Mega deal makers have hijacked Parliament – Champika Ranawaka
By Niranjala Ariyawansha
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) General Secretary, Patali Champika Ranawaka, in an interview with Ceylon Today said, “We invite people to join us to create a new age of better economic and political culture.”
Following are excerpts:
You said at the press conference on 18 November that you had broken open the door of the cave and invited the people of lion’s generation to join. What did you mean by it?
A: You can see what has happened. Is the political situation in the country today the same as it was a week ago? No. We started this and invited the others in the UPFA to join us. We are free now. We have no restrictions. We invite people to join us to create a new age of better economic and political culture.
Was your resignation from the government an act? Is it a government contract?
A: No. Some asked us not to criticize the government while being in it. They asked us to quit, but it was not easy for us to do at that time. People had voted the UPFA into power. We are responsible politicians and we were bound by the collective responsibility of the Cabinet. We are now free from that responsibility. We act independently now. We are not bound to take forward all the policies of the UPFA. We definitely oppose the government going against the people. Our task at the moment is creating a new age. We took this decision for the sake of that freedom.
Does the JHU want to drag people’s attention away from the Opposition and re-join the government?
A: We will not join the government or the Opposition. It is seen like that when you look at the problem from the point of view of the government or the opposition. We are trying to establish an independent process. If the government supports it, we are with the government. Otherwise, we are ready to join with the opposition groups that respond to us positively. We are trying to make a change.
What is that change?
A: The country asks for social and political reforms. We have been aware of that need since 2010. An era ended with the end of the war and the country was free from several manacles. Terrorism ended and the country once again became one administrative unit. The Northern and Eastern Provinces, which did not see development for a long time, joined the rest of the country in growth and development. Sri Lanka became a middle income country. The infrastructure was developed islandwide. The country became a developed nation in the region. A developing nation needs a suitable State administration for the next leap forward. There are new challenges now. We want a new socio-economic programme to face these challenges. We expected it from the UPFA Government, but it failed to deliver.
The country was pushed towards a very narrow-minded economic strategy in the past four years. The country is actually bankrupt now. The government has no income to pay back the loans.
They cheat themselves with statistics. There are lots of problems regarding infrastructure development. Are we building the infrastructure needed for the country? Are these expenses legitimate and productive? Who will pay back these debts?
We can see social unrest increasing. The reason is the 20-year SLFP rule. There is a younger generation that works online. There is a severe brain drain. There is no smart political movement in the country that represents the ideas of the younger generation. Although the people are learned, the politics is more lumpen than in the 60s and Tamil Nadu politics. Each election is aimed at a cheap, mean and vagabond political culture.
If we look at democracy, we can see that several mega deal makers have hijacked Parliament, Cabinet, Judiciary, media, and others. In this context, the country needs a strong democratic revolution. Our aim is making it happen. We must liberate the country from these deal makers’ shameless lust for power. That is why we introduce this as a humanitarian operation.
Can you name these deal makers?
A: I prefer to outline some examples. In April 2010, a Strategic Development Act was set forth to establish two casino regions. They proposed to take casinos to an island in Kalpitiya and to implement those plans from 1 January 2012. Parliament approved this proposal. We also voted in favour, since it is good to manage the casinos properly. But, it did not happen because these mega deal makers are so powerful.
How can they ignore Parliament? Are the people in this country scarecrows? If Parliament passed an Act, it is a law. The government must implement it. But, the government failed to stop these mega deal makers. These deal makers were more powerful than the Parliament that was elected by the people.
Parliament, which is accused of being corrupt, passed Health Minister, Maithripala Sirisena’s proposals to include graphic warnings on cigarette packets, but the Supreme Court delivered a verdict considering both people’s health and the interests of the company. This was the reason for the Supreme Court to lose respect. The way it happened was shameful.
Many speak about files related to corruption. I too have hundreds of files. They include a lot of information related to the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and the Foreign Service. We must understand that the country is going down a precipice. A large number of people have sacrificed their lives for the benefit of the society. The powers that be have forgotten that.
Rathana Thera said at the 18 November press briefing that the JHU will fight against the government. How will you fight against the government, while being a constituent member of the ruling Alliance?
