President is a prisoner of his own Govt– Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena
Posted on February 8th, 2017

By Shaahidah Riza Courtesy Ceylon Today

President Maithripala Sirisena is a prisoner of his own government, thus, is unable to make unwavering decisions said United People’s Freedom Alliance MP Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, a member of the Joint Opposition. He went on to say that President Sirisena is trapped amidst a plethora of indecisive situations, where he feels obliged to the powers in the UNP, that made him President and is unable to trust anyone else. The President is dillydallying Abeywardena said, and added that he is unable to keep his promises to the people.

Excerpts of the interview:

?. The Joint Opposition has thus far staged several protests and hosted several rallies. What is the Joint Opposition trying to achieve?

A. We are focusing mainly on the government’s activities, to assess what has happened to the country, and to organize the people against this government. For the last couple of years they have been talking about Yahapalanaya, but it is obvious that their actions are contrary as reflected in the manner in which they are selling our national wealth, and how it will damage our country. They are robbing from the people. These aspects have not been highlighted by the media. It is not being properly taken up, even in Parliament. There is a time limitation in Parliament.

Even the Central Bank issue, if not for the Joint Opposition it would not have been exposed. That is why we are with the people, in a continuous struggle, against this government.
?. What is President Rajapaksas biggest obstacle to toppling the government?
A. Toppling the government is not our concern; it is the concern of the people. It was the people who chased away Mahinda Rajapaksa. Therefore, we believe that once the people are organized, and once the people are aware of this government’s faults, toppling the government will not be a problem. At present, we see several people who take to the street to oppose the government. On Monday the Pradeshiya Sabha was paralyzed. This is what we have to tell the government, its way of handling matters is bad and that the people are against it. Let the people come out. It has to be done by the people. Our duty is to organize the people and motivate and show them and support them.

?. Assuming a change takes place and President Sirisena decides to go ahead with an SLFP Government, would you support him?

A. It is something better than nothing. The present government is robbing the people left and right and ruining the country. If the President can take a bold step and disassociate himself from the UNP that would be a feasible solution for the moment. But I won’t say that it will be a total solution. Even if the President appoints another government, that government will have to do a tremendous amount of work and sacrifices to bring the country, at least back to what it was, two years ago.

?. If he gives ministerial portfolios, will you accept?

A. It will depend on how the government works. If we can identify that the situation is completely safe, and that we can work without disturbances then we will consider it. Failing which, I do not want it to go from a bad situation to a worse one.

?. There have been certain instances where the President has expressed concern with regard to how the present government is functioning. Do you think the President will be swayed in favour of the JOs cause?

A. I don’t think so. The President has become a prisoner in his own government, because he can’t make decisions. He believes that he was able to come to power with the help of the UNP, which is true. He cannot trust the others, and is unable to rely on them for support. Therefore, the President is dillydallying between these two elements. Thus he has become a prisoner of the UNP. In addition, Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Government was toppled not only by the people, but by the foreign influences that came in to the country with their money, strength and organizations. The same organizations and the same people are still active.

Some of these elements are still in Sri Lanka and they are working in various ways. Some are settled at Temple Trees; some government machinations are handled by foreigners. These super powers have a vested interest in Sri Lanka. We have to be very careful and the President also has to be very careful. Therefore, President Sirisena cannot make any decision without compromising his safety.

?. You are a SLFPer. There is also a new party formed by Professor Peiris. All of these elements came together for the rally.

However, the people are used to supporting a party. If you want to take the cause of the Joint Opposition forward what kind of structural changes will you make?

A. This is a Joint Opposition. The fact that it is ‘Joint’ indicates that there are many parties. It will be made in to an alliance. Even Podu Jana Eksatha Peramuna is an alliance. Therefore, any party can join and any party can leave.

?. Certain senior SLFPers from the JO have indicated that they experienced step-motherly treatment from the SLFPers who are Maithri loyalists. Have you experienced any such discrimination?

A. That is normal. There is no point in worrying about it. Even I am a Central Committee member of the SLFP; whenever, Central Committee meetings took place, in the past, I was duly informed. However, now, I am not being informed of these meetings; but the meetings are held. I have not been removed from the Central Committee, yet I am not informed of forthcoming meetings. This kind of ill-treatment is certainly taking place.

?. You said that President Sirisena is a prisoner of his own government. However, if he had the fullest support of his party, and if the SLFP was united, would he not be able to assert more control?

A. Exactly. But it is his responsibility to ensure his party’s support, including that of those in the Opposition and he should indicate that he is going to take a bold step, and not change his stance on whatever decision he makes.

At the very inception of this government, we wholeheartedly supported President Sirisena. When he told us that we should vote for the 19A to the Constitution; we voted for it. Even I voted for it, because he promised in public that he is going to bring in the 20A, which had been drafted at that time, that is, to abolish the Executive Presidency and establish a new Parliamentary System.

He said that he will bring the 20A; he wanted us to trust him, and vote for the 19A. So we voted for 19A. I accepted a Cabinet portfolio. One day later, I realized that it is not workable, with these people. And the promise that he made to bring the 20A, is yet to be delivered. He has to prove himself to the party and to the people that he is genuinely trying to do something, that he will be honest, that he will do his level best to include the SLFP in government. If he can prove all of these, matters would be very easy.

?. At the Local Government level, how will JO members of the SLFP approach the forthcoming LG elections?

A. Before addressing this, first there must be arrangements to hold the elections. The present Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils is a factory producing diabolical lies. How can you trust these people? He said that he will gazette the election as soon as he got the delimitation report.

Even prior to that, last year, the President himself, stated that at a particular date the LG elections will be held. Once a President makes a statement, it has to be his word. If it is broken or not implemented, then it is bad for the President and his office. After all, the President is the leader of the country. If the President can’t implement what he has said how will the country progress?

These are the problems of the country. He has made several promises to us and the people, none of which was implemented. So it is only natural that we harbour doubts.

?. Field Marshal Sarath Fonseka told the media that all terrorists must be punished, regardless, insinuating that Karuna Amman should also be among those punished. However, Amman attended the JO rally in Nugegoda, how do you view this?

A. Fonseka is not a politician. He is not worth being talked about. He is a military person. He is not a politician; neither is he a representative of the people.

?. Essentially, are you saying that he doesnt deserve to be in Parliament?

A. Yes. He should have never been in Parliament. He should also never talk about politics, because he doesn’t know politics. If he knows nothing about politics, what he speaks becomes utter rubbish.

?. The Joint Opposition had several protests and rallies. Over the last two years with the rallies and protests, how would you, thus far, rate the progress of the Joint Opposition? It is two years since the JO was formed, since then have you seen anything come to fruition with regard to the JOs cause?

A. The Joint Opposition was formed in the beginning to oppose the government. So far we have been strong. The government has tried to lure JO members with various positions and facilities, but not a single member has left the group. We are moving forward. This shows that the JO is a strong Opposition.

?. Any other thoughts?

A. This country has been always been a democracy. However, at present democracy is not apparent in the country. What I beg of this government is to please establish democracy once more by conducting the Local Government elections and the Provincial Council elections, without giving lame excuses. They should let democracy function, and then most of these other problems will not occur. Elections must take place and the people will decide what they want. Britain had a referendum and voted for Brexit, which resulted in the former British Government resigning. That is democracy. Likewise, the people in Sri Lanka will decide what they want for themselves. This government is driving towards a dictatorship.

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