By Udeni Saman Kumara
UNP Member of Parliament Harshana Rajakaruna says it is not suitable to set up a National Government with one member of the SLMC.
“Responsibilities in the Government have not been assigned to young Parliamentarians,” he said.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
What is happening, many days have gone since the Cabinet was sworn in? It does not seem like the Government has got down to work?
A: Firstly, I have to explain that a stable government has now been appointed. It was because of many unlawful activities engaged in through a political conspiracy that the country faced a crisis for 51 days. That political crisis ended. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in.
Hasn’t the swearing in of the Cabinet been completed?
A: The initial tasks have been completed. A stable government has also been established. Parliamentary approval has to be obtained for State finances. A Vote on Account, that will come into effect after 31 December, was submitted to Parliament and approved. The crisis in the country has ended. The Government hopes to present the Budget for 2019 by the end of February 2019.
Initially, it was stated that you will set up a single UNP Government. Now, what is this talk about another National Government?
A: Actually, what we want is to take the country forward through a single UNP Government. If SLFPers are going to join the UNP Government, they should join the United National Front (UNF). Our intention is a single government, as the UNF.
Leader of the House Lakshman Kiriella had proposed that a National Government can be set up, by getting SLMC Parliamentarians to join the UNF, and then increase the number of ministerial posts. What do you have to say about that? Is this an attempt to exploit the loopholes in the 19th Amendment?
A: A National Government should be set up not only with the SLMC and UNF, but with a group from the SLFP as well. I do not think it is suitable to set up a National Government with one member of the SLMC.
The Leader of the House said it was Constitutional?
A: Even though it is legal to set up a National Government, in my opinion, it is not an easy task, ethically.
Don’t you think that our country should move toward a Cabinet similar to Canada, China, America, and Russia, which have only about 20 or 21 Ministers? How can you maintain such a large Cabinet in a small country like ours?
A: If that is to be done, crossovers have to be banned. Then, it will be possible to set up a Cabinet with a limited number of ministers. It has been fulfilled to a certain extent through the 19th Amendment. It is everybody’s obligation to act, so that this requirement is brought forward.
It is apparent that there is serious criticism within the UNP regarding the manner in which ministers were appointed?
A: Responsibilities in the Government have not been assigned to young Parliamentarians. Back-benchers committed themselves to a great deal to defeat the conspiracy. They put in much effort to bring the country back to the correct path. We hope that special attention will be given to these people.
Parliamentarian Palitha Range Bandara said that no justice was done to him, even though he was instrumental in defeating this conspiracy. You have not received a post either. Are you disgusted?
A: No. I hope that this shortcoming will be corrected very soon.
Certain UNPers allege that the President, in addition to the three Ministries he has been allocated, bears others ministerial posts and is involved in institutions belonging to other ministers?
A: We will discuss about these problems and resolve them.
Constitutionally, the Ministries of Defence, Environment, and Mahaweli are granted to the President. If he keeps more Ministries for himself, we will have a discussion and sort out that problem.
If it cannot be resolved that way, what is the next step?
A: Then, we will have to take legal action, but I believe that we will be able to solve this issue through discussion.
The President has continuously rejected the UNP Leader. He has rejected the policies of the UNP. Do you still believe that problems can be solved through discussion?
A: Our attempt is to resolve problems through discussion. If that effort fails, we will take legal action. We sought legal help during the conspiracy. It was fruitful.
The President completes four years in office in January 2019. Hence, the President has the authority to dissolve Parliament constitutionally. So, the tenure of this government will be very short?
A: We definitely expect the 2020 Presidential Election. Even though he has the authority to dissolve Parliament prior to that, there are provisions to halt that, in the Constitution.
The President declared that the upcoming year was an election year?
A: We are ready to face legal elections subsequent to providing required relief to the people through a stable government.
If a proposal is submitted to dissolve Parliament, will the UNP assist in providing a two-thirds majority?
A: There has been no discussion about dissolving the government as yet.
Mahinda Rajapaksa vowed to topple the UNP Government at the first opportunity?
A: Governments cannot be toppled like that.
Previously, Mahinda Rajapaksa promised to topple the Government in two or three Poya Days. Finally, he managed to do so. How can you believe that something like this will not re-occur?
A: The Government wasn’t toppled. They seized power. The appointed Prime Minister clung to his post. It was not a case of legally toppling the Government. This was a political conspiracy of President Maithripala Sirisena and former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We defeated that conspiracy. By then, we had defeated Mahinda Rajapaksa in two elections and we made sure he went down in history as the shortest serving appointed Prime Minister.
Former Ministers said they will allow this government to exist only until the Sinhalese New Year. They allege the Judiciary has only temporarily suspended the Premiership of Mahinda Rajapaksa?
