Q How about your group’s preparation for the forthcoming Provincial Council polls?
Our group of 15 MPs minus one from the original 16, who quit the ‘Yahapalana Government’ on April 11, are now working hard to ensure the victory of the joint opposition at the forthcoming PC, Presidential and Parliamentary polls. None of us have obtained the SLPP membership but remain as a separate SLFP group of the JO. Many other SLFP members who crossed over to the JO from the government before us are not members of Pohottuwa either.
Question of joining Pohottuwa is not vital under the prevailing political situation and answer to your question on our preparation for the three polls is simple. From day one since we joined the JO we have worked hard to bring all anti UNP forces under one roof and only that strategy would bring an absolute victory for the JO, not only at the PC polls but at the Presidential and Parliamentary polls that would follow. In short, all progressive, anti capitalist and anti imperialist forces that would stand against the UNP must be formed as a formidable front under ex-President Mahinda Rajapaksa to give a forceful fight to the UNP at the three polls.
Filing charges against a person in a court of law and finding him guilty are two different matters. But I can assure you that the SLFP or the SLPP would not give nominations to any of the members if convicted in a court of law for any offense
Q A number of pohottuwa (SLPP) and SLFP members have been charged in various courts on allegations of corruption, murder, embezzlement and several other crimes. At this backdrop, are you still going to form the next government with them?
Filing charges against a person in a court of law and finding him guilty are two different matters. But I can assure you that the SLFP or the SLPP would not give nominations to any of the members if convicted in a court of law for any offence. I would like to draw your attention to the presumption that one is considered ‘innocent until proven guilty’ well known in the legal parlance. Besides, you must not forget that a majority of cases filed against members of the JO and some officials served under the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime are politically motivated.
However, I agree that there were mistakes and blunders committed by the previous government. We would definitely rectify those omissions and commissions in a government formed under MR after the next Parliamentary polls and give real meaning to the concept of good governance. I also would like to tell you that a new SLFP government under MR will be a new bottle with new wine and new taste. Not old wine in a new bottle because we have learnt much from our past mistakes.
However, I agree that there were mistakes and blunders committed by the previous government. We would definitely rectify those omissions and commissions in a government formed under Mahinda after the next Parliamentary polls and give real meaning to the concept of good governance
Q But Shakespeare has famously said ‘Caesar’s wife (must not only be above any allegations but) must be above suspicion’ in ‘Julius Caesar’. Don’t you think this applies to public figures and politicians on the whole?
As I told you earlier, many of the court cases against SLFP or SLPP members are the work of the UNP who is on power. Almost all the cases are selective and individual targeted. They have not been charged on bona-fide intentions but on political victimization.
What action the government has taken to bring the biggest fraudster in history and first accused in the Central Bank bond scam, Arjuna Mahendran even after the Interpol issued a red warrant on him? How many times the Prime Minister has said in Parliament that he would take the responsibility to bring him back? You can check the Handsard for this. At the same time I admit that we have bad eggs among us and I never say that all our members are clean and lily-white.
Q The PC polls expected in early 2019, Presidential and Parliamentary polls that would follow, will be a bitter fight between the three main political parties, the UNP, SLFP and the SLPP. What are the plans in store to win these elections?
Answer is simple. I don’t think the JO or the SLPP will have a fight at hand at all in the three elections. But the UNP under Ranil will have a bitter fight with us, no doubt. I am confident that the SLFP will not contest separately. If the SLFP did not join the JO and contested separately, it will also be a bitter fight for it. Most probably, that will also be the end of SLFP.
What is the current thinking of voters today? At the February local government polls, the SLPP which is as a young as a baby drew 49,41,952 votes out of a total valid votes of 123,72,816 recording 44.65%. The UNP in a distanced second got 36,12,259 at 32.63% while the UPFA got 491,835 votes at 8.44% of the total valid votes while the SLFP was able to woo only a poor and miserable 949,821 votes at 4.44% of total valid votes. When you go through these numbers the results in future polls are very clear. What would be the scenario if and when the SLFP or the UPFA contests separately and what would be the situation if both parties joined the JO. The SLPP supported by the JO needs only another 6% to record an absolute majority in Presidential and Parliamentary elections and we can reach that target even without the SLFP or the UPFA with the support of minority parties. Another important factor is that the socio-economic and political tide has swept much in favour of the SLPP and against the government since February.
