would solve country’s problems”
By Wilson Gnanadass
MP from the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), Ven. Baddegama Samitha
Thero is strongly of the view that a federal government would
solve the country’s problems and he says his party would give
its fullest support to the formation of such a government. However
he says, some subjects like foreign affairs, finance and judiciary
should be retained by the central government. The prelate feels
the government should not only rely on the LTTE, but should also
accommodate the views of the other parties in order to find a
lasting solution. “The peace that we are talking about and
witnessing at present is an accident. It is not that the LTTE and
the government wanted it, but they were forced to shake hands. It
is something like someone accidentally falling into a gold
mine,” the prelate told The Sunday Leader in an interview.
Following are excerpts;
How does the LSSP view
both the government and the LTTE settling down for a federal set-up?
The LSSP has
always advocated devolution of power. From the inception we stood for
recognising all parties and communities including the minorities. The
LSSP has always stood for peace and a solution to this problem. What the
government should do, while trying to find a federal formula, is to
accommodate the views of all the political parties. I feel the
government should not rely only on the LTTE and avoid other parties. The
government should also sort out the problems in the east while trying to
settle the crisis in the country. The eastern issue should not be
forgotten. LTTE should learn that the group cannot depend on ammunition
power. They have to ultimately face the people and in order to do it,
they have to accept the democratic process which I feel they are doing
now. They must learn to co-exist with other political parties.
What is the LSSP’s policy on a federal government?
Our main policy is to share power. Federalism is sharing power. In this
modern world, the trend is to share and not to embrace power by a few.
If this policy is applied in the correct manner, the federal system will
be a success. This is nothing new to the world and we have to simply
adapt ourselves to this system.
The TULF was the first party that demanded for a federal state, but at
that time the government rejected this request. Do you feel that the
then government made a mistake in doing so?
It is indeed a mistake the country is regretting. In fact, when the
Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam pact was torn, the then Prime Minister S. W.
R. D. Bandaranaike said in his speech that he had to do it because he
was forced to do so. In fact, even the Sinhalese who wanted the pact
torn were forced by a few extremist elements that wielded power. Once
such forces lead the masses, it is difficult for even those people who
are not racist to resist them. This is what happened that time. I
personally don’t think the Sinhalese are racists, but they are led to
be racists by some politicians.
What role does the LSSP wish to play in the event a federal state is
positive. We will give our utmost support to the government in its
efforts to set up the system and even after, in implementing it. We will
act according to the need of the hour.
Do you think this system is healthy for Sri Lanka given the fact that
the country has been torn apart due to a bloody war during the past 20
years or so?
yes. It is indeed healthy and it not only improves the country’s
economy, but also the minds of the people. Under a federal system there
are certain things that the central government must keep in mind.
Finance, foreign affairs, judiciary and so on should be retained by the
central government while extensive devolution should also take place.
With regard to defence, I think the respective federal states could
establish its own defence units. We find this in other countries.
think it is very healthy. In fact, it begins to recognise other
communities and races while pushing out autocracy. We have to target the
economy and if the country is to boost its economy, then a system of
this nature should be introduced. It is definitely better than war. If a
proper administration is established in the country, Sri Lankan
expatriates may even want to return and people will become more
patriotic towards their motherland.
How do you view the change of attitude of the LTTE and the government?
it, but it must be noted that the change did not come from within either
the LTTE or the government. Other countries and most of all
circumstances thrust it upon them. The world does not approve vicious
attacks the LTTE has been carrying on or the manner in which the
successive governments have been governing the country. Globalisation
demands a bigger market. While it is the trend, both government and the
LTTE could not play games any longer. They had to make peace. It is said
that by accident one falls to the gold mine, and this is what has
happened to both the government and the LTTE.
said this, I must also say that there has been a thirst for peace from
the masses and here again, these two parties have had to come to a
compromise. Now that peace and democracy has been tasted by the people,
the government and the LTTE, it is difficult for any one of them to
return to war.
A Sinhalese weekly reported that there is a plot by a senior People’s
Alliance MP to assassinate President Kumaratunga. Being a member of the
PA, are you aware of it?
I think it is a fabricated story. Eventually, those who fabricated the
story would pay for it by proving themselves fools. It is a clear
indication that there is lot of infighting going on in the PA. Nobody
could politically fool the people any more. If the government takes the
main opposition into serious consideration, I think peace could be
achieved. Whether the government unites with the PA or not, it could
never reduce the huge gulf that exists between the rich and the poor. I
think economic realities will one day choose a better leader. It is easy
for politicians to play the fool by fabricating stories, but it is not
easy to find a solution to the crisis in the country.
The UNF government has completed one year in office. How would you
describe its performance?
As for the economy, the government has not been able to do much to the
country to emancipate the people from their usual suffering. The cost of
living is still on the increase and the political henchmen are
continuing to use influence to carry out their own business without any
regard to law and order. True enough the government has been able to
address its mind to the war and brought about a situation in which at
least the guns have fallen silent, but could people survive on this
alone? Corruption and malpractices are taking place at the same tempo
and there is a whole lot of garbage. Until this garbage is cleared, the
mandate that is given by the people is invalid.
A sudden erosion of values in the education system is visible with
students killing each other even in private tuition classes. Do you see
any major reason for it?
Life has become a rat race. There is no time for parents to spend time
with their children. Most of the women are sent abroad to earn and they
leave behind their husbands and children. This is bad for a family and
this is why we have so many problems among students. Violence has become
the daily bread in our society. The government is also encouraging women
to go abroad in search of greener pastures because it brings a lot of
money to the country. For instance, a country like Bangladesh has banned
women going abroad. However poor as they are, they are supposed to be
with their family members in order to ensure their families are well
knit. Why can’t we follow this system and establish better families
and values, instead of witnessing violence every day?