Mahinda Rajapaksa, former President and Prime Minister appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena on October 26, in an interview with the Daily Mirror, spoke about the current status of the country and the plans he wishes to carry out after the Supreme Court ruling on dissolution of Parliament, expected on December 7, 2018.
Q Now, the country is ungovernable. There is instability in the country. How do you intend to end this crisis?
There is no instability in the country as I can see. There is a certain dispute involving Parliament only. That is all. It has not affected the country as a whole. People get on with their normal work. Public servants report to work. I travel all across the country. That is what I see. Likewise, we have meetings and demonstrations throughout the country.
During the previous rule, we saw underworld killings. On a daily basis, four to five persons got killed. The situation has changed now. Actually, things have changed for the better in the country in some aspects.
Q Now, there is a crisis involving Parliament. It has hampered decision making. Won’t it affect the country in another month or two?
Whatever it is, we have to wait for the ruling by the Supreme Court on December 7. The matter is pending before court. We will be able to talk about the country’s situation subject to the court ruling only. Until then, we cannot talk anything about it.
Q What are you planning to do?
We will decide after the court ruling. We are in a win-win situation. We took over the Government. We always requested for elections. We agitated for elections. We do not mind even if we do not get an election. We have the support of 113 MPs. We will show it at the right time.
Q How certain are you that you have the support of 113 MPs in Parliament?
In case, a General Election is ruled out, we will show it in Parliament and proceed.
Q Now, the JVP and the UNP say they are ready for any election, but not under your Government. They want your Government to be unseated as a condition for elections. What is your view?
Today, the JVP and the UNP speak in one voice. JVP Leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake is the mouthpiece of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. It is no wonder that both the parties have the same viewpoint.
Q There is perception among some that you took over the Government entering through the backdoor despite your ability to win elections in the future. What is your view?
There is no such thing called capturing power through the backdoor. A political party is not meant to be in the opposition forever. It should try to become the ruling party on the very first occasion made available to it. We vowed to topple the Government after two Vesak Poyas. One Vesak Poya is over. We toppled the Government before the next Vesak Poya. Our duty is to topple the Government if it is possible. It is actually in the greater interests of the country. The previous Government alienated the national assets. If it continued, there would be nothing left in the country for posterity. We reversed the move to introduce a separatist Constitution. Otherwise, it would also have been declared as adopted by voice vote in Parliament. (Ekath Aye Uye gala sammatha karai)
In that context, we have taken a correct decision in the interests of the country. We also faced a similar problem with regards to the Free Trade Agreements at that time. The previous Government did not think of the country. They acted in their personal interest and the interests of foreign countries.
Q The change of Government has been subjected to criticism by a section of the international community; namely the western countries. How can a Government be run without the cooperation from the western countries?
We have no grudge against the western world. Yet, the western world looks at us from a different angle. We are taking steps to change their attitude towards us.
Q What is your strategic plan to do it?
We have already started it. We remain engaged with them. They have an ill-informed opinion of us. When a new ambassador is posted to Sri Lanka, he relies on information provided by predecessors. Their opinion is shaped in that manner. We are trying to give them the correct picture.
There are some persons attending parties thrown by the embassies. Actually, the opinion expressed by these party-goers cannot be taken as the common opinion of Sri Lankans. Mostly, the views expressed by these persons frequenting the embassies and high commissions are taken as the common position of Sri Lankans, unfortunately.
Only a handful of countries raise concern with us. The middle-eastern countries have no issue with us. Only a few western countries take up this issue with us. We would be able to correct it.
Most countries are alright with us. China believes that Sri Lankans have the wisdom to resolve their issues. Likewise, Russia also believes the same.
Q What are the Government’s priorities till December 7?
We have worked out a programme to give concessions to the agriculture sector. That was a neglected sector during the previous rule. We have focused attention on it. If we develop this sector, we can feed ourselves. We will pay more attention on the export-oriented industries. We have initiated talks for the development of the tourism sector through new promotional activities. We gave concessions to those sending foreign remittances. During the previous rule, people did not send foreign remittances. Even our expatriate workers who toil in the Middle East were taxed. We are correcting all these areas.
Q When you give tax concessions, it affects the Government’s revenue. How do you address such concern?
The Government did not receive much revenue by way of taxes levied on these sectors. We do taxation appropriately. We should not burden people in the process of taxation. As I always say, it is proverbially similar to sucking nectar from a flower without damaging it. That is our policy.
Q Once you joined hands with President Maithripala Sirisena, everybody thought that the factions of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) would be united. But, you obtained the membership of Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna(SLPP). Why did it happen?
We formed the SLPP under the Pohottuwa symbol. We have operated that party from its inception. It is nothing new that I obtained its membership. In fact, I have virtually acted as a member of that party right from the beginning.
Q Won’t it affect the identity of the SLFP?
It will not happen. We will act as a common front. It does not matter whether we belong to the SLFP or the SLPP.
Q Would you be contesting future elections under the Pohottuwa symbol?
We have talked about a common alliance. Discussions are underway for a common symbol. No final decision has been taken about the symbol. We have to choose a symbol which appeals the most to the people. I believe it should not be a symbol which requires to be introduced freshly to people. We are negotiating on this matter.
Q Some people think that the UNP received a boost as its members became active after their leader was sacked from the post of Prime Minister. How will it affect you?
It happens normally in the event of an election. We expected it. The UNPers may remain silent. In the event of an election, they get active. It is a normal phenomenon. Let alone, at village level, the situation is totally different. People do not talk about Ranil or Sajith.
Whatever it may be, it is better for the UNP to discard vindictive politics. The UNP has a departure from politics followed by its founder leaders D.S.Senanayake and Dudley Senanayake. The UNP is actually a forum of mudslingers today. The UNP should correct its tarnished reputation.
Q There is an allegation that you took over the Government to cover up cases pending against your family members. Is it true?
We have not done anything to cover up cases. We will not stop politics in fear of court cases. We will not shy away from them. We don’t mind court cases instituted over our political activities. It is nothing new for us. We faced such legal cases in 1980s as well.
Q Are you planning to initiate action against the Central Bank bond fraud reported during the former rule?
The President has already made a statement in this regard. He will look into it.
Q You maintained the position that the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) should be disbanded. What are you planning to do with it?
We stick with the same position. It is up to the President to take any decision in this regard. We are against the establishment of such police units, comprising specially selected police officers, to politically victimise people. It conducted investigations regarding complaints sent by then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe only.
Q There is a demand by the UNP to conduct an early presidential election. What is your response?
Now, there is a question involving Parliament. It has nothing to do with the presidency. Therefore, a parliamentary election is appropriate.
Q In case, the Presidential Election is declared by the President, are you ready for it?
Let’s see it then!