The UNP Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya was interviewed by Sunday Observer staffer Anura Maitipe last week with regard to the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Government and the Opposition UNP.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
Question: Many are of the view that the SLFP and UNP consensus was a historical turn in Sri Lankan politics and what will it give the country?
Answer: This move by the two main political parties will bring great fortune to the country. It was an acceptable fact that progress and prosperity of this country suffered due to political bickering over the past five decades. If the two main parties can agree on a common solution to the ethnic problem it will be a great achievement to bring peace and prosperity for the people of this country.
Q: The UNP has already agreed to support the Government. So why not take responsibilities in the governing process?
A: We were discussing some ways and means of sharing power between both parties without harming the identity of the UNP. In this process, we have already suggested the Executive Committee System.
And it was unanimously endorsed by the UNP Executive Committee. We are exploring ways of introducing a common mechanism to work it out. Once it is implemented, not only the UNP but, all 225 parliament members will have equal rights to share the responsibilities of these committees.
Q: Some of the UNP members have expressed unfounded fear of losing the role of the opposition by the UNP under this MoU. What are your comments?
A: We moved into this process protecting our party identity and opposition leadership. We will support what is correct and what is incorrect we will oppose. Even right now as an opposition, we are doing the same in the House. Under this system, while being in the opposition, the opposition could play an active role in the governing process. This kind of process is very common in developed countries. Germany is a good example.
Q: Will the UNP now support the 18th Amendment to the constitution?
A: The institutions that was created under the 17th Amendment could not be properly implemented in this backdrop and we did not support the 18th Amendment. However, we believe that we would be able to sort out these problems and support the 18th amendment to set up zonal Appeal Courts for the benefit of people in rural areas.
Q: Will the UNP support to change the existing electoral process?
A: Yes there is no argument to change the present electoral system. It is not suitable at all. In fact, it creates hate among the members even within the same party. This has to be changed with the consent of all parties.
Under the new electoral system small parties should be well secured. In this regard, a committee has already been set up in parliament under the chairmanship of Minister Dinesh Gunawardena and I hope a new electoral system will soon be implemented. In the meantime it is a current need to introduce the electronic voting system.
We will propose to hold two elections at once. For instance the Presidential election and Parliamentary election will be held on the same day. Pradeshya Sabha and Provincial Council election on the same day. This will save large sums of money and valuable time of the people.
Q: At an unexpected moment you urged the UNP executive committee to bring in some vital reforms and will you expect it to materialise?
A: Yes, I made this request in good faith and to expedite the proposed party reforms. These reforms had to be completed last January. But it could not completed on time. In fact, this is the view of the majority of the party members and they wanted these reforms to be implemented soon.
The UNP is the largest single party in the country. There are very efficient members in lower ladders of the party in parliament as well as in local bodies. So we should give them their due place to serve the party and the people.
Q: In your recent comment to the press you had mentioned that a set of privileged people take policy decisions of the party. What do you mean by that?
A: The UNP does not belong to a group or a selected few people of the party. This party is inherited by the people who have dedicated their time, labour, wealth and sweat and shed tears for the party.
Although we hold high positions in the party we are not owners of the party. We are guardians of it. What I meant was that when we make a party decision it should not be limited to a few people. It should be done in broadbased manner consultation with all members. This is the democratic way of doing things.
Q: Some of your party members were highly critical of your comments. How do you view that situation?
A: Only a few people were critical of it. But the majority of party members commended that move by me. I have always worked according to my conscience and anybody has a right to talk on behalf of party members. It is our duty. As leaders we should protect the rights of party members.
Q: Those who agitated for these reforms earlier were isolated and they had to change their ideas and reform themselves. What was the reason for that?
A: There is no conflict in our party. But there is a conflict of opinion in our party. This could be seen in any other party too. Even in our own house such conflicts are very common. What my opinion is that the party should get ready to face upcoming challenges through the implementation of proposed reforms.
Q: The UNP party members like S. B. Dissanayaka and Rajitha Senaratna too had made some proposals for these reforms. Will the party seriously consider these proposals for future reforms?
A: The party will carefully study those proposals and once it is done a final decision will be taken by the Executive Committee.
Q: The majority of members of the UNP are critical of the Executive Committee and will they agree to such decisions by the committee?
A: Under the proposed reforms even this committee too will be reformed and then it will be an efficient body.