Minister of Lands and Parliamentary Reforms Gayantha Karunatilaka says the new Constitution was a promise given to the people, and said “Even we, who brought in the existing Constitution have accepted that a change is necessary. The President is also of the same view. We will bring this in not in the same manner as the 18th Amendment. We will obtain everyone’s ideas. It is the Interim Report that was prepared and is being subject to discussion. Is there a Constitution that was brought with so much democracy? We are not trying to forcibly enforce it.”
Excerpts of the interview:
The Government is nearly three years old and there are many accusations?
A: What are these accusations you are talking about?
You cannot be unaware of what the accusations and criticisms are?
A: Tell me a few of them.
It is being said that, this is a Government that does not do what it says it will, and a Government that betrays the country. There is a long list.
A: Whatever anyone says, we engaged in a silent revolution. We said we will usher in Good Governance and we did that. Also without State power, wealth power or media power the people’s power won. Take a look at the past two years, we took over a very difficult country, it was monarchy. It was a dictatorial dynastic rule. It was such a country that we changed. Today, there is an abundance of freedom. Was there freedom then? One of the accusations, today, is that there is too much freedom. Media freedom is at the maximum. However, though the Government granted media freedom, whether the media owners have given that freedom to journalists is the question?
They have imposed restrictions on journalists.
As at now, the new Constitution is in a jumble, where did the Government go wrong?
A: The new Constitution was a promise to the people. Even we who brought in the existing Constitution accept that change is necessary and the President is of the same view. We won’t introduce it in the same way as the 18th Amendment. We will obtain everyone’s ideas and it is the Interim Report that was prepared and is being subject to discussion. Is there any Constitution that was brought in with so much democracy? We will not forcibly enforce it.
Is there a crisis due to getting too many view points?
A: No there is no crisis; only criticism and dialogue. That is not a crisis.
There is opposition even by the Maha Sangha?
A: We have provided the maximum opportunity for the Maha Sangha to express their views. Media says the prelates are opposed, however, the truth was revealed that it was not the case.
Even Rathana Thera, who was instrumental in bringing down the Rajapaksa faction‘s fortress and helped establish this Government, says the country will have to face chaos with the new Constitution.
A: It shows that even within the Government there is freedom to express opinions. That freedom is there to the hilt.
Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera speaking on behalf of the SLFP has said, “if there are incorrect things,” that the party will object?
A: If there are incorrect things, even the United National Party will oppose it.
Now, when you go to see, it looks like the UNP, which drafted the present Constitution, who is the most in need of a new Constitution?
A: No. All of us including the President and the Prime Minister want it. This Government obtained a mandate on the promise of a new Constitution. We all love this country, to show that love, we don’t have to beat our chests.
Wimal Weerawansa is saying that Parliament should be bombed, if the new Constitution is voted for?
A: That talk is from a henchman of the former Government and shows their mentality. Can you recall how they behaved when they were in power? They tried to challenge the international community and became jokers. Anyway, it was their relations who bombed Parliament in the eighties; those are the people who hit Police Officers. It is those who took the law into their own hands and played the fool; who are shouting now. That is why that Government was toppled. Will a Member of Parliament say such a terrible thing?
Such statements are made by certain persons in any party, is there no possibility of preventing such things happening?
A: You asked me a very valuable question. Actually it is worth focusing our attention on that. It is the same to say that will bomb or to actually to bomb the place. If you kill somebody, or threaten to kill someone, it is a crime.
Some retired Army officers are saying that Ministers who vote for the new Constitution should be shot and the body should not be carried above knee level?
A: Those are political agendas, and they are originating in the same place.
Dullas Alahapperuma says that the Government is using mercenaries to assault monks?
A: Everyone knows who is using monks for politics. It is the same people who tried to create a division among the Chief Prelates who are saying these things. It is the people who remained silent, when car racing was going on opposite the Dalada Maligawa, who are shouting now.
There were accusations that the previous Government was holding too many elections and that this Government is not conducting any elections, what have you to say about this?
A: They held elections ahead of time, not for the love of the people. They conducted elections on a retail basis, distributing seeds and agricultural implements and engaged in political games using State property. We are ready to move towards a more fair system. We will end the preferential system and put an end to assaults, attacks and killings. We are attempting to bring in a more just system.
A former Chief Justice goes to the Supreme Court saying the manner in which the 20 A was brought was wrong?
A: Unable to prepare lists for buds that do not flower, they are stuck. They are not prepared for the upcoming election. In future they will say that this is the Government that wins elections.
Wasn‘t it the UNP that paved the way for the friction within the SLFP?
A: Why do you say that? Those two factions are arch enemies engaged in a snake and mongoose battle. It is not because of us. Whatever anyone does those two factions won’t get together.
You must be happy about that battle?
A: No. We are neither happy nor sad. Mahinda has accepted the battle to destroy the SLFP. When he was in power he broke up other parties. When he has no power he is breaking up his own party.
State media is there to publicize the Government‘s development work?
A: That is what I am saying. It is a very unfortunate situation. When you consider newspapers the land programme was never published in the Daily News. I have no idea why.
Don‘t you think that due to the tug-o-war between Ministers of the two parties, rather than publicize the work that is being done ‘the problems‘ are getting highlighted?
A: No, it does not apply to my Ministry. There is no conflict between T. B. Ekanayake and myself. He is a powerful figure in the SLFP.
Nevertheless he is also in the list of those who say from time to time that they are leaving?
A: I also saw it in the newspapers. However, it has not happened. Therefore, there is no problem.
None of the corrupt persons or thieves, have been caught?
A: That got delayed due to various reasons. Now solutions have been found for those. We changed the reason for the ineffectiveness. Now everything has been expedited.
Minister, have the thieves changed now?
A: Why is that?
Just consider, accusations are levelled against Government Ministers and they are the ones who are being summoned for investigations?
A: Whoever engages in wrong doing is wrong and they should be punished. However, as I said, the thieves that were in the previous Government have now become clean and are pointing the finger at us.
The budget is round the corner. What will happen?
A: A very good budget will come. When the Prime Minister said, then, that a new Government will be brought in, in 2014, some persons laughed, however, it was done. When we came into power we said that the country that was in difficulties will be saved in two years time; we did that.
It is said that, even within the Cabinet there is noise about the Cost of Living being excessive?
A: At that time the Cabinet was similar to signal poles. Now they have complete freedom. The President and the Prime Minister have given total freedom. So, everyone freely engages in arguments. They express their views. At times there are heated arguments and debates.
There are strikes everywhere. People are living amidst severe inconveniences. The Government is very slow in finding solutions?
A: These are not protests of the people to fulfil the people’s requirements; rather it is those who lost and are trying to come back to power that are behind these protests. Those who engaged in corruption and irregularities in the past are behind these; they are political henchmen.
The ones who are powerful in this Government now are not those who left the previous Government, have you no regret?
A: That is their fortune.
Meanwhile, those in the Government are saying that they are leaving soon?
A: A person who was threatening to leave was sent off. No one will leave after this. This is a Unity Government. Even the President is ready to send off anyone who says they want to leave.
Even though there are those ready to leave, there is no one ready to join the Government?
A: Why not? There are those who whisper in the ear and ask to join!
Certain persons say that this was a proposed marriage and was carried out by force. There is a possibility of divorce as well.
A: Not every proposed marriage has been unsuccessful. At the same time, not every love marriage has been successful either.
What is important is that there is understanding. We got into this Government marriage after carefully comparing the porondam; therefore it’s an excellent match.
In 2020 there will be a decisive election?
A: Yes. We will contest separately and form a Government together.