MR was a factor important for Maithripala’s own survival – DEW
Posted on September 26th, 2015

Courtesy Island

Communist Party leader D. E. W. Gunasekera was one of the veteran politicians arbitrarily left out of the UPFA national list by president Maithripala Sirisena in order to accommodate defeated candidates of the SLFP loyal to him. In this interview, Gunasekera speaks to C. A. Chandraprema on the situation prevailing within the SLFP and on matters arising from the report on Sri Lanka submitted to the UN Human Rights Council by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Also discussed are the outstanding issues that have taken centre stage as far as Sri Lanka’s relations with India are concerned.

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Q. After the new parliament met, we seem to be once again saddled with the strange situation that prevailed in the last eight months of the previous parliament, with one part of the SLFP sitting in the government and the other part in the government. This time it is even more complicated with some loyalists of the SLFP leader being elected on the UNP ticket. What do you make of all this?

A. This is due to the ‘original sin’ of Mahinda deciding to give the party leadership to Maithripala Sirisena. If he had not handed over the leadership of the party, a section would have gone with Maithripala but the majority would have remained with Mahinda. President Sirisena would have realised for his part that unless he took control of the SLFP he would become a prisoner in the government controlled by another party. When it came to the parliamentary elections, at first Maithripala refused to even give nominations to Mahinda. But I pointed out to the president that Mahinda is a factor that will be important even for Maithripala’s own survival and the survival of the SLFP. At that point he conceded and allowed Mahinda to contest. Even Rajitha Senaratne told me that he was personally against allowing Mahinda to contest but that I had a point in what I said. If Mahinda had not been allowed to contest the SLFP would have split.

Q. Your party was a prominent partner of the People’s Alliance that came into power in 1994. After that parliamentary election the PA had 105 seats and the UNP had 94. But the PA formed a government on its own. A similar thing happened in 2001 when the UNP got 109 seats, they formed the government. But now we hear a theory being propagated by the likes of the new SLFP general secretary that since the UPFA got 95 and the UNP 106, nobody has got a majority so the president has the right to form a government.

A. If Maithripala had not taken over the leadership of the party then things would have been completely different. He is also the leader of the SLFP. The president is the head of the government t and the head of the state. How can he function as the head of the government with the SLFP in the opposition? So things have been decided to his advantage.

Q. Do you think Maithripala Sirisena was serious when he said he is going to abolish the executive presidency?

A. He must be feeling that if he abolishes the executive presidency at this point in time he will be just a nominal president with no power so he must be wanting to retain his powers. It was Champika who put forward that line. When we were asking for the abolition of the executive presidency, Champika consistently spoke for the retention of it. It may be that Maithripala is taking cover under him.

Q. After this government came into power, a whole procession of foreign dignitaries like Narendra Modi, John Kerry and Nisha Biswal made high profile visits to this country. Even when it came to the report on Sri Lanka put out by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights you found members of the government representing both the UNP and the SLFP falling over one another to accept it. Sri Lanka now seems to be working to an agenda set from outside.

A. I am not so concerned about the OHCHR report because we have been seeing documents like this since 2011. Finally what counts is the resolution (of the UN Human Rights Council) that will be put out. You have to judge the government on the position it will take on the resolution. Any inquiry will have to be domestic. Getting foreign judges and prosecutors involved, is not acceptable. I still have complete faith in the LLRC report. The war came to an end in the early hours of the 19th May 2009. We had the last cabinet meeting on the 13th. After the meeting, Mahinda asked me, Dinesh Gunawardene, Tissa Vitarana, Mahinda Samarasinghe and G. L. Peirs to stay behind. None of us were expecting the war to come to an end on the 19th. I was the acting foreign minister whenever Rohitha Bogollagama went overseas. The president was due to leave for Jordan. He told all of us that there was a lot of pressure to stop the war and that various powerful people were phoning from overseas and they all wanted an opportunity given for the leadership of the LTTE to escape. Mahinda wanted us to hold the fort until he came back from Jordan. The foreign powers all seemed to be aware that the war was coming to an end though we were not. Even the Indians were aware that things were coming to an end. On the matter of bringing the war to an end, Mahinda was stubborn. He didn’t care. We must not underestimate the passive support given to us by India or the role of the Americans in sharing intelligence. But there was a lot of pressure from those quarters to stop the war. In fact when the UN general secretary came to Sri Lanka after the end of the war and he was about to leave from the Katunayake airport all the Western Ambassadors were in the VVIP lounge waiting for him as were the foreign media. I went and sat down next to the UN Secretary General so that he will not be able to make any statements unfavourable to us.