A: We were elected from the UPFA. We bowed to the policies of the coalition. We criticized the government while remaining as a coalition party. We showed that we had a separate identity, during the arsenic incident, DCD issue and the Prime Minister’s alleged involvement in a drug scandal. But, we struggled when it came to Cabinet decisions, as we were bound by the collective responsibility. But, we are free of it now. Therefore, now we can discuss these issues openly. The work at hand is the most important. Not the issues like whether you will join the government or sit in the Opposition.
On 18 November you said the JHU did what should have been done by the Opposition. You are now free from the Cabinet’s collective responsibility. Can you engage in the same struggle now?
A: We will do it when we get the opportunity.
When will it happen?
A: I wrote a book on power mafia. I will do such things in future also. There is a dialogue on being surrounded by foreign forces. The majority was on our side at the UNHRC. We must inquire why they turned their backs on us. We did not have a strategy to win this diplomatic struggle. We acted in a very ad hoc manner. We first said that Sri Lanka had not committed any war crimes. Then we appointed the Maxwell Paranagama Commission admitting the charges. Now that Commission has been assigned to probe the alleged war crimes committed by the military. Isn’t it the biggest crime against the Sri Lankan Security Forces?
The government said the local mechanisms are sufficient to probe the incidents. Again, five foreign monitors were appointed. We have contradicted our own arguments. In a context where we have given evidence against ourselves, do we need Solheim’s evidence? Those who appointed the Maxwell Paranagama Commission and brought foreign monitors here are equally responsible for the punishments that can be given by the UNHRC to our war heroes.
The government is crying that separatism is raising its head. We clearly said to the government not to hand over the Northern Provincial Council to the political wing of the LTTE. We asked the government to amend the powers. When the Kazagam movement was about to grab power in India, Neru brought the 16th Amendment to the Constitution and banned separatism.
Some were arrested and forced to deliver a promise in public not to support division. The name of the party was changed to All India. Power was granted after the changes. We offered them powers on a tray.
The government boasts about spending
Rs 400 million to develop the North. But, what has happened, except the operators getting fat commissions? What is the political profit earned from this? Before carpeting the roads, the TNA had 48% of the votes but after that they bagged 78%. The people there taught us a good lesson. People’s hearts cannot be won by carpeting the roads and distributing commodities. This strategy is completely wrong.
Was developing the North a strategy?
A: Yes, it was. The strategy was to win the hearts of the people through development. It has boomeranged now. Those who robbed national wealth need to apologize to the nation after the election of the Northern Provincial Council, for the waste and political destruction.
I have in my possession hundreds of files regarding diplomatic relations. The incidents that have taken place in the foreign service are shameful. We feel shy to read them. Rogues have been sent to the foreign service and made a mess out of it. The result will be the country facing greater insult after March next year. This government must take the responsibility. This country needs a clear change. We can’t change the situation by branding the sections of the society as traitors, NGOs and patriots. The nationalists have a struggle not only with the foreign forces but also with the false nationalists.
But, I would like to state that a majority of the SLFP MPs have agreed with the JHU. They have expressed the pain they feel in their hearts. The enlightened people of this country are with us. We represent their mindset.
You said that those who spent money to rebuild the North must apologize to the nation. Was rebuilding the North, as you say, wrong?
A: I didn’t say so.
But, what was the result of development without political strategy? The North has been pushed towards extremism.
Must the development connect with political strategy? Mustn’t that be for the people to decide?
A: Development is for people. But, the North is a special place. It tried to separate from the country. The people of North must rid themselves of the separatism ideal and they must identify themselves as people of this country. They must love this country. They must not be handed over to India. But, India is part of the problem. In this context, the funds allocated were actually used to serve separatism.
We must not hand over the task of building houses for people of North to foreigners. We must not give task of building houses for the Tamils to India and building houses for Muslims to Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Aren’t they our people? We must do those tasks with our hands.
They must generate links among people. Such a situation compels people to accept them. But today the people do not feel it. They don’t know what is happening.
Q: You said branding people as traitors, NGOs and patriots was wrong. But the JHU was the force that did this mostly in the past.
A: We speak with evidence. Prabhakaran was a special character. We have criticized their politics. But other racketeers must also be exposed. We do it step by step. People will understand it in future.
You are not answering my question. I asked, weren’t you doing the same this in the past?
A: You are wrong. We have not insulted people.
Didn’t you brand the sections of society?
