Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils Faiszer Musthapha
Q: President Sirisena said local government elections will be held next year. How prepared is your Ministry to conduct the election?
A: The President and the Prime Minister gave me time and space to finish the appellate project to be done with the delimitation. Originally, the delimitation process was not done properly. All political parties and civil societies clearly stated that they are against the election being held in the delimitation report that was there before. That’s why I started the appellate project. Now everyone will feel the election is held fairly and their democracy is safeguarded. Otherwise the elections held in the past were only facilitating certain political parties. It was done on the agenda of a few persons, not in the interest of the country at large.
Q: Has the ground work now been completed?
A: I have appointed a five-member committee representing all political parties and with that process we expect justice to be done to all.
Q: Can you tell us when it will be completed and when exactly the election will be held?
A: I was originally targeting to hold the election at the end of this year. But as the President stated, I will definitely hold the election during the first quarter of next year.
Q: Some openly accuse you of delaying the holding of LG elections on time because you failed to complete demarcation of wards on time. Your comments?
A: As a politician, people can accuse me. The General Secretary of the UPFA and the General Secretary of the UNP both asked me to hold the election as soon as possible. But my responsibility is not to any political party, it is to the public at large. I have been appointed as the Minister of Local Government to do justice by the people. I do not work according to the agenda of any political parties and therefore I discharge my duties in terms of the responsibility entrusted to me by virtue of being the Minister of Local Government.
Q: Why is there so much drama and controversy about the upcoming SLFP convention?
A:There is no controversy. The President has invited all SLFPers to participate in the convention. Some are working on an agenda to divide the party, but at the end of the day people who create divisions in the party will only suffer politically. Nobody can destroy the SLFP. In the past there were similar conspiracies to divide the party, but they were not successful. It was the conspirators who suffered in the end.
Q: Some are openly threatening to boycott the convention if Mahinda Rajapaksa is not invited. Your views?
A: Anybody can say anything. That is their democratic right. But the statements of a few will not put back the flock of the party. Like I said before, the President has invited all SLFPers. Now it is up to them to decide whether they want to participate or not.
Q: Such disputes in the party clearly show the SLFP is not ready to face an election in the near future. Do you agree?
A: I always say this; every political party has faced similar situations. This is not a situation that is only experienced by the SLFP. The SLFP is strong enough to meet any challenges and move forward.
Q: Is there any truth to the Opposition’s claims that the Office of Missing Persons Bill was passed by violating Parliamentary procedures?
A:It is wrong to accuse the Government that the bill was brought in suddenly. There was a bill that was proposed regarding the missing persons. There is a need in the country and there were certain amendments that were proposed. However I was out of the country when this bill was passed. Therefore I am unable to comment on this until I see the bill with amendments.
Q: Is it true that the bill was brought in to entertain certain parties such as the West?
A: I don’t think the bill was brought to entertain anything. Unfortunately I was out of the country and couldn’t see the bill together with the amendments. I believe there were some amendments that were brought about. The Government’s agenda was to bring this bill. But definitely certain quarters had certain concerns. As a result certain amendments were sought. I am sure those amendments were considered. Unfortunately since I was not in Sri Lanka at that time and I wasn’t present in Parliament, I am unable to comment further about this.
Q: As a lawyer how do you justify MP Namal Rajapaksa produced before Court during Court vacation?
A:That’s a legal process. As a President’s Counsel, I do not want to comment on a legal process.
Q: Namal Rajapaksa was named a suspect of this case on the starting day of the Paada Yathra. Do you agree this case is politically motivated?
A: I am a President’s Counsel and I don’t think it is proper for me to comment on a legal process.
Q: The SLFP has failed to take any disciplinary action against SLFPers who participated in the Paada Yathra although the party initially announced such members will be strictly dealt with. Your comments?
A: The SLFP takes disciplinary action as and when the party’s Central Committee dictates the party to do so. What is appropriate is the party taking disciplinary action according to the wishes of the Central Committee and not for any other third party comment whether any disciplinary action should be taken or not.
Q: Why is disciplinary action always taken against the junior members of the party?
A: The disciplinary action was taken against the statement made and not against the Paada Yathra. The party will take disciplinary action as and when disciplinary action is warranted. Action will be taken depending on the conduct of the party at the appropriate time
Q: Don›t you feel the Joint Opposition is gaining more prominence due to statements and actions of the Government?
A: It is not a question about who is getting prominence or not. We shouldn’t prejudge this Government. People voted for Maithripala Sirisena. He is the President of this country. There is a government in place and we have to give this Government time and space to carry out its work. Dividends of the decisions of this Government will take some time. People shouldn’t prejudge this Government because it has been in power for only one year.