By Sulochana Ramiah Mohan
UNP MP Mangala Samaraweera says that he never went down on his knees to apologize to Sajith Premadasa over the alleged slandering remark on his website, adding that the exposure they have received consequent to the ‘raid’ in fact made his website more popular, both locally and internationally.
What are your views of the present government?
The Rajapaksa government is totally corrupt, inefficient and insensitive to the needs of the people. As a result, the economy is in shambles while the rule of law has completely collapsed. Sri Lanka which has been a much respected member of the international community throughout history is now facing international isolation and we seem to be on the verge of becoming the new Burma or the rogue state of Asia. This regime is beyond doubt, the most corrupt government in post independent Sri Lanka. We have now a fully fledged ‘Kleptocracy’ where state funds and resources are siphoned for the benefit of the ruling family.
What are your main concerns for the masses?
A serious economic crisis is prevailing due to economic mismanagement and unprecedented corruption. The cost of living is out of control while the economy is stagnant and FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) has reached an all time low because of the bad image of the government, internationally. There is also a total breakdown in the law and order situation. The police spokesperson said that in the first six months of this year, there have been over a 700 cases of rape. Most of these crimes can be traced back to diehard supporters of the regime who feel immune from prosecution because of their connections to the government. Just look at the number of rape and murder cases in Tangalle, which is the hometown of the ruling family. Drug addiction is also reaching epidemic proportions and the recent rape and killing of a seven year old girl in Kirulapone was carried out by drug-crazed youths. This epidemic in drug use is due to the fact that most of the mega drugs dealers are now doing deals with the blessings and the protection of the highest in the country. Some of them are ministers or advisors to the Defence Ministry!
But can you blame the government for all the corruption taking place in the country?
Like in most South Asian countries, there has always been a certain degree of corruption in all governments since independence but as I said earlier, corruption has now reached epidemic levels because many of the checks and balances needed to deal with this problem have been done away with or not yet been introduced. There is absolutely no transparency in the dealings of this regime, and the media which is there to expose such corruption has been completely stifled; those who dare to question the rulers are either killed, abducted, attacked or abused in raw filth.
How can you blame the government for the recent rape and murder of a seven year old girl in Kirulapone?
That crime was committed by drug addicts, and the drug epidemic is everywhere. Do you know that the pet advisor to a certain Ministry was not only a child rapist but a big time drug dealer? It’s an open secret. Sri Lanka today has become a centre for money laundering for international drug barons and other racketeers.
The UNP has its own internal crisis. There are factions in your party and the poor leadership of Ranil Wickremesinghe has put the party in jeopardy. How can you crow about bad governance by the present government when you have not solved your internal problems?
Yes, we do have some issues that are now being dealt with conclusively. Such crises may arise in any party all over the world, especially when in opposition. It’s not unusual. I’ve been in politics for 24 years and my baptism of fire into such matters was in 1989 when the bitter internal crisis between Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Anura B’s faction had reached its zenith. The Anura faction tried to disrupt many activities of the party for the benefit of the regime of the day, but few of us who supported the status quo started reorganizing the grassroots and (began) to restructure the party, and we came back to power sooner than we expected. The UNP today has a stronger political structure at the grassroots. At the moment we are in the process of energizing grassroots level UNP loyalists by having countrywide programmes to restructure and reorganize the party.
True, there are plenty of issues that the present government needs to look into but during the UNP regime there was corruption and malpractice too. How do you respond to that?
Certainly, every government coming into power becomes corrupt but no government before has condoned corruption like this regime. Yes, the UNP governments, like all other governments have had their share of corruption but never in this magnitude.
Talking about the UNP’s past can never justify the damning record of this regime. The UNP today has a clear and clean start. In fact, even those who are most critical of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe will easily agree that he is one of the most uncorrupt politicians in Sri Lanka today. His integrity is never questioned even by those who oppose him. Likewise, the other members of the party today are not tainted with corruption or violence. Most, if not all the corrupt politicians in the UNP, have crossed over to the UPFA. As a result, we have a clean party ready to meet the challenges of this corrupt regime.
