In an interview with the Dailymirror Wasantha Samarasinghe, North Central Provincial Councillor of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) and Convener of ‘Voice Against Corruption’ voiced his disappointment with the Government and pointed out several flaws of the UNP as well as the UPFA. He added that the present Government did not have the mandate to rule the country as the mandate given by the people ended after 100 days.
QOne of the much criticised units that was created by the new government is the Financial Crime Investigation Department (FCID). As a part of the Voice Against Corruption, you must be keeping a close watch on this unit’s activities. So, what have you got to say about the workings of the FCID?
One of the issues that came to light during the last Presidential Election period was the larges-scale financial crimes that have taken place in the country for years and there it was decided that these crimes should be investigated and the perpetrators should be brought to book. The FCID was established to serve that purpose. What is important is whether the purpose of bringing those responsible for such crimes to justice is being led by the FCID.
With the events of the recent past however, the FCID received much flak and the Rajapaksa family and their loyalists tried to oppose this unit. The way we look at this is that the Rajapaksa family and their cronies were trying to stop legal actions being taken against them.
"That being said, just as investigating past crimes, the FCID also has a responsibility to investigate financial crimes happening now"
That being said, just as investigating past crimes, the FCID also has a responsibility to investigate financial crimes happening now. There is a complaint against the Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran regarding a bond issue. However, the FCID is not investigating into that matter. Because of that, there is a crack in the trust we have placed in this unit. We believe that the government is responsible for this because while the unit might be independent, but the government is accountable for this unit as well. If new crooks feel that they can get away with their crimes even for a moment, they will continue to rob the country. This leaves room for doubts about the effectiveness of the unit. The President should take measures to further strengthen this unit because that is the mandate that was given to him by the people.
QAre there any politicians that you know who interfere with the investigations and the operations of the FCID?
Looking at these arrests made by the FCID, someone could say that it is political revenge or a political witch-hunt. The main reason is because during the Rajapaksa family rule, no legal action was taken against robbers, fraudsters, murderers and corrupt individuals. The Rajapaksa regime freed and protected murderers, drug lords, fraudsters and other criminals. So today they feel that justice being served is wrong. Since they interfered with the process of justice in the past as they pleased, they feel that what is happening now is political revenge. But that is not political revenge. If someone has robbed or misused public money and properties, legal action should be taken against them. The FCID is carrying out their investigations so that justice can be served.
"The way we see it, the biggest faction of the Government, the UNP does not have a mandate to stay in the Government anymore"
There are however other reasons to say that the FCID is being manipulated by a political hand. The government should take responsibility for that. Because those who are accusing the FCID of being directed by a political hand are the ones who are not being investigated. The gravest allegations in the country were against the Rajapaksa family. Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, Yoshitha Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Shiranthi Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa and those who were close to the former president. Why aren’t there investigations against them? That is a question we also have. We have filed complaints against these people. We have filed complaints against those who made deals with the previous regime such as Arjun Aloysius, Thiru Nadeshan, Dilshan Wickremasinghe, etc. Now, while there are such serious complaints, why aren’t they being investigated? If justice can be served against the child who steals a coconut, then justice has to be served against these large-scale criminals as well.
We don’t accept the the workings of the FCID represent political revenge. But if they are not investigating into all complaints equally, then the government should take responsibility for that.
QDoes that mean you also feel that certain people who should be investigated have been let off the hook?
Yes, we do have a question on the extent to which justice is being served. We are puzzled as to why there is no action taken against these allegations of large-scale corruption. There are no investigations against those who have been accused of serious crimes. And that has left a certain amount of doubt about the law in people’s minds. It is not the fault of the FCID however, it is the responsibility of the government. While the unit may act independently, they should be advised to conduct investigations on not just the old thieves but new thieves as well.
