Unity Govt robbed more in two years – Sunil Handunnetti

(Ceylon Today)
sunil_Handunnetti5Chairman of the Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) and JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti believes that the current Unity Government, which has been in the echelons of power for merely two years, has fleeced more public funds than the Mahinda Rajapaksa Presidency, which lasted for a decade from 2005-2015.

He also said it was up to the voters of the country to decide whether to proceed with the same political backdrop, where it was a shift of power between the UNP and the SLFP, or take a decision to change the political landscape of the country by voting for leaders of a different flavour altogether. The decision is altogether in the minds and hearts of the people, he said.

Here, the COPE Chairman and JVP MP in conversation with Ceylon Today.

?: Now the Presidential Commission of Inquiry has found enough and more incriminating evidence linking former Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran and son-in-law Arjun Aloysius to the Bond Scam and that Mahendran was personally responsible for manipulating the deals, which was the beginning of the end of the economy. What is the next step and why are the wheels of justice not in motion with all the evidence against him and Aloysius?

A: Now, the issue is whether the recommendations of the COPE report will be implemented or not. Then, if they are found guilty, Court proceedings will be instituted and the moneys which were a loss to the government, to the tune of Rs 15 billion, would be recovered. The culprits should be brought before the law. These are some of the immediate priorities which have to be attended to now. If they are deemed not guilty, then the economy would have to suffer a loss to the tune of Rs 15 billion. Now, what is left is the implementation of the recommendations or not.

?: What are the other corruption allegations against this government?

A: There is nothing in the surface that is visible. But, the members of the present government are carrying on just as the previous government and they continue to rob. They came to power on a mandate to fight corruption and they have made more money in these two years than the 10 years of the previous two regimes of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The present government has placed the country in a huge debt trap. They continue to borrow to repay the existing debts and they get deep into the mire. Now, it is selling off all the valuable resources and the assets of the country. There is also no restriction of the wastage and this perfidious government is getting unlimited tax free limousines for the politicians and at the same time, they scream that the government is in debt and there is no room for welfare spending. That is how the hypocrisy worked in these past two years.

CeylonToday?: So, do you think that this government is robbing as the previous government or do you think that it is more than the previous government?

A: The corruption is continuing unabated and this government has robbed much more in these two years than the 10-year-old Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. That is the difference.

?: By the scheme of things that is visible today, it is almost visible and predictable that this government will continue till the next presidential and parliamentary polls in 2020. The government has almost two thirds majority and there does not seem to be a risk element for the government at all. So, what is the issue?

A: It seems that there are two sets of people. One segment rules and the other are ruled. So, it is the taxes of the ruled that the rulers are levying and that is what is levied to meet the expenses of the government. The corruption goes on and this seems to be continuing from government to government. It is the people and the voters who have elected these politicians, the very same politicians who have not been able to find a solution to even the garbage issue. If the voters want to have the same hardships, the loans of the country, the taxes and other charges of the government, let them vote for these types of governments and let them suffer in the same manner. If the people also want to have slashes in the education and health services, there is nothing wrong in electing these types of governments.

?: Then, what is the solution?

A: The solution is to change governments like this. It is also the people who elect governments and change them as well. If the people want to change the government, then we are claiming that we are suitable and the masses are also saying this.

?: But, the heart of the matter is that you have not any day won an election and secured a majority. So, how can you afford to talk?

A: So to do that we have to win and that is not something that we have not yet done.

?: But the people and the voters still have scary memories of the carnages that the JVP created in both 1971 and 1988-1989. So, how can you blame them?

A: Then, in that case, let the people remember the antics of the JVP in the past two insurrections and suffer at the hands of the government. Then let the people continue with governments that given them slashed subsidies, give additional taxes, which also promote malnutrition and diseases like dengue, then it is all right to have a government like this. If the people are adamant that they want something like this for the rest of their lives, then there is no alternative. It is as simple as that.

?: But the home truth is that according to the present Constitution, there will be no single political party which will be able to successfully form a government with a clear working majority and that is the form whether you like it or not. There will be the continuity of Hung Parliaments. What is your solution?

A: Then this will be the future and also the country. Who cares? If this is what the country wants, so be it!

?: So, how can you be confident that you can form a government given that you can barely get the minimum number of seats in Parliament which has been the case all these years?

