I will take legal action against ‘footnote’ accusations – Sujeewa Senasinghe
BY Ranjith Kumara Samarakone
State Minister of International Trade, Sujeewa Senasinghe says, 'We spoke strongly about things like good governance and the independence of the judiciary. What these reflect is that our party is on the correct track. Even if it is difficult the masses should accept that.'
'When our party is exemplary, other parties also will automatically become exemplary. It was always the United National Party that brought about change in this country,' he noted.
Excerpts of the interview:
? In what areas did the Government fail, in the past two years?
A: If the work that is being done is speedily implemented, it will be nearly impossible to find instances where the Government went wrong.
? In two years of Government, three Ministers have lost their portfolios, and all three were UNP Ministers. It looks as if all accusations are levelled against UNP Ministers.
A: We spoke strongly about things like good governance and the independence of the Judiciary, what these reflect is that our Party is on the correct track. Even if it is difficult the masses should accept that.
When our Party is exemplary other parties will also automatically become exemplary. It was always the United National Party that brought about change in this country.
? However, the Party has to face these accusations?
A: It was a minor accusation against Tilak Marapana, and he resigned. The issue against Ravi Karunanayke was on a rental property and not an accusation of misappropriation. However, they resigned on the basis of decency. This is foreign to our people. Is this the kind of accusation the earlier regime faced, who resigned then? It is this Government that set the precedent.
? It is good to resign when there are allegations. However, if there was no cause there would be no allegations?
A: When work is being done there will be allegations. If no work is being done there will be no accusations also. However, there are massive corruption charges against members of the Joint Opposition. Who resigned then? Nobody.
? It seems as if, you, who shouted in a big way against the Mahinda Government is remaining silent in connection with the wrongs that are taking place in the present Government?
A: No, I do not shout outside, I talk about those issues within the Party and not for the whole country to know. It was I who spoke against Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe at the Working Committee meeting. It was I, together with Palitha Thera, who took the initiative to persuade Ravi Karunanayake to resign. It was I who first told Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, during the time of the Avant Garde accusations, to resign. However, I am disciplined, and will not shout in public and behave like a gangster and try to gain points.
? You shouted inside and got rid of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe?
A: I have no private grudge against him, however, I told the Working Committee of the UNP that due to his actions both the Government and the Party were being blamed. His work is not efficient, also he was being blamed on the Avant Garde issue too, which all resulted in his having to resign from the ministerial post.
? The Committee on Public Enterprise (COPE) Report was another issue which was much talked about. You were also among those of the Committee who were named "Footnote gang".
A: I have decided to take legal action against that, I complained against those who published that news item. I have noneed to get houses from any one. I was born in a house with 10 rooms. We grew up in comfort from our young days.
? You wrote a book on the Treasury Bond issue, stating that there was no irregularity. There was a rumour on Social Media that you too had received a house.
A: I have no need to do politics to get houses and vehicles. I filed a defamation case for Rs 500 million against C. B. Ratnayake who told this story in public. He had mistakenly said it.
? Whatever you do, you are given a State Ministerial post, can you get any work done.
A: Initially I could not get any work done, however, now I can do something. In the Gazette notification the State Minister's portfolio is defined as settling disputes of the Board of Investment and so forth. So there was nothing much to do!
? Why are the leaders not treating, Sujeewa, who made a big cry to topple the previous Government, properly?
A: Not only me. Many State Ministers and Deputy Ministers have this problem. This is not a UNP Government only, this is a different Government. We do not get everything we expect. However, I worked hard and we received funding from the World Trade Organization and Harvard University. I was given a leadership role in formulating export and economic policies. At the same time, I am striving to set up the Kalutara Trade Zone, in one year, it is task which takes six years. However, I will complete it in one year. I will work within my limited powers. The Prime Minister is clever, and he will identify the clever ones.
? Your leader whom you say has so much experience, why can't he identify the "doers"?
A: No. This was as soon as this Government came into power. It is not the person who is clever at speeches that is talented in work. The leader will identify the clever persons.
? However, didn't you expect to be a Cabinet Minister?
