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Avant Garde Investigation will be A litmus test for govt.....

16 March 2015 03:58 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


‘We will establish a JVP government by 2020,’ says JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake, who believes the masses who continue to be disappointed by the two main parties, will take a stand and gather around the JVP to bring about a true change.
In an interview with the Dailymirror , the JVP Leader spoke of the present delays to investigation into corruption charges of the previous regime, why they decided to not to be part of the government and on the importance of holding an election after April 23. Following are the excerpts: 

Q : What action do you plan to take concerning delays into corruption investigations?
We, as the JVP, have lodged several complaints regarding some serious charges, at the Bribery and Corruption Commission and the CID. We have also provided information to the newly established Secretariat to probe into corruption. As you mentioned, criticisms can be made regarding the delay in probing these allegations. It really does take a considerable time period to probe into certain charges but swift interventions can be made into some of the allegations. We have received information that some of the delays are due to pressure exerted by certain politicians and top government officials to disrupt the inquiries.  

Q: Can you reveal the names of those who attempt to delay the probes?
 The Avant Garde deals and transactions with the Defence Ministry during the Rajapaksa regime is one of the most controversial cases that have emerged so far. Evidence that links former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa, former Navy Commander and several other officials of the Defence Ministry with these Avant Garde deals, have emerged. The manner, in which the investigation of the Avant Garde controversy is handled, will be a litmus test for the government to decide whether or not it is truly interested and is competent in bringing those who engaged in bribery and corruption, before the law.  

As soon as this controversy started making headlines, the State Minister for Defence said that its operations were legal and the Chief Whip in Parliament said the same. Moreover, the Justice Minister and former Minister Tilak Marapana have been linked to a top-level meeting where the issuance of certain identity verifications with concern to this case had been discussed. Concurrently, the Defence Ministry Secretary has told the CID passports of those linked with the issue should be released. Meanwhile, a former Additional Secretary to the Defence Ministry who was considered a vital figure to continue the investigations was allowed to migrate. So it’s obvious that a group of politicians as well as government officials are attempting to conceal the progress of the investigation. So I urge the masses to watch the proceedings of the Avant Garde investigation closely.

Q: Why didn’t the JVP accept a Cabinet ministerial post in the interim government?   
The President made a public invitation for all political parties to be part of the government. We too publicly rejected the invitation because we don’t believe for a moment, that people’s issues can be resolved by being part of the government. Today the real necessity is not simply a change of a regime and its leaders, but a complete societal change. We stand for such a change and we don’t believe we can realize our aspirations by being part of the government.

Q: But don’t you think you could have actively pushed for necessary reforms by being part of the government and a Cabinet member?  
If someone believes that it is the Cabinet that engages in the decision-making for the country, its folly. During Chandrika’s tenure, the decisions were made by her along with Tara de Mel, Baalapatabendi and Mano Thiththawela. When Ranil came into power, it was Charitha Ratwatte and Baskaralingam. During Mahinda’s tenure, it was the brothers – Basil and Gotabhaya along with Lalith Weeratunga.

So being a Cabinet Minister refers only to a position and they are able to only engage in their ministerial duties. They do not have a say in the major decision- making processes concerning the country. If we were to be part of the government, we would only be contributing to that crime and would not be able to make any real change at all. Tell me, which Minister, party or an individual who has succeeded in changing the system or challenging it by being part of the government/Cabinet? Even those who were in the Cabinet of the former government came forward following a few months and said they were not given the chance to make any change.  

Q: Minister Senarathne recently said the investigations into corruptions have delayed due to the failure to change the state mechanism. Do you agree?  
I admit that a certain group of government officials have exerted their pressure and are trying to delay/disrupt the investigations. But if the government is truly interested in preceding the probes, they are fully entitled with the powers to instruct the investigating bodies to do otherwise; particularly the Prime Minister and the President. They can prevent these officials from concealing corruptive actions and officials. So that statement is quite unacceptable.

Q: The JVP seems to oppose to the implementation of the Dinesh Gunwardena committee proposals for electoral reforms?
Yes, because we don’t believe it would create a fair electoral system. We believe the foundation of a just electoral system lies in the fair representation of the people’s mandate in representative bodies. Dinesh Gunawardena committee proposals are a distortion, which does not reflect the true mandate of the people.

Q: Aren’t your objections, based on the fact that the new system would result in a disadvantageous situation for the JVP?
No. We are not a party that makes decisions based on the number of parliamentary seats we would manage to win. During the tenure of CBK, we awarded two of our seats to her. When a JVP MP was accused of illegally transporting a youth to Japan, we ousted him from his parliamentary seat and was awarded to another party. When Sarath Fonseka’s MP status was cancelled by the Courts, we decided it should be taken up as a member of SF’s party although the next in line was a JVP MP.  So we have proved to the masses time and again, that we are not interested in merely MP positions. We believe in taking a stand for a just electoral system.  

Q: What type of amendments do you propose to establish a fair electoral system?
That can be discussed if a discussion is called for.  

Q: But a mechanism already exists – the All-party committee?
Yes, it convened for eleven years but none of the parties agreed on the Dinesh Gunawardena proposal; I suppose only he liked them.  

Q: You had stated that the preferential voting system is not the main issue. But isn’t that the root cause for thuggery and black-money to be increasingly associated with politics?
The competition during an election should exist among parties, but today it has shifted to an internal battle among party members. The reason for that is the inability to implement disciplinary regulations and maintain discipline among party members.

