Govt SLFPers in two camps
Posted on October 6th, 2016

By Shaahidah Riza Courtesy Ceylon Today

Co Vice President of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) Member of Parliament, Dullas Alahapperuma, accused the SLFPers in the government who are supporters of former President Chandrika Kumaratunga (CBK) of discriminating against the SLFPers in the Opposition. The SLFP group with the government is fragmented into two sub factions; CBK loyalists and President Sirisena loyalists, he explained.
Excerpts of the interview:

?. You have lived in the US. Whom do you support, Trump or Clinton? Who will be more beneficial to Sri Lanka; the JO has often claimed that the US is actively involved in internal matters of our country?

A. I have lived in the US as an international student attending the University of Iowa in the State of Iowa, so my American experience is limited to a student life. Whom will you support, would be a question relevant to an American citizen who has the ability to support one of them by casting his or her choice and to a special interest groups interested in funding either campaign. So that question does neither relate nor apply to me personally. And to think that American political culture is quite similar to the Sri Lankan political culture is laughable, especially when our policies constantly change not just with different governments, but also with every new minister who is in charge of a respective ministry. In the United States, the American system is bigger than any government headed by an elected President and it is practically impossible to deviate from the practised and proven existing American system that works, no matter how ideological that President may be. It may not be perfect but it works in the best interest of its citizens. You can take current President, Barack Obama, as the perfect example to justify what I just said.

He rode to power solely on the promise of delivering radical progressive changes, not to mention making ‘CHANGE’ as his campaign slogan. Eight years and nearly two presidential terms later, the country’s racial tensions are at an all-time high since the 1960’s civil rights movement. And at present, more African American citizens are becoming victims of excessive force used by law enforcement, averaging multiple fatalities than ever, in recent history. The irony is all this civil unrest related to African Americans is happening while the first African American President of the country’s history is in the White House. A sarcastic individual might say “yeah he brought change alright; a change for the worse, but a change nonetheless”.

I personally don’t believe any of them would make a case for substantial benefit for Sri Lanka, because both of them, if either of them is elected, would be more interested in continuing the existing foreign policy towards our country unless they find any American interest resting on our island. But in former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton’s case, she was interested in Sri Lanka during her tenure as the leading diplomat of the US and recent documents disclosed by WikiLeaks stated her comments towards the end of the previous government’s battle against LTTE terrorism. While Donald Trump may be unpredictable, you can bet Hillary Clinton would have a personal interest in interfering in our country’s internal matters. And by the experience, so far we have had with the State Department, which she was an integral part of, we can expect the same or more American interference if she gets elected as President.

?. Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera reacted to a comment made by you with reference to the final speech delivered by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, at the UN Summit. Samaraweera responded to these claims whilst in New York. Perhaps, in doing so he defended Ban Ki-moon and raised a question about your comprehension of English; your thoughts on this?

A. A Secretary General Ban Ki-moon clearly said, “Genuine reconciliation would deepen on guarantying that all communities, both minorities and majorities alike, were included in building a new union.” When rebutting my comments on that statement Mangala Samaraweera tactfully quoted the statement partially by ending it with “Genuine reconciliation would deepen”. He wilfully refrained from completely quoting the statement by the Secretary General, because he very well knew that any Sri Lankan who cares for his motherland could read between the lines and get a clear idea of UN intentions delivered through Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

I may lack the eloquent linguistic skills of Mangala Samaraweera, but I don’t have to be Norm Chomsky to identify the distinction between ‘Reunion’ and ‘New Union’.

Maybe his excessive knowledge of English must have led him to keep quiet, when the UN Secretary General compared Sri Lanka to Rwanda and Bosnia during his recent visit to our homeland.

?. Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran made a statement criticizing the resettlement of Sinhalese and Muslims in the North. What is your opinion on this?

A. A person who is opposing a resettlement of any ethnic group in any part of the island is not standing on any moral grounds that a civilized society governed by democracy upholds. These are the Sinhalese and Muslims who were chased away by the LTTE and to oppose their right to return to their homeland could be similar to opposing Jews for returning to their homeland in Israel after the World War 11, which is inhumane.

?. ITAK is a constituent party of TNA which is heading the Opposition in Parliament. How will the JO counteract this debacle caused by Wigneswaran in the interest of all ethnicities in Sri Lanka?

A. While Chief Minister Wigneswaran is trying to plant seeds of separatism; we should commend other parties of the TNA lead by Sampanthan who doesn’t support this extremist notion. Joint Opposition believes in upholding every Sri Lankan citizen’s right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness in any part of this island they desire, despite their ethnic differences. That is why the Joint Opposition mainly consisting of majority Sinhalese, always points out the need for the majority to win the minorities, rather than a single government or a specific party trying to do it for their benefit. Governments will change and party’s may win or lose, but ethnic harmony should stay intact, if we are to move forward as a unified nation.

