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29 July 2013 07:31 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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One of the se­nior-most Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans in the coun­try and Chief Op­po­si­tion whip, UNP front lin­er John Amar­a­tun­ga in a can­did in­ter­view with Dai­ly Mir­ror, spoke about his par­ty’s pol­i­cies on the up­com­ing pro­vin­cial polls and ex­plained why they did not be­lieve for­mer UNP MP Day­a­siri Jaya­se­kara’s de­fec­tion last week would make any im­pact on the par­ty or its cam­paigns.


Fol­low­ing are some ex­cerpts:

Q:Isn’t for­mer MP Jaya­se­kara’s de­fec­tion a ma­jor set­back for the UNP at the up­com­ing Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil polls?
Ab­so­lute­ly not and we say that with out­right cer­tain­ty be­cause we have oth­er mem­bers in the par­ty, who are even more ca­pa­ble and am­bi­tious in run­ning the cam­paign for the UNP.

Q: Pres­ent­ly, some 67 UNP MPs have crossed over and are now part of the co­a­li­tion gov­ern­ment.  Ma­jor­i­ty of them cite dis­a­gree­ments and clash­es with the lead­er, as the rea­son that led to their de­fec­tion. Why are par­ty of­fi­cials in­ac­tive be­fore this rap­id drain in the UNP?
Well, there were some is­sues but they have now been re­solved ami­ca­bly. Even with con­cern to Day­a­siri, he was par­doned. Even the in­ves­ti­ga­tions and in­qui­ries against him were quash­ed pri­or to his de­fec­tion.
Dis­a­gree­ments with the lead­er are just ex­cu­ses that they look for, to jus­ti­fy their de­fec­tion and they try to take cov­er un­der it. I don’t see any ne­ces­si­ty for a change in the cur­rent lead­er­ship, as he is the most in­tel­li­gent and knowl­edge­a­ble man in Sri Lan­ka in com­par­i­son to the rest of those en­gag­ed in pol­i­tics, in the coun­try.

"The rea­son for tak­ing Day­a­siri, from the point of view of the UP­FA, was due to their in­se­cur­i­ty of los­ing the North West­ern Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil polls. They were seek­ing a can­di­date who could get suf­fi­cient votes for them to be able to form a coun­cil"

Q: But the quash­ing of for­mer MP Jaya­se­kara’s in­qui­ries has been in­ter­pre­ted by some as a move to cov­er-up the ac­tual rea­son for his de­fec­tion - dis­a­gree­ments with the lead­er­ship?
Day­a­siri’s ne­go­tia­tions with the UP­FA have been go­ing on for sev­er­al years. Know­ing the Pres­i­dent, he wai­ted un­til the op­por­tune mo­ment ar­rived to get Day­a­siri on­to his side.
The rea­son for tak­ing Day­a­siri, from the point of view of the UP­FA, was due to their in­se­cur­i­ty of los­ing the North West­ern Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil polls. They were seek­ing a can­di­date who could get suf­fi­cient votes for them to be able to form a coun­cil. These ac­tions - hunt­ing for per­son­nel from the op­po­si­tion par­ties to ach­ieve their goals, mere­ly re­flects on the po­lit­i­cal bank­rupt­cy of the UP­FA.

Q: So you are ac­knowl­edg­ing that for­mer MP Jaya­se­kara is a fig­ure who could have ral­lied suf­fi­cient votes for the UNP to have won the elec­tion?
That is what the gov­ern­ment thinks. But in my opin­ion, his con­duct dur­ing the past cou­ple of days has dis­credi­ted him; the con­fi­dence that was placed in him by the peo­ple has now waned. He is no lon­ger a re­li­a­ble fig­ure.

'Our vot­er base has not de­creased but the vot­ers have felt dis­cour­aged to cast their votes due to the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­ted dur­ing the elec­tion pro­cess­es. They have lost their con­fi­dence in the dem­o­crat­ic proc­ess'

Q: Al­le­ga­tions have been lev­el­led against the sev­er­al dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mit­tees ap­poin­ted re­cent­ly – that they are the lead­er’s hench­men who car­ry out his bid­ding. As a se­nior mem­ber of the par­ty, what are your com­ments on such ac­cu­sa­tions?
We are a par­ty with a fully-fledg­ed con­sti­tu­tion and we work ac­cord­ing to the rules and reg­u­la­tions em­bed­ded in it. Those ap­poin­ted to the dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mit­tees are se­lec­ted ow­ing to their com­pe­tence in the le­gal profession. Hence, I do not see why those mem­bers should be ac­cused of be­ing hench­men of the UNP Lead­er or any­one else’s – their ap­point­ments en­ti­tled them to in­ves­ti­gate in­to a mat­ter, in­quire and re­port.  
The dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mit­tees had to be ap­poin­ted due to un­ru­ly ac­tions of Day­a­siri and sev­er­al oth­ers. How­ev­er, once the com­mit­tees were ap­poin­ted, the MPs in ques­tion at­ten­ded the in­qui­ries, con­fessed to their ac­tions and pledged to re­frain from re­peat­ing them. They even sign­ed docu­ments be­fore the dis­ci­pli­na­ry com­mit­tees; even Day­a­siri asked for par­don for his ac­tions and vow­ed to stand by the par­ty and work to­geth­er.  Even on the day be­fore the morn­ing he crossed-over, he was par­tic­i­pat­ing in the proc­ess of se­lect­ing can­di­dates for the up­com­ing pro­vin­cial polls – this is why I called him an un­re­li­a­ble fig­ure.  

