National Freedom Front Leader and firebrand Minister Wimal Weerawansa during an interview with insisted that his recent salvoes fired against the government were not aimed at toppling the incumbent regime. Instead, he said the ideology behind such salvoes was to ensure the government continued in power. He denied the notion that the current political tension with the regime was scripted.
QMinister this government has two policy documents, namely the Mahinda Chinthana and the Mahinda Chinthana Idiri Dakma. We have over the years seen that there is a huge lacuna between the stated policies of the government and its action, isn’t it?
I don’t think this government has deviated in its entirety from the policies set out in the Mahinda Chinthanaya. We are not making any allegations of that sort. However, there have been certain actions of the government that do not fall in line with the Mahinda Chinthanaya. These actions have proved to be harmful to the government, for example the recent policy towards Casinos. Giving tax concessions to the Casinos is not something that falls within the ambit of the Mahinda Chinthanaya. The biggest issue that arose with regard to the Casinos was with regard to the tax concessions the government was to provide them. Similarly there have been certain instances when it had to face major dilemmas by straying away from the stated policies.
QInstead of confining the arguments to Casinos, if we look at the situation more broadly, the 18th Amendment, the Acquisition Act and others, aren’t they clear examples of the government straying away from its policies entirely?
No I don’t agree that the government has completely strayed away from its stated policies. If it has completely strayed away then the government services would have been liquidated by now; the government would have now moved towards privatization and the government would have moved away from the welfare it provides to citizens. But none of this has happened. What has happened is that there have been instances of including different agendas into the policy. If I’m to take the examples you pointed out, I must state that as a policy I am not against the acquisition of companies that are making losses. My problem however is with the reasons behind the takeover -- whether it was based on an agenda of political revenge. That is why we didn’t vote for the bill. Even if you take the recent Strategic Development Act, the BOI has the ability to provide tax concessions, but the government despite this insisted on including this in an act of parliament. Let us assume for a moment that the bill was justified; then the immediate issue that arises is the fact that government is yet to introduce concessions for the local businessmen and investors. We are yet to inform many of our local investors domiciled overseas what their package or incentive to come and invest in the country is. This is where the problems arise. It is not enough for people to read the sentences contained in the Mahinda Chinthana, instead they have to understand the spirit of the policies. Problems arise when the spirir is not understood.
QIn this backdrop, on what basis are you banking on the government implementing the 12-point proposals that you submitted, although I have no doubt it would agree to it on policy or on a theoretical level?
The fact that it agrees to implement them is in itself a guarantee of implementation. There is no agreement without the assurance of implementation. There will be a set plan and a time span which will be given. We have a broad understanding about the points that we want the government to agree on and therefore there is always the possibility of reassessment at a certain point. So the fact they agreed to the 12-point proposal inherently means they will be implemented too.
QDespite you insisting that implementation is inherent in agreeing to these proposals, Mahinda Rajapaksa has over the years agreed on a lot of things. For example the abolishing of the executive presidency; this is something he promised. Then he also promised that he wouldn’t use his executive presidency to further his power, but we saw the enacting of the 18th Amendment and therefore a completely different system of governance from what was initially promised and agreed on. Given these facts, on what basis are you insisting that accepting the proposals means an agreement to implement?
I’m saying that because if the government does not agree on implementing these proposals there would not be an agreement in the first place. The agreement will happen only if there is agreement to implement. I’m saying this because we are the other party to the agreement and I’m saying this not based on me trusting the other party but on the faith I have in our party. To a certain degree lacunas such as what you pointed out are present in all political forces but that is not what we are considering now. What we are looking at is that if the government is to agree to our 12-point proposal that shows that the government is willing to go back to the initial Mahinda Chinthana policies and not deviate from them. It shows that the government is willing to re-position itself in the face of the challenges it has to face in the future. This message that it is willing to re-position itself is of paramount importance. That’s why we have proposed these things and if the government understands it will benefit all and sundry.
Q If the government doesn’t understand?
Then it will be bad for each and every one. What must be understood is the fact that the UNP, the TNA and all other parties are being programmed by foreign missions, including those of the West to work on a regime change in the upcoming presidential election. The upcoming Presidential election will certainly have to be the most peaceful election this country has ever witnessed, and we will see the minorities voting in numbers, more than what we have experienced before. Therefore to ensure victory for the UNP candidate there can be a third force that is put forward to split the Sinhala vote. Accordingly, what we have before us is an extraordinary political situation. The only force that could defeat this is the government and to defeat this force the government must change its ways, the government has to listen to criticisms and make amends accordingly.
That is the approach the government should take. If the government takes that approach then the people will side with it and the enemy forces will be defeated. However, in the event this does not happen - if the government fails to reposition itself, then what we will witness is a repeat of the past where the country will veer towards those who work to agendas of the international community which foster racism and communalism in the country. What we are telling the government is not to let this happen because given the direction the government is currently moving towards, there is a chance of this happening. It has to change if it is to avert this. If that is not going to happen does it mean the government is heading towards disaster? We are not going to partner anyone heading towards disaster. That change should happen both for the benefit of the country and for the survival of the government.
QGoing by what you have said, aren’t you doing exactly what you said a third force would do with the Opposition? Isn’t this sudden criticism you are levelling against the government a ploy to hold back the votes that are breaking away from the government?
The operation to ensure that the government moves in the right direction is inherently an operation directed at saving this government. We aren’t doing this to topple this government. We have at no point said that we want this government toppled.
