Those who voted for 20A betrayed the people – Bakeer Markar
Samagi Jana Balawegaya Member of Parliament, Imthiaz Bakeer Markar, says the SJB members who voted in favour of the 20th Amendment to the Constitution did not betray their political alliance, but the people who elected them to Parliament.
By Udeni Saman Kumara
With the Government having passed the 20th Amendment to the Constitution with a two-thirds majority, the Opposition has been defeated again. As the main Opposition what have you got to say about this?
A: It has to be said at the outset that it was not the Opposition that was defeated but the people. With the ratification of this new Bill, its consequences would be there for all to see before long.
With eight SJB MPs voting for the Bill does it not indicate that cracks have begun to appear in your alliance?
A: I look at this as another episode in Lanka’s deal politics. Another drama of this episode was enacted in Parliament last Thursday. Some of these MPs had shouted that they were opposed to a dictatorial Constitution. They had even displayed banners and posters as well. But, when it came to the vote they did an about turn and it has to be stressed that they did not betray the SJB but the very people who had voted for them at the last election.
Even an Assistant Secretary of the SJB Diana Gamage sided with the Government during the vote?
A: You know that we were forced to break away from the UNP and contest the last election in a short time having formed a new alliance. At that time we were in political disarray. We were then forced to contest from a recognised political party. It was during that period that this MP joined us. And on the agreement reached at the time we decided to allow her to enter Parliament through the National List. Otherwise, she never stood for the policies of the SJB.
What action would you be taking against MPs who went against the SJB decision?
A: Most of them are from different political parties that had joined our alliance. I feel the public will give them the best response. This sort of mockery in local politics has to be eschewed at least now. People against whom legal cases are pending and those who crave for perks and privileges behave in this way.
The Government will now act based on a powerful Constitution. Why did you fail to brief your MPs beforehand against supporting this Bill?
A: The Government is now all powerful. You know that former leaders such as Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chandrika Kumaratunga and Ranil Wickremasinghe had always claimed that the Presidency should be dispensed with.
However, the notion that the Presidency should be retained came to the fore again isn’t it?
A: Some are even saying that through the new Bill they are revisiting the 1978 Constitution. Hence, they say that there is nothing to fear. They want the country to be taken back to the JR era. But, that era is now gone. Even those who wanted it in the past such as Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake had said that it should be changed. What is evident is this regime is going on a dictatorial path. The road for it has now been completed through this new Bill. We had warned against its repercussions and it will become a reality soon.
There are charges that the SJB had not worked hard to defeat the 20A?
A: We had warned the people on its consequences. At a time when a Committee had been formed to draft a fresh Constitution, the Government pressed ahead with the ratification of 20A, in undue haste. Hence, we were unable to overturn this tide.
Wasn’t the SJB duped by the opposition that came from within the Government against the 20A?
A: It is true the Government played out a drama. Some even protested against the dual citizenship clause but when it came to the vote they were like puppies. That clause is being ratified to aid a single person. The nakedness of some of the so-called patriotic and nationalist forces within the Government were exposed during this vote.
Did the SJB get deceived. Even MP Rajitha had said that Wimal Weerawansa should have been with them at this time?
A: I don’t know whether he had said something like it. I feel politics should be based on policies. This sort of third class politics must end.
If the Government is going on an anti-democratic path what can the SJB do about it?
A: We intend to enlighten the people. Extreme power would corrupt politicians. What happened to Mrs. Bandaranaika is remembered by all. Even what happened to JR who had 5/6 power is not forgotten. When dictators rule the country’s national security is endangered. Sri Lanka is no exception.
With the ratification of 20A some feel that the Government will expedite the development drive?
A: Only time will tell. Its consequences will be there for all to see.
Isn’t the expansion of international relations a positive for this country?
A: Presently, due to the extreme pressure exerted on us by the international forces, we have been compelled to turn our foreign policies into one of prostitution. We currently do not have firm foreign policies.
But, the President recently said, addressing the UN, that we are not bound to stay in one camp and that we are following a neutral policy?
A: There are vast changes in the foreign policies adopted by us to date. We followed a non-aligned policy. How can there be a neutral policy. Our foreign policy should not be made to serve as slaves to the US and China.
China is granting loans to us. However, the US is attempting to corner Sri Lanka through various security pacts. Isn’t Lanka moving heavily towards China?
A: What I have to say is playing with the future of this country would be dangerous. We should not be slaves to either China or US.
Those who voted with the Government said that the President should be allowed to carry out a political transformation here?
A: Isn’t the present power he holds, not enough for the President to transform this country? Today there is a cold war between the President and the PM. But it is not coming out. Mahinda is a political giant. His popularity was what enabled the President and the Government to claim power. When his powers were being curtailed through the new Bill, some said they will take care of it, having kowtowed to the President. Only the new MPs did this not those in the Cabinet.
What if I say that at critical times the Rajapaksa regime is taking decisions in unison?
A: As a family they are working together. What we have to look out for are the dangerous clauses contained in the now ratified 20A.
Is the SJB content with the amendments introduced by the Government?
A: No we are not. We as the Opposition will continue to be a stumbling block to this regime.