However, if there is going to be a joint front comprising the JO-led SLPP, SLFP and UPFA against the UNP, the victory to our camp would be a Grand Slam. This is a reality and not a possibility and I believe and pray that the SLFP hierarchy would give a deep thought to this. Otherwise, their political future is doomed.
A new SLFP government under Mahinda will be a new bottle with new wine and new taste. Not old wine in a new bottle because we have learnt much from our past mistakes
Q Is any rapprochement possible between the UNP and SLFP after the PC polls to set up administrations in local government bodies as it is extremely doubtful that a single party would be able to secure a majority in many of the provincial councils...
We don’t mind, President Maithripala Sirisena remains as the President further but not backed by the UNP. We don’t expect from President Sirisena to put the signal to the left and turn to the right as happened in the last three years. The only way out for us from this political imbroglio is to form a formidable and strong political front led and blessed by MR with all progressive forces and like minded minority parties that include the MEP led by Dinesh Gunawardana, NFF led by Wimal Weerawansa, DLF led by Vasudeva Nanayakkara, PHU led by Udaya Gammanpila and all Muslim and Tamil parties led by Rauff Hakeem,Arumugan Thondaman, Rishad Bathiudeen, Mano Ganeshan,Palany Digambaram,Douglas Devananda and many others. The only exception is Prof. G.L.Peiris who is not an SLFP member.
Q The split among many factions within the SLFP and the SLPP has come to a peak now. This will affect badly on the party at future polls, no doubt. How are you going to tackle this major issue?
Yes, my simple answer to this is whoever is to become President or what ever party or front to form the government in future, the blessings and support of MR is extremely vital and decisive. There will be no president or a government without his support and blessings. In the circumstances, it is up to the SLFP and the UPFA and minority parties to decide with whom they join at the forthcoming polls. It is not a problem for the JO or the SLPP.
Q Soon after the success of the SLPP at the Local Government polls, the undisputed candidate of the JO or the SLPP was Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. The situation is much different now as names of Dinesh, Kumara, Chamal and even of Kumara have been mentioned by various dissenting members of the JO. So, who will be the JO candidate?
My personal view is that Gota has himself got undermined his position as a possible Presidential candidate by taking the extremist line of people like Kamal Gunaratne and Sarath Weerasekara. If he expects the support of minority parties for his victory he must get distanced himself from former Military officers who are famous for their anti minority ideology. It Gota’s responsibility to convince the masses that he is a candidate representing all communities that include Sinhala Buddhists, Tamils, Muslim, Upcountry Tamils, Malays and Burgers could vote for him. My view is that Chamal Rajapksa is the ideal candidate with the blessings and whole- hearted support of MR. If any candidate thinks he/she could achieve victory only with Sinhala Buddhist votes, it is a mistake.
What ever said and done, I would like to see MR as the PM and someone out of the Rajapaksa family as the President. It will relieve us from many issues that may crop up in the local and international forums. Meanwhile, the JO will take a decision on its Presidential candidate when the elections are announced by the Elections Commission.
Q Will there be Constitutional implications if and when MR becomes PM?
I think the Supreme Court must give an interpretation to this as there is a possibility that MR could become Executive President for a third time (which will be a violation of the Constitution) if Presidency becomes vacant while he remains as the PM. The Constitution has not drawn its attention to this possibility and as such needs an interpretation.
We want MR as PM and Maithripala as President to run a most democratic and people friendly administration after 2020.
I support a probe on NYT exposure on Mahinda if Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance and Media Minister Mangala Smaraweera publicly say that Trump was wrong when he castigated CNN and NYT as fake and therefore no one can take the US media as the cardinal truth
Q Though you are a member of the SLFP and do politics under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, you virtually stand with the former President during each and every national issue. How and why?
I don’t think MR will agree with me on power devolution. I have campaigned for 13+ and I will continue to do it in future too. Whether we like or not we must accept that Tamils have genuine grievances. I stand with him because he has given the leadership to the left leaning JO though he will not agree with my 13+ stand. I have remained in my entire political carrier as a politician with leftist ideals and policies. Besides, MR is the most marketable politician in the country right now.
