No personal grudge against President – Gammanpila
By Panchamee Hewavissenti
In an interview with Ceylon Today, General Secretary of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya and member of the Joint Opposition Udaya Gammanpila said, the economy of the country is on the verge of collapse as the inflation rates, interest rates as well as the rate of unemployment are rising sharply with the county's foreign reserves depleting rapidly.
Member of Parliament Gammanpila arraigns the government, and says that it has fallen flat in restoring the economy and is embarked on a mud-slinging campaign against the former regime, to cover up their own incompetence.
He went on to say that, during the Sinhala-Hindu New Year season foreign goods are being imported to Sri Lanka on a massive scale resulting in an adverse impact on foreign reserves. If the government fails to keep these conditions under control, Gammanpila warned that the economy will face irrecoverable damage. He further remarked that foreign countries will not come to the assistance of the government to help recover the economy. Instead those countries are anticipating a downfall of the economy to take charge of the country in the guise of assistance. He also stressed that there is no reconciliation process in place as boasted by the government; instead the government is supporting separatism, federalism and Islam extremism.
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
?: Do you intend to contest the next election under the banner of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna formed by members of the Joint Opposition?
A: I contested the last Parliamentary election under the banner of the UPFA. In the wake of the last presidential election, the UPFA got split into two. President Sirisena headed a group of SLFP members and the other group was given lead by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The true members of the Opposition are in the Joint Opposition. Those politicians in Parliament who claim to belong to the Opposition can hardly be called members of the Opposition. Instead of objecting the misdeeds of the government, so called members of the Opposition back the government's unwholesome activities. The real members of the Opposition formed a political party namely the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. Although I am a member of the Joint Opposition, I will remain a member of Pivithuru Hela Urumaya of which I am the General Secretary. Although, I do not intend to be a member of the Sri Lanka Podu Jana Peramuna, I may consider forming an alliance with the party in future, if circumstances warrant it.
I must mention that I was never a member of the SLFP and will not cross over to that party even in the future. Neither will I obtain the membership of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. I will remain the leader of the Pivithuru Hela Urumaya.
You asked me under what party I will contest the next election. This question is hard to answer at this point of time; as the political future is highly capricious. If you were to pose a similar question to Maithripala Sirisena, somewhere, in October, 2014, he too would have been answerless. He was the General Secretary of the SLFP but joined hands with the arch rival of the SLFP that is the UNP and contested the Presidential Election taking the swan as symbol. See how unpredictable the political scenario in the country is.
Moreover, the government keeps putting off the elections which are due. We are not aware of when the government will hold the elections. We may be compelled to make decisions based on the political backdrop of the country at a particulartime. Hence, it is difficult to say under which party I am going to contest the next elections.
?: Some members of the JO have stated that they are willing to extend support to Maithripala Sirisens to form an SLFP Government. Some members of the Joint Opposition recently had a meeting with President Maithripala Sirisena at his office in Parliament. Some are of the view that the Joint Opposition is in agreement to support the President...
A: I do not say that I will refrain from supporting President Sirisena, because I do not have any personal grudges against him. I oppose his policies. He has shown indifference to promotion of local business and is in favour of privatization and promoting federalism and separatism in the country. The security of the country is curtailed to satisfy a few selfish politicians and he too backs the government's pro- Federalist stance. Many a flaw can be observed in the manner he rules the country. Although he possesses executive powers, he does not execute them for the betterment of the people of the country. As far as I'm concerned, he is rated the most incompetent President in the history of Sri Lanka.
Maithripala Sirisena is the President of this country after all. Despite our political stance and criticism of his incompetent administration, we make it a point to meet him from time to time to discuss issues of national interest. Likewise, as representatives of the people, we also arrange meetings with the Prime Minister and Speaker to discuss problems faced by the people and to convey the people's sentiments to the leaders. As people's representatives it is our responsibility and we believe in the practice of talking over issues on public matters. This type of meeting takes place frequently and people should not misconstrue such meetings as being for personal agendas.
?: Do you admit to the allegation that members of the JO often cause mayhem in Parliament? They are charged with demonstrating unruly demeanour; which is not at all appropriate and damage the dignity of Parliament?
A: I strongly refute the accusation that the deportment of the members of the JO caused damage to the lofty culture and dignity of Parliament. The retaliatory actions of the members of the JO against suppression by the Speaker resulted in a chaotic situation in Parliament. It is a prerogative of Parliamentarians to rise against injustice. The reason for the belligerent behaviour of JO members is the unfair treatment by the Speaker.
When we rise against suppression, they interpret that as immoral behaviour.
?: Do you blame the Speaker for suppressing members of the JO and depriving them of the rights of a break-away political group?
