Rajitha on why constitutional coup came a cropper | Sunday Observer

Rajitha on why constitutional coup came a cropper

Minister of health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne in an interview with the Sunday Observer this week speaks about the 52-day political turmoil and the rocky road ahead for the recently reinstated government

Q: The internal revolt has brought the UNF Government to some sort of crisis and the apparent confrontation between the Government and President has added fuel to fire. How do you explain this deadlock?

A: There is no division in the UNF and in fact the UNF remains firmly united after a long time. On the contrary, the disunity is in the President’s camp.

Now all the SLFPers are leaving him. On Thursday too some SLFP organisers left the party and held press conferences. At present, plenty of SLFPers are leaving the party to join our new alliance which will be formed very soon.

Q: Some party seniors including Range Bandara are hell bent on securing ministerial portfolios when the 19th Amendment has fixed the number of Ministers at 30. In these circumstances, how are you going to ensure unity within the Government to carry out its political program?

A: Ranga Bandara and others make various statements. That is all. But they * should clearly understand that there is a Constitution in the country and we have to abide by it. Each and everybody cannot be rewarded with Cabinet portfolios. In fact, we need tosacrifice ourselves in so many ways. Although, I was elected to Parliament in 1994, I got a Cabinet portfolio only in 2002 after eight long years.

It is clear that we have suffered more than those people who aspire to Cabinet portfolios. We held more demonstrations against previous Governments and had to face dire consequences during the then Chandrika Bandaranaike Government which was much worse than today.

Q: Is the Government ready to meet the challenge thrown by seven UNP backbenchers that they will remain independent and vote against ‘anti-people’ Ministers when the vote is taken on their ministries during the Budget debate?

A: Yes, we will wait and see whether they can do so. Of course, they are ‘freshers’ and they are so aggrieved at not being given portfolios so soon in their first term. In politics, one need not be so harsh in attempts to secure portfolios.

Q: TNA MP Sumanthiran says the draft of the new Constitution will be tabled in Parliament before February 4 despite opposition by the UPFA and some people’s organisations. Is there anything unpalatable to the country and the majority community in the proposed draft?

A: What Sumanthiran says is that he will present only the draft of the Select Committee. How can the UPFA oppose it even without seeing the draft? On what grounds do they oppose it? Let Sumanthiran and other Select Committee members present the draft to Parliament. It is good to have a new Constitution. Now, we have seen the consequences of the legacy of the Executive Presidency and it is high time to abolish it.

Q: Already 120 investigations into serious cases have been completed. Do you think all these cases could be concluded and the culprits brought to book before the mandate of the Government expires in another one and a half years?

A: Yes. I think definitely most of these cases will be over before the end of this year and it will provide the opportunity for the people to understand the fate of those corrupt politicians.

Q: We had two Prime Ministers at the same time and now we have two Leaders of the Opposition. What are the implications in the latter case and how is the Government going to sort this out?

A: Actually, it is not the Government but Mahinda Rajapaksa who has to sort out this deadlock as he created history by providing the opportunity to have two Prime Ministers simultaneously. Again he has made history by creating two Leaders of the Opposition. It is he who has to finally resolve this problem. According to the numbers in the Opposition, Mahinda Rajapaksa should be the Leader of the Opposition. But whether he is a Member of Parliament or not at the moment is in doubt and that has to be clarified first. If he is not a Member of Parliament, surely he cannot be the Leader of the Opposition.

Q: Sections of the media have been branded as ‘black media’. What are the reasons underlying this allegation?

A: Even the literary award winner Jayathilaka Kammallaweera himself identified this as ‘black media’. The media has been invested with black money. Therefore, there is no media in the country other than the ‘black media’. There are no journalists under them but only slaves. When there is no media and there are no journalists, there is nothing called media freedom and there is no freedom to be realised. They don’t understand media freedom. That is true. Actually, they always stood with those who oppose freedom, democracy and human rights. Why should only they have rights and freedom when they don’t propagate freedom for others?

Q: Some UNP stalwarts have alleged their supporters were at the receiving end during the past few years because others indulged in gainful politics when the UNP was committed to Yahapalana concept. Will you agree or disagree? If so why?

A: With good governance and Yahapalana Government, the politics come only second. The good governance ensures equality for all. When you create an equal society for everybody then your supporters have no edge in that society. Therefore, there was a discrepancy. That is why we have decided this year that we must look after our supporters and we must do more politics than good governance.

Q: Political crossovers under whichever Government are not in the interest of the country at all but purely for personal gain. Why have all Governments failed so far to bring in legislation to stop this?

A: If we had such legislation then there would have been no S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike or the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). It was only because he had the right to crossover that he could create a new party-the SLFP. Similarly, if such legislation was there no good governance would have been possible today. Still, Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been the President of the country and he would have ruined this country by isolating it in the international arena. Therefore, there should not be any legislation to prevent political crossovers which are today globally acceptable.

That has happened everywhere not only here. If one is frustrated over a party and its governance, one must have the right to crossover. Even in dictatorial governments there were crossovers from the dictators’ side to the people. That is how the dictators were defeated by virtue of crossovers. Therefore, this is something universal which has become a political right as well. If somebody crosses over for personal purposes that is totally unacceptable but in politics you must have the right to disown your own party and join a new party or alliance for the betterment of the country.

Q: How do you look at the ‘ 52 - day’ constitutional coup engineered by your political adversaries?

A: This is historic. One thing which became crystal clear this time is that politicians proved themselves that they are not corrupt. But the media is more corrupt than the politicians though they spoke about corruption among politicians.Actually the media is bent on money and power. The politicians were offered both money and power but they rejected all and stood together. That is why the ’52 - day’ coup came a cropper. It is a very good lesson to those people who don’t believe in people but only in power. In the end, they failed.