By Prageeth Sampath Karunatillaka
UNP, Galle District, Parliamentarian Gayantha Karunatileka says what is required, at this moment, is not a General Election but a Presidential Election.
Excerpts of the interview:
When the vote was held to suspend the Expenditure Head of the Prime Minister it was passed with 123 votes. With this, it will not be possible to continue with this government. If so, is the UNP prepared to take over the Government and run the country?
A: Today there is no government in the country. The Expenditure Head of the unconstitutional Prime Minister, of the so-called government, was cut off. Even though a Prime Minister and a Cabinet were appointed unlawfully on 26 October, that Prime Minister is not being recognized in Parliament. We responded to that on the very first day Parliament met after that.
We carried out all of that in compliance with Standing Orders. Accordingly, we pointed out with a majority vote, that we do not accept the illegal and unconstitutional Prime Minister. At the same time on several occasions we defeated the so-called government and the fake Prime Minister and we expressed our justification, in Parliament.
Although you say that you defeated the new Prime Minister by a majority, those procedures did not take place according to Parliamentary traditions and Standing Orders. Therefore, that result cannot be accepted, can it?
A: Then, what the President did, by removing the constitutionally appointed Prime Minister and unconstitutionally appointing a new Prime Minister and a Cabinet, is that justified? However, on several occasions, we brought in a No-Confidence Motion, in Parliament, against the new so-called Prime Minister and expressed our opposition. All of that was done according to Parliamentary traditions and Standing Orders. At the same time there is no government in the country at this moment of time.
What is happening over a month is that the country is sliding backwards. Not only that, they do not have a majority to get a Bill passed in Parliament, either. Therefore, when we ask for a vote they are unable to show even 80 votes. That is why they are berating the Speaker and boycotting Parliament. If they agreed to a vote, they would get defeated as they do not have a majority in Parliament. They would have to face public humiliation. That is why they do not attend Parliament.
Mahinda Rajapaksa does have a majority, they say, and will show it when required; now you say that they do not have even 80?
A: Yes, that is true. Now Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot collect 80 leave aside 113. Now those in the United People’s Freedom Alliance are unable to even come to Parliament. That is because of the actions we took from 26 October, onwards. It was another valuable decision we made on 29 November from among the actions we took.
If it is said that defeating the Prime Minister’s Expenditure Heads was also not done according to Standing Orders, this problem will drag on and there will be no solution?
A: This problem has already been solved. The unconstitutionally appointed Prime Minister and the Cabinet cannot rule the country now. The reason is we brought in a No-Confidence Motion and proved that we have no confidence in this government. At the same it was discussed at the Party Leader’s meeting on 29 November and the proposal was handed over to the Speaker properly against the Secretary to the Prime Minister. That was passed in Parliament with 123 votes. Now the Secretary to the Prime Minister cannot spend the money allocated to him. If he does spend, we can take legal action against him saying he misused State finances.
Since when does this come into effect?
A: We passed that Bill in Parliament on 29 November. Therefore it is effective from that date.
What if they say that this was done by a single Party without heeding the Standing Orders and they do not accept it?
A: We brought this Bill according to Standing Orders. We kept it for five working days and called for the vote on 29 November. It was at the Party Leaders’ meeting that we set the dates.
Speaking on 29 November, in Parliament, Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said power should be granted to the side which has a majority and that proposals should be brought to set up a partnership government. The opinion is that these proposals were not his personal ones?
A: Yes, that could be so. The reason is because he is a Minister in this fake government. He was in the UNP and recently went to the Cabinet which was appointed unconstitutionally and he is someone who assumed duties as an unconstitutional Minister of Education. But on that day he came to the assembly and spoke in an unbiased manner. He said that administration should be handed over to the group that has a majority in Parliament. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe proposed an intervention to get it done.
Now who has the majority?
A: We have it.
You do not have a majority. You have not shown 113 as yet?
A: We have shown 123 for the 113 already.
Without the Tamil National Alliance and the JVP you cannot show a majority of 113. They are not voting to appoint Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister again. They are voting against the unconstitutionally appointed Prime Minister and the Cabinet, isn’t that so? So how can you talk about 113?
A: We will show the 113 at the correct time. We are saying we have 113 because we do have 113. If we are unable to show the 113 on the day, that it is required, it would be pointless. Therefore, we say everyday that we have a majority of 113 in order to make Ranil Wickremesinghe the Prime Minister. We engaged in this battle for so long with a target. Mahinda Rajapaksa is boycotting Parliament as we are able to show a majority.