A: Let the people decide. Otherwise, the country will be the same which has been the same for the rest of our lives.

?: If the JVP forms a government will your management of the economy and the country will be the same or will it be totally different?

A: We will have as priority a production based economy and certainly not a beggar economy like this where people are taxed through their noses. The government should be levying taxes from the people after giving them a reasonable income. The people must be seen as stakeholders of the economy. Now, imports are double the exports and this must be regulated. Borrowings should be done only to match the requirements. There should be fiscal discipline. Wastage should be stopped. Corrupt people should be punished. The law should be applicable to all and be seen as fair to all. The environment should be nurtured. Garbage should be managed. Schoolchildren should not be treated by the government as a nuisance. There should be a short-term, medium-term and long-term plan for economic development. Pensioners should not be treated as a liability and there should be a plan to nurture them. The health service should be developed. The politicians should lead by example. We don’t mind if this government does that.

?: Now on a personal note. You are of course a university graduate in Economics. But, are you aware that 146 of the 225 Members of Parliament have not even passed their Ordinary Level Examinations? How do you see this?

A: The voters do not ask these questions at the time they vote and that is not a qualification on the ballot paper either. There is no qualification to become an MP. If that is required Party Leaders should decide on these candidates like the JVP.

?: So, don’t you think that political party leaders should also be held responsible for this abysmal state of affairs?

A: Yes. That is very true. They should also be held responsible for this. The criteria that political parties use as their benchmarks for politics is how many thugs a candidate could bring and what kind of money he can give the Party. Those are the criteria they look for and that is very sad. It is the politicians who should be blamed or all these shortcomings and not the people at all.

?: So, don’t you also think that people who have murder charges against them and people who have other serious allegations against them should not be given nominations?

A: I have thought on the same lines. To how many people have I mentioned and shared these views? We have shown the way by example. There is no one in our party who has been elected like this.

?: What are your thoughts on constitutional reforms?

A: That is indeed very necessary. The Executive Presidency should be abolished. This corrupt system of preferential votes should be stopped.

?: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, addressing the nation from Galle Face Green on May Day, alleged that the government, through the new Constitution, will be compromising the nation and dividing the country and that all forces should be mobilized to stop that. How do you see this?

A: It was Mahinda Rajapaksa who agreed with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to give the North and the East self determination for ten years and other criteria like that. So, he could not talk at this stage or any stage, and if anyone was there to compromise the interests of the country, it was him!

?: What do you think of the war crimes charges? Does your Party advocate a domestic mechanism or a foreign mechanism?

A: It is indeed true that there was a war in this country. So, it is us who have to decide for ourselves what is best for us as nobody will be coming to our rescue.

?: What are your thoughts on the devolution process?

A: If the government considers the North and the East as two parts of Sri Lanka then adequate power must be devolved to them and also make them live honourably as citizens. That is their right. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure that there is cohabitation and there is development equitably in the entire country. The people of the North are not only meant for getting votes at election times. What is necessary is not the devolution of power. The requirement is to provide with their rights. That is all. That is education, health, transport; infrastructure and a whole lot of others include connectivity.

?: But the TNA and the Northern political parties are not content with anything short of self determination. How do you see this?

A: Asking for what they want is their business. Whether to give or not is the business of Parliament. Anybody can ask for anything.

But they must ask it in such a manner that they get it. Some of the demands that they made may be valid in a war environment, but they are not valid in a backdrop which is devoid of war. They must realize that. On the other hand, the southern political leaders should understand the reasons which led to the war and ensure that those causative factors are removed and that there is no repetition at all in that regard. That is the challenge. The TNA should realize that they cannot have the whole pound of flesh and we should realize that we cannot deprive them the whole pound of flesh. The solution should be something in between.

JVP in touch with TNA, SLMC to mount struggle for abolition of Executive Presidency

JVP General Secretary Tilvin Silva in an interview with Daily Mirror says his party will make a new political formation with the aim of gaining power. He speaks of geopolitical connotations involved in the Hambantota Port project and the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm project. Excerpts of the interview: 

image_1493662254-2d4cf0d64aQ In the context of current political developments, how does the JVP plan for its activities?  

