COLOMBO: Playing upon the fears of the Sinhalese-Buddhist majority, who are the main prop of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), a pro-Maithripala Sirisena pamphlet warns SLFP members that unless they unite under Sirisena, Sri Lanka will not be able to face the challenges thrown by the West in the form of economic sanctions and the setting up of an International War Crimes Tribunal to try members of the Lankan armed forces.
The pamphlet, which the party apparatchiks do not want to own because of its critical remarks on former President and party chairman Mahinda Rajapaksa, warns that the US and the UN are gunning for Lanka’s war heroes and armed forces members.
“An International War Crimes Tribunal is in the offing. Economic sanctions are on the horizon. This is the biggest danger facing the country,” it says.
Calling for unity in SLFP and also cooperation with the United National Party (UNP) with which Sirisena is in alliance, the pamphlet says: “In the face of this challenge we have no option but to leave aside all differences and unite. The Geneva (UN Human Rights Commission) report is to be released in September. If Maithripala Sirisena has both main political parties with him, he can ask the USA, the UN and India to allow us to settle our own problems. That is the only way to save our war heroes.”
Justifying Sirisena’ policy of extending a hand of friendship to the US, the West and India, the pamphlet says that by befriending their rivals (China) the government of Mahinda Rajapaksa had alienated them, forgetting their value for Lanka.
“India helped us during the war and we gave them various undertakings but these were forgotten after the war. India fell out with us. The USA and Europe also fell out with us. Instead of understanding that India is our neighbor and the West the destination of most of our exports, we got close to their rivals. Non-alignment was completely forgotten,” the pamphlet recalls.
But Sirisena turned the situation around when he assumed charge as President, it says.
“He was able to postpone the release of the UNHRC Commission of Inquiry Report. If it came out (in March as scheduled) some of our people could have faced war crimes charges and we may have been deprived of the Western markets due to sanctions. Sirisena has been able to rebuild relations with India and the West and is also keeping China on board.”
The pamphlet promises that Sirisena will not “betray” the Lankan armed forces or allow the division of the country. He will put an end to the war crimes problem through an “internal solution”, it says. But to ensure protection of the forces and prevent the division of the country, there is a need to have a “national government of both the national political parties” (meaning the SLFP and UNP).
Justifying Sirisena’s close collaborative relationship with the UNP, the pamphlet points out that that the UNP was the “main force” that made him the President in the January 8 Presidential election. So he made UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister and others were given ministerial portfolios. “That was his duty.”
However, the pamphlet does not envisage the SLFP and the UNP fighting the coming parliamentary elections together. Using statistics, it argues that a united SLFP can defeat the UNP and emerge as the single largest party.
It says that in the last Presidential election, Sirisena had brought in 12 to 14 lakh votes which the UNP could not have got for him. In the next election, he will bring to the SLFP, thousands of Muslim and Tamil voters who Rajapaksa had alienated. In the last Presidential election, Rajapaksa got only 58,000 Muslim votes, while Sirisena can get 200,000. Only 20 percent of the Tamils voted for Rajapaksa. Under Sirisena, the SLFP will get at least 40 percent of their votes . Rajapaksa got 29 percent of the Catholic votes. This can be increased to 40 percent with Sirisena at the head of the SLFP.
“Sirisena has brought about a paradigm shift in the character of the SLFP. It is not only the party of the Sinhala majority, but of the Muslims, Tamils, Burghers, Malays and others as well,” the pamphlet says.
An election is in the offing, it says, and appeals to party members to stay put, show restraint, and abide by the directions of party leaders for the sake of the protection of the party and country.