Matara district Joint Opposition MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardane, in an interview with Daily Mirror, says it will continue to fight against the government come what may. He says the government seems to be trying to postpone national elections.
Q Amidst the present state of affairs, how does the Joint Opposition plan its political activities?
We carry out our political activities as usual. We meet people. We go for funerals and weddings. It is as usual.
Q Still you do not have a proper political identity in the form of a new party or movement. How are you proceeding with it?
Actually, there is no need for us to build a new identity. We have already carved it out in politics. This is my 33rd year in politics. People know me well in my electoral district and vice versa. We will continue to do politics.
Q You were expelled from the organiser post of the party. What do you feel about it?
For me, it was a foregone conclusion. It is nothing new. I knew it would happen at one point given the manner in which the party affairs were conducted.
Q How does the Joint Opposition plan its political activities?
We continue to agitate against the atrocious political activities of the government. We will not stop it at any cost.
Q But, public perception is that you will form a new party. What is the actual position?
Actually, we will contest the next elections definitely if we remain alive. It is premature to announce from what side we will contest. One thing is clear. We are contesting.
Q You are referring to the parliamentary elections. What about the local government elections?
We will field candidates for that election. We will support them. We have not yet decided modalities for it. We intend to form a political force. As things stand at the moment, we do not even need a political party. People will rally behind us even if we contest as independent groups. If we explain to people the dangerous trend the country is heading towards, they will accept. Both the country’s sovereignty and future are at stake. Clear signs are emerging in this regard. A lame duck government is there. It does not have a proper plan. Its only plan was to unseat former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. There is nothing more than that for them. Virtually, the country is caught in a heap of creepers. The Ministers contradict each other. There is contradiction within contradiction and confusion within confusion. Is this a government? Where is it heading? What will be the end result?
There is growing public unrest against the government. It is our duty to give leadership to these people and unite them for a common front.
"We did not listen to anyone. We assumed that we were correct all the time. We did a lot of development work. But, they received scant publicity. We disregarded giving publicity. Instead, there was negative publicity by the other side. We did not counter it well "
Q You were a Cabinet Minister of the previous rule. In your view, what are the reasons for its defeat at the January 8th election?
It was defeated merely because of falsehood established in society by the forces with vested interests. There was a malicious propaganda campaign. There was one form of propaganda targeting the Muslim community, and another for the Sinhala community. It was a well calculated and well planned move. It was a conspiracy planned systemically over a period.
The western countries and some other countries in the neighbourhood pumped in hordes and hordes of money for this conspiracy. Everyone possible was bought over. Regional politics also played a role. The end result was the defeat of the government.
Q Then, why did you fail to counter such false propaganda?
Of course, our shortcomings made way for establishments of such false propaganda in society. Some of our activities served as impetus for untruths spread by these forces.
Q What are your shortcomings?
We did not listen to anyone. We assumed that we were correct all the time. We did a lot of development work. But, they received scant publicity. We disregarded giving publicity. Instead, there was negative publicity by the other side. We did not counter it well. We could have done so.
Q How have you corrected it now?
Actually, at this time, the current government is giving us opportunities to be seized for publicity. The Central Bank bond scam was one. The conduct of some Ministers was another for us to campaign against the government. There is ongoing political victimisation and vendetta. It is loathsome for people. There are corruption allegations against the government. The government is virtually helping us. Corruption involving local politicians is talked about in the Australian media.
Q How do you plan your role in Parliament now?
We are planning it amid various hurdles. The government is placing all possible stumbling blocks. We are not recognised. The Speaker is yet to recognise our group formally. We are not allotted time adequately. We have the support of 51 MPs. Time is not allotted for them adequately and proportionately. However, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) with 16 MPs and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) with six MPs get time more than enough time.
"We feel that the government will not go for the elections. It is scared of elections. The government seems to be planning to postpone even the parliamentary elections"
Q Do you intend to fight for it?
Yes, we will. We will request the Speaker to recognise us as an independent group.
Q But, you contested the election on the ticket of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). It is a party to the government. Then, don’t you see any legal barrier for it?
We contested on the UPFA ticket. Its leader President gave us permission to sit in the opposition. Otherwise, he should have asked to stay with the government. We were permitted to sit in the opposition as a group opposed to the government. In fact, we voted against the government’s budget last time. Then, why can’t we be recognised as a group formally. This is nothing but repression. We seek the help of the Speaker as the custodian.
Q Are you planning yet another Pada Yatra?
No, we won’t do it. One is enough. Next, we will have a series of meetings at village level.
Q Is it in view of the local government elections?
We feel that the government will not go for the elections. It is scared of elections. The government seems to be planning to postpone even the parliamentary elections. Instead, there will be a referendum seeking the extension of the present parliament as done by late President J.R. Jayewardene. It is being planned with the support of international forces.
Q How do you make such allegations without substantial evidence?
That was what we heard from reliable sources. We can sense what the government is up to. Foreign nations never help us. They deal with those dancing according to their tune only. They won’t deal with us.
Q The government is talking about a massive development drive in the south. You are a politician from the southern province. What are your views?
The government talks very highly of its planned development projects. But, nothing is planned out other than those laid down in ‘Mahinda Chintana’ policies. The government sees whether it is possible to implement at least what was there in that policy document at that time. We promised to give 1000 acres for Chinese projects. Now, the government is promising 15,000 acres. The government has virtually admitted that our policy was correct.
The government vowed to scrap the Port City Project. Now, they have decided to go ahead with it even with the offer of more land for China. They are going after China with a begging bowl. We had a plan for the development of the country.
Q The alienation of minority groups was yet another reason for the defeat of the previous government. What is your position?
It is like this. It was false propaganda. It is clear who was behind Bodu Bala Sena that carried out an anti-Muslim campaign. Now, I think Muslims have realised it. Their business operations are down. Recently, a Muslim businessman was abducted. Had it happened during our time, the government would have been blamed. Today, there is a Police Force trying to bend the law. It is called law bending Police. The Police are used to carry out political victimisation.