President Has To Maintain Party Discipline – Faizer Mustapha
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: One of the allegations against the government is that although they promised major investments and economic progress, so far there has been no proof of any development projects being initiated. has the presidents overseas visits yielded any positive responses from these countries that he visited?
A: I know that various investors have shown their interest to invest in Sri Lanka and they have contacted the government. So I think we are on the right track and Austrian and German investors have shown very positive signs of wanting to come in and invest here. Overall I think that the investment climate is positive in the sense that I was the BOI minister at one time and at the time we were on a confrontational approach with the west. Hence we were unable to attract western investment. Whatever anyone says there is a connection between the political relationship and investment climate. Even the World Bank has rated the Colombo port as the best in Asia. So I think all these positive developments we can look forward to a very prosperous future.
Comparison to the very negative sentiment that our country was in, I think that we are gradually moving to a very positive sentiment. However unfortunately at this time the global economic climate is not very positive for investment but I am certain Sri Lanka can look forward to a very good future.
Q: Does the government have any positive strategy to attract the Diaspora to invest in Sri Lanka?
A: Wherever the president has visited, he has been continuously inviting the Diaspora to come to Sri Lanka and look at Sri Lanka very positively. I think the dual citizenship also that was suspended for some time is now operative. Therefore I am sure we should be able to create an atmosphere that will attract the Diaspora back. If we can get them to come back and invest, then our economic problems can be resolved, at least to a great extent.
In the past the Diaspora was shunning away from Sri Lanka as the situation was not conducive for them to even think of coming back. However we have not made great strides in this area and I am sure in a matter of time, they will see that Sri Lanka is now safe for them to return.
Q: With regard to the SLFP, there are allegations that President Maithripala Sirisena is targeting members of the joint opposition and gradually removing them from their positions and appointing those loyal to him. Is this so?
A: Irrespective of whose loyalists they are as the leader of the party the president has to maintain discipline within the party. If anyone goes against the party or the party discipline then he has to take a stand. The central committee too is to take disciplinary action against anyone who violates the party code of conduct.
Our party is an inclusive party and whatever decision that is taken is not a unilateral decision that is taken by the president, but a collective decision taken by the central committee. The central committee had put a lot of pressure on the president that discipline of the party should be maintained at all costs and he has taken this approach as a result of that.
Q: The foreign minister has said the PTA is to be repealed, how soon do you expect it to be done?
A: The Sri Lankan Freedom Party would never agree to take any decision that would jeopardise the integrity of the country and any decision taken will only be done after the proper precautionary measures and safety measures are put in place to protect the country. We will take a very cautious approach in repealing or amending the PTA, and we would take adequate steps to ensure that there are no threats of terrorism raising its head again. The PTA during that time was a very useful instrument.
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. How far have these investigations progressed, and will the government seriously investigate these allegations?
A: I am sure that the law of the country is such that if there were any allegations made, they will be investigated. The president very clearly said that there were no war crimes committed, but if there are any allegations where anyone has violated the laws of this country, they would be dealt with. Any government has an obligation to do so. It is not whether it should but it has to be done. If there is any truth in these allegations, then the legal procedure will have to take its course.
Q: The Prime Minister has said that no matter who opposes it, the government will sign the ETCA agreement. Is this the stand of the whole government?
A: I think the prime minister has held a discussion with professionals and it’s at a very infant stage. As the SLFP we would come to a very collective approach as we are a national government and even if we have our own personal opinions on various issues, we would eventually discuss it within the SLFP and discuss the concerns with the UNP which is the other stakeholder of the government. That is the approach we follow.
Q: But those who oppose it claim that this agreement will not create more employment opportunities for the country, but it will probably make Sri Lanka a colony of India. Do you agree?
A: I can assure you the SLFP and the president and the Prime Minister will not do anything that is detrimental to Sri Lanka and for the benefit of India. Therefore if any of the agreements entered will have to be a win-win situation, where Sri Lanka benefits. So I don’t think the president or the prime minister would blindly sign anything that would be detrimental to our economic interest.
Therefore certain quarters can make allegations, but I am very confident that the government, president and the Prime Minister wouldnt move from the position that the ECTA agreement would not be entered into if Sri Lanka was not going to have any economic interest.
Q: The Joint opposition claims that they are being targeted by the government because they feel threatened by the Opposition, is this true?
A: The president and a few of us in the SLFP took the challenge to move out and challenge Rajapaksa and we succeeded. I don’t agree that the SLFP should be split up no matter what individual opinions are, but at the same time discipline of the party has to be maintained at all costs.
It is my belief that no matter what differences Either Chandrika Bandaranaike has or Mahinda Rajapaksa has, none of them will stand for the division of the SLFP. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa, irrespective of his differences with anyone within the SLFP, will not do anything that is against the best interest of the party, as both he and madam Chandrika were creators of the party.
Q: With the remanding of Yoshitha Rajapaksa, there are allegations that the national government is on a path of revenge against the previous regime. Is this true?
A: As a lawyer, I don’t think I should comment on a pending court case.