Q. Just as the OHCHR investigation report was released, you found some members of the government trying to market it to the people saying that is not all bad, and that it could have been worse and that it had been watered down by the foreign powers out of consideration for the new government. There are various recommendations made in this report and I would to run through a few of those with you. There is the recommendation that the Human Rights Committee in Geneva which was set up under the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights be given the authority to hear appeals from Sri Lanka after all other recourse in this country has been exhausted. What do you think of that proposal?

A. We can’t permit anything of the sort. It’s thanks to the 1962 coup that we managed to start the ending of a similar link with the Privy Council. The Privy Council exonerated all the suspects in the 1962 coup case.

Q. The OHCHR report has recommended a hybrid war crimes court. In addition to that they want a vetting process to remove from office military and civilian officials who are believed to have been responsible for war crimes. This seems to be a two pronged exercise – if there is evidence against somebody you haul that officer before the war crimes court. If there is no evidence you kick him out anyway, saying that ‘there are reasonable grounds to believe’ that the individual concerned had committed war crimes.

A. We can’t allow anything like that to take place.

Q. There is another recommendation that all members of the UN consider prosecuting Sri Lankans suspected of committing war crimes under universal jurisdiction.

A. They are trying to globalise the judiciary also now not just the economy! We have sovereignty at present at least as far as the judicial systems are concerned.

Q. There is another interesting development in that our prime minister returns from a visit to India and swears that he did not discuss anything about CEPA. But the Indian newspapers are full of stories about the finalising of CEPA. Time tables are being mentioned and it is said that officials from both sides are due to meet in October.

A. These are areas where contradictions will fast develop between the UNP and the SLFP. We had reservations about CEPA from the very beginning. That is why it was shelved by the Chandrika Kumaratunga government. We have to take our national interest into account.

Q. Then there is this so called ‘Hanuman bridge’ between Sri Lanka and India that is being talked of. Once again, the government here is silent while the Indian press is full of talk about this bridge that India wants to build to Sri Lanka.

A. These are factors that will destabilise the political situation here. Arjuna Ranatunga came on the Pethikada programme on Sirasa and said that he is totally opposed to any such bridge because we have been islanders throughout and we should continue to be islanders in the future as well. I too don’t understand the need for this bridge. Such proposals will once again give rise to chauvinism, anti-Indianism, and all that. These are unnecessary problems.

3 Responses to “MR was a factor important for Maithripala’s own survival – DEW”

  1. aloy Says:

    Whatever happens there will be no change in the way our country has been run for the last 67 years. Corruption, corruption, nepotism, nepotism and no end.
    Look around in Colombo. Who are the successful people?. Most of them are mega dealers.
    Our country will gradually sink even below level of Somalia while others in the region rise up. Who is the corrupt politician that was put behind bars?. Sajin was the only one for a few months. Looks like he too, is being given a life line. The politicians and the officialdom together take the citizens on a ride. We have been destined to live like that without a proper leader and we continue to dream of a Singapore.

    DEW, you too will be rewarded very soon.

  2. Independent Says:

    THIS IS TRUE. It is like හිඟන්නාගේ තුවාලෙ. As long a s Mahinda is there Runil will feel unsecured and he need clown support for the show.

  3. Fran Diaz Says:

    It is not MR’s presence, but all citizens of Lanka who know the truth of matters in all events after Jan elections that makes the clownish new Yahap govt act sillier by the day.

    Honest, straight working, law abiding officers such as Mr DEW Gunasekera have been side lined, transferred or ignored.
    Wither the Siri-Wicki duo ? Shame !

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