By Prageeth Sampath
Joint Opposition and SLFP Member of Parliament Prasanna Ranatunga says that they have clearly set forth their stand that the Unitary State and the prominence accorded to Buddhism in the Constitution cannot be compromised in the new Constitution.
Q: Why are you getting ready for a snap election?
A: We are ready for elections at any moment but the government is afraid of them.
Q: Why did you launch your campaign in Trincomalee?
A: It is only one of our planned rallies. Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people were urging us to hold a rally there.
Q: While you are struggling to topple the government, they call off the elections. What is the reason for that?
A: Government is afraid of the Joint Opposition and of elections. We cannot expect an election from such a Government.
Q: Why does the government act like this?
A: This is dictatorship that does not bow to democracy. They try to achieve political mileage by way of calling off the elections.
Therefore, we always demand any type of election. But the government is afraid of them.
Q: Do we need a new Constitution?
A: We need some amendments, but they must not be brought in because of international influence aimed at dividing the country without listening to the voice of the people.
Q: The government is trying to bring in a new Constitution whilst the Maha Sangha of the three Nikayas rejects it. Comments ?
A: This government does not want to take the country forward. They wanted to defeat Mahinda. They conspired for it and they are doing the same now too, to put Mahinda in jail. The LTTE diaspora extended its fullest support to elect Maithripala the President to get him to deliver the promises made by him to them. It is now being handled via the TNA.
Q: What is your rationale ?
A: The leaders of the TNA openly said that they had supported Maithri to achieve their demands. One of them was power sharing. Another is taking the war heroes who contributed to the war victory to international Courts.
Q: But the Government promises that that will not happen.
A: But that is happening.. The Act which was to be tabled in Parliament a few days back also targeted that.
As the first step, offices will be established to look into disappeared persons. The second stage is other Acts to be presented in Parliament. Then the Tamil Diaspora that is angry because of Prabhakaran being killed will manipulate those new laws to pressure the government through the international community.
Next is the Constitution. People only demanded that the Executive Presidency be abolished and the first-past-the-post system restored. They did not want a full reform of the Constitution which is what the government is now looking at .That exposed the TNA when MP Sumanthiran said that they would get power sharing even without the phrase ‘power sharing’ being used anywhere.
Q: MP Sumanthiran is also a representative of the people. He has right to express his opinion. The Government may either grant or ignore his demands.
A: But Sumanthiran is a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee. He clearly says that only this government will deliver it. That shows the intensity of the demands set forth by the TNA for Maithri’s victory. The government is delivering them one by one and not the demands of the majority. That was why the Mahanayaka Theros said the country did not need a new Constitution.
Q: You have submitted proposals for a new constitution.
A: Yes. We have clearly noted that the Unitary State and the place of prominence to Buddhism could not be compromised. There are four proposals on Buddhism. None of them were revealed. The Mahanayaka Theros have closely studied statements made in the recent past by the leaders of the TNA and expressed their concerns.
Q: The Government reiterates that no discrimination will be permitted against the war heroes through any probe. Why is a different opinion being spread in society despite this assurance?
A: Even though they say so, new laws lined up to be presented in Parliament will directly affect the war heroes. Why didn’t the US, Canada and European countries become signatories to this convention? The British Prime Minister said recently that terrorism would be wiped out in the UK even if she had to change the laws related to human rights if necessary. Mahinda did not waste time talking, but just ended the war. Isn’t that the reason for the UN Human Rights Council to go against us? We need to persuade the global community about this fact. Western nations have not accepted this. Under new laws and the UN Resolution on Sri Lanka, if one of our war heroes has gone abroad for a something like medical treatment or other reason, he can be arrested without investigation, should a self-exiled LTTE member complain that he has committed war crimes. It is so dangerous. While the government misleads the people, the buffaloes who go after the government approve all of them.
Q: The SLFPers in the Cabinet expressed diverse views last week. What is actually happening?
A: Ministers T.B. Ekanayaka and MP Indika made such statements. They are the ones who deal with the villagers. People question them. That’s why they say they will quit if no change occurs. We have not been involved in their decision. It’s because of the pressure from the people.
Q: The President has plans to take under his wing the Police Department, the unit for investigating serious financial crimes and other similar bodies for three months. What is actually happening within the government?
A: They alleged that Mahinda is a thief. The ministers were accused, but they could not prove any charges. The allegations were mere lies on the political platforms. The President has to answer the questions of the people now. Therefore, he tries to take over these bodies and correct them. They must investigate the Central Bank fraud before pointing fingers at others. That is why the SLFP MPs in the Government say that they cannot move like this and they want change.
Q: Are you also ready for such change?
A: It is not clear to us what that change is to be. Our leader is Mahinda. He will decide our actions.
Q: You have given two headaches the government two headaches: SAITM and Uma Oya ! The government has messed attempts to resolve these issues. Why did you create such situations then?
A: SAITM was started during our time. We had conditions applied on them. If they do not act accordingly the Government can regulate or take it over. Without doing it, they cover up the SAITM issue and undermine the other problems. We do not approve of students being attacked.
Can a government that cannot handle the SAITM issue deal with an issue like war? SAITM is a minor body. How can a government take decisions on matters of State when it cannot take decisions on a simple issue such as SAITM?
Who were the Ministers who were responsible for the Uma Oya project? If the work has not been carried out according to set standards, that must be investigated. A similar thing happened in the Southern Expressway project. If such a problem did not exist we could have seen how these people would have sought to gain mileage from Uma Oya project alone. The work delivered is theirs but the debt is Mahinda’s.
This government came to power to correct these things. They must do it. But they cannot.
Q: What is this till box issue related to temples?
A: Since the time of ancient kings, successive governments have helped temples by providing them with lands and finances. I think it is better that the temples manage their finances instead of the government doing it because the government has started swindling the Central Bank. They are now trying to take control of the till boxes. The government is now trying to grab public donations to temples in addition to the taxes which have been imposed on them. The people had specific intentions when they made their contributions to temples. Those donations or offerings were not meant to be given to the government. This government puts Buddhist monks in jail Now they are going to break the till boxes.
Q: What is the deal between the Prime Minister and the Joint Opposition?
A: The SLFP faction in the government fabricates it. We do not need any deals. We are promoting an anti-government stand. Everybody knows about the ones who have deals to share Cabinet portfolios and other appointments. We sat in the Opposition because we disliked joining the UNP. The Joint Opposition performs the duties of the official Opposition in Parliament .Therefore we have no deals with anyone. We directly state what we want.