President Mahinda Rajapaksa wanted the support of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) for his re-election bid, its leader, Somawansa Amerasinghe revealed Saturday.
“He telephoned me on November 1 this year and said he wanted to meet me and discuss political developments in the country,” he told the Sunday Times in an exclusive interview yesterday. That was to explore prospects of JVP’s support.
“I told him I have nothing to discuss with you at this moment. I would inform the Politbureau of our party and a decision will be taken there,” he said. JVP sources said the Politbureau rejected the request.
Thereafter, there had been no calls from the President but the Sunday Times learnt Senior Presidential Advisor, Basil Rajapaksa
had spoken to Mr. Amerasinghe. He had offered to visit the JVP
headquarters in Battaramulla for direct negotiations to get their support.
He said President Rajapaksa had remained silent for a while since he spoke to him on September 30. On that day, he had been at the Wadiya village near Mr. Rajapaksa’s anscestral abode in Medamulana. “That morning, UPFA goondas had set fire to the JVP office during the Southern Provincial Council elections campaign period,” he said. The President’s Co-ordinating Officer phoned to say Mr. Rajapaksa wished to speak to me. “I said I was in front of the burnt out office. It was so disgusting. I rejected his request to speak,” said Mr. Amerasinghe.
The JVP leader said that he remembered last month’s call since it came on November 1 – the day the Sunday Times had reported that then Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Sarath Fonseka, then in United States, was to be questioned by officials of the Department of Homeland Security” over allegations of “war crimes.”
“I thought the President was going to tell me something about it. To my surprise he said he was in need of a meeting with me,” said
Here are edited excerpts of the interview. An abridged version appears in the print edition of the Sunday Times.
JANATHA VIMUKTHI PERAMUNA SUPPORT FOR GEN. FONSEKA:
I would like to call Gen.Sarath Fonseka the common candidate of the Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim, and other people of Sri Lanka. Firstly, we support the candidature of the General (retd.) because he has agreed to abolish the dictatorial Executive Presidential system in Sri Lanka. Secondly, he has also agreed to restore and strengthen democracy and bring good governance.
Once he is elected to the office of the President he will implement the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, will dissolve the present jumbo Cabinet and form a caretaker government represented by all political parties in Parliament. All media institutions State as well as private will be convinced to be impartial. Of course , the private media institutions will have the right to be partial but after declaring that they support this or that political party without misleading the people by saying that they are impartial and unbiased politically. That will be the great beginning to of a new era.
All that will be done within four to six weeks. That is phase one of making this country a decent one. Then the Parliament will be dissolved and a free and fair election will be held. People for the first time will cast their votes without fear or intimidation. The President will take every step to guarantee that violation of election laws do not take place. Election will be held. A new Parliament will be elected. The leading party in the election will be invited to form the Government. The Parliament will take steps within six months or less to complete the process of abolishing the dictatorial Executive Presidential system.
JVP’S SECRET NEGOTIATIONS WITH GEN. (RETD.) FONSEKA:
We have been looking for a non-party common candidate since 1982. No single party in the opposition possessed the power to overcome the unlimited powers of the executive president. No opposition party had enough funds to defeat the Executive President when he or she misused tax payers’ money.
Opposition parties were helpless when the executive Presidents made use of Government property and servants for the benefit of his own party.
These violations became worse under President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This compelled us to look for a common candidate when it became clear that this President’s kitchen cabinet has decided to go for a Presidential election before the General Election. This was after ignoring the agreement he signed on 8th September 2005 with the JVP that he will abolish the executive presidential system. He also has forgotten for his own benefit the promise he placed before 13 million voters of this country.
Secret negotiations took only a few days. It was very easy and comfortable for us to have talks with the General because he was not a politician. Let us defeat President Rajapaksa on January 26. Then I could divulge the other part of the secret operation named “operation anti-family bandyism and dictatorship”. Please wait exactly another 38 days. Certainly the story is very, very interesting.
CONDITIONS AGREED UPON TO SUPPORT GEN. (RETD.) FONSEKA:
General Fonseka is not a bankrupt politician. He is not a crook. He is not corrupt. He is incorruptible. He is a great character who stood by his words. He dedicated his life for the country and the people. He almost gave his life not one time but three times while fighting the war against the LTTE. So no one would want to impose conditions on him. He himself imposes conditions on him, not others. He is so disciplined.
He takes no time to identify honest people. At the very first discussion we found a very loyal friend in him. He was so friendly and simple. He is not an actor but is a character. He is very sharp.
