This is a minority government. When the UNP says, “Hold an election tomorrow,” we of the SLFP say “Don’t”
By Bingun Menaka Gamage
In an interview, Arjuna Ranatunge, the Minster of Ports and Shipping, spoke about the division in the SLFP and the state of the National Unity Government among other political issues facing the country at present. excerpts.
Q : Four SLFP ministers in the National Unity government resigned to re-join the Opposition.
The terms of local government bodies lapsed warranting the need to place them under the control of special commissioners until elections to these bodies are held. Perhaps they used it as an excuse to quit the government.
Q : They claim that they took this step to strengthen the SLFP.
The present situation of the SLFP is such that it may have to face a host of problems if an election is held in the immediate future.
Q : Do you say that the resignation of the four ministers does not adversely affect the National Unity Government?
Their resignation makes no adverse impact whatsoever on the government given that the UNP welcomes the dissolution of Parliament even tomorrow.
Q : There is an allegation that the failure to extend the terms of the local government bodies mostly held by the UPFA , has dented the party’s political power base?
Extending the terms of local government bodies just because they are being held by the UPFA is undemocratic.
True, we in the government hold divergent views on various issues. But you can’t overlook the fact that a national government of this nature is unprecedented in the parliamentary history of this country. The President comes from the SLFP and the Prime Minister from the UNP. Isn’t this a government with a difference?
Q : Do you say that the days of this government are numbered?
No. Our President moves ahead undeterred by obstacles.
Q : SLFP senior Parliamentarian Vidura Wickremanayake says that we have got a Parliament where legislators are unable to reach unanimity in passing a Bill into law and get committees to meet. Your comment?
This is a minority government. When the UNP says, “Hold an election tomorrow,” we of the SLFP say “Don’t”. The popularity of the SLFP suffered a serious setback during the UPFA regimes due to the widespread corruption and abuse of power. The image of the SLFP under the leadership of President Sirisena is fast improving now.
Q : What is that pressing need now?
The party should be put back on track after appointing suitable organisers at district and electoral division level.
Q : If that is not done?
We may not be able to form an SLFP- led government again.
Q : Referring to the widespread protests that occurred in the North after the gang rape-murder of Vithya of Punkudutivu, the Opposition is asking whether the government is unable to maintain law and order in the North.
Stoking the flames of racialism has become the main political strategy of Mahinda Rajapaksa and his cohorts. They have gone to the extent of deleting two colours from the National Flag representing the two main minority communities. They are saying that Tamils and Muslims in this country are aliens.
Q : Don’t you think even ordinary people become nonplussed due to such approaches?
People in our country are not that stupid. Mahinda Rajapaksa tried his best to win the presidential election by fanning racialism. But the people who suffered from the oppressive rule voted for a regime change.
Q : Former President Chandrika Kumaratunga is a great support to you as a politician. Isn’t she?
It was she who introduced me to politics. She is quite keen on safeguarding the SLFP as a clean party and wants to rid the party of black sheep like bookies, rogues, drug traffickers and corrupt elements.
Q : But certain SLFP stalwarts charge she is interfering in the affairs of the SLFP by taking an upper hand over President Sirisena?
So far she has not taken a hand in any administrative party matter. It was she who proposed the name of President Sirisena for the post of president of the party.
Q : Although you have taken a hard line against Mahinda Rajapaksa, your younger brother Prasanna is at the forefront of the campaign to promote Mahinda as the prime ministerial candidate of the UPFA at the coming general election.
My brother’s political vision is different to mine. As for me, I cannot have any truck with political leaders who are out to protect rogues and corrupt elements.
Q : Given the sectionalism in the party, aren’t you facing the prospect of having to contest the coming general election as a party in splinters?
We have to wait and see how things are going to shape up. President Sirisena does not want to break up the party. Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to destroy both Maithripala Sirisena and the party. Certain former ministers who ruined this country are supporting him.
Q : Your specialty is sports. But you were given a different portfolio?
