Joint Opposition MP Ranjith Zoysa, who was stripped of his post as the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) organizer for the Rakwana electorate in the Ratnapura district, speaks about the current political status of the country and mayhem in Parliament recently. The excerpts of the interview:
You were stripped of your organizer post in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Do you fear whether it will lead to the loss of your parliamentary seat in the future?
We are not promoting another party. Instead, we cannot agree with President Maithripala Sirisena as the SLFP on what he does politically at the moment. The SLFP is a party founded, upon five great forces, by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. It is a party that is socialist bent and opposed to colonialism in all its manifestations. Today, the SLFP has deviated from that stand. Nonetheless, it has teamed up with the United National Party (UNP) which toes the line of the western world in servitude. In fact, the SLFP tied up with the UNP in the project to dole out the national assets of the country to alien forces for a pittance.
We are thoroughbred SLFPers. So, we cannot stand the way the current SLFP is acting as an appendage of the UNP. We want to correct the party. I worked for it. Otherwise, I was not inimical to the party at all. I did not want the SLFP to be subjugated to the interests of the UNP.
Therefore, I did not regret the loss of my organizer post. Actually, it is difficult for me to be in the party under the current circumstances. I cannot condone any political cohabitation with the UNP. Therefore, I threw my weight behind the political force led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa who commands the respect of more than 95 percent of SLFPers.
Anyway, you have supported a political force while being a member of SLFP. It is an offence that can lead to the loss of your parliamentary seat. Do you have any fear about it?
We embarked on this political struggle against the government which has 160 parliamentary seats. We did not care about the possibility of losing our MP posts. We may face further problems in the future. However, there is no legal basis for the party leader or the General Secretary to unseat us from Parliament. For that, there is a procedure to be followed. We have to be charged properly. Afterwards, it has to be referred to a disciplinary committee. If they dismiss us from Parliament, we can resort to legal action.
Be that as it may, the SLFP is bound to meet the most unpleasant political defeat in its political history at the election on February 10. We hope the SLFP leadership will understand this predicament and act hastily to correct the course of the party.
All the parties that remained united under the Swan symbol in 2015 contest separately today
It is a novel political plop
We ask people not be deceived by it
UNP turned wild against us in Parliament at the instigation of PM
We fear whether the much-dreaded JR era violence is making a re-visit
Today, the ground situation is favourable to us
The President always says he will form an SLFP-led government in 2020. Also, he is at loggerheads with the UNP these days. How do you see it?
The President’s remarks cannot be fully trusted. In the run to the parliamentary election in August, 2015, he made some remarks at a rally in Dambadeniya. He asked for the formation of a government led by the SLFP or the Untied People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). Just a day or two prior to the General Election, he said he would not offer premiership to Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa. Instead, he said Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s name had not been tainted with any corruption allegation. It was a blow to the campaign of the UPFA at that moment. We were able to get only 95 seats finally. We were relegated to the opposition. Also, we were denied the chance to become the main opposition of Parliament. It was offered to the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). For us, the President is not trustworthy because of his repulsive actions in this manner.
At the Presidential Election, all the political forces – the UNP, Sri Lanka Muslim Congress, Tamil National Alliance (TNA), Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) and others - remained under the symbol of the Swan. It is a strategy. There is a different strategy being adopted this time. Today, all these parties contest separately. The UNP canvasses votes for the formation of its own government. It is an appeal to the party members who are disgruntled today. President Sirisena asks for votes as a prelude to the formation of an SLFP government in 2020. The JVP also does the same. They will contest separately. Finally, after the election, they will be united to run the councils. That is the strategy. We are asking our people not to get carried away by such political manoeuvering.
"The SLFP is bound to meet the most unpleasant political defeat in its political history at the election on February 10. We hope the SLFP leadership will understand this predicament and act hastily"
The UNP says it will emerge victorious due to the split of the SLFP vote base. What is your view?
If it is a mathematical equation, it will be correct. There are two groups. One group is divided down the middle. Then, the other group becomes the largest one. Yet, it is not reality at grassroots level. In fact, the SLFP is not divided down the middle. It is like 95 percent for us, and the remaining five percent for the President’s group.
The UNP vote base is scattered today. It is facing a political landslide. A lot of UNPers have joined hands with us. Tamils and Muslims have started abandoning the UNP and the President increasingly. We are optimistic about the election. Only the SLFP and the UNP have all the disadvantages.
You were among the MPs involved in the fracas in Parliament. You sustained injuries. What is your view?
That incident should not have happened. It is an unpleasant moment. The Speaker is not competent enough to conduct the business of the House with decorum. That is the reason for that incident. He does not have that personality. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe tried to undermine all norms of parliamentary democracy. As a result, that mayhem could not have been avoided.
"The SLFP tied up with the UNP in the project to dole out the national assets of the country to alien forces for a pittance"
You were involved in the brawl. What do you feel?
We demonstrated in the Well of the House against the Prime Minister’s statement. We remember such incidents took place during our time as well. After that, we used to part ways. During such protests in the Well of the House, we used to crack jokes with protesting MPs.
Today, we, despite party differences, have meals and tea together in the parliamentary canteen. We exchange pleasantries. However, the government MPs, all of a sudden, turned wild at the instigation of the Prime Minister and stormed into the Well for confrontation. They behaved like wild beasts. In fact, they assaulted our MP Gamini Lokuge who is an elderly person. He collapsed on the ground. It provoked the other MPs of the Joint Opposition.
During the 2002/2004 UNP government, I recall how the then UNP MPs crumpled pieces of paper into balls and hurled them at the then Opposition Leader Mahinda Rajapaksa and Chief Opposition Whip Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. Once, MPs such as Dinesh Gunawardane, Vasudeva Nanayakkara and others were brutally beaten in the House. We fear whether the UNP is heading this Parliament down that path.
During the period of late President Jayawardane, a labourer called Somapala was trampled to death. We fear whether that dreaded period is making a re-visit. These UNP MPs have arrogated power to themselves. During the 1988/89 period, we could recall how violence prevailed.
One UNP MP, who was involved in that brawl, unleashed thugs against petroleum workers who were on strike last year. That is what we can expect when drug traffickers and loitering elements are given political power. If this is the political strategy contemplated by the UNP, we will not allow that to happen. It is an outdated strategy. We are asking the UNP leader not to think of such violent, repressive strategies.
"The SLFP is a party founded, upon five great forces, by S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. It is a party that is socialist bent and opposed to colonialism in all its manifestations"