UNP cannot be ‘Sirisangabo’ every day – Kiriella

Lakshman Kiriella

Leader of the House, Public Enterprise and Kandy Development Minister Lakshman Kiriella says, “some of our people criticised the President publicly and later begged for his forgiveness.”

Excerpts of the interview:

Isn’t the UNF or rather the UNP scared of elections?

A: Scared of which election?

In six Provincial Councils, elections are long overdue and even in those,elections are not held; isn’t it because you are scared of elections?

A: We are not scared of elections. We won the Presidential Election. We won the Parliamentary Election. Why should we be scared of elections?

Is it because the Podujana Peramuna was victorious at the LG elections, held on 10 February, last year that elections were not held after that?

A: The UNP went down at the LG Elections because we were in the National Government,with the SLFP which, while being a partner of that government criticised the UNP. There was no unity in that Government. Now there is no such problem. The UNP has moved forward stronger.

If so why are you still postponing the PC Elections?

A: I am saying this with complete responsibility; the PC Elections were postponed not due to our fault. The Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils were from the SLFP and not from the UNP. While the UNP was saying from the very beginning that we should hold the PC elections according to the previous method, the SLFP and the UPFA both said the election cannot be held according to the Preferential Voting system and that the PC elections should be held based on the new method.

You, as the Leader of the House, presented a proposal to set up a National Government in Parliament, last week, and at the last moment decided to withdraw,why was that?

A: We did not withdraw it. We have entered the proposal on the National Government into the Parliament’s Order Book. When the PM informs us, we will take up this proposal for debate, in Parliament.

Then did the PM advice you not to present the proposal regarding a National Government in Parliament, last week?

A: Yes, the PM said not to bring in this proposal, regarding a National Government, by suspending Standing Orders. We are awaiting instructions from the PM; once we receive instructions from the Premier we will submit the proposal on the National Government, to Parliament.

But then, certain Party Leaders in the UNF are not in favour of this proposal of a National Government or are they?

A: No one opposed a National Government, during discussions.

But Minister Mano Ganesan has told the media that this was not a suitable time to set up a National Government?

A: Various things are being said to the media. But at the Party Leaders’ meeting of the UNF or the meeting of the Parliamentary Group no one opposed the proposal for a National Government.

However, UNP back-benchers have not expressed agreement for a National Government or have they?

A: Back-benchers are like that. During the meeting of the Parliamentary Group, the PM asked if they had any questions, then, no one opposed the proposal for a National Government.

So, does that mean there is unanimous agreement for a National Government?

A: UNP Parliamentarians explained, firmly, that they are not in favour of a process that will strengthen the SLFP.We learnt a lesson by allowing the SLFP to strengthen in an unnecessary manner, while being in the National Government. What they said was they don’t want another such National Government.

Then, when will this proposal on a National Government be debated in Parliament and adopted?

A: When we receive a signal from the PM we will present it in Parliament.

The SLMC is already a partner of the UNF. It is not ethical to draw up an agreement with someone who is already a stakeholder, to set up a National Government, is it? On the other hand the SLMC has only one seat in Parliament.

A: Not only the SLMC Parliamentarian but a group of from the SLFP is also ready to join us in a National Government.

However, the President has emphatically said, anyone who joins the present Government from the SLFP or the proposed National Government will not be granted any Ministerial posts?

A: Yes, there is a problem about granting Ministerial posts to those joining us from the SLFP. As a result they are hesitant to join the Government.

Even now, six SLFP Parliamentarians have joined the present Government without taking on any Ministerial posts. We have to take care of them initially.

If a National Government is to be formed, the UNP has to sign a certain agreement, then, what is the other faction who will be in the National Government?

A: Once permission is obtained from Parliament, we will show who the other faction is going to be. We need not mention that right now. If we mention it, certain people are waiting to sabotage it; therefore, no details about it can be divulged now.

Is the other faction the SLMC?

A: The SLMC as well as another faction.

The only SLMC member in Parliament is the State Minister of Social Empowerment, Ali Saheer Moulana. If he holds a post in the Government, he is already a member of the Government. How can you arrive at an agreement again with a person who already holds a post of State Minister?

A: There is no legal obstruction to that. We are so democratic that, we brought in a Clause through the 19 Amendment that the Cabinet should contain only 30 Ministers. If we are to increase that number we need the approval of Parliament. At one time in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s Cabinet there were 64 Ministers. During Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time when the attempt was made to increase the number of Ministers from 52 to 64 no one opposed it. We have shown how much more democratic our government is, in a practical way.

Then why are you trying to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers from 30, now?

A: Even though a single government is limited to a Cabinet of 30 Ministers that is difficult for a National Government. That is why we decided to obtain permission from Parliament for a National Government. When we tried to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers from 30 to 35 everyone shouted.

When Mahinda Rajapaksa increased the number of his Cabinet from 52 to 64 no one made a sound.

But the President has said very definitely that he will not allow the number of Cabinet Ministers to be increased for any reason, hasn’t he?

A: Once the proposal regarding a National Government is adopted in Parliament, we can solve this problem by discussion. .

Does the President have anything against you?

A: As far as I know there is nothing like that. It was the Kandy District which provided the biggest victory for President Maithripala Sirisena at the Presidential Election. At the Presidential Election 56 per cent of votes were obtained and victory was achieved.

However, you said in public that you cannot do anything in the institutions that have been gazetted under your Ministry?

