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“Even if SLFP and UNP contest separately they must govern the State together”

2017-12-08 00:00:31
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Says  Convener of National Movement for a Just Society Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya referring to those representing the Joint Opposition and hoping to contest the upcoming elections under the ‘pohottuwa’ symbol

 

Prof. Sarath Wijesooriya, convener of the National Movement for a Just Society, in an interview with the Dailymirror aired his views on the setbacks of the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ and expressed his thoughts on the upcoming elections. Prof.Wijesooriya asserted that even though the UNP and the SLFP contest separately they should govern the State together.

 


  • The common candidate pledged to achieve most of these things within 100 days, but failed
  • We can’t say that the Government has succeeded in fulfilling all these expectations
  • There is no good governance where the rich and powerful are treated differently
  • The Government has been weak in creating faith in the people
  • The police has to be independent for good governance to be realized
  • The constitution must impose a law that politicians can’t enter into business dealings with the State
  • The Government should protect public finances
  • The arrest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been halted
  • The Government should protect public finances
  • We will have no future if we isolate ourselves from the world

Have the expected objectives of the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ been achieved during its tenure so far? 

The law abiding citizens of this country had several expectations when the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ was established. We can’t say that the Government has succeeded in fulfilling all these expectations. There are certain admirable things that have taken place. A constitutional assembly has been set up. The Right to Information Act has been passed.

But the judiciary should be reorganized for good governance to be upheld. The Government’s response to this has been very weak. There is no good governance where the rich and powerful are treated differently. The law has to be fair to all citizens. In this context we see that the Government has been extremely tardy in fulfilling the promises of 08 January.   

In the election following the presidential election on 08 January, the majority of citizens defeated nationalism and religious extremism which had assisted the previous regime. Every citizen in the country hoped for a country where there is liberty to live without being fearful of one’s life. But we saw how Ven Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera behaved in the presence of the judiciary. Then he went into hiding. Religious extremism was propagated publicly. This Government has provided protection to him. This shouldn’t have happened. We can’t say that ‘Yahapalanaya’ (good governance) has been achieved if the law is executed differently with regard to monks, politicians or anyone else wielding power. People should have faith in the Government. The Government has been weak in creating faith in the people. 

 
QThe faith placed in the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ by the public is lost now. In this context what are the proposals that you would like to make for good governance to be upheld? 

Firstly, we have written to the President and the Prime Minister that a commission should be appointed to study the judiciary. The commission should comprise experts in the field of law. The commission should look into every aspect of the judiciary. We know of how two or three former chief justices conducted themselves. One chief justice publicly declared that the judgments he gave were erroneous. Another chief justice was impeached and this was a deplorable situation. These events showed us that the judiciary was politicized. So this is why a commission is needed.   

Secondly, the police has to be independent for good governance to be realized. Those recruited to the police force should have some higher educational qualifications. Whatever commission is appointed it is the police who can go to courts against criminals and other offenders. So the police has to be a strong institution. The qualifications which were required for recruitment sometime back are no longer suitable in today’s context. My personal opinion is that institutions which conduct special investigations such as the Bribery Commission and the Criminal Investigation Department should recruit science graduates. They should be offered attractive salaries. Their infrastructure should be developed. The police force should be built in such a manner that politicians will not be able to influence them.   

Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to enter into business dealings with the Government. Today we see how ministers are involved in state business and contracts. So how can there be good governance? In the past there were laws stating that politicians couldn’t be involved in such business transactions. Politicians do a public service


When the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ assumed power it promised to pass the Audit Bill within 100 days. But the Government has still not been able to pass the bill. Civil servants should be the protectors of state finances. If civil servants oppose the bill being passed it implies that they support corruption. The Government should protect public finances. So the passing of the Audit Bill is necessary for good governance. 

When handing over nominations for elections the two main parties should conduct an assessment of the candidates. The candidates should possess certain educational qualifications, a good character without a record of corruption, sexual abuse etc and they should be people whom the public views with respect as holding office in the legislature. It is disappointing that there is no such scheme.   
Politicians shouldn’t be allowed to enter into business dealings with the Government. Today we see how ministers are involved in state business and contracts. So how can there be good governance? In the past there were laws stating that politicians couldn’t be involved in such business transactions. Politicians do a public service. But today politicians enter politics to do business. This has to be stopped to achieve good governance. 