What are the things you as a UNPer are proud of that this government has not accomplished?
The UNP introduced the free market economy to the country. Television, mobile phones, test cricket, etc., which many of our youth take for granted today were introduced by the UNP; UNP governments have built more irrigation systems than all the kings of Sri Lanka put together. I am also personally proud that the Chandrika Kumaratunge government continued with many of these free market policies and expanded on them. Privatization of the Telecom while opening up the market for competition is a good example of this. Presently, it’s the most successful entity in Asia.
But today it’s all turned backward. Successful privatized ventures like SriLankan and SLT have been taken over by the government and are now running at a loss because of the waste and corruption. The taking over of so called under-performing companies shows the disastrous direction this government is taking.
Many websites do attack persons they don’t like or sensationalise and slander. Recently, Sri Lanka Mirror and Lanka XNews, official UNP websites they say, were raided by the Criminal Investigation Department because they had continuously publishing false and defamatory news about the public and government officials. Don’t you feel carrying baseless mud slinging ‘news’ on websites is ethically incorrect?
First of all, it was raided by Gota’s secret police but not closed. Secondly, I must stress that we never published ‘mud slinging news’ against anyone in Lanka Xnews but as the tag line of this website says, we are committed to publishing ‘Uncensored news of the Rajapaksa Regime.’ We have also stated that we stand to be corrected and any correction sent by the parties in question will be published in Xnews. On the other hand if anyone feels that they have been defamed, they are free to sue us according to the laws of our land.
All in all, XNews has now become the most popular political website in the country and I am most thankful to Mahinda and Gotabaya Rajapaksa for boosting its popularity not only locally but also internationally.
Why do you want defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa to resign? Hasn’t he done many good deeds for the nation?
I must humbly admit that I have absolutely nothing good to say about him. He is the man who fled the country in the early ‘90s to the US when the war was at its peak and only returned 15 years later when his brother became the president.
Gotabaya is obsessed by wanting to take full credit for the war victory. The defeat of the LTTE was a process and is not the achievement of a single person or a single government. D.B. Wijetunge and Ranil Wickremesinghe defeated the LTTE in the East in 1992, and in 1995, Chandrika Kumaratunge along with Anuruddha Ratwatte dislodged Prabhakaran from Jaffna to the jungles of Mullaitivu after Operation Riviresa.
Even I would like to stake my claim in the final victory in the war as it was under my tenure as the foreign minister that we managed to ban the LTTE in the EU consisting of 25 nations at the time. As Prabhakaran himself admitted, it was one of the most serious international setbacks for the LTTE.
We must also not forget for a moment the role the late Lakshman Kadirgamar played in listing the LTTE as a terrorist organization in the US, the UK and India.
Of course, the defence secretary was there during the last phase of the war and so was Sarath Fonseka as the army commander.
Let us not forget for a moment the role the armed forces played in the final victory; not only in the final phase but all those who laid down their lives since 1983 – all those who did not have the luxury of fleeing abroad and becoming US citizens. But all these people are ignored and forgotten while the defence secretary gets sycophants to write books giving him all the credit for the final defeat of the Tigers.
If this man wants to take full credit for the war victory, he must also take full responsibility for the breakdown in law and order as defence secretary and that is why I will say again and again that ‘Gota must go.’
What are your solutions for all the ‘negatives’ you have enunciated above?
In short, implementing the recommendations of the government’s own LLRC would be a step in the right direction. I would like to see a re-democratized country. Repealing the 18th Amendment should be a priority and the independent commissions must be re-established; an independent Police Commission, an independent Judicial Commission, an independent Elections Commission are essentials. I also would like to see an independent and powerful Bribery and Corruption Commission. Personally, I would also want the executive presidency abolished because I think it is the fountain of many of the evils we are facing today. courtesy: LakbimaNews