JVP Propaganda Secretary and Gampaha District MP Vijitha Herath said yesterday that all Parliament needs is a simple majority of MPs in the Chamber on the date the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was taken to remove him from office. He said that there was no need for a simple majority of 113 in the House for the NCM to be successful. If there are 41 MPs in the House on the date of the vote and if 21 vote for the Motion and 20 vote against, then it is through, he told Ceylon Today. He also said that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya cannot resort to delaying tactics as he is bound by the Party Leaders’ decision to conduct the NCM.
Here, he is in conversation with the Ceylon Today:
What is the JVP’s stand on the No Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, in the wake of news reports that you will not support it ?
A: The JVP is fully for the motion. The fact that some news reports have said that we will vote against the motion, is all false. We also have reasons to bring in the NCM as there are other factors, in addition to merely the Treasury Bond Scam, to show that the Prime Minister is not worthy of that office.
Granted that there is a requirement of only a minimum 20 signatures which are needed for the NCM to be submitted to the Speaker. There have been only 55 signatures supporting the Motion. Are you confident that this will go through?
A: There is no certainty at all on this, at this stage. The Opposition is saying that they have the numbers, but the Government is also confident that it can get the votes to defeat the motion. It is a numbers game in stage and all the current debates are based on the numbers.
There is divided support for the motion as there are UNP MPs which will support the motion. There are SLFP MPs also who are not supporting the motion, as, if the motion goes through, the Cabinet and Government both stand dissolved. SLFP MPs are scared that they will lose their Cabinet portfolios! What are your thoughts on this?
A: We don’t know what will happen. There are some MPs who have signed the Motion, but I am not sure what they will do on the day of the vote.
Even former President Mahinda Rajapaksa had not signed it ?
A: Yes. That is true!
You have also said that the NCM against the PM has to be amended. That the charges against the Prime Minister should also be included for not probing the corruption during the Rajapaksa Presidency. Your comments.
A: Yes. That is right. We have so many other allegations against the Prime Minister, other than the allegations relating to the Bond Scam. It is still not certain which way the Motion will turn. What you want is also not a simple majority in the House. It does not even need 113 votes in favour. If there are a fewer members present in the Chamber and all it requires is a simple majority, in the House, of the number of MPs present at the time the vote is taken. That is all that there is to it.
This is further evidenced by the fact that the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna Prof. G.L. Peiris announcing at a news conference that the JO has appealed to President Maithripala Sirisena to get the SLFP Ministers to vote for the motion. So, it appears that there are clouds of uncertainty over success?
A: The NCM is applicable only to the Prime Minister. This is not a NCM against the entire Government. So, the Government Ministers, whether from the UNP or the SLFP, losing their positions and perks does not arise. However, there are members of the Government side also who have signed the Motion.
Prof. Peiris, responding to a question at a news conference as to who will be the next PM in the event of PM Ranil Wickremesinghe being defeated, said that it will depend on whom President Maitripala Sirisena decides will command the respect and confidence of Parliament. How do you see this?
A: We have heard that the UNP wants its own Prime Minister but the SLFP is pressuring the President to have a PM from the SLFP. This is a power struggle. We don’t know which way it will turn. President Maitripala Sirisena was looking for a way forward to make sure that he can contest the Presidency for the second time.
How confident are you that Speaker Karu Jayasuriya will see that the Motion goes through, given his severe loyalties to the UNP and the Prime Minister? He did not do anything even during the NCM against former Minister of Finance and Foreign Affairs Ravi Karunanayake, even if he had sufficient time prior to his resignation? Getting the NCM into the Order Paper and the time he will take will be totally his discretion. How do you see this?
A: That does not arise as Minister Karunanayake resigned prior to the NCM. He knew that he would lose the NCM and that was why he resigned.
But, the heart of the matter is that the Speaker had enough time to decide on bringing the Motion even prior to his resignation but he did not move a finger. This is my point.
A: No. What happened was when the dates of the NCM were being decided, he resigned, as he was very well aware that he was going lose the NCM.
There have been pristine examples of biases by former Speakers of Parliament. When the impeachment was brought in Parliament against slain President Ranasinghe Premadasa. Do you expect some foul play like that to be repeated with grisly accuracy?
A: There is the difference between an Impeachment and a No Confidence Motion. Speaker Karu Jayasuriya cannot back out of that under the Laws and the Standing Orders of Parliament. The Speaker of Parliament has that discretion only when it comes to an impeachment, not in a No Confidence Motion. He can’t duck this like that.
What if he gets on with his delaying tactics?
A: He can’t do that as it will be decided by the Party leaders.
You are proposing a Private Members Motion to be brought in to abolish the Executive Presidency, which will not be taken seriously. Why is it that you did not lobby for this with the support of the other political parties which would have made it much stronger?
