The Chairman of the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and the convener of the Pivithuru Hetak Movement, Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera recently expressed his disappointment over certain actions of the government which he worked hard to bring to power. Dailymirror spoke to Ven. Rathana Thera about his reasons for being discontented with the government and the present political situation of the country.
You were at the forefront of toppling the Rajapaksa regime and bringing Maithripala Sirisena to power. Are you satisfied with the government you helped to create?
There are some issues with regard to the new government. But we are not going to get upset over these minor issues in it and leave the government. The main reason is, because we bear a huge responsibility towards the people with regard to this government. People have entrusted us to direct the path that this government takes. Therefore, we are obliged to ensure that this government rectifies its errors and takes the correct path.
What are some of the main issues in the government or the areas that you are dissatisfied with?
The main issues that we are dissatisfied with are, the promised constitutional reforms, the reforms to the electoral system, the appointment of certain Ministers and, especially, the way cases of bribery and corruption are being handled.
Since you mentioned bribery and corruption – now we see a lot of information and complaints about bribery and corruption coming to light but we don’t see many arrests taking place. Why are these criminals not being taken to book?
There are two sides to this. On the one hand, we cannot expect arrests to be made immediately soon after the complaints are made. It should be done within the proper legal framework and in accordance of the judicial system in the country, and this can take some time. However, on the other hand, we do see inefficiencies in this process and the way these complaints are being handled. We should create a public opinion and a public movement to dispel those inefficiencies.
You too are a part of the government. Why aren’t you raising your voice against these inefficiencies?
I am raising my voice and my concerns about these inefficiencies. We hold regular discussions about these issues. I cannot take direct action but we will use our discretion to pressurise this government to take action to punish these criminals and ensure that this government takes the country forward in the correct path.
Do you think the kinks in the government that you mentioned are the fault of the President or the Prime Minister?
No, I cannot point my finger at a particular person. This is a unity government and as a whole, the government is responsible for its actions. So it is not just one person but everyone in the government should take responsibility for its actions.
Now, initially the promise was that general elections would be held after the 100-day programme. Now there are rumours that the general elections will not be held in April after all. What is your view on this?
The important thing is not whether general elections are held in 100 days or not. The important thing is to complete the 100-day programme while this government is in power. That is what the people want. What concerns the people is the completion of the 100-day programme and not whether the government is dissolved or not. This government can stay in power for a year, but it must complete the 100-day programme as mandated.
So, do you think that it is not necessary to hold elections after 100 days?
If the government can complete the 100-day programme in 100 days, then it is fine to hold general elections in April.
Now, it has been more than 50 days since the Presidential Elections. What have you got to say about the progress made on the 100-day programme so far?
Now, the most important task ahead of us is bringing in the constitutional reforms. A draft bill has been presented and right now, discussions are being held about this. The SLFP is also due to present their own draft bill and we are due to discuss that as well. If we can complete the constitutional reforms by April, then we can have General Elections in April.
Another promise in the Sirisena election manifesto was reforms to the present preferential voting electoral system? In your opinion, what should these reforms be?
An electoral reforms committee has been appointed to bring in proposed amendments to the current electoral system. The preferential voting system will be eliminated according to the reforms.
You are someone who has continually spoken out against narcotics and drugs. As a part of the government, what are you doing to eliminate the drug menace from the Sri Lankan society?
I am holding a responsible position in the government in the fight against drugs and narcotics. I could not implement my plans during the previous regime but I am hopeful that I will be able to tackle the drug menace with the support of this government. We are already in the process of implementing a programme to eliminate the drug menace from the country.
When we are talking about the drug menace, we cannot forget about Wele Suda’s statement to the CID in which he mentioned Duminda Silva’s name. What is the course of action that will be taken in this regard?
Wele Suda’s statement clearly states a connection to Duminda Silva. It also mentions police officers. A legal process is already taking place to take him and others to book. There is a law in this country and very soon he will be put behind bars. Others’ names will also be revealed soon in the investigations.
Let’s talk about the interim budget that was brought in recently. There is a criticism that the benefits promised in the budget have not been passed on to the people. What is your response?
People are not going to feel the benefits right away. To be honest, I am not sure how practical some of the promises made are; especially the ones related to bringing down the cost of living. I don’t expect an ostentatious, exhibitionist budget which has impractical promises. Our focus should be on the national budget which will be presented after the general elections. We should concentrate on a long-term, sustainable, national budget with a practical vision and strategic policies for economic development.
This however, is a short-term, interim budget and we cannot expect too much from it. We are still very much dependent on foreign loans even for the smallest of projects and we don’t have our own revenue. This is because of the imbalance between imports and exports. This has to change, but this cannot be changed in a matter of days.
