NU Govt should continue until 2020, to fulfil pledge given to country - SLFP Gen.Secy. and Minister Duminda Dissanayake | Sunday Observer

NU Govt should continue until 2020, to fulfil pledge given to country - SLFP Gen.Secy. and Minister Duminda Dissanayake

SLFP General Secretary and Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake says, as dignified politicians committed to implement what they pledged to the people, his personal view is that they should implement the decision reached following the August 17, 2015 Parliamentary Election and continue the National Unity Government until 2020. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Minister Dissanayake said, that was a new concept introduced by the two main parties to change the direction of the country. This pledge given to the country must be fulfilled.

The Minister said, the President has told the SLFP members in the Government that he would make the necessary changes as early as possible and work as one team. No SLFP Minister has decided to quit the Government at this juncture. Even the UPFA General Secretary, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera denied speculations that he issued a letter stating that the SLFP members in the Government have decided to quit the Government.

Q: What happened to the SLFP and UPFA at the LG polls? What was the cause for the defeat?

A. I don’t see it as a setback. After this Government came into power, the salaries of public servants were increased by Rs.10,000, the prices of fuel, gas and some essential food commodities were reduced, and the freedom of expression and democracy has been restored under the Yahapalana Government. Today, anybody is free to criticize the President or the Prime Minister.

Demonstrations could be held even opposite “Temple Trees” or the Presidential Secretariat, and none would be found fault with. President Maithripala Sirisena assumed office in 2015 to eliminate bribery, corruption, frauds, etc. Even in the 2018 political stage, the President spoke about this. I believe this LG election result is a pressure exerted by the people on the Government to rescue the country from fraud and corruption. This is not a vote against the freedom exercised by the people.

There are some minor shortcomings on the part of the Government. During the previous regime, the country was developed with huge loans. It was a mere material development, during the past 10 years which didn’t pave the way to strengthen the economy. The incumbent Government has to repay the loans of the previous regime, as well. The people may have some dissatisfaction due to not providing them employment and other relief measures as expected. But can anybody deny the fact that we have moved forward as a country during the three year tenure of this Government? The LG polls result is a vote to bring the crooks to book.

Q: What is the next step for UPFA and SLFP MPs supporting President Maithripala Sirisena? There is speculation that some would join the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) camp and some others the UNP, while some are willing to stay with President Sirisena. What is the true situation?

A. We have not taken any such decisions. What the President told us was, that he would make the necessary changes as early as possible to work as one team, placing trust on him. Even today, we maintain that view. I don’t think any SLFP Minister in the Government has decided to quit the Government at this juncture.

Q: Do you think the LG polls results have nullified the mandate given by the people in January 2015 and August 2015? If not, why the sudden move to have a change of Government?

A. This matter is raised by the Joint Opposition. If the LG election results can make any impact on the previous election result, that means there is no Constitution or law, and thuggery is rampant in the country.

According to the Constitution, four elections are held in the country-Presidential Election, Parliamentary Election, Provincial Council Election and Local Government Election.

The President and Parliament are elected for five years. This mandate cannot be changed by any election held consequently. Otherwise, if some other political party secures victory at the forthcoming Provincial Council Election, they too might say the country’s power is with them, and the President and the Government should quit.

This is a joke. If the Government has to be changed, anybody can make an attempt to bring their party into power in 2020.

Freedom of expression and restoring democracy doesn’t mean that we should accept any utterances that are made. That would be an insult to democracy. Unfortunately, without understanding the true factor, discussions are centered on changing the public mandate, to go with the wind. Whoever wins the LG election, would only have control of the local bodies, and the Government will continue.

Q: The Opposition is claiming that the UNP-SLFP MoU for a National Unity Government is no longer valid. In this context, how can the Government continue from a legal and ethical point of view?

A. According to our agreement, we informed Parliament that we are going to form a National Government and Parliament gave approval for it. That was given not for two and a half years only, but to continue the Government till 2020.

Q: There have been reports speculating that some want to remove the Prime Minister. What is your opinion on this? In the alternative, would you propose someone from the UNP itself or an SLFP MP as Prime Minister?

A. There may be different views on this. As an SLFPer, I would like an SLFP Prime Minister while the UNP may like to appoint their Prime Minister and President. But this personal view wouldn’t have a serious impact.

The National Government was formed with an SLFP President and a UNP Prime Minister. The UNP secured 106 seats while the SLFP got 96 seats at the 2015 Parliamentary Election. The two major parties decided to form a National Government.

If any allegation is levelled against this Government, I am also partly responsible. Likewise, the same responsibility lies with some of the Ministers who express different views.

