Basil speaks of a new political party – Sees both negatives and positives after government change
Posted on January 26th, 2016

By Kelum Bandara Courtesy The Daily Mirror

After a long spell of silence, former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, in an interview with Daily Mirror says the country is in need of a new political party. He expresses that there were both positives and negatives during the past year. Excerpts of the interview;

Q After quite a long interval in politics, you have started speaking about a new political front. What is your true political intention?
More than my political intention, I believe people cutting across every segment of society have felt the need for a new political formation. I realized it in my interactions with people, be they farmers or fishermen. These people are left without a political voice. No official political platform is found for them at the moment, though some politicians voice on behalf of them in their individual capacities. As for the 2016 budget, some government MPs too objected to its provisions. Amendments were brought as a result. But, the main Opposition, the Tamil National Alliance (TNA), endorsed the budget despite its harmful contents for the general public at large.

When the main Opposition is with the government, ordinary people with dissent were left without a chance to put forth their say against the budget. There was no official political front that could act on behalf of the people. The ones who voted for the United National Party (UNP) also remained with high expectations, but they are despaired today after the budget. Aspirations of ordinary UNPers were not comprehended in the budget.

As for the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), it is a known fact that thousands of youth sacrificed their lives to put up the party founded by comrade Rohana Wijeweera. At that time, it was the humble wish of party cadres that red flowers will literally bloom from the earth stained by blood of those perished in the struggle. The party is against its founding principles.

More regrettable than this is the predicament of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). I do not fault its leaders. But, the SLFP rank and file are in a dilemma without political representation in the truest sense.

Q How far has the process of evolving a new political party progressed?
I can only say people across the country demand it. The present political scenario warrants it. In contemporary political history, the parties are formed depending on the circumstances. In 1947, the Sinhala Maha Sabha and the UNP teamed up with each other to make joint efforts to gain Independence for the country. All ethnic groups were united. It was the national need at that time. Later, these groups realized that the same joint struggle could not persist on other matters. So, they broke ranks.

Today, the country requires a new political movement to pursue its national interests. The political parties and various groups collaborated solely to unseat former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the last election. But, despondency prevails among these parties and groups which were otherwise united to defeat our government.

Q The Opposition parties such as National Freedom Front of MP Wimal Weerawansa and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya (PHU) of Udaya Gammanpila talk about a new party to be formed soon. Are you also referring to the same?
No. There are different aspects in this case. In one aspect, we see the political parties and alliances being established to contest elections. It is needed even today. It is similar to the political rallying around Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP) in 1956. A new political front is being formed against the government. The joint opposition is playing a key role in this exercise. That is a different case.

More than this political front, the idea mentioned about a party is somewhat different. That is to provide a definite political platform for individuals with common and consistent views and policies. These are two different exercises though the objective is identical.

Q Does it mean that the 1956 social and political phenomenon has revisited the country demanding fresh political initiatives?
As for the formation of the Indira Congress in India, people rallied behind Indira Gandhi as an individual, but not with the party. Then, late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike had a similar experience. She was politically victimized, and stripped of her civic rights. Furthermore, the party collapsed. She was on the verge of losing her position in the party. Yet, people remained loyal to her. I, along with present President Maithripala Sirisena, stood for late MP Anura Bandaranaike at that time in the internal power struggle of the SLFP. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa switched his allegiance to Mrs. Bandaranaike then. The official leadership of the party was disputed. Yet, the rank and file were with Mrs. Bandaranaike. The Maithri-Anura faction got hold of the party office, but not party people. We are experiencing a similar fiasco now. As party people remained faithful to Indira Gandhi in India and to Mrs. Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka when their party positions were at stake, SLFP supporters have thrown their weight behind Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa today. The present SLFP leadership has failed to win the hearts and minds of SLFPers.

