly at party dissidents of the Joint Opposition, President Sirisena said all members of the party must unite to strengthen the SLFP instead of threatening to create new political parties.
The President chaired the SLFP Convention in Maligapitiya Kurunegala yesterday that was held with much fanfare and drew large crowds. SLFP supporters converged upon Kurunegala from different parts of the island. Traditional drummers, dancers and musical interludes added colour to the proceedings.
He invited other political party’s supporting the SLFP and those who are willing to do so in the future to contest as a common front at future polls under the ‘Hand’ symbol. President Sirisena also invited SLFP parliamentarians in the Joint Opposition group to work within the party to form a SLFP led government in the future.
“I took over the leadership to form a SLFP led government,” the President added.
While observing that some were attacking him both openly and in secrecy, the President questioned whether they were conspiring against him as he is a man from humble background. He pointed out that he is the President who is mostly close to the general public as he came from a humble back ground when compared to the other six Executive Presidents in the country.
“Why are they challenging me? Why are they attacking me? Is it because I am an ordinary small man? Is it because I am the first President of Sri Lanka to have been born in a mudhut? Is it because I am the son of a poor farmer? Is it because I am not part of the traditional ruling class of this country?” he queried.
The President also stressed on the need to reorganize the party and form a clean political movement. He said the foundation for a clean political movement necessary for forming an SLFP led government in the future.
The President also cautioned about dividing the party and noted that all SLFP members must unite to strengthen the party, without eyeing to forming a new one. President Sirisena said he had made both written and verbal submissions to the former President not to hold elections as the party seniors and a majority of parliamentarians felt it was not appropriate and the party may lose.
President Sirisena said that however former President Rajapaksa had gone for elections without heeding such warnings.
The President questioned that if he had harboured any thoughts of dividing the party or contest polls at the time whether he would have made such submissions to the former President and the party leader.
The President also stressed that although some people spoke about international threats there was no such thing in the present as the current government had won the trust of the international community.
He said if such a threat arises, he will leave no room for the international community to interfere in the country’s domestic affairs.
“The SLFP will rise, it will fall, it will fall and it will rise again, but no matter how many times we fall, our 65 years of experience teaches us that the SLFP is the only party which rise again and again,” the President said.
He said SLFP leaders had faced challenges like no other party. “Our founder was brutally assassinated. The civic rights of Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike were stripped. President Kumaratunga lost an eye in a terrorist attack, Mahinda Rajapaksa overcame terrorism and won the war,” the President enumerated during his convention speech.
The President also vowed to fend off external threats, hitting out against his critics who claim that he was betraying the country to foreign forces. “I will not permit any external forces to interfere in our country,” he pledged.
Also speaking at the Convention, SLFP General Secretary Duminda Dissanayake said the SLFP leadership had passed on to the most suitable and most deserving party members.
“65 years after the SLFP was founded, today the SLFP is a new party, a stronger party. That is why we say the party is in the right hands. Today S.W.R.D. Bandarnaike’s vision for this party is being realised,” Dissanayake asserted.
He said that the party convention had drawn record crowds this year, and urged those who said were allowing personal agendas to take precedence over the wellbeing of the party and its supporters to come and see what had happened in Kurunegala yesterday.
“Kurunegala is today a sea of heads. We urge those who don’t know the strength of this party, those who don’t value this party, those who place their personal agendas before the party, to come and see for themselves what has happened today. This party is finally in the right hands,” the SLFP General Secretary said.
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, former Prime Minister D.M.Jayaratne, other SLFP leaders and SLFP members from the grassroots level attended.
The Convention was attended by thousands of party supporters representing every district of the country.
Representatives of 20 political parties attended the convention including the United National Party (UNP) and other mainstream political parties to well-wish to the event.
Speech delivered by President Maithripala Sirisena at the 65th Anniversary Convention of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) in Kurunegala on September 04, 2016
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) celebrates its sixty fifth (65) anniversary today. A large number of people have gathered here today. Nobody in the country, including me expected such a large gathering. The police reports that this is the largest number of people to gather at this playground in Kurunegala Town in the history.
Friends, parents, children; Whose strength is this? Whose power is this? Whose energy is this? This is the strength of the SLFP. This is the power of the SLFP. This is the energy of the SLFP. I tell this country that no political power or opposite power can challenge this.
