Nation's political landscape could change drastically – Anura Kumara Dissanayake
National People’s Power (NPP) Leader, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, in frank conversation with our sister paper Mawbima, discussed his views regarding the upcoming General Election.
By Anuradha Herath
We had seen how the JVP had faced previous elections. However, next Wednesday’s Poll is going to be decisive. How crucial is this Poll going to be for the NPP?
A: Yes, there are no two words about it; the looming Poll is going to be extremely crucial for us. This is because the outcome of last year’s Presidential Poll proved to be a drawback for the NPP. Also after 5 August, the political map or the landscape of this nation could be changed irrevocably. Hence any triumph gained by us will be vital for shaping up the future political course of this country. Due to this reason we were engaged in our polls campaign aimed at achieving a tangible victory at this Poll.
Although the upcoming Poll could be really disadvantageous to your alliance, due to the impact of COVID-19, wouldn’t the present political activities of your party contribute in a way to your own downfall?
A: Taken overall the COVID-19 pandemic has affected negatively on our election campaign. That is a fact. However, at all elections here what takes prominence is State and financial power. We are unable to compete with those two aspects. When conducting our activities amidst the pandemic the State and financial power affect us in a big way. Anyhow we had launched our election campaign having truly understood the situation of the pandemic. Our activists had visited residences of the people at village and city level. They also held pocket meetings. However, I must insist that the pandemic will not influence the final result gained by the NPP at the coming Poll.
What has seriously affected the recent election results gained by either the JVP or the NPP is the dismal view the people still tend to have regarding the political victories that we have achieved for this country, the canards that are being spread by our political rivals against us etc. Anyhow we are of the view that the NPP would be able to record a sizeable victory at the impending Poll unlike during last year’s Presidential Election.
The PM has made a strong allegation saying that Ranil, Sajith and you, represented the same political camp. How do you respond to this charge?
A: This is a baseless canard. Really speaking we were not in the same political camp. We are from the political camp that is vehemently opposed to corruption and frauds. Both Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe are in the camp that condones corruption, frauds, and all forms of vices. They protect all those who engage in such sinister acts. We are from the camp that strives to protect National resources. Mahinda, Ranil, and Sajith are from the camp that seeks to sell our resources. Ranil sold the Hambantota Port for a pittance. The present regime has already planned to sell the East Terminal of the Colombo Port.
They are all from the camp that has turned party politics into a profitable business. We are from the camp that treats party politics as a genuine public service. Hence you could see that the trio of Mahinda, Ranil, and Sajith are in the camp that is opposed to us. This is also evident when those who had held Ministerial posts under Ranil are now doing likewise under Mahinda. It happens vice versa.
Some super rich businesspersons are pumping in millions of rupees to prevent JVP MPs from being elected to Parliament. No matter what you say, doesn’t this pumping in of money in this manner to defeat your members, present a challenge to your camp?
A: It is hardly a challenge for us. Everybody could see the measures that are being taken by our camp to eliminate major illegal drug peddlers, contract killers, and fraudsters from the Legislature. We are under no illusions as to whom this threat is applicable. Our threat is against fraudsters, those engaged in corruption, and those who had robbed public property etc. Therefore, those who had engaged in such major vices are furious and they are now gunning for our activists and members. In fact I am, as well as my party, are more than pleased to have become a target for such political rivals.
A common view that is being expressed in society is that JVP comrades such as Anura Dissanayaka, Sunil Handunnetti, and K.D. Lal Kantha should remain in Parliament and that a House devoid of the JVP would be akin to a wedding sans a bride. In addition, there are various charges being levelled against your camp. How do you respond?
A: To all allegations both I myself and my party have responded during the past five-year period. You too had reported it. Also at most electronic media outlets we have responded. None of those charges had been levelled against us to our face. As I can recall someone had alleged that there was a house in Ireland belonging to one of our activists and when I confronted this person he stood speechless before me. Our political rivals being unable to make these fabricated charges against us to our face are using their political power to sling mud at us. They also use their media and financial power to engage in this sordid exercise. We strive to clear the air to the best of our ability and convince the electorate that these are nothing but canards and innuendos against us. Nevertheless, we must also not forget the fact that there are certain segments in this society no matter what the truth is they always want to give ear to what they would like to listen to. This is the nature of this society and that, we cannot change.
Taking the JVP vote-base into consideration, the JVP must gain a 5 per cent from each District. In certain surveys conducted, I couldn’t help but notice that even in the Colombo District where you contest, the JVP will struggle to get the said percentage. Do you mean to say that these surveys are biased?
