Government Treating Media Like Trash – Prasanna Ranatunga
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: It is reported that some of the SLFP MPs who obtained the mandate of the people are to be removed from their positions and replaced by others loyal to the president. Is this true?
A: The destruction of the SLFP commenced on January eighth last year. With President Maithripala Sirisena contesting the election, the leader of the UPFA Mahinda Rajapaksa lost the election. Maithripala Sirisena who was the common candidate then assumed the chairmanship of the SLFP after winning the election. However there was a great uproar among the party supporters regarding the appointment of Sirisena to the post of party leader, as he had not won the election based on the support of the voters. Thereafter the national government was formed with the members of the SLFP, who were supportive of president Maithripala joining the national government. But those who refused to join them and who opted to remain in the opposition with the former leader were deliberately targeted and were subjected to revengeful acts. The people were unhappy about that too.
Further the SLFP held the vote of the people of the rural areas and as such, the new government deliberately dissolved the local government bodies with the support of a few of the members. They legitimately had the time to extend the term of the LG bodies for a year. But they opted to dissolve it simply because the support was mainly for the joint opposition.
Then at the parliamentary elections the party leadership too accepted that the SLFP had the chance to elect a prime minister from the party but lost the chance as the UNP put in Ranil Wickremesinghe. Hence the whole country was of the stand that the SLFP group inclined towards the left, could not work together with the current president.
Q: But then you all contested the election didn’t you?
A: Yes but we did not contest with the intention of forming a consensual government. There were some who contested the election, displaying Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cut outs and won the election. Then they sided with the UNP and supported the formation of the national government with the hope of receiving positions in the cabinet and also to get away from having to face the consequences of the frauds they had committed. For those who lost the elections were given a chance through the national list if they supported the national government. All this was done contrary to the views of the voters. The voters too were disgruntled as they felt betrayed and refused to vote again for the SLFP.
Q: What about you and the other SLFP members now in the joint opposition, wont you also be affected by this and lose the votes of the people?
A: No, we stayed in the joint opposition but fought for the rights of our voters and we never let them down and sold our votes for benefits and positions. We eternally worked to protect the party. Therefore we always told the people through the media that we will stand by the vote of our supporters and will not betray their trust. However if the SLFP wants to win an election again, they must first win the trust of the people at the grassroots level. If the SLFP is to win then the president will have to appoint a PM from the party according to his desire and join with the joint opposition and form a government.
By now the national government has muddled things up pretty badly and the government could not deliver on the promises made. Although they promised the people good governance, in the end it turned into vindictive regime. Development has come to a standstill and revenge has become the order of the day.
Q: What is your opinion regarding the manner in which the government is handling and treating the media?
A: The government is treating the media like trash and they address the media by animal’s names, including the Prime Minister. The other ministers too are following suit and have taken up the same stance as the PM. Today the manner, in which the media is being threatened and intimidated openly, has never been done in the past.
Q: There are allegations that today the underworld has raised its head again and the killings in broad daylight has once again commenced. What is your view on this situation?
A: The underworld has once again raised its head and I openly state that these underworld figures are being protected by the ministers and those in power. During our regime after the war ended, we took measures to control the underworld. But today they are fearlessly out in the open because they know they are being protected. We are aware that those of us who oppose the government will also be targets of this underworld and could end up being victims.
Q: There was talk of forming a new party by the joint opposition, but while holding the membership of the SLFP, how can one join or form a new party?
A: There is no need to form a new party. This is something that everyone has miss understood. There is a void for a new political party amid great turmoil in the country where oppression and in justice is metered out to those who do not tow the line with the government.
Q. There were reports that some persons had come forward and told the missing persons commission that they were witnesses to some of the atrocities carried out against the Tamil civilians during the war. What is your take on this latest development?
A: What this government is doing is trying to please the Tamil Diaspora. After the war ended people of all races and religions of this country were living in unity and harmony. People of the South were able to visit the North and vice versa. Reconciliation was taking place between the two communities. However the Tamil Diaspora had a vengeance against the Rajapaksa regime for defeating the LTTE and that is why they simply wanted them out of power and wanted to take revenge.
Today the parties supportive of the government have now made it their mission to safeguard the interests of the Diaspora and not for the upliftment of the Tamil people in this country. This situation and stance of the government will once again create ethnic disharmony among the people, and the government is fuelling this disharmony by acting in this manner.
Q: The foreign minister has said the PTA is to be repealed; do you think there could be consequences if it is removed?
A: This act was not brought in just because of terrorism. But it was to prevent the terrorists from trying to form a separate state and divide the country. But by trying to repeal it and trying to dance to the tune of the Diaspora, the government will only leave room for these separatist elements to raise their head again. So they have to be careful and not jeopardise the hard fought freedom of this country just for petty political gain and vengeance.
Q: The President has visited many countries during his tenure and the government is confident that foreign investment will increase and the country will see an economic boom by April/May this year. Do you see this happening?
A: These countries are not working for the best interest of this country. The Diaspora votes in those countries are needed by them and they are only interested in pleasing the Diaspora in order to secure their votes. Hence they are willing to manipulate the Sri Lankan government by way of development assistance and getting them to do exactly what the Diaspora wants.
However although they promise the sun and the moon, so far the government has not got any assistance that these countries are supposed to have given. This government has no economic plan and they are simply running on the fuel price reductions, but have no clue as to how they should manage the investments. They have not been able to deliver on any of the promises made.
Q: The current regime highlighted many of the corruption and malpractices of the previous regime, but already there have been several allegations levelled against certain government ministers on fraud and corruption. How do you perceive this development?
A: Firstly I must say that this government came into power by making up so many lies against the previous regime. They claimed that the Rajapaksa’s had a helicopter each and gold elephants and accused the former first lady of robbing the gold belonging to the Tamil people.
Today crude oil prices have reduced drastically but the benefit of this is not enjoyed by the people but the Indian oil company. According to world oil prices a litre of petrol can be sold at Rs. 56 but this benefit is not given to the people nor is it benefiting the country but India benefits from it. Even in parliament we suggested that the government impose some tax and formulate a method of keeping this profit within the country, but they made fun of us and forgot about it.