Q: Why have MPs Karu Jaya­sur­iya and Sa­jith Pre­ma­da­sa been side-lined from the nom­i­na­tions board for the up­com­ing PC polls?
There have been so many mem­bers of the UNP who have not been in­clu­ded in the nom­i­na­tions board. There is no hard and fast rule that states they should be nom­i­na­ted. Maybe there are rea­sons as to why they were not in­clu­ded but I am not aware of them.
 
Q: Is it true that the UNP is plan­ning to gear their pro­vin­cial poll cam­paigns to­wards draw­ing in se­nior votes and waive off at­tempts to win those of the youth? Do you be­lieve a strat­egy that ex­cludes the youth would help win the polls?
Of course not! We have to and will be can­vass­ing for ev­ery vote in the vot­ers’ list at the up­com­ing PC poll cam­paigns. There is a youth group among our Par­lia­men­ta­ry mem­bers as well as a se­nior group and they will be dis­trib­uted even­ly to car­ry out the cam­paign­ing.

"We are anx­ious­ly wait­ing to see the out­come of the Par­lia­men­ta­ry Se­lect Com­mit­tee re­port on the changes to 13A and the fact that it is be­ing held with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a sin­gle op­po­si­tion mem­ber"

Q: Do you think there is scope for the up­com­ing PC elec­tions to be free and fair, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the North where op­po­si­tion po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties have not been al­lowed much of a voice through­out the past four years?
If the past is any in­di­ca­tion, I don’t be­lieve the up­com­ing elec­tions would be any­thing close to free and fair. In fact, I made a claim that the vot­ing proc­ess with con­cern to gov­ern­ment serv­ants is not au­ton­o­mous due to personnel be­ing com­pel­led to cast their votes be­fore the head of the de­part­ment. That is on­ly a sin­gle ex­am­ple of the hun­dreds of elec­tion reg­u­la­tion vi­o­la­tions that have been oc­cur­ring un­der the bless­ing of this gov­ern­ment through­out the past few years.
It is due to our con­cerns re­gard­ing the pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of a free and fair elec­tion proc­ess, that we strong­ly ad­vo­cate for­eign mon­i­tors. But they have al­ready re­jec­ted the fea­si­bil­i­ty of bring­ing in for­eign mon­i­tors and it is a forecast of the type of vi­o­lence the gov­ern­ment is plan­ning to in­sti­gate dur­ing the up­com­ing PC polls.  
These are the re­sults of the ab­sence of a Po­lice Com­mis­sion that would en­sure the in­de­pend­ence in their af­fairs, the ab­sence of an Elec­tions Com­mis­sion, of which the Com­mis­sion­er has turned in­to a tool of the gov­ern­ment at pres­ent and the ab­sence of the Pub­lic Serv­ices Com­mis­sion. These in­sti­tu­tions ex­ist but on­ly nom­i­nal­ly; the as­pi­ra­tions en­vis­aged from the 17th Amend­ment are not prev­a­lent to­day. So I don’t think it is re­al­is­ti­cal­ly pos­si­ble for us to be­lieve or en­sure that the up­com­ing elec­tions would be free or fair.

"How­ev­er, the gov­ern­ment should al­so re­al­ise that if they re­sort to stran­gling the pol­i­cies and pro­grammes of the new­ly elec­ted Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil in the North, this coun­try would qual­i­fy for an­oth­er in­sur­rec­tion"
 
Q: Why has a spe­cif­ic group of MPs been se­lec­ted to ad­dress the vot­ers at par­ty prop­a­gan­da ral­lies dur­ing the up­com­ing polls?
The par­ty would line up and iden­ti­fy the meet­ings to be held in the Cen­tral and North West­ern Prov­in­ces; those would be the main meet­ings. The par­ty would al­so iden­ti­fy speak­ers who should ad­dress the vot­ers at those main meet­ings. How­ev­er, any speak­er is free to ad­dress the prop­a­gan­da meet­ings held at grass­roots lev­els.  Such re­stric­tions have been im­posed to en­sure that the prop­er par­ty mes­sage will reach our vot­ers. It is very im­por­tant. Af­ter fias­cos with in­di­vid­u­als such as Day­a­siri, we de­ci­ded we can­not take any more chan­ces – we have to en­sure that the par­ty line is be­ing firm­ly es­tab­lish­ed in the pre­sen­ta­tions of the pub­lic speak­ers.

