Ex-President makes veiled threat to Government

  • SLFP Chair says 2/3 majority hinges on 14 SLFP MPs
  • Recalls collapse of former govts. due to infighting

BY Buddhika Samaraweera

Making a veiled threat to the Government, former President and incumbent Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Leader Maithripala Sirisena yesterday (25) warned that the two-thirds majority of the Government lies in the hands of the 14 MPs representing the Government coalition partner, the SLFP, and recalled that governments over the decades have collapsed as a result of infighting.

“The present Government is an alliance. It is a government made up of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and 11 other allied parties. It is very clear that the two-thirds majority of the Government lies in the hands of the 14 MPs representing the SLFP. Therefore, one needs to think intelligently and in depth about this two-thirds majority. What happens when there are conflicts within governments has been proven for 50 to 60 years,” he explained.

He went on to recall that previous governments that came to power since 1947 led by leaders such as the Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike, late President J.R. Jayewardene, and former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga had collapsed due to the withdrawal of support from other political parties that had supported them at the beginning.

Sirisena made these remarks responding to the recent statement made by Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage, comparing the allocations made to Sirisena and incumbent President Gotabaya Rajapaksa through the budgets.

“I have a right to respond if anyone has said anything targeting me as the former President. We don’t hit anyone just because someone hits us, but if we hit, it will not be as they do, but in another form. If you need to fight, we shall fight, but I don’t know what type of injuries will happen after such a fight. Therefore, let’s act more politely without creating conflicts within the ruling party. Agriculture Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage is a Cabinet Minister. I am a former President. So we shall work in a way which will suit our levels,” he said.

He also said that Aluthgamage’s statement on his (Sirisena’s) Budget was sending a wrong message to the people that he had incurred unnecessary expenses. He stated that during his tenure as the President, allocations have been made for various projects such as the drug prevention programme that was implemented through the Presidential Secretariat. He stated that at present, no such projects are being implemented through the Presidential Secretariat.

Speaking further, he said: “The foreign trips of many world leaders have now been cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which has reduced the spending of many heads of state. Compared to my annual budget and that of the current President, Aluthgamage gave people a message to the effect that I have been spending unnecessarily. I don’t like to throw stones from glass houses. That’s because after I was elected as the President in 2015, I set an example to presidents.”

Furthermore, Sirisena claimed that Aluthgamage had told State Minister of Solar, Wind, and Hydro Power Generation Projects Development Duminda Dissanayake that he had made the statement in question to enhance the image of the current President. “We have no problem with raising the image of the Leader, but don’t attack us. There are many other ways you can do that without attacking us. We are also in this Government under that Leader,” he said.

He also requested Leader of the House and Minister of Education Dinesh Gunawardena as well as Chief Government Whip and Minister of Highways Johnston Fernando to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.

Meanwhile, Sirisena claimed that Aluthgamage was fully responsible for the current fertiliser crisis and the resulting opposition to the Government.

“Sadly, I have something to say. Aluthgamage lied to the President, the Cabinet of Ministers, the Parliament, the consumers, the people, and the farmers. That is what put the agriculture sector in a huge crisis, which resulted in a strong opposition to the Government. The main reason for that was the behaviour and actions of Aluthgamage,” claimed Sirisena.

Responding to Sirisena, Aluthgamage claimed that Sirisena spent Rs. 3.73 billion during his tenure whilst the current President has spent only Rs. 1.2 billion in the year 2020. He also alleged that Sirisena is residing in the three houses which previously belonged to late President D.B. Wijetunga, former Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama, and current Minister of Health Keheliya Rambukwella.

Aluthgamage, who said that he had only implemented the Government’s policy with regard to fertiliser, further said that he was ready to speak about the Easter Sunday terror attacks of 21 April 2019 too. “If needed, I will speak about it too. Sirisena said that I have lied, but I didn’t lie to anyone – I only implemented the Government’s policy,” he said.