UNP led Opposition acts in defiance of lawful Government - Vasu | Sunday Observer

UNP led Opposition acts in defiance of lawful Government - Vasu

Minister of National Integration, Reconciliation and Official Languages Vasudeva Nanayakkara said when the Speaker says he does not recognise the Government, Prime Minister or Leader of the House, it brings Parliament into conflict. Participants are liable even to be arrested for rebelling against the state. In an interview with the Sunday Observer Minister Nanayakkara said they do not wish to have this matter taken to such a level as it may seem rather undemocratic even though the UNP led Opposition is acting in defiance of the lawful Government.

SO: How would you explain the political deadlock in the country?

VN: It is a deadlock arising from the Opposition and the Speaker not recognising the Government. The claim they make that they are the Government and the present Government illegal has thrown everything into a state of chaos. Somebody says, ‘I am the Minister’ when he is not and when the actual Minister appointed by the President works as the Minister in the Ministry, then there is chaos, because another Minister says, ‘I don’t recognise that Minister as I am the Minister’.

So there is total chaos as far as the legislature is concerned and not the Executive. The Executive is not in chaos and is functioning methodically and efficiently. From the President down to Ministers, we are at work and our work will continue in the last two months of the year for which money is voted.

SO: To what extent is the Speaker responsible for the present turmoil in Parliament?

VN: The Speaker is mainly responsible. Karu Jayasuriya should have recognised the Government appointed by the President. When he says ‘I don’t recognise this Prime Minister, Leader of the House and these Ministers’, then it is the beginning of the problem. He causes the problem. Even if the UNP says they don’t, if the Speaker recognises the Government, the Government could have functioned in Parliament as the Government in spite of the UNP saying it is the Government. We have not thought it proper or fit to participate in Parliament because it is illegal. They are liable even to be arrested for rebelling against the state. But we don’t wish to have this matter extended to such a level because it may seem rather undemocratic even though the UNP led Opposition is acting in defiance of the lawful Government.

SO: How do you contradict the UNP’s stand that the present Prime Minister and Cabinet is unlawful without the necessary public mandate and also that it has the majority in Parliament?

VN: Their position is based on the fact that we don’t have a majority in Parliament. That is a separate matter altogether. If we don’t have a majority, we can’t function as a Government and we can’t have our Bills passed or can’t face a Vote of No Confidence. All those are matters that arise when we proceed to act as a Government if we don’t have a majority. But the fact that there is majority on their side according to their opinion does not make this Government illegal. This Government is constituted by the President and not by Parliament.

SO: What have you got to say about certain Western countries expressing their ‘concern’ about the political developments in this country?

VN: I wrote a letter to the Speaker of the USA Parliament. I asked him “Would you allow our Ambassador in Washington to question you or interfere with or come to an involvement with the affairs of your Parliament? Will you permit that?” I haven’t got a reply. I have asked our Speaker “Why have you permitted other countries to discuss with you the problems in our Parliament when they have no status to do so”. These are internal matters where outside countries should not meddle with. They should stay neutral. They can recognise a state or not recognise a state. But between Governments, they can’t interfere. This is a very dangerous game when external forces try to interfere in our internal affairs which threaten our sovereignty, independence and dignity.

SO: When Germany, Netherlands and Belgium took months to form a stable Government why did not the Western countries express their concern and speak of ‘the rule of law and constitutional requirements’?

VN: They don’t look at themselves in the same light that they look at us. Their matters are for them and how they do things is not for us to question; but what we do is for them to question. That is the role that they have given themselves - ‘We are the guardians of democracy in the world and, therefore, we have a right to take a stand in respect of any situation in any country not being our countries.’ That is their attitude.

SO: Has the UNP warned top public officials not to carry out the orders of this Government as it has no mandate?

VN:Mandate is one thing, legality is another. Whether we have a mandate or not will be tested in a Parliamentary Election. But presently, we are the Government because we are constituted under the Constitution.When they say we have no mandate, we are not a proper Government and we are not legal and therefore the public servants should not carry out our instructions. They quote illegally. They induce or lead public servants into a similar defiance of the legally constituted Government. The UNP is risking public servants of their future. If they disobey a Government in power public servants will have to face inquiries and removals.

SO: If the Party Leaders were diligent the ugly scenes in Parliament would not have happened, is what most people say. Your comments?

VN: The public is unhappy about what happened in Parliament by way of fights, physical grappling and the Speaker being asked to stay away because he acted contrary to the role of a Speaker. Whatever happened in Parliament with our involvement was not appreciated by the people. We wanted to register a point. that neither the Speaker who claims to be the Speaker has legality nor has the Opposition legality to prevail over us in Parliament with regard to any matter. We wanted to drive home that point and showed power and strength in Parliament on how Parliament should operate. The Speaker has turned partisan with the Opposition and therefore the first two days led to a conflict because those were the first days when this contention against the Government came to a physical presence in Parliament. By now we have recaptured the events and we have decided that we will not participate in an illegal meeting which is called the Parliament.

SO: What are the prospects of the Vote on Account being approved in Parliament when the UNP and its allies have the majority, according to them?

VN: We can’t go on without a Vote on Account. We can’t do anything but have it passed in Parliament. If we can’t have it passed in Parliament, then we can’t continue as a Government. We accept that. But we will see that we have it passed.

SO: Now the UNP is back at the old game of fielding a Common Candidate. Is this because of the UNP’s inability to find a suitable candidate within their party ranks or a tactical move?

VN: There is a strong dispute in their party about the leadership. Ranil Wickremesinghe has his own candidacy while Sajith Premadasa is an aspirant. In this situation, they can’t decide on a candidate within the UNP. Therefore they have to look outside.

SO: What could be the end to the current crisis?

VN: We have left everything to the Supreme Court and the supremacy of the Supreme Court is respected.

SO: Already a motion signed by six UNP MPs have been handed over to the Secretary General of Parliament stating that the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has been passed in Parliament and as a result the Cabinet and the Prime Minister are non-functional now. Is it unlawful for officials to carry out orders as stated in the motion?

VN: All those are a nullity. Whatever that has been allegedly passed are not motions valid or legal. Therefore they have no effect in law. The Executive does not recognise them. Ultimately the test of anything is on the Executive’s recognition. When the Executive refutes it, there is no effect in law. A gazette notification is there for appointment of Ministers and Secretaries and they have to adhere to the instructions of the President. He is the Executive.

If they don’t carry out the instructions of the President and the instruction of those the President has appointed, then they violate the rules under which they took office.