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UNP should fulfill national responsibility - Minister S.B. Dissanayake

*A new approach is the answer

*UNP must make effective contribution

Affable and flamboyant but tough at times, Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake is a seasoned politician who had held a number of important portfolios under successive Governments. Expressing his views to the Sunday Observer on the current political scenario, the Minister said some Western countries and international forces are attempting to exert undue pressure on Sri Lanka, when President Mahinda Rajapaksa who had his humble origins among the Medamulana peasantry successfully eradicated the world's most powerful terrorist outfit from Sri Lankan soil. After the LTTE's ignominious defeat defied all calculations of the Western World, this is the way they react now.

The Minister said instead of carrying tales to the UN, US or other Western countries with the intention of toppling the Government, the UNP should make effective contribution to safeguard the country's sovereignty and independence. It is regrettable that the UNP does not fulfil this national responsibility today.

A crisis situation has been created within the UNP and the party has split into several factions. Even the Party stalwarts are speaking against the UNP leadership. This situation will lead to distance the party from the people. In addition some political movements in the North which attempt to throw a lifeline to the dead LTTE, will also be subjected to hatred among the people in the North.

He said all political parties should think of a new approach by taking into consideration the development that has taken place in the country. That is why the President stresses the need to discuss this issue with a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC).

After the end of three decades of terrorism, we are living in a 'new' country today. Massive development is taking place in the North under the leadership of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa.

All political parties should represent the PSC which is the ideal forum to address this issue. If some political parties attempt to boycott the PSC, it shows their hypocrisy. Some political parties ask why doesn't the Government submit its proposals to the PSC. The Government does not want to do so as it wants all political parties to sit together and reach a consensus through dialogue. During the past five or six years, the country was ruled by the President entirely on a Sri Lankan model which is successful.

After end of terrorism, the country is moving forward rapidly. Everybody should join hands to find a solution to this problem without attempting to destabilize the Government or assist the LTTE rump to raise its ugly head.

Q: In a democracy, a sovereign state is expected to look after its business without being counselled by other countries. How is it that some countries tell us "You do this or don't do it". How do you see this situation?

A: President Mahinda Rajapaksa had to make difficult decisions at the final stages of the war against terrorism. INGOs had to leave the country. Foreign Ministers of several European countries attempted to interfere in our military operations when it had reached a very decisive stage. Then the President asked them not to disrupt the ongoing military operations. When the LTTE and its supremo Prabhakaran were on the brink of being eliminated, then UN Secretary General exerted undue pressure to stop military operations. But the Government could not agree to certain things pointed out by the UN Secretary General. It is evident that the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora was influenced by Leaders of Canada, US, UK and Norway. They exerted undue pressure. However, the Government turned down their request. But we should not forget, amidst the pressure exerted by Jaya Lalitha and Karunanidhi, India extended its fullest support to eradicate LTTE terrorism. Some Western countries are angry as their requests were not acceded. None of these countries believed the Government would be able to militarily defeat the LTTE. It was the US which described the LTTE as the most dangerous terrorist outfit in the world and even banned it in the US.

The strategy of the LTTE was to keep 370,000 civilians as a human shield and attack the Security Forces. On several occasions, our Security Forces declared a No Fire Zones and requested civilians to come.

Then LTTE terrorists also came to those areas. When terrorists were asked to surrender, they fired at the Security Forces. This terrorist problem will be a serious issue to India. LTTE terrorism is a problem to entire Europe as well.

When the Darusman panel was appointed, even UNP MP Wijedasa Rajapakshe said the Secretary General had no authority to appoint such a panel. But today the UNP is on their side.

Even today pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora has funds and conduct illegal arms dealing and drug trafficking. It has a huge network and some pro-LTTE elements are running big business ventures in countries like US, UK and Canada.

Q: Why is Sri Lanka singled out for human rights, good governance and so on when some countries have taken the bull by the horn in dealing with secessionist movements or threats to their Governments?

A: This is the shameless manner in which the super powers behave. If the super powers produce nuclear weapons, missiles or conduct research, nobody questions.

