JO depends too much on Mahinda Rajapaksa – Vidura Wickramanayaka
By Shaahidah Riza
The Joint Opposition is very much dependant on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and assumes that his presence will secure them a victory at the forthcoming elections, said UPFA parliamentarian affiliated with JO, Vidura Wickramanayaka. He added that while no one is of Rajapaksa's calibre, the JO parliamentarians should develop themselves as people's representatives.
? Have you consulted the Government faction of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) with regard to the no-confidence motion against Foreign Minister Ravi Karunanayake?
A: Nearly 40 MPs signed the petition. As a group and on personal level we spoke to the Government faction of the SLFP. They are positive about the outcome of the no-confidence motion. Even certain members of the UNP and the Cabinet will support the motion.
? There was a proposal to set up a Corruption Court. But, it was shot down by the government. What is your view?
A: They should have done that a long time ago. I actually made a similar proposal in one of my interviews to set up an institution similar to the Criminal Justice Commission, which was formed in 1971. Such a Court should be there to speed up investigations into allegations, especially against politicians. It will be good if something of that nature would be established in future.
? There is speculation that Ravi Karunanayake might resign his portfolio as the Foreign Minister, and Tilak Marapana, who was a former Minister for Law and Order and was made to resign due to his alleged involvement in the controversial Avant Gardcase, will take over the Foreign Ministry portfolio. How do you view this?
A: He shouldn't only just resign. He must be tried. This is only the tip of the Iceberg. Not just Karunanayake, everyone who is involved in the Treasury Bond issue must be tried, including the Prime Minister. The President is also very much aware. This happened in three stages, it first occurred in February 2015. Then we brought the no-confidence motion in March.
The day before it was taken up in Parliament the President dissolved Parliament. The no-confidence motion was against the then Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. One of the allegations cited was about his involvement in the Bonds scam.
The President is liable and the Prime Minister is liable to a greater extent. So are the other ministers. Of course, facts are still being unearthed. But, there are many MPs and Ministers who were on the payroll of Arjun Aloysius. I heard the news about Marapana. He resigned because of something like this. That clearly shows that most of those who are in Parliament are corrupt. We should focus on clean politics that should be the new order. There was a recent allegation about a drug bust with regard to a ministry secretary.Corruption must be stopped at all levels starting from the President and the Prime Minister.
? President Sirisena is also the chairman of the SLFP. You claimed that he is also liable when it comes to the Bond issue. In light of that, as an SLFPer, have you approached the President regarding this issue?
A: Corruption on any scale is bad for the country. We cannot condone it anyway, regardless of its magnitude. Whatever said and done, corruption at all levels should be stopped.
If we let go of this moment that means we are somehow or the other catering to and paving the way for corruption. This shouldn't go on, whether it is the SLFP or the UNP. We have raised concerns.
? What is your opinion about the clause in the 20th Amendment which indicates that the power of the Provincial Councils will be vested with Parliament?
A: That will be against the Constitution. The powers delegated to the Provincial Councils are enshrined in the Constitution. But, it will be doubtful that something like this would happen. My personal view is that Provincial Councils shouldn't be there. It's a bane to the country, not a boon. Parliament and the local government bodies are more than enough for the country. The Provincial Councils should be abolished. This is contradicting the powers of the Central Government, you cannot challenge it. It's like the body fighting against its own arm. The moment the 13th Amendment was passed, it created a problem. It should not go on like this. I was in the centre and peripheral committee. The reason I left that committee is because its report was challenging the unitary nature of Sri Lanka. I doubt whether this government will water down the powers of the Central Government and add more to the Provincial Councils.
? A month ago you stated that you were disillusioned with the Joint Opposition. You added that there were splinter groups within the JO. Have your sentiments changed?
A: Two days ago I spoke about this to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I told him that we should have a new mechanism for us to appeal to the people and to form a Government, and also to run the government consistently without any issues. Electing a new government will not solve the problem. That is exactly what happened to this government. Contrary to the incumbent government's expectations, they came to power. When they came to power, they had no idea what to do with it. We should not be idle like the incumbent government. They are idle except when committing corruption.
? In your opinion, what is the biggest flaw of the Joint Opposition?
A: Our biggest flaw is that we depend too much on one person.
? Depending too much on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?
A: Yes, that is the case. There is a saying that we should not keep all eggs in one basket. Mahinda Rajapaksa is a figure that none of us can match. That is a separate issue. But, the problem is as people's representatives we have our own identity. For example, I am from the Kalutara District and I represent Horana. We have to develop ourselves.
? So former President Rajapaksa should step aside and let someone else be the face of the Joint Opposition?
A: No. That is not what I meant. He can remain the leader. But, that doesn't mean all of us should be dependent on him. We should not expect people to vote for us just because we are on his side. He is a popular figure, so some of us assume that the fact that we are on Mahinda Rajapaksa's camp would be sufficient for us to win the next election. Whether we are suitable to be people's representatives is not taken into account. Lately, the SLFP has not treated their stalwarts fairly. Especially when people from the UNP came over they were given the best portfolios, the plums in the Cabinet. I hope this won't happen next time around. But, this is highly doubtful. I am sure there will be a group of people coming from the other side. I won't be surprised if Health Minister Rajitha Senaratne will be in the next Cabinet.
? You mean the next Cabinet formed by the JO? Has he shown an inclination?
A: Yes. I am not saying that he has shown any inclination, it's just that I won't be surprised. He was with the UNP; he filed charges against Helping Hambantota. Then he was sitting on the lap of Mahinda Rajapaksa from 2005 or 2006. He went on to apply oil on the stomach of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Months later he was wooing the Opposition candidate. This is ironic; when they are in the Cabinet they don't voice their concerns. But when they get into the Cabinet formed by the then Opposition, they criticize Mahinda Rajapaksa.
They are also equally answerable and liable for whatever they are accusing Rajapaksa of.
? There are rumours that the other party members of the JO are making use of the SLFP-JO members to further their own personal goals. Is it true?
A: We are a diverse group. We have people who are appealing to the public. It happens that it is not the SLFPers per se, but the others are representing the JO. Rather than working together as a unified group they focus on their party. I think it is to focus on consolidating our power, rather than working on individual parties. My personal view is that we should have a bigger umbrella for those who oppose the government to come under one roof. Their party differences should not keep them divided.
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