Q: What is the latest with regard to forming a new political party?
A: Before I answer your question, let me clarify something; the idea of forming a new political party did not come from Wimal Weerawansa, Udaya Gammanpila or Dinesh Gunawardena. This is not something we want.
Look at the sad fate of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party today. The SLFP is under the control of the UNP. The SLFP has become a puppet that dances to the tune of the UNP. The SLFPers are disheartened by this situation. It was the SLFP that appealed to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to form a new party. It is the SLFP that wants a new party, not us.
Q: We feel it is just a media gimmick. Your views?
A: Until the Government announces the dates for the local government election, they will not divulge any details about the party. Since there is no talk about an election, forming of a new party may seem like a joke to most people. Call it whatever you want – media show, media gimmick – but there is a new party is the offing. We are not in the least bothered about what others think.
There is no exact date as to when the provincial council elections will be held. During our administration we never postponed elections. Actually we conducted elections before the scheduled date. This Government keeps on postponing elections.
Q: You wouldn’t have been in Parliament today if it wasn’t for the SLFP. It is your duty to unite such a party; not divide it. Do you agree?
A: I don’t agree with that argument. Nobody is trying to divide the SLFP. If that was our motive, we could have done it during the last general election. But we decided to contest from the SLFP, knowing very well what President Sirisena’s agenda was.
Let me put it clearly; it was Maithripala Sirisena who divided the SLFP. And it happened way before 8 January. After 8 January he took charge of the SLFP. Today SLFP has become a cat’s paw of the UNP. No one can say we divided the SLFP. That is a baseless allegation.
Q: It is no secret that forming a new party will further weaken the SLFP, which will be beneficial to the UNP. Are you on a secret mission to strengthen the UNP?
A: You need to ask that question from President Maithripala Sirisena. When the President felt we could win the general election, he sent a letter stating Mahinda Rajapaksa would not be made the prime minister. Then, through the National List he brought in defeated people to Parliament. Even among the 95 selected Parliamentarians, some are openly supporting the UNP. It is President Maithripala who should be held responsible for the sad fate of the SLFP today. We are not ready to work with Maithripala Sirisena, who works according to the whims and fancies of the UNP.
The truth is, if it wasn’t for Maithripala Sirisena, the UNP would never have come to power. They would have never formed a government. President Sirisena not only brought the UNP back to power; he destroyed his own party to strengthen the UNP. No SLFPer should expect President Maithripala to work with them to defeat the UNP in a future election. He will never defeat the UNP.
A large number of people who voted for Maithripala today regret their decision. Professionals, intellectuals, farmers, they have all taken to the streets. Farmers in Medirigiriya and Polonnaruwa are protesting. Our only hope is to give leadership to such people to oust the Wickremesinghe-Sirisena dictatorial regime.
A: You should ask that from the people. It is the people of this country who want Mahinda Rajapaksa to be the leader of the new party. Ranil Wickremesinghe lost some 20 odd elections and today he is the Prime Minister of the country. So why can’t Mahinda Rajapaksa who lost just one election give leadership to a new party? On the other hand, Rajapaksa wouldn’t have lost the election if people like Anura Dissanayake and Champika Ranawaka conspired against him with false accusations.
Q: But Mahinda Rajapaksa has never admitted he is ready to head the party; your comments?
A: In the last few weeks in several instances he has made statements that he is ready to take up the leadership of the new party. Knowing he is ready to accept this new challenge, to disable Mahinda Rajapaksa politically, this Government arrested Yoshitha Rajapaksa. Now next in line is Namal Rajapaksa. Very soon Namal will be arrested. But nothing will stop Mahinda Rajapaksa.
If Mahinda Rajapaksa is a ‘defeated leader’ rejected by the people, why are they threatened by him? Why do they worry so much when Mahinda Rajapaksa says he is ready to head the new party? Mahinda Rajapaksa is a strong leader, wanted by the people and loved by people. He is still a hero. No amount of corruption charges, allegations or accusations will prevent him from being the people’s president.
Q: Don’t you think this constant struggle to bring in Mahinda Rajapaksa and form a new party has somewhat damaged the reputation of politicians like you, Gammanpila and Vasudeva?
A: No, I don’t agree with that. I feel our struggle to bring back Mahinda Rajapaksa has made us more popular among people. I think people love and respect us more because we are with ‘their leader’. However, if somebody’s reputation has been tarnished, that is of politicians who brought this Government into power. Anura Dissanayake, Champika Ranawaka and Athuruliye Rathana Thero are classic examples of people who have lost the love and respect they received from people.
A: What’s wrong with us complaining when Anura Kumara Dissanayake himself has criticised its work? Anura Dissanayake is the head of this catching thieves committee. If they genuinely want to stop financial frauds, why haven’t they taken any action against the Governor of the Central Bank over the Treasury Bond issue? There are similar cases in the Inland Revenue Department and Sri Lanka Customs. What action has been taken against them?
