Rajitha : The main reason to sign the MOU was to end the war and address the North and East (N&) problem. Because, neither UNP nor the SLFP alone can find and implement a solution. Since 1957, the UNP and the SLFP tried to find a solution alone but failed. History proved that when one party introduced a solution, the other party tried to take political advantage. Both parties played politics with the issue. The tow parties signed the MOU keeping this in mind.
Rukman : When UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was abroad sometime ago, President Mahinda Rajapaksa invited Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya seeking our support to address N&E problem. After the leader returned to the country he appointed a Committee headed by Mr.Jayasuriya and the Government appointed Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremenayaka. Then we discussed a number of issues and finally arrived at the MOU to address N&E issue, electoral reforms and Good Governance.
2Q: What is the position of the MOU now after the 18 MPs joined the Government last week?
Rajitha : Faction of UNP MPs decided to support the Government in order to give life to the MOU because the Government alone could not implement four provisions in the MOU without a proper machinery. Now we can properly implement it.
Rukman : The MOU is no more in existence. The 18 MPs sabotaged it. Actually we gave a blank cheque to the Government guaranteeing the support of 61 UNP MPs and promised not to topple the Government for two years. We promised to support the Government on four major issues. We proved our guarantee by voting with the Budget. While we were supporting, the President suddenly sought the co-operation of the UNP breakaway group. So there is no understanding anymore.
3Q: Soon after the 18 MPs took oath, UNP Chairman Rukman Senanayake at a Press Conference tore the MOU. So can the UNP abrogate the MOU forgetting national interest for party politics?
Rajitha : Not at all. This is a national endeavour. The UNP cannot abrogate the MOU at this decisive juncture just by tearing it into pieces. It's a national agreement. Rukman played to the gallery may be on the instructions of Ranil. Rukman cannot consider it as a just a piece of paper. There is an accepted way of abrogating any agreement. Rukman went to the President day before we took oaths and requested President to delay appointing the Cabinet by one week as the UNP will join the Government with its MPs. When others take Ministerial Portfolios Rukman wants to tear the MoU.
Rukman : We officially informed the public in Kurunegala that we are withdrawing from the MOU. There was a letter also by our leader to the President that if any member is taken from the UNP, it will be a violation of the MOU. Last Saturday, when I met him I requested him to not to do so as it could harm the MOU. I went there to stop our MPs joining the Government and requested the President to wait till our leader returned. Then, we could have made a decision whether the UNP will join the Government or not. But, President went ahead with his decision. Then the whole thing collapsed. I did my best to get the MOU going. It is sad the the Government decided to withdraw from it...
4Q: Did UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe sign the MOU to stop MPs deserting his camp?
Rajitha : Initially Karu Jayasuriya was instrumental in the MOU but later Ranil high jacked the entire process. What you say is correct because he signed the MOU with ulterior motives. Thereafter he never did anything to implement it. The best example is the understanding on the Doughnamore Committee system or 20 Cabinet portfolios to implement the MOU. He did not talk a world about it so far. He does not think of the country but had his own agenda.
Rukman : Some people thought so. But, I don't think that is the case. He genuinely wanted to support the Government's peace initiative. He kept the MOU to the letter. Delay was from the Government side. When I told the President that the Government's counterpart had not been appointed, President was annoyed and phoned Minister Maithreepala Sirisena. Then he asked him to appoint former Governor Saliya Mathiew to work with our representative Bradman Weerakoon.
5Q: Do you think that the 18 MPs joined the Government for perks and other benefits?
Rajitha : If so, I would have got a good Ministry long time ago. Just after Mahinda gave nominations, he called me and asked me to support him. Even after wining the Presidential election, he called me. He even spoke to many MPs in the UNP who are his friends. But none of us wanted to go. We joined hands with him today to implement the MOU. If we thought of perks we could have joined the Government long time ago. We take decisions as a UNP group.
Rukman : I don't think that it is fair for me to accuse anybody like that. But it is obvious that most of them have been motivated for Ministerial portfolios and other perks. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to make this move. You just go through the explanations given by defectors. If there were any delay in reorganising the UNP, it is understandable if they function as a separate UNP group in the Opposition. What is the rationale behind the joining of the Government? This clearly indicates that they joined for sheer greediness. But certainly not to re-organise the party.
6Q: Some described that 18 MP are the cream of the UNP and the UNP will face humiliatory defeat at future elections as nobody can effectively address the people like dissidents. What is your view?
Rajitha : We should not blow our own trumpet. But S.B.Dissnayake who is having a very good political and education background recently held the same view. Not only him, even the Mahanayakes' of Malwatte and Asgiriye chapters are of the same view. But unfortunately a gang of punks who are around Ranil do not realise this.
