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"The change is not entirely satisfactory"

5734ccbbcc4bd04e97372ff3dad99251 LThe following are excerpts of an interview conducted by the "Sunday Lankadeepa" newspaper with the leader of the Ape Jathika Peramuna (AJP) Mr. Senaka De Silva, who is powerful figure behind the stage in Sri Lankan political arena.

Q: What are the present engagements of Ape Jathika Peramuna?

A: Politically we are currently placed in a better position. In fact it was under our party the then common candidate President Maithripala Sirisena had planned to run for the presidential election.

Q: But why wasn't it carried out?

A: There were reasons for that. We only had a limited time. So at the end everyone came to an agreement to run under the "Swan" symbol, for it was more familiar to the Sri Lankan public. So the people knew what it was. And at time we did not want to carry out a massive advertising campaign with posters and Cut-outs just to present Mr. Maithripala Sirisena as a candidate. He was strongly against such activities. While the former President Rajapaksa was seen in large bill boards, President Sirisena found space in people's hearts. The symbol of AJP is the telephone. So rather than starting with a new symbol, we decided to work our way forward with the Sawn.

Q: Many say that you have made a huge contribution the regime change. Is it true?

A: Yes of Course.

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Q: But are you happy with the change at present?

A: Frankly I'm not at a position where I could say that I'm 100% happy with our current progress. An I dare say that the people too are in the same status as I am in.

Q: So do you think that you have made a mistake?

A: No. There is no mistake here. The change we won can be described in two ways. Around 6.2 million people in this country gave their mandate to win back democracy. Further they expected good governance and equality to return.

Q: Are you saying that none of that has been achieved so far?

A: Unfortunately rather than fulfilling the wishes of the 6.2 million people who had voted for him., President Maithripala Sirisena seems to be giving priority to the affairs of his political party. He is now continuing his political career as the chairman of the SLFP. I believe this is the main reason for his lack of progress.

Q: In your opinion, what should the President have had done?

A: In reality, since independence the country was ruled by two political parties. One is the UNP which was started by Mr. D.S. Senanayaka and the other is the SLFP which was created by Mr. S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike. There were problems since the beginning but in the past there was a sense of "decent politics". But with later leaders the political culture was subjected to a lot of changes. For an example the SLFp was built upon the foundation of Banadanaike policies. His vision contained many aspects required to uplift the morality of this country. But after assuming power, former President Rajapaksa replaced the Bandaranaike policies with his own "Mahinda Chinthana".

In the former Soviet Union, people like Lenin formed socialism to take the whole world towards the concept. But with the arrival of Stalin, the whole ideology was converted in to a "Stalinism", finally ending up in the destruction of socialism in the whole world. Similarly, replacing the Bandaranaike vision in the SLFP with "Mahinda Chinthana" has only resulted in creating political stooges clinging in to high post only with the intention of personal gain. And in the end President Maithripala Sirisena too has been compelled to sit in this same dump feeding the same stooges. He is no longer able to take any action against the stooges of Mahinda Chinthana as he is bound by the duty as the party leader to protect them.

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Q: You have spoken about democracy and good governance. But hasn't both these terms gone astray at present?

A: We cannot make such accusations in an outright manner. There are problems about democracy in all countries. But I believe that the present government is genuinely dedicated towards maintaining democracy. The best example for it is the proposed constitution that is being formed with the participation of all the 225 members of the parliament. And the proposed constitution is mainly focused on ensuring the endurance of democracy.

Q: Recently several MPs were given ministerial positions. Isn't this the same old system of quenching personal needs of politicians to gain their support?

A: I have to repeat that the President has been compelled to go along with the tide. Both the President and the Prime Minister need adequate support from the MPs in order to preserve good governance.

Q: But isn't it the same old tactic?

A: No. This is not done with the intention of retaining the power in their hand for an eternity. This is only done to deliver the people their deserved privileges. To ensure that a new constitution is formed the government must hold power in the parliament. And to do that it must sometimes take unpopular political decisions.