We have proof that some of the ministers have spent billions of rupees to upgrade their ministries and offices. They are thieves too. Anura Dissanayake has openly said one of the biggest rogues is seated in the fifth seat front row in Parliament. Why can’t they take action against them? Any fool can understand these arrests are done to politically suppress those who are posing a threat to the Government.
Q: What are your views on Yoshitha Rajapaksa’s arrest?
A: Yoshitha has not held any position at CSN. Just because he was referred to as Chairman in some emails, is that proof enough to arrest someone? If there have been any financial irregularities as claimed, then they should arrest the legal owners whose names appear in the documents at Samagam Madura.
Yoshitha’s arrest is illegal because it was not done through the courts. A Minister in this Government who is a legal expert had instructed not to arrest Yoshitha without instructions from the AG’s Department. But without instructions from the AG’s Department, they went ahead and arrested Yoshitha. This is purely a hunt. If Mahinda Rajapaksa and his administration played out people’s money, they should have continued the war. Isn’t that the ideal way to earn money? Billions were wasted on the war.
Mahinda and his Government put an end to that. Now isn’t that the biggest saving? Unfortunately the very same people are labelled as thieves. People pelted stones at the Jaffna University but not a single person was arrested. However, Buddhist monks were taken to custody in numbers for speaking on behalf of soldiers. Is this the justice they promised?
Q: Why do you say Namal Rajapaksa will be arrested next?
A: A majority in the Government are not happy with the present situation. Unfortunately they are reluctant to express their opinion openly. They support us and give us information. They have given us information that Namal Rajapaksa is next in line. Not only Namal, they want to arrest Gotabaya Rajapaksa too. But they cannot take Gotabaya because of the Court order.
Q: Who are these Parliamentarians?
A: Mostly UNP Parliamentarians. They are disgusted with the present situation. They say their leaders are sick minded.
Q: Summons were issued on you to appear before Court on 18 March for disrupting traffic during a protest. Your comments?
A: When UNHRC Chief Zeid Al Hussein came to Sri Lanka, we organised a protest rally. We decided to have it on a Saturday because we did not want to cause any inconvenience to the people. It was a very peaceful protest. However they have issued summons for me to appear in Court on 18 March based on some unheard of law. This is the first time I heard of such a law. This is the Government that promised five-star democracy to the people, but they won’t allow us to conduct a peaceful demonstration.
Q: Do you remember how protesters were shot and killed in broad daylight during your regime?
A: Are you saying this Government is yet to kill protesters? Is that what you are trying to say? Yes, during our administration a few unfortunate incidents occurred. But as a Government we openly condemned such incidents. But we should not forget it was the UNP and the JVP that gave leadership to most such protests for mere political purposes. I agree in some instances the Police too acted in a very irresponsible manner. But that does not mean we can accept what happens now.
Today we cannot hold a single rally or a demonstration because they get a Court order preventing any public gathering. Is this the democracy they promised? When it happened during our time it was suppression; today it is democracy.
Q: What is your stand on the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA)?
A: During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time we tried to enter into a very similar agreement called CEPA. Manmohan Singh was in Sri Lanka to sign the agreement. But when we politicians and the business community explained the danger such an agreement posed to the country, President Rajapaksa decided to call off CEPA. The matter was never discussed after that.
We don’t see much of a difference between ETCA and CEPA. India wants a solution to its unemployment issue, so it is keen to find job opportunities in the Sri Lankan job market. In Sri Lanka we don’t have massive job opportunities in order to open up the market to other nations. The situation in countries such as Middle East, South Korea and Singapore is different. They cannot find people in their countries applying for certain jobs due to education level and type of work. Therefore they have entered into agreements with other countries and opened up their job market. But Sri Lanka still has more than 5% unemployment. In such a situation, why do we need to allow Indians to enter our labour market?
Even without an agreement between the two countries, there are Indians who work in Sri Lanka with tourist visas. In Jaffna, you will find Indians working as photographers. In Pettah, Indians work in small-scale hotels. There are Indian workers at the Colombo Port too.
We are against ETCA for genuine reasons; no one should think our protest is politically motivated. Some argue that since India is a powerful country in the region and especially since it is our neighbouring country, we shouldn’t have frequent rifts with them. My answer is if that is the case, let Sri Lanka be its 26th state. We don’t need a Parliament in Sri Lanka. Let’s all go to Lok Sabha.
Sri Lanka is not geographically connected to India. We are an independent nation. We are not part of India. The Colombo Port and Indian Port are vital to India. This is why the Hanuman Bridge is being built. India wants the two countries connected. It is the duty of leaders of this country to protect Sri Lanka from such double-standard nations.
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