Says the government is similar to a broiler chicken as it had no mechanism to keep going
The General Secretary of the UPFA Susil Premajayantha in an interview with the Daily Mirror hinted that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa would be the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA. However, he said the role of the former President at the upcoming elections was not yet decided. He stated that the current government of 100-days was similar to a broiler as it had no mechanism to keep going with the development projects. He said that they pressed for the 20th Amendment as it was one of the promises made by President Maithripala Sirisena at the January 8 Presidential Election.
Q The UPFA is an alliance of several parties. Some of the parties support former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and some others support President Maithripala Sirisena. The SLFP seems to be caught in the middle. Do you think UPFA will contest at the upcoming Parliamentary elections?
We are trying to contest as the UPFA along with the 14 parties, which are with us. Although four parties of our Alliance participate at the rallies, which support the former President to be back in power and although the SLFP members participate in those rallies and meetings all of them do participate at the meetings of the UPFA chaired by President Maithripala Sirisena.
Some of the parties even have sent their suggestions and requested information about the next election. However, there are some who believe the former President should be the Prime Ministerial candidate. The majority are of the view that he should be there at the campaign. The issue is what role he should play.
Q There are some who attempt to bring both Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa on to one platform. What is the progress in this?
We had a discussion recently, which many participated in. Based on the outcome we have appointed a committee. At the meeting we decided to go ahead and bring these two leaders on the same platform. Many UPFA supporters were happy over this decision. The public like to see them together. But the UNP does not because it will be a disadvantage for it.
Q As the General Secretary of the UPFA, how do you see the attempt of bringing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa back as the Prime Minister?
I have no issues with that. 5.8 million voters wanted him back. Except for the UNP the other 6.2 million also do not seem to have an issue. There would not be an issue as a President is already appointed. The executive powers were not reduced the way we expected. Even if Mahinda Rajapaksa becomes the Prime Minister, it would not be an issue.
Q Does that mean Rajapaksa will be the Prime Ministerial candidate?
It will automatically happen. Nobody will vote him to be just an MP. Whether he becomes the Prime Ministerial candidate or not, people will vote him to be the Prime Minister. Anyway what is needed is participation.
Q The UNP was very supportive of bringing out the 19th Amendment. However, the UNP now seems to be pulling a leg in bringing up the 20th Amendment. What can you say about this?
This is a clear indication of differences between political principles of the UPFA and the UNP. We supported the 19th Amendment for two reasons.
One is because it is a promise made by the President and secondly there was a long drawn out discussion about this in the country and the UPFA actively participated in those discussions. Therefore, we supported it. Even in our manifesto, at the last Presidential Election, we have mentioned a Constitutional Amendment.
We in fact told them bring the 20th Amendment along with the 19th Amendment. But since there were certain legal barriers we agreed to bring the 20th amendment after the 19th amendment. In fact the proposal to bring forward the 20th Amendment was made by the SLFP and some other parties.
The 20th Amendment is a promise made by the President. People are exhausted with the existing system as they have been exposed to it from 1978. I do not understand why they do not agree with the new system.
"The UPFA agrees with this particular proposal made by Rathana Thera. There are two alternatives. One is dissolving the Parliament and the second is to form a new government."
Q UNP is demanding for dissolution of the Parliament. But the SLFP is saying otherwise. What do you think? Are we going for an election after passing the 20th Amendment?
That is something the President has to decide. In the manifesto he presented, the 19th and the 20th Amendments are two main factors. It is the President who has the power to dissolve the Parliament. Just because the UNP is requesting for an election he does not have to go for an election. He can go for an alternative.
Some people say that the Parliament has expired. But a Parliament cannot become expired. It is this 100-day government which has expired.
Q Recently Athuraliye Rathana Thera said if the UNP did not want to go ahead with the 20th Amendment it was better to form a new Parliament and pass the 20th Amendment with a UPFA Prime Minister. Did the UPFA leaders give such a proposal?
The UPFA agrees with this particular proposal made by Rathana Thera. There are two alternatives. One is dissolving the Parliament and the second is to form a new government.
We did not make such a proposal. We are pressing for the 20th Amendment. The government has to decide on that.
"However, there are some who believe the former President should be the Prime Ministerial candidate. The majority are of the view that he should be there at the campaign. The issue is what role he should play."
Q There seems to be a conflict among the parties, which were in the forefront in bringing up the present government.
It happens so. The common people say the country is at a standstill. Many development projects have been stopped. There are many issues like these.
At the last election some of the parties gathered around the ‘Swan’.
If it was the UNP, which formed the government then, that government would be a UNP government. Because, the UNP is a powerful party with roots spread around the country.
It is the same with the UPFA. There is a network of these parties. Although the election was won, it was not a party with a network which won. It was merely an opposition alliance. After the election, to get going they did not have a mechanism. Of course there is a conflict.
For example, the Hela Urumaya wants to pass the 20th Amendment and go for an election. On the contrary the UNP thinks otherwise.
One wants 225 members in Parliament. But the TNA would not agree with that. On the other hand the SLMC would not agree with any of these proposals.
There seem to be clashes among these parties. But this did not happen in the UPFA. Other parties, which were with the UPFA aligned with the principles of the SLFP.
"You have to understand the difference. Chandrika Bandaranaike was President for two terms before the 18th Amendment came into force. ..."
The UNP is campaigning for a national government. The UNP never says it would form a government of its own.
Then if it formed a national government then again there would be a conflict of ideologies.
For example the UNP is presenting its manifesto and the SLFP is presenting its own separately.
If they (these two parties) were going to form a government together, why would they contest separately and why should there be a separate manifestos? Therefore it is not pragmatic.
The only common idea the Opposition alliance had during the election was defeating Mahinda Rajapaksa in which they had succeeded.
But beyond that, they do not have a plan. What is a 100-day government? It is like a broiler.
Q There are some MPs, who vocally support the former President. And then there are some, who support the incumbent President But all these times your stance was not clear. Where do you exactly stand?
All these times I have been with the party. The main target I have is the party’s victory. I do not have any personal agenda.
Q What is the role played by the former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga in the SLFP and how helpful is she in preserving the unity of the party?
You have to understand the difference. Chandrika Bandaranaike was President for two terms before the 18th Amendment came into force. But Mahinda Rajapaksa did not retire. A person who retired would advise while a person who has not can do a lot more than a retired person.
As far as I know, from 2005-2015 she did not play any role in the party and she did not have an opportunity to do so. Therefore within that period the alliance expanded and many new faces joined. There is a vast change in the roles as the times have changed.
As for now, she does not work closely with the party office. But she may work closely and advise the ministers, who are close to her.