Extremism, a centralized power structure and insufficient powers in his ministry had led him to offer his support to Common Opposition Candidate Maithripala Sirisena at the upcoming Presidential Election. Following are some excerpts of an interview with former Deputy Minister for Investment Promotion, Faizer Mustapha.
QLet’s talk about your cross-over. Why did you decide to support Maithripala Sirisena?
It was one of the most difficult decisions that I have ever made. I have always been a great admirer of the President and Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. However, certain recent events have made me question if the country has become more secular after the war or if we have moved on from it. The answer to that question is my cross-over. We defeated terrorism with greater expectation of a secular Sri Lanka.
QYou said there were a few incidents that made you change your mind, what were these incidents?
If you take the Grandpass incident the government did a lot to curtail the situation.
QWhat do you mean when you say they did a lot?
At this point of time I don’t want to raise issues and make people think again on their
QPeople assume the government stood by and did nothing. So when you say the government did something what exactly did they do?
I was the first one there, when the Grandpass incident occurred. A mosque was shifted to a new mosque and at that point of time there was a mob attack on that mosque. The government did curtail it but there was a promise that the old mosque would be rebuilt and to-date that hasn’t taken place. Certain ministers and I participated in that discussion, where they said approval would be given.
Before the incident I had written to the Deputy IGP Anura Senanyake asking him to give protection to that mosque, which unfortunately did not occur. But as regards to curtailing the situation that arose, the government took measures to bring the situation under control.
QYou said your decision to support Mr. Sirisena was made on principle and it was not a personal decision. What are the difference in the principles you see in the two candidates?
If we take our government structure, it’s too centralized. It requires more delegation, where ministers are required to actually perform certain functions. Here power is a bit too centralized where ministers sometimes don’t have actual power to deliver.
QWhat kind of projects did you handle?
I was looking more at promotional aspects. I didn’t get the opportunity to get involved in the day to day functions of the ministry.
QThen what exactly were you doing?
I was doing the promoting. I was the former Tourism Minister and I think I have flair in addressing international forums so that’s the only aspect of the ministry that I handled.As a deputy minister I think I should have had greater powers, where I could have done more for my people, for my constituency and the country at large.
QAn election promise of Maithripal Sirisena is to re-evaluate all foreign investment projects. What are your thoughts on this?
Every government, when they come into power, re-evaluates ongoing projects. There is nothing wrong with this, I mean you can re-evaluate. Re-evaluating a project and cancelling a project however is totally different.
Every country and every leader has a certain direction and a vision. And obviously MR’s vision and mission would be different from Maithripala Sirisena’s. If tomorrow I am the presidential candidate I would have also looked at it in the same way. Of course i cannot point the finger at anybody. I can’t be in the government for nine years and then speak about the misdeeds of ministers in the government.
QIf Mahinda Rajapaksa is re-elected do you think the Muslims will have a voice in the government?
Azwer, Cader, Hisbullah are still there. You have to believe in what you want and what you feel. They believe in the present administration and they feel that they can serve the community in the present government.
QCan I get your opinion on the current rule of law and the impeachment of the former Chief Justice?
Unfortunately, my lips are sealed because I voted with regard to the impeachment. I could say I voted because I was in the government. I believe that when you are in a party you take a stand and I’m not someone who criticizes it after.
I’m a lawyer by profession and I appear in courts every day. It’s not proper for me to comment in the area which I practice. It’s easy for a normal politician to criticize but I don’t think I have the moral right to criticize the judiciary in front of which I appear almost daily.
QWhat is the difference in the policies of the two candidates in your opinion?
Leave alone the policies people feel there should be a change and politicians should serve the country first.
There is an incumbency factor also and some would say this needs to change. Manifestos are important but what we must decide is if we want the incumbent regime to continue or if we want a change.
QDo you want the incumbent regime to change?
I believe we need a change. I was part of it for nine years and I believe a change would be good for Sri Lanka and that’s why I made such a decision.
You went to Singapore and it was right after you returned that you crossed over…
QCan I tell you why I went to Singapore?
My niece’s husband works there and my kids went there with my father and my mum on a holiday and when I was taking this decision I wanted some time to think. You know the pressures that are put upon a person?
QWhat are the changes that you are expecting if Maithripala comes to power?
The primary change I would look at is the power being more delegated. Everything that’s stated in the manifesto I believe in. Apart from that I believe there should be more delegation within the structure of the government.
QYou believe that this will happen?
It is with that expectation that I have made this decision. Ministers should be real ministers, with the power to deliver.
QThere are cutouts of the President with your name on it in Jaffna. Why?
I’ve never authorized anyone to use cutouts with my name. All the offices in Central Colombo had my photograph but I think they have been removed now.
QWhat about the general election and your re-election?
I have not come here to look at the next election. I have come here for Maithripala. I’ve given up my portfolio with the expectation of making him the president. The government knew I was going. I have made it obvious that I was not happy. I continually articulated the position. I never want to be a Brutus. I didn’t do this over night.
If you look at the administration, I think we have done a lot, but the country needs a change.
QIf Mahinda is re-elected do you think that he will make the changes that he has promised?
If I believed that I would have stayed. This is a political decision. Today people with diverse issues are on the same platform and the primary issue is change. Today the opposition has been able to unite because they want change. Champika was an architect of the Mahinda Chinthana and even Ven, Rathana Thera. They feel that there needs to be a change. They were the forces in the government and if they say there needs to be a change . – See more at: http://www.dailymirror.lk/60303/i-was-not-allowed-to-use-the-powers-of-my-ministry-faizer-mustapha#sthash.VmysLNJ1.dpuf