Q: Has the TNA’s choice of candidate for the NPC influenced the UNP to fol­low suit?
Well, in com­par­i­son to the type of peo­ple and se­lec­tions made by the UP­FA, our choices are far more su­pe­ri­or. We en­sure that can­di­dates who con­test un­der our um­brel­la are dedi­ca­ted and are of good char­ac­ter; they are not smug­glers, mur­der­ers or those who have en­gag­ed in any type of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­i­ty. Pres­ent­ly, we see dai­ly re­ports on UP­FA pol­i­ti­cians of all stra­ta, en­gag­ed in brib­ery or cor­rup­tion be­ing ar­res­ted.  This is an is­sue of grave con­cern; we are very wor­ried about the fate of this coun­try. The UP­FA pol­i­ti­cians are at­tempt­ing to de­stroy the gold­en thread of the so­ci­ety in which peo­ple are liv­ing in peace and har­mo­ny.

"Dur­ing the pow­er of the UNP gov­ern­ments, to a very great ex­tent the trade un­ions did win their de­mands. I am not say­ing what they ach­ieved was a 100% vic­to­ry but there was tol­er­ance."

Q: The TNA has ex­pressed con­cerns about hav­ing to face the per­son­al­i­ty of the North­ern Prov­ince Gov­er­nor - a re­tired mili­ta­ry of­fi­cial, when im­ple­ment­ing pol­i­cies to en­sure the wel­fare of the Tam­il com­mun­i­ty re­sid­ing in the areas. How do you view this sit­ua­tion?
First­ly, we do not agree with this trend de­vel­oped by the gov­ern­ment to ap­point mili­ta­ry of­fi­cials in­to civ­il ad­min­is­tra­tive po­si­tions. It is a step to­wards sup­port­ing the gov­ern­ment’s dic­ta­to­ri­al rule in the coun­try.
How­ev­er, the gov­ern­ment should al­so re­al­ise that if they re­sort to stran­gling the pol­i­cies and pro­grammes of the new­ly elec­ted Pro­vin­cial Coun­cil in the North, this coun­try would qual­i­fy for an­oth­er in­sur­rec­tion. The frus­tra­tion would once again set in and there may be an up­ris­ing with­in the Tam­il com­mun­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the North and East.
Be­sides, the gov­ern­ment should al­so note that the in­ter­na­tion­al com­mun­i­ty would be watch­ing as to how they are con­duct­ing their role with con­cern to the in­de­pend­ence of the pro­vin­cial coun­ci­llors.

Q: Shouldn’t the dwin­dling op­po­si­tion be held re­spon­si­ble for the strength­en­ing of this gov­ern­ment, which you claim­ed is head­ing to­wards a dic­ta­to­ri­al rule?
The gov­ern­ment’s pow­er is strength­ened not by the op­po­si­tion, but be­cause they have a steam­roll ma­jor­i­ty in the Par­lia­ment. They have de­ple­ted the num­ber of op­po­si­tion mem­bers by buy­ing and pay­ing, and ex­ert­ing var­i­ous pres­sures on them by un­cov­er­ing their weak points through is­sues such as de­fault­ing on tax pay­ments, crim­i­nal ca­ses, cor­rup­tion charg­es etc. and hold­ing them ran­som to it.

Q: Are you say­ing while the gov­ern­ment bribes their way in­to cre­at­ing a mo­nop­o­ly in Par­lia­men­ta­ry pow­er, the op­po­si­tion can do noth­ing and is pow­er­less to act against it?  
Yes! We can’t do any­thing be­cause the Con­sti­tu­tion is weak; it does not al­low spe­cif­ic pro­vi­sions to be tak­en against MPs who cross over in the Par­lia­ment from one par­ty to an­oth­er. This is why our lead­er cre­ated a draft Con­sti­tu­tion cov­er­ing such areas with loop­holes, which re­quire im­me­di­ate at­ten­tion.

Q: Do you feel like the pub­lic has ac­cep­ted the UNP’s pro­posed draft Con­sti­tu­tion?
The si­lent vot­ers – who don’t make a pub­lic dis­play of their po­lit­i­cal al­li­ances by shout­ing in ral­lies are very much sat­is­fied and ap­pre­ci­ate the pro­vi­sions laid out in the draft Con­sti­tu­tion. Sim­i­lar­ly, they will si­lent­ly vote for the UNP, so that all citi­zens can ben­e­fit when the pro­vi­sions laid in the draft Con­sti­tu­tion are im­ple­men­ted in the coun­try.

