Justice Minister should not wait for the NCM, but resign - Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera | Sunday Observer

Justice Minister should not wait for the NCM, but resign - Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera

Deputy Government Whip and Power and Renewable Energy Deputy Minister Ajith P. Perera says it is not a healthy practice to move a No Confidence Motion in Parliament against a Minister of his own party. The UNP in its Parliamentary and Working Committee joint meeting held at Sirikotha on Thursday (August 17) unanimously agreed to bring in a No Confidence Motion against Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Deputy Minister said, the sentiments of the UNP Parliamentary Group and the Working Committee were that the Justice Minister should not hold this important and sensitive portfolio any further.

However, Deputy Minister Perera said, the need to move the No Confidence Motion would not arise. The President as the Head of the Government and the Prime Minister as the Leader of the UNP, have to take a decision on the Justice Minister and it is up to the two of them to remove him or ask him to resign. I think the Justice Minister should not wait for that decision, but in keeping with the tradition, he should resign from his ministerial portfolio when such allegations are levelled against him.

Q. You have publicly accused Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe of preventing the passage of separate courts to deal with mega bribery and corruption cases. Could you explain?

A. It’s not only that. He is a failure as Justice Minister, and basically the efficiency of the justice system has deteriorated. No steps were taken on the laws’ delays. He is not committed to uphold a fair and speedy trial process. That is why I criticize him. Actually, his problem is, he is satisfied with the status quo. But the people are not satisfied with his status quo. So, there is no future development with him as Justice Minister.

Q. On what grounds is a No Confidence Motion to be moved against the Justice Minister? Could you substantiate the allegations?

A. Actually I am not for the No Confidence Motion (NCM) against the Justice Minister, I didn’t even sign it. I believe it is not a healthy practice to move an NCM in Parliament against a Minister of our own party. The UNP had its Parliamentary and Working Committee joint meeting at Sirikotha on Thursday (August 17). At that meeting, an NCM against Justice Minister Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe moved by the UNP National List MP Prof. Ashu Marasinghe, was seconded by UNP Polonnaruwa District MP Anura Sidney Jayarathna, and unanimously passed. No one objected to it.

The overall sentiments of the UNP parliamentary group and the Working Committee were that the Justice Minister should not hold this important and sensitive portfolio any further. I think the need to move an NCM would not arise. The President, as the Head of the Government and the Prime Minister as the Leader of our party, can take a decision on the Justice Minister, and it is up to the President and the Prime Minister to remove him or ask him to resign. I think the Justice Minister should not wait for that decision, and in keeping with the tradition he should resign from his ministerial portfolio when such allegations are levelled against him.

Q. It is said that 43 files relating to members of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s family and his Government have been investigated, completed and referred to the Attorney General’s Department two years ago. What is the delay in prosecuting the offenders?

A. It is more than that. According to the latest information, investigations on 104 cases have been completed and the files handed over by the FCID and the CID, and indictments issued on 14 cases. That is the situation. I think, serving indictment is one thing, and conducting a fair and speedy trial is another. There is a delay at the Attorney General’s Department due to lack of resources and capable senior State Counsel. This is due to various reasons. I am not blaming them. The Justice Minister has not taken any interest on these matters.

The Attorney General’s Department comes under the purview of the Justice Minister. Therefore, facilitating them is the duty of the Minister. I think he is not doing anything because he is satisfied with these laws’ delays and doesn’t want to change it. The problem lies in not having a day to day trial or Trial at Bar.

These accused are taking dates- six to eight months at a time, and would try to delay the trials and wait for a regime change. That is their game plan. But, we have to act fast and we must have a fair and speedy trial process. Unfortunately, the Justice Minister doesn’t want to have a fair and speedy trial. He asks us to follow the normal procedure, with which the people don’t agree.

Q. Is the Government seriously interested in bringing in a new Constitution while the Joint Opposition and some other sections want only amendments to the Constitution to suit the changing situations?

A. According to our party manifesto, we are one hundred percent for a new Constitution. That is our position. If we want to change the Executive Presidency, we have to have a new structure and a new Constitution. You can’t have another amendment and modify this. Already, the Constitution has been amended 19 times.

It is too big in numbers as well as, in content. In my view, we should have a new Constitution, the amendments will not satisfy the real needs of the country or the political will of the people.

