Prof. Sarath Wijesuriya of the National Movement for Social Justice spoke about the questionable activities of the GMOA as a trade union, President Maithripala Sirisena not honouring his promise to abolish the Executive Presidency and his movement’s intention not to support a common candidate at a future election in an interview with the Daily Mirror.
- Wijesuriya believes that whoever who advised President Sirisena has changed the latter’s focus
- The professor sees that the common candidate they appointed has forgotten to deliver on his promises
- The GMOA has lost its independence as an independent trade union
- Both Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ do not receive foreign aid
- Under any circumstance I do not support SAITM, but I stand for private education
- During the Rajapaksa regime there was no one to challenge them (GMOA)
- The GMOA officers started making all the allegations only after we filed a case against its President
Q GMOA has leveled a strong criticism against Purawesi Balaya. They say that groups like Purawesi Balaya interfere in legitimate trade unions such as GMOA. What can you say about this?
The National Movement for Social Justice, founded by late Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera, named a common candidate to contest the presidency at the last Presidential Elections. In any of the instances groups like Purawesi Balaya nor National Movement for Social Justice (NMSJ) never posed problems to trade unions like Government Medical Officer’s Association (GMOA).
They all started questioning us after Gamini Viyangoda and I filed a case against the GMOA President for contempt of court. The statement GMOA made has no base and is purely a statement made through personal vengeance.
NMSJ is registered and has its own constitution. I must emphasize that the case filed against the GMOA President wasn’t filed by either Purawesi Balaya or NMSJ. It was solely filed by Gamini Viyangoda and I as concerned citizens. Also both Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ aren’t trade unions. They consist of people who are interested in social, cultural and political activities in the country.
Although the GMOA claims that both these organizations are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) it isn’t true. We know that NGOs are organizations ,which receive funds from foreign countries, and engage in social and political activities. But both Purawesi Balaya and NMSJ do not receive foreign aid and we too haven’t. The expenses of our activities are borne by the members, based on the donations given by our friends. We do have a bank account, but we do not have a massive deposit. This is because we collect money on ‘need basis’ to complete each task during a particular time.
The GMOA is unable to entertain opposite views. This was supported by the Rajapaksa regime. During that time some people lost their lives as a result of expressing opposite views. This is against democracy
Since the gentlemen from GMOA have declared that they are going to expose the foreign aid we have received, as they claim, I want to challenge them. If they prove that we have received any foreign aid we will remove the case filed in courts within 24 hours. I know they cannot prove anything as all their allegations are false.
The GMOA has lost its independence as an independent trade union. They engage in political activities. It has become a society which works in support of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The office bearers of the GMOA misuse the organization. They don’t speak about their professional rights and instead speak about policies.
The GMOA officers started making all the allegations only after we filed a case against its President. Also there were conflicts with regard to the SAITM issue. Some of the members of Purawesi Balaya were present in some of the meetings which supported SAITM. I never expressed that the conduct of SAITM is correct. But when expressing my views I have stated that we need to establish private education in the country. There should be an opportunity to receive a standard education in medicine for capable and talented students paying a fee. We are against the monopoly of Doctors. Under any circumstance I do not support SAITM, but I stand for private education.
If the GMOA maintains that only those who qualify should be allowed to enter medical college it is a dream that can’t be realised.
For a long time many civil societies surfaced in the country to cater to certain needs. They exist for some time and due to many reasons cease to exist. In a democratic country it is a right of the people to get together and work for a singular cause they believe in. It’s ironical that the GMOA questioned the Labour Commissioner whether organizations like Purawesi Balaya are registered. It is my opinion that only trade unions have to register under the Labor Commissioner.
As a collective, which came together to bring the common candidate to power, one complain levelled against us is that we are supported by NGOs and we dance according to the tune of the countries which back us. My point is why don’t the parties which make allegations against us take any legal action and prove their accusations. Following their actions what I understand is that the GMOA is under pressure. During the Rajapaksa regime there was no one to challenge them (GMOA). They used poor patients as a shield in order to win their rights. We know that many who visit Government hospitals aren’t the rich, but the down trodden masses. This is evident from the voice cuts given to the electronic media (television).