A: That is the way to bring in a Constitutional Amendment. It has to be a Private Members Motion as we are in the Opposition. It is the Government which has to bring in a Bill, if it was to bring in the abolition of the Executive Presidency. President Maitripala Sirisena also came on a mandate to abolish the Executive Presidency and there is a school of thought in the UNP that it should also abolish the Presidency.
But, it is also wrong to say and to assume that the UNP wants to abolish the Executive Presidency as Ranil Wickremesinghe has proved that he can’t win a Presidency on a one- on- one basis?
A: Whatever the ethos and the theories are, we have our policies and principles that we abide by.
Despite the JVP’s hue and cry against the UNP and the former SLFP on all political issues such as the rampant corruption, Cost of Living and others, how it is that the voter does not think that you are a political force to reckon with?
A: We are the alternative force. That is for sure.
To reframe the question, with all the bungling of both the UNP and the SLFP in the past and the present why is it that the voter does not think that the JVP is an alternative force ?
A: The increase in the voter base and being the third force are two different things. We had a 168,000 increase in the votes whereas even Mahinda Rajapaksa ‘s vote base increased by only 200,000. If the voters also thought of the long term interests of the country, they would have voted for the JVP.
To buttress the point further. The JVP took a strong stand against the Uma Oya project and was vocal in getting the support for compensation to the victims whose houses were damaged. This was brought by your Provincial Councillor Samantha Vidyaratne. But, all the Badulla District voters went against the JVP at the LG polls. Why?
A: The voters voted for the Lotus Bud as a protest against the UNP and the SLFP. That is the folly of the people. They will learn that they made a big blunder very soon when they see all the extortionists and the other criminals who have got elected to the LG bodies.
Is it due to the fact that the people of this country yet have haunting memories of the killings of the JVP in both the 1971 and 1988/1989 insurrections? Why is it that the JVP has not even asked for a Commission to probe the mass scale killings of your youth members, who protested against the Indo Lanka Accord, by the then Government?
A: Why should we be asking for a Commission from the murderers, both the SLFP, in 1971 and the UNP in 1988/89? We don’t believe in raking up the past. We will do what is best for the country in its
It is now apparent that the JVP does not even have a grass roots base. You had the Tissamaharama Divisional Secretariat. You don’t have even that now. What are your thoughts. It appears as if with both the UNP and the SLFP fumbling on all counts, you have not been able to win the confidence of the voter. Why?
A: We got 540,000 votes, which has increased to 712,000, but Mahinda Rajapaksa got 4.9 Million which was earlier 4.7 Million. That is the reality. We increased our vote base by 168,000 vis a vis Rajapaksa’s 200,000.
There is also a simmering crisis within the JVP like in the UNP, the SLFP and the JO where there is a lack of a second tier leadership. Why?
A: We have a politburo and we will decide on the leadership when we come to it. We don’t believe in the boosting of a single person’s image like we see in the other major parties
Your strength has been from the Students group and the Inter University Students Federation, popularly knows as the Antharay. With all those students aligning themselves with the Frontline Socialist Party led by Kumar Gunaratnam, your strength has declined to such an extent that you don’t have even anybody to paste a poster?
There is now a remarkable decline in the JVP posters that we see today. Your comments?
A: We may not be having people to paste posters, but we are right in front for the causes of the working class, the fisher community and the women and the student classes. We will stand on their behalf.
Your front liners have also deserted the JVP. Once JVP Presidential candidate, Nandana Gunatilleke, contested under the UNP and now is the Panadura Mayor. Similarly, Wimal Weerawansa is with the JO and was a Cabinet Minister during the Mahinda Rajapaksa Presidency. Is there no confidence in the JVP?
A: We have no regrets as those were all whom we expelled from the Party. They are most welcome to do anything they like now!
The JVP was instrumental in a big way in bringing a totally different structure for the new LG polls, but that has so many flaws. Your comments?
A: We made the initial moves but it is up to the Government to correct the flaws.
There was a belief that former leader, Somawansa Amarasinghe did not sit in Parliament despite being the leader. Don’t you think that this would be better for incumbent leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake to also follow suit?
A: There is nothing like that, We believe that the Party Leader also should be in Parliament.
You were also arrested in the second JVP insurrection in 1989 and were in the Beragala detention camp and Kalutara prison as a suspect. What was your involvement?
A: The charges against me were baseless and I was proved not guilty. The allegations were based on the fact that I conducted classes, which the Supreme Court ruled were valid and legal. The Security Forces and the Police personnel who arrested me, were asked to pay me compensation.
What are your views on Dharman Wickremaratne’s book on the second JVP insurrection?
A: We have no objections to anybody writing anything to earn a living but there were a lot of inaccuracies in the book.
But, You have not contradicted anything in the 900-plus pages book even after 18 months. Is that a candid admission on your part that the contents are 100% correct?
A: We cannot be wasting our time correcting other people’s mistakes.