If a small country attempts to do something, the super powers object. There is no justice or equality. Iraq was attacked as they thought nuclear weapons were there. But nothing was found. Some secret international organisations added fuel to develop the crisis in Libya and later created an internal conflict against Gaddafi and later killed him. Their intention is to frighten and keep the world under them.

They are also interested in trade and oil in the small countries. This reflects the economic crisis faced by these powerful countries. China and India led by Soviet Russia are rallying to address this issue. The capitalist world which turned powerful due to the collapse of the socialist camp in 1975-1976 is using its power to suppress small nations today. The intention of these powerful countries is to topple the democratic ruling systems in small countries and appoint their stooges to capture industries and other natural resources in the countries.

Q: Today the traditional left has been reduced to one or two forces in the country. At one time you were also a member of the Communist Party. What led these parties to their sorry state according to you?

A: The countries which succeeded the social revolution which commenced in 1917 faced a severe economic crisis. Capitalism was introduced by Adam Smith in the 17th century. Das Capital and the Communist Manifesto were introduced by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in the 18th century.

This was reflected by the Soviet revolution in 1917. These socialist countries formed as a result of the Soviet revolution kept all properties, production and services under the control of the Government. The socialist world which maintained centralised ruling was not able to build their economy. The Russian economy stagnated.

The economies in China, Vietnam, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria also faced severe setbacks. This was split in the latter part of 1970s. However, the countries like China and Vietnam came out of this crisis and moved into an open economy by safeguarding their socialist outlook. The Soviet Union and other countries which could not adopt this approach collapsed. As a result, the Communist movement and Leftist movement also faced a crisis.

Q: The Western World always invokes the bogey of human rights, good governance and rule of law when third world countries choose their own path of development. How do you explain this riddle?

A: The Western world could not do these things when there was a powerful Soviet camp. That is why Lee Kuan Yew could develop Singapore and Dr. Mahathir Mohamad could develop Malaysia. If we look at the countries which emerge in the recent past, those countries could reach socio-economic growth with some sort of patriotic dictatorship ruling.

With the significant change made in China, these countries were also subjected to change. As a result, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi could develop the economies in Iraq and Libya.

They were also some sort of dictatorial rulers. But they did not bow down before the super powers. Therefore the West attempts to invade these countries and impose their dictatorship.

Q: Whatever internal dissensions, ideological or policy rifts, the main Opposition should support the Government against foreign interference. Has not the Opposition sadly failed in this?

A: UNP behaviour is regrettable. The LTTE originated during the regime of the UNP. The youths in the North took weapons during the administration of the UNP. Bodies were seen on roads during the 1987 to 1990. But nobody questioned those brutal killings. There was even 'torture chambers' at Biyagama, the electorate which was represented by Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. JVP supporters were brutally killed. The JVP also killed UNP supporters. To take revenge, the then UNP Government killed JVP supporters and burnt them on roads. Today the UNP should be happy about the initiatives taken by the Government to end the war against terrorists. Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe recently toured Kilinochchi to see LTTE Leader Prabhakaran's House. When Wickremesinghe signed the MoU with the LTTE, he was not allowed even to go to Kilinochchi and meet Prabhakaran. I was also a Minister of that UNP Government. What he did was he went to Vavuniya and signed some document prepared by Norway. But today the Opposition Leader and other UNP politicians can go to the North.

Those days all key Leaders of the TNA and TULF were killed by Prabhakaran. Now they say the LTTE is the sole representative of the people in the North and the East. This clearly shows the pressure exerted on them by the LTTE. This was not the truth, they were forced to say it. Even the TNA was not allowed to go to the North at that time.

I can remember, the late MP Maheshwaran was told by Prabhakaran, if he wants to contest from the North, he should contest from the TNA. But he refused and contested from the Colombo district. It is evident all TNA politicians contested to the North those days with the blessings of the LTTE. But I don't say all of them are LTTEers. But they had been subjected to the LTTE pressure.

Instead of carrying tales to the UN, US or some other Western countries with the intention of toppling the Government, the UNP should solicit its effective contribution to safeguard the country's sovereignty and independence.