When the ‘Yahapalanaya Government’ assumed power it promised to pass the Audit Bill within 100 days. But the Government has still not been able to pass the bill. Civil servants should be the protectors of state finances. If civil servants oppose the bill being passed it implies that they 
support corruption

 
QYou said that there were laws in the past to prevent politicians from getting involved in business transactions with the Government. What has happened to those laws? 

Those laws were of a high standard. As far as I know two or three ministers lost their ministerial portfolios due to election petitions. One person had a petrol shed. Another owned shares in a company. 

 
QDuring which period was this?

This was before the 1978 constitution was promulgated. The people who occupied the seats in parliament as representatives of the public were honourable. Through the 1978 constitution politicians were presented with the opportunity to do businesses and this facilitated the public representatives to earn an unlimited amount of money. So no civilized person can contest at an election because an enormous amount of money should be spent during election campaigns. You need to earn money illegally to do these. This is why we assert that the Constitution must impose a law that politicians can’t enter into business dealings with the State.   


QAny other proposals? 

The institutions which execute the law must be independent. Today the Bribery Commission investigates into allegations of corruption and fraud. Investigations are carried out by the CID and FCID as well. These officers investigate tirelessly, but at the end they request permission from the President, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Law and Order to arrest culprits. If they don’t grant permission the culprits can’t be arrested. This has to stop. These institutions must be independent. The arrest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been halted. This is a waste of the effort put in by the officers who conducted the investigations. When such things happen even the officers attached to these institutions can be demotivated. This isn’t an investigation involving a normal citizen. These investigations are about allegations against the former defence secretary, the former first lady, the former President’s children and other powerful ministers. Investigating into these matters requires a lot of hard work and it is complex. So these institutions must be truly independent.   


QDo you think that these proposals can be achieved during the remaining period of the 
Yahapalanaya tenure? 

The time that’s remaining is adequate for these proposals to be executed. Many of the proposals I made can be achieved through a new Constitution. We introduced the idea of the new Constitution during the 08 January elections for several reasons. Firstly, to abolish the Executive Presidency. The Executive President can control all institutions in the country. He can stop any criminal from being arrested. This model isn’t suitable for a country like ours. This model may work in developed countries with a political culture. But this model doesn’t suit our country.   

The prevalent electoral system is very corrupt. It has to be reformed. A new methodology has been introduced to local authorities. According to this methodology representatives who are to be elected will be double the number of those elected last time. The tax payers’ money will be utilized to finance all these representatives.   

Power should be devolved. We must also understand that reconciliation is essential for the country’s growth. We are a small country. We will have no future if we isolate ourselves from the world. So there should be religious and ethnic reconciliation. The Sangha is sabotaging an opportunity to bring about important political reforms. The place that should be given to Buddhism has become a big issue. The leader of the opposition has clearly said that the due place to Buddhism should be given, that the State should be unitary and that what is needed is to devolve power within a unitary state. Yet the Mahanayakes have said that a new Constitution shouldn’t be introduced. This isn’t healthy.   

During the previous regime Gotabhaya Rajapaksa conducted himself as if he was the defense secretary for the State and not as the secretary at the Defence Ministry. He was secondary only to the President. During that time media institutions were set on fire. Journalists were threatened and killed in broad daylight. A rugger player was murdered. Ekneligoda disappeared. Various incidents took place during this time with the aid of the State’s armed forces. Unarmed prisoners were killed inside the prison by the armed forces. When the official army was conducting themselves in such a manner Gotabhaya Rajapaksa didn’t investigate. This means that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is responsible in some manner. He is a suspect in cases of abductions, crimes and murders that took place during the previous regime. 


