And I am saying this for the first time in the media, I met Ranil Wickremesinghe. I told my leader I’m going to meet him because he also wanted to have a chat and to see how we can merge
Informed Sajith I will be meeting Ranil
In touch with Namal on WhatsApp
Sanga and Mahela refused to work with me
Sirisena panicked when attacked on social media
Former Sports Minister Harin Fernando is among the outspoken members of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) in Parliament. However, Fernando has also been criticized for, at times, being unable to control his temper in Parliament. Speaking to the Daily Mirror online, Mr. Fernando spoke about his future plans in politics as well as of the SJB. He also recalls what he attempted to do when in government and reveals where things went wrong.The Excerpts:
Mahela and Sangakkara didn’t want to get involved in anything in Sri Lanka at that point. Perhaps they knew that the government was not very solid at that point and probably wanted to avoid controversy
Q Now, more than ever there seems to be a need for a strong opposition. With the split in the UNP and the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) going solo, it seems the opposition is weak in Parliament. Do you see an opportunity for the UNP and the SJB and indeed others as well coming together instead of speaking in different voices?
Well, I believe that as an opposition, it’s not about the numbers. It’s about the impact that you make. I think the SJB with a very young team have done remarkably well to highlight malpractices of the government, together with three members of the JVP. Even in the TNA we see some very young dynamic leaders who have done very well. So I’m actually thinking it’s not just the numbers of opposition members, but it should be a broader alliance when fighting more issues of the country, which is which for the people.
Q But is your voice really heard in parliament...
Well, one can ignore it, but the people are hearing it. And that’s what you see online and that’s what you see in the comments. That’s why you see the uprising of the people.
Q But we see a lot of people on social media critical of your party leader...
The thing is this. If you look at and analyze the social media today, there are lots of trolls and bots being operated. They are manipulated. There are different arms, different companies established to make comments. But the beauty of social media is that you need to identify which is fake, which is not, which is genuine and which is authentic. So that’s something that people engage properly and understand. I think that the social media concept has to be accepted.
I think Maithripala Sirisena, the former President, got it all wrong. When he saw negative comments, he panicked. We see President Rajapaksa panicking right now with all these comments. The crucial and critical point is actually letting them comment and letting them engage.
If I was in government, I would have actually taken it positively. I would not really try to stop them, but try and make sure that they see the positivity, because that’s a way of survival. That didn’t happen with the Yahapalanaya government. He (Sirisena) blocked Facebook. I was the Minister, but I could not do anything. The TRC was with the President. The same thing is happening today.
"I believe this is an ideal opportunity that all the parties could get together. Have a common agenda for ten years, get the country back on track, don’t have elections, don’t spend money on elections, invest it to development"
Q Did you actually try to do something back then?
Well I did. I’m telling you, the content readers for Facebook have been placed there because of us. We got Facebook down. We had two people representing the Fact Checker. Those all were established after our request. And we got about more than 60 people recruited who were working in Singapore, India, and Ireland etc.
Q We can go to that later. But what I am asking you is when you saw President Sirisena interfering in certain matters and trying to block social media, what did you do?
Well, to give you a direct answer. He was not savvy with technology. He does not understand how this works. So it’s very difficult to make someone like him understand. Ranil Wickremesinghe understood it very well, but there was a huge difference between the two. And that brought about the downfall of the government.
Q So as a former member of the UNP, do you regret the idea of bringing in Sirisena as a common candidate in 2015?
I honestly don’t regret as such because I think there were a few things that we have got right. Maithripala Sirisena understood the political system very well, because he had come from the ranks right down below. He knew what the whole system was. I see there is a huge difference in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he does not understand the political system, how it works and so on. So there is a big difference. The unfortunate factor was that Sirisena would have had the ideas of contesting again. He initially promised himself one term as President. But later there were some of uncomfortable things had happened.
But I’m very glad for what we had achieved in that short time. Yahapalanaya had all the independent commissions. Delays were there, people were dilly dallying with the two governments being involved. But we had a golden opportunity. But unfortunately, it was lost because of individual expectations and so on.
"one positive about Sajith Premadasa is that is he listens. He’s a bit young. I would say he’s young comparatively in politics. He’s in his early fifties"
Q But then early on, when the Yahapalanaya government came to office you made a lot of promises with the Lasantha murder investigation, the Thajudeen investigation and so on... What happened there?