Rukman : Remember no body is indispensable in politics. People did not make the UNP. But the UNP made them. If you look at the past, many joined the Opposition with S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike in 1951. But in 1953 UNP got 2/3 majority for the first time. Unlike these people, the late Premier was a giant. When Anura Bandaranike joined the UNP with 30 odd people, we lost the election in 1994. That clearly indicated individuals will not matter and individuals will move but, not voters. Of course it is sad that friends have deserted us but it will not affect the party very much. New leaders will emerge as usual.
7Q: Why and UNP Chairman Rukman Senanayake and General Secretary Tissa Attanayake demand reasons from the 18 defectors who accepted Ministerial Portfolios to support the Government to implement the MOU?
Rajitha : If Attanayake wants to work for the party, why does he need the General Secretary post? He has betrayed all his principles and now relentlessly engaged in defending Ranil. His job today is to defend Ranil. Rukman is the one who worked against Ranil in the past. When we politically accused Ranil, Rukman abused him personally. We discussed party reforms at his Rukman's residence. He forgot everything after Ranil offered him the party Chairman post. Ranil also tried to buy over me by offering Propaganda Secretary Post. Ravi Karunanayake is a witness to that.
Rukman : This is the truth. Even though we abrogated the MOU, we still support the Government's peace initiative as a responsible political party. The UNP will not change the position on the national question. We will not sabotage it. But, we withdrew from the guarantee that we will not topple the Government for two years. It was Mr.Karu Jayasuriya who proposed my name for the party Chairman post. When two persons were against, I refused to accept. We did not want to oust Ranil but to share the power, Karu as the Executive Chairman and Ranil as the Opposition and party leader. But Karu wanted both Opposition leader and Party leader posts. Now they give a completely different story.
8Q: Can the UNP dissidents members claim that they will operate as a separate group in Parliament?
Rajitha : Yes. We are UNPers and will contest the next election from the UNP. We hold meetings with Karu Jayasuriya and support the Government as a separate UNP Group to implement the MOU. They cannot just sack us from the party. Constitutions of any political party can not deprive the rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Sri Lanka. Since 1994 we could not help our supporters who were politically victimised after elections. Until the Government solve these problems, we are with the Government. What happened to Dudley and Bandaranaike will not happen to Mahinda until we are there.
Rukman : They cannot operate as a UNP group in Parliament but may be as some other group. How can the dissident members claim they join the Government as a part of the reorganisation process? If they wanted to re-organise the UNP, they could have operate as a separate group in the Opposition but certainly not after crossed over to Government ranks. There is no logic behind that argument. It's totally a joke.
9Q: Some members of the dissident group, especially Dr.Rajitha Senaratne was vociferous over the Helping Hambantota issue. Has he forgotten all these accusations against the President when he joined the Government?
Rajitha : The Court rejected that case and declared that there was no mismanagement of funds. Finally UNP MP Kabir Hashim had to pay fine. Actually then UNP Chairman Malik Samarawickreme asked me to complain to the CID. But I refused and told him that I am also having my principles and I will come to defeat Mahinda but certainly not to put him behind bars. Because when President Kumaratunga wanted to put me behind bars, Mahinda helped me a lot. I also did not talk much about the case like other issues. President Rajapaksa knows about it. I did not personally attack him in the past.
Rukman : Not only Helping Hambantota case even Raviraj Killing, Rajitha went to town. But now he is a Minister of the Government. I don't want to be unkind to him the way he was unkind to me but people will decide who is lying. He was vociferous before and after election. Whom did he accuse? Now he is on different path.
10Q: Mahinda Chinthanaya was torn to pieces at the last Presidential Election and Local Government election. Can the public know whether the 18 defectors now accept Mahinda Chinthanaya?
Rajitha : We don't accept but respect it. People rejected the UNP's Janatha Niyayaptharaya but accepted the Mahinda Chinthanaya. If we compare it with the UNP's manifesto, Chinthanaya also talk about a political solution to the N&E issue. We spent Rs.80 million to prepare our manifesto to a foreign Company. But now you see Mahinda Chinthanaya development plans got Rs.9 billion from the recently concluded donor conference. Not only our group but CWC, CP, SLMC, LSSP, Mahajana Party, UPF are respecting the Chinthanaya and joined the Government.
Rukman : You have to direct this question to the defectors. Some of them were highly vociferous on public platform on Mahinda Chinthanaya. They used very abusive language but now they are praising it. But people will judge them. You must ask from them how they changed their principles all of sudden.