The proposals I made can be achieved within the remaining time. There should be awareness for a new Constitution to be achieved. We see how various groups are frightening the citizenry by saying that the efforts to promulgate a new Constitution is an international conspiracy and that the country will be divided etc. Public representatives should be educated as to why we need a new Constitution, why power should be devolved, why we need reconciliation, a new electoral system and why we don’t need the Executive Presidency. There were dialogues leading to the 2015 presidential elections, but this dialogue wasn’t taken forward by the politicians who were elected. If the discourse is carried out effectively within a year a new Constitution can be realized. So the time left is sufficient to create the foundation for a decent country.   


Q Some parties are opposed to a new Constitution. Do you believe that a new Constitution can be promulgated amidst such controversy?

On January 8 this Government pledged to introduce a new Constitution. The common candidate signed an agreement with Ven. Sobitha Thera. The common candidate pledged to achieve most of these things within 100 days, but failed. Addressing the gathering at the late Ven Sobitha Thera’s funeral the President clearly pledged to abolish the presidency, introduce a new Constitution and create national reconciliation etc. This ideology has been abandoned. In this context we see nationalistic forces terrorizing the citizens. Media institutions facilitate it as well. This situation has been created by the Government. The President and the Prime Minister have a moral obligation to fulfill the promises made to the country and to the international community.  


QThe public is now critical of the Government as it hasn’t fulfilled its promises. You are critical of the Government as well. Is your criticism of the Government a strategy to evade the criticism levelled against you for bringing the present Government to power? 

We aren’t at all disappointed in bringing the current Government to power or in supporting the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime. It is true that we criticize the Government. We criticize the Government because this regime isn’t acting in keeping with the agreement we had with the common candidate. 

 We didn’t expect a commission to be appointed to investigate the bond scam and that the Prime Minister would have to give evidence. We expected there to be investigations into the scams at the Central Bank in the past and wrong doers to be punished. Allegations of corruption have been levelled against several ministers in the present Government. The good thing about this Government is that information pertaining to such events at certain institutions is revealed. For example, immediately after the Government assumed power they wanted to import luxurious vehicles, upgrade their houses and present ministries with luxuries. It is said that we are in debt because of the Rajapaksa’s and that we are poor. In such a poor country do we need such luxuries? Rulers must spend every rupee giving careful thought.   

We criticize the Government because state finances are misused and the rich and the powerful are treated differently. Cronies are protected.   

We aren’t criticizing the Government because our personal aspirations haven’t been fulfilled. We are criticizing the Government because it has failed to fulfill the promises made on 08 January. 

 
Q When Avant Garde Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi called you requesting a date to talk about the Avant Garde issue, you promised to fix a date. Has a date been fixed? 

Avant Garde Chairman Nissanka Senadhipathi called me and told me that his business is legal and requested for an opportunity to explain the matter. I can’t personally meet a person like him who is involved in a very complex issue. I referred this matter to our executive committee. They unanimously asked me not to meet him. According to the information we possessed at the time, the issue wasn’t whether he did the business lawfully or not. The concern was about the huge loss of revenue to the Government. He himself says that he has earned a lot through this business. Why was this given to him when it was initially under the Government? Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has committed a wrong in this respect. This is our story.   

I called an officer attached to Avant Garde and asked him to inform the chairman that I wouldn’t be able to meet him. The officer had notified the chairman. Now after one and a half years of this phone call I realize how correct the lawyers were when they advised me not to meet the chairman. He had recorded the phone conversation and this shows his intention. If I had met him he would have recorded that conversation and given a different interpretation. I could have been blackmailed. Why should I go somewhere and spoil our reputation? There are allegations against several people who dealt with him. I don’t want to fall into this category of people. When a complex issue of this sort is now before the court I have no need to personally prove his innocence. If he is innocent the court will adjudicate accordingly.   

We are vocal on the Avant Garde issue not because we underwent a personal loss, but because we believe the country has suffered a loss. So I didn’t fix a date and I have informed him that I wouldn’t be meeting him. 

 
QThe Central Bank bond scam shows us that the fundamental values of good governance have been lost. What are your views on this? 

