Well-known for his conduct and controversial statements Minister Mervyn Silva has come to the limelight once again with yet another allegation that there are some people who prevent him from carrying out his duties as a people’s representative.
Recently, we had the opportunity of seeking the minister’s views on the subject and on a range of other issues at a face-to-face session with him when he did not mince his words.
Why have you made yourself scarce these days?
Is a lion so commonplace for you to see it whenever you want? Is an eagle a commonplace sight? Can you meet or see the Queen at Buckingham Palace whenever you want? Is it easy for you to see an Arahant in a forest retreat? I am not interested in doing trivial things. I make it a point to appear in the public eye whenever the need for it arises. I am always prepared to respond to the media. I make myself available to Buddhist monks first and secondly to media.
You had recently declared at a meeting in Kelaniya that there would be no purpose in being with this government if the co-operation you expected of it was not forthcoming?
Definitely true. It was the President who assigned Kelaniya to me. Sripathi Suriyarachchi turned against the government. On that occasion, the President may have taken into consideration that I am a good Sinhala Buddhist hailing from Beliatta in Ruhuna. Of course, I was residing in Colombo. The grandson of King Kavantissa named Jatalatissa was born in Tissamaharama, my previous parliamentary seat. The President may have picked me for Kelaniya having considered this historical link between Ruhuna and Kelaniya.
Since then, I have been doing good work in Kelaniya. I solved the problem of flooding; flyovers, pandals, Buddha statues, new roads and many other new things came up on my initiative. Some people were not happy with what I had been doing for them and for the area. I shall name them at the appropriate time. The good work I was doing caused jealousy, anger and hatred in the hearts of some people who hatched a conspiracy against me.
Do you face such hostility from your own party people?
Yes, from my own party. I had been maintaining a close contact with the Pradeshiya Sabha. The best chairman I had, died. I didn’t want to know whether he wore rubber slippers or whether his trouser was crumpled. I didn’t look into his assets either. Inquire about their [political candidates’] beginnings from the people of their villages. Then you would come to know what they were then and what they are now. They remind of the proverbial chameleon on the pandal. They hatched a conspiracy against me, tried to implicate me in a murder case. My secretary was remanded. A section of the media called me a murderer. However, I remained unmoved and unruffled like the Buddha. The final meeting of the Nil Pavura and Nil Rella of the SLFP was held in Kelaniya on October 5, Sunday. Over 5,000 party members and supporters participated. The presence of such a large crowd provided testimony to my popularity. People love me and I love them. I live with the people and among the people. I want to be a doormat for them. I am prepared to be their laundryman. However, I fear no conspirators.
There is a fellow in government who plays a bigger role in directing media activity than the Media Minister does. I brought a crowd of over 5,000. The party’s national organiser also participated. So far no TV channel showed this large gathering. Why? That fellow ‘cut’ it.
Both government and opposition politicians make conflicting statements about the outcome of the Uva PC poll. What is the message that this election result conveyed?
Our government is in power for the last 20 years. There are things called side-effects when the same medicines are administered for a long time. I accept that the government is advancing at the current pace thanks to the humility and the political sagacity of the President. Ministers also deserve the credit.
But, some giddy with power forget their origins. They will incur the wrath of the people if they refuse to listen to them and turn their noses at their smell. The outcome of the election turned in our favour thanks to campaigning by the President during the final days of the campaign. We failed only in sending someone into outer space. The President’s youngest son is now getting ready to gain even that achievement. What have we failed to do? When you arrive in Colombo now, can you identify it as the city you knew so well for ages? I am from Beliatta in Hambantota. The landscape there has undergone such transformation, I find it difficult to find my way to my ancestral house.
Why were you hardly seen in the Uva campaign?
