Controversial United National Party Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekara is confident the Government can do no harm to him due to his clean personality.
However, rebellion Jayasekara accuses his own party of trying to tarnish his reputation politically and personally. He openly talks about his goal of becoming the leader of his party and ruler of this country, but stresses that his time has not come yet. Reiterating that he will never enter into deals with the Government, Jayasekara guarantees he will remain in the UNP to honour his voters. Following are experts from the interview:
Q: What is the present status of the United National Party?
A: We are hoping that the ongoing crisis situation in the party will be settled after the much-awaited Party Convention takes place in December. The Working Committee will decide on the dates. Many changes are expected to take place during this time. The suggestions and recommendations made by us have been taken into consideration by the Working Committee. I see that move as a positive one and it indicates that we can be optimistic about the changes we wanted.
Hopefully, if things work out the way they are expected to, the United National Party will once again come out to be a strong party in the country. We have to end these endless disputes inside the party. As the main opposition, we have a responsibility and an important role to play. We are answerable to the hundreds and thousands of UNPers who voted for us. Therefore, I hope that by the end of this year the crisis situation in the UNP will be solved and we can once again be united as a party and start working as a strong party beginning next year.
Q: What happened to the decision of acting independently in the Parliament?
A: The work we carried out opened many eyes. We urged that the restructuring of the party should be completed and a final solution should be reached immediately. We were successful and our campaign somewhat expedited the entire process. We had people rallying around us. But, unfortunately, there were conspiracies building up against us within our party and within the Government.
I know there was plot within the UNP to take action against the 25 MPs who decided to act independently. With the blessings of the Government, our own party was trying to unseat us from Parliament. We had to take a decision. We were compelled to take this move. We didn’t want the Government to take advantage from our moves. If it is the Government which benefits from our decision to sit independently, we do not want to take such a move. This was the reason behind us giving up the decision to act independently in Parliament.
Q: What would be your next step?
A: Our every attempt will be to make the Party Convention a success. This is our only hope. And we will do everything possible to take the best out of that opportunity. Further discussions will take place to reach a final consensus on the suggestions and recommendations made by us. An amendment to the Party Constitution is among the important matters that requires further discussions before the Party Convention. Whatever difficulties we may have to face within the party and from the Government, we will carry on with this work.
Q: Why do you insist UNP needs to be reformed? Is that a gimmick to gain popularity?
A: I am not the first person or the only person who pushed for reforms. From the leadership onwards, every single member of the UNP has accepted and wanted to reform the party. It is something that has been in discussion since 2004. Unfortunately it has taken a long time to make the reforms a reality.
When a party keeps losing for 16 years continuously, there is something seriously wrong with that party. And it is important to find out the root cause of such failure and take measures to find solutions to overcome them. This is not rocket science; any ordinary man can understand that. I don’t know why anybody would accuse me of using my work as a publicity stunt. This is not a matter of gaining popularity; this is a matter of rebuilding the UNP.
Q: Why did you agree to Kabir Hasheem’s mediation? Did you not betray the struggle you carried out by participating in those discussions?
A: Kabir Hasheem is a moderate person who loves and respects the party. Therefore, we didn’t have any issue in having discussions with him. In fact we are glad that we participated in those discussions. Through his mediation we were able to solve many problems. Both sides were able to clear the misunderstandings we had with each other. We were able to reach a consensus on some important issues. When the outcome was a fruitful one, why would anyone accuse us of betraying our struggle? This is what we wanted and we have achieved that.
Q: Do you believe that a change in leadership alone can rebuild the UNP?
A: No, I don’t agree that changing the leadership is enough to restore the party. But that is from where we should initiate restructuring. The UNP has to end some activities that have been happening for the past 16 years. I say these things with great responsibility. We need to change the way we engage in politics.
We need to think about the people in villages who are almost 76 per cent of the population. We have to go to those people, talk to them, understand their problems and look into their grievances. Our party must stop doing politics only through the media. We have to go to the streets and associate with the ordinary people in this country.
We have to have a proper, concrete programme in rural areas. We have to be more organised rurally. It is vital that we have to have a strong base in rural areas. Meanwhile, it is important that we establish discipline within the party. The UNP as a party lacks discipline. We have to make it a respectable, disciplined party. A set of rules and regulations that is applicable to all members is essential. It should not vary from one member to another. Everyone needs to be treated equally.
