Badulla District Member of Parliament Chaminda Wijesiri said Ranil broke promises and took them for a ride. “He must also stop cheating the country,” he added.
You have been in Parliament only for a short time but you are trying to stage a revolution. What actually is this revolution?
A: We built up our political lives with the vote of the provincial people.We have to respond to their demands. What we have to always do is to engage in politics on behalf of those people. We are not used to doing politics hoodwinking the people. What we do is to fight for the needs of those people and get those needs for them. It is this change that you all see as a revolution. Having become the Chairman of the Pradeshiya Sabha and the Mayor we got the people’s mandate to enter Parliament. The people have placed their trust in us.
Although it is said that the programme launched by the United National Party (UNP) to develop the village is a success, actually it has not been successful. It’s not practical, isn’t that so?
A: Actually, it’s not practical. It’s to make a real change that we came to power on 8 January 2015. We haven’t been able to keep the promises. Instead I see the 8 January programme as a programme that has crashed.
When the journey that you were to go on, by forming a Government on your own has got messed up, trying to go on a joint journey, isn’t it just for lies that you shout now?
A: Not shouting, what we said then and are saying now, is to go for a Government of our own. Yahapalanaya and National Government are good as concepts but are not practicable. Who is making this Government not practicable?
When we of the UNP were trying to run the country, according to the promises we gave, the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), led by the President who got himself elected by us, is pulling our leg. What the Group of 16, who as long as they were in the Government, did was to enjoy all the privileges of the National Government; but, they now say the National Government is not good. That itself shows that the National Government cannot be carried on. The National Government is like a scarecrow. People will get scared if it is planted in the field. If the country is to be run properly a Government must be formed by the UNP, alone. I told this story to the leader also.
Did the leadership accept the story?
A: No. But we stick to the view that we must go it alone.
The SLFP says it will leave the National Government. If that happens, can the UNP go on a journey of its own in 18 months?
A: Yes. Definitely, that period is enough. We can go on this journey, devoid of fraud and corruption, with a set of efficient officials. That will be a team who will think about the people and work for the country. So, if we go on a journey of our own from now itself we can reach our targets. The more we delay the less time we will have. The result of this running out of time will affect generations to come.
Gotabaya Rajapaksa is getting ready to enter the 2020 Presidential contest via Viyathmaga. Why doesn’t the UNP have such a vision?
A: The fact that the UNP doesn’t have such a vision is the problem we have. Those who destroyed this country, in whatever Sil clothes they may come, can’t win again. If the people of the country are trying to go back to that era, that would be the country’s darkest era.
However, isn’t it the opinion of the public that the period of the UNP rule was the darkest era?
A: It was the UNP Government that accomplished massive development work in the country. A government that finished giant development projects being unable to draw up a programme to go to the people is sorrowful.
Is the UNP being cornered? Is it because of the leader that the Party is getting destroyed?
A: Yes. That’s why we are fighting. It is because of the fault of the leader that the Party is in such a plight. If the President doesn’t fall in line with the leader’s opinion, we have to take decisions thinking about the Party and the country. We still think our leader will talk directly with the President with regard to the issues at hand and thereafter do what is right for the country.
If the leader is not good, isn’t it within the Party that it has to be sorted out?
A: Yes. That’s what we are doing.
Then why is it said that some of the backbenchers will be joining the Opposition? Is there an attempt to create another force?
A: That is not a decision that we took recently. It was taken after prolonged dialogues, lengthy discussions, and revolting within the Party. It is because our voice is not given a hearing that we behave like this.
Isn’t this the result of trying to create a crisis within the Party?
A: No. We don’t want to create crises within the Party. The Party leadership must understand that. We should be given an opportunity to act according to our conscience. We cannot allow the country and the Party to be destroyed hiding our conscience, especially, thinking that we are protecting the Party leadership. The Party is not our property and we are not the sole owners of the country. It is, thinking about that that we act. That’s why we would walk out.
How many in the UNP will walk out?
A: Can’t say, as to how many, as yet.
Are all the backbenchers supporting the No-Confidence Motion in this group?
A: No. Not all of them. Some who were in the struggle betrayed it for various bonanzas and privileges. But the majority are with us.