"The JVP did not interfere to defeat Rajapaksa only during the last election; we started exposing his questionable dealings from 2010"
There is another serious situation that has arisen. They are now trying to prove that their properties are not their own by making false complaints to the police in order to evade the law. The FCID is trying to investigate such anonymous complaints while complaints with names and clear evidence are left untouched. We wonder whether this is because they want to free the real culprits. Therefore, we have our doubts and the President and the PM should take responsibility for this.
QNow another issue is that people like Gotabaya, when they feel that the law is working against them, file a FR petition and manage to halt his arrest on order of the Supreme Court. Do you think this is right?
He does have the right to file such a FR petition and we believe that he must have presented fair details for the Court to grant his request. It was ordered that he should not be arrested until investigations conclude, not that he should not be arrested at all. I think this shows the independence of the judiciary.
However, we cannot forget that a Commissioner of the Bribery or Corruption Commission has resigned. So this is an issue. There is a combined force behind these incidents. We see these things as the efforts of corrupt criminals to prove that they are innocent.
QCan you name people who are behind this ‘combined force’?
The way we see it, the biggest faction of the Government, the UNP does not have a mandate to stay in the Government anymore. The people’s mandate they received on January 8 expired after the 100 days. Now, when a Government that does not have a mandate works against the mandate of the people, they feel doubtful about the Government. One example of this is protecting the CB Governor and his corrupt dealings. Another is ending a court case against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. (Fine, that might be the Court’s decision.) While such interferences are going on, we don’t see the Government being transparent.
QAnother development we noticed in the recent past is that almost every politician who is arrested, ends up in the prison hospital without even spending a day in jail. Now, questions are being raised about this because ordinary citizens don’t have this luxury. What is your response?
In short, that is the extent of their shamelessness. They come as heroes but when they are jailed, they meekly go to the prison hospital. We don’t know if the stress of their crimes on their conscience is causing heart attacks. If a doctor makes a recommendation, a judge can see if it is true or not. So if they feign illness and pretend to stop breathing in the presence of a judge what can a judge do?
How can three people involved in the same case, suddenly have the same illness? That is an unusual and unnatural situation. If you have not committed any crime, you should have the backbone to stand tall and face the charges against you. It is because they know that they have done wrong, that they prefer to stay in hospital.
QCan you tell me what actions you contemplate in taking against the alleged billion rupee accounts in Swiss Banks?
Yes, we are filing a complaint about this issue. Let me explain our logic. According to the law of this country, anyone with an income higher than Rs. 600,000 should pay 28 per cent income tax. However, even though the Government claimed that there was money in several accounts, they could prove nothing. The Finance Minister even said so in Parliament and I don’t know how he is shamelessly coming back to Parliament after making such claims. If he is making such claims, he should bring the money back to the country. Such an irresponsible person has been made the Finance Minister.
Now, it has come to light that these accounts are maintained without permission according to exchange control laws. They need to take legal action against this. However, we would also like to make an additional point. There is more than us $ 50 million in these accounts. And while the investigations should go on about these finances, inquiries after how they were acquired, how they were taken out of the country and so on should be made. Immediate steps to should be taken to bring these monies back to the country and tax the relevant parties appropriately. That way, the country can gain about a US $15 million. This should be done immediately through the Inland Revenue Department.
We also believe this is just a small fraction of the money that has gone out of the country. Accounts belonging to politicians and other top guns that have not come to light yet may be in Chinese, American or Singaporean banks,
QIn your complaint, have you named those who are believed to have been holding such accounts?
Yes, there are names. There are no politicians but there are those who are connected to certain families. We have doubts about Kotalawela and the Golden Key transactions where politicians’ names have not been revealed. We urge that legal action is taken against those who have violated the financial laws of the country and taking steps to recover the money that had gone out of the country illegally.
QLast week, a no confidence motion was brought against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. Do you agree with this move?
