was compelled to prorogue the council"
Western Province Governor and a
strong trade unionist, Alavi Moulana says he had no other
option but to prorogue the council when charges of corruption
were levelled against Western Province Chief Minister,
Reginald Cooray. Justifying his decision, one time labour
minister under the PA regime, Moulana says when there was
provision for prorogation in the constitution, he saw no other
reason either to dissolve the council or hand over Cooray to
the CID. "When allegations are made against an
individual, he must be firstly given an opportunity to prove
his innocence. If this chance is not afforded to him, then it
is very unfair. This is exactly what I have done," he
told The Sunday Leader in an interview.
Following are excerpts;
By Wilson Gnanadass
Q: Why did you prorogue the Western
Provincial Council and on what basis? Did you fear that the
council would go into the hands of the opposition if the vote
of no confidence was allowed to go ahead?
A: Proroguing a council under
the constitution is not anything illegal. I was compelled to do so
when I found that there was a crisis situation. Majority of the SLFP
members of the council approached me and requested me to prorogue
the council as the chief minister was charged with corruption that
was to be followed by a no faith motion on him. So I had no option
but to prorogue and commence an investigation into the charges
levelled against Chief Minister Reginald Cooray. I think I have done
the correct thing by doing this. Because I have given an individual
an opportunity to prove his innocence.
Q: If the majority of the council
wanted Chief Minister Cooray out of power, why didn't you in your
capacity as the Governor dissolve the council?
A: Well, if I had done this, my
action would have been the most unreasonable one. Because I would
have given into the hands of those who oppose everything whatever
the government proposes. For instance the opposition party in our
country only knows to oppose. When we are used to this type of
politics in our country, I in my capacity as the Governor had to
take my next choice very cautiously. Dissolution means accepting the
no confidence challenge thrown by the opposition. Now is it fair to
do so? I think it is unfair. Also why should I dissolve the council
thereby giving the impression to the entire nation that we are
accepting the charges against the chief minister? And also why
should I dissolve the council where there is a clear provision in
the constitution to prorogue council in case of an emergency?
Q: In this case it is not only the
opposition that has called for the removal of Cooray. But even the
UPFA's principal coalition partner - the JVP has asked for the
A: Yes. In the recent past the
JVP has been constantly opposing and protesting against the
government. It does not matter. But the thing is this. Even the SLFP
has no intention of safeguarding a corrupt person, if he/she is
found guilty. Now how do we find out whether a person is guilty of
corruption? It is only through an investigation that these facts
could be unearthed. And that is exactly what I am doing.
Q: Both the UNP and the JVP have
levelled charges of corruption against Cooray. Is there any truth in
A: Well, the charges may prove
correct or prove wrong. Nobody knows. This is why I am going to
start an investigation.
Q: If the majority of the council
charges that Cooray is corrupt, why didn't you allow either the CID
or the Bribery Commission to take over the case and conduct a proper
A: Is it fair to hang a man and
then commence investigations? My conscience did not permit me to
allow this motion to go ahead. Also, majority of the SLFP members
including the chief minister made several requests for me to
prorogue the council. Also since there was provision for prorogation
for two months, I prorogued only for two weeks to carry out an
investigation. You see in Lanka's politics, mud slinging is a common
thing. You don't have to be a rogue to be branded a rogue. So we who
are holding high office must be careful in taking decisions. I did
everything according to the law.
Q: It is learnt you have been forced
to prorogue the council by President Chandrika Kumaratu- nga. Is it
true that you came under immense pressure from the President?
A: I will not involve the
President in this issue at all. Actually at the time the no
confidence motion idea was mooted, the President was out of the
country. It is true that she met the party leaders 24 hours prior to
my decision to prorogue the council. But the President never put on
me any pressure. I had to act according to the powers vested in me.
Q: What is going to happen on May 17
after the prorogation lapses?
A: Well it will be business as
usual. By that time the investigations would have been concluded and
I assume debates based on the decisions of the probe would follow.
Q: Who is expected to hold
investigations into the charges against Cooray? Who has the
authority to appoint the investigators? You or the President?
A: According to the
constitution, I have the powers to appoint a team. And I have
decided to appoint most probably a two member team comprising
retired officials from the judiciary. The appointment would be done
this week itself so that the team could commence investigations.
Q: Don't you think it creates a bad
precedent when councils are prorogued every time a member or the
chief of the party is challenged?
A: Well, in Sri Lanka's politics
as I told you earlier, most of the time the charges are baseless. It
is natural for any opposition to always find fault with the ruling
party. And once the ruling party takes the opposition seat, this is
repeated. So whenever the opposition challenges one's confidence, it
does not mean that we have to go on dissolving the councils. Also
this has happened for the first time under my authority. So I did
what I should have done according to the provisions in the
constitution governing the provincial councils.
Q: Muslims say you are blocking all
attempts to create a separate Muslim Affairs Ministry. Is there any
truth in it? If so why?
A: Well, Muslims may say this. I
am sure these so called Muslims are some of my own colleagues. It
does not matter. It is I who told President Chandrika Kumaratunga
not to create a separate Muslim Affairs Ministry and further
suggested that I be her advisor for Muslim affairs. President is the
minister. And up to date we have been looking into the issues of the
Muslims in a very orderly manner. To date there has not been any
single complaint against our administration.
Those who go on protesting against my
involvement are those who cannot do a thing. For instance, I am a
member of the clergy and from the Sunni sect who are the descendants
of Prophet Mohamed. I am very particular about the school of thought
practiced by the Sunni sect. Today, so many Muslims are trying to
divide the community by creating various sects and as long as I am
going to live, I am never going to allow this to happen.
I strongly believe I am the most worthy
person to hold this post and that is why I suggested to the
President. If President was to create a separate ministry, I think
every year she might have to change the ministry because there are
so many parties in parliament. I am also the President of the Sri
Lanka Muslim Federation. The federation represents the entire Muslim
community in the country. There would be conflicts if a separate
ministry was created at present. This is why I told the President to
do this way.
Q: Large number of Muslims who were
affected by the December 26 tsunami still complain that the state
has not given them sufficient relief. What in your capacity as the
advisor to the President on Muslim affairs have you done about it?
A: I am not trying to say there
are lapses. But nobody can say that the state has not given them.
The tsunami has caused damage to the mosques to the tune of Rs. 365
million. The government in addition to looking after the interests
of the Muslims is also prepared to repair and build mosques.
So how can the Muslim community point
fingers at the government? I have lost 21 of my relatives due to
tsunami. Now can I keep shouting and crying? The claim that Muslims
are not getting enough is all politicised. They are made for the
political mileage of some parties.
Q: The SLMC and NUA have rejected
the proposed joint mechanism to distribute relief in the north and
east. Do you think this is justifiable?
A: I think all Muslims should
fall in line with the government's policy to evolve a mechanism to
distribute relief in the north east. Whether one likes it or not,
LTTE controls a major portion of our land and if a relief operation
had to be fulfilled in the LTTE controlled area, there has to be an
arrangement between the government and the LTTE. And the joint
mechanism is all about that. It has nothing to do with separation as
most of the left parties think. The SLMC cannot make any demand
because in my view the SLMC is not fit to lead the Muslim community.