With the controversial statement made by Minister John Senevirathne suggesting that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa be appointed as the second in command of the SLFP; there were many who made their observations. In an interview the minister shared the following:
Q In the motion brought against Minister Ravi Karunanayake, had you all voted in support of him?
Yes, we decided to vote against the no-confidence motion, it is obligatory as far as we are concerned, being in the government to do so.
Q The President once said that he would send all those who burden people with taxes, but taxes were imposed. Your views...
Yes with the VAT people were unduly burdened. We discussed this matter with the minister concerned and agreed to amend and made a statement to that affect. I agree that this tax included health, education and water as well. We are discussing this matter further with the President and explore all avenues to remove this tax.
Q Despite all these, you saved Ravi Karunanayake. What made you to do it?
As I said earlier, there are issues, and we discussed in detail about this, but as a constituent party we decided to oppose to this motion. We were made to understand that this was a move against the government.
Q You, being a senior Cabinet Minister, what have you got to say about the recent explosion in Kosgama.
Investigations are now under way from various directions, and therefore, it would be better to wait for the outcome of the investigations.
Q Is excluding Army intelligence Unit from these investigations questionable?
I also read that in the newspapers. We will discuss this matter at the next Cabinet meeting.
Q What is the current position of the suggestion to bring Gotabhaya Rajapaksa as second -in-command of the SLFP?
Actually what I said in Embilipitiya had been distorted.
Q What is observed that, after your statement, you have now won the ire of the anti Rajapaksa group in the party?
No, that is not so. But my statement had been distorted. I never spoke of a second leader of the party. I only mentioned about a level two leadership. There are many level two leaders in our party.
Q Who are they?
Why? What about me, then there is Nimal Siripala de Silva, Susil Premajayantha, Anura PriyadharshanaYapa, A.H.M. Fowzie and S.B.Dissanayake. We all are in level two. What I suggested was a similar position to Gotabhaya. I did not mean that after the President it should be Gotabhaya, what I mentioned was a level two leader.
Q Before making your statement, did you discuss it with Gotabhaya?
Yes, I did.
Q What was his response?
He never said anything directly of accepting it. But from the discussion I had with him, it was clear that he is not opposed to it and showed a keenness in working with the President. He also mentioned about bridging the gap within the party as the division is unfavourable to the country. When I asked ‘as a Rajapakse’ what could you do to unite the party. He said he was ready to do it, and when I asked him whether he did like to join the party and work for its better progress, he said if that was so, he would do it for the sake of the party.
Q Did you discuss this matter with the President?
No, I haven’t. But I expressed my opinion.
Q When Mahinda Rajapaksa is around, why did you suggest to bring in Gotabhaya. Any special reason....
Good question. My expectation is that of Mahinda and the President could jointly take the party forward is now shattered. However, I tried my best.
Q Who is obstructing; Maithripala or Mahinda?
I do not want to mention any. But it appears that the atmosphere is not conducive at all. Therefore I feel this effort will no longer bear fruit.
Q Do you think the anti-Rajapaksa clan in the party would allow Gotabhaya?
That could only be decided based on what is going to happen in the future. It is true that there are anti Rajapakses. I am a very good SLFPer. It is since 50 years I have been in the party. There are many such members in the party. One is D.M. Jayarathne. I joined the SLFP in 1960 and established a party office in Pelmadulla and became its president. At that time, I was a student. From there onwards, I sincerely worked for the party. At the Law College, I was the President of the Sri Lanka Independent Lawyers’ Association. I mediated to save the youth who had been abducted during 1987-89, and appeared for them in every Court in Ratnapura. The incumbent President knows about me and whenever a task is assigned, I would accomplish it. I have never gone against the party nor involved in any illegal activities. I am only bent on leading this party to victory in the 2020 polls. This is the only thing I keep thinking and hoping to achieve.
The party decided to join the consensus government. I am bound by the party’s decision. I have not deviated from the belief that the party should be strengthened to contest and triumph at the 2020 polls. We made the Prime Minister too informed about our programme.
"Yes with the VAT people were unduly burdened. We discussed this matter with the minister concerned and agreed to amend and made a statement to that affect. I agree that this tax included health, education and water as well."
Q At the recently held meeting of the government group, did your reference to Gotabhaya Rajapaksa receive much aberration?
That meeting was held under the patronage of both the President and the Prime Minister. Ministers Rajitha Senarathne and Sarath Fonseka vehemently criticized my statement.
Q What was your response?
I stated clearly that this was a party-related matter and they have no right to talk about it. President thereafter said that it was party matter and it should not be discussed at that forum. Then I went on saying not only Gotabhaya Rajapakse, there are many others waiting to be victorious in 2020, he was very anxious to propose them as well.
Q What about Basil Rajapaksa? Is he also in the picture?
I am not at all happy with him. I would not propose his name to join our party. Because I can tell you firmly that he was the cause of our defeat. Moreover, we encountered several unfortunate incidents when we were in power just because of Basil Rajapaksa.
Q What are those occasions?
I do not wish to mention them and I wish not to talk about him (Basil Rajapaksa).
Q Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike said if Gotabhaya enters the SLFP, she would leave....
That may be her thinking. We would be able to discuss it at the Central Committee meeting. But what I cannot understand is when one is included to enhance the party, why should another leave? I cannot understand what sort of politics those are.
"I need not to be a leech. I have a good voter base and a sound political background. I have always been victorious in my electorate with higher margins. Sarath Fonseka cannot say that. He has never won in that manner."
Q Minister Sarath Fonseka had said that though you are physically involved with the government but literally with Mahinda Rajapaksa?
That is all Sarath Fonseka knows about politics. I replied him. He does not bear wider knowledge in politics. He was a military officer and that is why he ridicules everybody.
Q He also referred to you as a leech trying to cling onto someone’s back...
I need not be a leech. I have a good voter base and a sound political background. I have always been victorious in my electorate with higher margins. Sarath Fonseka cannot say that. He has never won in that manner. It is sad to note that a person of his calibre casting aspersions on me. It does not warrant me to reply to his remarks.
Q However, you are bent on bringing Gotabaya?
I will continue my effort for the sake of the party.