Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara, in an interview with Daily Mirror, elaborates about the formation of a new govt. under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena leaving aside those facing corruption allegations. He shared the following:
All SLFP MPs should be united under President as the party leader
Leaders must have wisdom and magnanimity to make sacrifices
Ministers facing corruption charges, should leave
Bond scam is so injurious to the govt.
President should take tough decisions
Economy is in crisis
UNP should be held responsible for it
SAITM must be brought under a trustee
People take govt. to task at village level
President Maithripala Sirisena is reported to have said that he would consider a new govt sans corrupt members. What do you think is the way forward?
Actually, President Sirisena quit the previous rule as he could not stand corruption as uttered by him. There were issues involving the Rajapaksas. He said he protested all that. People rallied behind him. They sought a govt which is not riddled with corruption, but offers democracy and good governance. Constitutional reforms, electoral reforms and judicial independence are all linked with these aspirations of people.
During the first term, the President was able to do away with some of his executive powers considered, draconian. Besides, he managed to get the 19th Amendment enacted making way for independent commissions to be set up. Likewise, he could build up SL’s image in the international arena. In the National Unity Govt, economic affairs were mainly handled by the UNP, though.
Controversy surrounding the Bond issue turned out to be the first affront to this govt. It became so injurious to the govt only a couple of months after its formation in 2015. It caused a multi-billion rupee fraud to the country. The interest rates shot up. The govt, elected for the sole purpose of rooting out corruption, had to grapple with the same charges.
Today, the President is dealing with those responsible. Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran was removed. After that, the Presidential Commission was appointed to look into the charges. Today, it is public knowledge that those responsible for mass scale corruption serve in the current rule. The President said at last Friday’s meeting that he had no way forward with corrupt elements. He vowed to form a govt without corrupt elements.
As a Minister representing the SLFP, do you also believe in the formation of such a govt at this hour?
It should happen, undoubtedly. I know the UNP is a party with dignity. There were corrupt, rogue and murderous elements. Yet, the charges were not proven against them. Minister Tilak Marapane resigned from the Cabinet once because he was just accused of something. He was the lawyer retained in the Avante Guarde case by the defence. He was accused of safeguarding it. In this instance, it was revealed that Arjun Aloysius, a key name involved in the Bond scam, paid the Penthouse rent of the former Finance Minister. There is money laundering involving a person named Kanthan. Such money is unaccounted for. The UNP cannot remain mute in this regard. It should initiate prompt action. Or else, it would lead to a no-confidence motion being moved against the minister concerned. I do not think the situation should go that far. The ministers, either from the UNP or the SLFP, should make up their minds to go home if their names are tainted with corruption allegations. That is what the President intends.
However, around 20 SLFP MPs are reportedly planning to leave the govt to sit in the Opposition. Then, how are you planning to form the new govt?
We cannot say anything exactly. First, we have to secure a simple majority by getting 113 MPs on board. It is the second move to secure two-thirds. Currently, the UNP has 106 seats. We have 95. The JVP has six and the TNA with 16. There are contradictions and confusions. Parliament cannot be dissolved for four and-a-half years. The President has to decide whether to form a govt or proceed with it as it is. There is a crisis in the manner in which economic affairs are handled. We have to find a solution to it. Two years have passed now; a period that is long enough for a govt to turn around the economy. It is true that we have a debt burden. Today, the economy is collapsing with the rising cost of living so does the unemployment rate. MR group is accusing us for the debacle. Who is responsible for leading the country on such a downward spiral? Is it the Finance Minister concerned or the govt as a whole? We insisted on correcting the situation. Today, at village level, people hold us to account. The President should take rigid, tough decisions in the greater interest of the people, and he should decide now without delaying further.
"Today, the President is dealing with those responsible. Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran was removed. After that, the Presidential Commission was appointed to look into the charges. Today, it is public knowledge that those responsible for mass scale corruption serve in the current rule. The President said at last Friday’s meeting that he had no way forward with corrupt elements. He vowed to form a govt without corrupt elements "
When you say ‘tough decisions’, what are they?
