The 100-day program, an eyewash – Thilanga Sumathipala MP
Posted on January 3rd, 2015

by Uditha Kumarasinghe

UPFA Colombo District Parliamentarian Thilanga Sumathipala said that New Democratic Front (NDF) Presidential Candidate Maithripala Sirisena’s 100 day program is totally an eyewash. It is just to get the focus on the media as well as the so called people who are clamouring for reforms in the administrative set up. The MP in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that this is a kind of document to get public attraction by knowing very well that it is not practicable at all.

Thilanga Sumathipala MP

He said NDF Presidential Candidate doesn’t have even a party. He doesn’t have any network. So he can promise anything. He has nothing to lose and he has no authority as well. President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot behave in such an irresponsible manner.

He is the Head of the State, Leader of the party and Head of the Government and he has many responsibilities. Can Sirisena be held responsible for everybody say? He has to consult Ranil Wickremesinghe, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga, JHU, TNA, Rauff Hakeem, Rishad Bathiudeen and Thigambaram. What a pickle this joint opposition is. I don’t think it is workable.

Sumathipala said that with regard to a regime change, there are parties with vested interest who are creating this hype to get rid of the Head of State. Because then they can do whatever they like. Then it will be a very weak government who will dance according to their whims and fancies. If there is a strong President and even if we have a weak Government, it doesn’t matter. Because you can still convert because there is a strong leadership in the country. The very reason to talk about corruption and mismanagement is to just sling mud at the Head of the State and change the mindset of the people by converting them into different lines. I never think this is something fair that the majority of the people will believe.

Q: Is the so called 100 day program practicable at all? Are these targets reachable?

A: What the Opposition Presidential Candidate Maithripala Sirisena is saying is technically not possible unless we have two thirds majority in Parliament. Currently two thirds Parliament is only reachable through the Government. So it is very clear that these pledges and dates have been given just to grab power and get positions.

The fact remains if you want to have a constitutional change, you need to change the Government or Parliament and also need to have two thirds in Parliament. Then you can consider changing it. By knowing that it is not possible to go for a General Election within the next 10 to 12 weeks and also to go for a two thirds majority and reforms, this is just an attempt made to hoodwink the public.

That is why a practical approach is given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa to take this matter up in the Consultative Committee of Parliament with all stakeholders and debate it within a period of one year. It would pave the way to make necessary constitutional changes. Some changes what they are proposing needs two thirds plus a referendum. It is virtually like a fresh constitution. So you can’t address all these needs within such a short period of time because there is no draft document even put in place. There is no draft document proposed by the Justice Ministry, TNA or Tamil and Muslim parties who are supporting NDF Presidential Candidate Sirisena. These are the people who are saying that we need to have a change. TNA has never been a part of the constitutional reforms at a Parliamentary Select Committee or a Consultative Committee. So I would say the Opposition’s 100 day program is totally an eyewash. It is just to get the focus on the media as well as the so called people who are clamouring for reforms in the administrative set up. I would say it is a kind of document to get public attraction by knowing very well that it is not practicable.

Q: Could the cross over be a salutary feature of democracy? Do not the MPs who cross over betray the faith reposed in him by the electorate?

A: The current situation is like that. My personnel view is that if I get elected from a party, I should serve my party and the people during my full term of office. Because the people have elected you with a mandate given by the manifesto that you have given before them. So it is the manifesto what they believe in. It is not ethically correct or otherwise to switch your loyalty. If you want to change your political position and ideology, then you must resign from the party and parliament and then you can join another party. But switching to another party is not a good practice while you are exercising the responsibility as a Member of Parliament from a party. But there is no proper document to prohibit anybody of doing so and that is a Supreme Court order.

Q: What is former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s impact on the Presidential Election? Could it change the direction of the public opinion?

A: She left with a very sour and negative memory at the time of her retirement. Because I can remember how Ranil Wickremesinghe came to power in 2001.

We had six hours of darkness and there was a war going on. First time after lapse of 40 years, our economic growth was severely affected by the world economic crisis. So if you look at her as a performer, she had not been the most popular Head of the State. She had been a party to some court orders while she was in power such as the Waters Edge case, privatisation of the Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation plus so many other issues. I think showing her face too early and playing a major role in this Sirisena’s entire election campaign has been very negative. It would have adverse effect on Sirisena’s campaign.