Although you said you will show the 113 in writing, so far you have not done it?
A: Today, we have increased the majority in Parliament up to 123. In a little while more it could have even been 125-130. When we needed to show the majority in Parliament we did so. Similarly, when we need to show a majority at the proper time to make Ranil Wickremesinghe Prime Minister, we will show 113 and we are ready for it.
The President has told foreign Media that even if Ranil Wickremesinghe shows a majority of 113, he will not give the post of Prime Minister to him. Due to this statement, will the UNP get the post of Prime Minister? Even if you do get it, you will have to appoint someone other than Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister.
A: Whatever the President says he has to act according to the Constitution. The President is obliged to appoint the person who has the majority support in Parliament, as the Prime Minister, we have that support. At the same time, the UNP will show the majority and no one else other than Ranil Wickremesinghe will be appointed as the Prime Minister. We have already decided on that.
What will happen if Mahinda Rajapaksa does not quit the post of Prime Minister? Will you take the next step after an order from Court?
A: We have trust in the Courts. We believe that since the judiciary acts according to the Constitution we will receive a good verdict. Therefore, we are sure that we will not need to hold an election. Under the 19 Amendment to the Constitution it is said very clearly that Parliament cannot be dissolved until four and a half years have lapsed. If not, if Parliament is to be dissolved a two-thirds majority from MPs is required.
Such laws were brought into the Constitution and passed not simply for enjoyment. It is not like school children writing sentences in an essay. This is a Constitution. It is the law of the country. All of us are obliged and committed to protect that. The President, the Prime Minister, MPs and Ministers take on their duties by pledging that they will protect the Constitution.
The Treasury Bond fraud is once again going to take the stage. The President, as well as the Cabinet led by the Prime Minister says that they will reveal the names of those connected to this fraud and those who obtained money via telephone conversations. At the same time it is being said that a Presidential Commission will be appointed to inquire into the frauds committed by Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet in the three and a half years. What is the opinion of the UNP about this?
A: During our administration, when decisions were made the SLFP was also in the Cabinet. The Cabinet was headed by the President. Therefore, they cannot make accusations, whatever they say, they have to prove them. Anyone can make allegations, but, they have to prove those allegations with evidence. Anyone can make accusations.
What is important is proving those accusations and subsequently meting out punishments. We will not accept false accusations. That does not say whether an individual is correct or incorrect. Anyone can make allegations. If there is an accusation, it has to be investigated and proved and whoever it is has to be punished sans status. Party differences matter.
They are saying that they will release names of UNP Parliamentarians and Ministers connected to the Treasury Bond fraud?
A: Ask them to reveal all of that. There is no point in saying that this name and that name is there.
Good Governance came into catch thieves. This happened to the UNP because they did not catch the thieves?
A: Thieves were caught. But those affairs were delayed. This is the result of that. Mahinda Rajapaksa quickly accepted the post of Prime Minister so that he could avoid the Court cases. The people gave us the power to expedite these legal affairs. But there was a certain delay. We have to accept that.
Why are you scared of facing an election?
A: We are not scared of elections.
Why are you saying, the Presidential Election should come first and then the General Election and trying avoid the actual situation?
A: We are saying what can be done according to the Constitution. Parliament cannot be dissolved until after four and a half years have passed, and a General Election cannot be held. What can be held first is the Presidential Election. After 8 January it can be held. After obtaining a mandate for five years there is no necessity to kick it aside and go for an election. After two to three years, a people’s mandate cannot be kicked aside to suit each and every person’s requirement.
Therefore, what is required is to take forward government according to a plan and in the correct manner. It was when we were trying to provide relief to the people, that this rogue power turmoil took place. We brought in Gamperaliya and acted step by step to develop the village. These things were done to destroy that plan of ours. That is why we are saying that if an election is required the best would be a Presidential Election.
Is it true that you are going to bring in an impeachment motion against the President after 8 January and an attempt is being made to expedite the Presidential Election?
A: We have not discussed that. If the requirement is a National election, and the solution for this crisis is also an election, since this crisis arose due to crises caused by the President the best is to hold a Presidential Election. This is a good opportunity to find out the opinion of the people regarding these actions of the President. Therefore, the only election that can be held according to the Constitution and the Election that should really be held, at this time is the Presidential Election.
Will a common candidate contest the Presidential Election?
