US lawsuits won’t affect Gota’s candidacy - SLPP Chairman | Sunday Observer

US lawsuits won’t affect Gota’s candidacy - SLPP Chairman

Signaling that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP )is ready to abandon the on-going talks if the SLFP goes ahead with their wish to postpone the Presidential Election due late this year, Chairman of the SLPP said his party will fight to the end to win back the people ‘s right to vote.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer he said, “ Our purpose is to forge, as broad an anti UNP alliance as possible, but we alone cannot do that, “ saying that it was preposterous to seek an extension of the President’s term beyond 2019.

With reference to the lawsuits filed in the US against former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaka, Prof.Peiris denied that it will affect in anyway his renouncing the US citizenship which is ‘not going take long.’

Q: Two lawsuits have been filed in the US against former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. How will it affect his renunciation of his US citizenship and how will it impact his possible presidential candidacy?

A: It has no bearing whatsoever on the process relating to the renouncing of US citizenship, these are civil actions for Damages, and it is quite obvious that these actions are frivolous. The death of Lasantha Wickrematunga took place in 2009. After ten years his daughter Ahimsa Wickrematunga is claiming damages. Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has been visiting the United states, almost every year for the last ten years, but no action was taken.

In the other case, the person who is bringing the action (Samathanam), is claiming damages for torture, allegedly inflicted upon him while in custody in September 2007 - a good twelve years ago. These actions have been brought forth after more than a decade. The reason is his expected candidacy to run for presidency.The sole objective is to create legal impediments with regard to his expected candidature.

It is also relevant to point out that both in the US and Sri Lanka, the abuse of judicial process for improper purposes is a serious offence. You cannot file lawsuits with ulterior motives, it will make you liable. The people who are doing this are in great jeopardy because they are seeking to utilise the judicial apparatus of the US for an improper political purpose.

Q: Is there a threat of Former Defence Secretary being arrested and tried in the US?

A:Not at all. These actions are vexatious and frivolous, it is obvious at a glance. If one is complaining against the death of one’s father, will that person wait for ten years to go to courts. There is no credibility to their actions.

Q: How long will it take to finalise the process to drop his US citizenship?

A:No country can force you to be a citizen of a country against their will, that’s an individual decision. He has begun the process and it is very much in motion. There is no impediment to relinquish his citizenship. There is no reason to believe that it will take a long time.

Q: Have you taken a final decision on the SLPP’s presidential candidate ?

A: No. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has said he will identify the candidate at the proper time. There is no controversy at all about that. The candidate he nominates will have the unqualified support of the SLPP and all the parties that are in the alliance.

There will not be any practical problem about this at all, the election is about seven months away. But it is clear that the people’s demand is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. He himself has begun to engage in vigorous political activity. There is the Eliya program all over the country, which is focused on Constitutional reform, then there is the Viyathmaga which is basically an organisation of academics and intellectuals who are into policy formulation.

We don’t want to be in the same situation as the present government. Their sole energy was focused on bringing about a change of government in 2015. But there is no agreement on at least the core policies of that Government.

Today, the country is in a mess as a result, and because of the constant tug of war nothing is moving. There is no coherency even at the basic level of government. In contrast, we are using the time available now to formulate the core policies of our government, on areas like the economy, agriculture, health and education, among other things.

Q: There are ongoing discussions between the SLFP and the SLPP on the forthcoming election. The SLFP has made it very clear that their presidential candidate would be President Sirisena. How does this fit in with your agenda?

A: The ongoing discussions are about the formation of a broader alliance and not on the identification of a presidential candidate.

Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and the national organiser of the SLPP -Basil Rajapaksa- have categorically and publicly stated that the candidate we put forward will be a member of the SLPP. That has been very explicitly and very emphatically stated by both of them.

Q: That is not something the party is willing to compromise on?

A:No, that is absolutely certain. Alliance

Q: Are you confident that the SLPP can win a future presidential election without the support of the SLFP?

A: Our purpose is to forge, as broad an anti UNP alliance as possible, but we alone cannot do that. There must be reciprocity from the other side. You cannot clap with one hand. And some of the things that have happened recently have put a great strain on that effort because there has been an erosion of confidence in a very serious manner.

