Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa yesterday addressed newspaper editors and other media personnel at the Hilton Residencies. He was flanked by the high command of the UPFA – General Secretary Susil Premajayantha, SLFP General Secretary Anura Priyadarshana Yapa, MEP leader Dinesh Gunawardena, NFF leader Wimal Weerawansa, Pivithuru Hela Urumaya leader Udaya Gammanpila, Liberal Party leader Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha, former UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake, UPFA National List nominee Tiran Alles, former Foreign Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris and Nawa Sinhala Urumaya Leader Sarath Manamendra.
The former president said that according to recent surveys, the UPFA would easily secure more than 113 seats in Parliament at the forthcoming general election and the number would even go beyond 117.
Rajapaksa said that he would not form a national government as he was confident of a clear majority and the UNP’s offer to do so betrayed the government’s lack of confidence.
Rajapaksa recalled the situation that prevailed in the country when he took over in 2005 and the changes he had effected by the time he handed it over to the present rulers in January, 2015. He charged that the present government had reversed in six months what he achieved in the last 10 years.
Rajapaksa said that they had put out the manifesto, called ‘A guarantee for the Future’ to take the country forward from the reversals of the past six months.
Question – Mr. Rajapaksa, one of main allegations levelled by the UNP is that you gave money to the LTTE to get them to prevent the people of the North from voting so as to win the 2005 Presidential Election. What is your response to that allegation?
Answer – If I had given money to the LTTE, how could I have eradicated them three or four years after the Presidential election? The person who levelled the allegation against me stated that he had got information from LTTE leader Prabhakaran. Therefore a claim made by a person very close to Prabhakaran cannot be taken seriously. I had been in Parliament when the LTTE started their separatist war and I know all the deals former leaders of the country had entered into with that terrorist organization. Their blunders cost them dear and some of them perished at the hands of the LTTE.
Some leaders were accused of providing money to the LTTE to defeat the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) here. Some leaders provided them with cement and other material to strengthen them. But, we defeated them and their separatist plans. It is ludicrous that we who defeated the LTTE are being accused of having bribed Prabhakaran!
Question – The UNP repeatedly says that they will form a national government after the August 17 general election and you will be defeated for the second time. What is your response to that?
Answer – The UNP’s repeated statement proves that they know they will be defeated at the August 17 general election. If they can obtain a clear majority, there is no need to form a national government with the JVP and the TNA.
(Answer given by Weerawansa) – According to the 19th amendment, only the party which obtains the highest number of seat in Parliament can form a national government. That amendment is very clear on this.
(Answer given by Premjayantha) – There is no United National Front or any other front registered with the Election Secretariat under the Elephant symbol. Some politicians are trying to mislead the people by claiming that they are contesting from a United National Front for Good Governance, but there is no such party registered under the Elephant symbol.
Question – How can you find the money to implement the proposals in the manifesto ‘A guarantee for the future”?
Answer (given by the Former President) – When I proposed to provide fertilizer at the subsidized price of Rs. 350 in my manifesto in 2005, the UNP questioned its practicability. They wanted to know whether I had found Aladdin’s lamp to make all wishes come true. But, I implemented it for 10 years. We implemented many development projects including mega irrigation schemes and expressway projects. My government had the money to implement all those projects successfully. Some projects were completed during my tenure. But this government has no money to continue them from January this year. Around 1.5 million direct and indirect jobs have been lost due to the stoppage of 58,000 development projects.
People in Sooriyawewa told me recently that their motorcycles as well as television sets had been seized by finance companies due to the non-payment of leasing installments because they had lost their jobs.
The borrowings under the incumbent government during the last six months have already exceeded the amount obtained during the whole of 2014! The question is what has become of all these funds. There has been no development.
Question – Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga recently criticized you for tarnishing the name of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and bringing disrepute upon the country.
Rajapaksa – It’s not a new thing for her to criticize me.