The SLFP has a glorious history. That glorious history has a great story. There are happy moments, sad moments as well moments of difficulties and challenges in that great story.
Why did Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike form the SLFP? Some people say that Mr. Bandaranaike formed the SLFP after coming out from the UNP, the party he then belonged to. According to the books I have read I don’t agree with it that much.
There were number of slogans in the country, pertaining to that era. There were people who took up those slogans? They were the leaders who were with the Sinhala Maha Sabha who took those slogans into their hands. When we were under British colonialism, when we were under the foreign rule from 1505 to 1948 and after winning independence in 1948, the people of this country aspired for the sovereignty, nationality, self-rule and our own country, our own culture. They needed our own government in a country built on our own culture and our own civilization. Do not forget it was Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim leaders who carried out the fight for freedom and won it.
When Mr. S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike established the SLFP on the 2nd of September in 1951 there was no need for a General Secretary for the party according to the laws and regulations of the then Election Commissioner. There was a legal requirement for appointing of joint-secretaries. Therefore, Mr. Bandaranaike appointed three Joint-Secretaries as the first staff.
There were many factors for the SLFP to establish a government. It was the cultural force with the Buddhist monks in the temples, the farmers work in the field, the labours in the factories, the indigenous doctors in the villages, the teachers in the schools as well as our own literates, writers, intellectuals, scholars like Martyn Wickremasinghe, poets like P. B. Alwis Perera who got together to establish a government with Mr. Bandaranaike. That political stage was formed with a voice of our own government in Sri Lanka after independence.
Mr. Bandaranaike formed the party, the SLFP. It won 09 seats in the first election in 1951. The government of the SLFP-lead People’s United Front was formed in 1956. Mr. Bandaranaike was the only politician who established a government after a very short period of 5 years of forming a party. The people called that government ‘our government’. The people, who went inside the Parliament, felt the seats by their hands and said ‘these are the seats which our ministers and the members of the Parliament are seated in’. That social change made and major social, cultural and economic transformations were also taken place.
The SLFP is our own political party which is based on our culture and our civilization, based on the nationality. Our own political party and the government of 1956 made a number of required changes for the country. I say everyday, that there was no leader like Mr. Bandaranaike who faced so many mental sufferings during the time of power. He faced many difficulties with workers’ strikes, internal issues of the party, conflicts in the government and boycotts in the cabinet. Though he had to face such difficulties he fulfilled his responsibilities for a change for the country by facing the national and international problems as a patriotic political leader.
There are politicians in this country who have been in power for a long time. Mr. Bandaranaike was the one who was in power for a short period. But don’t forget that the SLFP is alive in the hearts of the public, labour class, workers, farmers, Buddhist monks, teachers and the common people of this country due to the changes made by Mr. Bandaranaike.
This is a pure party, a pristine party. This is a party which should govern the country. We can’t forget it is the SLFP leadership which has been governing the country for the longest period in this country.
The SLFP was based on a political theory on social democracy. What is social democracy? It includes welfare for the public, service for the public, appearing for the public and ensuring of the democracy of the country, ensuring of the freedom, making economic and political changes through appearing for the rights of the common people. Therefore, we should strengthen this party. We should make it to be suitable for today.
Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike gave the leadership to this party and made the changes required by that era. The first leader of the country was shot to death. The civic rights of the second leader of the party Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike were suspended. There were attempts to remove her from politics. Those attempts failed. The third leader of the party Mrs. Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga faced horrors of war and became disabled. We all got together with fourth leader of the Party Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa and achieved the victory of the war. When I was invited to take over the party as the fifth leader, I accepted it.
I took over the party as I was invited. I went out from the government and signed as the common candidate while being the General Secretary of the SLFP. There were 49 parties and organizations including the UNP to support the Common Candidate. They didn’t ask me to sign an agreement stating that I will get out of the SLFP. Being in the SLFP is my human right as well as a basic right. There was no issue over that.
I was surprised when I was invited to take over the chairmanship of the party, after three days of swearing-in as the President of Sri Lanka on 9th of January, 2015. I should tell you that I took over the chairmanship of the SLFP that day with the determination of establishing a government of the SLFP in this country again.
