We don’t have a mandate to ally with UNP – Pavithra Wanniarachchi
By Anuradha Herath
Joint Opposition and UPFA Member of Parliament Pavithra Wanniarachchi says that all political forces except the UNP retrogrades have to be brought together.
Are you a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party or the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna, now?
A: I am a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), at present.
Leader of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) is Prof. G.L. Peiris. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a patron of the SLFP. But they go campaigning for the Lotus Bud toting the pictures of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Is this not hoodwinking the people?
A: Mahinda Rajapaksa is the dear leader who remains in the hearts of the people. The only political drive against the Government today is Mahinda Rajapaksa's political campaign. The country will encounter an immensely unfortunate situation with the Constitution brought by the Government which makes the nine provinces as nine disjunctive countries. The giant taxes, packing up the reliefs given to the people and conferring thousands of acres to foreigners are unprecedented. Public property is being sold. Financial control has gone haywire. The only force against these is Mahinda Rajapaksa's campaign. We are in that campaign.
It is our biggest efficacy.
If the politician named Mahinda Rajapaksa is not there, will there be a Joint Opposition or a Lotus Bud today?
A: Definitely not. Mahinda Rajapaksa is the leader who gives life to the country's struggle. His being in this campaign is our sole strength.
Is it your stand that there should be no connection with the SLFP?
A: What my stance is that we should join with all the forces other than the retrogressive elements of the United National Party (UNP).
If the SLFP is going astray why don't you obtain the membership of the Lotus Bud?
A: I, MPs Kumara Welgama and Dullas Alahapperuma very clearly stated at the SLFP Central Committee meeting we obtained a mandate from the people not to join with the UNP. The SLFP joining the Government is against that mandate. So, we very clearly said that we are against it. Thereafter, we did not attend the Central Committee meetings.
Are you still an ally of both Maithripala and Mahinda?
A: No. We last attended the Central Committee meeting in 2015. We stated our stance there. Thereafter, we were neither called for the Central Committee meetings nor did we attend.
How can the Lotus Bud supplicate for the votes without anyone being its members other than Basil Rajapaksa and Prof. G.L. Peiris?
A: Whatever anyone says hundreds of thousands of people in this country have obtained membership of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna. It has become the main political force today.
Didn't a number of people break away from the Joint Opposition?
A: That is according to their personal view. We can't block them. In the last decade progressive elements in the UNP joined us.Gamini Lokuge, Johnston Fernando and Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and a number of others joined former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Even in future, we will say that all except the retrogressive elements in the UNP should come together.
Is there an allegation that you are also a party who influenced the splitting of the SLFP into two?
A: We can answer these allegations after the election.
You are talking of retrogressive elements in the UNP. But, isn't it well known that prominent leaders of the Joint Opposition have deals with the UNP leader?
A: As far as I know, the biggest allegations were made against the family of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was accused of not paying the bills of the SLTB and ITN. How many Commissions he had to attend? How many times was Gotabaya Rajapaksa summoned? How many times Basil Rajapaksa was in remand prison?
It is a sign of retrogression to make such allegations in such a situation. Mahinda Rajapaksa was sent home following a conspiracy. The international forces that launched that conspiracy are implementing the second stage, today. That is why they make these allegations.
How are preparations for the election?
A: A vast majority is representing Mahinda Rajapaksa and he will win surely.
When women's representation is increased by 25% prominent women leaders like Sriyani Wijewickrama are pulling out of the party. Why?
A: You have to question her in this regard. It was not a collective decision.
Some have included women just for the sake of increasing women's representation?
A: What I say is increase of women's representation is a good sign. We have to appreciate it.
Can women exert a great influence on politics?
A: When we consider ourselves as a sole individual it doesn't matter whether it's a woman or a man, especially when it comes to politics. Woman is also a free spirit who represents the people. It is inapt to label anyone's abilities and potentials according to their gender.
Many of the nominations of your group were rejected. How can a party that is unable to prepare nominations even, do politics?
A: Nominations when submitted from various places may have been rejected due to some problems. It is inappropriate to blame the party about this issue. If so how much has this government messed up, today? What an inefficient Government! Was it possible to bring in a single foreign investment? The Prime Minister says one thing and the President says some other thing. The country has stopped moving forward.