Q: You were re­cent­ly ap­poin­ted as the Pres­i­dent of the UNP’s Trade Un­ion Wing (JSS). What rea­sons do you think have con­trib­uted to the pres­ent de­te­ri­o­ra­tion in the trade un­ion move­ment?
Dur­ing the pow­er of the UNP gov­ern­ments, to a very great ex­tent the trade un­ions did win their de­mands. I am not say­ing what they ach­ieved was a 100% vic­to­ry but there was tol­er­ance. But un­der this re­gime, there are on­ly threats. Through in­stil­ling fear and in­se­cur­i­ty, the gov­ern­ment ma­nip­u­la­tes per­son­nel in­to ab­stain­ing from trade un­ion ac­tions.
The lat­est ex­am­ples can be drawn from what be­came of the rail­way and bus strikes. Due to the pres­sure be­ing ex­er­ted on those who work, the em­ploy­ees do not par­tic­i­pate in trade un­ion ac­tiv­i­ties in fear of los­ing their live­li­hood - so much so, that they are even scared to take mem­ber­ship in a trade un­ion af­fili­ated with an op­po­si­tion par­ty be­cause most were vic­ti­mised – trans­fer­red from pil­lar to post.
Al­though usu­al­ly, the num­ber of mem­bers in a trade un­ion af­fili­ated with an op­po­si­tion par­ty would dwin­dle, pre­vi­ous­ly it has nev­er de­ple­ted in this man­ner. For ex­am­ple, al­though those in the Cey­lon Trans­port Board are able to car­ry on their du­ties un­til the age of 60, they are in­struc­ted to re­tire by the time they reach 57 be­cause the gov­ern­ment is well aware that the ma­jor­i­ty of se­nior of­fi­cials are UN­Pers. Like­wise, the gov­ern­ment is us­ing var­i­ous tac­tics to kill the mem­ber­ship for op­po­si­tion sup­por­ted trade un­ions.
 
Q: As the op­po­si­tion, what ac­tion is the UNP plan­ning to take if the gov­ern­ment de­cides to con­tin­ue with their plan of re­peal­ing pow­ers of 13A?

The Gov­ern­ment is bull­doz­ing ev­ery­thing in their quest for pow­er.  We are anx­ious­ly wait­ing to see the out­come of the Par­lia­men­ta­ry Se­lect Com­mit­tee re­port on the changes to 13A and the fact that it is be­ing held with­out the par­tic­i­pa­tion of a sin­gle op­po­si­tion mem­ber.

Q: Re­cent­ly, UNP Gen­er­al Sec­re­ta­ry Tis­sa At­ta­na­yake had sta­ted that the UNP’s pri­mary goal was to es­tab­lish a gov­ern­ment. Wouldn’t you say it’s a tough as­pi­ra­tion to reach, con­sid­er­ing the fact that the UNP has not won a sin­gle elec­tion for the past 15 years?
The on­ly rea­son for the gov­ern­ment’s con­tin­u­ous tri­umph at elec­tions and the op­po­si­tion’s de­feat is the ab­sence of free and fair elec­tions. Our vot­er base has not de­creased but the vot­ers have felt dis­cour­aged to cast their votes due to the mis­ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­ted dur­ing the elec­tion pro­cess­es.
 They have lost their con­fi­dence in the dem­o­crat­ic proc­ess.  We be­lieve this can be changed through a very im­por­tant mes­sage and it needs to be tak­en down to the very grass­root lev­el; the cor­rup­tion and in­jus­ti­ces com­mit­ted by this gov­ern­ment and the man­ner in which the pub­lic is laid with the bur­den of pay­ing for the gov­ern­ment’s fi­nan­cial in­com­pe­tence.

Q: Al­though var­i­ous charg­es against the gov­ern­ment con­tin­ue to mount, the gen­er­al pub­lic seems to be un­tain­ted by them. Why do you think this is?
See what hap­pened in the Mid­dle East! In­jus­ti­ces by the rul­ers con­tin­ued, but at a par­tic­u­lar­ly stage, the mass­es took to the streets and the rul­ers had to run. It won’t be long be­fore Sri Lan­ka faces a sim­i­lar fate. The whole econ­o­my will col­lapse, just like in Lib­ya and Egypt.  

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  Comments - 1

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  • kumara Tuesday, 30 July 2013 08:35 AM

    point of view - the upcoming polls the big looser is UNP.
    The winner is PA.
    There is no deep plane to win or dream with UNP.As a opposition leader Mr.Ranil should have critical mindful plane to win upcoming polls. he has to have knowledge to protect his partners .that is main thing to be understand. good luck.


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