Comments /1955 Views / Monday, 2 January 2017 00:50
By Shanika Sriyananda
Q: What is the motive of forming the Global Sri Lanka Forum?
A: We, who belong to different Sri Lankan organisations in different countries including Australia, US, European countries, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Korean and the Middle East, wanted to come under one umbrella to be a strong force. Our main aim is to counter the negative propaganda by other expatriate groups, including the Global Tamil Forum (GTF), which still paints a negative picture to propagate LTTE ideology.
As individual Sri Lankan organisations abroad we denounced LTTE terrorism while promoting the need of eliminating the LTTE to bring peace to the country. We made the political leadership of those respective countries aware that Sri Lanka could win the war against the LTTE terrorism while the GTF was having false and negative propaganda abroad.
The GSLF comprises 16 Sri Lankan organisations operating in 15 countries. It was formed in September this year in Modana, Italy and registered as an NGO under the UN.
Q: You said those expatriate organisations were able to convince the political leadership in some countries to get support for Sri Lanka during the war?
A: Yes, though we operated individually, each of our organisations had a political strategy. Through this strategy we approached the some of the top political leadership in those countries. For example the Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abott was in favour of Sri Lanka during CHOGM because we approached him. We supported him in his political campaign and also later we had explained him about the ground realities of Sri Lanka.
Those governments are not well aware about Sri Lanka’s situation and some were badly misled by other organisations like the GTF. They have given a wrong and misleading picture to the West. However we were able to lobby against the LTTE. We met the ministers in Australia and were able to ban the LTTE as a terrorist organisation under the UN regulations in 2007. As expatriates, we launched a massive anti-LTTE campaign in most of the countries.
Q: Are you aligned to a political party?
A: No, we are not. We call ourselves as an extension of the nationalist organisations in Sri Lanka. Sadly, nationalist organisations in the country function on different platforms. We want to get all those nationalist organisations – in Sri Lanka and abroad – to one fold. The Tamil diaspora had the LTTE, which had eliminated all other Tamil organisations mainly because the LTTE wanted to call itself the sole representative of the Tamil people.
Instead of elimination, the GSLF wants to accommodate all other organisations to make a strong and powerful nationalist front in the country. At the moment we are having some discussions with these organisations.
We think the country should be ahead of politics and political leadership of whatever the political party. We have formulated our own nationalist political strategy but it is not based on the strategies of any political party or politicians that support us. Our primary cause is the country and whoever supports this cause can join us.
Q: As an umbrella organisation of expatriates, how do you plan to contribute to the country’s development?
A: All our activities are based on our nationalistic principles. We are engaged in some welfare projects to assist in building houses for poor villagers and also for the war heroes. We have helped war veterans and defended them in many litigations against them based on fabricated allegations. We will commence some educational programs for students as we have members in the educational field. The GSLF is planning to launch several programs from next year.
Q: It seems that the GSLF is yet another ethnically-biased outfit. What do you have to say?
A: We refute that allegation. We have expatriates from all ethnic communities. All Tamils are not with the LTTE. The majority of those expatriates who were not supporting the LTTE are with us today as we are an organisation which is working for the future of the country. We have no ethnic differences.
Q: How do you plan to work with the Government?
A: We have a set of proposals for the Government and we will discuss them with the Government to reach a common understanding. The major issue we want to discuss with the Government is about good governance. The Government came into power with the promise of good governance and to fight to end corruption. As expatriates we can’t see any strong commitment to achieve the promises made by the Government, especially President Maithripala Sirisena, who is in a dilemma. He is in a conflicting situation as he is mingling in two different political parties. He was elected from one political party but he is leading another political party.
We also have issues with the behaviour of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The COPE committee comes under him while he is retaining office. Under the Westminster system he should resign from the post to allow conducting of independent investigations.
On the other hand the Government is preaching about having democracy but there is no democracy in the country. Local council elections were put off indefinitely. The National List is full of politicians rejected by the people. Therefore, the expatriate community has started making the political leadership in our respective countries aware about the situation in Sri Lanka.
Q: The GSLF had its forum with all expatriates in Colombo. What was the outcome?
A: Yes, we had two objectives – long and short term. Forming a federation with all other nationalist organisations which are operating locally is our main long-term objective. After the forum we met members of over 20 nationalist organisations which are operating in Sri Lanka and formed the Federation of Nationalist Organisations.
Our main desire is to become an alternative force in the country which even should be able to influence the Government. We will soon form a think tank. As I said before, all our policies will be based on nationalist ideas but they will be modernised to suit the present world.
The national movement will always be away from political parties and not backed by politicians. They have to be vigilant. The best example is the nationalist movements which worked for former President Mahinda Rajapaksa in the elections held in 2005 and 2010. Unfortunately, they are now silent with the defeat of the President. This is a tragedy. What we believe is that these nationalist organisations should be away from all political parties. Then they are able to criticise and guide the political leadership. The national movement should be in a continuing struggle for a nation state and their role cannot end with an election of a particular person or achieving a particular objective. For example, defeating the present separatist constitutional reforms is an important milestone but not the culmination of our objectives.
