BY SHAAHIDAH RIZA
If the law was implemented equally amongst all, the extremist elements will be contained and reconciliation can be achieved said United Peoples Freedom Alliance (UPFA) MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardene. In an interview with Ceylon Today he noted that foreign elements control the extremists who have been responsible for the hate motivated attacks in the recent past. Abeywardene added that these extremists were trained and funded by these foreign elements and were used to oust former President Mahinda Rajapaksa by causing discord amongst minorities, so that the latter would turn against the then President.
? What are your views on the Cabinet reshuffle?
A: The UNP leadership has betrayed its party. This is the first step of a long journey of some other ulterior motive. A foreign power is trying to control the finance of the entire country. This foreign power is interested in breaking the country into pieces. Thereby, destabilizing the country, by which they could control the country. Two years in to power the government is having a reshuffle, that itself shows that the government and the country are not stabilized.
? President Sirisena is the Chairman of the SLFP. As members of the SLFP, have you all raised concerns about this situation?
A: No, I didn’t meet the President.
? As the Joint Opposition you are very vocal about what the country needs and so on, so why has there not been a concerted effort to meet the President to discuss?
A: There is nothing new here. The defeat of the last government was by the manipulation of few foreign powers. That influence is still in operation.
? What is your opinion of Mangala Samaraweera as a Finance Minister?
A: We will have to wait and see.
? What is your view on the One Belt One Road initiative? Prime Minister visited China last week and committed Sri Lanka to certain deals.
A: That is the problem we have. Some people say that we are pro-China and some people say that we are pro-India. That is the weakness of this Government. We have to be independent. We have to think about our country and make decisions that benefit the country in the long run. The government has not shown that to the interested parties.
? In the recent past there has been a spate of acts of communal violence where businesses and places of worship have been vandalized. A lot of people accused the previous government of fostering such violence. But two years later the same extremists have re-emerged. What is your view on this?
A: These particular parties creating problems are another phenomenon created by foreign powers with an agenda. It is they who funded these extremist groups. It is they who took them to their countries and trained them. It is a clear manipulation of affairs. They wanted to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. So they manipulated this particular group and they acted in a manner that caused communal disharmony. However, the same people are acting up again. I don’t know what their ulterior motive is to behave like this during the tenure of the incumbent government. Perhaps they feel that causing community discord would destabilize the country enough to break it in to seven provinces. It would be actually breaking the country into seven more countries.
? There has been a lot of speculation that the country is in crisis, and that the emergence of these extremists is to distract the people from the real issues. Are you also of the same view?
A: That is what the government wants. This country had been very peaceful; this is the only country which was able to destroy terrorism. Following that the country had been moving very far towards development, which they (the incumbent government) did not want to see. It is they who created terrorism in the country. They didn’t want the country to prosper; they will not be able to control the country. This extremism developed in such a way that it became a threat even to them. These foreign powers helped Mahinda Rajapaksa destroy terrorism. After that they wanted to destroy Mahinda Rajapaksa. They saw Rajapaksa as a threat and knew that they will not be able to control Sri Lanka. Therefore they created extremists to cause disharmony amongst minorities, so the minorities went against Rajapaksa. Finally Rajapaksa was chased off. Now they got the country into their hands and they are controlling it. Even the Cabinet reshuffle is because of that.
? Are you saying that all of these hate motivated crimes are manipulated by external forces through extremists?
A: All they have to do is create a small disharmony that is enough to cause peril in the country. That is what happened in 1987. It started with a very small incident, and finally the entire country was on fire.
?This government came into power saying that they will establish good governance and facilitate reconciliation. Do you see any development so far?
A: In the North, the law is not in operation. In the South, it operates in a different way. The government acts immediately. For instance, the underworld is operating. The government has not done anything. It is not in a position to do anything also. There have been instances where temples have been attacked too. The government has not taken any action in this regard. The particular person from the extremist movement is about to be arrested. If he was arrested the situation will become worse. At one stage the so called terrorists in the North threatened the President of this country and he was told not to visit that area. The President didn’t visit, and no action has been taken as yet.
