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Saturday, 4 September 2010

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People-centred Constitution - President

Text of the speech by President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the 59th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party held at Temple Trees on September 2

Today, we are not celebrating the usual anniversary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. When considering the establishment of the Party in September 1951, we have been able to build a strong and an outstanding Party to celebrate its 59th Anniversary today. Thus, we need to recall the history at a time when our Party is at its greatest epoch.


President Mahinda Rajapaksa addressing the 59th anniversary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party at Temple Trees on September 2. Picture by Sudath Silva

The Working Committee of the United National Party rejected the proposals agreed upon during the Sinhala Mahasabha Meeting in Madampe in 1951. The Chairman of the Sinhala Mahasabha was S W R D Bandaranaike. On July 11, 1951 Bandaranaike reminded about these proposals to Dudley Senanayake who was the leader of the UNP.

Yet, Dudley Senanayake did not accept the proposals of the Sinhala Mahasabha. Therefore, Bandaranaike decided to leave the UNP.

This was not a preplanned conspiracy to leave the UNP. Some Members of Parliament were among those who comprised the Sinhala Mahasabha. Even the MPs who voted for the proposals did not leave with Bandaranaike. Not even the friends and relations of Bandaranaike accompanied him. But, photographic evidence shows that my father worked with good understanding with Bandaranaike.

Press Bill

In 1952, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party contested for the elections first time after its establishment in September 1951. Eight among the then Members of Parliament contested under the Party. They were S W R D Bandaranaike from Attanagalla, George R De Silva from Colombo North, D S Gunasekara from Udugama, Thamara K Ilangaratna from Kandy, A P Jayasooriya from Horana, Jayaweera Kuruppu from Balangoda, H Sri Nissanka from Kurunegala and D A Rajapaksa from Beliatta.

Among them, only two persons were able to enter Parliament in 1952. They were the founder of the Party S W R D Bandaranaike and D A Rajapaksa of Beliatta.

During 1956 election the Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) and Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) united and defeated the United National Party (UNP) for the first time in the history of this country. Since then the UNP and SLFP came to power in turn, in alternative elections.

Never in history did our party conspire to topple a government. There were always conspiracies against the regime of Sri Lanka Freedom Party even though the party did not conspire against any element. Regime of Sri Lanka Freedom Party had faced conspiracies such as, Press Bill in 1964 and military conspiracy against the government in 1962. Even today these kinds of conspiracies exist against the regime of Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

Even at today the children of those people, who tried to change the Government of Sirimavo Bandaranaike with the implementation of Press Bill in 1964, are trying to change the present government as well. I believe that we have to be awake to these realities.

As a political party we suffered worse defeat in 1977. Civic rights of Sirimavo Bandaranaike also abolished. In the past we were not able to bring thousands of people to the streets. It was after 1977 that our Party had to face such major struggles.

Great political party

From the leader downwards, we were attacked. Houses were burnt down. Subsequent to 1977, vicious characteristics were incorporated to the history of the Sri Lankan politics. Election violations and fraudulent voting systems were introduced to this country.

We all remember that during the Mulkirigala by election, how we as a Party faced the thuggery of those from the underworld transported from Colombo and also suffered imprisonment.

When the party office was abandoned, when 60,000 innocent youth were killed we were able to organized the longest Pada Yatra in Sri Lanka, Janagosha and human chains and reorganize the party. We withstood all pressures for 17 years and stayed firmly without leaving the Party. I would like to say modestly that the strength thus gained has helped immensely in the fight to unite the Nation.

In 2004, when we were contesting for the General Election, it is not wrong to say that there was no party called Sri Lanka Freedom Party. What is the result of that? Number of our MPs went down to 57.

That is the fate of this great political party when some are working on their personal agendas.

A party should not work according to private agendas. It has to be strong as a party. We must be ready to forge ahead with the policies of the party and with the leadership of the party.

The situation in the country was quite unfortunate when I was contesting for the Presidential Election in 2005. For the first time in its history, not even a single leaflet was distributed by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party in support of its candidate. Our Secretary General Minister Maithreepala still reminds of that. When we took the reins of the government what we had was a Government party which cannot even elect a Speaker. That was the reality.

Strongest government

Everyone say the biggest shock is the way we defeated the most ruthless terrorist organization in the world. It is also said that it was not possible to set up a government with a 2/3rds majority under this Constitution. Today this party has obtained two third majority and formed the strongest government in Asia.

Constitutional experts thought it is not even possible to have a clear majority under the present Constitution. But by strengthening the party, we have obtained two third majority. The constitution should not remain unchanged until the sun and moon exist. The time has come for us to change these things.

If we cannot meet the aspirations of the people through this Constitution, it is our responsibility to obtain required strength to form a stable government.

Sri Lanka Freedom Party has given leadership to the people of this country always. You are aware what has happened in the past. What has happened to the national assets built up during late Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s time? They were sold for despicable prices in a shameful manner by the UNP regime. Separatist sentiments were spread clinching into NGO ideologies.

Giant leap forward

There were people among us who wanted the Party to distance from sentiments such as this is our country, our nation or our religion.

But all these were changed by the Mahinda Chintana. Sri Lanka Freedom Party succeeded in giving the nation a Sri Lankan identity. We have joined with the other progressive forces and instilled a sense of anti-imperialism, courage, nationalism and values in the party while getting all races to align with it. There was a time when we did not have a Tamil leader in the party.

Today, the Tamil and Muslim leaders are recognizing our party rallying around it in their areas. It is not possible for one particular group to build a party. All communities should join.

They should come to our party from various parties. New young faces should come to our party. Then only the party will be modernized and built strongly. During the last six years we were able to secure a two third majority for the government led by the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

As a nation, Sri Lanka has taken a giant leap forward. This Motherland has taken a giant leap forward. Now the time has come for the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to rise as a giant.

Left parties

But we cannot do the politics of this country alone. Left parties and various progressive political groups always joined with us. We should learn to work with them in co-existence. We should never try to belittle the small political parties thinking that now we are the strongest political party in Sri Lanka.

We have brought before the people, a new Constitution. It is a people-centric Constitution. This constitution is for the development of the country. This is not to extend my Presidential term. That is wrong. It is an opportunity to contest an election.

The 92nd paragraph outlines those ineligible to contest. They are mental patients, persons guilty of bribery or bankrupt. They are not eligible. In this category, those who were elected twice cannot contest. The people will decide. The people will choose who should be elected.

Future generation

Instead of the legislature outside the Parliament, this will include the Speaker, Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition and two from Tamil and Muslim representatives, not representing ethnicities of the first three. The people will give power to the Parliament. The Parliament is the highest body. You need to be aware that the tragedy projected here is utterly false. The people need to be made aware.

We have united this country. Now my task is to take it towards prosperity. The Sri Lanka Freedom Party must strongly contribute in this journey.

This is what we expect of you. Let us develop this nation reviving the villages and strengthening our Party. We have a duty towards our future generations and our unborn children, to develop this country and hand it over to them. Let us fulfill this task. We need your contribution and commitment towards this end.

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