A: This is the latest tactic to mislead people. They misled the country during the Local Government Election. Certain people voted because they said they would make Mahinda Rajapaksa the Prime Minister based on the results of the Local Government Election. However, they did not know who the candidate was. A member was appointed to the Dompe Pradeshiya Sabha. He never came close, but people voted for the Pohottuwa.(SLPP) They are saying here we toppled the Government and there we did so, to mislead the public.
The most serious allegation against the UNP is that it did not punish fraudsters and corrupt people. Do you believe that this time the Government will take legal action?
A: Most definitely. Only one Special Court is functioning. Two other Courts should be set up. Then, cases can be heard and the law can be implemented to the letter. Cases should not be heard in the manner in which Sarath Fonseka’s case was heard. These hearings should comply with the law. Offenders should be punished.
Due to deals that exist among certain UNP leaders, especially Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and powerful figures in the Opposition, people allege that the law will never be implemented in this country?
A: Such a doubt among people is justified. If that has happened and the law is suppressed by such deals that is completely wrong. We pressure our leaders to a great extent on behalf of enforcing the law.
Although you said “if that has happened” there are enough examples of such instances. The entire country knows how at dawn the Passport Office was opened and a passport was issued?
A: If something like that took place, I oppose it.
What is your opinion about the crisis that has arisen regarding the post of Opposition Leader?
A: As a person who appreciates Parliamentary Democracy, I believe that the Party with the most number of members after the UNF should be granted the post of Opposition Leader. Hence, this post has been given to Mahinda Rajapaksa of the UPFA.
Are you saying that you are in agreement with that?
A: There is a fact that the Speaker should consider here. A group of UPFA Parliamentarians together with Mahinda Rajapaksa obtained membership in another Party as the world sees it. All Media in the country publicised that they obtained SLPP membership. They said so on their Twitter handles too. They did that with great pride. There is justice in the story that Sampanthan related. When membership is obtained in another Party, the Parliamentary posts are annulled.
But they stress that they did not obtain membership in another Party. They say they submitted applications only?
A: Now, see, the group that lies openly is mostly in temples. They have pirith nool on their wrists, but they lie as soon as they open their mouth.
Can they deceive people in this manner? Mahinda Rajapaksa is someone who was respected. I am challenging him to say that he did not obtain SLPP membership. Now, there is no point in saying applications were handed over and receipts were received. These are useless stories.
Is this an issue that warrants a Select Committee?
A: I am of course of the opinion that a Select Committee should be appointed. The reason is because this is a very wrong precedent. This is another thing like the constitutional conspiracy. If it is not defeated, there is a possibility that other things will be done in the future. I believe that the Speaker will make a proper decision.
It was said that two Parliamentarians who were named in the Select Committee, by the Speaker, in connection with the fist fight, where damage was done in Parliament, did not attend?
A: The verdict of that Committee which was appointed under the Deputy Speaker was received in the first week of January. The Speaker will provide a correct decision. Whatever the Party, the people also have a responsibility not to appoint such people.
It was declared from time to time that there are a number of hidden names connected to the Treasury Bond Scam, and that they will be revealed. Is it the UNP that is suppressing their release?
A: Not only those accused in the Treasury Bond Scam, but there is a group who has been accused by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (PCoI) to investigate and inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges (PRECIFAC). Action should be taken against these people.
The UNP only took the big book issued by the PRECIFAC, which was half a brick thick, to Media briefings, and put on a show, but they did not make any effort to punish those criminals?
A: We expect that this will be expedited in the future.
Who will be the UNP candidate at the upcoming Presidential Election?
A: There are several candidates for 2020, the most suitable person will come forward at that moment. But the Opposition has problems. It is said that Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as Prime Minister with the promise that Maithripala Sirisena will be made the next Presidential Candidate.
Some are carrying Gotabaya Rajapaksa on their shoulders! It is they who have the problem, not us.
Although you say that, there is a problem similar to fire under the ashes, within the UNP, isn’t there, as to whether it should be Ranil or Sajith?
A: It is the Leader and Sajith Premadasa who should get together and make this decision. The Parliamentary Group and the Working Committee will hold a discussion and the decision will be announced at the appropriate time. We are not prepared to reveal that just yet.
What will be the stance of the UNP, if a proposal is submitted to Parliament to completely abolish the Executive Presidency?
A: We have several alternatives. Firstly, we are in agreement to giving more power to Parliament. We are also of the opinion that the Executive Presidency should be abolished.
What is the view of the UNP regarding the 20th Amendment, which the JVP has submitted?
A: We have not made a final decision regarding this. We hope to hold discussions. As young politicians, we are always of the opinion that the political system in the country should change, so that it benefits the people.
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