The GMOA takes revenge from such people. But the same doctors engage in private practice. There were instances when some top GMOA officials engaged in private practice in a private hospital.
There is another point I observe. The GMOA is unable to entertain opposite views. This was supported by the Rajapaksa regime. During that time some people lost their lives as a result of expressing opposite views. This is against democracy.
It’s hilarious that the GMOA questions how organizations like Purawesi Balaya receive funds. But the same organization does not have the backbone to question former Defense Secretary Gotabya Rajapaksa, a former Government officer, who is conducting ‘Viyath Maga’ by spending enormous amounts of money at Shangrila Hotel. GMOA hasn’t questioned how he (Gotabaya) received money to conduct that programme. This is because they are members of the same ‘group’.
Q The GMOA wanted Purawesi Balaya to declare its assets. Are you going to do that?
I give leadership to NMSJ and not to Purawesi Balaya. But I do engage in various activities of Purawesi Balaya. We do not have members in that front. It’s only a movement which obtains the services of people from the civil society who love to work using their principles. There are no presidents on treasurers in this movement.
There is only a convener to coordinate activities. I am aware that Purawesi Balaya doesn’t have much assets. We don’t have an office, vehicle nor a computer. We do have a bank account, but we do not have a considerable deposit, a fact which I know very well.
GMOA does not have the backbone to question former Defense Secretary Gotabya Rajapaksa, a former Government officer, who is conducting ‘Viyath Maga’ by spending enormous amounts of money at Shangrila Hotel
Q There is an allegation that groups like Purawesi Balaya receive funds from foreign countries and cater to their wishes. Is this true?
There should be a base for all these allegations. All these allegations are false. I would like to challenge them and prove my point.
Q Is Purawesi Balaya willing to declare its assets?
We would like them to disclose what they claim as alleged assets in our possession. We clearly know that they cannot prove anything. We have nothing to hide. I challenge them to prove their allegations. If they do we will withdraw the case filed against the GMOA President within 24 hours.
Q Going future on this subject would you consider registering Purawesi Balaya as an organisation?
We are a collective of people who gathered with common interests on social, cultural and political issues. We don’t want to make this a trade union or any other Organization. We have no intention of collecting money for this organization. None of the individuals who give leadership to our groups have the intention of entering active politics. We only want to see a just society and challenge manipulation of government assets.
It has become a society which works in support of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The office bearers of the GMOA misuse the organization. They don’t speak about their professional rights and instead speak about policies
Q Purawesi Balaya entered the political scene with the intention of abolishing the Executive Presidency. Three years have passed since and the executive Presidency still continues. We cannot see that you are applying sufficient pressure on the Government to abolish it. What can you say about this?
During the past few months we conducted many seminars around the country. The reason behind this is to force the Government to keep the promises made on January 8th. We conducted these seminars continuously but had to halt them due to provincial councils elections.
However we can see that the common candidate we appointed has forgotten to deliver on his promises. Instead he has sought advise from the Supreme Court on whether he could remain in power for six years.
He has openly stated that he wishes to contest in 2020. On the day of the funeral of the late Ven. Sobitha Thera he vouched that the executive presidency would be abolished. I believe that whoever who advised the President has changed his focus and has been successful in keeping him away from achieving the goals he is supposed to achieve.
Undoubtedly we are aware that the President would not keep his promise made on January 8th. Therefore we are preparing ourselves as civil societies to take action. However this does not mean we would support another common candidate.
If they prove that we have received any foreign aid we will remove the case filed in courts within 24 hours. I know they cannot prove anything as all their allegations are false
Q When the first cabinet reshuffle took place under the Good Governance Government you stated that this was done in order to appease some members of the SLFP and the UNP. What do you have to say about the recent Government reshuffle?
Instead of keeping up with the promises made by President Sirisena the cabinet was reshuffled a couple of times to retain his power in the SLFP. We can’t assume that all these changes were made for the betterment of the society. When a leader keeps changing the Government’s position it show that he is unsuccessful. He has betrayed the people of this country by doing so.
Q What is your next step?
I can’t make a direct statement with regard to Purawesi Balaya. But I can say that we have acquired a new face and getting ready.