If true, CHEC donation to Rajapaksa amounts to interference in Lanka’s internal politics - Ajith P. Perera | Sunday Observer

If true, CHEC donation to Rajapaksa amounts to interference in Lanka’s internal politics - Ajith P. Perera

Deputy Minister of Power and Renewable Energy and Deputy Government Whip Ajith P. Perera said, when one looks at the China Harbour Engineering Company Ltd (CHEC) statement from a legal angle, it is quite clear that it doesn’t deny the New York Times media report on the alleged transfer of US$ 7.6 million to affiliates of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Presidential Election campaign.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Deputy Minister was of the view, that this specific allegation should be investigated to ascertain the truth.

Q. What is your opinion of the alleged transfer of US$ 7.6 million to former President Mahinda Rajapaksa by a Chinese company for his election campaign? What do you think about this revelation in the New York Times?

A. The relevant company is CHEC and it has issued a statement but in that statement they didn’t deny the payment. They said that there are some contradictions in the article. But when you view the statement from a legal standpoint, the CHEC doesn’t basically deny that media report. Now, the issue is who is the recipient of this donation? If it is former President Rajapaksa, it is a very serious matter. Sometimes, he may not be the recipient but someone else on his behalf may have acted as a go between. In my view, we should inquire into this specific allegation to ascertain the truth. On the basis of that investigation, we can take necessary action. At present, an investigation is being launched and I think it will have a wider scope. Actually, I don’t have any specific information about the investigation. The relevant authorities will look into this matter very seriously. The IGP can instruct either the CID or FCID to investigate this matter. It seems like the former President is in trouble and that the New York Times article is true. This is why they are criticising everyone including the relevant journalists, but they don’t say anything about that specific transaction.

Q. The New York Times revelation has sent ripples across the political spectrum. What is the UNP’s stand on this?

A. This alleged transfer of funds is unethical. If it is true, definitely it is an interference with Sri Lankan politics by Chinese organisations. When one considers this in the backdrop and conditions of the original agreement, it is some kind of a betrayal of the country and its interests. This is a very serious matter and that is why we have to investigate it.

Q. You also requested the Speaker in Parliament to take necessary action against the unparliamentary conduct of the Joint Opposition (JO) MPs in the Chamber, who protested against the controversial statement by State Minister of Child Affairs Vijayakala Maheswaran. Could you elaborate on this?

A. We all categorically reject Vijayakala Maheswaran’s statement. There is no question about it. However, the Speaker should have summoned her to Parliament and conducted a proper inquiry by giving her an opportunity to tell her story. But the JO MPs simply blamed the Speaker and forced him to abruptly adjourn the sittings. On that day, there was a very important issue on Sri Lanka’s healthcare to be debated in Parliament. Some JO members used even obscene words against the Speaker. It was absolutely obnoxious behaviour especially under the new Code of Ethics-section 31, 32 and 33. I raised a privilege issue and requested the Speaker to investigate this specific allegation and act strictly according to the new Code of Ethics. Actually, I also have my criticism of the Speaker because he is too lenient. Some of these JO MPs pay no respect to the dignity of Parliament due to his leniency. First, we have to restore rule of law within the Parliament. When a MP breaches the Code of Ethics, the Parliament can punish the offender under the Parliamentary Privileges Act.

Q. Do you think the current reorganisation of the party will help improve the image of the party as well as bring in more members to the party from grassroot level?

A. We hope so but we have to wait for a few months.

Q. One accusation against the party was that the old guard of the party was not making way for the younger politicians. Do you think the new restructuring of the party will help to reverse this situation?

A. I don’t think so. That was also our expectation but it didn’t happen. Politics is not a hundred metre race, it is a marathon. So, we all have to wait and see.

Q. Several UNP front liners have already disclosed Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the Presidential candidate in 2020. Is this the final conclusion or will the UNP back a common candidate other than Ranil Wickremesinghe as it did in 2010 and 2015?

A. No. So far, we haven’t discussed anything about a Presidential candidate for 2020. Definitely, there will be a candidate from the UNP and we need a candidate who can win the election.

That is what we all want. Most probably, he would be a UNP candidate who can muster the support of all forces to win the election. Therefore, he will be a common candidate but he should certainly be from the UNP.

Q. There are allegations that the Government is intentionally delaying the PC polls due to fears of a bad showing after the LG fiasco. What is your comment on this and is the Government working towards holding the PC polls on time?

A. No. we don’t agree. We are ready to hold PC elections as soon as possible.

Q. The public perception to a large extent is that the UNP is not sensitive to their hopes and aspirations. Is there any truth in it?

A. We were not able to satisfy the people’s aspirations. But at the same time, there is no other credible political force to run the country in an effective manner. The Joint Opposition is not really a political party. It is a kind of a group with various political interests.

They cannot be an alternative to this Government. We have also weaknesses on our part and we have to rectify them to achieve our targets. We have to fulfill our promises. In my view, by the end of 2019, the people will certainly begin to trust us and we are also working very hard towards achieving these targets.

Q. Are you sure the party is well groomed to secure victory in the 2020 General Election?

A. We are the biggest political party in this country. We are the only party with real principles which can secure minority votes. As a party, we have gained the trust of powerful foreign countries and organisations. I think there is no other alternative to the UNP. But we have to correct our weaknesses as well.

We all know this is going to be a big challenge but we still have the ability and strength to win the election. It is all about getting 51% votes. We have the opportunity to win. Candidates with extremist agendas cannot get 50 % votes in this country.

A candidate with anti-minority sentiments, a label of a dictator and also known among people as a Hitler cannot win the Presidential Election. Such a candidate will be the weakest. Anyway, it is going to be a challenge yet we are sure we can win.

Q. What have you got to say about the Government’s alleged failure to give effect to its major election promises to the people?

A. We have achieved a lot but there are some areas where we have failed. Basically, we have just completed three and half years. But we will be able to achieve those targets at the end of the five year tenure of the Government.

Q. The Joint Opposition and many others complain that the UNP has failed to deliver the goods. Your comments?

A. We don’t agree with it. Our problem is marketing yet we are working very hard to achieve a lot although our marketing is very bad.