‘War heroes don’t loot State coffers, military juntas do that’ | Sunday Observer

‘War heroes don’t loot State coffers, military juntas do that’

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka said the Rajapaksas would not create a meritocracy because their politics was based on the principle of family bandyism. All important ministries and other bodies will be given to the family members and the military junta. He explained that there was a clear difference between war heroes and the military junta. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Minister and JHU strongman Ranawaka said the strategy of the Rajapaksa faction was to create a security crisis and then present themselves as the solution

Following are excerpts:

Q: Most UNP MPs support Sajith Premadasa’s Presidential candidacy. As a member of the UNFGG alliance what is your opinion on the tussle for candidacy?

A: Whoever would be the Presidential Candidate of this forthcoming Presidential Election, there are few preconditions to be fulfilled. One thing, you have to form a broadest possible democratic alliance because the other side, the Rajapaksas is an old family bandwagon and the family bandyism is going on. They consider this entire country to be their own property. They are pseudo patriots. Most of them live abroad, especially the US. Now they are talking about patriotism, nationalism and various other things. So we have to form a broadest possible democratic alliance. Democratic means, we should have a collegiate type of a leadership rather than a single leader because we have to give a new dimension to country’s politics rather than a single leader and a single family.

All these old parties are being run by small groups whether it’s a family or friendship club or whatever. So we have to broaden this idea and we should form the broadest possible alliance with democratic credentials and a democratic institutional structure. This Government from 2015 has been running the economy.

We can see some stagnation in the growth from 2013 simply because the economic strategy is a kind of an old fashioned thing. You should have a proper new strategy. There is a huge fiscal type of a financial crisis here. Leaders may say they can give things free of charge, but we have to look into the fiscal problem that we are having. For the last six months, loan repayment component is around Rs.1,100 billion.

Cumulatively our total expenditure for the first six months is about Rs. 2,200 billion. Revenue is around Rs 900 billion. Last year our debt repayment component was around 108 percent compared to the revenue. So we can’t continue like this. Like in Argentina, we are now hanging in a fiscal clip. So any candidate or party should put forward their proposals as to how to handle this debt crisis, how to funnel through this stagnation of the economy and provide new job opportunities and economic prosperity.

The second thing is the national security problem. The Rajapaksas are trying to portray the country as being in a real security mess, and that is not true. They seek to exaggerate the situation, create a crisis and present themselves as the solution to this crisis. We must understand this is new terrorism.

Jihadist terrorism is internationalized and an internet based new terrorism. So we have to handle it in a new way. The old war heroes can’t do anything here. This is not JVP or LTTE issue. So we should have a smart Army and an independent intelligence arm to handle this issue and we need legal reform

The third point is as to who are the individuals that will actually govern the country? We have our own experience from 2015 working as a team. Some are crooks, some siphon off the Government’s money and some do deals with crooks and others can’t deliver.

Big names that cannot deliver anything! Therefore, we have to have a proper young team who can deliver the goods. So all these three factors need the broadest possible alliance, second, the socio-economic and political action plan, and third a team representing all the social sectors, a team which can deliver. After that we can chose the candidate. The most popular person among the parliamentarians who are supporting this course, should be nominated as the Presidential Candidate.

Q: Isn’t the selection of a candidate more important that forming the alliance? Especially since the opposition has already declared its candidate? Isn’t this delay damaging to the UNP?

A: No. The two things should be happening in parallel. It’s old fashioned but you can just nominate a candidate. We are currently holding very serious talks on the alliance, an action plan and team. This is a better approach than to put a candidate forward and then ask other parties to sign MoUs with him or her. In 2015, Maithripala Sirisena was brought as Common Candidate and various people signed MoUs with him. It is better not to focus on an individual and trust that person to deliver. The Rajapaksa family approached the candidacy question very differently. At a breakfast meeting the family decided who the candidate would be. Their team is their family. They ask others to sign MoUs with them. This is not democratic.

Q: You have categorically stated that you don’t like dynastic politics or political leaders with military background. Are these remarks not directed against the SLPP Presidential candidate?

A: Rajapaksa politics is based on the principle of family bandyism. All the important ministries will be given to the family members plus the military junta. There is a clear distinction between war heroes and the military junta. For example, war heroes never gave Sri Lanka Navy business to a private company like Avant Gardeand allowed them to siphon off Rs.11 billion money from state coffers. War heroes never gave the Army Headquarters to a private party and siphoned off money from them to buy a hotel in Tangalle. War heroes did not buy MiG aircraft from shell (dormant) companies and siphon off huge amounts of money from the Sri Lankan State and then deposit it in the Virgin Islands.

These are military juntas. War heroes never use military intelligence to do a kind of underhand political work. We should investigate who was the mentor of Thowheed Jamath movement, Razik and Zaharan. In 2013, 2014 who was funding these people and who was giving moral support to these people? It was not only Zaharan. Even ex-LTTE cadres and some extremists in the Buddhist sector were all funded by the same source. So there should be an investigation and a Presidential Commission to investigate these things.

The Rajapaksas harbored this Thowheed Jamath movement and we had to suffer because of it. Now they are talking about the national security. They are not war heroes. They are actually criminals and military junta. Now this junta wants to grab power to siphon off more money and deposit it in their motherland which is the USA.

Q: Some say that no UNP Candidate can defeat Gotabaya Rajapaksa. What is your assessment?

A: MahindaRajapaksa was of the opinion that he could easily win the 2015 Presidential Election. What was the result there in 2018, February and what was the vote share of the SLPP?. It was 39 percent. So 61 percent were opposing them. So how can they win? If we have a proper alliance, an action plan and a proper team, we can win this time as well.

Q: Do you believe in the popular sentiment that the support of the minority parties is a must for the Presidential Candidate to be elected?

A: If you can get two thirds of the Sinhala people, you can still be elected as the President. At the next Presidential Election, of 16 million voters, 75 percent are Sinhalese. That means if you can get two thirds from Sinhalese, you can still get a pan-Sinhala President. We should accept the identity and grievances of minorities but we should not give them false hopes that we can do federal constitutions. We should give them what we can practically do in the political arena. Otherwise, you are going to cheat the Tamil and Muslim people again. If we all get together, we can march towards a unitary Sri Lanka with a prosperous future.

Q: What is the JHU’s stance on the abolition of the Executive Presidency?

A: If we change or amend the constitution, there are two key factors, stability and democracy. If we are going to abolish the Executive Presidency, then there should be a stable Government in Parliament. So we have to go back to the previous ‘First Past the Post’ system. If we go back to the ‘First Past the Post system’ like in the UK and India, we have no problem and you can abolish the Executive Presidential system. At present, we don’t have an Executive Presidency and we have a mixed system, a balance between the President and the Parliament. The latest survey shows that one fifth of the country is now concerned about the stability of the country’s political system and only one percent is asking for the abolition of the Executive Presidency.