A: Everyone has expectations. I do my work in the manner I can. I did a lot of work during the Presidential Election. Even then I did not receive anything big. But I am doing something within my current portfolio. I will not ask for this or that from anyone I will continue with the work I am doing. It is for the leaders to make use of me. I didn't come to grab positions, if they say I am not good enough and call for my resignation, I will resign.
? Recently Harsha De Silva said that he is disgusted with politics. Are you saying the same?
A: I will not say I am disgusted. If you are disgusted, you have to resign. If Harsha De Silva is disgusted he should resign and become an Economic Adviser. There is no point in just saying it over and over again.
? Recently media published a letter, sent by Ravi Karunanayake on a Government letterhead with the State emblem, to Parliamentarians of your Party, titled 'Raising the Rural Economy'; did you also receive such a letter?
A: No, I did not receive.
? What do you think, does he have the right to send letters like that?
A: That is something you have to ask the leader.
? After a lapse of 20 years, the Party is in power and you have not been able to help Party supporters? Are the voters happy?
A: Sometimes they scold us. Those who visit us on Public Days sometimes find fault with us. In one way, their anger is also justified.
? It was the UNP who said that they are the Economic Oscars. That subject was with the Prime Minister. However, after two years the President established the 'National Economic Council.' Finally the President had to intervene in this too?
A: The President is also interested in developing and improving the economy.
? Isn't this the subject of the Prime Minister?
A: Yes, if the Prime Minister overlooked something it will be noticed by the President. Is that bad? In the forthcoming years there will be a massive economic development. Various development projects have already been started. China has commenced developing the Hambantota Port. We will carry out work that will go beyond the giant development projects that were implemented during the J. R. Jayewardene era. The UNP won in 1977 but began the Mahaweli Project four years later.
? Though you say that, there are protests and strike everywhere. Isn't the Government sitting on a volcano?
A: It is easy and anyone can create non-existent problems. At the same time this Government established nine Commissions, established freedom. Most of those problems are ones that were created during the time of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Just look at the SAITM problem. It was something that began during Rajapaksa's administration. Just because of that, can we just throw the students out? It is the same with Uma Oya and Mattala.
? Aren't most of the things you told the people prior to coming to power now mere dreams?
A: Can't you see that a lot of work is being carried out? Everything cannot be done overnight. In the future we will gradually provide what the people expect. This Government is still only two years old. On this journey we will speed up relief to the people.
? The Government is on a promise for a new Constitution. However, now the country has changed that stance to one of protests against a new Constitution.
A: Those are general things that happen. Countries such as Sri Lanka and India are like that. When Upali Wijewardena built the Fiat car everyone was opposed to it.
? A statement made by Minister Sarath Fonseka regarding Jagath Jayasuriya has become a big controversy these days?
A: The Rajapaksas are bringing Jagath Jayasuriya especially for this.
When he was captured and dragged by the neck and imprisoned no one spoke up. Anyhow we will stand up for him for his legitimate work in the Army.
? You have written a book, titled Eththa Neththa. You have attempted to convey through this book that the Treasury Bond transactions were not wrong. However, a lot of information have now been revealed...?
A: Yes. I did publish that book. I told the Presidential Commission several times to let me mention the opinion I have regarding that. However, I was not summoned. I told the members the same thing. Up to now I have not been summoned.
? If a fraud has taken place that book will become fiction?
A: I will stand by the facts in the book. I challenged everybody. No one accepted those challenges.
? Why is the Government intervening in sensitive issues like the pin keta and disabled soldiers and asking for trouble?
A: It is there. That is certain people have limited understanding on how to intervene in sensitive as well as non-sensitive issues. If there is no understanding of the situation then there can be problems.
? Tilak Marapana who resigned because of an accusation received a higher post. Can the same happen to Ravi?
A: It can happen. We have to wait and see.
? The back benchers of the United National Party engaged in a big revolution to get rid of Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe.
A: Yes, I provided the leadership for that.
? He was removed and a new Minister appointed. Can she be trusted?
A: She was appointed on a temporary basis. The Prime Minister will decide if she is to remain permanently in the post or not.
? Then, do you think you will get that post?
A: The President had told me that during a Cabinet reshuffle within the next two months that it will happen. However, I do not dream of such things.
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