- I think it is a wrong decision by the SLFP to team up with the UNP at this hour
- There is a leader who is adored by even small kids - that is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa
- I am a well-matured politician
- People live with the hope that the Government would be unseated soon
- A person more dynamic than I should be fielded as the presidential candidate
Former Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, in an interview with the Daily mirror , spoke about the proposed move to form a new Government and the next presidential candidate.
QThere are talks about an interim Government to be formed if President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa come to an understandin. What do you think about it?
Personally, I think there is a crisis situation in the country. Every segment of society- businessmen, ordinary people, village folk etc- has felt the pinch. Their economies have declined. There is insufficient business for traders. Businessmen are overburdened by taxation. They are unable to maintain their staffs. So, they are trying to lay off workers. They cannot settle their borrowings. So, they are trying to sell off their business ventures as the last resort.
We find those people, who grow commercial crops such as rubber and pepper are also experiencing the same predicament. Paddy growers have no support price for their produce. The same situation exists for coconut producers. People are suffering as a result. Their income level has dropped and their expenditure has increased.
I feel that some people, in villages, can’t afford to have three meals a day. They have restricted their daily meals. Starving people do not talk about it openly, though. They are silently enduring it. The result of these pent-up emotions was visible at the last elections. Actually, people vented their anger by voting against the Government at the last Local Government Polls conducted on February 10, 2018.
The Government did not live up to public expectations. As a result, we want a change of Government. When people want a new Government, they look to a leader who loves them. There is a leader who is adored by even small kids- that is former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. People are rallying behind him. In fact, more and more people get around him when the Government is harassing him and subjecting him to humiliation on unfair grounds. People live with the hope that the Government would be unseated soon.
- The present Government progressing through its term is on its last legs. If we form a Government the people will be disillusioned. They will even lose faith in politicians. We have to be careful
- The SLFP ruined itself. That is what I can say
QHow can it be done as long as Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP) are together under the banner of the national Unity Government?
We have to see whether SLFPers at the grassroots level desire to form a Government with the UNP. They are really repulsive of the UNP. That is because of harassment by the UNPers at village level. May be, we do not feel it as MPs. But, our village people feel it. I think it is a wrong decision by the SLFP to team up with the UNP at this hour. We entrusted the SLFP chairmanship in the hands of President Maithripala Sirisena after the presidential elections. Be that as it may, the people gave 105 seats in Parliament to the UNP at the parliamentary elections conducted afterwards in 2015. We should have remained in the opposition allowing the UNP to run the Government. Alongside, we could have supported the Government’s initiatives based on merits. If any move by the Government is harmful to the country in our perspective, we can always stand against it. If we had done so, people would not have abandoned the SLFP in this fashion.
We should have remained in the opposition allowing the UNP to run the Government. Alongside, we could have supported the Government’s initiatives based on merits
QIn such an eventuality, the UNP stood the chance of getting a few more MPs from the opposition to form its own Government rather than counting on the SLFP at all. What is your comment?
They could have roped in a few more MPs from the SLFP to get the required number to form the Government. Even if it had happened that way, the SLFP, as a party, would not have suffered this fate. The SLFP founder leaders S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and D.A. Rajapaksa crossed over in Parliament from the ruling party to the opposition in 1950s. They would have harboured much hopes when taking this decision at that time. They realised their ideals after capturing power in 1956. We cannot drift away from their founding ideals as a party today.
QNow the SLFP has been relegated to a distant third position. Instead, a new party called ‘Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP)’ has emerged. As a long standing SLFPer, what do you feel about the SLFP vote base shifting towards the SLPP?
The SLFP ruined itself. That is what I can say. We, as the SLFP, took policy decisions on the contrary to public aspirations. The result is the birth of a new party in its place. The SLFP was routed at the Local Government Polls on February 10 as a result. It is now difficult to revive the SLFP. Public anger has built up against the SLFP.