Gen. (Retd.) Fonseka maintained his neutrality during the last forty years. But we don’t need to believe that he is free of a political ideology. He like all the others has every right to believe in policies of a political party. Here the JVP and the UNP both are manifesting their ability to work together to bring the end of a curse for this country. Both parties have shown their maturity. In fact it was the President who brought all his political adversaries together.
COMMON GROUND JVP AND UNF HAVE AGREED UPON:
Yes. It is not a complex programme. We looked for the areas where we could agree. The JVP opposed the Executive Presidential system since its inception. Now the UNF has also taken that position. We understand its difficulty in changing their stance. The UNP, the main political party of the UNF, is responsible for imposing this Presidential system. We admire its courage at this decisive juncture.
When separatist terrorism came to an end every citizen of this country wanted to see the President restore democracy. Unfortunately the President ignored the golden opportunity to do so. We had to start from where he stopped for the benefit of his family and his coterie of rogues.
The JVP and the UNF without any difficulty whatsoever, could agree fully to abolish the dictatorial executive presidential system. To do that there was no difficulty to agree on a common non-party candidate. Here I must mention that comrade Rohana Wijeweera was the genius who foresaw the future political developments in 1982 when he dreamt of a common non-party candidate.
Then the two parties agreed on implementing the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.
A General Election, free and fair to the last letter, will be held. The people of this country will witness what a free and fair election is. I have already said that all the political parties will be guaranteed a level playing field. Next will be the ability of each and every political party to convince the voter that the best policies to regain Sri Lanka could be implemented by that party. I am sure that the JVP has the best opportunity to do so because we have run ministries sans corruption, favouritism and so on.
ON UNF LEADER RANIL WICKREMESINGHE’S CLAIM HE WILL BE THE NEXT PRIME MINISTER:
This question is irrelevant. It will not arise. The JVP and the UNF have already resolved this matter prudently. There will be no role for a Prime Minister in a caretaker Government. On the other hand the Prime Ministers post has become irrelevant within the Executive Presidential system. There is a namesake Prime Minister since 1978. We do not think prudent people will yearn for Premiership under an Executive President.
ECONOMIC POLICIES JVP EXPECTS GEN. (RETD.) FONSEKA TO FOLLOW:
But I am certain that he is in full agreement to implement economic policies to make both the public and private sector strong and dynamic. He will link the two sectors to make them efficient.
JVP’S STANCE ON CORRUPTION:
My God! The answer to this question will at least occupy a few pages of your paper.
We are a party that is anti-corruption but not anti-business. We fully endorse and unreservedly support the policy of zero tolerance.
There will be many, many probes no doubt. To mention a few: There will be a thorough probe into the allegations that the Sunday Times raised over procurement of MiG 27 fighter jets. There will be also be probes regarding the buying of arms and ammunitions and equipment by the Ministry of Defence. The comes the crude oil hedging agreement and the taking over of importing petroleum products by the Ministry of Finance (which is under the President), the Mihin Air transactions and colossal wastage-cum corruption involved, corrupt activities of the Nation Building Ministry and corrupt activities involved in detention and resettlement of IDPs.
ON JVP’S CHARGE THAT A FAMILY IS NOW RULING SRI LANKA:
It is no other than the Rajapaksa family. Not only the JVP, the SLFP leaders are also victims of the Rajapaksa family. Please read Phillippine’s Ferdinand Marcos’s biography and replace his name with Mahinda Percival Rajapaksa.
ON WIMAL WEERAWANSA AND THE NATIONAL FREEDOM FRONT:
Both Wimal Weerawansa and the NFF are dead politically. They are irrelevant in Sri Lankan politics. There is no role for him and the NFF other than robbing intellectual properties of others. There was no, there is no and there will be no threat whatsoever to the JVP from this.
ON CONSTITUTIONAL SAFEGUARDS FOR MEDIA:
Yes. Of course. Politicians need media and media need politicians. They cannot be separated. But the politicians and the media are both accountable to the people. We know that media freedom is a strong measure of the level of democracy in a country. We are of the view that not only media freedom but also freedom of political parties also should be covered by Constitutional safeguards.
ON THE PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION CAMPAIGN:
All parties that support the people’s candidate Gen (retd.) Fonseka are extremely careful not to damage the identities of individual parties. We are not sectarian. The other parties are also not sectarian.
We have a common aim. What a great example? What a wonderful tradition?
Sri Lanka needs this tradition to set on this soil. We invite the SLFP leaders to follow Mr. Arjuna Ranatunga M.P. Join the unstoppable movement for strengthening democracy in this beautiful country. Let us regain our great traditions.
Anyway, I must tell the SLFP leaders that their followers at grassroots level have already joined the people’s power movement. For those leaders it is now or never. After the Presidential election it will be too late.