What is needed is if there is any shortcoming on the part of the Government, steps should be taken to rectify it. We cannot make changes in the Government as we wish.

Q: Do you agree with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s suggestion that he should be made Opposition Leader if the Government continues as it is?

A. The former President and others with him are also SLFP members. They are not members of any other political party. If so, they should openly say they are not members of the SLFP so that we can decide on what action is to be take on them.

Q: There is speculation that a General Election could be called earlier than 2020. In that case, are you willing to join hands with the SLPP?

A. Those who have a lack of understanding of the law make such statements. According to the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, Parliament cannot be dissolved before four and a half years. I see this as a good decision. Otherwise, we cannot form a stable Government. Then attempts would be made to change the composition of Parliament through various attempts, such as, buying over MPs.

If Parliament is dissolved before four and a half years, it has to be done with the consent of a two thirds majority of MPs in Parliament. At this juncture, there is no need for the SLFP and the SLPP to join hands as no decision has been taken to dissolve Parliament and go for a snap election.

Q: What are the portfolios that could see a change of Ministries at the forthcoming Cabinet reshuffle? Is there a plan to give more important Ministries to SLFP members?

A. Any Ministry can be subjected to change. The two parties can discuss and take a decision. The Cabinet reshuffle is done not because of the LG election results.

Normally, Governments are subjected to changes. It is a common phenomenon. Similar changes were made even during the tenure of former Presidents Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is nothing new.

Q: The President has taken over the economic management and a couple of days back, he stopped the tab distribution program for students, in order to allocate those funds for infrastructure development in schools. Does this mean we are going to see a more assertive and more decisive President during the next two years?

A. Certainly. What we have seen so far, is the country ruled by Presidents and not Prime Ministers. After Maithripala Sirisena was elected President, we didn’t see the President that we saw in the past. For example, when demonstrations were launched, people approached the President for solutions. But the President always said it was not relevant to him and to discuss it with the relevant authorities, and to come to him only if any decision couldn’t be reached.

Earlier when any such demonstration took place, the former President intervened to show that he was doing everything.

The incumbent President acted in an independent and impartial manner, allowing those responsible to do their jobs.

When we tried to be good, the people have given us an alarm, so that we have to act accordingly. Even on the laptop distribution, the President said there was nothing wrong, but since it would cost as much as Rs.5 billion, he said, to first launch it as a pilot project so that the balance money could be spent to develop infrastructure facilities in schools.

Q: What is your personal opinion on whether you would like to continue the National Unity Government or form an SLFP Government headed by an SLFP PM?

A. As dignified people committed to implement what we pledged to the people, my personal view is we should implement the decision we reached after the August 17, 2015 Parliamentary Election. That was a new hope and concept introduced by the two main parties to change the direction of the country.

Our prime objective is to fulfil this pledge given to the country. Personally, I can also be happy if an SLFP Government led by its own Prime Minister is formed. But in politics things happen where we cannot always be personally happy. We need to go beyond personal politics and do politics on behalf of the country and the people.

Hence, this Government should be continued till 2020. In all future elections, our aim is to separately contest and bring victory for the SLFP. 

Comments

Some of the ministers including Mr. Duminda Dissanayake lack skills and experience to discharge the functions of their ministries. The ministers must know their ministries configuration quite well. The deputy and state ministers are key members of each ministry. All of them must work together as one unit irrespective of the political party they belong to. During the past 30 months, they have wasted the precious time in finding fault among themselves. Sharing the key responsibilities including the available resources must be discussed and decided amicably at the beginning itself.This is a very important aspect as wasting the limited time and resources in dealing with trivial matters has brought disrepute to most of the ministries and the public have expre4ssed their dissatisfaction very clearly. The ministers must not waste their time on petty issues. If any relief program is to be implemented under any ministry, it must be planned well and the targets for each month should be decided. The necessary funds must be made available on time to satisfy the masses as their livelihood would depend mainly on this relief measure. The grant for purchasing fertilizer is one of the most important aspects which was not implemented successfully. The ministry must start with the end in mind and act swiftly by mobilizing all staff in this regard. Another important issue is the drought relief including the provision of potable water for nearly 300,000 families of the affected districts. Delivery plans must be in place with the necessary allocation of resources before announcing the relief measures. Desk-work must be done by the ministry with the support of the provincial and district authorities and the concerned ministries must work 7X 24 hours until the targets are fulfilled. This kind of commitments and dedication must be inculcated among the concerned staff. Otherwise, people would seek for a new govt continuously.

Duminda no way you should continue till you die. Such a great government should not leave in 2020.