Q: The 13th Amendment was not a result of the UNP's own political thinking when some UNP earliest stalwarts too did not welcome it. Is it not humorous that the very same UNP is demanding 13 plus?

A: The 13th Amendment was brought to satisfy the Indian Government. As we know, then Indian Government knowingly or unknowingly, terrorism in the North was groomed in South India.

Then the Indian Government was against the UNP which was in power. When the war had reached a decisive stage and there was a good chance to trap Prabhakaran and the LTTE at Vadamarachchi, then Indian Government obstructed the ongoing war, dropping "parippu" to Jaffna by Indian helicopters.

The 13th Amendment was formulated in that background. The Central Government and Provincial Councils should be conducted with joint collaboration with all communities. Unfortunately, some Opposition political parties are catering to the interests of Europe without understanding the ground reality.

Q: What is the Government's stand on the 13th Amendment when there is already a confusion about the 13 plus?

A: The President has clearly stated the Government's position on the 13th Amendment. We have just finished the war against the most ruthless terrorist outfit which killed thousands of our Security Forces personnel and attacked the country's key economic hubs over the past three decades. The international diaspora which assisted the LTTE still exists. Even today Tamil Nadu is demanding for Eelam. Under these circumstances, can we think even to give Police and land powers? We have to be mindful about the attempts made by certain international forces to divide our country. All politicians and political parties should think of new approach by taking into consideration the new development taken place within the country. That is why the President stresses the need to discuss this matter in a Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). After the end of three decades of terrorism, we are living in a new country today. Massive development is taking place in the North under the leadership of Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. But can the the Government withdraw all the Security Forces in the North at once?

Then the LTTE remnants in South India and various other places will once again start their terrorist activities. Is not the Eelam which Karunanidhi and Jaya Lalitha talk about in Tamil Nadu? The TNA cannot understand this ground reality. This Eelam will not stop in Sri Lanka and it will go to the extent of dividing India as well. I think the Indian Central Government has realised the situation.

Q: You are a virulent critic of JVP politics especially the university ragging and their shifting political stand on vital issues. Would you like to explain this?

A: The JVP is helpless now. There are ideological differences among the existing JVP leaders as well. Hardcore JVPers have left the party today.

Q: The PSC is the ideal forum to resolve the problems faced by those in the North and the East. Why have the UNP, JVP and TNA failed to actively support the move to seek a permanent solution to the problem?

A: The country is moving towards a new direction. We should not keep harbouring the past. Opposition politicians especially the TNA should not surrender to the pro-LTTE diaspora and Western forces.

All political parties should agree to the proposal made by the President to sit and discuss to find a lasting solution to this problem.

There is no argument for any political party to refuse this invitation. It is not the same atmosphere prevails in the country when the 13th Amendment was introduced in the country.

This is not the same atmosphere which prevailed during the R. Premadasa or Chandrika Kumaratunga regime.

Today the country has reached a different era under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We have to think with a fresh approach.

Q: Opposition politicians point fingers at the Government that it is responsible for white van abductions, disappearances and human rights violations presumably to gain political mileage. How do you counter these arguments?

A: The Opposition caters to the needs of the international community. We know some of them who had been listed as disappeared during the 1987-1990 insurgency worked within the JVP. One such person is a JVP MP today. Kumar Gunarathnam and his brother were also on the list of disappeared persons. But Kumar had obtained Australian citizenship under a different name. There is advantage regarding disappearances as it helps to go abroad and seek political asylum. Today these disappearances and death threats have become a racket. If somebody can publish a news item in a newspaper that he has been subjected to death threats, it gives the opportunity to go abroad easily.

Even today how many mothers are suffering due to their children disappearing during the 1987-1990 terror period. They have been either killed by the JVP or the UNP.

Then UNP had taken a decision that JVP suspects arrested had obtained weapons training, he should be killed.

This is the truth. Therefore these killings were made with the approval of the then UNP leadership. At that time, SSP posts were offered to all UNP Ministers. This is the situation which prevailed in the country. Now it has reached a position where this situation has changed.

