By Prageeth Sampath Karunatillaka
United People’s Freedom Alliance, Hambantota District Parliamentarian D. V. Chanaka says if the government is providing proper security, Tamil people will not ask for Eelam, “They are asking for jobs and development.”
Excerpts of the interview:
It seems as if the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna(SLPP) which is seeking to govern, after setting up the new Party, doesn’t have any plan at all. As a young Parliamentarian, how do you view this situation?
A: We asked to govern with a plan in mind. Actually, all along we had a plan on how we were to run the government. We had a plan based on the Mahinda Chinthanaya on raising the economy and developing the country. What this government should have done was to continue with the plans that Mahinda Rajapaksa had put in place. If that had been done, all the problems that exist would have been solved, by now. The current situation regarding the dollar is also due to not implementing those programmes.
The people said they did not want those programmes. So, how could you solve problems by moving forward with plans which the people had rejected?
A: Had they continued, the ‘Port City’ work would have been completed by now. Then the most number of investments in the history of Sri Lanka would have already come into the country. Then, there would have been no problem at all in connection with the dollar.
The rest of the Southern Expressway would have been completed as well as the railway lines, and by now generated millions of Rupees in income. It was because these projects were delayed by one and a half years that the country was dragged into economic ruin.
This government didn’t need new programmes; if they had carried forward the work done by Mahinda Rajapaksa everything would have worked out well. That is what we will do after taking over power.
We do not have one policy like in other countries. The development policies in the country change from Party to Party and Leader to Leader. Then, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s plans were not followed by Good Governance? That is the truth.
A: It has to be said very clearly, that when any government comes in, the policies of the Party change. That is correct. Just because that happens, it is not a solution for that to halt investments that came into the country and development projects. Today, no country in the world stops the development projects of the country just because the government changed.
You say that if Mahinda Rajapaksa’s programmes had been followed, investors would have come and the country would have received income. But in 2015, the people rejected the policies of Mahinda Rajapaksa. The people didn’t approve of those programmes. What Mahinda Rajapaksa attempted to do, by holding an election 2 ½ years ahead of time was, in the face of the economic crisis, it was felt that he would be unable to take over power for the third time. Finally, those sins have been shouldered by the Government of Good Governance. That is the allegation?
A: The election was not because of an economic crisis or other problem. Mahinda Rajapaksa is someone who always held elections for the people of this country. He knew that he would be defeated at elections in the North and East, but he accepted that challenge and held the election. The then government did not have any of these economic crises or problems.
We properly settled the loans that were obtained for the Hambantota Port and other development work. It is this government which has not paid the instalments properly. Mahinda Rajapaksa was not defeated because of that problem. The reason being, there is a big conspiracy in the country today, and the people have understood the result of that conspiracy.
What the people are saying is, at that time, they were deceived. What the people are saying, today, is that they want Mahinda Rajapaksa’s programmes for the country. It was based on this that we gained victory on 10 February. The people corrected the mistake they made in 2015.
However, now the government is scared, because of that, and is not holding elections.
The government’s own Parliamentarian J. C. Alawathuwala says the Government has Treasury Bonds to the value of more than USD 4,000 billion. Even if the Rupee depreciates, goods needed for the country, for another six months, can be purchased and that the country will not collapse. The government says that the Dollar fell because of an international issue and as a result the Rupee depreciated. Not that the Rupee depreciation impacted that. So, what you are saying and this are two different things?
A: What these people said that it was due to an international financial crisis is a lie. The biggest economic crisis was in 2007, then in 2008 and 2009. When there was such a crisis, and the Indian Rupee depreciated by 25 per cent, Mahinda Rajapaksa managed to keep the Sri Lanka Rupee at two per cent. During the time of Mahinda Rajapaksa the Dollar fell by 21 per cent.
Annually, it was 2.1 per cent. In India, it was 4.5 per cent. However, during the past three months it has been 12 per cent in India and in Sri Lanka it was 24 per cent. The Rupee collapsed against the dollar not because of an international issue.
It is to look for solutions for these issues that the Central Bank is there and there are three Finance Ministers. Those things should be inquired into and analyzed. The main reason for the collapse of the Rupee is the halt in investments coming in.
