UNP MP Ravi Karunanayaka spoke to the Daily Mirror on the electricity concession given at the May Day rallies, the no-confidence motion against the Minister of Energy, and the release of MP Duminda Silva . - By Dianne Silva
Q. The UNP was agitating for an electricity tariff concession and after the May Day rally it would seem that you got what you asked for. Is the UNP satisfied with the concession? And how does the concession line-up with all the arguments the government presented earlier to justify the increase in electricity prices?
I would say that the first exposure of the government’s hypocrisy has been seen in this instance. We have relentlessly been pursuing this nepotistic, corrupt, inhuman and inefficient government and we have been able to catch them at their own game. The electricity issue is something that affects everyone, along with the high cost of living that has been around from the day the Rajapaksa government took office.
" Many say that you cannot ensure corruption free government; but I don’t believe that. I think that if you have a clean head, then clean practices continue down the system "
This is just utter hypocrisy, it is the President who is the head of the cabinet; he is the one who said there is an economic issue and prices need to be raised, he is the one who took the decision to raise the prices and he is the very one who is now saying—let me give the people a concession. This is like robbing Rs. 100 and giving him back Rs.20 and saying “please be happy with it”. Therefore we are not at all happy with what has happened; this is just an exposure of their nudity.
Let me say this with all responsibility; we have gone to court on the Petroleum issue, but the government did not want to do it. I can say that if we come into power tomorrow and the people elect us, we will ensure that petrol will be sold at Rs.90 per litre. The increase in electricity is not due to an increase in input costs; it is the cost of inefficiency and corruption. On that score if we are elected tomorrow we can ensure that electricity prices are reduced by 43.5 per cent.
Q. Essentially you are saying that the UNP can promise a corruption free government?
Many say that you cannot ensure a corruption free government; but I don’t believe that. I think that if you have a clean head, then clean practices continue down the system. It is simply that this government allows this system to prevail; even though they could get rid of inefficiencies with a little oiling here and there. I say that you can have a corrupt free government and society with a corruption free head.
Q. Some would say that past UNP governments have not been able to prove that
People can very easily point fingers. However, if the SLFP government has been working continuously to catch people who are corrupt have they been able to catch the UNPers who have been corrupt. The one or two elements that have been caught have been dealt with. But you have 17 years of SLFP rule where every single person from a Municipal Member to Cabinet Ministers who have been totally corrupt and that has been proven without doubt.
Q. What is your opinion of the blame game that is being played between the former Minister of Power and Energy and the present one? You along with other members of the UNP have brought a no-confidence motion against Pavithra Wanniarachchi. How do you see this progressing?
This is all a well orchestrated performance and each and everyone plays his own tune to the captain’s instructions as and when required. They all want to play this game, where they point fingers and refuse to take responsibility; we want to tell the government to please stop its hypocrisy.
We have this no-confidence motion because there was a change in the Cabinet, and that was simply because they wanted to ensure that their requirements were adhered to. The former Minister was more adamant to have an increase in the way the electricity increase was spelt out, so they got a less important minister, who could be pushed around. When we asked her a question on the increase she said “I don’t know, I’m only doing what was proposed by the previous minister”. At that time Champika Ranawaka said “ that is absolutely false”. This demonstrated very nicely that she was just trying to protect herself and carry out the orders that have been given from above.
We brought a no-confidence motion because, one minister lying against another is double the problem; when a normal member of parliament says something it is one thing but when you have a Minister saying something, with collective responsibility—this is a very big problem. The government can’t take both their sides, one of them has lied and through the no-confidence motion one of them has to come out as the liar and we will see who it is. This no confidence motion will expose the complete nudity of the government.
" I call on Wimal to either get PB out or he gets out. He tried to make a big show when Ban Ki-moon was appointing a panel, but things only got worse. He said he tried to get rid of the World Bank and the IMF, but now he is having pujas to them. "
Q. But what chances does the UNP have of gaining anything out of this no-confidence motion? You brought one against Minister G.L. Peries and you have one ongoing against Dilan Perera. The government has a two-thirds majority, what purposes will any of this serve?
We are trying to prove the point to the people, who brought in this government, thinking that they were better than us. Not only that the people gave them almost a two-thirds majority and watched and waited while they bought over MPs to get the two-thirds majority. On that score, we can only point the finger and say “here is the rogue” and make the people feel that they have made a mistake. That is our intention. You saw the Foreign Minister lying through his teeth, next week you will see the Foreign employment minister, how he will defend himself.
But with the power and energy minister you will see that one of the two of them has lied and it will come out.
It is not a game of the truth that ever comes out, it is never right but might. This is why we are giving the upstanding members of government an opportunity to stand with the members of the opposition to voice their opinion, if they feel the government is doing something wrong and they have betrayed their voters.
Q. You say that you want to convince the people that they have made a mistake, but as far as the majority of the people are concerned, the electricity issue is solved—they got the concessions and in their eyes the government is doing all that they can to reduce the burden on the people.
If there is a 135 Billion loss and prices are increased and you have the President intervening and coming back on the issue and giving a subsidy of 8 Billion, then there is a 127 Billion loss—where is that money going to come from? Who is going to pay that, it is you and I as taxpayers that have to suffer.
Q. What about the masses, they went to May Day rallies, they demanded a reduction and they got it, then and there. What about them? Do you think your no-confidence motion will mean anything to them?
They didn’t demand anything, they demanded everything through us and we got them even this small reduction. When you see your bill on May 23, this sense of calmness will pass when they realize the actual hike.
This government increased the fuel price, when the world prices were coming down and they started playing a double game. They use this artificial increase to say that electricity production costs have gone up.
Q. Wimal Weerawansa at his May Day Rally stated that he does not value his portfolio and is ready to go home at any time, if he feels the government is working against the interests of the people. What is your opinion on this?
Wimal Weerawansa a few months ago said there was an economic hit man in the country. He did not have the guts to say that this was something to do with the President, who is the Finance Minister, or the Governor of the Central Bank—he wanted to blame someone else. If he thinks that there is something wrong with the economy then why can’t he get rid of the CB Governor, since he was able to get rid of the Chief Justice in 24 hours, why can’t he get rid of this man, who is less mortal, within 24 minutes. I call on Wimal to either get PB out or he gets out. He tried to make a big show when Ban Ki-moon was appointing a panel, but things only got worse. He said he tried to get rid of the World Bank and the IMF, but now he is having pujas to them.
I think all these things he is saying are very humourous. If he really believes any of this then he should walk to talk.
Q. Duminda Silva was released recently and people are flocking around him once again; how do you view this?
Isn’t it a travesty of justice? That poor girl Hirunika is crying for the loss of her father and they have been voicing their concern.
Q. The family has been very quiet since Mr. Silva was released.
Well that is their decision. However we are fighting for justice, irrelevant of who it is. Maybe they can be bought over; but I doubt it. After all they have lost their father and husband, nothing can replace that. Even if they don’t fight for justice, we will.
Q. Do you think that they are keeping quiet due to fear?
They lost their father and their husband, what more is there to fear? I think if that is the state of democracy in this country it is very sad. Look at KP he is with the government now, what is done about prosecuting him?