one print one electronic have been attacking me personally for three years.’
Two youthful ministers of the Yahapalanaya government are presently accusing each other over several controversial subjects that may even end up in courts. Minister Harin Fernando has now openly challenged his erstwhile Cabinet colleague Minister Ranjan Ramanayake which is a development that came to light when the former was interviewed recently. Excerpts of this interview with Minister Harin Fernando follows.
Q So, finally Harin Fernando also figured in the Avant Garde issue?
No, and I have never made any statement to protect Avant Garde. I have been misquoted after what I said at two TV discussions. What I explained then was how Avant Garde originated and my views on its legality according to what I knew. I never said anything good or bad about it. However, my views were misinterpreted. I only stated what Minister Wijedasa Rajapakse had commented on the legal position of the issue. Even today I am not aware whether the transactions were in order. It appears that the Avant Garde issue is being used to sling mud at the UNP.
Q But your friend Ranjan Ramanayake says that he suspects you also to have been bought over by Avant Garde?
That is what the papers said and I do not believe that Ranjan would have told a thing like that. Whatever the circumstances,I am not going to attack Ranjan through the press. But if Ranjan had actually made a statement to that effect I will definitely take legal action against him whether he is my friend or not. I also wish to remind him that if he had told a thing like that to act with more responsibility and not be a film star getting carried away with the applause and whistles of film fans.
Q This Avant Garde matter had created differences of opinions among UNP MPs who are leveling charges at each other. They behave as if they were participating at a fish auction in Negombo?
No, it is not so. It clearly proves how democracy operates. Earlier, no-one was able to speak openly. over some issue a minister resigned, but now it has been forgotten and various persons are pointing fingers at others. Thilak Marapona’s resignation is now shattered. We took a firm decision at the Cabinet on collective responsibility. I cannot divulge what transpired at the meetings as it is an offence to do so.
"Honestly we have no issues with organisations that stood by us in ushering this change. Their constructive criticism was always considered by us. "
Q But aren’t there reporters who leak out what is discussed at these meetings by releasing recorded speeches?
It is a disgrace. We took a firm decision not to allow this sort of thing to be repeated. We have pledged to maintain secrecy of Cabinet proceedings. In your presence too I hold that promise. Let us not derail the process, we took a decision together to establish new political thinking. Let us leave aside this Avant Garde and develop this country.
Q In bringing this government to power the civil society played a magnanimous role. But after assuming power has Harin Fernando taken them to task?
This is also another fabricated story like the one related to Ranjan Ramanayake. This was a news item incorrectly carried by the media. I have personally written to the three members of the civil societies involved, clarifying the position regarding the matters they raised. When I was asked whether the civil organisations were against this government I replied that genuine civil organisations were not against the government but a handful of business oriented ones were. Honestly we have no issues with organisations that stood by us in ushering this change. Their constructive criticism was always considered by us. But there are some organisation with interests in business fields that attack us. There is one print media and an electronic media that are bent on attacking me at a personal level and they have been doing so over the last three years. I actually thank them for doing that because the more they attack me the more popular I got. These are the organisations that attempted to pit me against genuine civil organisations. But they have failed miserably.
Q Mr. Minister, who was the stranger who walked into your ministry recently?
There was an attempt [to sneak into my ministry] and I have kept the President and the Prime Minister informed about it.
Q Without beating about the bush tell us who this minister’s son was?
It is not necessary to mention who he was, and as the president and the Prime Minister had already discussed this matter I do not wish to comment on it. I do not think a repetition of that nature would take place. If one does, I know how to deal with it.
Q Isn’t a person like Harin who toiled so much to bring the UNP to power being humiliated in this manner distasteful?
As I said earlier I am used to this type of ups and downs. I view them as new experiences.
Q What have you got to say about your night life?
That is also another instance of mud slinging. Some photos were taken at a party I attended about two years ago. With the powers vested in me, I can ban them, but I value modern technology. This is the dirty work of a few who were against everything. I am a person who likes fun and frolic; there were many actors and actresses who supported me as well as others.
Q Some say that even after playing a dominant role in the Uva elections considered as the turning point in the UNP coming back to power, you have not got better treatment?
That is the idea of some and people like Nimal Siripala. As a young man I am happy about the responsibilities I have been given. At first I did not realise the importance of this ministry, but now I am convinced that much is desired and expected from it.
Q What about the WI-FI promised by you?
We have done much towards it. We have entered into agreements to have Google Balloons over our skies for this purpose. There are a few matters that need to be sorted out, after which it would be operative. Only two months have passed since I took over this ministry.