We are moving forward whilst clashing with each other
BY RANJITH KUMARA SAMARAKONE
Minister of Social Empowerment and Upcountry Development S. B. Dissanayaka says that no one in this Government received a complete mandate to bring in a new constitution.
Don't you feel that the speed you progressed in politics was too fast?
A: I do not think that the speed was too much. Due to my being emotional I made some wrong political decisions.
Wasn't your setting up a Government in 1994 and then becoming a Cabinet Minister an increase in the burden of responsibilities?
A: I was very happy working for the 1994 Government we set up. I was successful to a satisfactory extent as a Minister. Poverty which was 28 per cent then is now 6 per cent. We built a financial institution which did not exist in Asia anywhere, through Samurdhi. We won at the Olympics. We won the World Cup. We engaged in Thurunu Shakthi. We had a surplus harvest in agriculture.
Where did you first go wrong?
A: Contesting for the post of General Secretary of the Party was a fault on my part. Madame Chandrika wanted to give it to Mangala then. I too wanted to bring in Mangala. At that time, Mahinda was also getting ready to contest. But then I pushed Mangala back and contested.
Even though you say that, it was Maithri who came forward then?
A: Yes. Since I was contesting Mahinda took a back seat and put Maithri forward.
Later you crossed over to the United National Party. You obtained 70,000 votes from the SLFP but in the UNP you got approximately two hundred thousand votes. Considering this, UNP members treated you very well!
A: Yes, members of the UNP are like that. Last time Rajitha came first in Kalutara. Champika won from the top in Colombo. That is the liberal mentality of the members of that party.
Party members treat strangers well. Did you return to the 'ancestral home' again since there was no sign of the Party doing that?
A: There was a big question as to whether there was room to go on a journey within the party. That was there in our party too, some time ago. Kashyapa decided to bury Dhathusena alive in a bund and kill him all because of the hunger for power.
Now the Government has completed three years, but there are accusations from everywhere?
A: Remember that, this is the Government that came into being in all of history that is moving forward with the greatest difficulty.
There are two different political philosophies. After 2010 the Rajapaksas vision became 'distorted.' President Maithri is attempting to change that distortion. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who began in 1977 is trying to do so. These are two things. A liberal and mixed economy are tied together. However, more than everything we have won international favour. The reason is because what exists is a tie between two parties of two extremes. So, we are moving forward whilst clashing with each other.
However, the President established this Government and saved our country and party from massive danger.
In this journey on two pathways, you are not able to fulfil an initial promise given prior to the Government coming into power?
A: Most clearly. On the other hand one faction likes the fact that the other faction gets weaker. The UNP is in favour of our party being divided. When that happens, it will not be possible to fulfil any of those given promises.
From the day the Executive Presidency was introduced wasn't the stance of the SLFP that it should be abolished?
Then why did Party Leader Maithri promise to abolish it?
A: Prior to the election he promised that he would not touch the matters in the constitution that would require going in for a referendum. He did more than he said. The Court requested that certain things not be done. Then the General Election came. The UNP said they would bring in a new Constitution and that the executive presidency will be abolished. We did not say such a thing.
Did the UNP which said that it will be abolished, receive a mandate? No they did not. Neither did we receive one. When you consider that, no one in this Government received a complete mandate to bring in a new constitution.
You came into power in 1994 and wrote a book on devolution of power. Even then 13th Amendment was in operation.It was said in 1994 as well that the post of Executive Presidency will be abolished. Did you not see this danger then?
A: We did see it. We came to power to bring in a new constitution. We were to do something that went far beyond this. Even today I mention bringing in a new constitution. However, this parliament has no mandate for that.
The 1994 Government was maintained for about a decade showing the 'never ever established – package'. How could this happen?
A: We are not the ones who established this Government. We were in a task to ensure victory for Mahinda. Those who dedicated themselves to bring in the Government say that a mandate was received for a new constitution. There are those who wish for a federal state too. However, everyone is forgetting what Maithripala Sirisena told the country. He said that he will not touch anything that will require a referendum.
At Sobitha Thera's funeral the President promises that the Executive will be abolished?
A: He has done that and finished. He went up to the maximum possible.
Does that mean that when you said in 1994 you will be abolishing the post of executive presidency just that only those things will be abolished?
A: Most clearly, 'yes' like a litany we said that the arbitrary powers will be removed. We are people who wish for a united country.
The Joint Opposition is criticizing the new constitution. As a result, did the SLFP also avoid the task?
A: No, no. We are anyhow in agreement of bringing in a new constitution but a unitary country.