After I was elected as the President of Sri Lanka as a result of being the common candidate, supported by large number of political parties including the UNP, we made a common statement to fulfill responsibilities for the country, with a common agreement. That statement said that the country is faced with large number of critical problems and we should solve those to enhance the status of the country. It also said that all political parties in the Parliament should get together and establish a government. I achieved the victory in the Presidential Election under that election manifesto.
A General Election was held on 17th of August last year. The people of this country never gave a sole right to form a government to one of the main political parties. Whether it is stated in the election manifesto or not, the President has the responsibility to ensure the country is not faced with a situation leading to anarchy. The existence of the state should be ensured. As President, I am responsible for the country and the people, and therefore, everybody got together and established a government. Today we govern, despite many criticisms.
Before coming to Sri Lanka this week, the Secretary General of the United Nations Ban Ki-moon visited the country earlier, immediately after the war was concluded. You know the problems arose after he went back to UN in 2009. The world was divided because of us. The UNHRC was divided because of us. Our country was lost from votes held at the United Nations Organization and Human Rights Council.
Due to that loss, the international community directed us a series of proposals and leveled accusations, stating that we engaged in war and violated human rights. We should appear as a country and a state. Don’t forget that we are appearing for the country, people and the War Heroes of army, navy, air force and police who performed their duties in the war.
Definitely, we had to face those proposals. On the one hand to achieve our desire to build a nation in which our people could enjoy the freedom, democracy, human rights and fundamental rights and live without any fear and mistrust. A nation where everyone could live happily, and also a country in which all the communities, including Sinhalese, Muslims and Tamils could live with the bonds of friendship, brotherhood and trust.
The voices of Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim which was raised periodically in the 1930sh, 40s, 50s and 60s decades and occasionally transformed into conflicts. Finally a brutal war scenario arose. We had to face a war. We had been fighting for more than thirty years. Finally, we had to face for a series of problems. We needed to save the country from these problems.
When Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa got ready for a presidential election in 2014, I wrote to him, with my own hand, not to do so. I urged him not to go for an election, which would change the government. Dear Friends, I ask you if I wanted to defeat the Party, why should I write a letter like that?
All the seniors, Ministers and MPs, including those who are on this stage now, saw that letter. After writing the letter to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa, I gave a copy of that letter to each and every senior member of the Party sitting at one table. The Cabinet of the then Government had discussed that proposal that the Government could not go for an election, because there is no environment for the victory. When the parliamentary group of the Government met in the Parliament, they were saying that they cannot go for an election. However, our voices were not heard, and went for an election. In that context, I ask you, is it a wrong for the SLFP General Secretary to take that victory at that election in to his hands?
We are a consensual Government. All of you know the consequences that will occur when a government is changed. But, today when we talked about the reconciliation not only it should prevail among the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Malay and Burgher communities but also among the political parties too. We should also follow such significant features of the political cultures of the world’s developed countries.
Therefore, we need to build the SLFP on the basis of our own indigenous values. When we build the SLFP our basic policies and philosophy should not change in any case.
As the SLFP, we cannot forget that in a social democracy, especially in a market economy, it is the weak, the powerless, poor man who will be sidelined in the competitive market. There should be a political force which should be able to stand for the labour, the farmers, the oppressed class and the poor with the competitiveness in the market economy.
Freedom , democracy , human rights , fundamental rights should not only be limited to the upper, capitalist classes and those rights should also be a privilege of the poor, lower class. We must go for a system like that.
The SLFP needed to commence a new journey with a new strength, new mission and a new strategy. I declare at this massive gathering of loving parents and children who come for this 65th anniversary celebrations as well as to all the leaders of the Party, I declare that this is the first salvo fired to establish a SLFP Government in the future.
The Local Government elections will be held in the first half of the next year. We will contest for all the Local Government institutions in the country under the ‘Hand’ symbol. I invite all the sister parties of left-wing and progressive political parties who are aligned and keen to be united with the SLFP for the upcoming Local Government elections to rally around the flag of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, to win that election.
I kindly and respectfully request those who, – to whom I have given the right to sit as opposition MPs in the Parliament, even though they were elected to the Parliament under the SLFP banner, – to unite with us to strengthen the SLFP to form a SLFP Government in the future without speaking of splitting the party to form a new political force.
