UPFA Parliamentarian Udaya Gammanpila says Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the Premiership due to Tamil Separatists’ money power and the Central Bank thieves.
Excerpts of interviews:
On political platforms, as of now, there is talk of a Constitutional crisis and devolution of power is being discussed. But what the government is saying is what will happen is not devolution of power, but doing so, within a Unitary State. However, the Opposition is shouting that the country is being divided. What is the true story?
A: The present government has presented a Federal Constitution with the label of a Unitary State pasted on it, it is a cunning objective. There is a legal argument about what a Unitary State is, in law. It was presented by Professor Sir Kenneth Pierre. According to him, a Unitary State is where there is an institution which can impose laws in any area in the country in connection with all subjects. In a Unitary State, the Parliament can impose laws on an area and on any subject. If there are several such institutions which can impose laws, that would be in a Federal State. Sri Lanka is a Unitary State as Parliament can impose laws in connection with any subject in any province. As much as laws are imposed on Provincial Councils with a two-thirds majority, it can abolish Provincial Councils too. However, that authority has been removed in the proposed Constitution. The right for the Central Government to impose laws on the Provincial Government has been taken away. Therefore, Sri Lanka becomes a federal country.
The country has been defined as a Unitary State and not as a federal country in the Constitution. It is the Opposition that is clinging on to the word ‘federal’.
A: Just because the words ‘Unitary State’ are mentioned in the Constitution, it does not become unitary. A country becomes a Unitary State by characteristics. There is no point in preparing a Constitution that divides the country into ten sections and then say it is a Unitary State. It is similar to writing ‘ambrosia’ on a vial of poison!
You are going around the country shouting falsely that the country is being divided, but you participated in discussions to present a new Constitution for the country. Why have you come out now and begun shouting about false things?
A: This Constitution was presented by Sumanthiran. This document was presented to Parliament by the Prime Minister without even going through the first page. Therefore, the Prime Minister cannot say that a new Constitution has not been submitted. As we were present at those discussions we can say without fear that this is a Constitution. I am the person who read it but the person who wrote it does not know that it is a Constitution.
By today, the facts of the discussion that you also participated in are being taken around the country saying the country is being divided; there is nothing else there. This was only a political dialogue and no step forward has been taken.
A: What are the future steps? A draft Constitution has been presented. It contains 40 chapters and 399 separate clauses. More detailed than the current has been presented, and it had been named the ‘Constitution’. If so, what else are they saying!
Just because a Constitution is presented it cannot be passed. It will not be implemented. A two-thirds majority and a referendum, is required. So, is it correct to come out now and keep on shouting that the country is going to be divided?
A: What we are doing is raising awareness among the people about this. A Constitution will be presented to Parliament to get it adopted with a two-thirds majority. Once it has been passed in Parliament with a two-thirds majority there would be no use in us pointing out its shortcomings. That is why we are pointing out the danger and weaknesses in the document that has already been presented. There would be no point in saying these things once it has been adopted in Parliament with a two-thirds majority and a referendum is held and it is passed. The 13th Amendment was passed with a two-thirds majority. Even today, we are suffering the shortcomings of that. The 19th Amendment was adopted. But there are too many complexities in it. Therefore, there is a risk of the country becoming unstable, before that happens we have to inform the people.
How can the new Constitution, be passed in this Parliament? The Opposition says the ruling Party does not have even 113 MPs. If it is to be passed with a two-thirds majority, members of the UPFA also have to vote for it. Do you not believe that it would not happen?
A: That story is being related by the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Leader of the House, Lakshman Kiriella. If they are unable to get a two-thirds majority in Parliament and there is no time to get a new Constitution passed, why did they present a new Constitution? This Constitution was submitted with the calculated objective of getting it passed. If we did not mention the shortcomings in it, these people are saying that the Unitary State of the country will not be harmed, Buddhism will not be harmed and that the country will not be divided.
The Prime Minister declared recently that there is no document or draft in connection with the Constitution. He said only an idea was put forward. If there is no two-thirds majority it will not get passed in Parliament and that the support of the Parliamentary Group led by Mahinda Rajapaksa was required for it.
A: In the document presented by the Prime Minister, it is stated that it is the Constitution. This Constitution will cause harm to the country. I am asking why they presented it if they did not have a two-thirds majority.