I said ‘no’ to the Sports portfolio and accepted the Ports portfolio on the request of the President and the PM.
Q : Do you think that a possible political marriage between Mahinda and Maithri would bring about unity in the SLFP?
I wonder whether President Sirisena can have Mahinda Rajapaksa as a companion on his political journey given the damage the latter [Mahinda] caused to him [ Maithree] and his family during the run up to the presidential poll.
Q : What you say implies that you too do not welcome such an understanding between them?
Maithripala Sirisena won because the people did not want Mahinda. People voted for Maithripala because of their belief that he is an honest, sincere and clever person hailing from the village.
Q : The JVP charges that efforts being made by President Sirisena to protect the SLFP have led to stalling the moves to bring to book corrupt ministers of the previous regime?
I know there is criticism in the media about delays in prosecuting wrong doers of the previous regime. But the law should take its normal course. We can’t resort to the jungle law or haul wrong doers before Kangaroo courts as was done during the previous regime. We can’t reintroduce a white van culture either.
Q : Do you think that the partners in the National Unity Government can contest the coming general election on the basis of the same consensus in contesting the January 8 presidential poll?
My original idea was that we should contest the next election under the ‘Swan’ symbol as a political alliance constituting SLFPers and those from other parties with impeccable records.
Now that I have been appointed as a member of the SLFP Central Committee, I have to bend all my efforts towards the victory of the SLFP.
Q : Is your political honeymoon with the Democratic Party led by Sarath Fonseka over now? Wasn’t he the first to use the ‘Swan’ symbol at an election?
I parted ways with him politically some time ago. I don’t know what his present political plans are.
Q : Although you turned down the offer of the Sports portfolio, you question whether the Sports Ministry is in consonance with the basics of yahapalanya. Why?
We took office after taking a vow to do the right thing. If anybody is doing the wrong thing, I would not hesitate to take him to task.
Q : Following the regime change, is there no change for the better in the field of sports
Sports is yet recover from the setbacks it suffered. What is more important is building sportsmen and sportswomen, not playgrounds. I don’t see a serious effort being made in this direction even today. It beats me why the same person was re- appointed as the Treasurer of Sri Lanka Cricket’ new Interim Committee after accusing the previous administration of financial irregularities.
Q : Do you think that you will succeed in strengthening the SLFP organisation in Attanagalle given the obstacles you are facing today?
By now several families that had been supporting the UNP in have teamed up with me to reinforce the party organisation. I don’t get the support of certain people’s representatives in the area.
Q : Are they criticising you?
They have said that I had entered the scene to hit them where it hurts them most. You see, they will not be able to rob public assets as long as I am there. People themselves will soon decide on the fate of rogues parading as people’s representatives.
MS won on a small margin. I think you are wrong Arjuna about Mahinda. When you lose in cricket you fight harder to win. Hope you will be around when the game is over.
kalabala Saturday, 30 May 2015 07:34 PM
Mr.Abeywansa - Who cares what votes he won with? Fact is they were legitimate votes from citizens of sri lanka. If he chose to be the president of the democratic republic of sinhalese then what you are saying makes sense.
Manel Saturday, 30 May 2015 01:04 AM
What was the margin that MR won in 2005 with LTTE help? MR got your small margin of loss with all the crooked things like bribing , threatening, using state resources and manpower and giving false promises. MY3 was not even allowed to hold meetings. Fredddy you must have been born YESTERDAY.
vinitha Saturday, 30 May 2015 08:54 PM
Freddy should realise who a gentleman cricketer.is.Arjuna is one who had brought fame to SriLankaArjuna will never go wrong in decision making whether incricket or politics.
Cheers Saturday, 30 May 2015 02:34 PM
MR never wanted you in his cabinet as you are a useless politician once you were with SF you left him and wanted sports under Chandrika you never got it
abayawansa Saturday, 30 May 2015 04:33 AM
MR. won by minority votes with UNP support . .Not from majority Sinhala majority.
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