We should stay close to the people and help them realise their aspirations. We should not dictate terms to them by being in Colombo otherwise.
We can do something to stop this country from further sliding into darkness. For it, we can strengthen the hands of the present President
QThere are moves to form an interim Government with the President. What is your view?
I interacted with many people at village level recently at events such as funerals. Such a governing arrangement is anathema for our people at village level. In fact, they do not even want to talk about it. They are vehemently opposed to it. Some even threaten to quit us politically if we proceed with our action to form a Government. We have to bear this in mind when taking political decisions. There may be those willing to capture power or to secure posts. What is needed is not that, but to live up to people’s aspirations.
It is difficult for us to get the country out of the current mess merely by capturing Governmental power. The present Government progressing through its term is on its last legs. If we form a Government the people will be disillusioned. They will even lose faith in politicians. We have to be careful.
QPresident Maithripala Sirisena is your long standing friend in politics. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is your brother. There was much antagonism between the two. How feasible is it for them to reconcile differences and unite to form a Government?
It is not difficult to bury the resentful past if there is genuine will in the greater interests of the country and its people. It is human nature to forget and forgive. It is not a question. But, what is questionable is whether people will forgive. Our people were harassed. We have to look at things from the people’s point of view.
QIn case an interim Government is formed, will it be able to tide over the current economic and political problems?
It is impossible to find a solution to any of the problems at hand. The country is stricken with terror today. Violence is on the rise. A killing spree has gripped the country. It can be contained by us in power. Nevertheless, nothing substantive can be done on the economic front, though. It is not advisable to be concerned only on capturing power. However, we can do something to stop this country from further sliding into darkness. For it, we can strengthen the hands of the present President.
However, the current Government is committing even worse financial crimes. We read newspaper reports about the Government officials seeking bribes from investors
QIs there any proposal being considered to nominate President Maithripala Sirisena as the next presidential candidate?
We hope an eligible candidate will emerge at the right time. It is not a question of nominating the present President or the former President. There could be a novel personage to be considered. It could be a person who is disciplined and has strong decision making capacity.
QIn this case, your brother former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is mentioned. Also, some MPs such as Vasudeva Nanayakkara propose you as the candidate. What is your view?
It is better to have someone more dynamic than I. I am a person who is well- matured in politics and competent enough to see what is right and wrong. I entered politics during my schooldays. I was involved in student politics in 1950s. What happened in 1956 is still vivid in my memory.
QYou served as the Speaker during the former regime. In your view, what are the reasons for the defeat of that Government in 2015?
There was a feeling that social decorum declined in the country towards the tail-end of the last Government. Certain individuals who got close to the Government’s leadership indulged in some unbecoming activities. There were shortcomings with those appointed to top posts of that Government. It means some people, appointed as heads of Government institutions, had shortcomings. Their employees were disillusioned with the Government as a result.
If not for such disappointments, we could have got the number of votes required to win. These people vented their anger by voting out the Government.
The SLFP ruined itself. That is what I can say. We, as the SLFP, took policy decisions on the contrary to public aspirations
QCan you name such individuals responsible for the defeat?
It is not nice for me to name them. Yet, there should have been discussions and people appropriate should have been appointed to the posts concerned. If one is unable to win over the supporters of his employees, there is no use of it.
Some persons became millionaires or billionaires overnight. One cannot keep them away from the public eye. However, the current Government is committing even worse financial crimes. We read newspaper reports about the Government officials seeking bribes from investors.
QThe present President was the General Secretary of the party at that time. He defected from the Government and contested. Do you believe that he had valid reasons to defect?
At that time, there was resentment among the Ministers. Bureaucracy sometimes superseded ministers in the decision making process. There was protest against it. When a Minister’s independence is compromised and bureaucrats gain the upper hand, there is resentment.
More than that, I believe there was motivation from outside for him to defect from the Government. Some foreign powers might have chosen him and encouraged him to defect.