What we are saying is that if the government fails to reposition itself according to what we are saying, then it’s inevitable that the government would be toppled. What we are trying to achieve is to save this government from being toppled. But that doesn’t mean that we have held discussions with the powers that be and are acting according to some script or plan.
QAlthough you say that this is not another drama enacted by you, we have heard the JVP and the UNP constantly maintaining that this is drama being played out according to a prepared script.
In 2000, the JVP was a part of a probationary government headed by Chandrika Bandaranaike despite the JVP being a fierce and vociferous critic. That’s a 180 degree turn. The then government ruled not based on the ideology of a unitary state but a stance based on a united state. So the JVP joined hands even with that government to prevent the country going into the hands of parties perceived to be much worse. But the exercise was not successful. The JVP thereafter joined forces with the CBK government again until the fallout resulting from the P-TOMS. Three months thereafter the JVP took Mahinda Rajapaksa on its shoulders all over the country. On the face of it all this also appears to be part of a script or drama. But just because it seems so doesn’t mean that they were scripted or that they were in fact dramas enacted by the JVP. If one is to think of them as dramas, then what the NFF is currently doing is also a drama. But it isn’t. It’s a continuation from where the JVP stopped. The JVP entered into a difficult agreement with the CBK government on the basis of attempting to prevent the country going into the hands of cruel forces at the time. That is exactly what we are doing right now too. So the gentlemen who say this is a part of a drama will then have to agree that the previous actions were also scripted dramas. This is what we are saying, that is our basis and there is nothing for us to hide
QDo you believe that the Ministers are permitted to function independently by this government?
It is difficult for me to tell you that is the case because that has to be answered in comparison with previous regimes. I have not been a Minister except in this government, therefore I cannot compare the independence enjoyed then with what is enjoyed now. However, what I can say is that the proportional representation system doesn’t permit for a stable government, and this government is also hell-bent on keeping a 2/3rd majority in parliament. Therefore the number of ministers appointed defies scientific reason, so there may be a problem with financial allocations to all of them. Apart from that I don’t see a problem with regard to independent functioning of Ministries.
QThere isn’t a problem with the independent working of ministries?
There isn’t. Not that all our proposals are accepted, but I won’t say that there is a problem with regard to the independence of ministries.
QThen how come your recent bashing of P.B Jayasundera did not extend to the Ministers in charge of the subjects? The two Ministries that he is the secretary of directly fall under the purview of two Rajapaksas. Why did you leave them out and instead single out PB?
P.B Jayasundera himself has provided a good answer to your question. In a news item published in a newspaper owned by your group, Jayasundera was reported to have told his staffers that the country’s economy could not run without him for six months. If he had done a proper job with the economy what he ought to be saying is that I have guided the economy through the toughest of times, now anyone can run the economy - I brought the economy to that level. But that is not what he is saying. Then on the other hand, during the same meeting he had said he has a job in the IMF at any given time. So in actual fact he is representing a foreign financial institution. That is the reason why the Jayasundera who was at the helm during the Chandrika government and saw the economic growth of the country run into minus figures, was given the Chairmanship of PERC under the Wickremesinghe government.
That was the gift he got from Wickremesinghe. Now which official of the Chandrika regime was given such a position in the regime that came after? None. Was Charitha Ratwatte given an official position when this government took over? No; was Paskaralingam even considered for office after 1994? Then how did Jayasundera become the exception? Isn’t it clear that there is some unknown political picture? He is an agent of international monetary institutions.
He gets his salary from the government and works for his international masters. Who else are we to criticize? The criticism levelled against the President is that he continues to keep this person in office. That criticism is something that we have done and will continue to do.
QSo according to you what is preventing the President as the Minister in Charge of finance from taking decisions independently?
I think the reason lies in the response given by P.B.Jayasundera itself. He is saying that the economy of this country can’t go on without him for six months. For example if you were in charge of a complex electrical supply and it was you who know exactly how to maneuver it then anyone will be afraid to take you off that job because you are afraid that someone who is put in charge next might make a mockery of it. That is not because you are doing your job well but because one doesn’t have an option. Jayasundera is holding the economy hostage.
QEven after this don’t you think that this government has a problem? The fact that the economy is according to you taken hostage and the government seems to turn a blind eye?
That is why we are pointing this out and that is what we are doing.
QDon’t you believe that this is a grave problem.It’s been close to a year since you began criticising the Treasury Secretary, and now you are saying he is holding the economy hostage. Isn’t this as grave an allegation can get but the fact that the government is doing nothing speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
True I agree with you, it is. If during the war, the Secretary of Defence had underhand dealings going on with the LTTE no matter what aspirations the President had, the war would not have ended successfully. If you take the Mahinda Chinthana the economic policy is inherently national. We have to have a person who understands this. I have a personal belief that the economy would be piloted towards a place where even Jayasundera could not handle it. After that he might take up a position at the IMF like he has asserted.
The person coming in thereafter will have to take all the blame and Jayasundera will most certainly say that this is the mess that is created after I left and no one could handle the economy the way I did. That’s the curse of this country.
I don’t know if a person has held office in such a position for such a long time anywhere in the world. When the Western forces wanted to topple the CBK government and implant the Wickremesinghe government he was able to bring the economy down to minus figures. That’s the gravity of the situation. What we are saying is change the direction of the government then the obstacles would also change.