A: There is no such decision. It will be a UNP candidate who will come forward. That person will become a Common Candidate if we join a broad alliance and contest the Presidential Election together. Once an election is announced, our Working Committee will decide who our candidate will be.
During the past few weeks there were allegations that the Speaker’s behaviour was unlawful and biased. That is why the ruling party is boycotting Parliament?
A: The Speaker didn’t act in a biased manner, at all. He acted according to Parliamentary Standing Orders; he is a very dignified character. He has held many posts in this country. He had a very good reputation in the private sector, as well. When he was a Minister he conducted his duties in a proper manner.
Similarly, in the role of a diplomat too, he was a very good diplomat. He safeguarded the dignity of every position he held. He has always acted with discipline, according to Standing Orders and in an unbiased manner giving space to everyone. But the Mahinda Faction is unable to show their majority and is accusing the Speaker. What they thought was that as soon as Mahinda Rajapaksa became Prime Minister, secretly, Ranil would be finished and so would the UNP. They thought UNPers would queue up to join them and the UNP would be scattered into pieces. But that did not happen. What happened finally, was that those would were disgusted with the UNP also lined up against this injustice.
They gathered around the UNP and protected the Party and stood up on behalf of it. Although one or two of our members went, we did not sell anyone to Mahinda. Everyone in the Party protected the honour and pride of the Party as well as its members according to a policy.
Then who will be the next Presidential candidate? Isn’t there competition within the UNP for that as well?
A: No, as I said earlier we will announce the candidate at the right time. However, it will be the UNP candidate who will win. We have a very good line up and we will field the proper person at the correct time.
By chance, wouldn’t the candidate from the Flower Bud be a threat to the UNP?
A: Absolutely not. What they tried to do by giving the post of Prime Minister to Mahinda Rajapaksa, secretly, was to try to build up their majority of 113, easily. They set up various strategies to fish for Parliamentarians and establish their 113. Finally, all of those things proved unsuccessful. Having the Executive power and the power of the legislature, if they cannot find 113 they will not be able to win any election at all.
People are aware of the greed for power of Mahinda Rajapaksa. Therefore, they cannot join the battle for the Presidency and neither can they come to Parliament. If they do come to Parliament and have to face a vote their status will get revealed. They are unable to show more than 80. At least bring in an impeachment motion against the Speaker. They cannot do that either. What they can do is burn effigies by the roadside and throw insults to keep their power. Now, it is not we who are scared of elections but the Flower Bud.
I am asking you again, does the UNP think that Mahinda Rajapaksa will resign?
A: Mahinda Rajapaksa does not have a majority in Parliament. So they are sliding backwards. Now, the opinion of those on that side is the same. Kumara Welgama is expressing his view in public. Even the others are of the same opinion.
There was a meeting between the President and the former Prime Minister, recently, consequent to what Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe spoke about in Parliament?
A: I do not know about that. I am not aware of it. Anyhow, what he said was that governing should be handed over to the group that has a majority. There were minor problems between us prior to 26 October, there were shortcomings. Anyhow there was peace and reconciliation in the country. The country moved forward step by step. This is not a problem that arose but a problem that was created.
Does that mean that the President should be held responsible for this?
A: The entire country knows who is responsible for this. Therefore, those who are responsible for this are the ones who should intervene to correct this situation. Within a month the country moved backwards. Tourists are not arriving. The international communities are not recognizing us.
Investors have stopped coming in. We have been isolated by the world. Uncertainty has arisen everywhere. Therefore should be a solution for this. The best solution is to wait as Parliament cannot be dissolved until four and a half years have lapsed. Therefore its best to hand over power to the UNP and create the system that was there earlier.
Then would you be establishing a single government?
A: It could be a single government. We could also set up a government together with those who are willing to join us. The government can be established together with those who love the country, and those who think alike and have the same views and opinions.
Your MPs are saying that this happened to the UNP because you did not treat your members well. Are you in agreement with that?
A: Yes! I have been of the same view from a long time ago. Just as much as we carry out our tasks while thinking about the country we have to think about our members too. They were subject to political revenge, they lost Samurdhi benefits; they did not get jobs. They were cornered. So, we have to treat our members well.
So, when will you establish a UNP Government?
A: There is nothing to establish. Even today according to the law of the country what is valid for the country is a UNP Government that exists. We showed that in Parliament. Now the Executive has to make a decision on behalf of that.
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