Democratic Left Front Leader, Ratnapura District Member of Parliament, Vasudeva Nanayakkara, says “The JO won’t be able to reach its targets by carrying out various agendas of various people with regional and district problems.”
Has the Joint Opposition (JO) broken into two?
A: The JO is a group of Parties holding different views; from the beginning. It’s a collection of a number of political Parties. So, there can be divergent views within the JO.
However, when the Deputy Speaker was elected, in Parliament, by a secret ballot wasn’t there a distinct division seen within the JO?
A unanimous decision was taken, by the leaders of Parties in the JO under chairmanship of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, to elect Sudarshini Fernandopulle as the Deputy Speaker of Parliament. While there was such a unanimous decision, 18 MPs of the JO who had been in Parliament that day had not been in the House at the time the vote was taken. This is a problem.
How would this situation impact on the progress of the JO?
A: It’s a setback for us. What we want is to destroy the power of the United National Party (UNP). We could have at least given a contest to the UNP candidate. Their abstention turning their backs to that intention enabled the UNP candidate to win easily. It is thinking of victory alone that we put forward Sudarshini herself and not any one of us.
What would have been the objective of a group in the JO not voting like this?
A: I don’t know what the real objective was. It has to be asked from those who didn’t come to vote. I’ll tell what I think of that objective.
Sometimes, there would have been the feeling that, although Sudarshini Fernandopulle walked out of the Government having voted for the No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister, she is not one of us. A suspicion also arises whether such a decision was taken because of the defeat of the UNP. And that voting for Sudarshini wouldn’t have mattered very much, because she is anyway under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirsena.
How can such a broad force be built up?
A: If this kind of situation prevails in future too, it can be a problem. A massive campaign has to be launched against the UNP Government. When it was tried to take such action it is something contrary to it that happened at the election of the Deputy Speaker.
If a unanimous decision was taken by the leaders of Parties of the JO under the chairmanship of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, how can such a decision change later?
A: Some representations had been made by the JO Members of Parliament, of the area represented by Sudarshini Fernandopulle with regard to certain matters. And, two or three people’s representatives of that area had been given the opportunity of acting independently until such matters were resolved as decided at that meeting. About three MPs had been given the option of abstaining from voting if it was not possible for them to vote at all.
According to what you know, what is the problem MPs of that area have with MP Sudarshini Fernandopulle?
A: I, for one, don’t know. It can be a regional problem.
As you say, having those regional problems in those areas like that and with problems in districts how can the anti-UNP national broad alliance be built up?
A: Yes. There is a problem like that.
What is your solution to this problem, as a senior politician?
A: The JO has to go for one target unanimously.
Putting aside this and other differences, the JO must go forward. The JO won’t be able to reach its targets by carrying out various agendas of various people with regional and district problems. If a situation such as this arises it is the UNP that will be most happy.
Was it with the SLFP’s Group of 16 leaving the National Government and sitting in the Opposition that these problems of the JO have cropped up?
A: Yes. It can be said so. It looks a problem that has arisen in working together with the Group of 16.
However, when the Group of 16 walked out of the National Government and sat in the Opposition, didn’t the JO warmly welcome them?
A: Not only were they welcomed but they were also asked to join the JO. When voting for the No-Confidence Motion we brought against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe it is good; but Sudarshini Fernandopulle becoming Deputy Speaker is bad.
Didn’t the JO also say that with the Group of 16 coming the number of MPs in the JO would increase from 54 to 70?
A: Yes. Wasn’t it that pride that we lost on the election of the Deputy Speaker? This can be a matter for happiness for the UNP.
What was talked of in the recent past was that the current Government has to be changed even by a changing the heads in Parliament. The SLFP forming a Government of its own was also talked about. But can this Government be changed with all the differences of opinion that are there?
A: A simple majority with113 MPs is enough to change the present Government.There are strategies to be adopted to do it. The blessing of the people, of the country is also needed. But if problems such as these are created it will not be possible to topple the Government. There is another idea among those who have problems with the Group of 16 and those who have created problems in working together within the JO. That idea too may have influenced in creating these problems.
Can you tell me what that idea is?
A: That idea is that this Government shouldn’t be changed. There is a group with the idea that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna can win at the next main elections and that a new Government should be formed after such elections.There is also a group with the idea of toppling the Government and forming a new Government.
