A discussion conducted by the Rivira with political spokesman of the Joint Opposition (JO) and Leader of the National Freedom Front, MP Wimal Weerawansa.
Q : The President recently stated that no matter who comes and goes, the incumbent Government would be continued on till 2020.
A : What the President may be stating is that they would stay on till 2019. In the future, one can see how the changes in the Parliament will affect the Government. Not only that, a group of 10 Sri Lanka Freedom Party Ministers is ready to join the JO within the course of September.
Q : On what basis do you say this?
A : They have intimated thus to us.
Q : Who are they?
A : We cannot tell names but one will find out in the days to come. When that group comes, the JO and the Opposition in general will become strengthened numbers-wise.
Generally, what takes place is that Members of the Opposition join the Government. That is what happened during the period of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, at a time when this Government’s two year marriage is coming to an end, a group of the Government is ready to join the Opposition. What that shows is how much the Government’s popularity has fallen.
Q : Is the fact that the Government’s popularity has not fallen not evident by the fact that the Government is continuing to do their work?
A : In actuality, one can see what happens if any of these Ministers stand at a bus stand without their security personnel. The people are in such a pressure. People were given major hopes. Major insults were directed. It is after stirring all of this that the shift in power was achieved on 2015 January 8. However, the people that were deceived then are today feeling hateful.
When the Sri Lankan Cricket Team lost, youth did not throw bottles out of rage against the state of cricket alone. They released the pressure that is circulating in their minds. They have no way to live or survive. There are employment-related issues. There is no end to the tax burden imposed on the people. The hard won freedom has become lost. Members of the military are being knifed. Members of the underworld are conducting shootouts everywhere.
Q : What do you make of the Government’s overall journey?
A : A more unsuccessful Government has never been born. Rajapaksa got a country with a war, a rising debt burden and one faced with international interferences. Yet, Rajapaksa gave a protected and safeguarded country sans a war. And also a country with major infrastructure related developments. And a country with an economic growth rate above six percent. Today the country’s economic growth rate is plummeting from four percent to three percent. The country’s protection and safeguarded nature is no more. The country is without a rule and governance. Today, the country is being governed and ruled by many leaders. On one hand, the country is daily heading to the abyss. The Government is struggling to keep the promises made to the Western countries and to India.
Q : Are you not in agreement with the devolution of power?
A : Devolution of power should not go beyond the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Even the Government that held a federal view and put forward the said constitutional Amendment, did not implement the Police and land powers in the said Amendment. What is being attempted now is to remove the unitary status of the country which is hanging by a thread thanks to the said Amendment.
Q : Does the JO have a unified view on the constitutional reforms?
A : The JO is opposed to the federal process that is ongoing. MPs of the JO represent the committees putting forward constitutional proposals. However, we are of the view that even that should not be done. This is because the Buddhist clergy has issued a pronouncement that a new Constitution is not required.
Q : However, if one does not represent such, then one loses the ability to influence constitutional proposals, does one not?
A : Even the matter pertaining to influencing is not practical. This is because Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe presents to the steering committee a draft that was drafted elsewhere, outside. Our MP Dinesh Gunawardena wrote to Wickremesinghe stating that matters which had not even been discussed were to be found in the set of proposals put forward by Wickremesinghe. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna and the Tamil National Alliance are helping with these proposals. Only the JO voiced opposition.
Q : Your group has been continuously calling for the elections to be held. Is the JO ready to contest the forthcoming election?
A : The JO is ready to face all elections. We are already preparing nomination lists island-wide. Even though this Government is in a very undemocratic manner attempting to postpone elections, which side the opinion of the people is on could be seen in the future at the elections.