There Will Be Unexpected Changes In 2017 – Dullas Alahapperuma
The joint opposition feels Sri Lanka is facing serious political and economic instability. Joint opposition Parliamentarian Dullas Alahapperuma says the time has come for SLFP MPs to discard their desire for positions and privileges in favour of the country. Alahapperuma invited the SLFPers to join hands with the joint opposition to strengthen the opposition camp.
The following are excerpts of an interview conducted by The Sunday Leader:
- The joint opposition feels Sri Lanka is facing serious political and economic instability
- This entire coalition government is solely based on an ‘Anti-Mahinda’ attitude
- When there is no political stability, there can be no economic stability
by Ashanthi Warunasuriya
A: This government is undoubtedly going to enter into the history books as a government that had ruled the country based on deceit. Apart from the attempts made to establish national harmony and reconciliation, this government has turned the entire national production, economy and agriculture upside down. Therefore the balance sheet of this government after two years is in no way satisfactory.
Q: Is the coalition nature of the government the main reason for its failure?
A: This coalition is not a government that was formed to fulfill a national necessity and the yearnings of the people on behalf of the betterment of the country. This entire coalition government is solely based on an ‘Anti-Mahinda’ attitude. Apart from that in every other affair the differences between its factions are clearly visible. These days we see them more often. This shows the internal competition between its two main parties for control. It is not something that is driven by democracy or reconciliation. Apart from the common agreement to repel the Rajapaksas this government is having contradictory policies at every stage.
Q: We saw a lot of tension in the local political arena this year. While it is seen in the government, isn’t the joint opposition facing turmoil as well?
A: No. The government is having this dream about turmoil in the joint opposition. But so far it has not become a reality. How many times did mainstream media report about a potential split in the joint opposition? How many reports were made about the number of joint opposition MPs willing to defect over to the government? But so far, no such thing has taken place. Although there are different opinions in the joint opposition about various issues, we are all united under a common policy framework. But the government has not been able to achieve the same level of unity we have achieved. That is the main difference between the government and the joint opposition.
Q: You have recently claimed that to form a real SLFP, the SLFPers should leave the party. What is the meaning of this statement?
A: That is my personal view. If we are to hope for some real unity inside the SLFP, then the SLFPers who have joined the government must leave the government, instead of making false objections outside the parliament. On August 18 the SLFP made a big mistake by not letting the UNP and the TNA to form a coalition government. That could have been a golden opportunity to allow the Northern political views to be recognised by the government. The government that was hell-bent on establishing reconciliation, did not try to create it in the ruling circles. So the coalition was not formed with a broader political vision, but a narrow political agenda to hold on into power. It only resulted in the SLFP falling into a crisis dragging the country with it. So instead of being a government, this has now become a children’s club. When there is no political stability, there can be no economic stability. So at least now the SLFP MPs must make up their minds to return to the opposition by giving up their greed for ministries and vehicles.
Q: Are you claiming that President Maithripala Sirisena has failed as a leader?
A: This is not a personal weakness of President Maithripala Sirisena. The UNP has its own political philosophy. The same goes with the SLFP. The SLFP is born with a philosophy that contrasts with the UNP. So we cannot simply join hands to walk on a single track. In order to do that one party must sacrifice its belief system. One party must yield to the political will of the other. What would happen if the Democrats and Republican parties of the USA get together to form a bipartisan government? It is not practical due to their party political differences. In our country a national government means the free distribution of ministerial positions, official vehicles and other privileges to attract members. It has nothing to do with the political policy. This type of a coalition could hold only if the country is being subjected to a threat by an outside force. At present the government has only succeeded in scoring marks of failure. I love the SLFP. I do not wish to see it split up, so I invite the SLFPers to join the opposition allowing the UNP to continue their government.
Q: Then why have you formed a separate political front called “Podu Jana Peramuna”?
A: At present all those who have been banished from the SLFP have joined hands together to form a common force. Prasanna Ranatunga, Dilum Amunugama have been banished from the party. Then what other alternative do they have? Either they must become religious preachers or must fight on under a different political stream. We cannot blame them for that.
Q: But there is a rumour that the joint opposition MPs are planning to band together to contest in the oncoming election under the PJP. Is this true?
A: So far there is no sign of an election. The main concern should be about the date of the election and the reasons why it is being delayed. The government is trying to change the subject by spreading rumours. So we must not be hasty to talk about things that have not yet been conceived.