Party Leaders should discuss and reach a consensus to create an environment which ensures justice, freedom and peace to the people in the North.

Q: What made the UNP to shift the May day venue to Jaffna? Is it for any sort of reconciliation with the TNA or for mere political expediency?

A: There are a few reasons for this. May 1 is the day on which former President R. Premadasa was assassinated by the LTTE. But he gave money and weapons to the LTTE. If the late Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is held responsible to some extent for the LTTE, the late President Premadasa should also held responsible for it. If President Premadasa did not send back the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF), they would have ended the terrorist problem. But he chased away the IPKF and gave money and weapons to the LTTE. Finally both leaders became the victims of the LTTE. Ranil Wickremesinghe wants to sabotage the Premadasa commemoration which falls on Mal 01. That is why except UNP MPs Sajith Premadasa and Dulip Wedaarachchi, it has been made compulsory for all other UNP MPs to attend the UNP May Day rally to be held in Jaffna.

Wickremesinghe's intention is to grab power with the help of the pro-LTTE diaspora and Western forces. That is why he wants to have the UNP May Day rally in Jaffna.

This is a very traitorous and hypocritical act. The UNP did not win even the Local Government elections held in the North. This is an attempt to give a life line to the dead LTTE. The UNP also wants to tell international forces against the President and the Government that the UNP is ready to do anything what they say.

Q: You are a controversial politician who spoke from your heart Sinhala "Bokken Kathakaranawa". How would you now recount your experience in the SLFP and UNP?

A: The UNP is a political party which has a laudable political history. When one person was killed in a harthal the then Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake resigned. Even late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike rose from the ranks of the UNP. The UNP is democratic political party which believes in an open economy and capitalist political ideologies.

If Ranil Wickremesinghe speaks about democracy and justice, is there any democracy within the UNP today?

It is a shame that almost all the Working Committee members of the UNP were appointed by Wickremesinghe. Even half that Working Committee is also against with him. Karu Jayasuriya's political career was ruined by him. Sajith Premadasa and his supporters did not vote for Karu Jayasuriya at the UNP Working Committee. Today a battle rages within the UNP. The UNP cannot formulate a policy, action plan or vision. The UNP is surviving with the help of the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora and the Western forces.

Q: "SB" is known to many as an adventurous political figure. When you look back are you happy that politics is a good game for you?

A: Politics is not a game. I am one of the three people who made the highest sacrifice to bring Chandrika Kumaratunga into power. Finally I quit from her Government and toppled her Government. That is my nature. After that when I joined the UNP, UNPers placed a lot of confidence in me. That is why I could obtain 187,000 preferential votes when I contested as the UNP, Chief Ministerial candidate for the Central Provincial Council. The UNP candidate who came second obtained only 27,000 votes.

When President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power, I was in prison. When I was in prison, thousands of UNPers staged a walk from Hanguranketa to Colombo. I owe a debt to them. However the SLFP is the party which brought me into politics. When I was the SLFP General Secretary, I formulated the party flag, song and symbol. As the party General Secretary, I could make a lot of changes within the party during that short period. But finally I quit from my own party and joined the UNP. The UNPers warmly welcomed me. This is a unpatriotic act by Wickremesinghe. If Fonseka is released, sometimes Wickremesinghe will reintroduce him as the Presidential candidate. But it's a disadvantage for the UNP, not for the UPFA or the SLFP. With that unpatriotic act was done by Wickremesinghe, the President invited me to join the Government. So I joined the Government with pleasure as this is my old place.

I think we have to face difficulties for another short period. The country is moving towards that journey. We have been able to maintain 8.2 to 8.3 percent economic growth for a period of two years.

Everybody should extend their support towards the program initiated by the President to develop the country irrespective of petty political differences.

Q: Your political career needs family succession. Are you grooming a successor?

A: I think I have reached the end of my political career. My only intention is to extend my support to the President and fulfil the responsibilities entrusted on me. Except reaching these targets I have no any other ambition. My two sons are well educated. I don't know whether they have any intention to enter politics.

 

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