Deputy Minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare, Ranjan Ramanayake declined to accept the allowance of Rs 100,000 allocated for an MP, the allowance of Rs 2,500 paid for an MP for attending a Parliamentary session and luxury vehicles afforded to MPs. In an interview with our sister paper Sunday Rivira, Ramanayake discusses this issue over allowances and other issues facing the country.

Q: A year has come to pass and a year is to begin. Yet the people say that the promises of the Yahapalanaya (good governance) Government remains the same, promises not yet fulfilled. Is this not the case?
If someone is saying so, they are either deaf or blind. After we came into power, no journalists were killed. Media establishments were not set on fire. We ended the white van culture. Today, there is peace in the country. The majority of the public accepts this. This is why on 2015 January 8, 6.25 million voted for us. Afterwards, in August, we were given 106 seats. The 5.8 million votes which Mahinda Rajapaksa received at the presidential election were brought down to 4.8mn votes. I don’t know as to where the people that you are referring to are. They may not be here but maybe they are in Europe. We have not committed even one per cent of the mistakes made by the previous regime.

Q: You speak of the previous Government assaulting journalists, when the dust had not yet settled on the Hambantota incident.
Yes. The two allegations levelled against us includes the incident which occurred when the Navy Commander went to the Port and held a journalist by his neck and subsequently pushed him, and the other where (journalist) Freddie Gamage of the Meepura website was attacked with a pole. Investigations are being conducted into the two incidents and they are ongoing. Previously, investigations were never conducted into such incidents.

Q: Then, where are the sharks that you all said that you will catch?  
That thieves were not caught is a story told by thieves. Why was (gangster) Atha Kota’s (Shorthand) file kept closed? Today, he has been given the death penalty. (Former MP) Duminda Silva’s file was kept closed by (former de facto Chief Justice) Mohan Peiris. Today, Silva has been given the capital punishment. Today, charges have been filed against (gangster) Choka Malli. Charges have also been filed against Cabinet Ministers and MPs. Politicians like Basil Rajapaksa, Namal Rajapaksa, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Johnston Fernando, Rohitha Abeygunawardena, Sarana Gunawardena and Sajin Vaas Gunawardena are all out on bail. Even (former non-career diplomat) Jaliya Wickramasuriya is today in remand prison.

If someone is saying that we haven’t kept our promises, they can’t be Sri Lankans. We have managed to get the European Union’s ban on fisheries exports lifted. Through the Group of Eight Summit we have made friends with other countries. What you are attempting is to bring in nonexistent logic and reasoning to try to prove that this Government has fallen. We have not fallen and neither have we declined in popularity among the people.

Q: We can see that the fights inside Yahapalanaya are now taking place in the open. United National Party Ministers are openly blaming the President in public.
That is good. This is democracy. Today, I can talk against the President and the Prime Minister. If one did so earlier, one would be abducted in a white van and killed. Back then, what was done when former General Secretary of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party summoned Saruwa Sunil (former Akuressa Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman, Saruwa Liyanage Sunil) and politician, Mervyn Silva before the disciplinary committee? He was lambasted. That is why Mr. Maithripala (President, Maithripala Sirisena) joined with us and contested.

Previously, there was no room for different opinions. Look at the case now. The taxes on water and smoke emission was said to be too much. They were removed. We all got together and did these things. The same is the case with criticism. Dilan Perera says one thing. Dayasiri Jayasekara says another. Lakshman Senewiratne says something else. Others say other things. This is not a fight. This is a feature of a democratic and progressive Government.

Now there are many journalists who are like tough guys. Back then, did you ask these questions from Gotabaya? Post-January 8, the place is full of tough guy journalists. This is because they are certain that they won’t be abducted and made to disappear. What a lot of media freedom is there today.

Q: It is a problem to me as to whether this media freedom that you talk of exists in this country today?
Let us then stop this discussion. There is no point in having this talk with a negative human being. Today, how many attacks are there on Facebook? What you are attempting to do is to create a different opinion in society.

You say that there is no media freedom. What journalist was shot and killed by our Government? Anura Kumara stated that 26 journalists were killed. Is it our fault that we did not kill even one journalist during these two years?

Q: Why was it that only you declined when all the other MPs accepted the Rs 100,000 allowance?
When 224 in Parliament said yes and okay, only I stood up and said no. What is wrong with that? It is not just this Rs 100,000 that I declined. I also said no to the luxury vehicles. I also refused the Rs 2,500 allowance given for attending Parliamentary sittings.
I have not imported ethanol. I have not stolen. I am not in debt. I am unafraid. I am a human being who talks straight.

Q: Yet, even though you refuse these, the majority do take them. Your attempts have been in vain. Aren’t they?
One can say that the effort has been useless only if one looks at it from a negative point of view. Today, when I spoke of this, Geetha Kumarasinghe and Wijayakala Maheswaran expressed that they too will rethink this. I brought in a certain view. To say that it is useless is a dastardly statement. Today, I asked the President about it. Even he said that what I did was the right thing to do. He too is on my side.

Q: We have received reports that Party seniors have criticized you for trying to be a big shot by declining the privileges.
I have always criticized Party members. During the Avant Garde incident, I was on another side. I did not sign the Committee on Public Enterprises report as a member of the footnote gang. When Hirunika abducted a youth, I opposed it. When John Amaratunga removed a jogging track, I said that that was wrong. I opposed things done by Palitha Thewarapperuma. I am with the people. This is why I came first as number one in the District with regard to the preferential votes. It is because I speak straight that they are with me. That is of more value and worth to me than anything else.

There are many in our Government who are angry with me. Even those in the Opposition are angry with me. Only the people are friendly with me. There have even been times when people have attempted to assault me.

True. Many things are told about me in relation to my refusing these privileges. Questions like, if I was able to shake my body on Derana TV and earn Rs 100,000 or Rs 200,000, what is wrong with accepting these privileges. Our two leaders tell us that we are Rs 9 trillion in debt. They say that we are running the country with much difficulty. That said, Rs 100 is deducted from our grandmothers and grandfathers who obtain the senior citizens allowance. We on the other hand increase our lot by Rs 100,000.

I have never thought of myself. I have always been on a suicide missions. When the Party was at the lowest ebb, I went to Ratnapura and defeated Maheepala Herath. I am like the metallic object which one throws out when it is lightning. Frequently, I get struck by lightning. Yet, I am always in the fight. I have the strength to bear it.