?. Is it unethical for the Sri Lankan media to report on the above incident on grounds of incitement?

A. Of course it is, if they did that on the grounds you mentioned. But I don’t believe it was the case. This story was given the same treatment as their coverage of recent protests against SAITM and Medical officers’ demands for better schools for their children. I personally didn’t see any difference in any media coverage I witnessed regarding the controversial remarks by Chief Minister Wigneswaran. Only thing I noticed was the government going out of its way to conceal this news becoming public.

?. Recently a National Media Centre was established, headed by a former minister, Imtiaz Bakeer Markar. Tapping into your experience in matters pertaining to media, how do you view this move by the government to regulate information?

A. “I don’t trust Greeks, even when they bring presents” is a famous phrase derived out of Homer’s epic Iliad. Because the Trojan horse which entered the impenetrable gates of Troy, veiled as a blessing, ended up bringing the downfall of Troy. Imtiaz Bakeer Markar is a good friend of mine who also happens to be a distinguished student of my Alma Mater. I have no reservations about his straightforwardness or bona fides. He is known to be straight as an arrow. But this government led by the UNP has a history of meticulously controlling the media under the false pretence of regulating it. Bakeer Markar himself didn’t shy away from expressing his grievances about being unable to conduct his duties at his discretion, while he was a minister handling the Media portfolio, due to party influence. So you cannot blame me if I am suspicious about this National Media Centre initiated by a party with such a pedigree. I have no doubts about the credibility of the person who is in charge. But I have many doubts over how much control he will have under the influence of the UNP led government.

?. MP Gammanpila stated that you were not reappointed to the subcommittee pertaining to Constitutional Reform. Have you spoken to the Prime Minister about this?

A. MP Gammanpila and I came to a mutual agreement to switch our positions on two different committees. While they appointed MP Gammanpila to replace the position vacated by me in one committee, they conveniently neglected to appoint me to the position vacated by MP Gammanpila. I have spoken to Dinesh Gunawardena and the seniors of the JO. Following their advice, I have brought my case to the Deputy Speaker. This situation is a clear violation of my fundamental rights as a Parliamentarian and I expect to speak to the Prime Minister soon regarding this matter.

?. There are rumours that certain SLFP seniors who are with the government are discriminating the SLFPers who are with the JO. How true are these rumours?

A. At present SLFP is clearly divided into two groups. One group is representing the Opposition in Parliament while one group is representing the government. The SLFP group representing the government is also divided into two sub groups, one of which can be called the ‘CBK’ section. Followers of the ‘CBK’ inside the government are responsible for carrying out the discrimination against other SLFPers representing the Joint Opposition in Parliament.

?. There was an issue which took place on the Paada Yathra, where certain vehicles were seized by the government in the guise of misuse of public property. There were allegations that the Police violated the fundamental rights of certain people who attended another memorial event which coincided with the Paada Yathra. What really happened there?

A. It was the memorial day of one of SLFP’s most beloved General Secretary’s, Late Dharmasiri Senanayake. When participating in the Paada Yathra procession, by coincidence we met union leaders of the Ministry of Aviation, who were about to pay tribute in memory of our past general secretary. I myself as a vice President of the party merely accepted their invitation to place a garland on the statue of Dharmasiri Senanayake, in his honour. For the first time in over a century of the Police service in our country, we have an Inspector General who publicly announced and endorsed to bend the law to the maximum without breaking it, to carry out the government’s personal vendetta. I believe the ever unpopular local Police Department dug itself into a new low, when the IGP shamelessly expressed it. I couldn’t believe when those party supporters were arrested and remanded for basically honouring one of the stalwarts of the SLFP, while the party Chairman who constantly promises and pledges for the betterment of the party, is Head of State.

?. Slain journalist Lasantha Wickrematunges body has been exhumed for further investigations. Many media institutions including certain politicians have been blaming the Rajapaksa Government. How do you view this controversy?

A. If you closely look at the Hansards, following the assassination of Lasantha Wickrematunge, you could easily find accusations made by the current Prime Minister, who at that time was the Leader of the Opposition. Baseless accusations were an integral part of the media bubble created by special interest media groups during the Rajapaksa administration and even long after it ended. Trying to fix an election on the eve of the election results, trying to declare martial law to stay in power or an enormous wealth that exceeds even Bill Gates’ which he inherited at the expense of the citizens, according to some opposed politicians were few amongst the endless barrage of accusations credited to President Rajapaksa. Inability to prove any of them has so far challenged the ever growing allegations and despite certain parties’ interest to continue with them, I believe eventually the public would be wary of them and soon come to terms with the truth.

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