“We have received information that government will go for a referendum by January or February next year to pass a new Constitution beneficial to leaders such as R. Sampanthan of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The Joint Opposition challenges the government to go for a referendum and they will defeat the new Constitution with the support of the people.” Leader of the National Freedom Front (NFF) MP Wimal Weerawansa said in an interview with Ceylon Today.
?: Where does the Joint Opposition stand after the damning statement about removing temples in the North by Northern Provincial Council Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran?
A: Considering the past, racism in the North and East was created by the terrorists named the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) was responsible for creating separatism in the North and East.
However, it is different because now Wigneswaran is the person who is spreading racism in the North and East.
And the government shows they do not support racism but they are with the impartial group in the North and East, this is the main reason for Wigneswaran’s behaviour.
In my opinion this is not something the government was not aware of before he made the statement but the Joint Opposition (JO) will not allow Wigneswaran to stoke racism in this country at any cost and we are ready to take every action against such activities.
?: How does the JO want the government to react to this incident?
A: The government treats one group in a humble way while handling the other team cruelly. During the Pada Yatra many people tried to go to courts against the JO in order to stop the rally, but no one tried to stop Wigneswaran’s rally organized in Jaffna. The government appreciates the work they do in Jaffna.
According to the Constitution, the government cannot support racism or separatism, but Wigneswaran said Buddha statues and temples should be removed from the North. This is a major threat to religion. He also said the North and East should be united and Sinhalese should not occupy any lands in the North.
People in Sri Lanka have the right to settle down anywhere they want, but Wigneswaran is trying to take away that right.
It is very disappointing to see the government not taking any serious action against him.
The government has removed the Army bases in the North and is going after the intelligence units. An Office of Missing Persons has been set up to hunt down members of the armed forces who fought valiantly against the terrorists.
Therefore, it is very clear that the government and the TNA have made an agreement..
?: Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is scheduled to make a statement on Wigneswaran‘s EzhugaThamil speech. Do you think he will act seriously on this matter?
A: Nobody cares about Prime Minister Wickremesinghe’s statements because he has made 100 statements during the 100-Day Programme. We do not think that his statement will have any effect on this matter.
?: Wigneswaran denied that he made such a statement at the rally. Then why is the JO making such a big issue out of it?
A: If Wigneswaran claims that he did not make such a statement, he has to make an official statement and tell the people he is the Northern Province Chief Minister and he has the right to make such a statement.
Up to date he has not made any statement in writing.
?: The Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiriella said the JO is trying to make a big issue out of a small incident. What is your reaction?
A: For people like Kiriella these are small issues. But in the future if Tamil children wear a chain with a cyanide capsule, he will not take it as a serious issue.
We are trying to show the people the danger that can arise from the statement made by Wigneswaran.
We do not want to create racism in the country, but to prevent it from raising its ugly head.
?: What sort of action the JO is planning to take in this regard?
A: The most effective action we plan to take against Wigneswaran is informing the people about the impending threat to the country. Some people might look at it in a positive way while others will view it in a negative manner.
?: After the Value Added Tax (VAT) Amendment Bill was presented in Parliament for the second time, JO pointed out some faults in it. Are you happy with the amended VAT Bill?
A: To be honest, I have never seen a government with such poor management skills like the present government.
Last year the government brought a Budget and it was amended twice. A 15 per cent VAT on goods and services was added to the Budget.
However, after the first VAT Amendment Bill was presented in Parliament we brought it before the Supreme Court and it gave a verdict to change the VAT Amendment Bill.
The government is once again presenting the VAT Amendment Bill which was printed on 9 September, but the Cabinet meeting was held on 12 September.
The government once again has gone against the law. When we raise this issue in Parliament they bring in counter arguments.
The government has not even thought of presenting a Budget. We will have go on debating until the end of December to prepare a Budget.
?: What are the faults you see in the VAT Amendment Bill?
A; There are two dates mentioned in the VAT Amendment Bill. The VAT Amendment Bill should be sent to the Cabinet for amendments. The present VAT Amendment Bill has not been approved by the Cabinet.
In the VAT Amendment Bill it was clearly mentioned that it was printed on 9 September and issued on 12 September. This is a big fraud.
?: What action will the JO will take against it?
A: MP Bandula Gunawardena will file a petition in the Supreme Court on the VAT Amendment Bill.
Outside Parliament we will agitate against the VAT Amendment Bill because it affects the people.
?: The government says that the reason to increase VAT is to pay off the loans raised by the previous regime. Is this correct?
A: In 2015 the government did not plan any new development projects and after a year the local debt burden has been increased by 12 per cent. The international debt burden has gone up by 25 per cent.
When former President Mahinda Rajapaksa handed over the government to President Maithripala Sirisena, the percentage of gross domestic product debt burden was 70 per cent.
When Rajapaksa was elected as the President there was a GDP debt burden of 96 per cent and he was able to reduce it to 70 per cent. The preseent government has again increased it from 80 to 90 per cent.
If the government is planning to reduce the debt burden, it should be consistent as far as the Sri Lankan rupee is concerned. Otherwise they cannot reduce the debt burden.
?: What do you think of the conduct of Minister Faizer Musthapha when Uva Chief Minister‘s fraud was exposed?
A: As a minister he behaved in a very unbecoming manner. We think he is misusing his powers as a minister. This was raised by a UNP member but Musthapha tried to counter argue and ignore the fraud.
This is because he was the counsel for the Uva Chief Minister and it’s obvious that he is trying to protect him.