As for the current situation, we find several issues. The economy has virtually collapsed. The govt is embroiled in a serious financial crisis. It is now opting to auction off the national assets of the country as a way out of this crisis. The Hambantota Port and the adjacent lands, the East Terminal of the Colombo Port, the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm are earmarked for selling off. Apart from the Economic and Technology Co-operation Agreement (ETCA) to be signed, the govt has inked yet another Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India outlining projects to be assigned to India. We are not opposed to mutually beneficial bilateral agreements. Yet, we are against such agreements which are disadvantageous to the interests of Sri Lanka. We do not accept the attempts by the govt to make easy money by selling off the national assets. The JVP has initiated a struggle against this.   
In the meantime, the govt is now trying to repress the public upsurge against it. In one instance, the govt tried to limit protest and demonstrations to a site specified for it. The govt is trying to use force against those protesting against garbage disposal in their localities. Now, we learnt of yet another attempt to create a force to deal with emergency situations to be triggered by strike actions. Then, the democracy is at stake.   
Though the govt promised to abolish executive presidency, it seems to be abdicating its responsibility in this regard now. For the abolition of executive presidency, we initiated a dialogue with the like-minded parties. We have held talks with Sri Lanka Muslim Congress (SLMC), the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) and with the Communist Party. We intend to have talks with the President soon. Governance, by one party after another since Independence, has failed to address issues of our country. We need a novel form of governance and we will work for it.

Q When abolishing executive presidency, there is concern that it would affect the unitary status of the country. It is argued that the loss of Executive President’s hold on the PCs would lead to separatism gradually. How does the JVP see it?
It is not a correct argument as we see. Then, the President, the Prime Minister and the other forces that rallied behind to unseat the former rule, should have seen such a danger before. The abolition of executive presidency is a key election pledge. It is not the amendments the executive presidency that was promised. Actually, the executive presidency cannot protect the country from being partitioned. In fact, separatism raised its head when the country was ruled by executive presidency. The country is safe from separatism as long as people are empowered, democracy strengthened and ethnic harmony fostered. We reject claims for retaining executive presidency by trotting out such excuses.
Q However, if the executive power in appointing provincial governors is taken out, it will give more independence to the PCs paving way for them to become independent units as argued by some government leaders. How do you see it?
If a new Constitution is introduced, a set of provisions will have to be incorporated to prevent the country from being partitioned at any cost. In the present Constitution, there is no provision to take action in case a PC declares independence. We need new constitutional safeguards to prevent the division of the country. It has to be vested with Parliament.
Q How does the JVP see eye-to-eye on this issue with the SLMC and the TNA?
We have discussed the basic points. There is no broad discussion. This is the best opportunity to work out a new Constitution to strengthen democracy and to ensure people’s rights. All the parties should strive to reach common stand rather than sticking to their guns.
Q The JVP, right from its inception, advocated decentralization of administrative power, but not power devolution. Have you deviated from this position in this manner?
There is no change in our policy. We are against any move that leads to the division of the country. Yet, we have to ensure equal rights for all citizens to ensure stability of the country. Rather than making way for the partition of the country, we have to decentralize administrative powers to the lowest possible level.
We have to work out something in keeping with that fundamental position. At the same time, equal rights should be guaranteed for all.
Q How does the JVP subscribe to the Constitution making process in the Steering Committee?
We are a party to it. It has discussed matters both acceptable and unacceptable to us. We believe in bilateral talks with the political parties to identify areas with common position.
Q There are moves for privatization of national assets as you said earlier. This is against the core of the JVP policy. But, there is public perception that the JVP’s role in thwarting such attempts by the govt are minimal. How do you respond?
There are two opinions here. The extremist forces against us accuse us of involving less in this struggle. The govt, on the other hand, accuses us of being oppositional to everything. In reality, and in the past, the JVP stood against the govt’s move to sell out state assets. In fact, we have managed to pre-empt such moves.
We launched the biggest protest against the move to lease out 15,000 acres of land in Hambantota for Chinese companies. We led from the front against the project to hand over a stake of the Hambantota Port. The govt backtracked from its position afterwards. The JVP trade unions were at the forefront against the proposals to lease out the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm.