I think the country needs politicians like Gamini Jayasuriya, who vehemently objected to the Indo-Lanka Peace Accord and resigned during JR’s regime. All politicians have their own agendas but the nationalists shouldn’t have such agendas as they are independent.
Defeating a government is not the issue but we need to think about what will happen after the defeat. This is what has happened after defeating the MR Government. Those who wanted to topple the MR Government didn’t have a plan but only wanted an alternative. If they are genuine in their nationalist approach, they should now be vigilant about the direction in which the new Government is heading. If the Government is moving towards a different path and deviating from its pledges, they should be a strong voice. But unfortunately this approach is lacking in those movements which claim that they brought this Government in.
Q: Do you have a comparison of ‘Yahapalanaya’ and MR’s regime?
A: The expatriate organisations had a seminar series, pre- and post-elections. What we ask was someone who expects good governance from UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, MR and the common candidate Maithripala Sirisena is to consider their track records before deciding on their votes. Fortunately, candidate Sirisena didn’t have a bad track record like others. But when you consider the track records of those who are backing him, no one can have hopes for good governance. How can this single personality bring a change as he is backed by political parties which have no clear policies of good governance?
Therefore, we do not think that MR or President Sirisena could deliver good governance due to this scenario. But when it comes to the security of the country, MR is on a good footing. This was the only reason most of the people in Sri Lanka wanted to support MR.
Q: What did you expect more from him if not good governance?
A: We don’t think any other President or a Prime Minister had more popularity than him. That was the main reason he got the mandate from people for the second time too. He is the only leader who firmly believed that the LTTE could be defeated and he kept his word. One of the main policies of the GSLF is that Sri Lanka should be a unitary state. After defeating the LTTE, the merger provisions from the Constitution could have been easily removed. The Provincial Council (PC) system was implemented to address the issues of the north and the east due to the LTTE’s pressure. After defeating the LTTE there was a space to abolish the PC system as he had the mandate, which was strengthened with the elimination of the LTTE and also winning the 2010 election for his second term.
The expatriate community believes in 13 Minus. Though we have a unitary state concept, the country cannot have parallel or equal legislative bodies. This is proved as the Central Government is powerless to abolish or cancel laws by the PCs by a simple majority of the Parliament.
The way the Government repealed VAT or the Telecommunication Act, the Parliament should be able to pass a repeal of a proclamation of a PC by a simple majority. But to repeal a provision of a proclamation of a PC the Government needs a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The two-thirds majority requirement is a must to amend the Constitution but not to pass proclamations of the PCs.
What we are saying, according to this situation, even under 13 A, we do not have a unitary state. If the President says he wants to protect the unitary state he should go for 13 Minus, in which the Central Government should be able to pass any laws of the PCs.
The GSLF has strong views about the Constitutional changes as well. Over 70% of the people of this country are not aware of the constitutional changes. The best example is that I have spoken to a PC member about this but he asked me for a final draft. He is unaware that there is no final draft of the Constitutional changes yet. How can he ordinary people know about Constitutional changes when politicians who represent them are clueless?
We think the ‘Yahapalana’ Government can’t talk about democracy when the defeated MPs are taken in through the National List, which is similar to the Senate in UK. They give space for respectable personalities in society who can’t contest but can still effectively contribute to a national cause. But, those who were rejected by the people have been appointed as MPs through the National List here and also given ministerial portfolios. There is a clear conflict of interest.
Q: Recently, the GSLF met President Sirisena. What was the outcome?
A: Yes, I represented the GSLF at a discussion with the President, who met the representatives of nationalist organisations in Sri Lanka. But the meeting with the President and GSLF has been requested. At this meeting, the President said that he and the SLFP do not endorse the recommendations made by the sub committees and will not allow those reports to be debated in Parliament in early January. In response to a question I asked, he said that he still holds the position not to go for a constitutional amendment which requires a referendum as he pledged in the presidential election 2015. As expatriates we are ready to help the Government. Since President Sirisena has a clean track record, we are positive he can deliver as he promised but he has to take a tough decision on the political party that he is going to retain. At the moment most of the expatriates are disappointed with the things going in the country.
The Global Sri Lanka Forum (GSLF), the umbrella organisation of 15 expatriate organisations, pledging its support to President Maithripala Sirisena, has requested him to decide on which political party he is going to retain.
“Since President Sirisena has a clean track record, we are positive he can deliver as he promised but with those other politicians with corrupt track records, we have doubts whether he could deliver good governance as he pledged,” Nuwan Ballantudawa, a lawyer and GSLF Coordinator, said.
In an interview with the Daily FT he asked, “How can this single personality bring a change as he is backed by the political parties which have no clear policies of good governance?”
Meanwhile, the GSLF, which is represented by expatriates in Australia, US, European countries, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Korean and the Middle East, said that they believe in 13 Minus.
“What we are saying, according to this situation, even under 13 A, we do not have a unitary state. If the President says he wants to protect the unitary state, he should go for 13 Minus, in which the Central Government should be able to pass any laws of the PCs,” Ballantudawa said.
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
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