Many names have been proposed as potential candidates for the upcoming presidential election. Among some of them from major political parties are independent candidates who have made several statements from time to time. Attorney-at-law and public interest litigation activist Nagananda Kodituwakku is one of them. Mr. Kodituwakku has been instrumental in exposing frauds and illegal cases carried out by those in powerful positions including deforestation in Wilpattu and declaration of assets by MPs. He has come up with what is called an ‘Autochthony Constitution’ or ‘Homegrown Constitution’ and one of its highlights is the appointment of an independent judiciary. In a candid interview with Daily Mirror, Mr. Kodituwakku shared his plans for the country if he were elected President.
- I doubt Gota would contest. You can’t renunciate US citizenship when a case is pending against you
- I need a minimum of Rs.500 million for campaigning
- USD 60 billion debt liability not exorbitant
- Rule of law will be enforced when judiciary is independent
- After Sirisena’s tenure, executive powers will be transferred to PM
- I have decided to renunciate my dual citizenship
Q Why did you decide to contest for presidency?
I have been a public interest litigator since 2009 and have done about 20 cases. I left Sri Lanka in 2001 under unfortunate circumstances. I was granted international protection under the Geneva Convention and the Human Rights Act. As per our country’s democracy, the executive and legislator are expected to maintain and respect the public trust doctrine. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening. It’s a kind of mafia. There’s no government and for namesake we have a judiciary which is absolutely impotent. I tried my level best and realised these people could do nothing. The best example was the car permit case and everyone from the President to Cabinet Ministers to Parliamentarians and the Attorney General were involved. Everyone appointed to positions of authority have let down the nation. So I thought the best way to solve this problem is to go before people. We have all resources and learned people but they don’t have wisdom. Therefore, I decided to come forward and contest for presidency.
Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Mahinda Chinthana said he would get rid of bribery and corruption. He pledged to restore judicial independence and uphold the sovereignty of people. But after he assumed presidency, he introduced the 18th Amendment and scrapped the Constitutional Council (CC). It was an independent body but he appointed all his yes-men to the judiciary. It was worse when the Yahapalana Government came into power
Q What’s your plan to rescue SL from the debt trap?
It’s not a difficult task. The total debt liability is USD 60 billion. For instance, the US owes trillions of dollars to China. Therefore, this USD 60 billion isn’t a big amount. In the US and UK, there are individuals who owe these amounts of money. We have all resources. There are untouched natural reserves. In fact, a group of scientists based in Australia spoke to me, showed me the Sri Lankan map and where these deposits were. If we use nanotechnology and refine these products and start exporting value-added products, then we will be able to recover from this debt trap.
Q National economy, education, transport and health sectors should also be restored…
Our annual government revenue is Rs.1 trillion, out of that these people rob more than Rs.250 billion. Even in developed countries, you do have corruption but here they do it in a major scale. Unfortunately, we don’t have the law and the system in place to deal with this situation. When revenue is robbed, you can’t expect the due share to be allocated to education, transport, health, social security and other sectors. We have some 600 schools in this country without sanitary facilities. We still call them rural schools after 71 years of independence. If we go to a hospital, one person is on a bed and the other under the bed. We have everything and therefore we can restore these issues if we use our resources efficiently.
Q What about law and order?
I have designed a system. In the first place, we must have a strong and upright judiciary. Mahinda Rajapaksa in his Mahinda Chinthana said he would get rid of bribery and corruption. He pledged to restore judicial independence and uphold the sovereignty of people. But after he assumed presidency, he introduced the 18th Amendment and scrapped the Constitutional Council (CC). It was an independent body but he appointed all his yes-men to the judiciary. It was worse when the Yahapalana Government came into power. We have to respect the separation of power doctrine and the CC should be an absolutely independent body. The appointment of judges should be transparent. Right now, they cannot deal with the people because they are not independent. When the judiciary is independent, the rule of law will be enforced. When it is not independent, cases go on for years and years. On the other hand, the Attorney General’s Department is one of the most corrupt bodies in the country. When judges become impotent, rulers do whatever they want.
