Political Asylum Seekers

(13.09.2014 – Email)

Responding to a statement made by UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera challenging another UNP MP Sajith Premadasa to show his work, the latter has called the former ‘a Political Asylum Seeker’.

In a lengthy statement, as appeared in ‘Ceylon Today’ dated 12 September 2014, Sajith recalled that it was Mangala who distorted the photograph of Ranil Wickramasinghe to called the latter ‘Mr Bean’ when the UNP leader contested the presidential election in 1999, describing how Mangala attempted to destroy UNP until President Mahinda Rajapaksa sacked him from the cabinet comparing how Premadasa, including his father, worked for the UNP.

Political Asylum Seekers are not new to the ordinary voters of the country. After the formation of the SLFP, by a breakaway group from UNP led by S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, D. A. Rajapaksa and H.Sri Nissanka, in 1951, we have witnessed many politicians including key figures seeking asylum either from SLFP or from UNP.

We remember how several SLFP parliamentarians led by C.P. de Silva, former deputy leader of SLFP including Mahanama Samaraweera, father of Mangala Samaraweera, sought political asylum after voting against their own government in 1964 and some of them managed to acquire refugee status later within the UNP government under leadership of Dudley Senanayake .  While C. P. de Silva (some called him “ Pihi Silva” after Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike accused C. P for ‘stabbing behind’)  had his own political reasons to seek asylum, due to leadership issues, there were widely spread rumours  that some of the parliamentarians who left the governing party at that crucial stage  had economic benefits too for their motive since none of them, other than C.P. de Silva, were re-elected as MPs when the general election was conducted immediately after the dissolution of the parliament.

Similarly we have witnessed politicians, in lager groups, seeking asylum either with the Chandrika / Mahinda led SLFP regimes or with the Ranil led UNP regime since 1993.

Anura Bandaranaike, another key figure of the SLFP sought political asylum with the UNP in 1993 after he was suspended from his family’s party by his mother Mrs Sirimavo Bandarnaike.  He returned to his original party in 2001 and again crossed over to the opposition benches in 2007.

Another notable political asylum seeker was Ronny de Mel. ‘Ronny Panni’ was a very common reporting in media during his time in politics and by now he must have beaten all the records made by other politicians who made similar political moves since independence.

Unlike most of the politicians today, both Anura Bandaranaike and Ronny de Mel sought political asylums not for economic reasons, but for their political survival.

Eight Parliamentarians including key Ministers of the SLFP led Chandrika Kumarthunga Government,  S. B. Dissanayake and  G. L. Peiris crossed over to the UNP which was a crucial factor for the down fall of PA government in 2001. On an another large scale move, eighteen Parliamentarians from UNP including its deputy leader Karu Jayasuriya crossed over to SLFP led Mahinda Rajapaksa government in 2007.

The list goes on and there is no need to identify the current political asylum seekers in both sides, since ordinary people of this generation are well aware of those politicians and their motives.

Similar to the so-called asylum seekers reaching Australia or any other country in the West due to economic reasons, expecting healthy and wealthy life styles, there are political asylum seekers leaving one party and moving into the other party due to similar reasons expecting healthy and wealthy life styles, not only for their own benefit, but for the benefit of the entire family strings and for their generations to come.

S. Akurugoda

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