Don’t forget Ranil won the general election in 2002 when Chandrika Kumaratunga was the Executive President with full powers. Any future amalgamation between the SLFP and the SLPP must yield us a win-win situation between these two.
Q How do you see the exposure of the New York Times which alleged that the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) had funded MR’s Presidential Polls campaign in 2015?
President Donald Trump is on records saying that the NYT is fake. So why should we quote a fake newspaper to prove a point?
I support a probe on NYT allegations if PM Ranil Wickremesinghe and Finance and Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera publicly say that Trump is wrong when he accused CNN and NYT as fake, and therefore, no one can take the US media as cardinal truth.
Q There are media reports that a new General Secretary would be chosen at the next UPFA General Meeting and a new SLFP General Secretary at the next SLFP convention in early September. Are these true?
Yes, not only a new General Secretary to the SLFP but a new secretary to the UPFA would be elected shortly as Duminda Dissanayake and Mahinda Amaraweera take decisions from Sirikotha. We don’t want them to wash dirty linen of the UNP and therefore, there will be two new General Secretaries for both parties. When Minister Mahinda Amaraweera talks I feel like his words are coming from Mangala Samaraweera’s mouth.
If he (Duminda) leaves the ‘Yahapalana Government’ I would be the first person to accept him to the JO with both hands, give a big hug and a kiss to his both cheeks
Q It seems that the euphoria the SLPP and the JO generated among their supporters with the success of the local government polls has now been evaporated. Do you agree?
No, I don’t agree. On January 8, 2015, people voted en-mass in favour of President Sirisena and in August that year gave a majority of parliament seats to the UNP as their list of pledges were long and attractive. None of these pledges have been fulfilled in the past three years and the voters displayed their resentment in a big way at the local government polls in February this year.
I don’t think mindset against the government and the UNP have changed. That is why we ask the government to hold PC polls as early as possible.
Q What is this love – hate relationship between you and your erstwhile friend, Minister Duminda Dissanayaka?
In fact, I love him and adore him. He has a future in Sri Lanka’s politics. He and I are buddies from our childhood and I have a great respect for his father, late Berty Premalal Dissanayaka whom I consider as one of my political gurus. His family or his residence in Anuradhapura is very familiar place to me. When we had a quarrel as children, Mr. Dissanayaka stood by me and advised both of us. He was an SLFP colossus in Rajarata and did much for the people of Rajarata while fighting with politicians like Adikari and Mahindasoma. So, serving in a UNP led coalition government is a wrong decision taken by Duminda.
I appeal to Duminda, treating him as my younger brother, please come out of the government, as it is not your place. You have a great future in the SLFP and don’t get ruined your place in the party. If he leaves the ‘Yahapalana Government’ I would be the first person to accept him to the JO with both hands, with a big hug and a kiss to his both cheeks.
If there is going to be a joint front comprising the JO led SLPP, SLFP and UPFA against the UNP the victory to our camp would be a Grand Slam. This is a reality and not a possibility and I believe and pray that the SLFP hierarchy would give deep thought to this. Otherwise, their political future is doomed
I also admit that Mr. Dissanayaka was treated badly by the last regime and he died with a broken heart. He was not appointed as the Chief Minister after the PC polls in September 2012 as he came second in the voting list. But the MR government chose to appoint candidates who elected with second best votes in other provinces as the CM. This should not have happened in the first place because Mr. Dissanayaka had sacrificed his entire life for the SLFP.
Q Finally, the overall assessment among politicians of the divide, among the media and the public is that the ‘Janabalaya Colombata’ protest on last Wednesday was not successful as the JO’s protest held at the Galle Face Green on May Day, 2017. Your comments?
Only the media and the UNP say that the ‘Janabalaya Colombata’ was a flop. Basil Rajapaksa, who organized the May Day Rally of the SLPP in 2017 at the Galle Face Green is a man of action.
What happened on last Wednesday (5), was that the protesters did not converge at a specified place like Galle Face as they came from all parts of the country through five different highways to Colombo.
Therefore, their gathering in Colombo did not make a big impact as they were spread all over Colombo. I must remind you that they met their main objective of making Colombo standstill.