A: Yes, I made such a statement to newspapers.After the 52-Day Government, subsequent to Ranil Wickremesinghe being sworn in as the PM, once again, the President mentioned this Gazette Notification during the first Cabinet meeting and said, ‘Lakshman you had told the newspapers that I had taken revenge. It is not revenge. The officials have made a mistake when publishing the Gazette.’ The President told the Cabinet that he will issue another Gazette Notification rectifying that mistake. We are waiting for that Gazette to be issued.

Even in the subsequent Gazette Notification it was not corrected, was it?

A: Everything is to be done at once, so we are hoping that it will happen. One day, I will tell you about the officials who committed this error.

You had hinted that certain Cabinet Ministers in the present Government have deals with the President. This is a very serious statement?

A: Yes. I am saying that. It was some politicians on our side who first met the President and said that there were seven of them and that they will help to topple Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government. It was some of our Ministers who said that to the President. Certain persons went and said that there were about 10 to 15 ready to join them and that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s Government can be toppled.

Then why were they unable to topple the Government?

A: When the Ministerial posts and the information required by those who talked about toppling the Government while being on our side, were not received by them, they returned to our faction. Some of those persons did not come anywhere near Temple Trees on the first few days. Finally, they came back and became protectors of our Government. These persons are very cunning protectors. The PM has to be alert regarding these cunning protectors. These cunning protectors were the ones who first told the President that the Government could be toppled,and are now very close to PM Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Then, have certain Ministers met the President and requested from him that they want specific institutions?

A: Yes, some went and met the President and requested him to give them certain subjects, certain corporations. Some scolded the President publicly and later begged for his forgiveness. Underhand deals!

Could you also have done a deal, if you wanted to?  

A:  I have no need to enter into deals with anyone and neither have I done so. After informing the PM, I presented facts to the President, on the injustice done to me. I didn’t meet the President without the knowledge of the PM.

Who are these cunning protectors, you are speaking of?

A: I cannot mention names. The President, the PM and our Parliamentary group know who these cunning protectors are! The PM’s journey with these cunning protectors is extremely risky.

Who will be your Presidential Candidate?

A: It cannot be said now. We will present a sharp candidate then.

Will it be a Common Candidate? Can you not even give a tiny hint?

A: Whoever the candidate is, it will be a member of the UNP. We cannot become ‘Sirisangabo’ every day and donate our heads all the time. We were ‘Sirisangabo’ during the 2010 Election and it was the same at the 2015 Election. No one in the UNP will be ‘Sirisangabo’ again.

What is the latest situation regarding the Democratic Front you are going to form?

A: The Democratic Front will be set up very soon under the patronage of the PM. This Democratic Front will be capable of winning all elections.

Doesn’t the question arise, why another Front is required, when the United National Front exists?

A: There is no such question. We have already prepared the background required to set up this new organisation. Anyone can join this Democratic Front.

You said that it was not possible to bring Makandure Madush back to this country from Dubai because of the revelations made by the media. Was the Government aware of the arrest of Makandure Madush?

A: Kumaran Padmanathan alias K.P. was taken into custody in Malaysia through a Sting Operation. No one knew until K.P. was brought back to our country. It was not published in the media either. That is why I pointed out that if the media had not spread the story, we could have brought Madush down to our country. There was a possibility of bringing Madush to this country without producing him in Court there. But once it was revealed through the Media, it was not possible to avoid producing Madush before a Court there. Then, we can bring him back only based on the extradition laws or through diplomatic levels.

But Madush was arrested by the Dubai Police. So, shouldn’t the Dubai Police act according to that country’s laws?

A: No, there is nothing like that. Based on the friendship between countries we could have got back Madush.

Had some plan been set up to bring back Madush to this country, subsequent to him being taken into custody in Dubai?

A: Yes, a certain procedure had been planned. But with much publicity being given, a change in that situation took place. When KP was arrested, based on the strong friendship between Sri Lanka and Malaysia it was possible to bring him back to this country, secretly.

So, then is it the Media in this country who has committed an offence? Isn’t it normal for the media to publish reports when any person of importance is taken into custody?

A: But what I am saying, is that, a person such as Madush who was wanted by the Police in this country, should have been considered in a different manner to the normal procedure, as, what was important was bringing him back to this country.

How did media receive the news that Madush was arrested in Dubai?

A: I do not know about that. However, wherever individuals wanted by the Police are, very often an arrest is made through a Sting Operation. Hitler’s Generals, who killed six million Jews, were hiding in various countries. They were captured through a Sting Operation. That is what I meant by the story, I mentioned about Madush. I did not mean anything else.

There is talk among the public that after President took over the Ministry of Law and Order, controlling the underworld and catching drug racketeers is being carried out very well. Isn’t that so?

A: Such surveys cannot be carried out as yet. Those are rumours. Whether these things were in operation, very successfully, even before the President took over the Ministry of Law and Order or not can be determined and conclusions draw only after a long-term survey.

You said Madush could have been put into a suitcase and brought back from Dubai. Then can’t you take into custody the former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka Arjuna Mahendran and bring him back?

A:  It is the court that needs to take the former Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka, Arjuna Mahendran, into custody. It has been informed to the Singapore Government through Interpol. Operations to take Arjuna Mahendran into custody are underway at present. We have no reason, whatsoever, to keep Arjuna Mahendran hidden or to protect him.

The Special Presidential Commission appointed to inquire into corruption and fraud, in the past three and a half years, of the present Government has begun operations?

A:  We will provide total support to that Commission. We have not engaged in any frauds. If such frauds or corruption has been engaged in, they will be revealed by that Commission. But we carried out proper work. If our Government wanted to engage in corruption and fraud we would not have appointed as Chairman of COPE (Committee on Public Enterprises), JVP Parliamentarian, Sunil Handunnetti.

(Source: Ceylon Today – By W. K. Prasad Manju)