The Sunday Times on the Web News/Comment
4th October 1998

Front Page|
Editorial/Opinion |
Business | Plus | Sports |
Mirror Magazine

Front Page
Mirror Magazine

"There are insidious moves to split the ULF"

Srimani AthulathmudaliStressing once again on the abolition of the Executive Presidency, United Lalith Front leader Srimani Athulathmudali said that at the moment, she could not see herself supporting the PA.In an interview with The Sunday Times the former transport minister said the ULF did indeed had discussions with the UNP about supporting it, but since the party was still in the government, it felt it would be an unethical move. Expressing dissatisfaction about the way the politicians are acting on national issues she said that she felt there were insidious moves to split the ULF.
Excerpts from the interview.

By Hiranthi Fernando

Q: Are you on leave prior to retirement or are you contemplating your next political move?

A: I am not on leave. When you are a political person, there is no question of leave unless you resign. I am in fact contemplating our next political move. I came into politics to give support to people who wanted support. As long as they want it, I will continue to be politically active.

Q: All we hear about the United Lalith Front (ULF) these days is that it is split. One faction leaning towards the People's Alliance (PA), another towards the UNP and you in the middle. Any comments?

A: All parties have that problem. There are splits in the UNP as well as in the PA.

Q: How do you see the political events unfolding today?

A: There is dissatisfaction among the people regarding all political parties. They feel there isn't a strong leadership to look at the serious problems of the country, instead of concentrating their attention on party politics. Politicians are trying to promote the party without thinking of the development of the country. The youth are once again getting restless. Unless we consider some very strong development programmes, thereby creating job opportunities, we will have youth problems on our hands.

The general public is dissatisfied with the increasing cost of living and their inability to fend for themselves from day to day. The feel the education and health systems need to be looked at quickly.

There is great concern about the interference with the independence of the Judiciary. People also have the feeling that violence is on the upward move. I believe that systems must be found to combat that violence. Corruption seems to be on the rise again and the public are concerned about having a clean government.

Q: What were your major disappointments with the PA Administration?

A: We gave promises on the election platforms, to abolish the Executive Presidency. We should have taken action on this.

As regards the Package, we strongly believe in protecting the unitary state of our country and the sovereignty of Parliament. We feel there are certain amendments that should be made to the package and we have made our observations on these.

For instance, the unitary status of the country is important. The question of lands needs to be looked at. We feel that lands should not be devolved to the provinces but remain with the Central government.

Police powers in the provinces should be limited to Senior Superintendent level. The Metropolitan Police should be maintained with one Inspector General and Deputy Inspector Generals for the different regions. In the case of the Judiciary too, they are talking of eight or nine Attorney Generals. We feel however that there should be only one Attorney General and the others should be Provincial Attorney Generals. We also believe that aid and borrowing powers should remain with the central government.

Q: Could you support the PA Government again?

A: At the moment, I cannot see myself doing it. If I feel that they are acting for the welfare of the country, we would consider it. It will have to be a decision made by the working committee. At present, the membership feel they are being sidelined, irrespective of the support we had given. Most of them are therefore not prepared to support the PA.

Q: Could you support the PA under a different leadership?

A: It is the policies that matter and not the leadership.

Q: And the UNP, now that it seems clear that Sirisena Cooray will not play an active role in that party?

A: The general feeling among the membership was that they would not mind giving support to the UNP as long as the identity of the party was maintained. That would mean having an agreement before we can give them support.

Q: Did you have discussions in this regard with the UNP leadership?

A: We had discussions but it was felt that because we were still in the government, it would be unethical to have such an agreement. In about April this year, some sections of the press had stated that we had already gone to the UNP.

However, the ULF never made an official statement to this effect. It was only speculation.

At a recent television interview I had, the interviewer stated that 79 out of 83 persons who attended a political committee meeting had voted to join the UNP.

This is absolutely false. Only 48 persons attended that meeting and a vote was never taken that day. Our membership in the political committee is only 63.

Q: If Provincial Council elections are held, what stand will the ULF take?

A: Most of the Provincial Councillors in the party prefer to contest with the UNP. Since I could not sign an agreement, I paved the way for them to contest under the UNP if they wish to. Some others are contesting under the MEP.

However, I am now of the opinion that we should perhaps abolish Provincial Councils and strengthen the local government system to get back to what it was before the 13th Amendment. I have discussed it with many people and there seems to be widespread feeling about this.

Q: Are new members enrolling with the ULF or old members wanting to leave. Or both?

A: There are new members enrolling into the party. There are many young people coming in. If any old members are leaving, I am not aware of it. Nobody has informed me that they are leaving.

Q: Is it your position that the ULF must remain an alternative Third Force?

A: Yes. That is what we would like to be. I think it is very essential that there should be a Third Force. I would like to see it happening with the ULF.

Q: Are there insidious moves to split the ULF and take a section away to other parties?

A: I have a feeling that something like that is happening. I think it happens in any party.

Q: As the wife of a one time National Security Minister, a Cabinet Minister yourself and leader of a political party, what views do you have about Ranil Wickremesinghe's suggestion for unconditional talks with the LTTE?

A: I think from what I have seen from 1984, the LTTE has not shown any kind of responsibility when they have come for talks or negotiating. It would be a waste of time to hope that they would come for any constructive discussions with a view to ending this conflict.

Q: The UNP leader had an all party meeting calling for Free and Fair Elections and Independent Police and Elections Commissions. You said the ULF did not participate in it. But aren't your policies also in tandem with these positions?

A: We have always sent our observations to the Select Committee regarding these subjects. Our party would have had no problem to attend this conference if we had received a written invitation on time.

Also I believe that if it is a conference, we should have received a copy of the agenda and whatever documents that were being presented for discussions at the conference. If we were to participate in any deliberations at the conference, it was essential that we had some kind of documentation.

Q: On several occasions, you have called for a National Government, what are your views on this now?

A: I feel it is time that all parties should join together to work out a set of policies that could be taken forward by any party coming into government. This I believe would help the progress of the country. Trying to promote party politics has been a detrimental factor that has stalled the development process.

Presented on the World Wide Web by Infomation Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.

More News/Comments  *  The world knew it  *  The new maths of your government  *  Australia: One Nation dividing the nation

Return to News/Comment Contents

News/Comments Archive

Front Page| Editorial/Opinion | Business | Plus | Sports | Mirror Magazine

Hosted By LAcNet

Please send your comments and suggestions on this web site to

The Sunday Times or to Information Laboratories (Pvt.) Ltd.