Govt akin to a game of chess Unity’s King and Queen checkmated! - Dinesh Gunawardena
BY RAVI LADDUWAHETTY
Joint Opposition and MEP Leader Dinesh Gunawardena yesterday likened the Unity Government to a game of Chess, where he said 'as a figure of speech' that both the King and Queen have been checkmated! "In Chess, only the King is checkmated, but here in the Unity Government, both, the King and the Queen have been checkmated!" he quipped. He said that there was a Constitutional Crisis in Government with period of the MoU, between the UNP and the SLFP, ending on 31 December.
Here, he is in conversation with Ceylon Today.
You are a senior political party leader and you have been elected to Parliament from the Maharagama electorate for well over two decades. But the electoral list of the Maharagama Municipal Council itself was rejected by the Supreme Court. Why?
A: The Returning Officer in charge of the nominations ruled that one of the entries, in relation to the nominations for candidates of the Wards where a female candidate was contesting, did not state the gender as female but as male. We say that this was a typographical error, but the Supreme Court has held that in the recent judgment that the Returning Officer's decision could not be changed.
So, the Pohottuwa symbol is not only in Maharagama but also in other nomination areas in the country. Of course, there have been judgments given by the Bench granting relief and that was why we went to Court. So, now we have decided to support a progressive anti- UNP Independent Group in the Maharagama Municipal Council, which will be operating under the Cycle symbol. That is our strategy to counter the anti UNP votes which would have gone to the Pohottuwa (Flower Bud)
So, don't you think that this is a slur on your credibility as a senior politician and senior political party leader?
A: No. We would have preferred to have the votes under our symbol. But in the light of us nominating the requisite number of female candidates and our list being rejected, we have to seek the support of Independent Groups that are contesting where all the anti-UNP votes, which would have otherwise gone to the Pohottuwa, will go.
If your Joint Opposition is unable even to prepare a nomination list, how can you run the Gama (village) and the periphery?
A: This has happened not only to the Pohottuwa but to other political parties across the country as well, irrespective of what happened to political parties in the past and even in the present. This is not a general concept because of the new election laws.
As a senior political leader and a Member of Parliament, I believe that these rules should have been relaxed to the maximum by the Elections Commission.
All is fair not only in love and war but also in politics! It is now apparent that the JO's trump card is the failures of the Unity Government which you are all seeming to cash in on all the time! Your comments?
A: The Government has failed miserably in the last three years. The JO has been proved to be correct that the path taken, policies adopted and the ad – hoc coalition Government formed under the UNP has been a total failure which is vehemently condemned not only by the Joint Opposition but by President Maithripala Sirisena himself! We have been proved correct all the time.
So, now, JO members are having news conferences daily in the run up to the Local Government polls. All well and fine. But it is the Bond Commission report that you are harping on all the time, repeating it like an old broken gramophone record! So, don't you think that barring that and a few more sporadic instances like the Kataragama mayhem, the JO would not have anything else to talk about?
A: We have too many things to talk about. The Bond Commission has ruined the entire country. This is not the only aspect where the Government has ruined the country. The entire political, social and economic fabric of the country, which is run by the Central Bank, which is the barometer of the economy, has been devastated by this Government. There are also the other Constitutional issues as well, where the very existence of the Government could be challenged.
Their period has lapsed after 31 December 2017. The other issues are unemployment, wastage and the ever spiralling Cost of Living. There are the other issues like the gross abuse of Police powers and Administrative powers. Prime examples are the incidents at Kataragama and the Uva Province! The Government is collapsing on all these issues. We are the voices of the people and have been raising these issues all the time.
Also on the Bond report - all of you are attacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe all the time! Fair enough! But, what are the moral grounds that you are harping on, given that during your Government and your Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne's time, Asia's largest haul of narcotics was found in Colombo where the then Prime Minister Jayaratne was also implicated, but the entire episode was swept under the carpet without even a single whimper from either former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and/or Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne?
A: It is true that our Government was defeated by all these slogans, but we had taken adequate steps. Otherwise our officers would not have been able to take the necessary steps in this sordid affair.
But, this government has been in power for the last 36 months and has not done anything, but talking nonsense. But, this is also to say that we don't condone anything that is wrong. We are in the process of ushering in a new era which will have the confidence of the entire country.
Don't you think that in this context, the age old axiom is most appropriate here of "people living in glass houses should not undress in the night with the lights on?"
A: The people who are in glass houses and who are undressing in the night with the lights on are the people in Government - the UNP in collaboration and coalition with the SLFP. The government has ruined the country and it should step down and allow a team that could give confidence to the nation. They should depart like the manner in which respectable politicians of the UNP have gone, like former Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake. They should not be engaged in petty politics.