Again, I would say there were young people who were involved in trying to change the government, people like Sujeewa Senasinghe, Ajith P. Perera, Harsha de Silva, Eran Wickremeratne and myself. We had the credibility. But when the then government was formed and the votes were counted, the old lot got through; they were given the posts and were taken into cabinet. Same thing happened with the Rajapaksa regime as well. People had a lot of expectations, system and talked, they talked about artificial intelligences, robotics, etc., but that could not be implemented. We as politicians are here for a five-year term. If you don’t work properly, you will be sent home, but the system doesn’t change. Sri Lanka needs a huge, complete revamp of politics. If you want to see a future, my suggestion is Sri Lanka would be for all parties, the cream and the best, to leave their personal agendas aside. All of the top parties have to come together and have a common goal for ten years. Sri Lanka needs a ten-year plan, no politics.
Q Do you see that change happening through the SJB leadership as well?
Well, one positive about Sajith Premadasa is that is he listens. He’s a bit young. I would say he’s young comparatively in politics. He’s in his early fifties. I am telling the Daily Mirror online today and I will give you an affidavit. I will not be in politics, if I live more than 65 years. Because if a government servant is not fit enough to work, how can a politician? No offence to any senior politician, but how do we get the younger generation in? How do you get a nonpolitical family background going in politics? How do we open that system up? How do we get an educated group into mainstream politics? So these are things that I would like to think and even love to see.
We will push Sajith Premadasa to do that. If he doesn’t want to do that, then we will have to think of the alternative of how we’re going to do it.
"But I’m very glad for what we had achieved in that short time. Yahapalanaya had all the independent commissions. Delays were there, people were dilly dallying with the two governments being involved. But we had a golden opportunity"
Q Let’s talk about you, Harin Fernando. You are seen as a controversial and outspoken character. But some see that differently. Your personality is seen as being maybe thuggish, maybe unwarranted. How do you see that?
My parents never knew that I would be able to speak a single word in a public forum. So, sometimes opportunities come on your way in a different manner. The blessing comes to you in a different way. I was a notorious kid. But being outspoken isn’t wrong. And I think and that’s the confidence I would like to give any youth to speak from your mind and back it with facts and not just criticize.
Q You have been engaging a certain individual whom you call a “man in a skirt” especially on this whole drug issue and you went and did urine test as well...
The whole reason is because I tell everybody not to do it. Don’t try to prove yourself to be someone else. About that person (man in a skirt), I don’t even want to think that he exists in my life or he’s around. I don’t want to respond to him.
Q But you did respond to him...
It is because of the local media and the channels. They didn’t want to fight with me with facts. They brought in allegations and I had a big following as well. And I have a very big younger generation following me and especially my kids. They are my biggest followers. And I didn’t want them to feel bad when they go to school because the local media branded me as a drug addict. So I want to correct that part. And that person (man in a skirt) is non-existent to me and he doesn’t bother me at all. I would never mention his name because he doesn’t make an impact in my life. So even though he always accuses me, I never got it personal.
" I see there is a huge difference in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa because he does not understand the political system, how it works and so on"
Q Let’s shift a bit to sports. You were the former Sports Minister and the state of Sri Lanka cricket is being discussed a lot these days, and it was still an issue back then. I know you had made some attempts to rectify certain matters; you approached former cricketers as well. What are your comments on this?
At the outset, I would say cricket is not the only sport, but lots of people are interested in cricket, and that became a highly commercialized sport. So everybody has interests, hidden agendas. But I’m very glad that within eight months, we were able to deliver something which is lawful in which people who are into gaming cannot be holding posts.
Namal Rajapaksa has the best opportunity. He cannot ever make an excuse because his father is a Prime Minister. His uncle is the President. His other uncle holds the main control in the government. So it’s very easy for him to make changes. I feel Sri Lanka cricket has enough talent, but it’s just managing the talent. And it’s unfortunate.
Q I know you approached Mahela and Sangakkara and tried to get them involved. Did it work?
I’ve been trying to avoid this conversation for a long time.
Q But let’s get into the conversation. Because it seems they are supporting Namal now. Aren’t they?
I’m perplexed, to be honest, I asked them, I was very determined to that point; I met them at my residence. I met them in my own house. They didn’t want to get involved in anything in Sri Lanka at that point. Perhaps they knew that the government was not very solid at that point and probably wanted to avoid controversy.
Q So, did they feel you couldn’t deliver?
They asked me that, too. They asked me how, because they worked with so many Ministers. They said they don’t have faith in the system. We need to change. But I was the only one who was able to get the value out of the whole equation at that point. But then when they backed down and they said their commitments are too far, I let them be. As much as they didn’t help me, I’m happy for Sri Lanka cricket. And I only hope they do it out of passion and not because of pressure.
Q Are you interested in working with Namal?
