Q: Can you describe what happened in Parliament on Tuesday?
A: MP Dinesh Gunawardena raised the issue regarding the former President’s military security being replaced with Police personnel. MP Gunawardena wanted an explanation from the Prime Minister as to why the Army personnel of Rajapaksa’s security detail were removed. Prime Minister Wickremesinghe answered and said that although he was unable to provide military security, he would deploy Police officers to ensure maximum security for the former President. Wickremesinghe said he had already spoken to Minister Sagala Ratnayake. Then he, the Foreign Minister, said he is not familiar with the technical terms and would like Minister Sarath Fonseka to explain it further.
When Minister Fonseka stood up to speak, all the Joint Opposition members opposed. Joint Opposition members said that since the Prime Minister already explained the matter, it wasn’t necessary for Minister Fonseka to explain it further. But Minister Fonseka went on speaking. Then we got up from our seats. We tried to disturb his speech. Then a recently-appointed Deputy Minister came towards us and assaulted one of our MPs. He is the one who started this brawl.
Q: Who is this Deputy Minister?
A: It is not necessary to mention names. It is a Deputy Minister appointed a week or two ago. When he assaulted our MP, all the other members of the Joint Opposition ran towards him. But somehow he ran inside. Then young MPs in the Government started assaulting us. I saw two MPs fall down, Prasanna Ranaweera and Sandith Samarasinghe.
Q: As a senior Parliamentarian do you approve of this kind of behaviour in Parliament?
A: No I don’t. But I would act in the same manner if I was young. Let me reiterate; this entire pandemonium started because of the Deputy Minister who assaulted a Joint Opposition MP.
Q: Don’t you think the former President’s security matter is being blown out of proportion?
A: There is a serious threat to the lives of Mahinda Rajapaksa and Gotabaya Rajapaksa from the LTTE. The military took good care of the former President. I am not saying the Police is bad, but we think the military will be able to do a better job. This is the man who destroyed the LTTE and restored peace in the country, are we going to watch the LTTE kill him?
Q: You said Mahinda Rajapaksa destroyed the LTTE. How can a non-existing terrorist group pose a threat to him?
A: The LTTE was not totally destroyed. There are LTTE cadres outside Sri Lanka. They operate from various other countries. Then there are LTTE cadres in the north. We still capture ammunition and weapons in the north.
Q: You admit that the LTTE was not totally destroyed?
A: No, the LTTE was not totally destroyed.
Q: Any remarks on the STF taking over President Sirisena’s security and the decision to disband the PSD?
A: That is their decision. It is his wish whether he wants the STF or the PSD. But honestly President Sirisena does not have any threat. His life is not in danger. He got the Tamil vote. He can go to the north and meet people at any time. This Government doesn’t hesitate to offer anything that the politicians in the north want.
Q: Do you think the Joint Opposition’s May Day rally was a success?
A: You must ask that question from the people. I am a member of the Joint Opposition; I don’t think it’s correct for me to say a rally organised by us was a success. We need to hear what the people believe. Let the people decide whether it was a successful rally or not. However, my personal opinion is that the Kirulapone rally was the best. Of all the rallies held throughout the country, ours was the No. 1 May Day rally.
Q: As a Vice President of the SLFP, how ethical it is to go against rules of the party and organise a separate rally with the Joint Opposition?
A: Well, my belief is that it would have been ‘unethical’ if I participated in a rally organised by people who damaged the SLFP. As a member of the SLFP, it was my duty to take part in the Joint Opposition rally. The SLFP is not the SLFP anymore. They have become part of the UNP. How can we accept the fact that the SLFP allied with the UNP? That they supported the UNP to form a government? I have been against this alliance from the very beginning.
When Maithripala Sirisena became the President and when he became the Chairman of the SLFP, he told the SLFP Central Committee about the decision to support the UNP to form a government. As SLFP Vice President I was the first person to oppose this decision. I openly told President Sirisena that I was against this. I am a true SLFPer and none of the SLFPers will want the party to work together with the UNP. I warned President Sirisena that I would walk out of the party. Having openly expressed my views at the very beginning, I strongly feel no one can question my decision to take part in the Kirulapone rally.
Q: How many SLFPers took part in the rally?
A: All SLFPers who are members of the Joint Opposition except for three took part in the rally. Two were overseas. One MP’s mother-in-law had passed away and the funeral took place on the same day. Therefore, he couldn’t attend the rally. Other than those three members, all the other members participated in the rally.
Q: Will the SLFP take disciplinary action against members who participated in the Kirulapone rally?
A: If they want to take any action against us, let them do it. When we took this decision we knew we would have to face situations like this so we are ready to face any inquiry. Let them do what they want to do. We have done the correct thing in line with our conscience. Nearly 75% to 80% of the SLFP Central Committee consists of Maithripala Sirisena loyalists. If they want to take action against the old SLFP members who have done the correct thing, let them go ahead and do it. We are ready to face it.
Q: Are you implying that all SLFP members who are in the Joint Opposition are ready to leave the party?
A: No, I never said we are ready to leave the party. What I am trying to say is, if they are going to take action against us, we are ready to face it.
Q: You claim you are a true SLFPer. But when the Secretary General of the SLFP openly said the official May Day rally of the party would be held in Galle, is it acceptable to go against the rules of the party?
A: The Central Committee never took a decision with regard to May Day. I am a member of the Central Committee. We haven’t made a single decision with regard to the May Day rally 2016. What was told to the media must be the personal decision of the SLFP General Secretary. We are not worried about what he feels and his decisions. We have done the correct thing.
Q: Why can’t you accept Maithripala Sirisena as the Leader of the SLFP?
A: Before Maithripala Sirisena became the President of this country, he was the General Secretary of the SLFP. We have worked with each other for nearly 35 years. I don’t have any personal grudges against President Sirisena. As the Joint Opposition we respect him and we accept his leadership, but we are against him allying with the UNP. As long as he supports the UNP, we will not be able to welcome him as Leader of the party.
Q: Don’t you agree if the two factions get together, you could easily challenge the UNP?
A: The SLFP should not have allied with the UNP. It either should be a UNP government or a SLFP government. What is this joke they are all involved in? There can never be a SLFP-UNP government. We will never support such a thing.
There will never be a thing called ‘Joint Opposition’ if the present party leadership respected the views of the majority of the party. The Joint Opposition is in existence for a reason. If the party leadership decides to consider our requests and call of its unacceptable marriage with the UNP, there won’t be a need for a Joint Opposition.
This Government has been in power for nearly one year and a little more than four months. What has happened to the country? People are suffering. No development has taken place. The country is at a standstill. Why do you think the Joint Opposition has a large number of supporters with us? Because they are all against this Government. It has to be a Ranil Wickremesinghe Government or a SLFP Government. Until then we will not support the SLFP. That’s our decision.
Q: In a future election will you be competing solo?
A: It is too early to say that. We have not taken a decision on that. Anyway there won’t be an election until next year.
Q: What if the Government offers ministerial positions and takes over Joint Opposition members?
A: Let them try. I know there will not be any crossovers. We are with the people. If we wanted perks and privileges, we would have supported them. But we decided to do otherwise because we love our county.
Q: Your remarks about the current political situation?
A: Let’s wait and see what this Government is trying to do. Their biggest gimmick is blaming the previous Government for all their incapability. They have been in power for more than a year. They haven’t done any good for the country. They can no longer blame the Rajapaksa Government for their inability. It is their baby.