Veteran journalist, reputed TV presenter and senior attorney Sudath Jayasundara is one of the fresh faces to contest from Colombo District representing the United National Party (UNP) at the coming election.
Starting as a lobby correspondent for Ceylon Daily News, Jayasundara graduated in law from the Colombo University and he worked at the Telshan Networks Limited (TNL) finally becoming one of its directors. While being a leading lawyer he also held directorships in a number of public quoted companies and he was the honorary chairman of the Buddhist television channel Shraddha TV and
Organiser for the Maharagama electorate Mr. Jayasundara stresses the need to elect educated members to parliament and representatives from various professions. He says that the Rajapaksa government wants to get rid of 19th Amendment which introduced many democratic values to the country to achieve personal and political gains. Excerpts;
Q What importance do you see in the UNP coming back to power at this point?
The UNP has the power to democratise this system. If we closely look at the 19th Amendment we will see many positives like the Commissions and legal frameworks to protect people’s rights such as the Right to Information Act. The commissions were setup with a purpose. Though they say now that the commissions are not independent, the purpose of establishing commissions was to assure that the people’s rights are not violated. We saw that arbitrary transfers and arbitrary appointments were taking place in many government institutions.
Now even in the judiciary the appointment are made on the commission’s recommendations.
Q It is not a just a victory but what the SLPP is aiming at a two thirds majority. What is your comment?
There was this term ‘saloon door’ which was used by politicians and even Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa to refer to the political crossovers. At the same time government says that it needs a two third majority to put a stop to the practice of political crossovers. But if we study the past we see that nobody came to the UNP from that side. It was the government parties and their people who got the best of everything by keeping it open and allowing the crossovers. So now they are talking about crossovers referring it to a ‘salon door’ but what they don’t talk about is what else they are going to restrict. Now 19th Amendment also has a provision where the President cannot arbitrary dissolve the parliament. They charged this was done with the aim of blocking SLPP members from contesting the election. And also there are provisions where duel citizens are not allowed to contest. Actually if we are talking about Sri Lanka we need to have faith and love for the country. We cannot be duel citizens and have it both ways. For our benefit one day we are American citizens and on the other day Sri Lankans. We can’t do that. That is why all these provisions were brought about.
"Getting the help of forces to control Covid-19 is fine but we should not militarize whole system"
Take the Right to information Act which was never there before. Now because of the right to information there is lot of transparency and the media can question any state institution. Media can question what happened to the money in the Covid-19 Fund. Still the people cannot talk about it. Do we know how much money the Covid-19 fund received so far? The European Union says it gave Euros 22 million and the World Health Organisation also says a contribution was made but we do not know how much money is there. So the government says yes, but adds that it didn’t get any money yet. The only way to get this is filing a right to information petition. The right to information also embodied in the Constitution.
Q You were a veteran journalist too. When comes to media freedom we saw recently how a senior police officer, dragging a journalist for taking his photograph at the Colombo High Court premises. Being a journalist yourself, do you think this could this be a sign of an era that we are going to see?
It is for this we fought earlier and that is why United National Front came forward for good governance or Yahapalanaya. As a journalist I know a number of my brother journalists were attacked during the previous Rajapaksa regime. During that past regime up to about 2010 this was there. That is why I have always being telling now that S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike’s 1966 concept ‘Pancha Maha Balawegaya’- ‘Sanga, Weda, Guru, Govi, Kamkaru’ (Five major forces) have to be changed to ‘Ashta Maha Balawegaya (Eight Major Forces) by bringing media, forces and the business people there. Because these three are missing in Pancha Maha Balawegaya. The media is very important now. During the last Rajapaksa regime attacks were carried out on journalists like Keith Noyahr, Upali Tennakone and other friends of mine. They were journalists whom I knew personally and with whom I have travelled to cover certain events. That was a past and what happened at the High court is a new happening. So these incidents have to be controlled. Media should be free and their freedom should not be controlled. Why I wanted to bring military forces into ‘Pancha Maha Balawegaya’ is that during Covid-19 spread they did a great job but the government cannot go beyond that and militarize the whole system. To control and contain that the media need to be there. Being the fourth estate the media are a powerful element and that they should be given freedom.
"Attacks on journalists should be stopped"
Q You are an established professional. Some people interpret politics as a pit of mud. We saw how certain people’s representative behave in parliament when the constitutional crisis took place in 2018. And there are allegations of the education standards of the elected majority of the MPs. Do you think people like you should get into the same pit?
People say that all 225 should be chased off because half of them had not passed their ordinary level examination and the some are rogues. Some of them didn’t have even the basic qualifications. Now if you take the UNP list almost all of them are professionals, some of them are proficient in law, field of research work and some are proficient in medicine. So there are lot of people who had come forward. New faces in politics will give a wider outlook. A person with ordinary level has a limited exposure. But when you come from a different background that has lot of exposures added to the qualification. You can easily address issues that are coming up in a more viable manner. Otherwise you don’t know how to treat these issues that have come up on and off which are very important to the society. That is one thing. Other thing we need people with the new faces because people have shunned politics and they are not interested in it. They even don’t want to come and vote. What they say is these old faces have destroyed the country. Each one is accusing one another whereas we know what happened. The part of the country was sold and the very people who sold the land now accusing the UNF government of having done so.
"We have to protect the democracy"
Q You are contesting from Maharagama which is traditionally a bastion of nationalistic and pro-Rajapaksa parties. You too were a chairman of a TV channel promoting the great teachings of Buddha and you can openly claim the right as a representative of Sinhalese and Buddhists. How difficult is this battle going to be?
Buddhism is being fair to all people. Because of the Buddhism only all the other religions are there. There is high tolerance level in the great teaching of the Buddha. That is why I always promote and propagate Buddhism. The UNP lost the last election because Buddhist clergy were criticised. Not only the clergy if you may recall even the Cardinal was criticised and all the sectors are leaving the UNP. Fortunately those people are not there in the UNP anymore. All these people are gone or sent out. Similarly when it comes to the Catholic church same story happened and same stories happening repeatedly. So those elements are no longer there. If I call myself a Buddhist and propagating Buddhism and reconciliation, it is not difficult if we stick to our beliefs which will not harm anyone and everyone is given the place and Buddhism is protected. I stand for that. Buddhism should be given uppermost place along with other religions.