Jathika Hela Urumaya Parliamentarian Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera,recently announced that he would function as an independent MP. Following is an interview in which the Thera explains the reason for his decision and his views with regard to the current political situation.
Q Venerable Thera, What influenced your decision to be an independent MP?
This was not a sudden decision, but an idea I had in my mind for some time. I was watching closely the activities of the government during the past period, and thought it was better for me to voice my opinion about the government in an open manner.
QIs it your own decision, or the outcome of a discussion you had with someone?
There is a group of about ten to fifteen who closely worked with me. This decision was taken in consultation with them.
QDid you keep President Maithripala Sirisena briefed about this matter?
I told him that I must speak openly to the country about the government as people are watching what we are doing. I only told him that I will reveal my thinking about the government, and did not tell him what I was going to say.
QYou are in the Parliament from the National list of the United National Front. Did you inform the UNP about your move?
At the time I took this decision the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe was not in
I tried to keep him informed about my decision, but could not do it. Anyway I have the right to be independent. It is the democratic way.
QYou have stated that you will be independent in the Parliament. What will be your role in the future?
It is true that I am appointed on the national list of a party, but remained holding my independent views. In the future too I will be critical of the government as and when needed, and continue my stand as an independent.
This is not leaving the government and joining the opposition. What I infer however is that I will not be aligned to any party.
QBut many are asking why you remain independent without resigning?
There is no need to go into such a decision.
Q If the United National Front take a decision with regard to your position as a National list MP.
That is their job, and if and when they take a decision on this matter, I can consider what I should do. If they take a decision they will inform me, and then I will decide what I should do.
Q Venerable Rathana Thera, you have been at the head of operations in having Maithripala Sirisena installed as the President and the creation of the Yahapalanaya government. What Caused you frustration about the government so soon?
No there is no frustration, but it is a criticism of the government. My intention is to lead with that criticism in a formidable manner. My intention is to deviate from the system of one two taking decisions and running the government. I want to turn the country towards progress, where I will be a voice for people respecting democracy, strong nationalists, with concern to the environment.
I am now ready for it. As one who gave my best in installing this government, I am ready to continue with dedication to continue this task and I invite everybody to join.
QBy saying that your attempt is to move the government on the correct path, do you accept that the government is on the wrong path?
Clearly speaking the government in certain instances did not move on the correct path, and therefore it is vital that the government is put on the correct track.
QIsn’t it now clear that the social organization who dedicated themselves in establishing this government has now taken up arms against the government?
Yes. It is clear that there is growing discontent against the government. It is a truth that the government must direct its attention and face those criticisms. Government is facing a massive economic crisis. The former government obtained a large amount of commercial loans which had not brought in any dividends.
The present government is in this debt trap. In comparison to the loans obtained for the Hambantota harbour we have failed to obtain dividends. We have to find alternatives. If this government also contemplates in putting up temporary solutions with patch ups, these issues are sure to aggravate and the country would continue to be in this debt trap.
The government must reveal to the country the correct position with regard to the economic crisis, and tell the people the truth and adopt strategies to get over it.
Then people will understand the actual position and be concerned about the country. Instead of that if they resort to the actions they are taking, there will be opposition saying that attempts are being made to sell the resources it will be easily picked up by the opposition as an apportunity to attack the government. It is first and foremost necessary to convince the people that the government is on the correct path. The government must find short term and long term solutions.
During the past period we raised awareness about the liberal use of agro chemicals, fertilizer etc., and the subsequent dangers posed to health. The government should continue to reap the fruits of this labour. It should not be something that you forget after the next election.
QYou have said that a new force would be built up. What is this new force you are attempting to create?
Today the Parliament has become a place where many MPs just shout around, without discussing about developing the country. Parliament should not be such a place.
When you compare the Hansard reports of the past with those of the present, it is apparent as to what a level our Parliamentary proceedings had fallen. Parliament which was a place of high decorum, has now become a mad house.Today Parliament is full of uneducated and unintelligent people. Even with educated people joining in they are compelled to join these rabble rousers. A new platform is necessary to enroll those who are in Parliament and ready to foster national policies and form a National Council. That is what I intend to do, and it will be formed as an alternative to
Q Then what will happen to the “Pivithuru Hetak” organization?
We have not decided yet about this organization. We are continuing with our negotiations, to discuss the future of Pivithuru Hetak, whether it would forge ahead with the new force or not. My duty now is to give leadership to this new force. I believe that I have the strength to forge ahead in this matter.
QWill you continue in Parliament until 2020?
I have no high hopes. I intend activating my proposals under the President and would dedicate myself in the coming years to drive the country towards achieving these beneficial goals. I have not thought about what I would do thereafter.
QWhat about your old friends at the JHU?
I have no intention of alienating from anyone, either JHU or any other party. I was one who was with the JHU and I have no connection with any political party and have no axe to grind with any person.