Currently, John Ameratunge, a senior Govt. Minister is much in the news even before the expiry of fifty days of the new regime, and is faced with a no-confidence motion already. In the interview with Daily Mirror, much light is thrown about the crucial moments he had faced as the Minister of Public Order and Christian Affairs. Here are the excerpts.
Q Have you vacated your Ministry office?
No, I have not. I have been occupying an office that was belonged to the Disaster Management Ministry. I occupied it because it was convenient. Now I have a place of my own.
Q How do you say it does not belong to you, when you are the Minister-in-charge of Disaster Management, and it was taken away from you?
Yes, it was given to Cabinet Minister A.H.M. Fowzie
Q Did they inquire about it from you?
No, they did not refer it to me.
Q Do you think it is justifiable?
I was told that it would be given to Minister Fowzie and I agreed.
Q Why did you agree to give up the ministry to somebody else?
I was appointed by the President and the Prime Minister, therefore, they have every right to do so.
Q Does the Police Department come under your purview?
Yes, it is under me.
Q But without any powers...
What made you to say so?
Q Because you cannot transfer or promote anyone in the Police force...
No, a committee had been set up to handle transfers, but the rest of the functions are vested under me.
Q You had a long list to hunt down many in the police, but now you cannot...
List is not mine, it is of Ministers and MPs. They make requests from us and we prepare schedules and forward them to the IGP and the Secretary. The power to transfer lies with the IGP and the Secretary.
"We were bent on forming a national government as it was our policy. These types of conflicts among parties do not suit us, therefore, it is a wise step that all unite in developing the country. Our concept is also that."
Q If I were to refer in other words, had your feathers been clipped?
No! Never. I am happy about it, as it was a big problem transferring police officers.
Q It reminds me of the story of the Fox claiming grapes are sour...
No, it is not the case. When I was the Minister of Interior Affairs, the Police Commission was established within three months, and it resulted in my powers being taken away by this Commission. This time it did not happen. Constitutional Amendment is coming up and with that the Police Commission would be set up, and thereafter, all transfers and promotions of Police officers would be handled by the Commission. It will come soon. Therefore I do not see much of a difference.
Q With this government coming to power, you had been the most talked-about man...
With the hounding of fraudsters and corrupt officials of the former government in large numbers, and investigative proceeding to arrest them, various type of issues surface.
Q Does it appear that the no-confidence motion brought against you is now shelved?
I do not know. If it comes, I am prepared to face it.
Q Had those who planned the no-confidence motion against you also taken up Ministerial posts?
The no-confidence motions are not something new to me. When I was the Interior Minister, they brought a no-confidence motion against me. That question should be asked from them, and it does not frighten me, but I am ready to face any challenge.
"When I was the Minister of Interior Affairs, the Police Commission was established within three months, and it resulted in my powers being taken away by this Commission. This time it did not happen. Constitutional Amendment is coming up and with that the Police Commission would be set up, and thereafter, all transfers and promotions of Police officers would be handled by the Commission. It will come soon. Therefore I do not see much of a difference."
Q There was much talk about Wele Suda, but nothing seems to be happening?
Wait, the officer who handled that investigation was here a little while ago. Through Wele Suda we had been able to obtain details of masterminds in this drug cartel. Already five or six are now in custody. You are not aware of what is happening. We have only a little bit left to do.
Q How many MPs and Ministers are there?
Some are involved.
Q It was said that an MP was questioned for eleven hours. Is it true?
We have given instructions not to take anyone into custody without arriving at a conclusion, and completion of investigations.
Q Any progress on the investigations made against the relevant MP?
Investigations are continuing, and matters cannot be divulged as it might affect the ongoing investigations. There is no interference. Four or five had been produced in Courts. We have given stern instructions not to overlook if there are charges against MPs and to act according to the rule of law.
Q Why this sudden rush to appoint SLFP members as Ministers?
We were bent on forming a national government as it was our policy. These types of conflicts among parties do not suit us, therefore, it is a wise step that all unite in developing the country. Our concept is also that.
Q To form a national government there should be a national program. Could you tell us about such a programme?
After the next election this national program would be launched, and all would join in that effort to form a national government.
Q What would the SLFP members who did not get portfolios do?
There are some more willing to join, and they would come.
Q There is a charge that those who are found guilty of corruption too are contemplating to come. Could you elaborate?
No matter who comes, but those with charges would be investigated. It will not be stopped.
Q There is a rumour that Mervyn Silva is also to be made a Minister?
I do not know. That is to be decided by the President and the Prime Minister.
Q Who, in you opinion, is now ruling the country. Is it the President or the Prime Minister?
Both of them. They discuss with the Cabinet and decisions are taken accordingly.
Q Energy Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, who is in the same Cabinet had said that Prime Minister Ranil was involved in the new Constitution conspiracy to gain power. What have you got to say?
He has the right to criticize and to safeguard his interests.
Q Have you found difficulty in working with Minister Champika?
I have no difficulty at all, and I can work with anyone.
Q But policies differ...
He can say that. He visited China with the President on the same flight, then how do you say policies differ? They would have discussed it during that tour.
Q You also went with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa some time time ago?
There was an invitation, and I went with the permission of the party.
Q Aren’t you happy now that you did not join the previous government?
Just because I went on the same flight, I did not opine that I would join that government, and I am not a person who would never have joined them.
Q Minister Champika says that he is completely against the Amendments brought to the Constitution...
Though he had said that, he was also involved in the discussions.
Q Do you think that the country is now on the correct path?
It is on the correct path, but there is much more to do. It has to be strengthened.
There are shortcomings. Much had been accomplished under the 100-day programme.
Q Are you sincere?
I do not know about others, but much had been done by my ministry.
Q But people say there is only boasting but nothing is happening?
Reduction in the prices of petrol, diesel and electricity; aren’t they achievements? People do not think about these concessions.
What they need is apprehending the thieves and other racketeers. Resorting to arrest and putting them in jail cannot be done in a haste.
There are human rights issues. Proper investigations need to be conducted and necessary evidence obtained, and then only these culprits can be taken into custody.
QYour old friend Mahinda Rajapakse is also making his appearance on the political scenario?
He too has a right. This is a Democratic country and he has every right to contest.
Q Don’t you think that Mahinda’s comeback would pose a threat to the UNP?
Every election poses threats. We should be brave enough to face them. It is in the hands of the people.
Q Large scale development projects have been stalled. What are your comments on this?
They are halted as there were corruptions in most of the projects. Port City had been suspended as a portion of it, is permanently vested. Is it correct to act in that manner? The terms would be amended after the President’s return and work would resume.
Q Is it possible for the UNP to form a government after the next general elections?
We will be forming a national government.
Q Are you happy now?
Oh yes! These leaders are now enduring the greatest difficulties to build up this country.