Q How certain are you that the govt would not forge ahead with the signing of agreements to implement its projects in Hambantota and Trincomalee involving China and India?
We want the govt to stop it. For that, we will make every possible effort. Actually, the country is going through an acute financial crisis. Our manufacturing base is lost.
These are, in fact, the assets to be utilized to boost our manufacturing base. If we sell them off to foreign powers, the situation would be compounded worse. If we develop the Trincomalee Oil Tank Farm, we would be able to reduce our fuel distribution cost. Now, plans are in place to sell it to India. Indian Oil Company is involved in fuel distribution here. So for India, it is useful. But it is important that we should build
our economy.
Q Do you see this as part of Indian expansionism once your party had espoused?
This is a policy issue concerning Sri Lanka. We have to look at it that way rather than blaming India. India is actively expanding its trading with the rest of the world. We should also have a policy to get maximum benefit for the country. We should not formulate policies that are in line with other countries. Then, they will have the advantage, not us. We do not have inherent enmity with India otherwise.
Q In terms of geopolitics and also from the JVP’s perspective, how detrimental is it for Sri Lanka to have the Hambantota Port leased out to China and Trincomalee Oil Tanks to India?
In fact, these are assets connected with national security. These projects cannot be compared with other investments such as garment factories and tea industry. The port is an economic nerve centre with a bearing on national security. Likewise, the Trincomalee Port and the petroleum project will definitely have a bearing, not only on economy but also on national security. Energy sector is the most powerful economic tool connected with national security. It should be kept fully within SL’s control. It should not be alienated. Economic nerve centres should never be alienated to a foreign power.

Q The JVP played a pivotal role in installing this govt. How do you compare this regime with its predecessors?
It is true that the JVP played a key role and it was accepted by a majority of people as 6.2 million people voted against Mahinda Rajapaksa. It was part of our struggle. The next struggle is to form a progressive govt by defeating the current regime. When compared, we do not see much of a difference between the present and the former regimes in most aspects. Only difference is that this govt is fragile. The former rule had central control. The President, the PM and the Cabinet belonged to the same party at that time. Today, it is different. The President is from one party and the PM from another. As a result, there is no strong decision-making. At the beginning, the govt was less repressive. It is now attempting to suppress dissent against it. The previous govt resorted to privatization, and the current regime does the same too. Both the govts went for borrowings. We find corruption and frauds under both the regimes. However, there is some breathing space in terms of democracy under the new govt. It is also shrinking now.
Q Traditionally, there are two main parties that had ruled this country. One could be ousted from power with the support of the other only. Then, how could the JVP form a new govt independent of these two parties?
The political situation is building in favour of a different force, as we see. Only the capitalist parties called the shots. When one capitalist party was in power, another capitalist party was the main opposition.
Today, both the main parties are in the govt. Then, only the opposition parties can get together to unseat the govt. The MR group cannot attract people again. As a result, the JVP is ready to fill the vacuum. We will make a political formation. It is not a mere political party. It will be a combination of all stakeholders – academics, professionals, artistes and others.
Q There is a public perception that the JVP chooses political strategies in a manner that is advantageous to the UNP. Your party tends to criticize the MR faction more aggressively while trying to protect the UNP-led govt. How true it is?
It is not true. It is an allegation made by the Rajapaksa gang. We built criticism against the MR rule and it cannot cleanse itself of its past wrongdoings. Alongside, we have logically built criticism against the present rule. Only the JVP exposed the Central Bank Bond scam to the country first. The COPE investigations were done successfully under the chairmanship of JVP MP Sunil Handunnetti.
The Joint Opposition moved a ‘No confidence’ motion against Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake. The JVP also voted for it along with the JO. But MR did not vote. Literally, the MR clan had acted to safeguard the govt, not us, in spite of lashing criticism in public against the incumbent regime.

 

The time is right for the masses to safeguard their rights

anura_dissanayake_7Q The party you assisted in bringing to power has now completed two years. Do you feel happy about it?
It was our attempt to rid the country of Rajapaksa’s rule which no doubt deserved to be removed. We also told the masses not to have faith in the government that would be ushered in after January 08th. This is now proved. It is the moment now for the masses to rally round to safeguard their rights. At the time this government took office there were assurances given to the people; punishment for frauds, acquisition of properties and the establishment of the rule of law. The government is acting in contravention of all the above.

Q You worked to overthrow the former regime well aware of the nature of the present government. Why did you put the masses from the frying pan to the fire?  