The Party must be clean. The Party must be pure. Working people need to follow their conscience. They need to understand the sorrows of the powerless. They should be down to earth. Always, we have to understand that this Party is represented by the common people.
How many times we have been defeated? The SLFP was defeated in March, 1960. In the 1965 the SLFP lost the election. In 1977 also the Party was defeated. The SLFP lost the Presidential Elections held in 1982 and 1989 too. In 2001 it was defeated at the Parliamentary election.
We need to talk about the moments of defeats as well as about the moments of victories. I will clearly state that we need to understand what a party should do and not do, similarly, what the party leaders should do or not do.
Thus, we should not do the things that will lead the Party to lose. All of us as a Party and party leaders should do things which will pave the way for the Party to gain the victory. This is a Party of common people. The SLFP always stands for the indigenous thinking, our own values and culture.
Some people attack me openly. Some attack me secretly and covertly. I ask all of them why all of you are against me? Is that because I am a person belongs to a lower class? I openly state that among the six Presidents who came into the power of this country, I am the only person who belonged to a farming family.
Are all these people against me because I don’t belong to the elite class or because my father was a farmer or else he was a Second World War veteran. The question I ask from all those who are against me is that all of you attack me because I was raised with the meager income from my father’s five acre land to enter politics and win in general elections to enter the Parliament as a common person to fulfill the responsibilities to the public.
The late Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, expressed his views regarding the elite class of this country and the Government, which was formed in 1956 was labeled as the downfall of the Brahmin caste. All the resources of this country do not only belong to the upper class of this country and the common people also have a right to that.
Today, people who are engaged in the public service, diplomatic service as well as the politicians emerged from the common people as a result of the policies of S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. Do not forget that Mr. Bandaranaike created the environment for the students to study in the Sinhala medium for their degrees after entering the university. Until then, the degrees were conducted in the English medium.
Mr. Bandaranaike had a deep understanding regarding the ethnic crisis in this country. He signed the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam agreement. But, he was not allowed to implement it. At last we engaged in a war. The Indian armed forces came to this country. The 13th amendment to the constitution was passed and the Provincial Councils were established. Nevertheless, if we had fulfilled the duties that we should have been done at the first instance, we would not have faced such catastrophic situations.
Even today some section of the society insult and slander our reconciliation process. Some call it Federal reconciliation, which divides the country and accuse that we bow down to the Western powers and international organizations. When Mr. Bandaranaike signed the Bandaranaike – Chelvanayagam agreement some sections accused him in the same way. They said that the ‘Sevala Banda’ (indecisive Banda) was trying to divide the country. Study and read this history. The great Anagarika Dharmapala raised the slogan ‘Awake Sinhalese’. Today, I, as the President of this country as well as the servant of the people, tell the whole country, ‘Awake Sri Lankans’.
As some sections of the people wrongly interpret, I will not allow any foreign interference in our country. There is no foreign threat against our country. If such foreign interference emerged I will not bow down to such powers. I will always stand for our Motherland and its people.
We need a better country and a society where all the communities, including the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim live in harmony, a country where everyone could live happily. All of us must unite to create that country.
The journey of the SLFP during the past 65 years was great, while it was challenging and hard. There are moments of ups and downs. Whatever happens the SLFP moves forward.
All of us in this consensual government must unite to solve the vital problems of this country. We have to unite to get free of the debt burden of Rs 90000000 million. We cannot give weight for only one party or only a single community.
When we talk about the proposals came through the United Nations Human Rights Council, even though when we came into the power the serious situation transformed into a minor situation, we have unite to overcome those challenging issues.
Mere criticism is not the way to solve problems. There is a need to move forward while fulfilling today’s responsibilities, in uniting with all political parties and all the communities to build this country understanding the reality, to build a better future for the people of this country, to build a blissful, beautiful country for the future generation as well as to strengthen the SLFP. We need to do today’s tasks at the moment. The medicines that should give to a patient, should be given today not tomorrow.
The first question before the country was to face the international accusations, allegations, blames. I should clearly state that already I have protected the country from all those allegations.
Despite the contrary comments of some of the people, as a new government we have lightened the burden. I invite all of you to fulfill respective responsibilities as a government as well as the SLFP while understanding the issues and challenges before us.