Core values of the UNP are eroding - Pradeep Jayewardene
by Ravi Ladduwahetty
FROM THE ROUNDABOUT
Pradeep Jayewardene, eldest grandson of Sri Lanka's first Executive President Junius Richard Jayewardene, pioneer of solar power in Sri Lanka, cautioned the Government, the Opposition and all southern political parties that the LTTE diaspora were waging a new kind of war against the Government and southern Sri Lanka and that the South should not fall prey to their machinations.
Now that all their military options for a separate State have run out, they are waging a different kind of war, Jayewardene charged in an interview with Ceylon Today on Wednesday. "I see these latest political developments in the Constitutional proposals as a serious intrusion into Sri Lanka' s sovereignty and well-being. This is a continuation of the same war in a different form we never imagined. The LTTE Diaspora are using NGOs and the UN to fight a war by proxy," he charged. "This is not a war of weapons but a war of human rights, minority rights, religious rights and so on. The war crimes allegations against former Army Commander Lt. Gen. Jagath Jayasuriya in Brazil is a clear cut example of this," "We are fighting just the small battles. We need to understand where this is coming from," Jayewardene said.
Here, he is in conversation with Ceylon Today
What made you take to politics after being silent for so long?
A: I was very busy for the last 30 years ,developing solar power for Sri Lanka, and I am the pioneer in bringing solar power to this country.
I was involved in politics for a brief period in 1993/1994, that was the time the late Gamini Dissanayake decided to contest as the UNP presidential candidate. It was my grandfather who implored Gamini Dissanayake to return to the UNP when President Ranasinghe Premadasa was assassinated. But, with the assassination of Gamini Dissanayake and the appointment of Ranil Wickremesinghe as the UNP leader, there was a leadership crisis in the UNP with Ranil telling the Party to be prepared to be in the Opposition for the next decade. That was one of the reasons why most of the Party people were disillusioned with Ranil.
I felt there was no purpose being in the UNP, many young UNPers have wasted 20 years of their life in the UNP.
Why is it that you have leaned to being outside the UNP, notwithstanding being President J.R. Jayewardene's grandson?
A: Well, I do not know which way the UNP is heading now. The heart of the matter is that the UNP, today, is totally, diametrically, opposite to the core values that the UNP stood for. For instance, my grandfather always said that it was important to liberalize the economy, but he did not mean that key assets should be sold to outsiders; the UNP has totally switched to ultra right wing policies.
Today, the UNP and the SLFP are both together in Government. So, whether you are in the SLFP or in the UNP, you could influence decisions. The idea of contesting from either of the Parties is to get involved in the decision-making process for the benefit of the country not only for us but for our children as well.
Granted that the combination of the SLFP and the UNP in the Government is a marriage of convenience. But, there was Minister S.B. Dissanayake who told this newspaper that it was unhealthy for both parties and that they should go their separate ways with the passage of time, as the core policies of each party was different ?
A: Whatever the theories are, both parties are still together and there are no visible signs of the partnership breaking up now or in the foreseeable future.
But, on the other hand, your grandfather, the late President J.R. Jayewardene told me in an exclusive one on one interview for the Ceylon Hotels Schools Graduates Association Magazine, 'Hotelier', in March 1992, that it was Singapore's late Prime Minister Lee Kwan Yew who advised him to liberalize the economy. So, what is wrong with that, given the vast benefits that Sri Lanka has reaped from that ?
A: My grandfather was of the view that State control had to be maintained in the liberalization process, of the economy, to guarantee a social safety net. Possibly, he was influenced by the disastrous effects of the youth uprising in 1971; he was deeply moved by that.
But, on the other hand, the thinking of the Government is that it should not be getting involved in the running business and let the private sector run it. So, what is your response?
A: There is no argument that private sector should run business, but State control and regulation of key areas is vital. One such good example is Sri Lanka Telecom. So, that is also an ideal example of the success of Public- Private Partnerships.
So, do you feel that the ideal way forward is private public partnerships?
A: Yes, at least for Ports, Airports, Highways and others such as health and education as well. We now have private hospitals which involve exorbitant costs for the patients while in the Government hospitals, you pay nothing but, you could end up being dead, while waiting for the next available slot. One has to find the balance.
Why is it that you cannot join the UNP, given that the Prime Minister is also your relation? Has he refused to take you on board?
