Joint Opposition member, MP Bandula Gunawardena speaks about the current political climate in the country
Following are excerpts:
Q: Is the 20th Amendment to the Constitution ready to be presented in Parliament?
The present government does not listen to the people’s voice and does not hold elections in due time. Its governance is undemocratic. The previous government held provincial and local government elections replacing the ballot for the bullet in the North knowing well it would face defeat.
Defying the popular opinion not to hold elections in the North that would strengthen the hand of the Tiger movement, the previous regime held PC elections which paved the way for Wigneswaran to become Chief Minister.
Holding elections knowing well the outcome is defeat, it is not an attribute of a dictator. When we held Uva Provincial Council elections we knew well the public opinion was against us.
The present government dodges elections because they know in no uncertain terms the masses are against them and knock them out in elections. This time the people will vote against them to vent out their anger.
No matter the symbol of the candidate who contests whether from the flower bud, hand or chair what the people want is an election. This government has the most fear to face elections which no other government came into power since Independence.
Q: Is there any relief to the common man from the previous Budget?
Former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake afforded no relief to the masses. He signed an agreement with IMF to obtain 1.5 million US dollars loan spread over three years. Since, I held that post previously I am well aware of the conditions on which they offer loans.
Those conditions are to increase the government revenue and reduce the government expenditure and budget deficit should be reduced to 3 per cent of the GNP. Other conditions are to restructure the state enterprises and to float the rupee value freely. No Finance Minister can defy those conditions. What the present government can do is to criticize the Mahinda regime as an excuse or fool the masses with lies.
Q: Don’t you expect any relief to the common man from the forthcoming Budget?
In 2015 and 2016, the revenue income increased compared to 2014. If the government maintains the same level of income in 2017 and 2018 the government can give relief. Such things cannot be materialized. Those politicians who know nothing about economics can only utter fairy tales about the prosperity of the prevailing economy to pull the wool over the eyes of the masses.
Q: There are still accusations against the previous regime regarding indiscriminate loans taken. Is it true that the previous government created a debt trap?
I have very clearly explained in my book ‘Badu Dadayama’ (Tax Hunt) that those accusations are utter lies. The current government’s stock excuse is that Mahinda’s debt trap ruined the economy. Some fall for these lies.
The debt crisis really existed from 2001 to 2004only. During that period unsettled debts were more than 100 percent of the GNP. The loan installment and interest exceeded the GNP.
When Mahinda took over the government in 2005 the economy was in doldrums. When Ravi Karunanayake took over the Treasury in 2015 the debt burden was rose to 83.3 per cent from 70.1 per cent maintained by the previous regime, the Auditor General declared.
Why cannot the Premier Ranil explain in Parliament a good reason for his government couldn’t adhere to the financial discipline he introduced the Parliament in 2003?
Q: Are you sure that the crossover JO talking of will occur soon?
It would happen at a decisive moment. All Lankans are indebted to war heroes who rid the country of terror and established peace and order. If such heroes are prosecuted in order to extract revenge, the masses will rise against them and send the revengeful government packing.