22 March 2019
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JVP Will Not Be Part Of Any Alliance – Vijitha Herath

1 1024x883During the last presidential election, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) played a key role, especially at the grass root level to defeat former President Mahinda Rajapaksa but yet they did not openly support the election campaign of President Maithripala Sirisena. In the absence of a strong opposition, the JVP was also seen playing the role of the main opposition as an alternative force. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, JVP MP Vijitha Herath said that JVP has maintained their stance for over the years and will not pledge allegiance to any other political party but only to the people and the country. He reiterated that JVP will contest the next general election independently and will not be part of any alliance.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: Are you satisfied about the amount of work done during the 100 day programme of the interim government? Where do you think the new government went wrong?

A: Actually we are not satisfied fully. We can say that there are 50/50 both pros and cons. The President and the Prime Minister initially promised to do many things. However they have only completed half of what they promised. As far as the democracy is concerned we can be satisfied to some extent. But when it comes to the anti-corruption activities, we cannot be satisfied fully especially in terms of the legal actions taken to stop corruption.
There were so many facts and information produced on cases related to bribery and corruption but the government did not take immediate actions against those incidents. With reference to Rajapaksa family and their close friends , the government seemed to be a little afraid to take actions against them. For instance, there were certain complaints against Shiranthi Rajapaksa but when it came to her, the FCID questioned her at the speaker’s house which is an example of being bias. She is also a citizen of this country like others there should not be special treatments for her when it comes to investigations. Likewise there were many such instances where the government did not take proper actions.

Q: Even though 100 days have elapsed the President has not dissolved parliament. How do you see this?

A: The 100 day programme came to an end some times back. The Prime Minister cannot hold his post for a further duration of time. It is not ethical. The cabinet also has no right to continue their portfolios and the leader of the opposition also has no right to continue his activities any longer. Since the 100 days have come to an end, parliament should be dissolved. The decision must be taken by the President. Unfortunately the President has not yet taken that decision. According to our view, there is an internal matter within the SLFP that keeps delaying the dissolution of parliament. There is clearly two factions within the SLFP Mahinda Rajapaksa faction and Maithripala Sirisena faction. The President clearly wants some time to sort out internal party matters. The Rajapksa faction wants to go to immediate election but the President seems to want sometime to solve the issues within the party before the general election. That is where the delay is. As far as I understand, the UNP is also demanding for the dissolution of parliament. The Prime Minister and several other members of the UNP have raised that issue several times. It is the President who has to dissolve parliament – nobody else can do that.

However the reality is that in the pretext of passing the 20thAmendment to the constitution, the SLFP has been stealing time. Even though they make excuses saying that they need time to pass the 20 A as it is important to people and it needs to be passed before dissolving parliament, we do not believe that. They could have done it earlier there was absolutely no reason to delay. We can prove that their intention is to take time to solve the internal issues.
Recently, the President appointed four other ministers and senior political advisers which is also a joke. However these recent appointments indicate that the President has no intention of dissolving parliament as yet – the SLFP wants to continue this. He has to respect the people’s mandate and dissolve parliament immediately.

Q: The National Executive Council came to an end as the 100 days ended. How do you describe the work done in the Executive Council as the JVP was also part of it?

A: At the very beginning of the 100 day programme, JVP proposed to form the National Executive Council and we clearly emphasised that it would only continue for 100 days. After 100 days there was no necessity to call upon NEC. After 19th of April, the NEC did not have any meeting. JVP participated in many discussions related to the reforms related to democracy and demanded certain economic subsidies. As a party, we individually got involved in complaining about bribery and corruption issues. JVP went before the Bribery and Corruption Commission, CID, FCID and even appeal court to make complaints. We went before the Appeal Court to complain against Kumaran Pathmanathan. As a party, we did a lot during the 100 day programme but the government should have taken actions against those complaints and the things we pointed out. By participating in NEC, we did some work to a great extent but probably could not do everything however we are satisfied with the amount of work done in the Executive Council during the 100 days.