During the few days that the new government has reigned, we have already seen some questionable appointments to high-ranking positions. For example, just recently a scandal has erupted centering the new Central Bank Governor, Arjuna Mahendran. What is your comment regarding this situation?
Yes, the people have pointed their fingers at us concerning these appointments. We actually don’t know anything about these appointments. We have not been consulted and we have not questioned these appointments either. I think these are some of the grave mistakes made by the UNP and the society is questioning these decisions now.
What should be done to correct these mistakes?
That should be decided in the next general election.
Does that mean that the new government has chased away the old rogues and brought in new rogues in their place?
No, that is a false accusation. You cannot brand all politicians as thieves and rogues. Out of the members of the Parliament, some have robbed and they should be punished according to the crimes committed by them. But you cannot say that everyone is a rogue. We cannot say that this is a pure society. There are rogues in every nook and corner of our society; it is not limited to the field of politics. The society as a whole has got extremely corrupt. As for politicians, it is the responsibility of the political parties as well as the public to punish such criminals. The entire country knows who these criminals are.
Are you satisfied with the ministerial appointments in the new Cabinet?
I was not involved with the appointments in the Cabinet. That was done by the President and the Prime Minister so I have no sentiments about that.
Did you expect a ministerial position in the Cabinet?
No, I had no such expectations.
Because of this Presidential Election, a wedge was driven into the JHU and now the party has split into two. Do you have any regrets about this?
No, I don’t have any regrets and the party has not split into two. Just because one person left the party, it doesn’t mean that the party has split up. We see members crossing over from one party to another, but that doesn’t mean that the parties will fall apart. The JHU achieved a great victory at the presidential election. With this victory, the JHU has gotten a huge boost. Those who left the party are the ones in trouble now.
Since the establishment of the new government, there are fresh calls from the international community, especially the West, for an investigation on alleged war crimes and human rights violations. Unlike Mahinda Rajapaksa, the new government has not strongly rejected these external pressures. What do you think about this ‘soft’ stance?
The defeat of terrorism was a national endeavour. Unfortunately, the UNP did not support this endeavour at that time. However, now we have defeated terrorism. Now we don’t need the international community interfering in our country with regard to this issue. Ranil Wickremesinghe and Maithripala Sirisena should get on a common platform publicly reject these international interferences. They should announce that the country’s stance is that this is an internal problem and we don’t need an international investigation. There is no question of delaying the investigation; they should announce that there won’t be room for an international investigation at all. The President and the Prime Minister should take a strong and unwavering stance on this issue and reject the calls for an international investigation in the country.
Wimal Weerawansa has recently stated that the hard-earned freedom of the country is going to be lost because of the conduct of the new government? Do you think this could happen?
Frankly, I don’t want to respond to statements made by Wimal Weerawansa.
How can the country lose its freedom? We were the ones who fought to gain our freedom and we won’t let it get lost.
There are talks of bringing Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Ministerial candidate for the general elections. How will this affect the elections?
Firstly, the Prime Minister is appointed by the President. Before becoming the Prime Minister, he should face the general elections and enter into the Parliament. Then he has to win the majority in the Parliament. If he can do that, then he can become the Prime Minister. Whether he can do it or not is a separate issue. Anyone can show people during meetings by giving them free rice packets etc. That doesn’t mean anything in elections.
It is the people around Mahinda Rajapaksa who caused his downfall by encouraging him to call and contest in an early presidential poll. Now they are trying to destroy the last shreds of dignity he has by getting him to contest in the general elections. He is the only person who called an election and lost. Now he should save his integrity and retire because the educated, wise people in this country are not going to vote for him again. He is going to go down in history as a power-hungry, tyrannical leader. That is not the way he should be remembered because he rendered a great service to the country by putting an end to terrorism. But he is digging his own grave now by trying to return to power.
Just recently, a close ally of Mahinda Rajapaksa told me that in the current situation, he would even accept a post of a Mayor. If he has even a shred of integrity, dignity and self-respect, he will not try to contest again.
In the general elections, which party is the JHU planning to support? Or is your party planning to contest on your own?
We have not taken a decision on that as yet. My personal decision may be different to that of the party. To be honest, I have not even decided whether I am contesting at the general elections or not. Right now my priority is getting the government to implement the constitutional reforms. I will have to consider about contesting once the elections are announced.
- Pix by Kithsiri de mel -
Comments - 2
Jayanath Thursday, 12 March 2015 06:30 PM
It is not your JHU, UNP or JVP that toppled Mahinda, it is the LTTE terrorist supporters
rajan vairawanathan Friday, 13 March 2015 04:47 PM
This is a reply to Jayanath. If you call TNA ltte supporters, then all sinhalese should be called jvp terrorists supporters. Ven. Rathana Thero is one of the most respected unlike the rubbish BBC.
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