By Chamitha Kuruppu
(Housing Minister Wimal Weerawansa believes that the Sri Lankan Government has no clear view on how to counter war crimes allegations against the country. Weerawansa, whose hard line National Freedom Front (NFF) is a constituent of the ruling UPFA, says that to fight Western Imperialists, the Government needs to face those forces and counter their allegations tactfully.
As Geneva 2013 gets underway, the outspoken Minister says he will not be the Government’s mouthpiece even though people are questioning his silence. “If the Government does not want to talk about these things, if they want to take things lightly, why should I shout alone?” he asks.
Weerawansa, who dropped a political bombshell recently by calling the country’s Treasury Secretary an ‘economic hit man’, warned that Sri Lanka was facing an economic war that would be worse than the country’s three decade battle with the separatist LTTE. The Minister vowed to carry on his campaign against P.B. Jayasundera even if it costs him his ministerial portfolio.
He also said that the Government should brace itself for major political fallout in the near future.)
Following are excerpts from the interview
Q: How would you respond to India’s consistent anti-Sri Lanka stance in Geneva? The country is expected to vote against Sri Lanka again this year.
A: Throughout history, India has acted as an ally of Soviet Russia. Today, due to various reasons, India has changed course and become the pet of the United States. It is a sad situation for the entire region that a powerful country like India is fulfilling the whims of the United States. If India is unhappy about certain matters concerning Sri Lanka, they could have taken other action over it.
They should not have teamed up with the US against us. For the first time in the South Asian region, India has joined hands with a Western power to attack a single country. India has never acted like this before. The US does not like the Rajapaksa administration. India dances to the tune of the US and is doing its best to topple this government.
However, the people of this country know these allegations are baseless. They are well aware that this is just vengeance against Sri Lanka for ending terrorism. Those who bring resolutions against Sri Lanka might be happy that they are able to put more and more pressure on us. But Sri Lankans are not disheartened by all this.
Q: Do you think India and the US have an agenda against Sri Lanka?
A: Yes. It is very clear that these two countries work according to an agenda. India wants to become a member of the Security Council. The US is pretending to help India achieve this. The US is using the hatred between India and Pakistan to achieve its own goals. They are also using the mistrust between China and India to weaken China and prevent it from emerging as a powerful nation.
While India has its own reasons to dance to the tune of the United States, the US is also using India to achieve its own goals. The present leaders in India should be ashamed of this situation in their country. It is an insult to great Indian leaders like Nehru and Gandhi.
Q: You were a leading anti-UNHRC, anti-US voice last March. Why are you silent this year?
A: When this entire drama began, we tried to explain it to the people. The Darusman report was the beginning of this. Certain members of the Government then said that we were overreacting. They deliberately tried to hide the real gravity of this situation. Let me tell you one thing – this government has various types of people. Some are very dangerous.
Although some show that they adore the President, that they love this country, the truth is that their loyalties are with others. They are mere agents of other countries and organisations. The President and the Government have a habit of becoming victims of these honey-traps. At first they will not realise that they are being trapped. But finally when they realise the truth, it will be too late. The best example is Shirani Bandaranayake. Her appointment as Chief Justice was part of a sugar-coated trap.
When the US brought the first resolution, I told this Government to go for a referendum, so that we could have a clear idea about what the people of this country want. Then we could have acted according to the people’s wishes. If we did that, we would have had the support and backing of the people in this country.
But the Government did not have the courage to go for a referendum. They went and had local government elections instead. It seems that the Government is the least bothered about this issue. When a government takes things so lightly, why do we need to get out on the streets?
I know people are questioning my silence. If the Government does not want to talk about these things, why should I shout alone? The UNHRC is not coming to take Wimal Weerawansa to the international criminal courts. It is the President, the Defence Secretary and the soldiers that will have to face the international criminal courts. Why do I need to alert the people while everyone else keeps mum?
I proposed to Minister Basil Rajapaksa that we should take some action as a country. To show our protest against the ongoing UNHRC sessions, I suggested that we bring people clad in white to Colombo to show the world that we are united as a country and that we will not tolerate the interference by imperialists.
It is sad that to date, they haven’t shown any interest in taking any action. This Government thinks that carrying out development work is enough. It’s a pity the Government cannot foresee the massive political blow we have to face in the near future. We should be preparing to face that. We need to stand up. Without doing that, we are just working on things that have little political importance. And when we try to do these alone, the people label us lunatics.
Q: Are you trying to say that you don’t have a say in this Government and that these so-called forces are more powerful than you?
A: As I said, there are various kinds of people in this Government. It’s like a jungle full of animals. There is one group that tries to sabotage everything. When everyone in the Government tries to work towards one goal, this group tactfully creates some trouble. This happened during the critical period of ending the war, it is happening right now and it will continue in the future too.
