UNP Member of Parliament Sajith Premadasa speaks to Daily Mirror online in a Live audio interview regarding the crisis within the party.
By Sumaiya Rizwi
Do you think the opposition leader Ranil Wicramasignhe has failed as a leader?
Well, I think during his tenure we have had our successes and we have had are failures as a political party is concerned but I have to say that all of us as a collective are responsible for various achievements for the various setbacks. So having said that for every time we are defeated at electoral contest you have to consider yourself as failed. But I think as a party if we garner and re mobilize ourselves we can once again become victorious. If you take the overall picture one can argue with the number of electoral defeats that we as a collective have failed on successive occasions but then again I think if we re garner and re mobilize our resources and our support base the UNITE National Party has a good future.
Even after he lost two consecutive presidential polls?
Well, he has taken a decision that he has a role to play both within the UNP and in Sri Lankan politics. We all respect that, so its his discretion whether he is going to continue to playa a major role in the political arena.
What is the current consensus within the UNP on its leader Ranil Wicramasinghe and the party reforms?
I must say there is a plethora of opinions a variety of suggestions and proposals. So there isn’t a consensus as such as of now because I believe that a party which respects giving due consideration to the opinions and suggestions of all and we have formulated various proposals through a committee that has been appointed by the working committee. And we hope to make sure there is some sort of a consensus is achieved at some time in the future very soon.
Doesn’t the party leader have exceeding powers and the decision making centralized with the party leader?
There are a lot of criticism as far as the concentration of power within the hands of the party hierarchy and we as a party will look into all aspects of the party constitution and the way our party operates. We intend to carry forward the requisite and necessary reforms give new cognoscente to the variety of proposals that are emanating from all sectors of society. We shall ensure that our party is modernized and well equipped to handle future electoral contests.
Is it not the party who finalizes on the party national list of MP’s and to stay in power for so long?
National list is a list that has to be decided upon the party leadership and he has done so. But of course there are a lot of suggestions as to how he should have gone about doing it. So all these issues faced our party will be discussed in the proper forums, at the executive meetings of the party, national conference, working committee, the working committee group and as a party we will move on.
As a person what is your opinion of his choice of the National List?
I think those are issues that are better expressed within the part institutions I don’t think it would be ethical or proper of me to go about the veracity of his selections. Something that should be discussed at the party foray.
What was decided at the number of meetings the UNP held recently?
We had one working committee meeting and a committee was appointed to receive the various proposals to that were emanating regarding party reforms and they are obliged to provide a report nest Monday. That report will be subjected to discussion both within the working committee meeting and the parliamentary group. And we shall move on from there.
If you can detail as to what you all spoke on the party reforms?
I have propose a variety of measures that would promote a further democratization of the party structure the decision making process, how we react to various political contingencies. So in addition to the democratization process we have to have a sound infrastructure both at central and grass root level and ensure views of the silent majority is better reflected in the various policies that we formulate so there are various measures that we have to go about as a party. It cannot be describes in a few minutes. As a party I’m very optimistic that we shall move and move forward.
Caller: Gamini Perera Nugegoda: You often say that you are following President Ranasinghe Premadasa’s policies, certain good have bee done by your father. He has also had some bad policies For example he never trusted qualified people to be given top places in the government. He left out Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake and made T.B. Wijethunga the Prime Minister. Are you also going to follow the same policies and leave parliamentarians like Dayasiri Jayasekara out?
Certainly I have always proposed that I will implement the various policies that my father implemented in the development arena which are assets to our country and our party. As you quite rightly said I have also asserted that the various shortcomings that he has had in the policies he implemented will certainly be eradicated. If we look at the Gamini and Lalith episode of the UNP political history is a sad time period because the three of them were responsible for the internal conflicts that took place and my fathere also has to take part of the blame. As a graduate of the London School of Economics and political science I respect and credence for those who have academic achievements. I would also respect for those who have both academic and transform and translate deeds into policies and practical action.
Caller Shihara Shuaib, Wellawatte: For Sajith Premedasa to take the place of the leader because he is the only person since he started something good and he is the only person who can do more. Are you ready to take up the leadership and will you take up the leadership?
As far as leadership succession is concerned there isn’t vacancy in the position of the leader. Party has a leader and others positions are also filled up. As far as responsibility and leadership is concerned you don’t necessarily have to have positions. I had to compete fiercely by the democratic process within the Hambantota District against the Rajapaksa administration with the greatest difficulty we managed to hold our own. We managed ot retain the same number of MP’s like in 2004 that of the two seats. Being the position of a leader is not an essential to achieving progression within the UNP and achieving peace and harmony within the country. I will do my utmost to see that our party is well equipped to face future political challenges. If I achieve any position I rather be elected than be selected to it.
How close are your’ll to holding elections to elect the new leaders of the UNP?
There is a report that is being compiled by a six member committee appointed by Ranil Wicramsinghe and the working committee. That subcommittee will look at proposals for discussion and those proposals will be put forward those proposals to the working committee and the parliamentary group which will ultimately decide on the issue.
Caller Aruna: We are still not sure whether the leadership will be ekected or nominated since Tissa Attanayake, Premadsa, Earl Gunasekara and Dayasiri Jayasekara all UNP MP’s all differ in their opinion of this?
If you listen to the various proposals put forward by myself, Dayasiri Jayasekara and Earl Gunasekara we are on the same wave length that the process should be elections and not selections. The procedure of filling in the party leadership and other positions is yet to be decided. It has to be discussed within the pressure groups, grass roots, parliamentarians, working committee, provincial councilors and local authority members. A wide spectrum of opinion that needs to be taken into account. It’s not a monolithic decision making process of our party what we have is process of wide consultation and respect of opinions when it comes to the party decision making.
What is the way present way of appointing your leaders from what you believe as election and not selection?
Most of appointments take place as far as below the position of leadership is concerned the names are proposed by the party leader and generally most of the names proposed are out objected to. As I see it a more democratic procedure will be more suited for our party in this modern day and age.
Caller Rakesh Wellawatte: According to the UNP constitution can Mr. Ranil Wicramasinghe be in power any longer?
According to the party constitution there is no procedure as such for a continuous election process as far as the party leadership is concerned. This is why this particular committee is looking into all aspects of the constitution where it has to be reformed, modernized and changes have to take place. Its an on going process and I hope democracy will prevail.
Can you expand on the kind of modernization (reform) on the party leader’s role you expect?
Not only has the party leadership you have the deputy leaders positioned, assistant leaders position, the national organizer, the general secretary and assistant secretaries. There are responsibilities attached by the party constitution. So this modernization has to be an open, transparent and democratic process it can’t be a process where a single voice or opinion dominates the whole agenda. This is why we are in a process of consultation within the party.