I think a No Confidence motion should be brought against the entire government, not just Ravi Karunanayake. I believe that the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) has no backbone. The leader of the UPFA should pressurise the government which was given a mandate for only 100 days, to dissolve the Parliament and go for a General Election. If a minority government is running the country beyond their mandate and a leader with only 41 MPs in his party is the Prime Minister, then the majority party should take some responsibility for this situation. So this Parliament should be dissolved and the way paved for a new Government that can meet the people’s expectations and needs.
QAre you saying that the UNP has no place in this new Government?
Well, that is not up to me to decide. In January people of this country proved they needed a change. This was because the Rajapaksa family regime did not solve the real problems of ordinary citizens. The UNP kept saying that they could solve the problems if they were given a chance. But during this time, we saw how they solved issues. Ravi Karunanayake put his brother in law to the Insurance Corporation. Ranil Wickremesinghe made his friend, a foreigner, the Governor of the CB. Ravi Karunanayake also appointed someone who was jailed for the Mavil Aaru scandal, as chairman to the Agricultural Board Chairman and another as a director of a bank. So they are also with the criminals.
However, they have failed to find solutions to the real problems in the economy. The 100-day government could not even create 100 jobs. So during these 100 days, it has been proven that the UNP cannot solve the real problems of this country. There are so many burning issues in major sectors such as health, employment, education, industry, food and agriculture and this government has no programmes to solve these issues. They have not made a change to solve these social problems, only the person who is sitting behind the wheel has changed.
However, the JVP is in the process of creating a programme to solve these problems. We have a huge support for this. We are ready to take over the reigns of the country at the next General Elections. The people should decide who should make up the next Government.
QMost are of the idea that the JVP, however is not strong enough to stand alone to form a government; what we have seen in the past is that your party has always allied with a major party. So how are you able to take over the country and form a government?
During the recent past, the people have seen and heard what we have said and done. They have been watching us with a growing confidence. The people know who we are. Various people may have different opinions, but I believe that people know what we have done and what we are capable of doing for this country. It has been proved that we are the party who has the people’s interest at heart and we are the party that is truly against corruption. Therefore we are confident that we can go forward with the people to give this country the leadership it deserves.
QBut, one of your veteran members and a former leader of the party Somawansa Amarasinghe recently resigned from the party claiming that the JVP was going in a wrong direction.
What he means is not that our direction is wrong. It has a different meaning behind his statement. He is saying that the JVP should change itself in order to go forward. We have already made that change. We are trying to build a better rapport and dialogue with the society. We have confidence in our party.
QDo you mean to say that the JVP has changed the communist philosophies that your party is built on?
No, we have not changed our communist philosophies at all. We still have the same ideologies and principles. Right now the people expect us to change this corrupt system and increase their living standards. We are ready to lead and guide them to that. For that we have built a dialogue with the people. Anyone can say anything they want but it is between us and the people.
Before communism, we need socialism to solve the grave problems of inequality between people. That is the only way to end the suffering of the people.
QDo you think that the people are ready to forget and forgive the insurgency created by the JVP in the 80’s to bring you back into power?
Definitely. As a party, we have openly accepted our past faults. We have apologised to the people for this. However, those who instigated this issue, those who pushed the party into such a situation and violated democracy, have not apologised to the people.
QDo you believe that minor parties such as the JHU, TNA and the SLMC will support the JVP?
During the last election, various parties supported to defeat the Rajapaksas. However, the JVP did not interfere to defeat Rajapaksa only during the last election; we started exposing his questionable dealings from 2010. In a society where a thief could not be called a thief, we were not afraid to be straight talking. You may see those on the foot board first but we started driving the bus a long time ago. You cannot change society by watching instances of fraud and corruption and then writing books about it. You need to really fight corruption.
However, we do need the support of all factions of society to achieve that.
QCurrently, there are two potential candidates for the Prime Ministerial post after the General Election – Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremasinghe. In your opinion, who is better suited for the post?
Neither. Both are failed candidates; both have not done justice by the people.