A: No. We didn’t. But, we may have identified some elements as separatists.
Don’t such identifications divide the society further?
A: We must identify those who love the country and those who destroy the nation. We must identify the enemies to defeat them. The JHU never insult people without evidence.
The JHU challenges the government and says that it is not afraid. Why?
A: Some try to sling mud at us and arrest us under false charges. We do not fear them. We can foresee the conspiracies.
The actual conspiracy is a couple of people plotting against people to cling on to power. That is the real conspiracy taking place in the country. Therefore, we demand the President to listen to the people’s voice. Those who used suppression were eventually suppressed. Some foreign rulers also tested it but all had their day. Society rose against them at the right moment. We cannot be suppressed through conspiracies.
What are your conditions to rejoin the government?
A: We have no such idea now. We will respect the government if it implements our proposals. People will also respect them. The President will have another chance to go into history books as the leader who consolidated stability. But, the activists of the UPFA must come forward. We urge the President to select one side. We are trying to prevent this country from witnessing another episode of bloodshed. If this situation prevails for much longer the end will be disaster.
The defeat of the Rajapaksa regime is the Opposition’s main slogan. You have taken it on to your hand now. Are you in the Opposition now?
A: We are telling the truth. They are trying to bring corruption and criminal charges against. We point out to the government that people will react to all these one day. President Jayewardene thought he was extremely powerful. The secretaries who were around him like Manikdiwela also thought like that. President Chandrika also thought in that way. But all situations changed. President Rajapaksa is a seasoned politician and he knows this too well.
Did you see this as suppression only when you had to experience it?
A: No. We have always shown the errors. People are afraid. They do not give us halls and grounds to conduct meetings. There are a lot of problems in this country.
Also, I must say that we have faced suppression. We endured President Jayewardene’s and Premadasa’s suppression when we were in universities. When Chandrika brought the package, we defeated it on the road. We are used to suppression. We were suppressed when we were ministers, as well as before we were ministers.
You have 30 years experience in politics. But still the JHU has only two seats in Parliament. Don’t you think your nationalist political project has failed?
A: No. We made a paradigm shift. It was a historic duty. We defeated federalism in the 1990s and the idea that Prabhakaran could not be defeated. Does Ranil go now to talk with the TNA? No. He is afraid of losing the Sinhala Buddhist votes. The President does not grant the demands of the Muslim Congress as he is afraid of losing the Sinhala Buddhist votes.
It can be two seats. That is because we don’t have hundreds of millions of rupees of stolen money to spend on elections. We will not do so. An ambassador of a powerful Western country told me when she bade farewell that they were rethinking about the investments they had made in Sri Lanka as we had failed them.
Do you have an ambition to be the leader of this country?
A: I have no such ambition. But the history can decide. We did not hope to be ministers as well. We are not after personal ambitions.
When Narendra Modi contested to become the Prime Minister of India, he did not use Hindu nationalism. If you have a chance to become the leader of this country, how will you win the support of the minorities?
A: Narendra Modi has not given up Hindu nationalism. After his victory, he started drinking water from River Ganga. He did two important things. He alleviated Muslim fear about his election and took the anti-corruption campaign to his hand, undermining the English-speaking elite. I have never hated a race. I have never done any injustice to a Tamil or a Muslim official in my ministries. There are no such allegations against me.
My observation is that you were the cleverest person in the UPFA. Are you using your talents in the wrong way? Are you conscious only about the issues of the Sinhala Buddhists?
A: No. We have a broader vision. A Buddhist is a person who believes that there are no gods. Buddhist philosophy is different from any other Western philosophy. This is neither materialism nor idealism. The Buddha is the only prophet who accepted the equality in the human society. All the other religions have divisions.
Does the JHU promote such divisions?
A: No. We work for humanity. That is the Buddhist doctrine. But, Buddhism cannot be protected if the Sinhala race is not safeguarded. The Buddhist philosophy will not be saved unless the Buddhist order is protected. That is why Buddhism was not saved in countries like Malaysia and the Maldives. We never harm people. We have to adjust to the practical reality of the social structures. For example, while we are discussing here, an armed police guard is standing outside. The Buddha also has let the kings to implement the law.
Do you expect to contest future elections alone?
A: We will wait and see. We cannot predict now. Such decisions will be taken pragmatically.