A: Yes, they are wholly partial to the ruling alliance. At times of elections, there are various surveys being carried out to suit the vested interests of certain politicians both in the Government and the Opposition. For example, before Mahinda Rajapaksa called the 2015 Presidential Poll, all surveys carried out had confirmed his victory. If this had not been the case then Mahinda would not have called that Poll two years before the completion of his term. Nevertheless, look what transpired in the end. The final result on 8 January proved that the so-called surveys conducted before the Poll were all made up to suit Mahinda’s interests. The ongoing surveys are also an offshoot of that same process. These surveys are not the reality on the ground. We acknowledge that there is a challenge for the NPP to increase its number of seats in the new Parliament. However, we also believe that during our political journey we had overcome most of the challenges foisted on us.
Usually to pass judgment on a regime at least two years should lapse. Hence is it justified for you to criticise this regime during its short term in office to date?
A: Yes, it is wholly justified. The best time to pass judgment on a Government, is the election period. Then it is the new period. Currently this regime is going through its new period as well as the election period. This Government, if it had successfully passed these two periods, then it should be good. However, what have they displayed during these periods thus far? Usually during election times the price of essential items are reduced. Nevertheless, this Government even before the election was called raised the price of essential items. They had imposed taxes on all vital items for the people. Also in the lead up to elections, the electricity bills are not increased but they tampered with it this time. During an election period the Mayor of Kurunegala MC should have been remanded on charges of demolition of the ancient historic building site in the District. However, that was not the case this time.
They are saying publicly that not a finger will be allowed to be laid on the Mayor. They are also now allowing Udayantha Weerathunga to also step onto the political stage. The people could see it for themselves as to, in which direction this Government is heading. There are more examples which we could mention. They hardly even reprimanded Karuna Amman over his controversial remarks. They hardly took action against Mahindananda Aluthgamage over his remarks that certain Sri Lanka cricketers had fixed a World Cup final. Hence we can see the coming colours of the SLPP. The future is going to be bleak for all and sundry if the SLPP is returned to power.
No matter what your theory is, the SLPP is heading for this Poll armed with 6.9 million votes?
A: We are of the view that all those who are in the 6.9 million vote-base are not traditionally Rajapaksa supporters or backers. Having understood the political situation prevalent at the time, around 1.5 million to 2 million votes sailed to that camp. The people longed for equal enforcement of the law to all. However, it is clear they had broken that promise. The people also hoped the present regime will dispense with the MCC Pact, the retake over of the Hambantota Port and the stopping of the sale of the Colombo Port East Terminal etc. However, those hopes have been dashed by now. The people thought those from the Viyath Maga would rule this country in conjunction with Gotabaya Rajapaksa. However, now it is daringly evident that those who had held Ministerial posts since 1994 would feature in the new SLPP Cabinet as well. A country with discipline was anticipated by the public. There was a spate of other aspirations as well. Hence the issue of 6.9 million vote-base was only valid in the past and not for the present.
Are you confident that at least a sizeable chunk from that vote-base would listen to the NPP rhetoric?
A: Yes, we are confident that a sizeable lot is listening to our standpoint. First thing is that the Rajapaksa camp has been rattled and they are rankled ahead of this Poll. The challenge before us is how to turn them into our voters and our activists.
The outlook tends to change from election to election. Are you confident that the NPP had launched its ongoing polls campaign having clearly understood the people’s needs and their goals etc?
A: We believe the people would never condone committing of acts of corruption, frauds, wastage, murder, and all related vices. We always strive to intervene to stop these acts from being committed and change this culture. We also represent the daily issues and needs of the masses. However, similarly we are opposed to ultra nationalism. Some say that the most popular form of politics is nationalism. Hence they think that the JVP has failed to grasp the heartbeat of the electorate.
The JVP always stands opposed to nationalism. Nevertheless, we could see certain candidates carrying out election propaganda work to say that they seek only Sinhala votes. Why aren’t you publicly making any statement against such conduct?
A: In this country power could be grabbed easily by using or playing the nationalism card. However, a nation cannot be developed or ruled solely through it. Today this regime has been cornered to that position. During the past two-year period this genie called nationalism was taken out of the bottle. However, now they are struggling desperately to put that genie back into the bottle. They have now realized though they had used nationalism to capture power they are unable to play the same card to remain in power. We will continue to raise our voice against nationalism. If you ask me whether it is sufficient, I would say it may be insufficient.
You represent the young generation. Especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic million of people have lost their jobs. There are scores who are suffering due to unemployment. What is the solution you propose to this segment of the society?
