Q. What are your plans for the party, how will you regroup after the recent departure of those who helped you form the party?
Immediately we have to formulate our organisation at the grass-root level, we need to appoint national organisers and formulate the various committees at polling booth level. We have supporters all over the country but now we have to put them into groups and organise the party, this was not done earlier because we were waiting for the registration.
On the other hand we have to keep on educating the masses now; we talk to them about the adverse effects we have had throughout, since independence and the damage that corrupt politicians have done to the people and to the country, during the last 50 to 60 years.
" Anyone standing up for the Singhala-Buddhists is good, if they have the proper limits and the sincere interest of the people at heart. However, you can’t do that by undermining the rights or the views of another group of people. Therefore, if they are carrying out their activities with sincerity, that is good, but they have no right to undermine any other group "
People have got immune to these practices and abuses and being cheated by the politicians over the past 60 years and therefore we need to educate the people about what they are entitled to and what they deserve from the country. They need to understand the relationship they should have with politicians; they need to understand that they must not bow down to the politicians. The people think that they have to say yes to the politicians and the citizens have no right to demand anything from the politicians. The people should understand, at least at this point, that politicians are answerable to the people. This does not happen in our country, especially under the present regime.
We can all see that they have taken the people to be fools. The government thinks that the man in the village should be satisfied with a mediocre lifestyle, eating jackfruit and whatever grows in their garden. The people need to be taken out of this shell; they need to realize that it is not just the people in Colombo who should have a comfortable life, the people in the village need to aspire to a better quality of life.
Therefore we will do whatever needs to be done to educate the people and work towards the welfare of these people.
Q. The new symbol of your party is a torch, with an open flame, much different to the serene swan that you used formerly; is this indication of a more vigorous and aggressive political strategy on your part?
The Swan was a more peaceful symbol, where the swan can take the milk from water—it extracts what is good from any situation. That was a good symbol, it symbolised purity—but now we have taken the torch and a burning flame because we think that the people are grouping in the dark due to the conduct of the politicians.
We think that people need to be brought into the light. The torch also means wisdom for the people; they need to be better educated on their rights and understand the damage that had been done to this country by the politicians.
Q. The Democratic National Alliance (DNA), which you headed at the parliamentary elections, saw a split recently. Those who were responsible for brining you into politics have now left you.
The DNA was a group that was put together very hastily and the JVP joins with various parties to contest election. However the JVP always continue their politics as per their own views and now they have gone their own way. Within that Alliance we had with us another group called the Democratic People’s Unison. We wanted to make that group another political party and we have done that after the Elections Commissioner accepted it.
Two parliamentarians within that group have left; I don’t understand where they have gone and I don’t think anyone does. My policies are very clear and my principles are still firm and we will go in that direction. Whoever falls by the wayside is not my concern, we will continue on our path.
Q. What really caused them to leave, was it a disagreement in policies or leadership?
There was a disagreement about UNP MP Palitha Thewarapperuma. He used to visit me three times a week while I was in prison, and that was the biggest relief for me to be able to talk to people from the outside; since I could only see my family once a month. Therefore I promised Palitha that when I was released I would visit his electorate.
An MP can visit a prisoner and they should have visited me to discuss politics—especially since I was the leader of the party my deputy leader and my party secretary should have come. However, my secretary used to visit me once a month and my deputy leader only once in three months. However this UNP MP would visit me three times a week, therefore I made him a promise and I had to keep to it because I believe in gratefulness.
There was a disagreement over my visit to the electorate, my parliamentarian for that District Arjuna Ranatunga protested against that; he said that it would create an issue with preferential votes. I told him I was not concerned with the preferential vote alone and that we could not operate by thinking only about votes—we should be able to sacrifice. Especially if people from other parties want to get close to us we must encourage that.
Q. You have no contact with them at all?
Well there is no reason for me to keep in touch with them, I have met them on various occasions outside of politics—so we are not enemies.
Q. Many see those who left your party as political opportunists; therefore do you feel like all these politicians used you while you had some kind of popularity with the people and you were seen as a victim and have now left you because that hype has died down?
I don’t wish to comment on that, I want the people to form their own opinion—let them judge that. There are a lot of people, especially those from other political parties who used to shout various slogans; calling me the “frontline man in their forward march” and the people used to shout and clap, however from the time I came out of prison most people are afraid to even mention my name.
Most of the politicians in this country, 95 per cent are opportunists; their priority is not the people it is not the country, it is their own survival and their own gain. When you are in politics you need to know these things.
" I am not an Army man at all now, that career is over and I no longer have those responsibilities. I have changed my uniform now, to become a genuine politician who will fulfill the aspirations of the people and the country. '
Q. Throughout this time you have been referring to “politicians” as having ruined the country. After being in politics for close to three years now, do you identify yourself as a politician or still see yourself as a military man who has come into politics to serve the people?
