JHU will give the government another chance

champika_Ranawaka_0Deputy Secretary of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU), Udaya Gammanpila, in an interview with Ceylon Today, says the JHU will give the government another chance.

Excerpts:By Shalika Wimalasena

Q:
Can you outline the JHU’s present stand?

A: We always take the side of the people. We gave up positions in the government to ensure the people’s success. We don’t have any hatred towards the government.

Q:
Did the government ill-treat the JHU?

A: No. We were treated well. This is not a move taken due to disappointment over treatment.

Q:
You will soon have to use public transport if you continue this.
A: It doesn’t matter. Minister Champika and I don’t own private vehicles.

Q:
Why do you still say that you will remain in the government and fight?
A: We have a number of options. The most practical option is keep exerting pressure on the UPFA Government, which has two-thirds power to introduce reforms.

Q:
Do you mean that you will give it another chance?
A: Yes, we have given another chance to the government to change.

Q:
Does that mean that it is alright if the government changes?
A: The government has faults. It is not willing to amend the Constitution that gives dictatorial powers to the President and that is detrimental to good governance. We are ready to support it if it is ready to do away with that system.

Q:
What if the government is not ready to correct itself?
A: We have to seek alternatives.

Q:
As the Presidential Election will be held in the near future, will you be compelled to sign an agreement on the reforms that will be introduced after the election?
A: No. Otherwise there will be no difference between the Opposition common candidate and President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We are trying to get him do this as he has two-thirds majority in Parliament. If he says he will do it after the election, it will become another pledge. The other candidate has also made a pledge. But, Mahinda Rajapaksa has made this pledge in both 2005 and 2010. Albert Einstein said, doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity. We do not like to be insane. He still has time. He can amend the Constitution before the nominations close.
Q:
Will he do it in such a hurry?

A: He can, if he wants to.

Q:
Are you saying the JHU has acted like a bunch of lunatics in the past?
A: No. The government has not lost the two-thirds majority after we have left. We continued our struggle while remaining with the government in the past, but we lacked strength then. We used this opportunity to exert more pressure on the government.

Q:
What was the President’s reaction when you informed him of your decision to quit minister posts?
A: I didn’t speak personally to the President. We announced it at our party general assembly, before our members that we would quit our posts unless our demands are granted. We fulfilled that promise.

Q:
But the President is your friend…

A: He telephoned me to inquire about my health as I was in the hospital. He didn’t talk further.

Q:
It appears that the government had wanted the JHU to be kicked out of the Alliance…
A: I don’t think so. Our decision sent a shockwave through the government. Everybody now accepts that we need to amend the Constitution. Nobody is saying the JHU is wrong.

Q:
What else do they say?

A: They argue there is not enough time to correct all the wrongs. We don’t agree with that. There is enough time. We propose to weaken the politicians and strengthen the people. Majority of the politicians do not like to give up their powers. Such attempts give rise to situations like this.

Q:
Is the President responsible for the situation?
A: I accuse the parties in the Alliance more than I accuse the President. We could have won our demand if all the parties that appeared for the amendments stood courageously like the JHU.

Q:
You could have joined the leftists in the government…
A: They said the move was wrong, but clung to it stealthily. If they had the courage we had, there could have been a progressive Constitution now.
Q:
Although you are trying to defeat the President, he could take a decision and do this…
A: Yes. It is true. I said the nature of man is such that he loathes giving up powers. The one who enjoys power wants to be in power always. But, those who do not have power bend before it. That is pathetic.

Q:
You appear to be trying to safeguard the President…
A: No. He is 100% responsible. I clearly say it. He did not fulfil the pledges he made twice.

Q:
Is Minister Basil Rajapaksa trying to reach a settlement with the JHU?
A: He was in dialogue with us. After we quit the government, I was in hospital and my mobile phone was switched off. Therefore, I did not want to check further. In fact, a number of ministers are trying to take the JHU back to government.

Q:
Will they succeed?

A: We are on a clear stand that we would not join the government, unless the constitutional amendment is introduced.

Q:
What will you do if the government shows readiness to do it?
A: They must definitely do it. No readiness.

