The Sunday Leader

No Discussion On Power Sharing At Local Govt. Level – Susil Premajayantha

Despite claims that the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is considering holding talks with the United National Party (UNP) about a power sharing arrangement at the local government level which is similar to the current arrangement at the national level, speaking to The Sunday Leader, SLFP Minister Susil Premajayantha said that to his knowledge there has not been any discussion on the matter. According to him, the two major parties the UNP and the SLFP arrived at a policy decision after the last general election to come together at the national level only because no single party could form a government on their own but there is no such necessity at the local government level.

Following are excerpts of the interview: 

 

by Waruni Karunarathne

 

Q:  There have been talks about a power sharing arrangement between the SLFP and the UNP at the local government level similar the national level arrangement after the forthcoming local government elections. Has the SLFP had any such talks?

A: To my knowledge there is no such discussion at all.  I do not think we are considering any such arrangement at the local government level. The reason why the SLFP and the UNP came together at the national level is because any single party could not form a government on their own. As a result, the two major parties took a policy decision and came together to share the government at the national level but not at the local government level.

 

Q:   Do you see a necessity for such an arrangement at the local government level?

A: No, I do not see any necessity. As the SLFP we have our own identity and as the UNP they have their own identity. To my knowledge, there are no discussions of that nature.

 

Q:       It is reported that the SLFP is likely to distance itself from the National Freedom Front (NFF), Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) and Democratic Left Front (DLF) – parties led by Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena, Udaya Gammanpila and Vasudewa Nanayakkara. Is there any truth in that?

A: I am not aware about that. I am no longer the General Secretary of the UPFA. The General Secretary of the UPFA have to respond to that. As a SLFPer I can say that since the formation of the SLFP, right throughout for more than 60 years, left wing political parties joined the SLFP to form a government or win elections. That is the history. LetAs suppose somebody wants to deviate from that and contest separately, I think they can do so. The perfect example is what happened in1977. As a result of the separation in 1977, some of the left wing political parties have already diminished. Only during last few years, some of the political parties within the alliance emerged. They also emerged as breakaway groups but not as a single party.  All of them were fed by the SLFP. The SLFP was never fed by the other parties. All these political parties have to realise this truth. We will wait and see what happens in the next couple of months. The local government elections will be held most probably in March. This is the first time politicians are experiencing the new election system at the local government which consists of 70% first past the post and the 30% PR system. Therefore it is premature to predict what will happen but my position is that other alliance political parties should realise the importance of getting together with the major political forces and contest elections to win especially under the new system.

 

Q:   It is observed that the government is reluctant to investigate into cases especially those that direct allegations against Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka. Have you witnessed such a scenario?

I do not think so. There are so many investigations that are going on at the moment by various units of the police. Even I have been questioned. Therefore I do not think that the government is reluctant to investigate those cases. The investigations are being conducted at the moment.

 

Q:  The government has given instructions to investigate ‘the White Flag case’ and the report is expected in February next year. The SLFP as the party that led the former government, do you have any concerns about the report?

A: We are not worried about that. Because we have to consider the situation we faced as a country at that point of time. We do not know whether the white flag incident is true or not. Some reports that were submitted recently to parliament including the Udalagama and the Paranagama report have highlighted certain cases that should be looked into. They have also highlighted the need to introduce certain new laws and make certain reforms. As a lawyer, my personal view is that there are certain areas that need to be amended in our laws and certain new laws need to be introduced on par with international laws. With the development of science and technology, you can find new types of evidence. There are so many investigations that are completed with the help of science and technology. To accommodate such new evidence, there is a need to amend evidence ordinance, criminal procedure and certain other laws. Even the UPFA government during the last general election highlighted that we would appoint a new law reform commission and prioritises law reforms.  It is high time that we now amend certain laws and introduce new laws.

 

Q:       Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa has reiterated his concerns over the UNHRC resolution especially about the establishment of the judicial mechanism with the support of foreign experts. Does the SLFP in general share his views?

A: My personal view is that we were having that stance not now even soon after the war. That is the position taken by the then-government at the UNHRC in 2013 and 2014. But now the government has changed. Some countries have also changed their positions because they feel comfortable with the new government. As a result at the last UNHCR sessions, a resolution was passed sponsored by certain countries. There are three clauses that we are concerned – which include Clause No 06 referring to the mechanism that we should adopt to investigate on certain incidents during the last phase of the humanitarian operation. It is premature to comment on this mechanism.  Everybody can give this their own definitions. But the general definition is that under this mechanism, you cannot do anything outside the constitution of Sri Lanka.

The constitution very clearly says in the article 4, the judiciary power of the people will be implemented by the courts setup by parliament.  Therefore you cannot introduce new laws outside the constitution and if we are to do so we will have to go for a referendum. My position is that it is premature to comment on it.

We have to wait and see what kind of a mechanism the government is going to implement according to the resolution. At that point we will be able to comment on it.

 

Q: Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala has repoprtedly said recently that former President Rajapaksa had rejected the idea of the Right to Information Act during the previous regime. Does the SLFP share the same view? Or will the SLFP support the Right to Information Act that will be submitted to parliament anytime soon?

A: To my knowledge it is not true. As far as I remember, Deputy Speaker Thilanga Sumathipala at that point as a member of parliament, wanted to submit a proposal – the Right to Information as a private motion. At that point, the government was of the opinion that as a government we should intervene to this. As a result, he withdrew his private motion. That is what happened if I remember correctly.

The government’s move was not to reject the right to information. The government position was that it was the duty of the government to introduce the right to information act but not as a private motion.

The SLFP will definitely support the Right to Information bill. When we passed the 19A to the constitution people were expecting the government to submit the right to information act at that time. By that time it was drafted. Now it is high time to table it and we will support it.

 

Q: Vinayamoorthy Muralitharan alias Karuna Amman has said that he is considering resigning from the SLFP and joining the TULF. Should the SLFP be concerned about his move?

A: I do not think we have anything to be concerned about. Karuna Amman was appointed to parliament when one vacancy was created before the 2009 humanitarian operations. He was not a member of the SLFP at that time or a member of any political party in the UPF Alliance.

But the government took a decision to appoint him from the National List. The vacancy was created because a national list member at that time resigned. Karuna Amman was appointed in his place. In 2010 he was again appointed through the national list. The last election was his third time.

As a party we informed not only Karuna Amman but the entire SLFP national list MPs appointed after the 2010 election that they would not be appointed through the national list again. We told them that they could contest the election if they liked and the party would accommodate.

Karuna Amman didnt want to contest from Batticaloa which is his district so he didnt send us an application to contest in any other district. As a party we took a policy decision not to give any of the national list appointees second or the third opportunity.

It wouldnt have been fair for us to give Karuna a third opportunity. Those who contested the election collected votes for the UPFA. The others were doing nothing and expected to be appointed through the national list which is not fair. After election if they lost we could have considered to appoint them through the national list.

For example we nominated A. Ramanathan from Jaffna because we did not have any Tamil politician from Jaffna and he lost in about 2000 to 2400 votes and we appointed him though the national list.  M. Hizbullah contested from Batticaloa and lost in about 135 votes.

He is a defeated candidate but we appointed him through the national list because we did not have any representative from Batticaloa.On the contrary, we could not give Kauna Amman nomination because he did not apply. As a result we could not appoint him through the national list. Now he has taken his own political decision which is up to him.

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