Minister of Education Akila Viraj Kariyawasam spoke about the future of the Unity Government, the UNP that’s shrouded with controversies and the resignation of Minister Kabir Hashim from the post of General Secretary of the Green Party among many hot topics in an interview with our sister paperDeshaya.
Q After having defeated the no confidence motion what is the next imminent threat?
Certainly it was not a threat. The no confidence motion against the Prime Minister was not actually a threat. From the beginning we were confident that it could be easily defeated. Those who brought the motion in parliament are viewing the rising sun every morning. The sun has not stopped rising with the defeating of the motion going by what they boasted through the media. All of our parliamentarians voted against it. We were able to obtain the support of the other parties too.
Q But it was not so easy to defeat the no confidence motion as you say. Some UNP ministers and MPs supported the Prime Minister on the promise of restructuring the UNP. Don’t you think that keeping to this promise has brought about another threat?
According to what we have agreed to the party reorganisation activities are now in progress.
Q Is the resignation of Minister Kabir Hashim as UNP General Secretary a step towards the intended reform?
It might be. But I am not certain about that.
The Premier has already made arrangements to recover the possible loss from those responsible for it. As for the appointment an individual with the maximum qualification was appointed for the post regarding this matter
Q Is it a preliminary step towards reorganising the party where your are to be appointed as the General Secretary?
It is one of the changes proposed. However the party would decide on these things.
Q Your reply indicates the possibility of you becoming the Secretary General of the UNP.Your comments?
Some MPs want to make this proposal, but it is left to the party to decide.
Q There is opposition to your nomination as General Secretary. Do you think you would be able to function in this capacity amidst these differences in view?
Certainly, I am confident. I am already the Deputy General Secretary of the party and have held several posts within the party. Even now I am performing a very responsible task as the Minister of Education.
Q SLFP MPs were shrouded in a controversy when the no confidence motion in parliament was taken for vote. Do you think the Government can move forward despite these controversies?
We will solve these problems through negotiations. The Prime minister will meet the President and we would be able to reach a settlement.
Q On the day the motion was debated 23 MPs submitted a letter requesting the removal of 16 government ministers who voted in favour of the NCM. Your comments?
It is not ethical for the ministers to remain in the government after voting in favour of the motion which was against the prime minister. The collective responsibility among Cabinet ministers is very important. If they remain in the Cabinet it is only for the privileges.
Q That may be your opinion. But the Prime Minister says that he will have a discussion with the President on how to continue with the unity government. Your comments?
Continuing with the Unity Government is not a problem. In the discussion held with the Premier, the ministers opposed to keep these SLFP members in the Cabinet. Minister Rajitha Senaratne even expressed his displeasure to sit in the Cabinet with the opposing SLFP Ministers.
Q Are you preparing for a protest in the cabinet?
Not necessarily. Given that most of the ministers are from the United National Front, the Prime Minister will discuss the matter with the President.
Continuing with the Unity Government is not a problem. In the discussion held with the Premier, the ministers opposed to keep these SLFP members in the Cabinet
Q When there is a strong opposition against the presence of the defying SLFP ministers in Cabinet what is the Prime Minister’s response?
His views are also the same that these SLFP ministers can’t be part of the Government. However he also wants to see the Unity Government continue. There are many SLFP ministers who refrained from voting during the no confidence motion. The majority of our ministers have expressed their willingness to continue working with these SLFP ministers and MPs. The Prime minister also agrees with this point of view.
Q The SLFP ministers who voted in favour of the motion have maintained that they do not intend to resign from their ministerial posts.Your comments?
19 amendments to the Constitution specify the powers given to the President and the Prime Minister. The powers of the President are now different when compared with the previous Constitution. Time will bring a solution to the problem.
Q The SLFP was divided during the vote taken on the motion. In what manner did the President help you during this motion?
He remained independent regarding the motion and did not ask members to vote for or against. We consider the motion as a decision of the SLFP. The President made a request to leave him out of the matter.
Q Are you saying that there is no dispute between the President and the Prime Minister?
Q Some say that bags full of money were on offer to win over those who were to vote in favour of the motion. Is it true?
Utter lies. It is they who robbed and gave Rs.500,000 for each candidate during the last Provincial Council Elections.
Q Leave aside the bags full of money. You have agreed to some of the demands made by the TNA to obtain their votes against the motion. Your comments?
The TNA is a political party responsible for its people. There were some practical problems that they were facing. We are obliged to solve these problems. Members of the TNA cannot be bought over for money.
Q Thirteen charges out of fourteen presented during the motion are related to Central Bank Bond issue. Why can’t the Government solve this problem?
We have taken every necessary step regarding this matter. Even the Bond Commission had not found anything against the Prime Minister. The Premier has already made arrangements to recover the possible loss from those responsible for it. As for the appointment an individual with the maximum qualification was appointed for the post regarding this matter. Now the legal process is continuing.
However, there is an acute bond issue which has surfaced since 2008 and amounts to Rs.4,000 billion. There is nobody to talk about these matters nor are there commissions to investigate this issue.
Q However it is your responsibility to investigate into these matters. Negligence on your part has led to these losses.Your comments?
There are reasons affecting the delay. Some officials appointed by the Rajapaksa Government still hold the same positions. Soon we would rectify the problems associated with these positions.We agree that there are some matters we have left unattended.
Q But your excuse of palming all the problems on Rajapaksa is not acceptable. Isn’t this your Government?
We can’t work arbitrarily. We have to comply with legal procedures. There are doubts regarding some matters.
Q Minister Rajitha Senaratne has spoken about a new Cabinet to be appointed immediately. Your response?
The President and Prime Minister will decide on a new Cabinet.
Q The Joint Opposition says that it has deprived the Government of enjoying a two-thirds majority. Would it be possible for you to get bills passed in the future.
We still retain a two-thirds majority. Some were absent during the vote of no confidence which was their way of supporting us. We are confident of having the support of 150 members in the Parliament.
Q Do you mean that the Government has the continuous support of the TNA?
They (TNA) will offer their support for the good bills.They also supported the president so that he could come to power.
Q Minister Susil Premajayantha has made a strong charge against the Government. It is so serious.What is your response?
There are also allegations against him. Some MPs have asked him to discuss this matter internally in the Cabinet before speaking to the public.
There are many SLFP ministers who refrained from voting during the no confidence motion. The majority of our ministers have expressed their willingness to continue working with these SLFP ministers and MPs
Q However the Local Government Election has left the Government wobbling, like never before. Your comments?
The reason for the defeat is the SLFP. They distorted the campaign. Amid these problems we were able to secure the January 8 mandate. Rajapaksas were not able to get 45% of the votes. We are determined to form our own Government in future.
Q Unlike in the past there is confusion within the Government. Your comments?
There were problems within and the Prime Minister introduced many development projects. However they could not be implemented due to obstructions by members of the SLFP.
Q Did the Government prevent frauds from taking place?
That is what we understand. We also have come to understand that some of them have been protected.
(Pic by Sumudu Hewapathirana)