The Sunday Leader

“The Party Comes First And Then Comes My Political Career” – Dayasiri

By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema

Firebrand member of the main Opposition UNP, Kurunegala District Parliamentarian Dayasiri Jayasekera said that there cannot be factions in the party after the election and the winning group should not victimize and suppress the others. He noted that there needs to be a discussion on the matter in order to come up with a mechanism for everyone to work together. “The crisis in the UNP would otherwise be a force of strength to the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration,” he told The Sunday Leader. Jayasekera also believes that the party’s next candidate for the Presidential election should be chosen from within the party. “The new leadership should not only be for a Presidential Election that could be held in 2014 or before, but for the party leadership as well,” Jayasekera added.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You were a prodigy of Prof. G. L. Peiris. He left the UNP you stayed. Why?

A: Minister G. L. Peiris did not bring me to politics. I worked for the SLFP since the 1980s and played an active role in bringing victory to the party at the 1994 elections. I started off by heading the SLFP youth branch in the village. I then worked in the campaign of former Parliamentarian Jayasena Rajakaruna. I came to know Peiris when I was in the Colombo University and he was our Vice Chancellor. Before the 1994 general elections, he asked a few of us to do politics under the SLFP and work for the SLFP campaign. Many believe that I was Peiris’ prodigy since I was his Coordinating Secretary after the 1994 elections. However, I contested the local government elections in 1997 for the Panduvasnuvara Pradeshiya Sabha and won with the highest number of votes without any help from Peiris. I should say that it was politically beneficial for me to have been Peiris’ Coordinating Secretary, but he did not mould my political path. I joined the UNP with Peiris and contested at the 2001 general elections and lost, but won in the 2004 elections. I became a parliamentarian as a member of the UNP. I did not want to betray the UNP members who voted for me by defecting to the Government when Peiris decided to leave the UNP. I will never betray the UNP and its membership even if I have to sit in the Opposition for a thousand years. I decided to stay back in the UNP on principles since I did not want to cross over after being voted in by the UNPers.

Q: Agitation within the party with Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premadasa and you is not so much for reform but a leadership change. Why?

A: We fought for reforms. Jayasruriya did not fight for reforms at the time. We wanted to build internal democracy in the party through the reforms. We have now managed to get the Party Constitution amended to give any person the chance to contest for the party leadership. The party could then democratically elect a leader. New office bearers were appointed on March 23, 2011 and we had a problem with the appointment of the national organiser, but tried to overcome the problem by reaching a consensus. However, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, Chandra Gankanda, Dunesh Gankanda, Ravindra Samaraweera, Ranjith Aluvihare, Rosy Senanayake and Buddhika Pathirana were removed from the Working Committee. Anyone who expressed opinions against the party leader was removed. This created a split in the party. We tried to re-unite the party with Jayasuriya. Our main aim was to bring unity to the party rather than ousting the party leader when we brought Jayasuriya forward to contest for the party leadership. According to the party constitution, any one has the opportunity to contest for the party leadership and there is nothing wrong in it. It should not be taken as a reason to victimise and try to politically destroy a person.

Q: Can the party go forward when there is indiscipline?

A: Any party needs discipline. The issue of discipline should not be focused on only at certain times. We have to see who has violated the party constitution from the leadership downwards. The party constitution has been violated by the leadership downwards. This is why I have told the Working Committee not to use the issue of discipline to suppress members. In 2010, the party leader held a series of election campaigns in the Moneragala District for the general elections and asked the UNPers not to vote for Ranjith Madduma Bandara. It is a violation of Clause 3.3 of the party’s constitution. We have even seen violations of the party constitution when making appointments in the party. Therefore, you cannot blame some persons. The law should be equal for all. If a disciplinary inquiry needs to be initiated, then it needs to done for all those who have violated the constitution without discrimination.

Q: How can you lead when you do not know how to follow?

A: I agree that one cannot lead if one cannot follow. If a person is given some responsibilities he/she should be given the powers to carry them out. In this scenario, it is like a manager in a company being assigned certain responsibilities by the administration and then giving powers to some other officials to carry out the work. You cannot go on in such a manner. If a person is assigned some duties, they should be given the power to carry them out and clearly state the mandate and time frames.

Q: Who within the UNP do you think can defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa at the next election?

A: It is difficult to say right now. However, it needs to be accepted that a majority of the party membership want Sajith Premadasa’s leadership. Premadasa is popular among the party membership at the grassroots level because he is the son of the late President Premadasa and due to the campaigns and welfare schemes launched by him islandwide. People believe that the election could be won with Premadasa. I do not think that these reasons alone could help win an election. But everyone needs to unite as one force and work towards realising that the proper person needs to be put forward to bring victory to the party. I do not believe that we need to bring someone from outside to contest an election; we can find someone from within the party. We saw that some persons pulled out of the campaign when Sarath Fonseka was brought forward to contest at the last Presidential election. The party must give the strength and opportunity for the building of a new leadership from within. The new leadership should not only be for a Presidential election that could be held in 2014 or before, but for the party leadership as well. The person who now fits the bill is Premadasa.

Q: How do you see this conflict within the party ending?

A: The split in the party has now reached dangerous levels. It is difficult to continue in this manner as it affects the future path of the party. I do not agree with some Working Committee decisions. We must all get together and decide on a mechanism that works. There are now two factions after last month’s election for office bearers – the side that won and the one that lost. There cannot be such factions after the election and the group that feels they have won should not victimize and suppress the others. After the election for the leadership Jayasuriya has not been appointed to the Working Committee and his office was also lost. These are lowly acts. We have a rich cultural heritage where King Dutugemunu honoured and built a tomb for his opponent, King Elara. The party constitution enables anyone to contest for the party leadership and Jayasuriya contested. Now the election is over, but the actions that continue cannot be accepted by anyone who respects Democracy. Jayasuriya intervened on several occasions to unite the party with the party leader’s consent, but he is now being treated badly. I have been removed from the Working Committee, but I should have been appointed as the MP who polled the highest number of votes from the Kurunegala District and as the party’s secretary for the district. Buddhika Pathirana should also have been appointed to the Working Committee to represent the Matara District, but he continues to be sidelined. The party cannot go on like this. The party needs to be united without any factions and I believe we need to hold a discussion on the matter and be fair to all those who have been treated unjustly. The crisis in the UNP will otherwise be a force of strength for the Mahinda Rajapaksa administration. We must all get together and come up with a new programme to take the party forward.
Q: What would be your political position in three years?

A: My first goal is to work to bring victory to the party and I will work towards it. The reason I contested for the post of national organiser was because I have a vision for the party. I wanted to go to all parts of the country and bring together all the UNPer and the moderate thinking members of the governing party under one banner. To bring them forward by building a new social force. The party comes first and then comes my political career. I do not have a personal agenda as the party agenda is key. Regardless of issues faced by me, it is always the party’s agenda that has come first with me. If I worked for a personal agenda I would not have voiced my opinions, but kept quiet, praised the party leadership and got positions in the party. Instead I have chosen to work to strengthen the party. I see myself working towards bringing victory to the party in the next three years.

2 Comments for ““The Party Comes First And Then Comes My Political Career” – Dayasiri”

  1. You are in politics to serve the country.

    Dear Mr Dayasiri,
    Country comes First. People who Vote for you are other idiots.What a stupid statement.

  2. kolakotiya

    Sour Grapes now !

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