Premjayantha – I must say as the first General Secretary of the UPFA when it was formed in 2003 to contest the 2004 general election, former President Kumaratunga never supported the 2005 presidential election campaign launched by then Prime Minister Rajapaksa and she also opposed making him the Presidential Candidate in 2005. She favoured Ranil Wickremesinghe.
However, we appointed Rajapaksa as the Presidential Candidate. But not a cent from the SLFP office was spent for the campaign of Mr Rajapaksa. The SLFP Head Office in Darley Road was closed to us and we had to run the Rajapaksa’s campaign office from a separate location.
Rajapaksa – Whether she is with us or against us is not a problem and that cannot influence our victory.
Premajayantha: I don’t know why she [Chandrika] hates him [Rajapaksa] so much. I think that enmity has come from her previous birth!
Question – The UNP says that your government did not bring in any real investors but only casino operators.
Rajapaksa: We brought in only real investors, but the present UNP government brought in underworld figures to the country instead of investors. There was a media hype about casino giants like James Packer coming in, but we never brought anyone to run casinos here.
Wimal: The UNP government promised to sign the CEPA agreement which allows Indian labourers to work in Sri Lanka without visas.
Former President Rajapaksa did not sign that agreement to protect the working class.
Question – It is believed that some UPFA parliamentarians would crossover to help form a UNP government after the election.
Rajapaksa: I am confident that no one will leave the UPFA after the August 17 victory.
Wimal: If anyone leaves the UPFA which will win the election to join the defeated party to form a government, he should have his or her head examined. Usually it happens the other way around – people from the defeated party defect to the winning side. We will win and therefore the question of defections does not arise.
Question – The TNA is asking for a federal solution. What is your stance on that demand?
Rajapaksa: We never agreed to a federal solution and as always I believe any solution for the national problem has to come through a Parliamentary Select Committee.
Question – Your government was accused of the murder of Lasantha Wickremetunga and the disappearance of Prageeth Ekneligoda. What is your response to those allegations?
Rajapaksa: Now, there is a UNP government, they can investigate these cases and bring the culprits to book but they haven’t done so during the last six or seven months.
Wimal: The one who is accused of the disappearance of Ekneligoda is in the present government. Ekneligoda’s wife too did not ask this government for an investigation.
Question – What do you think about the FCID and its investigations?
Answer: The FCID was set up for to harass opponent politicians.
Wimal: Nalin Bandara, a UNP candidate in the Kurunegala district, has printed, leaflets with photos of his supporters following him brandishing pistols. I counted five firearms clearly visible in the photograph. The law does not apply to them.
Question – Those may be toy pistols like the one used by the former Hambantota Mayor?
Rajapaksa: People said that they fired into the air with those pistols. So, there is a difference.
Question – What do you say about rugby player Wasim Thajudeen’s death? The UNP accused your government of being responsible for it.
Answer: They must conduct an impartial investigation about it if they have any suspicions. But, it cannot do so seeking political mileage during an election.
Wimal: They started the investigation suddenly during the election campaign. Earlier they tried to label the Rajapaksas and their government as thieves. When that was not successful, they are now trying to label them as murderers. But, we promise that we will continue the investigation under our government after August 17. We ask the UNP government to also investigate lawyer Wijedasa Liyanarachchi’s death in the Batalanda torture chamber.
Gammanpila – The death of Thajudeen happened in 2012 and it is now six months since the UNP government took office. Why have they suddenly started an investigation even disregarding the opposition of Thajudeen’s family?
Premjayantha: They could also investigate the killings at Batalanda according to the recommendations of the Batalanda Commission.
Question – The UPFA under Rajapaksa did not have the support of the minorities, especially the Muslims. How would you respond to that?
Rajapaksa: We had about 18 Muslim ministers in our government. There was a conspiracy to alienate the Muslim community from our government. The Muslim people would already have realised what happened.
(Courtesy: The Island)