This was submitted with only 103 UNP Parliamentarians and even if the 14 from the TNA and the 6 from the JVP vote in favour of it, the number will still be 123. There is a shortfall of 27. If so, why did they present such a Constitution? Their strategy is to motivate 27 from the UPFA to the task of dividing the country. If it is to be prevented, a dialogue has to be created in the country.
During his administration Mahinda Rajapaksa too talked about 13 plus or devolution of power beyond that.
A: Then what was meant by going beyond 13 was that it was possible to go to a position where the Unitary status could be further strengthened. Even Federalism can be strengthened. Mahinda Rajapaksa never presented a Federal Constitution. Madame Chandrika and Ranil Wickremesinghe did bring Federal Constitutions. Going beyond the power of 13 was talked about bending towards the Unitary status.
On 26 October, after Mahinda Rajapaksa became the Prime Minister, the TNA was summoned to the Presidential Secretariat and it was promised that by the end of December the Mullaitivu Camp will be removed and lands will be released, in order to get the 113. What did you try to do then?
A: That is incorrect. In 2015, Rauff Hakeem said that Kalmunai had to be named as a separate district and then they would support at the Presidential Election. As Mahinda Rajapaksa rejected that request they supported Maithripala Sirisena at that time. Had Mahinda Rajapaksa fulfilled their request, Mahinda Rajapaksa would have been the President even today. If Mahinda Rajapaksa had allowed room for extremists, he would have still been the President today. When Mahinda Rajapaksa became Prime Minister, R. Sampanthan came and held a discussion with him. He said they will provide support but laid down conditions. However, since the conditions mentioned by R. Sampanthan were harmful to the country they were rejected. As a result Mahinda Rajapaksa had to go home.
You are avoiding the question. What we saw were not the proposals of the TNA. It is about the President making promises to the TNA.
A: That is totally false. Sampanthan met Mahinda Rajapaksa and spoke of the demands. It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who rejected them. It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who was under pressure to get 113 together.
I am talking about the proposals made by the President. These facts were reported through the media.
A: We did not make any promises as you say.
It is not something I am saying. The entire country saw it through media.
A: They did make such demands. We did not agree to them.
You mentioned a story at Kalmunai. Without supporting Mahinda Rajapaksa was Maithripala Sirisena supported because he agreed to those demands?
A: Maithripala Sirisena was only the candidate. As the leader of the group, it was Ranil Wickremesinghe who spoke. He was the one who worked with all political parties and embassies. Maithripala Sirisena came in saying that in 100 days he will abolish the Executive Presidency and go home.
Fortunately, we worked against that and challenged the 19th Amendment in the Supreme Court and rescued Maithripala Sirisena from the snare he was trapped in.
The UPFA is talking big about the victory on 10 February. But on 26 October they degraded that victory. You and your group were defeated. The recognition that Mahinda Rajapaksa had from the country was lost?
A: That is a lie! The victory on 10 February was confirmed after the October revolution. The first thing was that Mahinda Rajapaksa not only became the Opposition Leader but got the opportunity of being the next Prime Minister. The second thing was that R. Sampanthan who was going around the world spreading lies and strengthening Tamil Separatism was deprived of the post of Opposition Leader. The third fact was that the government was preparing to get the Federal Constitution passed in Parliament on 7 November but thanks to the October revolution the two-thirds majority of the government was lost and today it has become a minority government. The fourth point is the President who was complaining about grievances of betrayal of the country and the unpatriotic moves of selling off the country was strengthened by us to fight against those. President Sirisena, who was unwillingly working with Ranil, stood up together with us as a result of this revolution. We achieved a massive victory. It is only UNP members who say Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity has declined. If Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity declined, the UNP should quickly go for an election. But the UNP went to Court saying they did not want an election. When the Court’s verdict was announced members of the UNP ate kiribath and lit fire crackers. That was because they knew the UNP would face another extreme defeat.
UNP members ate kiribath not because the election was postponed, but it was due to the verdict of the Court, against President Maithripala’s decision, against the Constitution to remove their Prime Minister and appoint someone else.
A: If so, these people could hold an election. But that will not happen. The UNP is mortally scared of elections. With this behaviour of the UNP what is apparent is that it is because Mahinda Rajapaksa is far stronger. One thing was the result of the small election and then with the October revolution it was confirmed. We had only 42 per cent from the small election. If we were to make up 50 per cent we had to join the SLFP. Therefore, Maithri-Mahinda should join together. Mahinda faction has 42 per cent and the SLFP has 12 per cent. Once they get together it becomes 54 per cent.