Q: You have pioneered in bringing in Mr. Sarath Fonseka to politics. He lost the election. But now he has been brought in to the parliament under the national list and has also been offered a ministerial position. What is democratic about that?

A: There is a point you have not given thought in this issue. In that election no matter what party Mr. Fonseka contest, he could have secured a seat in the parliament with a majority of votes.

Q: But he contested from his own party. Then why didn't he received such a majority of votes?

A: This country is still going forward with two political factions. It is not easy for a third faction to come shoulder to shoulder with these two parties. What Mr. Fonseka wanted was to take his message to the public. There he did not think about winning or losing the election. He hung on to his vision.

Q: But his vision was rejected by the people. he then came in to the parliament from a national list seat and became a minister. Can this be justified under the "yahapalana" concept?

A: He was at the vanguard of changing the regime and bringing in Mr. Maithripala Sirisena in to power. People yearned for his presence at the stage. And he played his part well in the fight. But by the time the General election was announced the situation was different. The SLFP had allowed Mahinda Rajapaksa to contest under their ticket. Once again the people were divided in to two groups. And there was no chance for a third option in that fight. This same fate was shared by the JVP as well.

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Q: Mr. Fonseka is now claiming that although he has been offered a ministerial portfolio he has not been given the proper privileges. Is this true?

A: This is natural when setting up a new ministry. In 1977 when Mr. Gamini Dissanayake was given the Mahaweli Development Ministry there was a similar situation. Mr. Fonseka was given a new ministry. And he is now carrying out his duties while building the place up. Within a few months he would play a key role in developing this nation.

Q: Many claim that the country has been grounded in to a halt. But for the politicians, there seem to be no end in accusing each other. What is going on here?

A: There is no such thing. When we take a business there are short, mid and long term goals. That is how the governments also carry out their tasks. This journey is undertaken as a collective move by the president, prime minister and the cabinet. That is not openly visible to the public. During their period the Rajapaksas worked in a manner as if the country was their private asset. Now the present government has been compelled to put everything back in order. And that takes time.

Q: You are a former military officer. There is an accusation that under the present government there is a threat to the national security. This became very popular when a suicide kit was recently discovered from Jaffna. Are these allegations true?

A: I can assure you with total confidence that there is no such threat. Let's say some weapons are found, or in this case a suicide belt is found. The suit itself is not going to cause the attack. There should be a willing human who should carry it out. If anyone wants to carry out a suicide attack then the army too is unable to prevent it. That is totally up to his own mentality. But at this point the Tamils people in Sri Lanka are behaving peacefully. I have had close relationship with the Tamil community in Sri Lanka. I had the opportunity of talking to the terrorist called "Morris" who had planned the suicide attack on our Field Marshal. In our conversation he said that he did not have any personal need to kill anyone but had to carry out his duty. He had a target. But that target no longer exists in the society. So under present circumstances no Tamil is going to wear a suicide belt to sacrifice his or her life to that cause.

Q: Do you believe that the accountability of the present government towards national security is adequate?

A: Actually many are enjoying the benefits of freedom at present. The government's duty is not to erect barriers in every junction and to check people's ID cards causing discomfort. We have suffered such treatment for many years. But that is now enough for both the Singhalese and Tamils. I have many Tamil friends and some of them even have Sinhalese surnames. Once when I queried form the father of such a Tamil friend about it he said that he did not wish his son to endure the same suffering he had endured because of his name. A person's name is his biggest right. And it seems that even that has been taken away from a group of people living in our country. And it is our duty to rectify these mistakes.

Q: Where would the country go from here?

No one can block the country from going forward. As a community we have suffered a lot in the past. If there is climb then soon there is going to be a decent. We have climbed that mountain. And now we must all start to think as Sri Lankans. Luckily the country is now at this right track.

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