The two parties are of two opinions; how can a constitution be prepared?
A: That is what I am saying. There should be an agreement. Not only us, even the North is divided. The Chief Minister there has become Prabakharan's kiriappachchi! He is trying to teach about attacks. This is kind of interim period. However, this dialogue is superb. Our two parties need not get excited.
The faction that is separate from the SLFP is quite powerful at this time, isn't it?
A: What nonsense! They are an extremist, racist, religious extremists, caste-conscious, tribal group.
However, there are three powerful individuals there?
A: Who are these powerful people?
The powerful characters of Mahinda, Basil and Gota are on that side?
A: Aiyo, what powerful! They are Rajapaksas. People who know about politics in Sri Lanka and are against theft, corruption and fraud are aware of these people. There is a manner in which they look at that family. However, there are no such accusations against Chamal.
Basil Rajapaksa is strengthening the Podu Jana Peramuna?
A: It is just a role of selling. What he is doing is similar to selling plastic goods on the pavement in Pettah.
You seem to be against Basil?
A: Aney, no. I was not in competition with him. He was like the God Almighty in the Party. I could not, at least tell him to stop the destruction of the Samurdhi. Basil is the one who distorted the village. Basil did not allow the Samurdhi officers to carry out their duties. He does not know anything about Samurdhi. He did not even know what Micro Finance was. He has not even read about it. As a result, today the village is now stuck amidst an extremely high interest mafia.
Now Samurdhi is in your hands?
A: During the past I did not get the opportunity to correct the shortcomings of the Samurdhi Ministry. Now I have got it.
Whatever you say, it seems as if S. B. has now become inactive?
A: No, no it is not like that. I have matured now.
Some say that Maithri is dividing the Party into two?
A: We have to understand one thing. We were not with President Sirisena. We were separate. The former President wanted to meet the present President. We came with him to the Speaker's residence to meet the present President.
As soon as we came out after that meeting former President Mahinda said I will hand over the Party to President Maithri and you should help him. When the Party was given we told the current President we will remain in the opposition and help you. At that time Mahindananda, Lohan, Dilan and Mahinda Amaraweera were there too.
When the Central Committee was summoned and we made President Maithri the Chairman of the Party those individuals were there. Everyone got together to make Maithri the Chairman. They agreed to accept ministerial posts as well. When that was being done, they broke off from the party as a faction and weakened our Party. What is the former President doing by strengthening them? He is staying in the opposition after breaking up the party and weakening it until someone is brought to power temporarily and the time comes for a new candidate according to his own goals. This is something that is willingly destroying our party. That is what is being done now.
They requested it and then went into the Opposition. What are they doing now? Mahinda Mahaththaya is now trying to clear the path.
For whom is he trying to clear the path?
A: For Namal.
Some say that this Government is paying for previous sins. The Airport, Port and SAITM are becoming huge crises?
A: It is good that they were formed. We have to manage those properly and transform them into income generating ways. Except in Cuba and North Korea there are private universities in every country in the world today. There are private universities in China as well. The children of professors and JVP members who are saying 'no' to SAITM are studying abroad at private universities.
The Joint Opposition has launched 'member promotions' and are even holding rallies?
A: No. We too will carry out our promotion activities.
The Party is divided, how can you win an election?
A: At the proper time members will stand up at the correct place. We are not at the place we were during the General Election.
Members are arriving into the party. Even today Mahinda has the strength in the body of the party. It is with that strength he is destroying everything.
Finally the United National Party will engage in a single horse race?
A: Yes, we are working towards preventing that with one mind. We hold discussions on behalf of that frequently.
The Joint Opposition says that if you leave the Government they will join you?
A: What ridiculous stories these are. Eleven of those who are shouting out from there are those who want to establish a pure UNP Government. Keheliya and other were at the doorstep of the UNP. Even though they are yelling now, they were like that. They are imposing condition whilst in the nude. It is those who were standing at the doorway of Sirikotha who are today making filthy comments. Today, those in the Joint Opposition are those who engaged in games to establish a pure UNP Government.
What will happen at the coming elections?
A: We did not contest for the first Provincial Council Election. It was the Mahajana Party which broke of three fourths of the SLFP who contested. They gave a very close fight. After the election, the Mahajana Party got washed away and they joined the SLFP.Lalith, Gamini and others of the UNP set up the 'Eagle' but finally where is it?
Where will S. B. go to after this?
A: I will retire.
You wrote several books. What will be the next one?
A: I will write several more.
You seem to be very calm and collected now?
A: Goodness me! I am now 67 years old. My children are also grown up. I am now aged.
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