A: I have never asked him for a position in the UNP.
But, given the opportunity, don't you think that it is worth trying?
A: Well, if I am supposed to do that, I will have to ask him in which direction the UNP is heading. I feel that the core values of the UNP are eroding. It was the UNP which conceived and gave birth to the Executive Presidency and now the present UNP wants to abolish it. In reality the vast majority of people in this country across all political parties have realized its value. Only a few small groups who cannot capture power under this system want it removed. The road to the Sri Lankan Executive Presidency commenced in 1966 when JRJ realized the weaknesses of the Westminster system. He proposed it during the enactment of the first Republican Constitution in 1972 and then again in 1977 he asked for a mandate from the people to have an Executive Presidency to accelerate economic growth and to have economic reforms. That was how the economy leapfrogged post 1977.
You said at the recent news conference that you were in the Gampaha District on the SLFP ticket. But you also said that you were contesting the Colombo Municipality. Sounds a little incongruous, doesn't it?
A: I was appointed as a District Organizer for the SLFP in the Gampaha District. But, I will contest the Colombo Municipal Council as there is much I could do in Colombo.
Colombo was always a traditional UNP base. Your grandfather and PM swept into power by record margins through the UNP. So, how sure are you of winning through the SLFP in Colombo?
A: All that is true. But given the current status of the UNP and the state Colombo is in, I think it's possible to beat the UNP in Colombo.
What made you take to politics at a time when the country is riddled with political and economic problems?
A: The answer is in your question itself! This is the ideal time to get into politics to solve the problems of the country.
What are your policies and what is your ethos? Or, is it just an effort to be a Cabinet ranked Minister for prestige?
A: There are no fundamental problems in the economy or the politics of the country.
But when we keep chanting the mantra that we have problems in both political and economic spheres, then we will have problems. This is like a self-fulfilling prophesy. The fact of the matter is that we have spoken for so long that in the minds of the
ethnic minorities, they feel that there is a problem that needs to be addressed. At the same time, when you keep repeating that our debt is untenable, who will invest? The UNP says that it has provided 400,000 jobs but, someone forgot the minus, in fact the Central Bank statistics reveal that there were 417,000 jobs lost, since 2014. That is the reality. We need a clear plan to create jobs, reduce debt and create growth.
There are diametrically-opposite views on the Constitutional proposals. They are so varied and vast. Do you think that the new Constitution will see the light of day?
A: Well, if there is a system where all viewpoints will be taken into account and implemented, then the new Constitution will never see the light of day. Possibly, the way it will work will be like the Provincial Councils Amendment Bill, which was virtually smuggled in, perhaps then it would work.
Do you believe that the Constitution is something that the Government believes will not happen and that this is to tell the West and the world that we tried our best and the people rejected it !!?
A: To answer that question, we will have to go back in history. Originally, President Jayewardene did not understand the mind of the terrorist. He described them as a bunch of ruffians. It took a long time for him and our military to understand the mentality and method of warfare of the terrorist. That was why my father- the late Ravi Jayewardene formed the Special Task Force or the STF.
Today, the LTTE rump and separatist movement is fighting the same war in a new way. They use the UN, international NGOs and others as their proxies to fight the war for them. They are using political and legal pressure on our Government to change the Constitution and influence local politics. Getting the UNP and the SLFP to form a coalition Government was also a part of that. The Jury is still out as to whether it will work out or not.
Each time a UN Special Rapporteur comes here, there are making damaging statements, which tarnishes Sri Lanka's international image, very badly. They are talking of torture chambers and of people still being tortured. Every now and again, there are various allegations of Human Rights violations. These reports damage Sri Lanka's international reputation.
On top of this, our sovereignty is being compromised by moves to set up foreign- sponsored war crimes tribunals.
Do you think that the motive of the Constitution is to go back to the parliamentary system of governance?
A: That will be suicidal with so much of power devolved to the periphery.
The TNA wants the North and the East merged. All political parties are opposed. Your comments?
A: We can't do that at all. The reason why my grandfather decided to sign the Indo- Lanka Accord and temporarily merge the North and the East was because India gave a guarantee to end the violence. There is no basis now to merge the North and East.
Some say that a new Constitution is unnecessary at this stage. Others say it is a must. What is your comment?
A: I do not think a new Constitution is necessary. What we need is to find ways to make the 13th Amendment work better.
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