Q:
JHU Leader, Omalpe Sobhitha Thera, appears to have no desire to leave the ruling Alliance…
A: It is not correct. The JHU has six prominent leaders. They are; Omalpe Sobhitha Thera, Athuraliye Rathana Thera, Patali Champika Ranawaka, Nishantha Sri Warnasinghe, Anuruddha Pradeep and I. We take decisions together and implement them together.

Q:
Rathana Thera has clearly said he would quit the government, but you seem hesitant to clearly state it…
A: We have clearly said the government has time until the nominations were filed. We held discussions with the government until 18 November on supporting the President. Now we have started discussing alternatives and we are ready to discuss with the Opposition parties. We are considering whether the JHU should nominate a Buddhist candidate, nominate a third common candidate, field a joint Opposition common candidate or be silent.

Q:
Despite whatever the JHU is saying, the government appears not to listen to them. Has your vote base diminished?
A: We don’t know whether our vote base has diminished or enhanced. We use whatever powers we have for the benefit of the people. There may be other powers. But, no force is useful if it is tame. Remember, it is the last straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Q:
Your colleague, Wimal Weerawansa, is laughing at the JHU’s stance…
A: He has not laughed at us. He is our long-time colleague in struggles. We have no conflict with him. We reject his argument that we must be patient. He must explain to us how we can believe that we will be able to achieve success by waiting longer.

Q:
Can the JHU deal with a Ranil Wickremesinghe-led UNP?
A: We have not thought about the alternatives yet. I cannot express my personal views.

Q:
What is your personal view?

A: Ranil Wickremesinghe kept rejecting the JHU. We have to consider this before coming to a decision.

Q:
Don’t you have freedom in the party to express your personal views?
A: We have freedom, but for us, party responsibilities are more important. There is less probability of the JHU supporting Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Q:
What is your opinion about the role played by Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga?
A: In short, I can say that the JHU will not support her. You mentioned only two prominent names. We can consider other names and come to a decision.

Q:
Do you have a problem with names such as Maithripala Sirisena or Anura Kumara Dissanayaka?
A: I cannot comment on that. The JHU has not taken a decision yet.

Q:
You don’t have a lot of time to decide…

A: No. The battle has just started. These two weeks are crucial. The sides will be decided this week.

Q:
You can field a candidate by aligning with the Bodu Bala Sena (BBS)…
A: We have the alternative of fielding a Buddhist candidate. But, we have not discussed this yet.

Q:
You may have plan although you do not express it…
A: We quit the government to build up an ethical ground to discuss with the Opposition.
Q:
Weren’t there discussions earlier?

A: No.

Q:
What is your response to the attacks by junior ministers against the JHU, while the seniors remain silent?
A: Mountains don’t collapse just because dogs bark at them.

Q:
Why do they that?

A: The senior ministers hesitate to criticize us as they are grateful. The JHU was in the forefront to bring Mahinda Rajapaksa to power while the SLFPers were hesitating. When the JVP tried to appoint Lakshman Kadirgamar as Prime Minister, we gave our support. We went to the Supreme Court against President Chandrika’s attempt to hold the presidential election in 2006 and made her hold it in 2005.

Q:
Is President Mahinda Rajapaksa ungrateful?

A: He has not attacked us yet.

Q:
You must be expecting it to be said on election stages in the future…
A: Let us wait and see whether he is grateful or not.

Q:
You said you broke open the door of the rock cave. But, lions are not coming out…
A: We call the lions and not the cats who are satisfied with the luxuries they get by being in the government. We can see whether there are lions in the cave.

Q:
Do you have regrets about voting to impeach former Chief Justice, Shirani Bandaranayake?
A: No.

Q:
What do you think now about voting for the 18th Amendment to the Constitution?
A: We were the only party that opposed the 17th Amendment. The reason was the racist nature of the Constitutional Council. It was the first time racism was legalized after the Colebrook reforms. On the other hand, the independent commissions are not practical. That is why they could not be implemented and a 18th Amendment became a possibility.
We trusted the President’s pledge that he needed to be strong to introduce this amendment. But, he did not fulfil the promise.

Q:
Although you blame the party leaders in the Alliance, the President is actually responsible for the situation…
A: You are correct. The President has broken the promises.