No UNP leader from DS to Ranil has ever been accused of corruption
UNP MP Sujeewa Senasinghe who has been one of the most vociferous critics of both the government and the opposition speaks to the Daily Mirror about his views on the newly formed Leadership Council, the allegations of corruption against the government and much more.
Q: You have been a very vocal critic of the Leadership Council that has now been set up in the UNP, on what premise are you against it?
I have not been a critic of the Leadership Council but in the method it was formed. People wanted a change in the party after experiencing what has happened in the past few years. The UNP has not been doing well and that is not because the government is doing well but instead it is because the UNP has not got its act together. A real change was looked for by our supporters and the country, so we were looking for a change, and the Leadership Council was the second best change. Of course I would have liked a different sort of change. But some members and party stalwarts might have been worried that if the leadership itself changes their positions would have been jeopardised. So to satisfy everybody we agreed to the Leadership Council.
"They will sling mud at us and try to silence us. There will be more allegations against me because I am one of their biggest critics."
For proper change, there were three suggestions by us when we met in Kurunegala which in effect was the constitution to be amended in the way that this change would come. These were for the leaders name to be replaced by the Leadership Council and the Advisory Committee to be replaced by the leadership council and the Working Committee to be headed by the Chairman of the Leadership council. Everybody accepted this. These three proposals didn’t materialize at the end.
Q: Contrary to what you are saying, the Chief Priest Girambe Ananda Thero who negotiated this told our sister newspaper that the Leadership Council was even more than what they had asked for?
Probably Girambe Ananda Thero does not understand the politics and the dynamics of it, because that is not true. For the proposals to be implemented these had to be met. So practically for the Leadership Council to go forward these three things in the constitution should change and without this change nothing will in effect change.
Q: But isn’t that only your view and that of a few rebels like you, when your leader Karu Jayasuriya and the rest have accepted this change?
I think it was only Mr. Karu Jayasuriya among us who has accepted this. The rest have not. We don’t need a change, if the country and the people are happy we don’t need a change. We actually have no issue working together with everyone. We have never had any deals with the government or anyone else. The greater need is for the country because we are heading towards anarchy. This is no different to what Iraq was under Saddam Hussain, or Gaddafi’s rule. The corruption is rampant with 3500 billion worth of businesses coming in to one cartel of people. No tenders have been called for these. We’ve sacrificed 25% of our budget for corruption as Professor Indrarathne points out.
When everything is against the government the UNP should actually blast its way to power, and if that’s happening we will give our fullest support to any setup in the party. If the UNP is winning we don’t want any change. Despite all of this I will throw all my weight behind the council and work hard towards ensuring a UNP victory in the upcoming Provincial Council elections because that is our aim and goal. The party has taken a decision and I will stand by it.
Q: While being a vocal critic of the government you have always been someone who sings the virtues of the UNP governments of yore. Do you not think we live in a much better place than it was under a UNP government? You speak of Human Rights abuses when in actual fact the UNP was accused of the “ Pra” and the “ Black Cats”, together with the murders of people like Richard De Zoysa and with many others?
I don’t think so, because there was war on two sides during those UNP governments. If we had wars on both sides this country would have been a different place. We don’t have a war now and there is total peace in this country and still these things are happening. With regard to Richard De Zoysa I totally agree that the then government should have investigated and they failed to do so. I blame them for that. They were responsible in even answering the allegations and that is a black mark on us to which I agree.
But now, how many journalists have disappeared? How many of them are hammered in broad day light? Take Lasantha Wickremethunge where he was brutally stabbed in a High Security Zone by four people. This wasn’t done in hiding but it was out in the open. If you look at how it happened it is a very professional job and none of them have been caught. Then so many other disappearances , with many others fleeing the country. So how can you say this is a better place?
Look at the corruption. I was reading the Hansard recently and the speeches of Mahinda Rajapaksa. He never even once says that the leaders of the UNP are corrupt. The allegations are always against the officials. .
"The Bribery Commission should be the cleanest place in the country and if you have even an iota of doubt regarding the integrity of the commissioner he must resign. That is the right thing to do"
There were officials who were accused of taking commissions but they never accused Premadasa, J.R Jayewardene, Wickremesinghe, or any other leaderi of corruption. Never in one place have they said “you have robbed”. But now what’s happening? 3500 Billion rupees worth business has been given to China and its all handled by one cartel.
Then take the façade that is called development. The income at the Hambantota Port is only 420 million rupees. That is also despite the diversions of the cars to the port from Colombo. That is just one example out of the many. Then take Sampur, Norochcholai, the Mattala Airport, Hambantota Cricket Stadium the Trincomalee Jetty all of this is under the control of one element. During the UNP governments our leaders were never accused of corruption like that..
One family is being accused for all of this. 60% of the budget falls under the direct control of them. Everything is done by Chinese companies with two individuals involved in it. They are also close to this family. For every business that comes in they get about 20%, and now it doesn’t stop at commissions they take the entire business itself.
Then there was this company called “Gateway”, you must look into who owns it. I raised this issue one year ago stating that this company is owned by this family. The company had received a 25 year tax rebate and there is nothing known about this company.
The land deals in Colombo are again under one individual close to the President. Cheline, Krrish and TATA which I was handling are all filled with corruption. The person who did the brokerage for TATA said he had to pay 20 million Dollars brokerage to the person involved in the deal. Then take Krrish where 200 million was paid to two powerful people of the government.