As soon as we got to know about the bond scam we condemned it. We met the President and asked him to remove the Central Bank Governor immediately. On the one hand the governor was not a citizen. If a non-citizen is involved in such a scam it would be a disastrous situation. We met the Prime Minister and asked him not to extend the tenure of the governor. We asked the President to appoint the commission to investigate. The UNP lost six or seven seats at the last election due to the bond scam. In the election campaign Mahinda Rajapaksa’s group had nothing to say except that the Central Bank was robbed in broad daylight.   

We are happy that a commission has been appointed. The commission has been working for a longtime now and the Government has had to incur the expenditure on these proceedings. The people in this country should be redressed. Corruption has taken place and there is nothing to hide. But the perpetrators have to be punished and the money that they incurred unlawfully should be taken over by the  Government.   

A commission should be appointed to investigate into the Central Bank scams that took place during Mahinda Rajapaksa’s regime too.   


Q Patriotic forces are vehemently opposed to the arrest of Gotabhaya Rajapaksa. What is your take on this? 

During the previous regime Gotabhaya Rajapaksa conducted himself as if he was the defense secretary for the State and not as the secretary at the Defence Ministry. He was secondary only to the President. During that time media institutions were set on fire. Journalists were threatened and killed in broad daylight. A rugger player was murdered. Ekneligoda disappeared. Various incidents took place during this time with the aid of the State’s armed forces. Unarmed prisoners were killed inside the prison by the armed forces. When the official army was conducting themselves in such a manner Gotabhaya Rajapaksa didn’t investigate. This means that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is responsible in some manner. He is a suspect in cases of abductions, crimes and murders that took place during the previous regime. 

 But now he is before the law. The Sangha of this country should be ashamed of opposing the execution of the law against murderers and corrupt people. 

It is now revealed how these patriotic forces have misused state money. Some have two passports and two birth certificates for onelself and one’s wife. If they are to be considered as patriotic heroes what kind of an uncivilized country is this?   


QIn the forthcoming elections do you think that UNP and the SLFP should contest together? 

At this moment there doesn’t seem to be a conducive environment for the UNP and the SLFP to contest together. They can contest separately and come to an agreement in terms of governing the local authorities. Though we criticize the coalition Government and despite its faults there is a need for the two main parties to come together for state governance. These two main parties should get together if a new constitution should be promulgated to cater to national reconciliation and power devolution. Chandrika Bandaranaike attempted to do this, but failed because the UNP opposed. Throughout the history these two main parties have failed to unite the ethnicities. If the two main parties contest separately and govern together it will benefit the public. 

 
Q Since there’s no conducive environment for the two parties to contest together, to which party will you offer support? 

At the presidential election we supported the common candidate who was politically neutral. We didn’t support a political party. During the elections the President decided to give nominations to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Then as a civil society group we supported to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. Afterwards we’ve had no goal to make any party victorious. We will stay away from the election platform.   


Q What are your predictions about the upcoming elections?

I’m not capable of making any predictions. But we would like to tell the public that those representing the Joint Opposition and contesting under the ‘pohottuwa’ aren’t suitable to govern the state. They have ruled the country for a long time and their record is terrible. We would like to ask the public not to give them a mandate to govern the country.   


QWhat are the future plans of the ‘National Movement for a Just Society’? 

The ‘National Movement for a Just Society’ was established before the 2015 Presidential Elections. Ven. Sobitha Thera wanted to build a healthy political culture. Ven. Sobitha Thera did succeed in his effort to a certain extent. But he passed away before the promises were fulfilled. 

 There is a historical obligation imposed now on the Movement irrespective of who the leader is. That is to oversee that the pledges made by the common candidate are fulfilled. So the main function of the Movement is to persuade the promulgation of a new constitution.

 

 


  Comments - 3

  • Senewi Friday, 8 December 2017 18:34

    This crook is advising to cheat the voters .

    Reply : 2       1

    Bunty Friday, 8 December 2017 18:44

    You gave up the noble principles of Ven. Sobhitha thero so just fade away please.

    Reply : 2       1

    jwarnakulasuriya_fernando Saturday, 9 December 2017 04:29

    ?????????$$$$$$$$$!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.

    Reply : 0       0

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