We have had bad experiences with bringing stars into politics. We should learn from those mistakes and make sure that such mistakes will not be repeated in future.
Q: It is said that whoever criticizes the present Government is weakened, divided and taken over to their side. Do you agree?
A: It is the usual way a Government works. In politics this is not a strange or a new situation. And this is not the first time such a thing has taken place. We have had similar incidents throughout the past. As politicians we have to have a backbone to fight against these things. A good politician should know how to face such a situation courageously and how they should be handled tactfully. This is why I say a politician should have a backbone. Unfortunately the politicians today can’t cope up with such suppression. This is why they could be easily silenced or weakened or taken to the Government.
Q: Are you saying you approve such action by the Government?
A: It is not whether I approve it or not; what I’m trying to say is that it’s not a strange or new situation in politics. Every Government that comes to power uses its authority to pressure anyone who criticises it. It’s a common situation. And it has happened in this country throughout the past. What is important is how the other party faces such pressure by the Government. This is why I said a politician should have a backbone to fight against such threats. Unfortunately, politicians today do not have the courage to fight back. This is why they could be easily weakened or taken over to the Government.
Q: Ranjan Ramanayake was the latest victim and he belongs to your party. How come you remain untouched by the Government?
A: I am untouched because I am clean! I have not done any wrong! Do you think the Government will keep me free if I have done any wrong? They can’t find anything to harm me, so I am untouched. But it is sad that my own party is now trying to sling mud at me. I don’t have any deals with the Government. I am untouched simply because I am clean.
Q: If you face a similar situation in future, what would you do?
A: I am responsible for my own acts; therefore I can face any accusation. I am a clean politician. I know how to handle a situation. I am responsible to the hundreds and thousands of voters who elected me. I am answerable to them. I will not betray them by joining the Government just to clear myself from false accusations. They want me in the UNP so I will remain in the UNP. I will not go for any deals with the Government, nor will I join it no matter what happens. I will face any allegation courageously and prove that I have done no wrong.
Q: Are you gearing yourself for the party leadership?
A: I have a goal. Just like any other politician, my aim is to become the leader of my party and then leader of this country. I don’t want to hide that.
Q: Are you ready for that?
A: No, my time has not come yet. I am not in a hurry. There is no competition. I have reached to this point without any positions. Even in the party restructuring process, I don’t have a title or a position. There is no rush. I will achieve my goals slowly and steadily with a proper mechanism, most importantly!
Q: Don’t you think the UNP is responsible for the present condition of General Sarath Fonseka? If the UNP genuinely supported him, don’t you think he would have been able to win the presidential election?
A: There were few clashes and disputes between the UNP and General Fonseka. Both parties had their lapses. We had our mistakes and they had their own mistakes. I agree with that. However, the need of the hour should be to free General Fonseka. It cannot be treated as one strange incident. Tomorrow they could put me in jail. And ultimately the entire country would end up being prisoners if some action is not taken against this situation. The importance of freeing the General is to show that the Government cannot act the way it wants. This is why all people in this country should rally against this injustice and work together to free General Fonseka.
Q: By getting involved in the Fonseka issue, don’t you think Ranil Wickremesinghe is trying to divert attention towards another direction from the UNP’s internal disputes?
A: Different leaders may use different approaches to resolve a matter. I cannot comment on their actions. But I know that the UNP is genuinely trying to free the General. We are taking every possible action to free him.
Q: Without only focusing on party restructuring, don’t you think the UNP should raise its voice against the misconduct of the Government?
A: Yes. Definitely, that should be our main focus. Unfortunately, the UNP today is not in a position to do that. We are weak as a party. We don’t have the support of the people to do that. First we have to be strong and united as a party, and then we will be able to raise a voice against the Government.
Q: You said there was a conspiracy to take action against you and the rest of the 25 members who decided to act independently in Parliament. If that happens, how will you react?
A: We have received explanation letters. The next action will be taken after we answer the letters. During the last general election, only two contestants from our party were able to secure more than 100,000 votes. That was our Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe from Colombo, and I, from Kurunegala. People like me and they respect me. I am happy that I am loved by people in this country. I will not do anything to betray the voters who trusted me and elected me.