The refusal of a section of the SLFP to vote against the UNP budget has already eroded that confidence. And the SLPP supporters are asking how it can be realistic to think of forging an anti UNP alliance with a group who refuses to vote against the Budget.

The Budget represents the basic economic program of the Government. It is by far the most important piece of legislation to be placed before Parliament. These people tore the budget to smithereens at the Debate, but come decisive voting time, they are staying at home. What happened yesterday was even worse. The General Secretary of the SLFP said they are contemplating a referral under Article 129 of the Constitution to the Supreme Court, to seek whether the President can go on until June 21, 2020.

That is preposterous because this matter has already been referred to the Supreme Court with the same arguments and a ruling has already been given. The argument was that the Speaker certified the 19-A on June 20, 2015 and it became effective on that day, so it had no bearing on President Sirisena’s term of office.

This argument was unequivocally rejected by a five judge bench of the Supreme Court in an unanimous judgment. They are asking again if the President can continue for five and a half years.We believe that President Sirisena is not driving it but a coterie of people around him are. It is doing enormous damage both to the individual and the Office of the President.

There is something that is more disturbing. The SLFP General Secretary said, this reference to extend the term in the Article 129 will be made after the new Chief Justice is sworn in. What does it mean? Besides, the Chief Justice alone cannot pass a ruling, according to Article 129 the bench must comprise at least five judges. We don’t think that it is a healthy comment.

Q: There was a meeting between the SLFP and the SLPP today (April 10). What are the outstanding issues discussed?

A:Currently, there is an attempt to postpone the Presidential Election. That was the main issue taken up at the meeting. We said these talks are of no value if the people are being deprived of their franchise. We will do everything in our power locally and internationally to secure the people’s sacred right to vote.The Presidential Election cannot suffer the same fate as the Provincial Council and the Local Government Elections. The Presidential Election has to be scheduled for the end of November.

No political party ever benefitted from postponing elections. The people of the country have always taught very bitter lessons to politicians who wanted to postpone elections.

The Chairman of the National Elections Commission has written to the President saying that postponement of the elections was an infringement of the basic rights of the people.

Q: The SLFP members who did not vote against the Budget said they did so because of the three ministries being under the President and the allocations to the Office of the President?

A: There is no merit in that, especially after the 19-A there are two centres of power. That argument is contrary to Constitutional theory, as well as to established precedent in this country.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga forged an alliance with the JVP and destroyed the Government of which she was the head. She did not say this was a hara-kiri mission. She did not argue that she could not do that.

Q: Don’t you think that with the TNA backing the Government, the Budget could not have been defeated anyway?

A:But our experience is that if there is a strong show by the major opposition, then the other small parties have a tendency to gravitate. But if there are fissures and divisions within the main opposition then the small parties will not come anywhere near voting against the Government.

The SLFP group by staying at home, discouraged other smaller parties from seriously considering an anti UNP stance.

Q: Going by the latest developments, there seems to be a tendency for the two parties, SLFP and SLPP, to drift apart instead of forging any strong alliance against the UNP?

A: We embarked on this exercise in good faith, because we were committed to the objective of forging an anti UNP alliance. But if there are moves to rule this country without holding elections obviously we cannot be a party to that. The suffrage is the source of all democratic rights and freedoms.

Q: The TNA has threatened to topple the Government if their long standing demands are not met soon. One of their key demands is a new Constitution. Without the support of the main opposition parties, can the Government pass a new Constitution in the House?

A: The TNA is in the best possible position, because this is a government kept in power by the TNA. Mr. Sampanthan is not making an idle boast. He’s given a huge staff and other luxuries, which are bribes to sustain this government in office.

Q: With the main parties having trouble forming alliances, are we stepping into an uncertain future with the possibility of a hung Parliament ?

A: Not at all, give the people of this country the chance to vote at an election, there will be a deluge. It is only because the Government is fully aware of this that they are resorting to every trick in the book -and outside the book- to postpone every election.