SLPP eschews vindictive politics - Johnston Fernando | Sunday Observer

SLPP eschews vindictive politics - Johnston Fernando

2 August, 2020

Roads and Highways, Ports and Shipping Minister Johnston Fernando said that the Government has given priority to rebuild the country. An SLPP led Government’s priority is not to conduct investigations and remand political opponents. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Minister said they will not resort to vindictive politics practised by Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Yahapalana cabal.

“We have given priority to rebuild the country, develop rural economy, ensure national security and provide solutions to youth unemployment. The former Yahapalana Government gave priority to frame false charges against their political opponents to imprison them and indulged in corruption to the highest possible extent,” Fernando said.

Q: What are the prospects for the SLPP to secure a two-thirds majority at the General Election?

A: The SLPP would secure a two-thirds majority at the election. That is mainly due to the fact that a vast majority of the people have endorsed President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s the program to rebuild the country. The people have much confidence that the President would form a Government free from fraud and corruption. The attempts by the UNP to insult the Maha Sangha and imprison some bhikkhus have become counterproductive. The JVP’s vote base has eroded. A large number of UNPers who are highly disappointed due to the rift in the UNP have joined hands with the President and the SLPP. The SLPP will secure a two-thirds majority at the upcoming election.

Q: The SJB and the UNP say that the Government is not in a position to secure a two-thirds majority. What are your views on this?

A: It means they have admitted the fact that the Government will get a two-thirds majority. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake had recently asked people not to give a two-thirds majority to the Government.

That means even he has accepted that the Government would definitely win the election and secure a two-thirds majority.

The people have much confidence in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa hoping that they would rebuild the country. The people have lost their faith in the UNP and the JVP that have faced a severe setback.

The people believe that the country which is in disarray due to issues created by the 19th Amendment should return to normalcy. We witnessed how the independent commissions functioned under the 19th Amendment.

The 19th Amendment was introduced by the former Yahapalana Government to realise their narrow political objectives and appoint their henchmen to higher positions. This would be changed with the two-thirds majority to be obtained by the Government at the election.

Q: Over 6.9 million people voted for the President to bring the culprits to book, including those who are held responsible for the Treasury Bond scam, Easter Sunday attacks and committed other frauds and malpractices. There is an allegation that the Government has failed to bring the culprits to book. What are your views?

A: This Government has given priority to rebuild the country. Unlike the former Government, our priority is not to conduct investigations and remand political opponents.

We came to power not to resort to that same old revengeful politics practised by Ranil Wickremesinghe, Sajith Premadasa, Ranjan Ramanayake, Champika Ranawaka, Rajitha Senaratne and Ajith P. Perera. We have given priority to rebuild the country, develop rural economy, ensure national security and provide solutions to youth unemployment.

The former Yahapalana Government framed false charges against their political opponents to imprison them.

They indulged in corruption. Treasury Bond scam is a classic example. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa told the Central Bank Governor and the officials to release adequate funds to strengthen the economy.

This is the difference between two Governments. Nobody expects to unnecessarily expedite the investigations and punish the offenders. That would be done democratically in accordance with the law.

This is the hope of those who voted for us. Their idea is not to bring in the ‘jungle law’. The investigations on wrongdoers will continue without any political interference.

Q: The SLFP after reaching a broad consensus with the SLPP decided to contest under one alliance at the General Election. However, some SLPP frontliners resort to serious criticism of the SLFP members. Would you like to elaborate your views on this?

A: We could see the hatred politics practised during the tenure of the Yahapalana Government. Some politicians still condemn such anti-democratic acts committed by that Government. It is a common phenomenon that politicians utter various things on the political stage. We cannot stop them and those are personal views expressed by them. The people will take the correct decision at the election.

Q: What is your view on the comments by some Government lawmakers that the need of the hour is to introduce a new Constitution to sort out the burning issues?

