Rajapaksas Are Part Of A Mature Political Family – Namal Rajapaksa
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Parliamentarian and joint opposition member Namal Rajapaksa is confident the joint opposition will be able to form the next government. Rajapaksa also defended the political agenda of his family members and also dismissed allegations of fraud raised against him. The Parliamentarian also dismissed claims that the ‘Nil Balakaya’ was involved in the recent protests at the Hambantota port.
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
by Ashanthi Warunasuriya
Q: The Hambantota port issue has become a hot topic these days. What is your response to the claims that have been made about these workers being members of your “Nil Balakaya”?
A: We see several public protests in the country these days. We are representing the views and concerns of the public. In the case of the Hambantota port strike, the subject Minister has tried to cover the government’s failure by placing the blame on the Nil Balakaya, Namal Rajapaksa and Mahinda Rajapaksa. But I would like to ask him if K.D. Lalkantha of the JVP and Nihal Galappaththi are also members of the Nil Balakaya as they were also there during the protest.
Q: If they are not members of the Nil Balakaya why did you say that they would be given their jobs back under your government?
A: No matter who they are, we must do everything we can to help those who are in need as we have done in the past. We would continue to do so in the future as well. This is unjust treatment. We must take the side of those who have been unfairly treated. But this promise does not only apply to the Hambantota port workers but to all government employees who have been ill treated by the present government.
Q: At a meeting held recently, Chamal Rajapaksa had said that there had been those who had carried out illegal work at Hambantota but the authorities had not been able to take action against them due to their powerful political connections. Since you are also a representative of the Hambantota district, can you name who these powerful figures are?
A: Personally, I did not have an opportunity to interact with such culprits. But I know that there were those who had engaged in illegal sand mining and other illegal activities. They had secured the support of some Parliamentarians. Today some of these MPs have become Ministers. Under the good governance government and such illegal activities are continuing.
Q: But why couldn’t your government stop them?
A: When we tried to put an end to some of these illegal activities, we were met with strong opposition from some of our own Ministers as most of these culprits were close allies and relatives of these politicians. They later joined hands with the government of good governance. It is these people that Chamal Rajapaksa was talking about.
Q: The former President had recently admitted that there was a mistake committed in Rathupaswala. But why weren’t these apologies and admissions made when you were in power?
A: When we were in power we took the necessary legal steps. A President is responsible for any wrongdoing that has taken place under his administration. But these days when the Navy Commander assaults a journalist, the President has backed away from taking responsibility. The law seems to apply differently for us and them. If Mahinda Rajapaksa should be held responsible for the incident in Rathupaswala, Maithripala Sirisena must be held responsible for the incident in Hambantota.
Q: Many civil society activists have complained that the government has obstructed their activities. But this accusation was made against your government as well. What is your response ?
A: At that time, most civil society organisations had gone astray. They failed to see the practical side of things. But we hope that at least now they would be able to see reality. Those days President Rajapaksa was systematically attacked by these organisations. But the present government is doing the same thing in broad daylight. I wonder how these civil society organisations could stand alongside with the present government when there is clear proof as to what the present government is doing to them.
Q: But the previous government had taken drastic steps even to ban some of these organisations. What is the guarantee that you can give that such a thing may not be repeated once you come back to power again?
A: This is an opinion that has been created by the present government. Media Freedom is something the present government claims that have been created by them. But when we come to power we do not need to do anything special. We would be carrying out the same tasks that had always been done. During our time environmental organisations spoke against the Hambantota port. Today the government is planning to hand over 15,000 acres of land in Hambantota to China. But where are these environmental organisations? Around 200 acres of land in Hambantota is also scheduled to be appropriated for prawn farming. It is a forest reserve. But no civil society organisation has spoken against it so far.
Q: There have been reports that a special commission is to be appointed to hear the cases against the Rajapaksas. What is your response to that?
A: We are not aware of such a proposal. The sole intention of the present government is to take revenge on the Rajapaksas. There is nothing else. But we are not afraid to go before any commission.
Q: Why were you summoned before the FCID yet again recently?
A: It has become a routine practice these days. They always ask me the same set of questions. While enjoying a cup of tea, some of them were kind enough to give me advice not to protest more and to stay away from politics. I think most of the time I am being summoned not to record statements but to attend a political class.
Q: Are you a SLFPer, a joint opposition member or a member of the Podu Jana Peramuna?
A: I am a member of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
Q: But aren’t you a member of the newly formed Podu Jana Peramuna?
A: It is yet another political party. It will join hands with the joint opposition to face the next election. We are trying to build a broad people’s alliance against the government.
Q: If former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa runs for office in the 2020 Presidential Election who would you support?
A: There is no such decision. There is no need to prepare for an election that is scheduled to be held in four years when there are bigger concerns at hand.
Q: You were also blamed for the Presidential Election defeat of your father in 2015. Are you willing to accept that responsibility?