Q: Don’t you think such situations will only weaken the Government?
A: Definitely. This Government should understand that it is not the Opposition inside the country that they have to deal with. The real threat is from outside the country. We have to fight the Western imperialists. These imperialists are now trying to take revenge from the President and the Defence Secretary for crushing terrorism and ending the war. If we want to fight these forces, we have to face them and counter their allegations tactfully. The truth is that this Government has no clear idea of how to face these allegations.
Q: Are you disappointed with this Government?
A: No, I am not disappointed. Before I feel disappointed, I want to talk about these things. Let the leaders and the people know what the real situation is. Feeling disappointed is not an answer. One day, when everyone realises the truth, they will look back and say this is what Wimal was saying all along.
Q: You called the Treasury Secretary an economic hitman. P.B. Jayasundera has a doctorate in economics. When you make such an accusation against him, what economic theory are you applying?
A: It is true, I couldn’t complete my G.C.E. Advanced Level. But that wasn’t because I was not able to get through the examination. We were compelled to give up our education and serve our party fulltime. We were fighting against certain forces that we believed were a threat to our country.
Before anyone questions my qualifications to criticize P.B. Jayasundera, why don’t they ask Tissa Attanayake about his qualifications to criticise the country’s economy? It is said that Harsha de Silva has not even passed his Advanced Level although he pursued his higher education abroad. Why don’t the English media question his qualifications when he criticises Nivard Cabraal? These are jokes. When a politician criticises someone on a particular issue, you don’t question his educational background in that regard.
P.B. Jayasundera is not the only economist in this country. If I called Nivard Cabraal an ‘economic hitman’, then this situation would not arise. If I did, then the media would praise me.
Harsha de Silva arranged a meeting between P.B. Jayasundera and Ranil Wickremesinghe. Jayasundera is the one who revealed that the country would soon be hit by an economic crisis. Have you ever heard Ranil Wickremesinghe criticising P.B. Jayasundera? Why is Harsha de Silva only criticising Nivard Cabraal? Who provides information to Harsha? It is P.B. Jayasundera.
P.B. Jayasundera is the main hitman in this Government. He is the number one troublemaker. His job is to create problems that make the Government unpopular. Who initiated the private sector pension scheme bill? It was something that should have been prepared by the Ministry of Labour; why did the Ministry of Finance get involved in that?
Who brought the Cabinet paper to use plastic crates during vegetable transportation? Although it was Minister Johnston Fernando who looked like the bad guy, it was P.B. Jayasundera who initiated this law. For what? I don’t understand why Minister Johnston Fernando does not want to talk about these things.
This Government decided that it would only provide 30,000 jobs. But what did Jayasundera do? He has given more than 50,000 jobs. And at the end of the day, it is the Government that has to face the consequences. He is gradually creating a clash between the public and the Government. I can criticise President Rajapaksa but I cannot say anything against the Treasury Secretary. Isn’t this enough evidence to prove how powerful he is? Jayasundera is someone who has been convicted by the courts. Is he suitable to hold the positions that he is holding now?
Q: Is it true that this sudden criticism against the Treasury Secretary was because he has not approved funds for your Ministry?
A: The media reported that I am angry because Jayasundera did not provide funds for four projects that come under my Ministry. I challenge them to name these four projects. There is no truth in that. When Jayasundera was appointed to his position for the second time, I openly opposed the move. This was after he was convicted by courts.
There was no question of funds being released to my Ministry at that time. All this time I kept mum because when you are in a government, you have to do that. But I can no longer be silent. Look at what he is doing to the country’s economy.
President Rajapaksa called me recently and asked me why I am attacking Jayasundera. I told him that even if he takes my Ministry away, I will not stop criticising him. What do I gain by criticising him? I gain nothing. He has ruined the country’s economy. No one can see the damage he has caused to this country.
When there is nothing left for him to destroy, he will leave his post. But then there will be no economy left in this country. This is exactly what the UNP wants. When I called Jayasundera an economic hitman, Sajith Premedasa accused me of being a ‘housing hitman.’ Harsha De Silva called for a separate press conference. Tissa Attanayake has also started attacking me. Why are they trying to defend Jayasundera?
The Treasury Secretary is not allowing any foreign investments to come into the country. The investors come and meet him first, otherwise he will not allow them to set up any business here. If an investor first meets the President and then the President directs him to Jayasundera, still he does not allow that business to happen. The President will say that is not true. But I know very well that this is exactly how things work.