If the Port City Project had been completed, there would not have been any of these problems, in the country. The world got scared to invest in Sri Lanka, when the Project that the Chinese President came and commenced was brought to a halt. It is as a result of those actions that the people have to suffer today.
The Government is saying that these problems are because, during the time of Mahinda Rajapaksa the country was turned into a Chinese colony and lands were sold, that these problem have occurred?
A: I am not saying that handing over lands and selling them is justified. But after winning the war, in 2009, there was no way we could bring in investments to the country.
In 2009, China came with investments. We gave Shangri-La 6 acres then and got, approximately, two billion Rupees which we invested. It was by bringing in an investment like Shangri-La that we showed the world that Sri Lanka was now ready for investments.
After that, Mahinda Rajapaksa said through an Act that no further land will be given. When the six acres was given to Shangri-La, the UNP said it would cause a crisis to the security of the country.
But, this government gave away more than 5,000 acres including the Port and the Airport and created a threat to the country’s national security. A threat to national security occurred because of giving land to two countries on two sides of the world. It was not because six acres were given.
What do you say to the allegation, that, it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who created the path that enabled China and India to interfere in this country?
A: Then, Mahinda Rajapaksa did not allow any crisis. China was working very closely with us, during that time. However, there were minor conflicts with India, then.
So, he went to India later to win them over?
A: Now, India has built up a friendship with Mahinda Rajapaksa. At the same time, other countries too have built up good relations with him. All of those countries have already accepted the fact that it would be a Podujana Peramuna Government that will be next in power.
If the Sri Lanka Podujana Permuna is to come to power, they have to get six to seven million votes of the approximately 18 million votes. The Podujana Peramuna has only four to four and a half million votes. So, how could you take over ruling power?
A: We need not have seven million votes. With the percentage that uses their votes, we have to obtain more than six million. However, within two months of establishing the Podujana Peramuna, we got 4.4 million votes. As of today, the economic crisis in the country has aggravated. Taxes have been increased and the people have more problems. So the people will join our policies. During this period, the remaining one and a half to two million voters have joined us, now.
It is an over estimation?
A: No. That is the truth.
The Flower Bud cannot establish a government on its own, you will have to obtain support from the minorities. If not you will not be able to establish a government with a majority. As you say, the Flower Bud increasing their votes by two million during this period is a joke, isn’t it?
A: We have already got those votes. The minority votes are for us. Good Governance cannot escape from having deceived the Muslim people. The Beruwala incident was the work of several former ministers who were within our Opposition. Muslim people have accepted that the Podujana Peramuna were not responsible for that.
Now, it has been proved that it was the government which was behind the Digana incident. With these things, Muslims have already joined us. Businesses have collapsed due to the taxes that were imposed.
In the North and East, the TNA is divided. Today the people of the North want jobs. What they are asking is to build an economy where they can have three meals a day. Today people in the North are not asking for Eelam. They do not receive relief from either the TNA or this government. All these people are now with the Flower Bud. Today, we have no problem regarding elections; the problem we have is the government is not holding elections.
Whatever you say, the minority votes are with the government. That is the true story. If there is no Eelam in the North, why is it that your Party members are saying that there are Tiger activities going on in the North and that Tigers have strengthened? If so, are these things being said to gain political advantage?
A: On the issue of the LTTE raising its head, and it is apparent that there is a problem regarding the national security of the country. In a country where they are attempting to assassinate the President, the former Defence Secretary and the former President, there is a problem regarding national security.
It is not the majority of Tamil people who are in it. This conspiracy is by certain groups in the North and the Tamil diaspora.
Such conspiracies happen due to weaknesses within government. If the government is providing the necessary security, the Tamil people will not ask for Eelam. They are asking for jobs and development.
It was during the time of Mahinda Rajapaksa that the North was developed. We did have some shortcomings, and we have already rectified those. Therefore, already the Tamil and Muslim people have joined us.
What portion of the minority votes do you believe you can garner? About 20 to 30 per cent?
A: We are expecting about 50 per cent. The reason is as we won in Beruwala, where the clashes happened. We conveyed a message to the entire nation that the Muslim people are not angry with us, and large numbers of Muslim people joined the Janabala Operation.
Will the SLFP join you all on this journey?