Q: What do you think are the reasons for the delay in the holding of the local government elections?
A: The constant enchanting spell that was recited by the government about their democratic values have now become an evil curse unto themselves. One year and nine months have passed since they have postponed the election. This is not healthy for our country’s political health. Now the government has claimed that it would issue a gazette notification about the election. Let us see what is going to happen.
Q: The joint opposition has claimed that several SLFPers are planning to join the opposition. Are discussions going on with SLFP MPs on this matter?
A: Due to their fundamental difference this government cannot take any firm decision on anything. So first we must save our country from this deadlock. At the same time we must save our party from its present catastrophe. My party has suffered a terrible fate after it pawned its political vision to the UNP. If the SLFP MPs had the same guts the SLFP provincial councilors had in crushing the proposed Development Special Provisions Act, then we could have seen a positive hope for the party. We saw how they cried out against the VAT Act in the open but ended up voting in favour of the Bill in parliament. Every time we see only a fake objection. Rather than making the government and the country unstable by spreading these fake anti-UNP claims, it would be better to sit down in the opposition and scrutinise the government’s actions.
Q: But still there are strong rumours about a group of SLFPers planning to form an alliance with President Maithripala Sirisena while the joint opposition is planning to align with Mahinda Rajapaksa. Is it going to happen?
A: In an unstable political environment such as this we cannot be certain of anything. When the time comes everyone will take their own decisions based on their own agendas. But we must be more concerned about the overall fate of the country.
Q: But so far this political tug-of-war has produced no fruit for the benefit of the people. Why is that?
A: It is true. The instability is the main cause for that. The government is unable to take any firm decision due to this conflicting nature. The government cut the fertilizer subsidy. This has caused a lot of farmers to give up their vocations. And now the government’s partners are pointing fingers at each other for the mistake. The UNP always had the vision of importing goods from abroad rather than giving away subsidies. It is likely that it is going to succeed in the present context.
Q: What are your preparations for a possible election in April?
A: If the media and civil society organisations remain silent then the election would not come. So they must all continue their struggle for democracy. At present the incapacitation of the local government bodies have caused the dengue epidemic to rise up once again. The people who were displaced by floods and earth slips are still living in refugee camps. Even the waste management system in municipal councils have crumbled. The government has killed the local government bodies.
Q: The Hambantota port has recently made news. The government has claimed it is seeking a joint business venture with China to develop the port. But many have criticised it as an act of privatisation. How do you see this?
A: I am not holding onto the vintage concept of all state assets and resources being kept under the government’s control. The Public Private Partnership is a novel concept in the modern world. I personally believe that our government too had done a mistake by revoking the partnership agreement we had with Emirates Airlines on Air Lanka. There are things that we must carry out as joint ventures. In 20 years the Hambantota port is going to be the most powerful port in the whole South Asian region. There are no more pig-tailed Chinese in China any longer. They know the full potential of this place. That is why they are in love with the Hambantota port. But if we continue to hand over the Mattala Airport to China and Lanka Hospital to Malaysia then it is not privatisation but colonisation. It is a dangerous concept. In 1505 the Portuguese only asked us for a space to lay a cattle hide. But it took us 433 years for us to get it back. If we continue to lease our country to foreign countries then god knows where it would lead us. So we must form a broad alliance to defeat these evil plans.
Q: Are you not in good terms with China any longer?
A: It was China who helped us to win the war and to build our economy. Although we must be grateful for their support that does not mean that we must lease out our home to them.
Q: What will be your party’s plans be for 2017?
A: There will be many unexpected changes in the political arena in 2017. According to Treasury reports unless the government borrows at least 500 Million USD from a foreign country such as China it is unable to pay the salaries of government employees in January. There is a clear economic crisis. So the political programme will be decided on how the economy performs. So the SLFPers must come out from the government before it crashes. Although this may not be relevant for those who are greedy for privileges given to them by the UNP, those who have a conscience still could join hands with us to save the country.
Q: How is that going to happen?
A: It is a choice. There is a crisis in this country. We have so far not performed the role of the Opposition. But neither has the government played its role.
Q: What is your message for the people for the New Year?
A: We must all be vigilant of these socio-political economical hazards that are lurking near us. So I wish all the wisdom and courage for Sri Lankan Citizens to take the right decision in the upcoming election.