A: I can’t say about it, yet. The majority are backbenchers. A few of this group walked out during the Party’s Parliamentary Group meeting. It was charged with emotion and with sadness and frustration that the backbenchers spoke at that meeting. So, at that meeting, it was an unprecedentedly high outburst in expressing views.
Are there also Ministers supporting you?
A: Yes. There are, front row and second row Ministers supporting us.
Will those leaving the UNP join the Lotus Bud or the SLFP or as former Minister S.B. Dissanayake says will join the Group of 16 who left the Government?
A: We will never join the Group of 16. The Group of 16 has now lost its way. The whole country knows how the Group of 16 played their game.The majority of them are those who came from the National List like SB and Dilan Perera as a ‘back door’ Minister was using Ministerial powers for their advantage. The UNP Ministers and MPs couldn’t in any way agree to fulfil the dreams of that group. We will neither go to the Lotus Bud nor to the SLFP.
Will SLFPers also join you?
A: About eight Ministers of the SLFP will contest from the UNP and help it to form Governments in future.
Who will take leadership of your group?
A: All our leaders are here. The objective of all is to be put forward in 2020, a leadership capable of developing the country and with clean hands. At that moment we will not consider Party or colour. What we want is a visionary leader.
In Canada a 35-year-old young man of a minor Party became the leader. We have such leaders here. There is one such in politics, for us; we will put forward with all those qualities in 2020. A number of proposals are there for us to select such a leader.
Ultimately, will a character like Ranil Wickremesinghe, Maithripala Sirisena or Sajith Premadasa come forward as leader with that programme?
A: No. Sometimes, it can be a character different from all those three persons.
That was also how the 2015 common candidate was brought. Are you going to mess it up with a common candidate again?
A: We went wrong in selecting a common candidate in 2015. This time we will do it with a strong programme, not to make a mistake again, by entering into a contract with the blessings of the Mahanayake Theras and revealing to the country the promises made. The reason is, all this time we have seen only promises being made. We didn’t see promises being kept. So, we will impose conditions on our new candidate so that if he breaks promises he will not be able to live in the country. We can even sign the agreement even before a Court of Law.
There has to be another party and a symbol, to leave the UNP. What will be the new party?
A: We will remain in the UNP for the moment. The candidate we select can be from any party. However, the candidate should be one who has no allegations against him; one who has not misappropriated public property and one who does not give excessive privileges to Pradeshiya Sabha Members and Provincial Councillors or Members of Parliament. This country needs someone who can work for the country.
There has to be a strong foundation of public opinion, for that to happen. Can you build up public opinion by going out of the UNP?
A: We will get the support of all in this endeavour. A number of civil society organizations have joined us, by now. The main objective is not to see, what the party colour is but to see who can build the country. The people of the country are waiting to see who can meet the challenges before the country. They know that none of the present leaders can build up the country. Mahinda Rajapaksa, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe have all been rejected. So, what the people want is a young leader who can build up the country.
Have you selected that leader?
A: We can’t name.
Have you thought of such a leader?
A: Not yet. Various people can have various ideas. What we want is to go on our future journey with our programme and objectives with a new leader.
When will you leave the UNP?
A: We may leave the UNP or we may not. Sometimes we can be within the SLFP. Wherever we are, it is with the new programme and the new leader that we will be going.
Having imposed taxes and placed burdens on the people, can you go on like this for the remaining 18 months?
A: Several problems had to be faced in the journey undertaken by imposing taxes. There was opposition by the SLFP to some proposals advanced by us. The Economic Council was under the Prime Minister. But the President vested it in himself by a Gazette Notification in a big haste. In addition, several of our programmes got stalled.
It happened for the sake of personal and party victory. The people had to face its impact. We have to think about the prices of goods in this country before 2015, also. We took charge of the country with a mountain of debts. The people have been burdened because of that and our weaknesses. If what we said was done properly, the country would have been in a better state.
It was to put things right that the Cabinet was reshuffled. However, is there a change?
A: Very clearly, what happened by the Cabinet reshuffle was changing the pillow to cure the headache. This is not how this should have been done. Our people who dedicated themselves to form this government and protected it have got nothing, today. It is they who have the right to ownership of this government. But what is happening is President Maithripala Sirisena is trying to make his dream come true. He came saying it is for five years and is dreaming to be there for a second term. The Cabinet reshuffle this time was to realize his objectives.