The meeting between President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa took place at the President’s Office in the parliamentary complex, yesterday (May 6).
During the discussion, President Maithripala Sirisena told former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in no uncertain terms that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) would not nominate a Prime Ministerial candidate before the next Parliamentary Election.
At the discussion held between the two warring factions within the SLFP, President Sirisena explained the “disadvantages” of naming a Prime Ministerial candidate before the election. The President made his position clear when former President Rajapaksa’s group said the SLFP should name its Prime Ministerial candidate in the party’s run-up to the election. “When the name of the Prime Ministerial candidate is announced, it can be counter-productive to the party’s election campaign”, the President said.
On the other hand, it is important to draw the support of minority voters into the party at the next election. Minority votes drifted away from the SLFP at the last presidential election and we should restore their faith in the party. So, it is disadvantageous for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to name its Prime Ministerial candidate before the election,” President Sirisena explained.
The discussion between the two factions of the SLFP focused on five major issues including the party’s stance on the PM candidate. In addition to that, the dissolution of local government bodies, the future of the United People’s Freedom Alliance, ongoing investigations into bribery and corruption allegations and giving nominations to MPs supporting former President Rajapaksa were raised by the pro-Rajapaksa group during the meeting.
Commenting on the dissolution of local government bodies, President Sirisena said their term had already come to an end. “The term of the local government bodies was extended in March by one and a half months following a request made by members of the UPFA. The extended term will also come to an end on May 15 and it is not a personal decision made by anyone,” the delegation supporting President Maithripala Sirisena explained.
When the pro-Rajapaksa group asked about the future of the United People Freedom Alliance (UPFA), President Sirisena’s delegation raised their concerns about the conduct of some political parties who claim to be partners of the UPFA.
“The UPFA is comprised of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party, the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna and a few other leftist parties. Wimal Weerawansa’s National Freedom Front and Udaya Gammanpila’s ‘Pivithuru Hela Urumaya’ are not even members of the UPFA. They only contest elections under the UPFA ticket and that does not make them partners of the UPFA. So we have concerns about certain statements they have made over the decisions of the UPFA,” President Sirisena’s delegation stated.
At this point, President Sirisena said the SLFP should remain as one unit and there cannot be various factions operating on their own. “If there is a public meeting, it should be an SLFP meeting. If there is a media statement, it should be a SLFP media statement,” President Sirisena asserted.
Former President Rajapaksa then raised his concerns over the investigations carried out by the Bribery Commission and the Police Financial Crimes Investigations Divisions (FCID). In response, President Sirisena said any person can seek refuge in the country’s judiciary in the face of injustices.
The former President asked whether the MPs supporting him would get nomination to contest the next election under the SLFP or UPFA ticket. However, no assurance was given by the President’s group with regard to the matter. “We did not have time to discuss that matter at length. Probably we will discuss that on another day,” a member of President Sirisena’s delegation told the Daily News last evening. He also added that the SLFP Central Committee will be briefed on progress of the discussions.