Country yearned for President, Premier rapport - Chandima Weerakkody | Sunday Observer

Country yearned for President, Premier rapport - Chandima Weerakkody

United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) Member of Parliament, Chandima Weerakkody says that the rapport between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is something that the entire country had been looking forward to for a long time. He expresses his views on the current political environment in an interview with the Sunday Observer.

Excerpts of the interview:

SO: A few months ago President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa were in two camps and criticizing each other. How did they come together? Isn’t this something unbelievable ?

CW: Sometimes leaders keep aside their personal problems and take decisions looking at the national interest. Think about what happened between the President and Former Prime Minister in the previous government? Even before the appointment of the new Prime Minister there was a continuous struggle inside the previous government. So people were expecting a change.

SO: What was the contribution towards this change by the 15-member-group of the SLFP, of which you’re also a member?

CW: That’s why we went out of the previous government vacating our ministerial portfolios. At that time they offered us some more ministerial portfolios. But I personally didn’t want any of those. Because the people of the country had a common will that there should be a regime change - a change of the Prime Minister. We, the 15-member-group as a team I believe, could contribute to that change.

SO: It is said that this governmental change was a master plan of the 15-member-group. Is that true?

CW: If we say that we did it all by ourselves without the support of others, it’s not correct. All UPFA members worked to unify all 95 members.

SO: Was there any decisive factor behind the government change?

CW: Our understanding was that the people of the country expected a change. They prayed for it. So,‘the will of the public’ is the main reason. You can see that no religious leader, no patriot has spoken against this government.

SO: In his recent speech, President Maithripala Sirisena said that the assassination plot against him and the former defence secretary was a reason for appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister. Could it be the main reason?

CW: In a country that obtained an international reputation for eradicating terrorism, we had assigned a terrorist as the head of the Terrorism Investigation Division. When the country is down, taking such decisions are no wonder.

SO: Are there any ground rules or political conditions on this coalition between the President and PM Rajapaksa?

CW: The only ground rule is serving the people of this country. All UPFA members who are working towards fulfilling the needs of the people got together. Others can also join us. At this moment a large number of persons are leaving the UNP and coming to our side.

There is a rumour that President Sirisena agreed to appoint Mahinda Rajapaksa as Prime Minister, seeking candidacy in the next Presidential Election. Your comments, please.

No, we haven’t discussed anything about it, yet. As a party we have to discuss it thoroughly. We will produce our best candidate for the next election. The current President can also go for re-election. In that context our party will nominate the best candidate we have at the time. There’s no rush. We will announce our candidate at the correct time.

SO: Speaker Karu Jayasuriya has announced that Parliament will be convened by next Wednesday (07). Are you confident that the UPFA can show a majority?

CW: Obviously. We have no issue with that.

SO: The JVP members said at a rally last week that MPs are crossing over for money. Are you aware of it?

CW: You better ask that question from the JVP. They will tell if they have received any bids as such. The UPFA doesn’t have a need to buy MPs.

SO: During this government change everyone was arguing about the 19th amendment. Especially the UPFA kept complaining about it. If it is bad, why did you all raise your hands to pass it?

CW: At that time the entire country was talking about the bad impact of the Executive Presidency. There was a move to abolish the Presidency. But practicality, we started seeing the need of certain powers of the Executive Presidency to push forward a country like ours. On the other hand, trying to implement all mechanisms practiced in developed countries in Sri Lanka is not an appropriate approach.

SO: Why didn’t the UPFA think of going in to a No-Confidence Motion or a defeat of a budget to change the government?

CW: We as the party took a firm decision. We’ve been talking about this for months. This is not some sudden decision. The UNP should also remember that we entered in to a National Government only for two years.

Approval was only for two years. However our party continued in the national government one extra year. The UNP must realize that. There was a massive appeal from the party members and the public to withdraw from the government. At a moment where two parties have created a national government and one party withdraws, the cabinet dissolves automatically.

Because according to article 40 (1) of the Constitution, if the national government is no more, the number of ministries should be reduced to 30. If it exceeds 30, then the dissolvement of the Cabinet is inevitable. There were 40 ministries and SLFP ministers had 06 ministries under them. When they resigned, there were 34 ministries left.

The Cabinet then becomes illegal immediately. So the President had to appoint a new Prime Minister. That’s the legal background of the break-up of the former government.

SO: It is said that a motion to dissolve Parliament will be submitted to the Chamber on November 16. Is that correct?

CW: There’s no such plan at our end. Nonetheless, if the UNP wishes to submit such a motion we are ready to pass it.

Because we also want to go for an election where people would give their decision directly. But just now it’s not our priority.