Q: As the government has formed a ‘national government’ or rather an allparty government, do you think there is an absence of an opposition? Do you agree with the national government concept?

A: We do not agree with the national government concept because there must be a strong opposition in the country. If people are to enjoy real democracy, there has be a strong opposition. Without a strong opposition there is no democracy. The national government concept which they came up with is also a political trick. Obviously the UNP cannot obtain the majority in parliament. Even in the next general election, they will not be able to get one third. The SLFP is also cannot obtain simple majority on their own. That is the reason why the UNP has included one clause to the 19th Amendment saying that after the forthcoming election they will form a national government with the support of the main opposition party. Our guess is that after the next general election even if the SLFP joins or not, the UNP will not be able to obtain 113 seats in parliament then JVP will be the deciding factor – rather the remote controller.

Q: During the presidential election, JVP backed to defeat Rajapaksa. There is a group now backing Rajapaksa to come back to politics as the prime minister. Under such circumstances, what would be the stance of the JVP and would the JVP consider supporting any party in the next election?

A: We will not support Maithripala Sirisena or Rajapaksa or any other party for that matter. We will contest the election alone and ask for people to give us a strong power in parliament. Even after the election we will continue our party activities separately in parliament. As a party we have a separate identical principal and separate programme that we follow. We will not support any government but on behalf of the people and for the interest of the country, we will assist issue by issue. We will not form any alliances. However we will not leave any room for anarchy in the country. If there is anarchy, then we will take decisions on behalf of the people with their interest in mind. We support the people of this country – not any political party.

Even though the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction is making a lot of noise about him coming back to politics, I doubt that he stands a chance to ever come back to parliament. He does not have the people’s power especially at the grassroot level. They may have collected some people from various places and are holding meetings but that does not mean they have enough people’s power. We have no fear about that. Mahinda Rajapaksa will not come to power again. And if that’s the case, we will do our best to defeat Rajapaksa and his family’s political regime.

Q: The 20th Amendment to the constitution has now been approved by the cabinet. Is the JVP completely satisfied with the 20A? What are your concerns?

A: We are not satisfied by the 20th Amendment that is being approved by the cabinet but we are supporting to amend the electoral system in the country. The existing system is the Proportionate Representation system and people are happy to have a system where there is a member for each electorate and with no preferential votes (Manapa). Therefore we are supporting such reforms. As a party, we also think that the electoral system must be changed. If you look at some countries in the world, they are also using a mix system – Mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) system. We also like that system.
But if the system is to be changed, the new system that will be introduced should protect the rights of all communities Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, Burgher, Malay and minor communities. That is the important fact. On the other hand we are proposing that there should be a double ballot papers one for the party and one for the individual candidates. We submitted this proposal to the president. Some countries like New Zealand, Germany, Taiwan are using that system which we can apply to our country in a way where minority and minor political parties will not face any injustices. It should be fair and create equitable representation of minor parties in parliament. If we are to create national unity in this country, that system should be used to give a fair representation.

Last Sunday night there was a discussion among the minor parties. We are in support of electoral reforms. We have agreed upon three proposals. There should be a double ballot paper. The government must protect the rights of all communities if there is an election within next two three months, in fact the next general election should be held under the existing system. The new system should be used only after the next general election.

Q: According to the 20A approved by the cabinet, seats in the parliament have been increased. What is your opinion?

A: The amount of seats is not a big problem. We do not mind a small variation of the number of seats. It does not mean we want to increase more seats. But we are open to discuss the number of seats and we are okay with a reasonable number of seats being increased. If there is a necessity to increase five to ten seats we will not oppose that.

Q. How do you look at the decisions that the interim government has taken in terms of development project. For example many Chinese projects including China Port City has been suspended. How do you look at that?