You seem to be harping on the Bond Commission report all the time. But the JO has been checkmated with the PRECIFAC report! It has even been recommended that there would be a lifetime ban on former President Mahinda Rajapaksa's civic rights and not simply seven years like for former Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike following the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Commission Report of 1978? Your comments?
A: It is the Government which has been checkmated. In chess parlance, it is the King who gets checkmated, but here, both King and Queen have been checkmated! It is up to the President and the Government to take action. That is the position that we have maintained both in Parliament and outside.
Also with the Bond Commission, all else has been overshadowed like the soaring Costs of Living which you seem to have forgotten. People say that life is more arduous now even than during the war! Your comments?
A: President Maithripala Sirisena himself has said that the Government has ruined the economy which also means that there is no way that the rising cost of living could be cushioned. I hope that the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the so called masters of good governance will open their eyes even at this late stage!
Colombo District MP Bandula Gunawardena said that the real loss of the Bond Scam was in the region of Rs 1.9 - 2 Trillion, which he attributed to losses in terms of interest rates, depreciation of the Rupee, depletion of Foreign Reserves etc and not the mere Rs 11 Billion which was the profit made by Perpetual Treasuries. How credible are Gunawardena's statistics, when and in the light of his stint as Education Minister in the Rajapaksa Presidency, he could not hold an examination without the question papers leaking?!
A: Examination papers leaking are an individual issue of some officers. The statistics released by MP Gunawardena, in consultation with the JO Economic Research Unit, is correct. It amounts to Trillions of Rupees - an unprecedented figure!
Leave alone the LG polls. What about the Presidential polls which is due next year? Who will be the JO candidate?
A: That is true. The JO will field its own candidate. But, there are three Provincial Council elections ahead of that. The North Central Province, the Eastern Province and the Sabaragamuwa Province, which are all run by the Governors today. Let us not forget that. I don't think that the government could carry on like this. It has already collapsed and cracked.
Given that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot contest without the requisite Constitutional Amendments and his brother Gotabhaya Rajapaksa also unable to contest, given that he is a US citizen and as he has publicly said that he was not prepared to rescind it, who will contest?
A: President Rajapaksa will nominate the appropriate candidate at the right time, as the hoary Sinhala idiom goes. There is no need to tie the loin cloth (amude) with the anicut (amuna) seven miles away!
What option does the JO have? Will it be your good self or will it be Chairman of the Podujana Peramuna Prof. G.L. Peiris?
A: The JO has enough leaders to select from. We want the UNP to go. Parliament will decide on a new Government.
Technically and administratively what is the difference between the Podujana Peramuna and the JO? Is there a difference at all?
A: The JO is an alliance of political parties of which Podujana Peramuna is one of them.
There is also a perception that no party will get a clear majority as this is a three pronged battle. If there was such indecision, with whom will the JO tie up with, the UNP or the SLFP?
A: That is not an issue as we have the confidence that we will be getting the sufficient powers to govern the local authorities.
Don't you think that President Maithripala Sirisena is "acting a political drama" attacking both the UNP which is his Government and the JO?
A: His audience, the great voters of Sri Lanka cannot be misled by anyone!
Given that both President Sirisena and Premier Wickremesinghe have said that the Unity Government will go on till 2020, do you think that these attacks have been manipulated by 'consultation, consensus and compromise,' the famous last words of slain President Ranasinghe Premadasa ?
A: People are not fools. They are both attacking each other in public and asking the voters not to vote for either of them! That is the reality and the people will vote against both of them!
What is the new line of thinking that the JO will have other than cashing in on the abject failures of the UNP/ SLFP, both in Government?
A: Constitutionally, their term has lapsed on 31 December. They have either to extend that or get Parliamentary approval.
Two of your members, Deputy Chairman Somaweera Chandrasiri and Digamadulla District MP Sriyani Wjewickrema defected from your MEP. How do you see this?
A: One is an MP and the other is not. They don't matter to us at all. When the LG polls results come, the results will be reflected in the votes!
How do you see the future? Will the MEP remain as it is, or will you join with another political party?
A: We have always been campaigning as a broad political alliance and that is how it has always been and will be in the future as well.
So, given or offered a brand new Bavarian Limousine such as a Mercedes, BMW or an Audi, will you also not opt for a Cabinet portfolio without living in political hibernation?!!
A: I am not in political hibernation at all. This Cabinet is collapsing. The people are demanding that they step down and go!
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