19A is designed in such a way that when Sirisena’s term ends, nothing is left behind for the Executive President. Thereafter, all powers will be transferred to the PM. Therefore, whoever campaigns for presidency can do nothing. Once people approve this new Constitution, it shall be the supreme law in this country. Supreme authority is the people and this time I will go behind people with my manifesto with some annexes
Q You need funds to campaign for a presidential election. How do you reckon doing this?
Some people attacked me on this regard. They said I was trying to collect millions of rupees and run away. I setup an account with absolute transparency. I need a minimum of Rs.500 million. It costs a thumping sum for printing and advertising. I need a lot of people to go around the country campaigning for me. All monies should be credited to this account. I’m receiving funds from Sri Lankans living abroad. Although several people have levelled various allegations against me, I will somehow find the funds.
Q You are an independent candidate. We have witnessed candidates contesting from major parties. Will you be able to succeed without that backing?
I still don’t have a political party. You can buy political parties in the market for Rs.10 million, but I don’t want that. I have discussed this matter with the Elections Commissioner and he will make some arrangements. Many political parties are willing to get me onboard to contest the presidential poll. They are not recognised parties. I hope I will be able to resolve this matter by mid August. On the other hand, all 225 people will go home. They are criminals. I have a very trustworthy group of people in my camp and they will do everything without expecting any return during the five years of my tenure. I have told them they have to serve the nation. It has to be a sacrifice.
Q When appointed, a President gets an official residence, vehicles, security and various other perks and benefits. Will you reject all these?
The new Constitution I will enact with my team will remove all these. The 19th Amendment is designed in such a way that when Sirisena’s term ends, nothing is left behind for the Executive President. Thereafter, all powers will be transferred to the Prime Minister. Therefore, whoever campaigns for presidency can do nothing. Once people approve this new Constitution, it shall be the supreme law in this country. Supreme authority is the people and this time I will go behind people with my manifesto with some annexes. One of them will be the Constitution. I will put it to the people and seek their approval. Whatever the vote they cast will be considered as their consent for approving this Constitution. The existing Constitution and Parliament will be abolished forthwith. The new Constitution will only allow 60 MPs to hold office. The Provincial Council system will be scrapped, judges in the Supreme Court (SC) and Court of Appeal (CA) will be sent home. Many other major changes will take place. The executive will be held responsible for all his actions. The judiciary will be given absolute independence. All 10 members of the Constitutional Council will be elected by the people. In addition to that, the 60 MPs will not be granted liquor permits, no pension and other perks. Benefits will be taken out. No judge will get any appointment after his or her retirement as per the new Constitution.
Our annual government revenue is Rs.1 trillion, out of that these people rob more than Rs.250 billion. Even in developed countries, you do have corruption but here they do it in a major scale. Unfortunately, we don’t have the law and the system in place to deal with this situation
Q You’re contesting alongside candidates such as Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Won’t that be tough?
I don’t think Gotabaya will contest the election. If you study the US citizenship law, you can’t renunciate the citizenship if you have a case against you. In the case of Gotabaya there are series of such cases against him, both in Sri Lanka and in the US. So it’s unlikely that he will contest and whoever who contests can do nothing. I’m the only person who came forward with a brand new Constitution.
Q What about your dual citizenship? Will it be renounced?
Yes. In order to free this country from criminals, I have formally handed over the application to the Home Secretary and decided to renunciate my dual citizenship.
Q Will people have the power ultimately?
Definitely! Once the rule of law is restored, you will see a change. You must have a society that respects loyalty, integrity and credibility.
Pic by Samantha Perera
With election fever on the rise and several parties having started the countdown for a polling date, the choice of presidential candidate has become the talk of the town. While existing political leaders vie for top-most positions in the country, there are once again talks of common candidates. Interestingly, a number of new personalities have emerged as potential presidential candidates and Daily Mirror, in a series of interviews, will highlight their intentions, plans, challenges and dreams for a future Sri Lanka.