Secondly, the preferential voting system is not the root cause of this issue. Why are these politicians fighting their own colleagues to gain an MP position by spending millions of money? It is because being a MP, is the most lucrative business in the country today. Some candidates spend close to Rs. 300 – 400 million for their election campaigns. But the annual salary of an MP is only Rs. 6 million. So why spend Rs. 300 million to gain a return of just Rs. 6 million?  Today, being a MP, that paves way to engage in the drug mafia, ethanol mafia and all other illegal deals. So this is an issue concerning the political culture and not solely of the preferential voting system. So the change should occur in the political culture.

Q: Given the local political culture is steeped in illegal operations, do you think its possible to implement this change you envision?
It must be done. If the existing system is changed into an electoral-seat system, the money that was earlier pumped into the district would now be pumped into the electoral seat, which is basically allowing the electoral seat to be bought-off. The existing system, that at least allows a chance for those who spend comparatively less, to also enter Parliament. Through the proposed system, there will be no chance for those with limited finances for their campaigning because the parties interested in winning would field the richest in each seat to contest at the elections. So how will it be a just and fair change?

This is why we say the preferential voting system has become an issue due to the existing political culture. We agree with the need to change the electoral system but we don’t think the preferential voting system should be blamed for all the issues.

Q: Have you received any response to the demand made for the removal of the Central Bank Governor?  
We will not, and you must not expect that kind of ethics from this government. If this government was ethical, it was a decision they should have implemented by themselves before any political party demanded it. If the government is truly interested in re-establishing good governance, immediate steps should have been taken to remove the official from that position, when such a irregularity was exposed as it hasn’t even been two months since he was appointed.

Q: Don’t you think the JVP should also bear responsibility, if such irregularities continue to occur?
Why should we?  

Q: Why try to evade the responsibility when your party indirectly campaigned for President Sirisena’s victory and continues to work with the government as an Executive Council member?
We very clearly campaigned to topple the Rajapaksa regime and we believe achieving that goal was a significant victory. But we also told the people that our struggle does not end by January 8. We managed to oust the corrupt regime but we have a new struggle – to ensure this government re-establishes democracy, that corrupt individuals are brought to book and the corrupt deals are exposed and to ensure that no one tries to conceal the corruptions of the previous regime. Your accusation would be fair, if we remained silent before the misappropriations that are being committed under this regime. But we have been vociferous when the Avant Garde deal came up and even with the recent Treasury Bonds issues. Our yardstick on whether or not an individual is corrupt does not alter depending on whether or not that person is a supporter of the current President.  

Q:As SLFP calls for elections to be postponed, the JVP along with the UNP is pushing for elections after April 23. Why?
One reason is because we believe that the people’s mandate was not given for Ranil Wickremesinghe to continue being the Prime Minister or for the UNP to establish a government. Also, the parliamentary composition that was elected into in 2010 has changed today. Moreover, the anti-Rajapaksa wave was not simply against Rajapaksa but also against those who were in his government. The Ministers, who committed corruption alongside him and engaged in other illegal activities, cannot continue to be included in the National Government that would be established. President Sirisena should listen to those who supported him and not to the pleas of those who worked against him and the group that supported him calls for an election after 23.  

In the plan to establish a national government, 25 ministerial posts are to be for the SLFP, 25 for the UNP and 25 more are to be given as deputy ministerial posts. So who will fill the SLFP positions? Majority of them would be those who were accused of corruption during the previous regime. The National Government is an attempt to save those accused of corruption, from being brought to book. This shouldn’t be allowed; the people should be given the right to choose a new Parliament.

Q: What about implementing the pledges made by the 100-day programme?  
Yes, they should be implemented. But there is a plan underway to deliberately delay its implementation. For example, we believe the draft of the 19th amendment should be presented before the Parliament and passed. But the SLFP is asking for more time to further discuss its contents and delay its implementation. Such attempts should be prevented.  

Q:What are your views regarding the call being made to former President Rajapaksa to be made the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA?
The four individuals, who are campaigning for this call, are those who entered Parliament through the UPFA and received the patronage of Mahinda Rajapaksa during his tenure.  They are well aware that they will not be able to win a parliamentary seat if they contest alone and their survival lies in the Rajapaksa’s shadow.

As for MR, he has a right to engage in politics.  But he should understand that as a President that governed the country for nine years, then arbitrarily decided on holding elections along with his astrologer Sumanadasa and then lost that poll, it is not fitting to re-contest. He should instead enjoy his retirement.
He lost the Presidential election and is now trying to contest for general elections. What will he do next? Contest for the Southern Provincial polls? And if that too is lost, will he contest for the Beliatte Pradeshiya Sabha and then the Beliatte Co-operative elections?  In a civilized political sphere, the call being made for MR to be made the PM is not ethical.

Q: Is the JVP planning to contest alone at the upcoming general elections?
Yes, we have made a decision to contest alone.

Q: You had stated that the plan was to establish a JVP government in 2020?
Yes, we have such a plan, but of course, it’s up to the people. But after 50 days of this government, what they are interested in has been made obvious. So wouldn’t the people be interested in appointing a government that would put their mandate as the priority? We will use the upcoming election to gain strength and we will use it as a platform to build an expansive people’s movement consisting of all segments of the society. We will make ourselves ready to successfully face the exchange of power at the elections in 2020.
                                                                                                                               Pix by Pradeep Pathirana 

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