I don’t go out of the way to offer help. Nor do I go out of the way to seek help. I am Meryn Silva. I don’t seek to clash with anyone. But If am hit, I will hit back. None knows about me as much as the Rajapaksas. I had to play a very minor role in the campaign. I was asked to look after Kataragama and I did my part to the best of my ability. I went to Bibile because the President asked me to accompany him. I told the President that neither our oratorical nor physical skills were made use of during the election campaign in Uva. In the course of time ‘tourists’ enter the ranks of political parties.
You say that you were not made use of in the Uva election campaign. Does it mean that you have been subject to a ‘kepilla’ in the government?
I am like a python. I cannot be cut. I am a king python. They say even Emperor Ashoka was born as a python.
They say that a snap presidential poll is in the offing. If a common opposition candidate enters the fray, would he be a challenge to the government?
Can the Kelani River challenge the ocean? Mahaweli, Kelani, Kalu and Walawe originating from the Adam’s Peak end up in the ocean. If this government, like the ocean, represents all in the country irrespective of racial, religious, caste and all other differences, can anyone challenge it?
There were media reports that your son was planning to enter politics. Your comments…
He will definitely enter politics
[At a] parliamentary election.
How far have you implemented the promises you gave the people at the last general election? Do you look forward to contesting the next general election as well?
I have a little bit more to do by way of fulfilling the promises I held out to my electors. If I am not given the necessary support to meet them, I will not come forward to contest again.
If you quit the government, will you say adieu to politics?
You will not join the opposition?
Is there any truth in the story that a group of government MPs are holding secret talks with a view to crossing over to the opposition?
Believe me, I don’t know of such a thing. I am quite friendly with Ravi Karunanayake. We chat to each other when we meet. I am on talking terms with even Anura Kumara Dissanayake although we get involved in heated exchanges in parliament. I talk to my former leader Ranil Wickremesinghe whenever I meet him. This cordial relationship does not mean there is a move on our part to cross over.
Bodu Bala Sena made a proposal to change the name of our country. What have got to say about it?
Devadatta Thera requested the Buddha to prescribe 10 precepts to be observed by the Sangha. In a world where people are unable to observe at least five precepts, what would be the situation if ten precepts are prescribed for them to observe. Ask those calling for a change of the name of our country to peruse their birth certificates.
Bhikkhus of the BBS are my good friends. There was a time when I used to call on Gnanasara Thera at his temple. He also hails from the South. I did something that none in the world had done when I embraced the Pontiff when I visited the Vatican. I have the courage to commit suicide if I am not allowed to live the way I want. If I am not allowed to live my life, I would kill him and kill myself.
Didn’t you say that a liquor licence has been issued in Kelaniya without your knowledge?
It was I who stopped the slaughter of cattle in Kelaniya. A hotel came up in Nahena in Kelaniya. Minister Dulles Alahapperuma invited me to attend the opening of this hotel, and I did. Thereafter, I did not go to this hotel even for a cup of tea. They asked for a liquor licence. All Buddhist monks in the area protested against issuing a liquor licence to this hotel. But a liquor license had been issued despite my objection to it. If liquor outlets come up in this fashion in my electorate, what is the purpose of my being the organiser?
I am kindly requesting Minister Alahapperuma to cancel the liquor licence issued to the hotelier. I want to quit the government over this liquor licence issue. I am going to write to the President about this matter. The self-respect of the electorate organiser should be safeguarded. I do not want to remain in this government even for a second if this state of affairs is to continue unchecked.
As far as I know neither the commissioner general of excise nor the assistant commissioner concerned has approved the issuance of this liquor license. If illegal things continue to happen in Kelaniya, I may have to make an exit from here. Prince Siddhartha renounced the world after seeing the Satara Peranimiti (four-fold omens). I also have begun seeing the omens that say I should quit this government.
What is the message you want to convey to your electors?
If you have eyes to see, there is no reason for you to go in wrong directions. Cast your vote to politicians who love the people, are able to look on them with equanimity, call a wrong a wrong and uphold humanitarian values. Don’t vote for politicians who cannot be called human beings.