A: When an election is lost it is natural for the blame to be directed against those who had spearheaded the campaign. It is the same in every country. If the election was won, people might have said the entire opposite. If we are to work in politics we must be able to withstand these realities.
Q: What is your response to the allegation of nepotism in the previous government?
A: Our family had engaged in politics for many generations. Most of our family members were elected to the top by popular vote. There are other countries in the world where family members are engaged in politics. But in the previous election, the opposition was able to successfully construct a “nepotism phobia” in the country to gain political advantage. But we have the same accusation against the present government.
Q: Don’t you think that it would have been better if you had stepped into politics after your father had retired from politics?
A: That is up to the people to decide. There is no age limit in politics. There is a saying that the revolution and the revolutionists never die. Likewise in politics its up to the people to decide whether we should move out.
Q: Some have claimed that ending the war does not mean that the country was developed. What is your response to that?
A: Even a blind man could sense what is going on in this country at present. Unfortunately for those who are filled with jealousy and hatred, it may look as if the end of the war has had no impact on the country. The last decade saw the most rapid economic development in our country’s history. The per capita income, infrastructure, highways, ports, airports, A9 road, railways and bridges are only a fraction of what we had done. Any open-minded person can see this difference.
Q: Isn’t the present government doing anything?
A: One good thing the present government has done was revoking the accusations they had leveled against us in the first place. Apart from that the present government has not been able to do any noticeable good for the betterment of the people in this country.
Q: It is said that the UNP policies favour good foreign relations. What do you think about our present foreign relations?
A: The SLFP was formed on Non-Aligned foreign policies. While leftist parties followed pro-Soviet policies, conservative parties such as the UNP have followed more pro-western policies. These are two different extremes. But today both the UNP and the SLFP have joined hands to yield to the will of the west. The President, the Prime minister and the Foreign Minister did not attend the Non Aligned Summit. Conservative countries have helped Sri Lanka to change its regime. And now it has become a puppet of the west. Even though the present government accused China when they were in the opposition, now they are seeking its help. All this shows the lack of a proper foreign policy in Sri Lanka.
Q: What is your opinion about the recently passed budget? What should be amended?
A: Making amendments is a job of the government. If there are to be amendments, then the whole budget should be amended. The budget has reduced allocations for agriculture, health and education. There are many other lapses.
Q: Is there a conflict with the IGP?
A: We have no quarrels with anyone. But the IGP is keen on investigating the daughter of the MP who had violated traffic laws when a Minister’s son has killed a person by hitting him with his vehicle and has been able to walk out free. The government must understand that they should not keep someone in such a high position when he is making the same government look bad. It is the government’s responsibility to rectify this mistake.
Q: What is your plan when preparing for the local government election?
A: A new alliance is being formed to face the election. We are confident of our victory.
Q: Is that the Podu Jana Peramuna?
A: The joint opposition is going to gather the support of all opposition parties. The PJP is a member of that alliance. The people are now yearning for an election. But the government is continuously postponing the election. The government has not been able to keep even a single promise made to the people. Therefore the government has good reasons for fearing an election.
Q: Have you thought about any new election tactics?
A: During the previous election the minority parties had gone astray. But they have understood the truth now. They are with us. We must identify the socioeconomic situation of the country that prevails at present.
Q: Racism has raised its head once again. The Bodu Bala Sena is once again making news. Are the Rajapaksas behind this?
A: No. We saw how the BBS was seen with the religious leaders at the meeting for reconciliation. It is the present government that has given it the status of a National Movement.
Q: It is said that the loss incurred by 280 state institutions during the previous government is around 800 Billion. The present government has claimed that this was due to political appointments and weak management. Do you accept these allegations?
A: We had been working according to a well-formed plan. We were able to make profits in some state institutions. In some institutions, we were able to minimise the losses. But the present government is engaged in the tactic of making these institutions lose and then selling them.
Q: Weren’t there any political appointments under your administration?
A: Political appointments are there in every government. But it is not the main reason for failure.
Q: Are you hoping to rectify at least one of these reasons for the failure?
A: We have identified the lapses that had taken place under our administration. We hope to rectify our mistakes in the future.
Q: Are you confident the Rajapaksas will return to power in the future?
A: Rajapaksas are part of a mature political family. We have always struggled to bring a people’s government. In the past we had struggled for the victory of S.W.R. D Bandaranaike and Chandrika Kumaratunga. We have no personal agenda in that struggle.
Q: In the past, break away political parties have not been able to survive in politics. Do you think that your new party would be an exception?
A: We have no relationship with the new Front. If the SLFP betrays its policies then a third force would gain the people’s mandate. It can be seen in the grassroots level. We cannot compare it with history.
Q: Are you having a grudge with the SLFP?
A: There is no grudge.
Q: What is the incentive you are giving a SLFPer to join hands with you?
A: We have no deals. We are engaged in policy based politics. Anyone who can agree with our policies is welcome to stand with us. Many MPs are already engaged in discussions with us. They represent the SLFP, UNP and even the JVP.