A: During this COVID-19 crisis nowhere have the employers felt the pinch. The employers had always attempted to maintain the profit pools as they had done previously and to transfer the impact of the crisis on their industries to the employees. There are scores of institutions that had cut off monthly salaries of the workforce as well as those who had been laid off from jobs. The Government took foolish decisions such as payment of the half of salaries or providing a sum of Rs 14,500. Hence it is clear that both the employers and the Government had worked in unison to aggravate the suffering of the working class. Within our trade union movements we are carrying out the necessary struggles and are conducting talks. We had also intervened even at village level.
What was the reason for failure to publish an election manifesto for the NPP?
A: We know that a manifesto or a policy statement is needed towards the development of the country. The claims made that fertiliser and a bag of nutrition would be given free of charge are not policies. Those are merely bribes that are given to the people at election time. The NPP has already put forth a manifesto aimed at developing this country. That was put forth during the lead up to last year’s Presidential Poll.
I personally feel that during the past eight-month period that a massive change of the political landscape has taken place here to warrant any radical changes to policies contained in that manifesto. One thing though we need to focus after this Poll is how to revive the stagnant economy in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our manifesto is not aimed at hoodwinking the electorate.
You have alleged that unprecedented power could lead the way for unlimited corruption. Nevertheless, the aspect of two-thirds majority has come to the fore again. The President is seeking a two-thirds power to amend the laws. Do you believe that it is a pressing need of the hour?
A: The Constitution has to be amended. Most of the amendments introduced to the Constitution have been based on the political aspirations of those in power at the time. Due to this reason the Constitution has been reduced to a veritable pickle. However, we realise and acknowledge that this country badly needs to overhaul its present Constitution. Now this Government is demanding a two-thirds majority to change the Constitution.
Therefore the Government must enlighten the people as to what amendments they intend to introduce to the Constitution. Some are saying that there is a simmering rift between both Gotabaya and Mahinda and both are looking to undercut each other after the Poll. Both of them have their issues with regard to the present Constitution and they both are looking to amend it to suit each of them to be in power for as long as they want to. Both the elder and young sibling do not have the power to carry out the process of appointment of Judges and Justices to the High Court and the Supreme Court as per provisions contained in Articles of the Constitution.
To bring about the 19th Amendment to the Constitution the JVP did the spadework. So what do you think should happen now?
A: Despite its shortcomings the 19th amendment to the Constitution has strengthened and solidified the democratic process here. Now what these people are demanding is the necessary power to remove that democratic structure totally and the authoritarian power that was evident in 2015 to either sack or appoint Chief Justices etc. In addition, the power to appoint Auditor Generals and top officers like that. They also seek to use this unprecedented power to hound their political rivals. We urge this regime to educate the people as to why they intend to overhaul the present Constitution.
Also there is an allegation that you refuse to clear the air regarding certain charges being directed against you?
A: I had previously claimed that during the previous Mahinda Rajapaksa regime that the entire city of Colombo was shut down to enable the offspring of the first family to engage in race car driving. No other country in the world had resorted to this type of conduct. Even the soldiers of the Army had been deployed for this task. I also alleged that Namal Rajapaksa had brought down motorcars through his Carlton Sports Club for the racing events.
However, a certain journalist queried me regarding 19 Lamborghinis. Nevertheless, I cannot remember having referred to that many Lamborghinis. However, I can recall having mentioned about motorcars. I also have the proof to my claims how these motorcars had been brought to the country sans any imposition of taxes. Do not have any doubts about it. At the time they had spent a sum of Rs. 93.3 million for bringing down the Lamborghinis.
On one hand, there is strong criticism against the Government. On the other hand, when there is a split between the UNP and SJB, what would you like to tell the electorate just two days ahead of the Poll?
A: What I would like to tell them is not to consider Wednesday’s Poll as just another election. This could be a turning point in the history of this country. Most probably the period after the Poll will not be conducive to the public. Both, Ranil or Sajith will not be able to tackle it. Already Sajith has been tied to the rope of the CCF misappropriation of funds. Ranil has been tied to the rope of the CBSL Treasury Bonds scam.
If MPs were to be sent to the House from both those two camps they will jump like toads to the Rajapaksa faction to strengthen his mitts. Hence even if the people don’t give them the two-thirds at the election, those in the Ranil-Sajith camps will ensure it to Mahinda. What we will be tasked with is making our voice heard on behalf of the oppressed and victimised segments in the society. If people are ready to back us at this election, then we will take that fight to Parliament.