? Don‘t you think, in this whole affair the President is being cowardly? He has not made any statement on extremist violence that takes place in any community.
A: True. Police had been shot. But who has been taken into custody? If the government does not take any action, there will be distrust and disharmony and there will also be an unwanted situation developing in this area. Those who break the law think that the government is partial to them, because no action has been taken against them at all. They are inconsistent with the law enforcement. They apply the law in one area, and neglect the other. If they take proper steps at the proper time in all parts of the country, there will be no problems. People will feel confident that law will be enforced when any problem occurs. When the law enforcement in operation is not common to all, various things could happen. The reason for disharmony is the fact that law enforcement is not taking place. Instead the IGP says that he will ‘bend’ the law, which should be punished then and there.
Buildings are collapsing in various places. It happened in Batticaloa and it happened in Colombo. It is because there is no law being implemented. If you pay a man you could do anything. There are no provincial councils that are functioning. There is no local government that is functioning either. Who is controlling this? There is no control at all. Everyone is making decisions. There is no proper administration in the country.
?it is eight years since the war ended. What is your opinion on how the incumbent government has dealt with reconciliation?
A: What is there to reconcile? If the government can ensure that the law is in operation to everybody in common, that in itself is reconciliation. That is the reconciliation we are asking for. The law should operate equally. Last Monday I observed Omar Kamil, the former Mayor of Colombo, he had been praising Gotabhaya Rajapaksa for what the later did with regard to development in Colombo. In the meantime he says that he implemented the law properly. Kamil, of course insinuated that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa had acted in a regimental manner. He was the Defence Secretary, so he had the power. He had the Police under him, and also the military. So he controlled everything in a regimental way. This is what Kamil said, and added that therefore Gotabhaya was successful in implementing the law.
?In a recent financial report it was revealed that the Ministry of National Integration and Reconciliation had spent only 13.4% of the capital budgetary provision for the first quarter of 2017. Do you see this as disturbing?
A: Even that is too much for reconciliation. What they can do is to implement the law properly, that will solve half the problems. The law should be implemented equally, without any partiality towards the North or the South. Implementing the law in itself is reconciliation.
? It was recently revealed that 207 MPs have imported vehicles with the use of tax free permits of which 10 MPs have illegally sold these vehicle permits. What is your view on that?
A: Duty free permits for the members of Parliament were given by Sirimavo Bandaranaike in 1970. The reason was that at that time, JVP terror attacks were rampant, and a few MPs were killed. The MPs’s mobility was hindered. So she used government tools to get them vehicles. The history of this must be looked at. These vehicles were given free. When President J.R Jayewardene came into power he also continued the same trend. MPs cannot take public transport due to the delays and the other problems which were prevailing at that time. J.R. Jayawardene gave two vehicles. One was almost free, and other was with a permit. The permit was given for the MPs to sell it and make money. In 1977, the MPs who were elected to Parliament were very economically impoverished. At that time I was the chairman of a corporation. At that time Bandaranaike had made restriction on imports. Most of the essential imports were monopolized by the government. At that time, what I was importing had very high demand in the black market. I would have at least 2 or 3 MPs who would visit me along with some Mudalalis. The MP comes in the Mudalali’s vehicle. The MP would use his political powers to get some favour for the Mudalali, and the Mudalali will also return the favour in like or in monetary form. This became a menace to us. One day whilst chatting to JRJ, I mentioned this to him. I told him how dependant our MPs are on these Mudalalis. The following day he inquired of this from the MPs. Some of the MPs have told him that they have to come to Colombo from several miles away, and that public transport was very time consuming. They had also mentioned their economic problems. He had then told them that he will give them one vehicle free and another vehicle duty free for them to sell. That was how it happened. That continued throughout the years. Later on the one vehicle which is given free was discontinued by Chandrika Kumaratunga. She allowed the practice of giving out the duty free vehicle to continue. You can’t call them thieves. All commoners are in Parliament. When they are in any economic difficulty, they sell the vehicle.