To be honest on sports matters, he and I are on WhatsApp all the time. And I always wish him well when it comes to sports and even politically. We have the same mindset. We have different political agendas. I believe this is an ideal opportunity that all the parties could get together. Have a common agenda for ten years, get the country back on track, don’t have elections, don’t spend money on elections, invest it to development.
Q Are you looking at the opportunity of, maybe trying to work with Ruwan Wijewardena?
More than reaching out, it’s building a common consensus between how to fight the government. Let’s decide how we are going to contest later on, whether we are going to come as a coalition or are they going to go as separate parties or under one common symbol. But right now, what we need to do is, we need to also engage. SJB is the one that has a voice, at least in parliament, and that matters a lot. Even Karu Jayasuriya. We need to get all of them on one platform because we are fighting a regime that is very difficult. So if you are to fight against corruption, malpractices, we need to come into a common platform, leaving our political differences aside.
I think Ruwan has an ideal opportunity, because he’s young. He worked with us. We have been together as a team. And I am saying this for the first time in the media, I met Ranil Wickremesinghe. I told my leader I’m going to meet him because he also wanted to have a chat and to see how we can merge. Our General Secretary has opened up a conversation. Mr. Wickremesinghe also wanted us to have a conversation with Ruwan and see how we can work this out.
We want everybody to unite and get all the people involved to unite and fight the common enemy. So that’s what we’re trying to do.
See the full video interview on Daily Mirror online
Comments - 15
mp Monday, 08 February 2021 08:20 AM
Including a revamp of your mouth!
Voter Monday, 08 February 2021 08:29 AM
All of you go home!!!
Mithula Monday, 08 February 2021 09:02 AM
Totally Agree all current 225 parliamentarians including you should leave politics to bring about a new bread of patriotic politicians who work for the people!
Harin is all BS Monday, 08 February 2021 02:36 PM
Politics in Sri Lanka does not need revamping. Sri Lanka itself needs to be revamped bottom up. Think of it like this. There is only one person at the top of a pyramid but there are many at the base of the pyramid. Change the attitudes and perceptions of those at the bottom and they will move to the top in the next few years. Change the kids first. They become better teens and they go on to get involved in politics and become better politicians.
Sandy Monday, 08 February 2021 04:44 PM
Throwing all garbage into a bin is not called merging
RaniDe Alwis Monday, 08 February 2021 05:44 PM
Harin I wish you all the best. There is some hope for our future generation if you can fulfil your vision with all your colleagues.Be brave I know all of you can and will if you work together.May god give you the wisdom and courage to make a difference to our mother land.
Janahitha Perera Monday, 08 February 2021 06:21 PM
We know, you, RW and Yahapalanaya did an excellent job in the past. RW lost his deposit. MS saved by Pohottuwa. Don't talk rubbish - go home after donating your pin paid to people of SL.
Leel Monday, 08 February 2021 06:22 PM
UNP AND SJB commen enemy is Ranil and the robber gang. Nothing will succeed until they quit the unp.
Bhagawaan Monday, 08 February 2021 09:33 PM
It is not just Sri Lanka , every country in this world has same problems.
The fundamentals of any political system is
To appear idealistic but always have inbuilt
Mechanisms to cheat and defraud the mass
ivan maligaspe Tuesday, 09 February 2021 12:48 AM
Today this Guy has answered quite well, at times he is mellow and mostly acts like a Street Thug , fights with everyone and not at all suitable to be a MP, he speaks that Pres GR does not understand the Political system, its well and good that he does not want to follow this Obsolete Political System which has ruined this country for the last half century, GR has his own style and he does it well amidst the Pandemic, I am sure if Harin's party ruled SLanka , the country would have been in ruins , thousands dead with the tug of war between My3, Ranil , Rajitha and etc. like Bulls in a china shop...at least Covid is somewhat under control with the present set up, compared to the rest of the countries with Factories closed
Man Tuesday, 09 February 2021 09:01 AM
One of the intelligent (voter)'s out of 6.9 M, above me. Who speaks for other if gone home? A proof for no democracy and prevailing dictatorship.
Ranaweera Tuesday, 09 February 2021 09:38 AM
Yes people like you should be banned from contesting the elections.
Devaka Attygalle Tuesday, 09 February 2021 10:04 AM
When his father told him not to go to church on Easter Sunday because churches were going to be bombed, what did he do? Did he inform the IGP? He should not be in politics at all.
cheers Tuesday, 09 February 2021 11:25 AM
did nothing in power from 2015-2019 retire now and stay at home so we can save the tax payers money to develop the country atleast
Tharanga Tuesday, 09 February 2021 12:17 PM
True democrat he is. Does not mind doing away with elections. Al this shows is that they are two sides of the same coin. People are getting duped.
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