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Tangalla triumphs over Attanagalla

Partymen surround President Mahinda Rajapakse after his appointment as the SLFP leader. Pic by Sudath Silva

President Mahinda Rajapakse Wednesday emphasised that the decision to amend the SLFP Constitution, thereby paving the way for him to take over the leadership, was not a decision against his predecessor Chandrika Kumaratunga. He declared that this was the second mandate he received to defeat terrorism.

The change of SLFP leadership takes place in the backdrop of the LTTE stepping up attacks, resulting in considerable losses of men and material on both sides.

The Amendments would automatically make the President the leader of the party. The party also created posts for four senior Vice Presidents, 10 Vice Presidents, General Secretary, National organizer, eight deputy Secretaries and Treasurer

Addressing the SLFP executive committee, at the auditorium of the Petroleum Corporation, adjoining Temple Trees, after the executive committee ratified a Central Committee decision, taken on the previous day, Rajapakse acknowledged that the change of leadership coincided with Kumaratunga’s birthday. "We never planned to effect the leadership change on her birthday," he said. The President expressed the belief that the executive committee members would not believe that the party arranged the take-over process to coincide Kumaratunga’s birthday. He urged party seniors not to believe in UNP propaganda. He cautioned the party against what he termed as political dead ropes given by the UNP.

Ministers Jeyaraj Fernandopulle, Anura Bandaranaike and SLFP Treasurer Mangala Samaraweera were notable absentees.

Recalling the then party leader Sirimavo Bandaranaike giving him the responsibility of the Beliatta electorate, Rajapakse reiterated his commitment to party and the Bandaranaikes. He claimed that he hesitated to take over the leadership due to his loyalty to the Bandaranaikes. "We will not forget their sacrifices. Prime Minister Bandaranaike, Madam Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Madam Chandrika Kumaratunga courageously led the party," he said. He emphasized Chandrika Kumaratunga’s role in reviving the party ultimately leading to their return to power in August 1994. "Had it not been for the perseverance of Kumaratunga in 1994, the party could not have been extricated out of the quagmire it was in, since 1977."

Rajapakse said that the Amendment was meant to strengthen the party thereby paving the way for a 50-year coalition rule. The President pointed out the absurdity in not having the party under his control even after securing the presidency. "There were practical difficulties," he said, adding, "you would face the same problem if I held on to the post after the end of my tenure as the President. Think about that." Rajapakse assured that he would quit the leadership of the party simultaneously with leaving the presidency. He also assured that the competent and honest people would always be able to secure any post in the party.

Claiming that he was troubled by the new responsibility, Rajapakse acknowledged that the change would have troubled Messrs Anura Bandaranaike, Maithripala Sirisena and Ratnasiri Wickremanayake.

Island by Shamindra Ferdinando and Franklin R. Satyapalan

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June 29, 2006 - Posted by | Media Journalism, News, News and politics, Press Release, South Asia, World News

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