Which meant taking correct decisions in the greater interest of people. As for SAITM too, it should apply. It is commendable that the President took a decision to declare fuel distribution as an essential service when petroleum workers were on strike. Finally, after the military took over the fuel distribution, the issue came to an end. Unless such stern decisions are taken, the issues at hand would be compounded. It shouldn’t be allowed to happen. Still, the President is in the habit of consulting and pacifying both the parties. The govt should be straightforward in taking decisions.
Do you mean to say that enough is enough?
That is exactly what I want to say. The President used to consult all sides for the past couple of years. It has brought nothing, but anarchy in the country.
As for SAITM, you took a stand different to that of the govt. Are you happy with the solution worked out finally by taking over the Neville Fernando Teaching Hospital?
I fully stood for the fact that SAITM should be nationalized. The President has come to a compromise. I, along with Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Wijeydasa Rajapakshe and Patali Champika Ranawaka held the view that SAITM should be brought under the purview of a trustee. We believe that listing SAITM on the Colombo Stock Exchange would not address the issue. It should be a non-profitable venture. It should be open for bright students unable to enter the state medical faculties as an option to pursue their medical studies. We can provide them with loan facilities.
A section of SLFP MPs say that they should leave the govt after completion of two years in September. Its General Secretary Minister Duminda Dissanayake said that they should stay till December 31. What is your position?
We have to initiate a dialogue on the next step. We have issues with the govt. If we opt for an alternate govt, what should that be? All the 95 MPs of the SLFP should stand together if it is to form a govt led by their party. They all should come under one leader. If a team of MPs leave without such arrangement, it would create a split in the party and it would lead to creating three factions. One is with the govt and the other with the Joint Opposition. Besides, another team would neither be with the govt nor with the JO. I only propose that we all should stand together and decide on sitting in the Opposition. If so, the President should be our leader. If we stand in the middle of the road, we would be knocked down by the vehicles moving from both sides. We should be on the side. It is former President MR who left the SLFP leadership to President Sirisena. We worked against President Sirisena at that time. Today, we are accused of leaving MR to join hands with the President. Actually, the President took over the SLFP leadership. That is what happened. As the SLFP, we should take a common stand.
If I quit the govt today, I would start slandering the govt the very next day. Yet, some of our MPs, planning to leave, say they would support the current regime on some matters. If we go, we would have to be totally oppositional to the govt. There is a leader for the SLFP. The JO also has a leader. Who is our leader? We cannot sit inbetween. We have to choose between the two.
As you said, there are two leaders. They are not prepared to see eye to eye. Then, how could you unite the party under one leadership?
The UNP, as a party, was in a much more serious crisis at one time. I was there with them. So, I knew it. The leaders should have wisdom and magnanimity to make sacrifices on behalf of their parties and party men. What MR is today, is what the SLFP brought him. He should be able to think on behalf of his party. The same goes for President Sirisena. Unless it is done, the SLFP would go from crisis to crisis. It would entail a series of defeats at the hands of the UNP. If we make way for the UNP, people would hold us answerable to the problems it creates. Today, the UNP has only semi-control in the govt. If the UNP could be disastrous to the country, holding semi-control over the govt, we can fathom how it would be, in the event of complete control!
There were decisions taken by the Finance Minister earlier on which were detrimental to the country. He introduced a Super Gain Tax. Though it was not implemented, it antagonized people against us. Then, a Capital Tax was proposed. It was not implemented too. Yet, it alienated local entrepreneurs from us.
"I fully stood for the fact that SAITM should be nationalized. The President has come to a compromise. I, along with Ministers Susil Premajayantha, Wijeydasa Rajapakshe and Patali Champika Ranawaka held the view that SAITM should be brought under the purview of a trustee. "
The SLFP, in principle, is opposed to the alienation of national assets. What is your opinion on the leasing out of the Hambantota Port?
Whatever anyone might say, MR also worked out an agreement. It was also similar to the present one in content - more or less with some amendments to the present one.