The people would wonder on what her contribution is going to be, especially because she was for a federal system and devolution of power. She proposed that and Ranil Wickremesinghe burnt the proposed draft constitution in Parliament in 2000. So it was totally a conflict between Wickremesinghe Government and Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s regime. So you can see the vengeance of bringing together those two parties is not a workable arrangement.

Q: How do you look at former UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake’s cross over to the Government ranks? Has it not weakened the UNP’s fabric?

A: Attanayake is the person who was instrumental in bringing a relationship between the grass-roots polling booth agents to the entire network. Now that is left with a huge question mark. Therefore the UNP network and the administrative network have collapsed. You can see the UNP cadre is not getting any momentum. I think it’s a big issue with regard to the UNP.

Former UNP General Secretary Attanayake was a good network man. He has no enemies within the UNP. He has been a friend and a brother of everyone. So it will be difficult for anyone to build up that gap and it will take at least two years. It may be a huge shock in the network of the UNP membership.

Q: The Government makes the allegation that an international conspiracy is at work towards a change. SLFP General Secretary Sirisena’s break-away is an interlude to many such things in store. Would you like to elaborate on this?

A: When you look at the composition, Rauff Hakeem is very keen to have administrative authority in the Eastern Province for the Muslim community and the TNA is asking for a federal and total autonomy in their administration in Northern territory while Thigambaram is also a part of upcountry workers controlling their affairs. When Rishad Bathiudeen is talking about Muslim community in the Wanni and Puttalam, these are all minority representatives with the administrative devolution of power package plans.

Whereas this is exactly the aim of the people seeking Eelam. What you can see here is that there is a Sri Lankan diaspora abroad, but they have no intention to come back. They are settled down in those countries and they have a relationship with Tamils. Eventhough only a three million Tamil community is in Sri Lanka, there are more than 100 million Tamils in the world. You can see the international pressure against Sri Lanka’s territorial integrity is so much. We have to manage this. I would say the way Sirisena is articulating is very clear that the document which is there in agreement with minority parties are nothing other than for devolution of power to control their respective areas. So extreme groups are ganging up together very clearly with Sirisena’s campaign. That means that they are trying to marginalise the Sinhalese in every sense.

Q: All those who crossed over from the Government ranks attack the Government for corruption and mismanagement. Have they blown minor happenings out of proportion?

A: This is a Presidential Election. It is to elect a Head of State. If the people have a problem with the Government, they must deal with it at the General Election.

They can’t deal with the Government at the time of a Presidential Election. President is an Executive President.

The presidency is where you have to look at the Head of the State who can articulate his vision into a reality and transform the country, not act as an agent of certain elements.

This is a Presidential Election so that you can’t have an agent who is representing some others.

So you can’t take up matters such as corruption, mismanagement and misappropriation at a time of a Presidential Election.

Those are matters you should deal with at a time of a General Election. If the people don’t like the party in power, they can defeat them at that election. That is a separate matter.

If you look at the state corruption, you can’t handle without having at least even a single public officer. There are so many down the line in administration in the public sector.

Can any money be stolen in this country without their participation? So why is the accusation levelled against only one individual who is the Head of the State without looking at the system.

The system is starting from the administration and then transform to the political leadership, executive branch and the Head of the Cabinet.

That is how it works. With regard to regime change, there are parties who are creating this hype to get rid of the Head of State. Because then they can do whatever they like.

Then it will be a very weak government.

The very reason to talk about corruption and mismanagement, I think is to sling mud at the Head of the State and change the mindset of the people by converting them into different lines. I never think this is something fair that the majority of the people will believe.

Q: For many people “change” has become a panacea for all ills. The question arises whether there is an alternative national leader who would stand against outside pressure and safeguard national interest. Your comments?

A: If you want to discuss about the past 100 years of this country, if there is one leader who has changed this country it is none other than President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

He is the leader who made this significant change. That change was started in 2005 and he eradicated three decades old terrorism which we can’t even think of. However, the President successfully accomplished that task. Now he is looking in terms of transformation of the country.

He is giving his leadership for that transformation.

Of course, if you are looking at a change, the master and captain of that change is President Rajapaksa. I don’t think one can match his leadership quality and commanding authority.

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