A: JO was formed by a group of members that were of the UPFA. Some of the members of the SLFP entered into an alliance with the UNP, the arch rival of the SLFP to form the so called 'National Government'. JO operates independently of the SLFP. The Speaker should not discriminate members of Parliament based on the political party that they belong to. He is required to prioritize according to the sittings of Parliament. On the right of the Speaker is the government and on the Opposition sits on the left. Whoever, sits on the left is recognized as being in the Opposition.
Not granting the leadership of the Opposition to the JO is discriminatory. It is Parliamentary tradition to appoint the leader of the Opposition from among the parties which has a majority among the members of Opposition. The present speaker has ignored this tradition and that is why the members of the JO are charged with all types of allegations.
The Speaker is weak in arithmetic. He does not have the arithmetic knowledge of a primary school child.
Although the JO is comprised of 52 MPs, the office of the Leader of the Opposition was given to the Tamil National Alliance which consists of 16 MPs. So, the Speaker perceives 15 members as being higher than 52 members. In a similar manner, the leader of the JVP is appointed the chief opposition whip in Parliament; a party which is represented by 6 MPs in Parliament. Thus, the Speaker perceives that 6 members, is higher than 52 members. It is conspicuous that the JO which has the majority of members is being discriminated by the Speaker. He has denied the democratic rights of the 52 MPs that were elected by the people.
The Speaker should recognize the JO as a break-away group and should treat the group in a justifiable manner.
I can cite many an example of break-away groups and how they were given due recognition by the then Speakers. Although the JVP formed an alliance with the UPFA and contested the election in 2004, the party decided to be in the Opposition in 2005.Despite the fact that the JVP contested under the UPFA, the then Speaker recognized JVP as a different group in Parliament and was treated accordingly.
Wimal Weerawansa too broke away from the JVP and formed the National Freedom Front and that group too was given due recognition by the then Speaker. In 2010, the JVP broke into several groups and the groups were independently recognized by the then Speaker. Break-away groups have been recognized by the Speakers throughout history and this is the first time that a Speaker has denied the rights of a break-away group.
If you see, many SLFP members in the government were not elected by the people's vote. The defeated candidates were taken in by the SLFP leadership. That is against democracy. I also would like to state that the members of the Joint Opposition have bagged the highest number of preferential votes at the General Election. It is clear that they are accepted and welcomed by the people. Nevertheless, the Speaker cannot recognize the rights of these members who are elected by the people. The suppression of the members of the Opposition means a huge blow to the will of the public. So, I dare say that the present Speaker of Parliament is the most undemocratic Speaker in the history of Sri Lanka's Parliament.
?: Do you still remain an active member of the Sinhala- Buddhist movement? Don't you think that being a member of a Sinhala-Buddhist movement would inhibit the reconciliation process of the country?
A: Yes. I am still in the movement to promote the heritage of Sinhalese ethnicity and our religion Buddhism.
This government has not implemented a proper reconciliation process. What the government is engaged in, is promoting federalism, separatism and Islam extremism, under the guise of reconciliation. This so called reconciliation would bring more harm than good to the country.
?: What is the reason for the JO to boycott the media house owned by the infamous treasury bonds scam?
A: The JO decided to boycott the media house that belongs to the Treasury Bond scammers on ethical grounds. Everyone in the country is aware of the loss incurred by them to the economy and we, as representatives of the people, have raised our voice against it. It is against our conscience to support such a media house by expressing our views to them in the form of interviews.
The people who are employed at such media organizations are not ethical. I do not think ethical citizens of this country will spend their hard earned money to purchase such newspapers which carry false propaganda.
?: Do you opine that the arrest and the imprisonment of MP Wimal Weerawansa, is related to the government's witch-hunt of those Opposition MPs who raise their voice against the wrongdoings of the government?
A: It is conspicuous that the government is on the witch-hunt of those who censure and bring to light their wrongdoings. Detention and imprisonment of Wimal Weerawansa is a good example of the witch-hunt carried out by the present government. The government thinks it can conceal their corruption by detaining and imprisoning the people who speak against the government.
The recent incident of the Prime Minister interfering with the release of Wimal Weerawansa has explicitly evinced that the country's Judiciary is not independent, as declared by the government. The Judiciary is under the Executive and is interfered with.
?: The May Day rally of the JO is to be held at the Gall Face Ground. Do you think you can fill the Grounds with supporters of the JO?
A: Each day people become disgruntled with the government and they leave the two parties that rule the country and their destination is the JO. People have confidence in the JO as their saviour. We are confident that our supporters, in large numbers, will attend the May Rally of the JO.
?: Will the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa participate in the JO May Day Rally?
A: Yes of course! People hold former President, Mahinda Rajapaksa, in high esteem. Holding a May Day rally without former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is akin to holding a wedding ceremony without the bride.
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