A former deputy minister and UPFA Colombo district Candidate Thilanga Sumathipala speaks of his offer to resign and his support of Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime minister of the next Parliament.Following are excerpts.
By Nabeela Hussain Q What can you tell me about the resignation of the ministers and deputy minister?
All of us wrote on July 22, to the President saying that we were bound by the central committee decision taken on February 14 to join the government for two reasons. One was the 19th Amendment and the other was the electoral reforms through the the 20th Amendment.
The other reason was the injustice and harassment and various illegal acts taken by the government, especially the FCID, for those reasons it was decided that we would be part of the government.
That decision to date is valid and the party is bound by it. Then we wrote to the President and were expecting a central committee meeting to be called on by July 30. If there was a meeting, we would be resigning effective from that date.
That is what I have communicated.
Q But, there was no central committee meeting, so where do you stand now?
We have sent the letter which would be effective with a central committee decision. But some people went to court and the court extended the stay.
I informed through the letter that I was not functioning as a deputy minister. My intention was to resign. But to date the acceptance of our resignation nor the decision of the central committee has been conveyed to us.
Q Where you are concerned you have resigned?
I have given my letter subject to the decision of the central committee. Our positions remain as they were. But the interpretation was that we have resigned.
Q But you said that you wanted to resign?
We have offered to resign subject to central committee decision.
QAlthough you are not functioning as the deputy minister, you are the deputy minister?
Technically speaking, once Parliament is only a caretaker cabinet functions not ministers.
But in an emergency, there is a mandatory requirement for a minister to be present. That is a remote situation; so after the dissolution except for the cabinet all others become defunct.
Q Some reports say that some holding these posts were clear about this decision.
Everyone decided to abide by the central committee decision unanimously.
Q What about Mahinda Amaraweera?
He was only responding to a news alert. He said he had not resigned on that day. He was misquoted. Our decision made on July 22 remains the same.
Q Why resign?
From the time Parliament was dissolved we saw no reason to hang around. But, owing to party policy, we wrote asking to make a decision on this.
Q How come you didn’t resign with the three ministers right after the President’s speech?
That was their personal decisions. I am with the party and its principles. You can’t take individual decisions.
Q There is a news story of a call between former President Mahind Rajapaksa and you, when you had accused him of betraying the party to save his family. Can I get a comment on this?
The former President and I have always had positive discussions with each other.
Q Does this mean you would be supporting him as the next prime ministerial candidate?
It’s like this. We are running this campaign and our campaign leader is Mahinda Rajapaksa.
I believe strongly that SLFP will win the highest number of seats at the election and that we will be invited to form a government. Then we will be deciding who will be the prime minister and believe that Mahinda Rajapaksa is the most popular member of our party to be the leader of the UPFA.
Q Generally former presidents including Mahinda Rajapaksa did not take a consensus of the Parliament before appointing a prime minister. Do you think that it will happen this time too?
No, the situation in Parliament has changed. The Parliament has more power. After the 19th Amendment you cannot dissolve Parliament, if it is more stable.
Then the most respected man in Parliament should appointed as PM. We are clear in that view and propose Mahinda Rajapaksa as prime minister.
Q At a recent meeting Chandrika said that those around Mahinda Rajapaksa were blackmailed to be there. Some e reports say that you also said the same thing. What do you have to say about this?
Nothing of that nature has been mentioned. I’m the only one contesting in the Colombo City from the UPFA. There is no other candidate.
I don’t have a problem with any of the leaders, whether it is Mahinda, Maithripala or even Chandrika.
Q So basically you’re telling there is nothing to blackmail you with?
I can stand my own. My principles are with the SLFP.
Q How was it being a deputy minister in such a government?
There was a policy decision for us to support President Maithripala.
Q Yes, but what has been your experience?
I have never met Mr. Wickremasinghe in my capacity as a deputy as it was not a Cabinet minister’s portfolio. I was there for only six weeks; there was nothing much one could do in that time.
Q One last question, have you declared your assets and liabilities?
I have declared my assets since Telecom. I declared my assets and liabilities to the elections commissioner and also to Parliament. I have been above board; you must encourage people to declare not only their assets but also their budgets for elections. So if any of these people spend Rs. 150 million on their campaigns they must be asked “What is your income?’’
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