QThere are different opinions being expressed by you and others in the Joint Opposition about the presidential candidate to be fielded next time. How will it affect the unity of the Joint Opposition at the end?
We discussed this matter. It was decided that we should not have this debate in public until we discussed it internally and arrive at a consensus. Until then, none of us should be speaking. None should be going around saying a such and such person is the candidate.
QYet, some MPs like Kumara Welgama speak about it. Isn’t it?
You cannot stop people from speaking. But it is not us. We have agreed not to speak about it.
QYou had taken up a position on the person to be chosen as the candidate. How serious are you in that position?
I am very serious. I think the winning candidate has to draw a section of the democratic forces, leftist forces, centre forces, minorities and the youth. The candidate should be able to get a combination of these votes. That is what I contemplate on. I am very serious again.
QIn case, your position is not accepted. What will you do?
We will be bound by the collective decision of the Joint Opposition. But, I will make my personal choice if I am unable to abide by the collective decision.
QWhat does it mean?
If the collective decision is to have a particular person as the candidate, I will either stay with the Joint Opposition or out of it.
QDoes it mean you will join hands with the other side?
There is no joining hands with anybody in this regard. I cannot be in the Joint Opposition without abiding by the collective decision. I will remain outside the Joint Opposition in regards to that matter only.
It is very urgent to bring about a change of government. We cannot endure any more the policies being carried out by the government. People cannot bear the high cost of living. People cannot stand and watch how the unitary state is under threat and Federalism is imposed
QOtherwise, is there any decision to join the United National Party (UNP) in such an eventuality?
(Laughs) I can only laugh at it.
QWhy is it?
The UNP is anathema for us from our young days. The UNP means imperialism, right wing, discrimination, oppression and everything that is bad in this country. The UNP is the representation of globalization and neo-liberalism. I think that is sufficient justification to see the UNP as anathema.
QHow do you look at the current status of politics in the country?
There is a serious turn of events prompting the change of political equation. The government is unable to stay together cohesively. There is no coherence within the government. There is conflict within the government. There is a serious competition between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe representing two currents of thought. It has almost reached the point of breaking up. I expect the current political situation to develop into a split within the governing coalition.
QHow soon will it happen in your view?
It is very difficult to give dates. It will happen fairly sooner. The major political events like the presidential election could begin earlier if the current President decided to contest. That is very near at hand. That is one political factor that is pushing.
The UNP has decided not to go along with the concept of common candidate any more. It will have its own candidate. The UNP has voiced more than once their intention to form its own government. Economically and financially, the country’s situation is decisively crucial. The rupee value is declining.
There is increasing debt. People’s income level is declining. The cost of living is skyrocketing. All these bring about conditions of upheaval. The government has to deliver or have a political change in order to make a new stand. All these facts put together, I think it is in the interests of the government to opt for a new political decision. What it could be is dependent on other factors. Political decisions have to be taken by the partners of the government sooner than later. The conditions are compelling. There is a serious breakdown in the government affairs. I reason out that there will be an imminent political change.
QHow certain are you of such a change?
I am fairly certain going by my political experience and ability to gauge political trends. There will be a new turn of events.
QWhat will be the new political formation in such an eventuality?
It will be the President who, in all likelihood, wants to break ranks with the unity government. The unity government does not favour him in terms of his popularity any longer. On the other hand, the unity government has an inbuilt problem about the leadership. Therefore, the President has to break up from the unity government. It means he has the opportunity of forming a new government. He calls upon a new person to be the Prime Minister and appoint the Cabinet accordingly.
The UNP has decided not to go along with the concept of common candidate any more. It will have its own candidate
QWhat is your choice of the Prime Minister in case a new government is formed?
It is the choice of the President. The President will decide with whom he will coalesce. I think the President will try out the option of having Mahinda Rajapaksa and the Joint Opposition. For that, he has to agree to appoint Mr Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. That is one option. In return, Mahinda and the Joint Opposition have to come to an arrangement with the President to make him reasonably comfortable in the aftermath.
QHow optimistic are you of making Mr Rajapaksa the Prime Minister?
There is no other option.
QIs it politically realistic because there was a lot of antagonism between the two in the past?
In politics, antagonism does not last. Only the alliances are renewed. Antagonism gives way to new alliances. The major premise is not antagonism, but the alliance.
QHave you sought the possibility of patching up differences between the two?
I cannot answer you directly. I can only say that I have found out his mind (the President’s mind) to be favouring a possible agreement with Mahinda. I have read his mind.
QBut, some people say nobody can read the President’ mind accurately. How certain are you of your reading of his mind then?
I may be wrong. I cannot be certain that I am correct. But, one has to arrive at some conclusion in politics in making the next move. You cannot keep everything in uncertainty.
QIf this arrangement is worked out, what will be the arrangement for the Presidential Elections?
If this arrangement works out, there will be no presidential election.
I can only say that I have found out his mind (the President’s mind) to be favouring a possible agreement with Mahinda.
I have read his mind
QWhat does it mean?
It means that Mahinda as the Prime Minister will muster the support of two –thirds with the concurrence of the President to amend the Constitution. That is to avoid a Presidential Election. That is to elect the President by an internal arrangement in Parliament.
Q:Are you favouring such a move rather than conducting the Presidential Elections?
We want to do away with the presidential system. We can take this opportunity for it.
QIs your idea gaining ground in the Joint Opposition?
The leftist parties have always maintained this position in the Joint Opposition. We want a parliamentary system.
QHow are you getting ready for the September 5th protest?
That is an important day. After we got a popular victory on February 10, 2018, it has had its political effects everywhere. It dawned on everyone that the Joint Opposition which contested under ‘lotus bud symbol’ is the major political force. Everybody was shockingly awakened to this reality. It had its repercussions within Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). It resulted in a section of the SLFP breaking up from the government. It caused major trouble within the UNP. We have 70 members in Parliament now. We are the main opposition. But, we are not recognized. We are second only to the UNP in terms of the number of MPs. Where do we go from here?
September 5 is an important day for us. It will be a major, unprecedented political action of mass intervention. People will gather in large numbers and fill the space in Colombo. It will bring the activities of Colombo to a halt. Of course, the city will become prepared for it in advance.
It is very urgent to bring about a change of government. We cannot endure any more the policies being carried out by the government. People cannot bear the high cost of living. People cannot stand and watch how the unitary state is under threat and Federalism is imposed. Above, we have the question of our national assets being alienated. The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Singapore is a classic case in point.
There is a serious breakdown in the government affairs. I reason out that there will be an imminent political change
QAre you for a unitary state now?
I am for a Unitary State with provincial powers. It can be State run by the Provincial Councils but with unitary characters.