A: As far as the China Port City project is concerned, we do not think that it is necessary to our country right now. Sri Lanka is a small island and if we want we can build cities within the country without extending the land to the sea. Singapore and Dubai can build into the sea because they do not have enough land. But we have land that is not yet being invested in. Besides there are so many environmental concerns related to that project. Fishermen are also facing many problems within the coastal area. Recently, we witnessed erosion in Ratmalana area where there were heavy damages to houses in the coastal line. Thus there are both financial and environmental concerns related to that project. So we believe that the Port City project is not necessary to our country at present under these circumstances. In future, we might be able to think about that. But right now this project has to be stopped but the government has not taken a firm decision about this yet. Even though the government has suspended the project temporarily I think soon after the election they will let it continue its work. That is a political game.

In general, whatever the government that comes to power UNP or SLFP, they should carry on the development projects. That is our stand. Without development projects, we cannot go ahead. However we have to review project by project to see if it is good for the country or not. There are some projects that are not favourable to the country or people but were only favourable for the Rajapaksa family and his clique. There were issues about high level of commissions and corruptions involved in such projects. We believe that there were many projects that were a waste like Maththala airport. Development is necessary for the country but we need to have a good plan for that. During the last regime, they started so many projects without a proper plan they were only concerned about the commission they received. That is why we are facing such big problems today. All those projects should be reviewed. After proper evaluation we can decide which ones need to be started and which ones to be discontinued.

Q: Are you happy with the international relationships that the new government maintains especially with reference to China and India?
A: As a country we need to maintain a good relationship with all other countries like China and India. However in terms of inviting foreign projects into the country, we have to look at them in terms of the benefits which our country and citizens gain out of those projects but not in terms of the commission received by certain politicians. We are not against Chinese or Indian projects. We welcome projects that are beneficial to the country and bearable in terms of our economy. The decisions related to those projects should be taken by the Sri Lankan government but not by the Chinese or Indian governments.
However, we cannot comment on the foreign relationship maintained by the current government because they have been in power for a very short period. This is an interim government. For example, they have suspended the China Port City project but we do not know whether they will continue it in future or not. If they form the next government then we can analyse depending on their future decisions and approaches.

Q: They have not yet been able to appoint 3 civil society members to the constitutional council. Yet there is a move to run the council without those appointments. How do you look at that?
A: Our idea is that the Constitutional Council should be implemented as soon as possible and independent commissions should be established as soon as possible. We have already forced the government to do so. However, the President and Prime Minister have appointed two ministers to the council. There is no rule preventing the appointment of ministers to the council but ethically it would have been better if they did not appoint ministers to the council because ministers can interfere with the independent commissions. For instance, the procurement commission is a very important commission which decides on tender procedures and other financial activities. If there is a minister in the constitutional council, he can interfere with those activities to some extent. Therefore we believe that it would have been better if there were no ministers in the council.

When it comes to the 3 civil society members who have been nominated to the constitutional council, we are not completely happy about those nominations. But we did not take it very seriously right now because if they oppose it that procedure will be further delayed. Even though we are not fully happy with the nominees we have asked the government to go ahead and start the council. We were expecting the government to submit the three names to parliament the week before but they did not do that. However after the next election, there should not be ministers in the Constitutional Council. With that condition, we can continue the council for now. If the constitutional council does not start that means the independent commissions will also not be implemented.

The proposed names of the three civil society members have not yet been presented to parliament for approval because there are some contradictions. The SLFP Rajapaksa faction is opposing that. Therefore the government is hesitant to submit it to parliament. That is why the government has taken a decision to continue the Constitutional council without those three people. It is true that we cannot fulfill the real purpose of establishing the constitutional council under the 19A without getting civil society involved in the process. However without establishing Constitutional Council the government cannot make the electoral reforms. Because delimitation commission can be implemented only once the constitutional council is established. Without the delimitation commission, we cannot make the electoral reforms. Despite some existing issues, that is why we are pushing the government to start the constitutional council immediately.
By Waruni Karunarathne
Courtesy - http://www.thesundayleader.lk/

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