Deputy General Secretary of the United National Party (UNP), and MP elect for the Kurunegala District Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said that there is no rush to form a national government as long as the outcome is positive. However, he added that failing to reach a consensus with the SLFP, the UNP has the capacity to form a government on its own. Kariyawasam nevertheless failed to mention the concerns raised by the SLFP regarding the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the two parties and as to how they expect to address those concerns raised.
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: What are the areas in the MoU between the UNP and the SLFP that have raised major concerns?
A: Answer to this question should be given by the President and the SLFP. The UNP does not have any issue with the MoU. In fact, there are no major issues. It is just that the SLFP have some suggestions and amendments to improve the MoU. It is still at discussion level.
Q: Would you be able to explain as to what are the new ideas they are proposing to the MoU and as to how you expect to act on it?
A: I cannot say right now. I do not know as to how we will proceed from here. The SLFP has raised the issues and therefore it is them and the President who should come up with answers to those questions.
Q: Is the UNP ready to give in to their demands especially regarding ministerial portfolios?
A: That is now being sorted out. Ministerial portfolios have already been decided. The SLFP is in agreement with the ministerial portfolios given to them.
Q: Don’t you think that both the parties should have reached a consensus before signing the MoU to form a national government? Why are these concerns being raised after signing the MoU? Don’t you think that the two major parties in the country have been acting irresponsibly?
A: Before signing the MoU we reached consensus. Both parties came to an understanding before signing the MoU. We have no issues with that. The issues and concerns are raised by one faction of the SLFP. Only one group in the SLFP is suggesting amendments to the MoU and raising issues. They are the ones who should give answers to this.
Q: If the SLFP failed to reach a consensus and refuse to assist the UNP to form a national government, do you think you would be able to secure majority in parliament?
A: Indeed. We can secure majority in parliament.
Q: How do you expect to get the required support?
A: We cannot say that at present. Our political decisions and strategies cannot be revealed to the media. We will make the decisions and then reveal it to the public. However, right now what we are trying is to form a national government. We are trying to come to a mutual agreement through discussions to form a national government. That is our target. It is a different matter that we are capable of forming a government on our own. Failing to reach consensus with the SLFP, we still can form a government.
Q: The delay in swearing in of the cabinet gives a bad impression on the national government. Do you still think that you should pursue this matter further?
A: We have already sorted out most of the issues. Some people have different views. We are not in a hurry to form a government. We should not rush this matter. If we are to increase the number of ministers in the cabinet, we have to get parliamentary approval. Once it is done, all of us can swear in at once. There is no point that some of us swearing in now and another set swearing in later. We will get parliamentary approval on September 1, when parliament is convened. Even though others are in a hurry, we are not in a hurry. We will do it in due course. We still think it is a very good idea to form a national government.
Q: What is the dire need to form a national government at present especially amidst various opinions?
A: Through the good governance and mutual agreements, we can send a good message to the country and set a good example by forming a national government. Getting the majority involved in the decision making process is beneficial for the country. There are so many law reforms and constitutional reforms that need to be done to establish good governance and it is good to get everybody’s consensus to do those reforms.
Q: However a set of the SLFPers claim that they will sit in the opposition. Don’t you think that it will create confusion when another set of SLFPers sit in the side of the government? Will it affect the activities in the new parliament?
A: No, we have no issue, because the majority of the SLFP, more than 2/3 are with us. There is no impact if a small group sits in the opposition. We need not have to get everybody on our side to meet the aspirations of the people.
Q: However, this situation has already led to a state of confusion in the eyes of the public. How do you assure that after forming a national government this confusion will not continue?
A: The idea of forming a national government is to avoid such confusions. During the interim regime, since we did not receive the necessary support in Parliament we could not proceed with certain activities and implement certain activities in order to establish good governance in certain domains. We now expect to get 2/3 majority in parliament through a national government and bring about the reforms and changes that are necessary for good governance. Even if it takes time, if we can do the right thing it will continue for six years – or at least two years. Therefore, one or two weeks delay should not be considered as a reason to do away with this, given that the outcome will be positive. Therefore it is not an issue for us.
Q: After September two, what are the main issues and areas that will be given priority by the new parliament?
A: We cannot say it right now. We have to first form the government. We cannot discuss any area of prioritisation at present.
(Source: Sunday Leader)