The Sunday Leader

I Don’t Mix Religious Meritorious Acts With Politics – Mervyn Silva

A much talked about politician during the previous regime was Mervyn Silva. He was most noted for his outspoken and sometimes arrogant attitude. Yet despite criticism he always spoke fearlessly about what he believed in. With the defeat of the previous government, Silva too faded away from the public eye and had been quiet for some time. However, he is back in the limelight. That is with the new political party that he is initiating which he says would preserve Buddhist values. However, he added that politics and Buddhism should not be mixed up. Mervyn Silva believes that it is time that past differences are put aside and everyone should join together for the greater good of the country. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Mervyn Silva spoke extensively about his future political ambitions.

Following are excerpts of the interview:-


by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

Q:   It is reported that you are engaged in cleaning up of religious places. Why is this?

A:  Reconciliation is possible only if the Buddhasasana is protected. One cannot bring about reconciliation by targeting and going against the Buddhist monks. No matter who agrees or disagrees and whether anyone likes it or not, every country has a past history. Similarly, everyone knows about our country’s history as well. It is those who don’t understand this situation who talk about reconciliation in other countries and take foreign trips on the pretext of creating national reconciliation. These parties pretend to be working towards creating reconciliation and take money from international organisations in order to upkeep their families.

When we look at the Dagobas, tanks and other historic sites as well as the battles with the Dutch, Portuguese and English, it is clear that this country was built on the blood sweat and tears of the ancient kings. Therefore, when Buddhism is safeguarded all other races and religions in this country will also be safeguarded. Hence, there is nothing wrong in safeguarding our Sinhala heritage and Buddhism. If anyone says that protecting Buddhism and our Sinhala tradition is arousing racial tensions, they must be mad. As far as I am concerned, I will speak up against such absurd statements even if it means having to go to jail for it.

Commencing from Anuradhapura I intend to clean up one temple every month. Accordingly, today we commence our meritorious act from Ruwanweliseya at 8 am.


Q:  Everyone was under the impression that this was something you started with your new party. Is it?

A:  No certainly not. I don’t mix religious meritorious acts with politics. That is the biggest mistake most of our politicians make. This was what destroyed local politics.


Q:  How is your new party fairing?

A:  Well, we are organising everything that is required for the formation of a new party and we expect to launch the party by November.

Q:   What is the policy of your new party?

A:  That will be revealed in November.

Q:  There are allegations that you are doing this to break up the SLFP votes, is that so?

A:  I don’t want to break up anyone’s votes. From the day we received independence we have been brushing our own set of teeth and did not care about anyone else. If things were done in a proper manner things would have not been this bad and the country would not have had to face this destruction.


Q:  If you had these ideas why didn’t come out with it earlier?

A:  Where it was necessary I said what I had to say. I was in parliament for around 20 years. Although I had wanted to do much more than what I have done, I never got the opportunity to do them. Therefore I did what I could. It was because I was outspoken and I did not get nominations. I never went behind anyone to get nominations and I will never run behind anyone in the future either.


Q:  Do you have any issues with the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa or former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa?

A:  No as a Buddhist I don’t have any animosity with anyone. I will never hold any grudges against anyone. That is against my policy. I say what I have to but don’t hold it in my heart.


Q:  Do you agree that it seems like the SLFP is splitting up?

A:  Even I don’t like to see the SLFP splitting up. There is no point in trying to patch up the party without first addressing the core issues and correcting the faults that is leading to the split before trying to bring the party together. Even when painting a house one must first scrape out the old paint and repaint it. Just painting over the old paint will not last and it is bound to peel off in time. There is no purpose in running headlines in newspapers. Those who have done wrong must correct themselves and all must unite in spirit first if the party is to get back together and mend the differences.


Q:  There is another issue where the SLFP members are with Maithripala and the UNP group is with the PM and the JO is with Mahinda. However, there is another speculation that this is all a political deal. What is your view?

A:  There is always opposing factors in every party that hold differing opinions. However I believe that everyone should make a concerted effort to dispel all their personal agendas and unite for the good of the country and the party. I believe this is possible and we should try.


Q:  Regarding Gotabhaya Rajapaksa’s vote base, what is your opinion?

A:  On a prior occasion a military commander contested and lost badly. I believe that the people of this country are not happy to give their vote to make a military person the head of the country. I don’t believe that it is practical.


Q:  Recently the country faced a national disaster. In 2004 a national disaster management policy was introduced and you were also a member of this. However why did it suddenly come to a standstill in 2006?

A:  The beginning to the end is the lack of proper planning. If not for the media and the donors, this situation could have been much worse. Hence the media, donors and the tri forces should receive special gratitude for their efforts in dealing with the disaster situation.


Q:  What happened to the mechanism formulated by the government?

A:  All governments come up with various plans and mechanisms. They hold discussions and appoint various committees. Then with time these are all forgotten. This has become the political culture of this country.


Q:  There are various theories about racism in the country. What is your view?

A:  I believe that there is no racism in this country. Even during the times of the king’s rule these issues came up due to various animosities and jalousies. Eventually, when all races joined together they were able to chase off our invaders. I think reconciliation is needed for us Sinhalese. When they have no weddings they create weddings in the name of reconciliation and have a party.

Q:  How do you see the recent Cabinet reshuffle?

A:  There is no need to talk about that. I think the former Finance Minister is clever. I know him personally. Even at the time he was a rock that protected the Prime Minister. I don’t see anything wrong in the current changes.


Q:  But what the people asked for are a new Constitution, LG elections and the abolition of the Executive Presidency. With all that still unchanged, is this change justified?

A:  That was a decision taken by the President and the Prime Minister. This is like having a pregnant lady at home and trying to take care of the pregnant ladies in the village instead of first taking care of the one at home.


Q:  Why don’t you join the existing party?

A:  I received the third highest votes from the SLFP, yet I did not get nominations. However, having got so many votes I can’t leave that party and join another. That is my way. Hence, I will serve the people through a new party.


Q. By August the joint agreement between these two ruling parties will end. As a government how do you see the future?

A. That is not relevant to me. I am like a Tsunami and it is immaterial to me whether they stay or go. I will come to save the people and the country and I will do my part for the country. That is all I am interested in.


Q:  Do you think Mahinda Rajapaksa still has a powerful vote base?

A:  Yes people still love him and he is a popular leader. No matter what differences we have, one thing for certain is that he is the leader who saved the country from the terrorists. That respect will always be there for him. In addition the former Defence Secretary, tri forces and police should all be commended and the country should be grateful to them for saving the country from the terrorists. The very country that held Bodhi Poojas for the war heroes are today calling for their imprisonment.


Q:  With you political experience, how do you see the country’s future?

A:  The country has got leukaemia and it is spreading fast throughout the whole country. But it is a curable disease and I believe that all clever people from all sides should unite in order to save the country from this disease. However, if we let things go this way the whole country will be destroyed.

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