Q. Will the SLFP-UNP cohabitation go on till 2020 despite policy differences and mutual accusations?

A. I hope so. Even though we have certain differences, we have worked together for almost two years. Now, President Maithripala Sirisena can control a reasonable bloc of his own party, the SLFP, which he leads. I think a lot of MPs will remain with us and there may be newcomers from the Joint Opposition to the Government. A week ago, a Provincial Minister and his brother, a Badulla District MP joined the SLFP bloc led by President Sirisena. This trend will continue.

Q. Electricity sector top brass have expressed concern over a power shortage in 2020 unless alternative power generation sources are explored. What are the Government’s plans to meet the challenge?

A. We know the challenges and we have a long term power generation plan. Even though, we have some delays, we are working on them. We were able to add 118 MW of solar energy last year. We are continuing to work on solar, wind as well as LNG.

We called for international tenders for a 300 MW power plant Unfortunately, there was an issue about the tender and a dispute with the Technical Evaluation Committee and the Tender Committee. Ultimately, there was no successful bidder. Now, we are submitting another Cabinet Paper seeking advice from the Cabinet. Nevertheless, there will be a 300MW LNG power plant and we will add more solar energy.

We want to call tenders for 870 MW of power plants within the next three to four months. We have already achieved the target of hundred percent electrification. We have given 262,000 new connections during last year, and achieved hundred percent penetration in the country. There is no village without power in Sri Lanka at present.

Q. Does the Government have any plans to harness wind power, and if so are there any investments made?

A. Yes. There will be a 170 MW wind power park in Pooneryn, Jaffna. We are building another 100 MW wind power plant in the Mannar island. Also, there are two other 10 MW plants in the Jaffna peninsula.

Q. Different UN rapporteurs make harsh comments on not settling human rights and accountability issues in the country. What is the Government’s stand?

A. There are some issues. We have seen some negative comments on Sri Lanka. But, it is natural to have such comments and we were able to communicate the correct position to the UN and their agencies. We have noted the concerns by the various rapporteurs, but when you consider the whole scenario, I think we have a very successful foreign affairs campaign and we have almost won that campaign. When we came into power in 2015, we didn’t have many international friends. Now, almost all the countries in the world are closely working with us in a friendly manner. They are supporting the Government’s endeavours. Investments are flowing in, and the trend will continue. I think our future is very bright.

Q. The Opposition alleges that the current political instability is a hindrance to Foreign Direct Investments. Is there any truth in this?

A. I can’t see any such issue. But, there are some other issues about taxation, labour laws and non availability of proper lands, on time.

Q. A group of SLFP Ministers have expressed their opposition to postpone the Provincial Council elections. The Cabinet has also approved the decision to hold Provincial Council elections on a single day. What is the Government’s position regarding this?

A. We abide by Cabinet decisions. We also read the news item on the decision taken by the SLFP Working Committee. I think the President would have to take a firm decision on that. The UNP’s position is that all Provincial Council elections should be held on the same date and introduce a new electoral system, and do away with the preferential votes system. This would be first introduced to the Local Government elections.

The tenure of the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provincial Councils will be over by the end of next month. I think the President and the Prime Minister have to consider all these aspects and take a decision. Then the other members will follow suit. The people will not consider extending the tenure of the three PCs by another few months as it is undemocratic. It would pave the way for the Government to have PC elections on a single day.

Q. There is a general perception that the dignity and decorum of Parliament has declined. Will the new Code of Conduct rectify the situation?

A. Yes. I am sure it would. I am one of the members who drafted the Code of Conduct. The new Code of Conduct and the rules within it will have a positive impact on MPs. This is a firm step taken to uphold the dignity and decorum of Parliament.

Q. The Opposition finds fault with the footnote members of COPE for defending the offenders. Do you accept the allegation and if not why?

A. Five or six members of COPE had different views on some issues, but not on all the issues. Ultimately, they agreed fully on the recommendations. A few UNP members in COPE questioned the calculations of the Auditor General and some economic theories put forward by him. Actually, they want to seriously investigate Arjun Aloysius. But the majority of the committee didn’t want to go into matters pertaining to Arjun Aloysius and was satisfied with the Central Bank Governor. That is what happened. When you read these footnotes carefully, it will show that they have been written in good faith and these are part of the report based on correct economic theories, calculations and evaluation of the evidence. These allegations are baseless and shows the weakness of the Opposition.