If you look at the Finance Ministry in which one person handles the entirety of the country’s money. Parliament was never given a choice in the matter.
The institutions that have been set up to monitor fraud are also found to be corrupt.
Q; You were alleged by Minister Wimal Weerawanse as having taken 10% of the Krrish deal?
That’s what I’m saying, they will sling mud at us and try to silence us. There will be more allegations against me because I am one of their biggest critics. How can I get involved in the Krrish deal when I’m in the opposition? I challenged them and now they don’t even talk about it. Eventually after two weeks it was revealed that a son of the system had received 200 million dollars from the deal, with another 200 million given to another very powerful family insider. It’s ridiculous where this country is going at the moment. All this at the expense of a skyrocketing cost of living.
Q: Despite all of these allegations the people in this country seem to be happy isn’t it?
Yes and the reason is that we in the opposition have failed; we are yet to get the formula of a charismatic visionary leading the opposition. The government is totally corrupt but if we don’t put forward a leader for the future who will get all the attention of the people then we will fail. This government has not favoured the majority and has ill-treated the minorities of the country and therefore the minorities are with us. If we can put forward a candidate who can rise up the nationalism that is portrayed by the Rajapaksas then the Sinhala vote would split. Nine of our leaders were killed and destroyed by the LTTE. We are yet to fill in that lacuna for twenty years. We are ready and once that change is given the entire system would change.
Q: In parliament recently you spoke of corruption within institutions, and specifically mentioned the Bribery Commissioner. Do you make these statements with proof?
I’ve got proof and have presented them in parliament, I’m collecting the rest of the data now. I have nothing personal but it’s a conviction based on principle. The Bribery Commission should be the cleanest place in the country and if you have even an iota of doubt regarding the integrity of the commissioner he must resign. That is the right thing to do. Every other Commission that is appointed to investigate must be completely above allegations. How many papers have written about this story regarding the Bribery Commissioner’s allegations? I have seen so many. I have not said anything wrong and have said what the people wanted me to do. The media has gone a few steps further than me in this instance as well. The President must take charge of this now and investigate into these allegations against the Commissioner.
Q: When you make these allegations in general do you have proof or is it mere political rhetoric?
Of course I do. There are a few places that have very good officials who are trying their best to do their service with integrity but many others are completely corrupt. The allegations against the Bribery Commission at the time was that they were catching small fish when in fact today all the sharks are roaming around freely. Today the multi billionaire rogues are roaming freely while the poor who plucks coconut is taken to jail. If you take this most recent incident involving a defence official where 23 Police officers were transferred for raiding a casino in Colombo, there has not been any action taken against him to this day. And then the Secretary who gave the letter for the release of the consignment of heroin, what has happened to him? Has he been taken into custody? What if I had given a letter like that? I would have been in remand without being granted bail.
"Probably Girambe Ananda Thero does not understand the politics and the dynamics of the leadership council"
There is no fair play in this country which is only filled with corruption. According to Professor Indrarathne 2% of the country’s growth rate has been sacrificed for corruption and he has only taken into account the small scale corruption. None of the top level corruption of Ministers and above has been taken into account by him. Obviously his analysis doesn’t take into account the corruption that comes with the Chinese businesses. Look at Mihin Lanka which today isn’t worth the paper its name is written on. It runs at a negative value which is unbelievable.
The losses at Mihin Lanka and Sri Lankan are 23 Billion rupees. They pumped in Billions into this. Slight losses are understandable but this is just beyond imagination. It’s not the businessmen or the hierarchy that has to pay this money, but the poor people of this country. They rob and the poor man pays.
Q: One thing that the UNP lost on in 2002/ 2003 was due to its neo-liberal economic policies. This government in stark contrast has supplemented itself with a parallel welfare economy isn’t it?
That is wrong. This government has not devised any kind of welfare economy. Take the farmers pensions for examples. These are the people who feed this country and they have not even given them the basic minimum pension that was proposed earlier. What kind of welfare is this? The UNP government inherited a minus 1.5% economy and we drove it to over 6%. In order to do that we had to take certain measures. If President Chandrika Bandaranaike did not dissolve parliament in 2004, four and a half Billion would have come in as aid to the country and we could have done all the development we needed.
Q: All that with Prabhakaran still alive?
No he would have been dead. If the UNP was in power he would have still done the same thing he did in Maavil Aru and we would have waged war. The UNP was the war party while the SLFP was the party promoting peace. If Mavil Aru was closed we would have most certainly waged war against the LTTE and General Sarath Fonseka would have been at the helm of it with other Generals. That would have happened for sure and the result would have been the same minus the nepotism and corruption that exists today.
"I have not been a critic of the Leadership Council but in the method it was formed"
Look at this government that is ruling the country now. it’s a complete façade. One crowd lives with the lambourghinis, horse racing, the captaincy of the teams and the rest of the worldly luxuries while the masses of this country suffer. This country is now the property of one cartel just like in Iraq under Sadam Husseins regime.
Q: Finally what are your plans for the next year?
I want to live by my principles, I have no choice there, it is in my blood. My parents and gradparents have all been honourable people and that is how I want to live till the day of my death. While doing that I want to fight this government with all my might and in order to do that I have to be financially secure so that I wouldn’t have to compromise myself.
I will strive towards achieving this as well and work towards a government under the UNP which will hopefully come soon. Pix By Nisal Baduge