The inability of the Government has been proved. The prices of goods have hiked up. People protest on the roads every day. The Government spends money to import coconuts. How the country was ruled then and how it is ruled now has to be compared.
A committee was appointed to hold talks between the SLFP and the Joint Opposition. You were also a member of that committee.
Was such a committee appointed to put the blame on one another, knowing well that they will not come together?
A: All those are over now. We are marching forward.
You were a Deputy Minister of the Yahapalana Government. What do you think of accepting that post, now?
A: I was in that post for about six weeks. All Members of Parliament of the Joint Opposition were called and a few were given ministerial posts. The President summoned our group of MPs and asked us to vote for the Budget. At the next meeting he told us to vote for the 19th Amendment. All of us voted for it. After that a few were given ministerial posts. It was not possible to reject soon after it was given. But I didn't even go to the ministry although I accepted it.
You continue to attack saying that the SLFP-UNP Joint Government is not fruitful to the country. Hadn't the President said before the 2015 General Election that a coalition Government would be formed?
A: I can't remember whether the President said so or not. The President entrusted to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the handling of our election campaign. So, we contested the election from the SLFP along with Mahinda Rajapaksa. That is the truth.
We have to acknowledge that. However, we didn't mention anywhere in our manifesto that we would join with the SLFP. We contested the last general election under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena.
So, was it because you thought that the Government will end soon that you gave up the ministerial post in six weeks?
A: No, to protest against the policies.
Your father Dharmadasa Wanniarachchi was an SLFP leader. Your family was like owners of the SLFP in Sabaragamuwa. What has happened today?
A: We are not owners of the SLFP, I must say. My father was in Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike's party. Our first meeting was held in a paddy field belonging to us. My father was a Village Headman. We were a family that came forward to strengthen the party. We followed the policies of the party. The SLFP is not the name or a board or the office which is at Darley Road. There are certain SLFP policies that our parents explained to us. We are prepared to be with any group that abides by those policies.
You have borne several responsible ministerial posts. Many frauds and corrupt practices of the recent past have been revealed now. Why didn't you protest against them, then?
A: Tell me where a fraud took place. These are international conspiracies. I was the Minister of Power and Energy and the Minister of Poverty Alleviation. I was there in several ministries like that. But we were never pressurized by the leaders. Our hands are very clean. We have not committed even a single fraud to which anyone can point the finger at, in our lives. These allegations are fabrications of conspirators. When they said there are golden horses the people believed. Where are the cases for these allegations? Why don't they file cases, if such robberies were committed?
Can irresponsible complaints be made like this?
A: No. Have cases been filed against these allegations? Now, cases have been filed saying sil cloths and almanacs were distributed and Samurdhi reliefs were given. These things happened during the election time soon after Maithri came as the common candidate. Where are the cases for the previous frauds? It was a false opinion that was created.
Rape and child abuse have increased by leaps and bounds. As a frontline woman leader why don't you fight against this?
A: I can mediate in such matters not as a woman leader but in Parliament as a citizen of this country. We are doing a merit job through the Oversight Committee on Women's Affairs in Parliament. Thusitha Wijemanne is the Chairperson of the Committee. A long-term plan and a short-term plan are being implemented to make laws in this regard.
Is it not the existing Government that has to be responsible when such crimes escalate?
A: The reason is that the people are under pressure. The cost of living has gone up. The people have become perverted. This has become a part and parcel of the Government.
The Bonds Commission report was out and now what would happen?
A: We believe that the Commission has revealed the names of those who are connected to this fraud. We are watchful whether the culprits who have committed the biggest fraud ever in the country's history will be brought to book.
The allegation relating to this fraud has been directed towards high-ups in the Government. Will the law be implemented under the existing Government?
A: We don't know what the Government thinks. The Government will have to punish the wrongdoers.
What will be the pressure exerted by the Joint Opposition in this regard?
A: First, we have to see what the President's wish is. We can't utter words until we grasp that. As we see it, the most responsible leaders of the present Government are clearly involved in double dealings. President should definitely take action not because of us but on behalf of the country.
The Government accuses that Bonds transaction that took place during your administration has influenced these frauds?
A: Those are false accusations. If so they should have come out with them, then.
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