A: If the SLFP wants to, they can join the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. However, we will not join the SLFP, as the people of the country are with us.
You are a young Parliamentarian. You came to Parliament through the UPFA led SLFP, so how can you now say that you do not want the SLFP?
A: This is not my view. It is the view of the people of the country.
We come to Parliament to fulfil the people’s views and not to follow my own personal viewpoint. Whatever the opinion of the people of the country, we bow our head to that opinion. The people are asking only for the Flower Bud and Mahinda Rajapaksa. We are also of the same opinion.
The Group of 16 is holding covert discussions with the President, to make the Flower Bud and the SLFP friends and towards making Mahinda Rajapaksa, the Prime Minister. But you are saying that you do not want the SLFP?
A: It is not that we do not want the SLFP; it is that Podujana Peramuna is our Party now. If he wants to, he can become a member of the Podujana Peramuna.
Before asking those from the SLFP to become members of the Podujana Peramuna, you should become members of the Party and show them? Is it correct to challenge others, without you even becoming a member of the Podujana Peramuna?
A: We will systematically and gradually become members of the Podujana Peramuna. When there is an election in the future, we will be ready for that. We attended Podujana Peramuna meetings at the Pradeshiya Sabha elections. We, in the Joint Opposition do only what the people of the country ask us to do. The people of the country have, by now, rejected the SLFP and said they do not want the SLFP.
Then why are you holding discussions, with the same SLFP that you are rejecting, asking for Mahinda Rajapaksa to be made the Prime Minister?
A: At this moment, the best thing would be to hand over the country to Mahinda Rajapaksa.
The Prime Minister himself has asked Mahinda Rajapaksa to tell him how to build the economy, as he says this economy cannot be developed. So, what he has to do is to hand over the country to Mahinda Rajapaksa.
You have not answered my question. The Group of 16 is going to the leader of the SLFP, which you are rejecting, seeking to appoint as the Prime Minister the Leader who says he does not want the SLFP, is this ethical?
A: We have no trust at all, in the discussions carried out with Maithripala Sirisena, so far. We do not trust President Maithripala Sirisena. This is not the first instance. He has deceived us on several occasions. However, if he will give the Premiership to Mahinda Rajapaksa, we will ask him to accept it.
That is with all the problems that exist in the country and to get rid of the Constitution that will divide the country. The only person who can find solutions to these as well as the economic crisis is Mahinda Rajapaksa.
At this time, the country needs a leader. So, we are asking him to accept the Premiership. But we do not in any way trust the words of President Maithripala Sirisena.
So, what you are saying is that you have no trust in the Group of 16 either?
A: A majority of the 16 hold our same views. However, a minority is swaying from side to side. What we are telling them is to take on our views and those of the country. If they go outside of the views of the country and those of Mahinda Rajapaksa and holds views that are harmful to the country we will not be with them, any further. However, the Group of 16 have understood that this is the country’s view.
There are various stories about the 20th Amendment. Deals are also being mentioned. Political theorists say that if the 20th Amendment is adopted, quite apart from the presidential election, Mahinda Rajapaksa can become the executive Prime Minister. What is actually happening?
A: When the JVP brought in 20A, we had a concern. It is the PM who says, suddenly, that the 20A should be brought in. By bringing in19A, powers of President Maithripala Sirisena were reduced and powers of the PM were increased. That is what is being brought through the 20A. This is the game that the government is playing, to postpone Pradeshiya Sabha elections, Provincial Council elections and the parliamentary elections, as well.
However, the presidential election cannot be postponed. So, by the 20 A the presidential election will be removed and Parliament’s power will be acquired. After that they are trying to maintain this government until 2025, without holding a parliamentary election.
Will it be Mahinda Rajapaksa who will contest the presidential election?
A: Mahinda Rajapaksa will consider the legal situation and then contest. He is the only solution to save the country. If he cannot contest, someone else who is suitable will be put forward.
Will it be another Rajapaksa?
A: It is something that will happen according to the will of the people. It is the people of this country who are asking for a Rajapaksa, and it is not our opinion.
Everyone in the Party is against it?
A: There are various opinions in the Joint Opposition. They come out at different times. But, finally, everyone will come to the same view point and will work together at a special moment like an election.