The JO said that the current Government has to be toppled to control the situation where the people are burdened with taxes and the selling of State assets take place. Have you no intention of forming a Government right now?
A: We are waiting till the right time comes.
Wouldn’t there be some benefit to the JO if the present Government is toppled somehow and the main elections held under a Caretaker Government?
A: Not only a benefit, it’s a necessity because a Caretaker Government is appointed by a committee comprising us also. Perhaps the election would be held under a Caretaker Government with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. Then there will be an opportunity to hold a just and fair election.
That would be a very good situation for us. The question is whether or not we will take that beneficial opportunity.
Isn’t it hoped to resolve this problem by discussing it with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa?
A: This problem will be resolved very soon by discussing it with Party leaders of the JO including former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. There are plainly two points of view, here. One group says that this Government should be allowed to remain till 2019, until National Elections are held. The other group says that this Government should be toppled as soon as possible. We are of the view that this Government should be toppled as soon as possible. We have to form the broadest possible alliance against this Government to topple it. The strategies and tactics for it have to be in place. The operation to make former President Mahinda Rajapaksa the Prime Minister of this country should be expedited.
Isn’t there a view that the burden of carrying on a Government need not be borne half way down, when there is the capability to form a new Government, after this Government declines further. After getting a clear mandate at the elections having waited till 2019 or 2022?
A: Yes. There is a view that this Government is rotten and a Government with more power can be formed when it rots away completely. But there is the problem whether there will be a country left to govern for the group coming to power next with the destruction caused to the country day by day: It is such a dangerous journey this Government is going on. That’s why we want this Yahapalana Government toppled at the very first opportunity available.
How can the Government be toppled with the broad alliance, you are talking about, with certain problems in the electorates and the districts?
A: There can be a setback in going to our main target when there are such problems.
Is it the SLFP not getting the post of Deputy Speaker or a problem in some locality that was the main reason for this crisis?
A: Our aim on the election of the Deputy Speaker was to obtain more votes than what we obtained on the occasion of bringing the No-Confidence Motion against Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. What we wanted was to give a good competition to the candidate put forward by the UNP.
But even some Ministers of the SLFP representing the Government had not turned up to vote; also some representing the Group of 16. So, how can only the MPs of the JO who did not come to vote, be blamed?
A: Yes. There is some truth in it. Some Ministers of the SLFP representing the Government had not turned up to vote. Several MPs of the Group of 16 had been abroad. But at a crucial moment like this they should have turned up wherever they were. It’s a problem why such matters were not coordinated properly and also a weakness. Some MPs of the JO having been present in the House, walking out before their names were called is also a problem.
Has the JO and the Group of 16 come to an agreement as to how they should work against the Government as an Opposition group?
A: Yes. They had come to an agreement. The Group of 16 decided to work together against the Government on the very first day they met former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. They also approved the decision to work together against the Government at a meeting of Party Leaders of the JO with former President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Wasn’t an agreement also reached, that in future, on no occasion should the Government be given a two-thirds majority in Parliament?
A: Yes. There had been an agreement among us, to make a success of this Government not having a two-thirds majority in Parliament. We were short of only six MPs. The moment six more MPs join the Opposition this Government loses the two-thirds majority. In any case the Government’s two-thirds majority has been challenged by now. The Government had to get certain Bills passed with a simple majority as it had no two-thirds majority in Parliament.
Will the JO and the Group of 16 be able to work together in future, after the incident that happened on the occasion of the election of the Deputy Speaker?
A: An agreement has to be invariably reached. If not, we won’t be able to realize our objectives. So, a comprehensive Sangayanaya has to be held by the JO, on this. If such an agreement is not reached, some in the Government who are ready to join us to build up a broad anti-Government alliance will turn away. That would be a big loss to us.
Although you say all have to hold the same view you don’t like Gotabaya Rajapaksa being the Presidential candidate. Wouldn’t a conflict of views arise, then also?
A: The Presidential candidate of our side has not been named as yet. Gotabaya Rajapaksa has not yet been named as the Presidential candidate.Various people are expressing their opinions whether or not he is fit to be the Presidential candidate. However, after Gotabaya Rajapaksa is named the Presidential candidate we cannot criticize him because we are in one single front.