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President promises to lead SLFP through ‘clean politics’

President Maithripala Sirisena promised yesterday to lead the SLFP into victory through a campaign of ‘clean politics’. “No matter the conspiracies that were weaved to break this party apart or to stop it in its tracks, I have in the last two years turned a defeated party into one that is growing from strength to strength in the last two years,” said the President addressing the May Day rally in Getambe grounds in Kandy yesterday.

As the crowds trickled in, hampered by rain, the President was the last to address the gathering organized under the theme ‘As one fist in the right direction’.

“The march which started at 1pm from Girls’ High School, took two roads, over 6km and 6 hours to reach this ground.

This is the political might of the SLFP and UPFA,” he said, stressing on the turnout.

“We no longer have workers. People are now skilled professionals and political parties need to listen to these voices,” said the President.

As President Sirisena celebrated his 50th year in politics with the SLFP, he referred to the various challenges the party had gone through over the years and he reassured his supporters and members that he would use his vast experience to rebuild the party based on ‘clean politics’.

The SLFP May Day rally this year was plagued with the concerns of a split and SLFP members who addressed the gathering prior to the President, appealed to him to reunite the party and to have a single May Day rally next year.

“The message this May Day should be is that we all get together to further strengthen the party and not split it or form a new party,” said SLFP Vice President, Nimal Siripala de Silva as he stressed that a 2020 government would be SLFP-led.

“Those here are the true SLFPers. It is you who protect the SLFP,” said UPFA General Secretary Mahinda Amaraweera, while leader of the National Congress A.L.M. Athaullah; a constituent party of the UPFA said “today we have two SLFP rallies; one in Kandy and the other in Colombo. If we can bring these two together, we can send a signal to the UNP and make the SLFP stronger again. I trust that the President will not let the SLFP split”.

Labour and Trade Union Relations Minister W. D. John Seneviratne meanwhile appealed to the President to stop the occurrence of two May Day rallies and asked that the party be united next year.

The President in his speech, however, remarked that he had not asked anyone to either leave or not join the party.

“There is certain criticism over the changing of party organizers and they say this has led to a split. Such criticism comes from those who want to start a new political party, from those who are having a separate May Day rally and who do not support any party activity. I would like to state clearly here that I will use my experience to take the party forward no matter the challenge,” he said.

The President stressed that he did not take over the Chairmanship of the party by force, rather he was invited to take it on by the former President and the Central Committee.

He also explained that it was due to the current political journey as a unity government with the UNP that Sri Lanka was able to win over the international community and overcome its pariah status.

“Today, no country interferes with our internal affairs. And this could not have happened if the government had not changed in 2015. We no longer stand accused by the international community,” said the President.

The President who addressed concerns of natural resources and land being sold to foreign powers, assured the masses that he would not allow Sri Lankan assets to be foreign owned.

“We have sold no land to foreigners. The biggest treachery was the Port City. We renegotiated with the Chinese and turned ‘free holding’ land to ‘lease’ and changed clauses which did not suit us,” he said.

“Those who live in glass house cannot throw stones at us,” added the President.

Indigenous thinking, reconciliation and a Sri Lankan identity, said the President were ingredients needed to develop the country.

“In the last two years, we have done more for the workers’ movement than any other government. We have also now decided to solve the discrepancies in maternity leave and make it mandatory for all female workers. Earlier, it was only women in office work who enjoyed all 84 days but now it will be ensured that all female workers, in factories and shops also get the maternity leave that is mandated,” said the President.

The SLFP also read out proposals to undertake Constitutional reform with Buddhism given due prominence and all other religions are ensured equality, to introduce a new mixed electoral system and ensure the unitary state of the country while allowing the devolution of power to the periphery.