Q Though you did not engage in active politics during the last few months, are you ready to play a role in the new party mentioned by you?
I am not interested in holding any official position. Besides, I am ready to contribute in whatever way possible for such an exercise if needed. We stay away from politics at the moment because there is no political leadership for us. I have not made up my mind to do party politics thus far. As a citizen, I am geared to do my task if the situation demands, though.

Q What have you done during the last few months, while being away from active politics?
Mostly, I devoted my time to consult lawyers on cases instituted against me. I had to appear before various investigative bodies and give statements. In the past, late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike was also harassed on false accusations. Today, the same is done. The only difference is the use of novel terminology to refer to harassments meted out. During the period, I also interacted with a lot of people.

Q You were summoned before the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) in recent times. Do you accuse any particular leader of hounding you?
I do not think it is appropriate for me to articulate anything in the open about what I feel. If I mention anything, it has to be substantiated with evidence. I do not wish to point the finger at anyone.

Q In view of the present government completing one year in office, how do you assess its role?
For the first time after nearly 30 years, school children have not received their uniform materials. In the past, free uniform materials of the same quality were distributed among children cutting across ethnic lines. After 20 cultivating seasons, farmers are bereft with lack of fertilizer for agriculture at subsidized rates. We introduced an agro-insurance scheme for paddy cultivators. It is no longer there. For the first time, the guaranteed price for paddy has been dropped. Along with the hike of production cost, it has to be increased. But, for the first time, the exact opposite has happened. The guaranteed price is not the maximum price, but a rate with a small profit margin added to the production cost. That is intended to influence the market forces so that farmers do not incur losses.

A guaranteed price had been declared for rubber and tea products at that time. The present government increased them to unrealistic levels. Afterwards, the prices crumbled. During our time, we encountered a serious global crisis impacting our tea trade. Our tea buyer Iran was affected by economic sanctions. Ukraine, another buyer, got into war… But, our government intervened to ensure proper prices for growers.

Fishermen too face a predicament because of a vessel monitoring system to be installed at the insistence of European Union. Then, fishermen, at sea, have to keep record of their catches to be monitored by the authorities of European Union.

Public servants enjoy pension benefits. Yet, those entering the service from January 1 are going to be stripped off this facility. Vehicle permits issued for categories such as doctors and judges were of immense use for them. Though doctors are seen as a professional group with better incomes, 90 per cent of them serve amid difficulties in rural areas for a relatively small salary.

While highlighting negativities, I also see certain gains for the country during the past year. Establishment of independent commissions and the transfer of some executive powers at least on a nominal manner are some of the positive developments. Similarly, certain countries that remained hostile to Sri   Lanka with or without reasons have now been won over. I do not know it is used for the benefit of the country in the overall context.

The Constitutional Council was set up under the 19th Amendment. It should have ensured representation to the Opposition. But, it consists of those who worked for the swan symbol at the presidential election or hold ministerial posts in the government. There is no representation for dissent.

Q The present government nullified the 18th Amendment by enacting the 19h Amendment. In this case, do you believe that the enactment of the 18th Amendment during your time was a wrongful act from a democratic perspective?
During our time, we also had established independent commissions. But, the appointment criterion was different. Under the 17th Amendment, a criterion had been laid down for the appointments of members to these commissions. Be that as it may, a technical issue cropped up blocking this criterion when we were in power. It led to a stalemate. So, we intervened to change the criterion by enacting the 18th Amendment.

After the enactment of the 19th Amendment, the President’s power was transferred to the Constitutional Council to make appointments to the Commissions. The Constitutional Council plays a bias role because it consists of members who worked for a common political agenda. I must say some commissions worked better during our time than today. Only the shortcoming that existed in the appointment criterion under the 18th Amendment was corrected this time. However, no fairness is visible in its work.

Q Again you talked about some countries that turned friendly towards Sri   Lanka after their hostile approach during the previous regime. Does it mean that the foreign policy was not rightly handled during your time?
One cannot look at it that way alone. Every country adopts its foreign policy to pursue its interests in main. Foreign policy has to be mutually beneficial. But, at the same time, we should also consider our interests to be pursued. We were cautious not to jeopardize the sovereignty and integrity of our country. When acting in this regard, it might have led to a conflict of ideological clashes with some States. It resulted in these countries harbouring unfriendly attitudes towards us. That was one aspect.