I am not an Army man at all now, that career is over and I no longer have those responsibilities. I have changed my uniform now, to become a genuine politician who will fulfill the aspirations of the people and the country.
Military people are necessary for a country, to protect the people and while I was in that service I did that. I came forward as a politician because the politicians were not doing their job to take care of the people.
Q. There is this criticism of the Army, that these men who once fought for our country are now being used as labourers to fix roads and carryout tasks in the massive development drive of the government. As their former leader, how do you feel when you see these men that you trained for combat now working in the streets?
The military has their task to provide security for the country and protect the interest of the constitution; just because we are not at war, this duty had not changed. Selling vegetables and cleaning the drainage system is not the task of the military. There are stupid politicians and their subordinates at various levels, trying to determine their tasks in a very unprofessional manner. These people in power should know what they are doing.
I also saw that there were people who contributed immensely to the fight against terrorism in various capacities, who were sidelined after the war and the presidential election; because they were people who I had worked under my command. These individuals never helped me in politics and got involved in politics, they were simply those who I had promoted, during my time in the army.
Now some very weak and corrupt people have been appointed to high ranking positions, these were people who were being punished for poor performance during my time.
I will give you one example of the quality of the army these days. After the recent press briefing that I had, a convoy went to Kandy. We were taking the road that goes around the Dalada Maligawa, about 20 vehicles, and there was a Prado coming in the centre of the road, a Major General in the vehicle with two stars on the vehicle. I found that he was a Colonel who was to leave without promotion, due to his failure in the army. However today he has been promoted. In this instance he stopped the vehicle and refused to make room, for the other vehicles to move. He wanted all 20 vehicles to reverse instead of just moving his vehicle.
Someone went up to him and told him that the former Army Commander was in the vehicle and also an MP, he said no I am now a Major General so tell them to move. That is the nature of the people in the Army today.
Q. What is your opinion about the conduct and the intentions of the Bodu Bala Sena?
Anyone standing up for the Sinhala-Buddhists is good, if they have the proper limits and the sincere interest of the people at heart. However, you can’t do that by undermining the rights or the views of another group of people. Therefore, if they are carrying out their activities with sincerity, that is good, but they have no right to undermine any other group.
Q. Do you think they are sincere in their intentions to protect Buddhism?
If you are sincere in your intentions to protect Buddhism and you are carrying out some activity; why will you stop it just because the Secretary of Defence tells you to stop? This leaves a huge question mark for me, about their sincerity. If you are working towards the betterment of the people, why would you stop it? Asking that question, answers a lot of questions on this whole issue.
" If you are sincere in your intentions to protect Buddhism and you are carrying out some activity; why will you stop it just because the Secretary of Defence tells you to stop "
Q. You had said recently that you are willing to answer any questions posed by the international community; do you think the government should open up to a foreign investigation?
These civilian politicians don’t know what happened during the war, therefore they dont know how to defend the country. I am hundred per cent certain that no war crimes were committed by our army and I did not give any directions to break international laws. But there were so many people in the army, may be one or two people broke those rules—if they come with credible evidence against these people, then we can investigate and see if there is any truth to these allegations.
The government is afraid, because they don’t know what happened during the war. Wars are fought by Generals not by politicians.
Q. There is talk that members of the government have been having discussions with you and plan on joining you, is there any truth in that?
I can’t tell you, who it is, because then they will be in jail soon with bogus charges. But I can tell you many senior members of the government have been communicating with us and, according to what I hear about 90 per cent of the present cabinet is not loyal to the President. They are there because they are scared, 90 per cent of them.
Q. What is the reason for this displeasure?
The ministers are like puppets, they are not given any authority or budgets to manage any projects, when the President says raise your hand they do it and when he says put your hand down they do that. Therefore if the President says black is white, they will say “yes sir”.
Q. What is your political plan, since you can’t really contest at an election for 7 years?
The present rulers said that I will be hung, but these things never happened—I am free today. I think that this ruling also will go the same way. Even if it does not, I have my people and we will work for the good of the people, whether we are in power or not.
I guess now we have more registered parties than no of seats. In our country we have only 2 to 3 options, such as SLFP, UNP or JVP for rally around and make changes whatsoever needed.
All struggles for changes need to be done internally through either of one of 2-3 parties for strong opposition or governing, otherwise it could lead to dillution of peoples power in the name of democractic rights to form a partiy.
CW Monday, 08 April 2013 11:15 AM
Did you go in front of a mirror?
Sam Monday, 08 April 2013 11:17 AM
You come to the number one of the opportunist list.
rukshan E Monday, 08 April 2013 11:48 AM
A really good Interview Sir!!! Absoloutely correct about how the Army's discipline is in ruins. We are with you sir!!! Let us carry that torch with you!!! Jaya wewa!
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