Govt did not take NYT debate seriously | Sunday Observer

Govt did not take NYT debate seriously

Leader of JVP, Anura Kumara Dissanayake M.P.
Leader of JVP, Anura Kumara Dissanayake M.P.

Firebrand JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake led the charge against the Rajapaksa election funding scandal when the debate came up in Parliament last week, making explosive revelations during his 30 minute speech. In an interview with Sunday Observer this week, Dissanayake explains that allegations of Chinese funding to Mahinda Rajapaksa’s election campaign in 2015 as revealed in the New York Times last month, has consequences for Sri Lanka’s sovereignty and independence. In any other country, the election funding scandal would have been much more explosive, he said.

Q. What have you got to say about the New York Times report and what is your party’s stand on this issue?

A. If the leader of a country obtains money from foreign companies, it is a serious matter. These companies had undertaken various projects during the tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

We have a reasonable doubt whether any of these construction projects had been carried out following the proper tender procedure. No proper tender procedures had been followed for Hambantota Port, Norochcholai Power Plant and Mattala Airport. Most of these projects have come a cropper. Apart from the alleged transfer of US$ 7.6 million from CHEC to former President Rajapaksa’s election campaign, the fact remains that a very serious situation has cropped up with regard to the country’s sovereignty and independence.

The people have given a mandate to the President to take decisions on behalf of his country. In fact, the former President has ‘sold’ the people’s mandate to several foreign companies. In any other country, this kind of scandal would have exploded in the public domain for years. Unfortunately, in our country, mega scale frauds have become mere low profile malpractices.

Q. The Adjournment Debate on New York Times issue became a flop when Government MPs who sponsored the motion were not present in the House. What had gone wrong?

A. Except for two UNP Cabinet Ministers, no other UNP seniors spoke during the debate. The President was also expected to take part in the debate. At least, the Prime Minister should have explained his position. The Government didn’t take the debate seriously. The pro-Rajapaksa group attempted to sabotage the debate. It would have been the responsibility of the Government to maintain the quorum in the House for the adjournment motion moved by them. It is obvious that there are important economic nerve centres being alienated to foreign companies with whom some parties in the Government maintain a link.

Q. The Sri Lanka-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (FTA) has become very controversial. Can you elaborate on this clarifying your party’s actual stand on it?

A. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) is forcing the world to enter into free trade. Each country has to adopt various safety measures to protect their national economies. If we open our market fully, we can’t protect even a small portion of our national economy and as such the Government should adopt safety measures to protect its national economy. Over the past few decades, the WTO through GATT is pressurising the world to enter into free trade. Due to failure of WTO’s agendas in each country, it has now become their strategy to pressurise countries to enter into bilateral agreements. The Sri Lanka-Singapore FTA also reflects it. This FTA would have a serious impact on our services and manufacturing sectors.

Q. What necessitated British Parliamentarian Ian Paisley’s visit to Sri Lanka. Is there a hidden agenda behind it?

A. This is a serious question. This is clear proof of how corrupt our state mechanism is. This shows the former Rajapaksa regime’s conviction that ‘money can make miracles’. Neither Parliament nor the Foreign Ministry had allocated this huge sum of Rs.45 million for Ian Paisley’s visit to Sri Lanka. The financial control of the country is solely vested with Parliament. Therefore, the Government ought to explain under which financial head, this money has been spent.

It simply appears that we had given money to project our country’s image in UK. It is not a mere business deal but an opportunity for the British Parliamentarian and his family to spend a luxury holiday in Sri Lanka, which is totally unethical. Had this not been exposed in the British Parliament, we would still be unaware of this ‘deal’. I hope to raise this issue in Parliament urging the Government to immediately submit details on this ‘deal’.

Q. Many politicians, professionals and social activists have condemned the 20th Amendment as a conspiracy to scuttle the Presidency. Would you like to explain your point of view?

A. The 20th Amendment will be operative only after the end of the present incumbent’s tenure. So, this will have no impact on him at all. He will have an additional advantage. He can continue in office as President after January 09, 2020 until a new President is selected by the Parliament after the General Election.

Q. Your erstwhile comrade Wimal Weerawansa attacks the JVP as being ‘bought over’ by the Government. What really made him attack you so brazenly?

A. Fraudsters are mortally afraid of fraudsters themselves. For them, what matters is not the mere fraud but the magnitude of the fraud. We heard former President Mahinda Rajapaksa saying that if Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe brings back Arjuna Mahendran, he would certainly do so for Udayanga Weeratunga. So, this is the sort of competition among the crooks. The main challenge for the fraudsters is the conduct on the part of those who don’t indulge in such vices. We saw how Minister Sajith Premadasa himself exposed in Parliament various instances of large scale fraudulent transactions by former Housing Minister Weerawansa. These allegations still remain unchallenged in and out of Parliament. It has come to light with adequate proof that the houses constructed by Weerawansa’s Ministry had been undervalued and given over to his kith and kin. Similarly, a large number of vehicles belonging to his Ministry had been released to his relatives and political cohorts. Much of Weerawansa’s frauds and malpractices have been revealed with clear proof and he finds himself politically devastated. Therefore, he wants to besmirch the image of the JVP. He can’t go for vehement criticism against the Prime Minister or the present administration in the public domain. It has been clearly proved even with voice clips as to how Weerawansa’s wife closely associated with a prominent Government Minister and his wife to cover up his sins. Sometimes, even the Prime Minister went to the extent of defending some of his wrongdoings. Therefore, Weerawansa remains tight-lipped. Except for barking politically, he has no life at all. He doesn’t have his own political ideology. He has become yet another pet poodle and dependent of the Rajapaksas so he cannot remain silent and as such attacking us has become his pastime.

Q. The Joint Opposition (JO) demands that they be recognised as a separate Parliamentary Group and be offered Leader of Opposition and Chief Opposition Whip positions. Is there any validity in this request?

A. The JO is a big group of Parliamentarians who criticise the Government. Therefore, they have their own identity and we have to admit this in Parliament. Despite their identity, they are not entitled to these posts. If this ever happens, a future Government could ‘take over’ the Opposition as well. If a Government is formed with 162 MPs, they will get 113 MPs to sit on the Government side and the balance 49 MPs in the Opposition. Accordingly, the Opposition too can be ‘absorbed’.

Q. There is serious criticism directed against absenteeism in Parliament especially when there are important debates such as the Sri Lanka-Singapore FTA and New York Times issue. It is said that Parliament spends Rs.4.3 million a day when it is in session.

A. At present, there is serious public criticism on frauds committed by some Parliamentarians. In addition, allegations are leveled against the conduct, presence and various perks and privileges enjoyed by Parliamentarians. But the point is, that all these MPs with fraud and corruption allegations were elected by the people. The only way to arrest this situation is by a mechanism to prevent candidates accused of fraud and malpractice being re-elected. As long as politicians know they will be elected by the people no matter how badly they conduct themselves, the degradation of Parliament cannot be stopped. The people are also responsible because they elect these representatives.

Q. With all the ups and downs in Sri Lankan politics, what is the future of the JVP? Do you entertain any hope of capturing power in the future?

A. Public perception is that the JVP does not indulge in corruption and is a genuine political movement taking up issues affecting the people. Although we are endowed with all these qualities, the people have failed to recognise us as a movement which can rebuild the country.

They think only Mahinda Rajapaksa or Ranil Wickremesinghe can do so. We should convince the people that only the JVP which does not misuse public funds and is an efficient party can rebuild the country. We have to form a broad alliance with professionals, artistes and the working class for this purpose. We would present our action plan to rebuild the country in January next year.