By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Q: The Maithripala-Ranil government has almost completed one year in power and looking back at the year gone by, are you satisfied with the progress that the good governance regime has made so far?
A: It is almost a year since President Maithripala Sirisena was elected as the president and we as the JVP felt that the decision taken by the people to defeat the Rajapaksa regime is a correct one. However the people opted for a change as they were fed up with the dictatorial rule of the Rajapaksa’s and wanted to change that system and restore democracy. During the past regime religious and racial instigation was done with state sponsorship.
However now with the new regime there is no racial or religious intimidation, which is a good thing. However where corruption and malpractices is concerned there is not much progress being made even under this new regime. Taking into consideration the appointing of corrupt politicians to the cabinet and where corruption is concerned, this government too is at the lowest point just like the previous regime. Even where the 19th amendment was concerned, this regime too tried all the tricks in the book to avoid it, but due to the pressure given by the people they had to do it.
When taking into account the government after August, it is very evident that they too are intent on protecting the fraudsters and the corrupt.
Q: What is your view regarding the budget?
A: What we can see clearly is that this budget too is on the same lines as the Rajapaksa regime. Looking at it from an economic point of view, it is clearly a betrayal of the people who voted for them. It is my view that whatever restrains the government is having and whatever good they are doing for the people is only because of the constant pressure that is being given by us.
Q: What do you expect from this new government in the coming year?
A: This budget itself is a good example where as this government is not made up of a clear majority. Even though the government wanted to go one way with the budget, the unions and other forces were strong enough to stop the government. It was under their pressure that the government had to concede to the demands of the people. This I see as a good thing where the government cannot do whatever it wanted. I hope in the coming year too the people’s force will be much stronger and will be able to keep this government on the right track.
Q: Do you think this government is going astray?
A: This government has turned into a group of politicians who have shared ministerial portfolios amicably. We feel that this government is getting weaker by the day. Another factor is that it is very clear that this government too wants to appoint their kith and kin and rule in the same manner as the previous regime, in spite of all the criticism they levelled, this government too is no better. But it was not only the UNP voters that helped this government win the election. During the last election over 2 million voters who voted for this regime were not UNP supporters but others who only wanted the Rajapaksa regime defeated. They were the ones who paved the way for the victory of Maithripala, but they were not those who shared the same UNP ideology. Many artists and civil societies too played a pivotal role in defeating the previous regime.
We also feel that this government’s economic strategies are totally wrong and they are trying to cut the people’s benefits. They have cropped the people’s pension too and fertiliser subsidy. The other factor is that when you look at the tax concessions that have been given in this budget it is clear that they have created a mechanism to favour their personal friends. Even the company tax has been reduced from 35% to 28% and 15%. What we ask is which company asked for this tax reduction. We clearly know that every company never shows their actual profits and even the due taxes are not paid properly. So we don’t understand why these taxes were reduced. We see that in due course like the Rajapaksa’s shared the country’s profits among their family members, this regime too is getting set to do the same with their close friends and relatives.
Q: The government promised the people many things including punishing the wrongdoers of the previous regime. However a year later we don’t see any of these perpetrators being punished or even brought to book. Why?
A: Well yes the previous regime was defeated mainly on the hope that this government will punish the perpetrators, but this has not happened. In this unity government there is a group of politicians and officials who are still protecting these perpetrators.
For example the Central Bank governor’s issue, the PM wanted to safeguard his man and Rajapaksa wanted to safeguard his man, so they both made a deal to sweep all charges against both the central bank governors and hide the corruption. We see this situation as a blatant betrayal of the people, where even the honest officers who want to expose culprits are unable to do so due to political pressure.
Q: Under this situation there are many who now feel that they should not vote for either of these parties. But why do you think people don’t consider the JVP as an alternative?
A: Well that is because people don’t vote based on who fights for their rights. This entire voting culture is based on bribes and votes being bought for personal and monitory favours. Apart from that people also have their traditional views and practices and this is probably another reason that people do not want to vote for us.
However we expect a greater response at the next LG polls. Earlier people were used to having one party rule and when they are fed up with them they vote for the other main political party. This was the tradition. However now that both major parties are ruling together in this unity government, people are getting fed up with both and this could be advantages to us and we hope that we will receive more votes at the next LG polls.
Q: With regard to the UNHRC and the undertakings by the government, do you think enough has been done to meet the deadlines before March next year?
A: The investigations have been given two years to be completed. Unlike during the last regime there is no special report that has been called by the UNHRC on Sri Lanka. Although the resolution called for four institutions to be set up for the missing persons, setting up an office for providing compensation, an office for the purpose of finding a political settlement for the Tamil issue and setting up a special court have all not yet been done. However in order to establish these offices, the government will have to get it passed in parliament through an act. Only then can we determine what the boundaries of these institutions are and what powers they will be entrusted with. However in general we are happy with what is being done.