What happened to Minister Champika Ranawaka? If he was allowed to carry out the work he initiated during his tenure, the industry would have performed much better than it is doing now. But he was not allowed to do that. There are few ministers who get more than enough funds from Jayasundera. They are not his friends. These ministers are friends of several embassies in Colombo. They get enough assistance from Jayasundera. Let me tell you – Jayasundera is worse than Paskaralingam and Charitha Ratwatte.
Q: Why do you believe the Treasury Secretary acts this way?
A: He is a tool of the IMF. His loyalties are not with President Rajapaksa. He is not serving this Government but is serving foreign bosses. Meanwhile, Jayasundera is creating trouble among ministers and officials who can be a strength to the President. He has created unpleasantness between ministers who genuinely support the President and this Government. When Western countries decided former President Chandrika Kumaratunge needed to go home and a new leader be appointed, they started supporting Ranil Wickremesinghe. Chandrika Kumaratunge didn’t realise this, she is not someone who can sense these things, and if she did, she will not be in such a sorry position today.
However, for that power transformation, the country had to go through certain changes. One was to create an economic crisis. It was Jayasundera who took measures to create a negative economy at that time. Some will argue and question how Jayasundera can make a minus economy. Then how did Ranil Wickremesinghe, within months of coming to power, reverse the trend? It was Jayasundera who created all these disasters.
Q: P.B. Jayasundera is secretary to a ministry headed by the President. Are you suggesting that the President is unaware of his arbitrary action?
A: If I was with the Opposition, I would also believe that the President is aware of what Jayasundera is doing. But I am part of this Government. I know how things work. I know how President Rajapaksa works. When the President puts someone in charge of something, he gives them the full responsibility. He trusts that person 100% and gives them the power and freedom to act according to their wishes.
During the war, the President gave that freedom to the Defence Secretary. The Defence Secretary never misused the power that was given to him. In fact, he made sure that he got assistance from all of us to end the war.
The present economic war is worse than the 30 year long war we had with the LTTE. Unfortunately, unlike the Defence Secretary, Jayasundera is not willing to get the support of others to end the economic war because he thinks he is the only capable man in this country. He thinks he is the only economist in this country.
However, I too believe that as the Head of the Ministry, the President should take these allegations against Jayasundera seriously. He should take measures to inquire into these allegations and then act according to the findings.
Let me tell you one thing – a President should not run the Finance Ministry. When a President runs the Finance Ministry he has to face issues like this. Chandrika Kumaratunge went through the same situation. The Treasury Secretary acts like he is a Cabinet minister. Although I criticise his misconduct, other ministers are afraid to say anything because Jayasundera is the secretary appointed by the President and Minister Basil Rajapaksa.
Q: Sections of the Government are saying you are only trying to dishonour the President?
A: Did I tie anyone to a tree? Did I set fire to media institutions or assault a journalist? Did I use thugs to show my power? If I did any of this, then they can say I am trying to dishonour the President.
Q: What do you have to say about the Government not accepting the IMF loan?
A: That is another gimmick by the Treasury Secretary. He will create more trouble which will worsen the economic situation in the country. After some time, he will say the economy is ailing and therefore we need to borrow money from the IMF under whatever condition. Or he will say that we need to take another loan under massive interest rates.
According to the little knowledge I have in economics, I know that when a country’s economic growth rate is between 6% to 8%, there is a tendency for imports to increase. The next negative effect will be on the dollar reserves which will later have an impact on exchange rates.
If I can understand this simple theory, an economist like Jayasundera will also recognise gravity of this. In a situation like this, an economist would try to discourage money flowing out of the country in order to protect our foreign reserves. But what did Jayasundara do? He brought vehicle taxes to zero and encouraged the import of vehicles.
The number of vehicles that would come into the country in a two year period was brought down within a year. During this period, I requested for four vehicles for the Housing Authority, do you know how many vehicles we received? We got a fleet of 18 vehicles. I was happy at the time, but I also knew what exactly was going on. Jayasundera led us to a situation where the country was compelled to beg for financial assistance from the IMF. This is exactly what the IMF expected Jayasundera to do.
I may not be an economist. But I have some knowledge in economics. I studied economics for Advanced Level for a few months before I gave up my education. I would like to invite him to take part in a debate with me on these issues. He may not do it now. But he should at least consider doing that once he retires as a Government servant.
Q: Is it true that the Central Bank Governor and Parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa are supporting you in this cold war between you and the Treasury Secretary?
A: The last time I spoke to the Central Bank Governor was before I started talking about this issue. Namal Rajapaksa spoke to me about this matter in Parliament. He has accepted that what I am trying to say is true. Other than that, I am not working according to anybody’s agenda. Whatever I do, I do it in the best interest of this country. I believe that it is my duty to reveal the truth and the destruction of the economy. Some people are happy that I am doing this. They appreciate what I do. But that does not mean I am working according to their agendas.