It is being talked about that the next election will be the Presidential Election. You mentioned five candidates. However much you say, no, there is a conflict of opinion between the SLFP and the Pohottuwa about who will become the Presidential Candidate.
A: There is no conflict of opinion. At any Presidential Election, several names are put forward. A defining dialogue is created about it. It is only after that that the Candidate is named. How many names were mentioned at the last Presidential Election? Even Sobitha Thero’s name was mentioned. About seven names including those of Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premadasa, Shirani Bandaranayaka, Nimal Siripala De Silva, Maithripala Sirisena and Chandrika Kumaratunga were mentioned. There are five names being mentioned from our side. But then who is there in the UNP? There also five names are being mentioned! Sajith Premadasa, Karu Jayasuriya, Rajitha Senaratne, Champika Ranawaka and Ranil Wickremesinghe. A lot of names were mentioned but, only one person will contest. We are having deep discussions about our Candidate and then only will the Candidate be selected.
Who will be doing that task?
A: We need not mention the name of the Presidential Candidate at this moment. The reason is because there are nine months more for the election. Once the Presidential Election is announced we will name our Candidate, there are nine months for that. What we want to do is win the election. We will nominate the most popular individual who will be capable of winning the election, from among our five names.
Who will select the most popular individual?
A: The weight of that is more on Mahinda Rajapaksa. The reason is because he is the most popular person in the country as at now. Even the UNP accepts that fact. The UNP amended the Constitution and grabbed his opportunity. Therefore, that opportunity will be given to someone else.
Finally, the Party leaders will hold discussions and make a final decision.
The Leader of the UPFA is Maithripala Sirisena. Will his opinion also be considered or will only Mahinda Rajapaksa’s opinion be considered? Isn’t that what you are trying to make apparent, from what you are saying?
A: No. You are intentionally distorting what I said.
I am not distorting anything. That is what is understood from what you said!
A: I did not say that.
I am asking you a question. You should provide the answer.
A: I will answer that. I did not say anywhere that Maithripala Sirisena was not the leader. I said that when a Candidate is being discussed the most popular person among us is Mahinda Rajapaksa. His opinion will have a greater say and our Party Leaders will discuss the issue and arrive at a decision. The person whom Mahinda Rajapaksa approves of will become our Presidential Candidate, his opinion will be heeded and it is possible that he selects Maithripala Sirisena. It could be Chamal Rajapaksa or even Gotabaya Rajapaksa. If not it could be someone else also.
If there is an invitation to join the SLFP, will you join them or will you contest from the Podujana Peramuna?
A: As an election has not been announced as yet, there is no point in mentioning we will contest from. We are striving for an election to be held, and then we can decide how we will contest.
There is the allegation that Mahinda Rajapaksa is raising racism to gain the lost attraction, what have you got to say about this? Even if you speak about the October revolution, and present legal arguments, what happened ultimately was that you all were defeated.
A: The Judiciary hasn’t decided that appointing Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister was wrong. No one went to Court to contest that either.
A petition was submitted. He resigned before it was heard. That is the truth.
A: No, there was no petition. That appointment was not challenged. Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the post of Prime Minister due to the power of money of Tamil separatists and the Central Bank thieves. As a result he could not get the majority of 113 and finally resigned from his post and handed over the government. If not, no court gave a verdict saying that Mahinda Rajapaksa being appointed as the Prime Minister was illegal.
Therefore, it was not a defeat for us. We only achieved victory. If there is a decline in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s popularity the UNP should be happy and go for an election. If not, is it correct to keep postponing elections?
Is it correct to put forward racist arguments? There are serious allegations targeting you all regarding that.
A: When the UNP together with the TNA is presenting a Constitution that divides the country, it is wrong to say that we are bringing up racist opinions, when we are only submitting opinions against it. We opposed this because the country is being broken up and the priority for Buddhism is being taken away and also Police powers are being devolved, permitting separatism. We did not talk about these only after the October revolution.
We did that even previously. We said that these things will be done, even during the 2015 Presidential Election. Did we not say that if Ranil Wickremesinghe won the Parliamentary Election in 2015, he would do these things? We spoke up against every report that was submitted. We are repeating today the same slogans we said, then. Therefore, there is no basis to say that we are presenting racist opinions in order to gain back the popularity that declined after the October revolution. Those who say that what we mention is racist should explain it too. Opposing this country being broken up and dividing into ten sections, is racist! Being against the opinions of those who are attempting to separate the country according to religion and race and trying to legalise racism is not racism.