In diplomacy, there is still room for maintaining healthy relations even with countries having ideological differences. In handling foreign relations, it is enlightened diplomacy to strike a balance and uphold friendly relations even with countries having dissimilarities with us in some fronts. We might have failed in this respect. Anyhow, with some countries, we could have maintained proper relations merely by compromising our sovereignty. When we placed the country’s national interests before any other thing, they were upset. They did not stop at that. They even worked for a regime change. Besides, our recklessness and shortcomings distanced some countries that otherwise remained friendly.

Q Do you think such countries also worked for a regime change here? 
I think so. For the first time, the United Nations (UN) has issued a statement on an internal political matter. The UN sent a congratulatory note on the first anniversary of regime change. I do not think it is in compliance with diplomatic norms.

Q What do you think of the foreign policy of the present government? 
The government should give serious thought to this. We made a mistake by alienating some countries on one end. The present government seems to be doing the same on the other end. The non-aligned policy is the best as professed by late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. It is not advisable to be aligned with one power bloc. Today, I wonder how this alignment with one bloc happens under a government headed by two leaders with different policies on world affairs.

Q What are your views on the move to draft a new Constitution?
The need for a new Constitution has been spelled out by all. There is no second word about it. Now, the government is initiating the process. A strong opposition is built that the government is trying to deviate from the procedure mentioned in the Constitution and Standing Orders. I doubt why such suspicion is created in the minds of people right at the beginning. We commend the intention to draft a new Constitution. But, public suspicion has to be allayed.

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7 Responses to “Basil speaks of a new political party – Sees both negatives and positives after government change”

  1. Dilrook Says:

    The best Basil can do is to keep out of the new political movement. It was Basil’s economic policies that defeated Mahinda despite winning the war.

  2. Christie Says:

    The Mahinda was defeated by Indian Empire. It divided alienated Sinhala Christians and Muslims using BBS and other outfits then got the Indian colonial parasite block vote to vote for Sirisena.

    Please let us not blame our own and make us weak.

  3. Raj Says:

    What economic policies Dilrook?

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    MR was defeated due to many reasons.
    In looking at the percentages, nearly 70% of the vote from the Sinhala folk went to MR. The minority vote and the confused/bribed Sinhala vote plus a virulent false media campaign, CBK&RW combo, foreign interference/funding, etc went against MR. MR govt accused of War Crimes later is negative too, however hard the Armed Forces did the right thing. It is shame on Lanka that such a situation has arisen.

    Of course, the Plans for a Fed State for Tamils is the Main Menu, not the defeat of MR.

    We have gone through these reasons many times on the L’web.
    Basil is not one of the reasons. He did his best by MR.

  5. Lorenzo Says:

    Under the constitution (after 19 amendment) NO dual citizen can become a MP. So this question does NOT arise. BR and GR CANNOT enter parliament. Fullstop. Stop wasting time discussing it.

    “(xiii) a citizen of Sri Lanka who is also a citizen of any other country;”

    BR and GR CANNOT become MPs. But they CAN contest a PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.

    NR cannot contest the next presidential election because 19 amendment raised the MINIMUM AGE to 35 years from 30. NR will be UNDER 35 in 2021.

  6. Susantha Wijesinghe Says:


  7. Dham Says:

    Both MR and BR did good and bad.
    That is human nature.
    BR was a much better communicator, listner, was negotiable, diplomatic unlike MR.
    Most things BR did was with approval of MR.
    There is no point putting the blame on BR due to our reluctance to accuse MR of anything.
    Could have been some differences but the all 3 bros got on well and worked as a team.
    But ultimate result was betrayal of great victory without achieving much in crushing Tamil menace properly.

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