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All SLFP JO MPs to quit from organiser ranks

All Joint Opposition MPs attached to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) will step down from their district and electoral organiser ranks within the next few days, MP Keheliya Rumbukwella said.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Rambukwella said the resignation letters would be sent to the Party Leadership shortly.MPs Dullas Alahapperuma and Bandula Gunawardena announced their decisions to resign from organiser posts, stating that the resignation letters would be sent to President Maithripala Sirisena today.

Rambukwella said the rest of the JO members would also follow the same line.

SLFP MPs Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Kumara Welgama, Dr. Ramesh Pathirana, Mohan de Silva, Lohan Ratwatte, Johnston Fernando, Vidura Wickremanayake, Ranjith de Zoysa and Janaka Wakkumbura will resign from district and electoral organiser ranks in the coming few days.

This decision comes in the wake of President Maithripala Sirisena appointing 40 new district and electoral organiders as a part of the restructuring process of the party. With the new appointments seven JO MPs including Keheliya Rambukwella, Gamini Lokuge, Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, C.B. Rathnayake, Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Rohitha Abeygunawardena and Uditha Lokubandara were stripped off their positions.

At the same time, the JO sent a letter to Speaker Karu Jayasuriya last week asking to recognise them as Independent MPs in the Opposition. Rambukwella said all 51 JO MPs signed this letter.

He said the JO meeting convened today would take several crucial decisions including that of their decision to be independent MPs in Parliament. Asked whether they would also claim for the post of Opposition Leader, the MP said it would also be discussed but added the JO should win their due rights and privileges in Parliament before claiming on that position.

Commenting on this development, Finance State Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena said it exposes the JO MPs anxieties that they would be the next to be removed. “They are uncertain about their positions as they know their wrongful conduct. Their resignations will have no effect to the Party. The Party Leadership will appoint new organisers and take the party forward with a new look,” he said. The state minister also said none of the SLFP members in government ranks would join with the JO group. “All those speculations in that regard were untrue,” he said.

Meanwhile, MP Chamal Rajapaksa said that he has not signed the letter by the JO handed over to the Speaker asking to be recognised as independent MPs.

He also said that his participation to the JO meeting today was unsure.

“I have got another meeting at the Speaker’s residence. I will attend it first and then decide on the JO meeting,” he said.

Asked about his participation at the 65th SLFP Convention in Kurunegala, MP Rajapaksa said he would decide it after having a round of talks with the SLFPers in his electorate. “I will not go by the decisions made by any other group. My decision will be made after discussing with the members of SLFP branches in my area and I hope to meet them shortly,” he said.

Commenting over the JO’s decision to resign from electoral and district organiser posts, MP Rajapaksa said it is better if both sides of the division in the SLFP be patient and flexible at this time as the party is undergoing a turbulent time.

“I remember when former Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike was leading the party, Philip Gunawardena tried to break away with a group. Bandaranaike at that time personally talked to each member in the rebel group and asked them not to leave the party. These are past experiences which will be useful in dealing with the present situation. Threatening and intimidating would make the matters worse,” he said.