A: It is more appropriate to bring in a new Constitution. The 19th Amendment has created a number of issues. It has dragged the country towards disaster.

This should be changed to suit the present day needs. The 19th Amendment is an absurd piece of legislation introduced by the former Government. It has outlined how the Election Commission Chairman and its members should act.

The people have raised serious concern about the impartiality of the Election Commission. We had to argue with the Commission to get a date for the election. Provincial Council elections have not yet been held. Even the General Election was postponed indefinitely.

There is no independence within the Bribery Commission as well. We saw how the Constitutional Council functioned. There are lots of loopholes in the 19th Amendment. Even after the loss of over 300 lives at the Easter Sunday attacks, the Government was not in a position to remove the then IGP. So, how does this Constitution suit the needs of the country? These are new issues created by the 19th Amendment. This Constitution has to be changed.

Q: Some say as the majority of former parliamentarians have failed in fulfiling their duty properly, the country is now ready to select a competent team that can work with the President to rebuild the country. Would you agree?

A: I conceed the fact that some politicians are not suitable to represent Parliament.

They all have been elected to Parliament by the people’s vote. We can’t decide on their qualifications. It is up to the voters to elect suitable candidates to Parliament. Some say these 225 parliamentarians are not suitable to represent Parliament.

Those who say so are also among these 225 MPs. A large number of good candidates is contesting the election this time. The people would decide who should be elected to the next Parliament.

Q: Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that a strong mandate is needed at the General Election to conclusively defeat local and foreign conspiracies against Sri Lanka. Would you like to elaborate your views?

A: Certainly. What the Premier says is fully correct. There is a conspiracy and it was hatched in 2015. It continues even today. We can understand this when we look at the views expressed by some people.

It is essential to form a stable Government which would not dance according to the whims and fancies of various local and international conspirators. If we form a strong Government, we would be able to implement the proposals in the Saubhagyaye Dekma policy manifesto.

Q: How would you respond to the SJB claim that the Government has deliberately ignored the Covid-19 situation and restrictions were lifted targeting the election?

A: The Opposition is scared of elections. They were the very people who waited until Covid-19 engulfed the country. We have such an Opposition. That is why the moment when a Covid-19 patient is detected, they wanted to postpone the election.

We have become one of the countries which has controlled the Covid-19 pandemic under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Elections have been held in some other countries amid Covid-19.

In a democratic country, elections should be held without being postponed. Whether the elections are held or postponed, the Opposition would suffer a massive defeat. The people are aware what the UNP led Yahapalana Government did during their four and a half year tenure in office.

Q: How do you view the present plight of the UNP?

A: We can see a battle going on between Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa to capture the party headquarters, ‘Sirikotha’. They are contesting the election not to serve the people.

That is why a large number of people is distancing themselves from the UNP and the SJB. The situation has become advantageous to the SLPP.

Q: The JVP has launched its campaign under the slogan Thitha deshapalanaye aththa minissu (Genuine politics within bitter politics) seeking a fresh mandate to rebuild the country. Will the JVP secure more parliamentary seats at the election?

A: The JVP is famous for campaigning and telling lies. During the 1988-89 terror, they looted the jewellery of the people and even stole their identity cards. They committed robberies too. They are a group of good ‘actors’.

The JVP shamelessly joined hands with the UNP which killed their party leader Rohana Wijeweera. Finally, they ruined the UNP as well. The JVP’s vote base would further deteriorate at this election. They can’t hoodwink the people any more by repeating the same old lies.

Q: What are the prospects for a SLPP victory in the Kurunegala district in the context of the SJB and the UNP campaign?

A: The UPFA secured 10 and eight seats at the 2010 and 2015 General Elections. We are confident that we would secure 12 seats at the election. We will receive a two-thirds majority in the Kurunegala district.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is also contesting from the Kurunegala district and the people have reposed utmost confidence in him. The people are anxiously waiting to give a preferential vote to the leader who rescued the country from the clutches of terrorism.