by Uditha Kumarasinghe
Former Sports Minister and UPFA Kurunegala District MP Dayasiri Jayasekara has run into a storm of controversy after it was revealed in court last week that he accepted Rs 1 million in campaign donations from a company linked to Perpetual Treasuries which is at the centre of the Bond scandal. In an interview with Sunday Observer, Jayasekera said he had received the money during the 2015 General Election campaign but in no way acted to defend the interests of the company. He called the latest allegations levelled against him ‘mud-slinging’ by poltiical rivals
Q: That you had received a cheque for Rs. one million in 2015 from Walt and Row Associates affiliated to primary dealer Perpetual Treasuries Ltd. has become politically, most controversial, today. Would you like to explain?
A: This incident took place on July 13, 2015. At that time, I was the North Western Province Chief Minister and handed over nominations to contest the August 17 Parliamentary election. During our election campaigns, various people extended support. I admit, the said company too had given me some money for my campaign, but I never represented their interest at any time. Actually, this is not Perpetual Treasuries but a different company. It is a known fact that some businessmen extend support not only to Parliamentarians but also to some Pradeshiya Sabha members during election campaigns. When this incident happened, I was not a Parliamentarian nor a member of the COPE. Even after being elected to Parliament and also as a member of COPE, I never acted to defend the said company. The cheque had not been issued in my name so that I don’t even remember the person who gave me the cheque.
I have never acted to defend Perpetual Treasuries owner Arjun Aloysius. I didn’t write books on the Treasury bond scam to defend the suspects nor did I go to courts to stop the COPE report on the Treasury bond scam. The Treasury bond scam took place in February, 2015. At that time, a number of similar cheques had been issued to various persons. It is time to probe into other transactions as well. I voted for the No Confidence Motion moved against the Prime Minister. This is political revenge and we are ready to face them. The people will in the near future give the right answer to those who attempt to tarnish our political image. Whatever the pressure, we would act against all wrongdoings committed by the Government.
Q:What is the conclusion of your 16 member group discussion with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?
A: We met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa on Wednesday (May 23) and discussed the present political scenario and what we propose to do within the next couple of months and how we would work with the Opposition. Being SLFPers we would never want to join the Joint Opposition (JO) or Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). We would work as a separate group under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena. We discussed how we would cooperate with the Opposition. The former President gave his consent to it. We are trying to function as an Opposition group by maintaining our identity as the 16 member SLFP group.
Q: What were the specific reasons that prompted you to leave the Government? Couldn’t you settle your issues amicably?
A: Actually, it couldn’t be done. In the last two years, we had a common agreement to function as a National Unity Government. SLFP General Secretary Minister Duminda Dissanayake signed the MoU on behalf of the SLFP but it is not valid as all the MPs also represent the UPFA. However, we got the approval of the SLFP Central Committee to form the National Unity Government. But, our views were never considered, and we were not regarded as a coalition partner. That is why we left the Government. Though there were many key issues, they remained unresolved. The controversial Treasury bond issue came up at this time. We were against this bond scam and decided to vote for the No Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister.
Q: What is the SLFP’s response to your group’s 15 point letter, particularly that the SLFP should leave the Government?
A: The 15 point letter was about reforms and has no connection whatsoever to the SLFP quitting the Government. We thought we can’t go on like this and that we should leave the Government and reorganize our party with the support of other coalition partners of the SLFP led UPFA in order to come to power.
Q: Do you sincerely believe the 23 SLFPers in the Government will quit and join the Opposition to contest the next General Election under one banner?
A: They will join hands with us at the right time. They are genuine SLFPers under the leadership of the President. So when the time comes, they will make the right decision.
Q: What is your assessment of the direction the Government is taking at present?
A: Actually, the Government doesn’t have a proper vision.
The Government’s economic vision is dictated by the UNP and the SLFP has no say on anything in this Government. Therefore, we did the right thing in leaving the Government.
Q: Could you explain the conflict within the SLFP which is common knowledge?
A: At present all political parties, including SLFP, UNP, JVP and TNA are having conflicts within their ranks.
This is not an issue in the SLFP alone. The 54 SLFP MPs, described as the Joint Opposition led by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa was an issue for the SLFP.
The other issue was when the 39 SLFP MPs joined the Government. Therefore, we left the Government, while some SLFP MPs continue to remain with the Government. It seems some SLFP MPs in the Government might join the UNP in the future
Q: Will the 16 Group support the proposed 20th Amendment and if so on what grounds?
A: It depends on the decision to be taken by the SLFP, and needs to be discussed at the SLFP Central Committee to arrive at a decision.
Q: Does the JVP have any ulterior motive in moving the 20th Amendment when there is strong objection to it by other political groups and individuals?
A: This needs to be done through a constitutional amendment. As political parties, we have to get together and discuss extensively these wider issues.
Q: The Joint Opposition proposes to dissolve the Government by securing a two thirds majority and go for a fresh public mandate. What is your group’s stand on this?
A: It cannot be done. The 19th Amendment clearly says a two thirds majority is needed to dissolve Parliament.
The JO or the Government cannot get a two thirds majority because no one would support to dissolve Parliament before completing four and a half years and there is no room to have a Parliamentary election before 2020.
Q: Do you think the Government can complete its full tenure considering the present political uncertainties?
A: We can’t go on like this as a Government. It is up to them to sort out the problems and ensure efficient functioning of the Government.