At the elections we told the masses very clearly that the government that would be set up after the elections would be a combination of the UNP and the SLFP. Though they campaigned separately, it is their wish to form a unity government after the elections. We informed the public during the August elections about the importance of rallying round the JVP as the SLFP would be providing life blood to the UNP.

Q The JVP with only six MPs were considered when appointing a Chief Opposition Whip, instead of appointing a candidate from the Joint Opposition. They have alleged that this appointment was made because the JVP supported the government. What is your response?   

The Chief Opposition Whip is chosen by the opposition. Only someone lacking basic knowledge would claim that the leader of the opposition and the Chief Opposition Whip are appointed by the ruling party. The ruling party only appoints the leader of the house and the Chief Government Whip. 

Q Were you selected by the opposition?   

Only six parties contested the parliamentary elections – the UPFA, UNP, JVP, TNA, SLMC and the EPDP. The UPFA and the UNP form a unity government having come to an agreement. Only three parties represent the opposition, they are namely the TNA, JVP and the EPDP. Even today the group led by Dinesh Gunawardene is considered as members belonging to the UPFA. The time allotted to them is allocated from the time set apart for the UPFA. Dinesh Gunawardene is allowed certain privileges as a leader of a party, as such powers vested on Nimal Siripala De Silva had been bestowed by him on Dinesh Gunawardene. Taking into consideration these factors, out of the three parties representing the opposition the highest number of MPs were from the TNA and accordingly the post of the leader of the opposition was given to that party, and the JVP which received the second highest number of MPs got this post of Chief Opposition Whip. 

Q From the JVP’s view point, isn’t there any good in present government?   

When a road is developed or a canal is cut everybody would appreciate them. On that point every government had been good. But this should not be the yard stick to measure every government. It should be based on their economic policies. Chandrika and Mahinda both said that we could obtain loans from abroad and develop the country. They regarded this as a victory. Those who propagated taking loans as a victory now refer to obtaining these loans as a debt trap. These people who regarded loans as a blessing now refer to it as a mountain of borrowings. The Economic policy they advocate is not capable in taking the country forward. The strategies adopted in building up a national policy among the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim nationals are inadequate. The policies adopted to establish law and order in the country, had never been helpful to establish them. A main task of any government is to levy taxes and fill up the government coffers. The government is vested with the power to manage these funds. This government without making use of these funds in a planned manner is engaged in frauds and irregular activities. Therefore it concludes that every government that came into power had wrong social, economic and political policies.

Q Is there in any country a government that has fulfilled the JVP’s aspirations?

It is not a question of satisfying our party, but an aim of satisfying the masses. Are the farmers satisfied, are the fisherfolk satisfied, are the public and private sector employees satisfied, are you as a journalist satisfied – it is not so. A government which cannot satisfy the masses cannot satisfy the JVP.

Q The government says that they are more democratic than the former and also there is more freedom of speech.

Any government in its initial stages is like this. Compare the first two years of the Rajapaksa government. There was a similarity. Take Chandrika Kumarathunga’s government. She came to power in 1994 and only in 1994 she started retracting. Whatever the government, they begin in this manner and when confronted with issues they try to trim the freedom allowed. It is the aim of the JVP to strengthen itself with other democratic forces using this time and the country situation. Who is reaping this freedom? The thieves use it to rob people and freely move about. Criminals have freedom to commit crime and freely move about. But the masses have no freedom to express themselves. When students get onto the roads they are beaten and/or Baton charged. The farmers are suffering due to drought and no steps are being taken to grant them redress. 

Q You vehemently criticized the former government and the Rajapaksa family. How many of those allegations have been proved?

A-Whatever I said with regard to the former government activities and the present were based on true facts and evidence and if there was a very minute doubt about them I would not have brought it to the notice of the society. These economic policies are aimed at fulfilling the wants of a particular class of people. You visit the Welikada prisons. Is there anyone among the prisoners representing both these classes? We have visited the Welikada prisons to meet several of our comrades. QDoes the JVP think that instead of these two parties you would be able to take over the government? Should we or not? 

Q Should be.

That is our wish.

Q There is an allegation from the society that the JVP is not keen on forming a government, but instead prefers to be in the midst of the two parties and keep on criticizing them.

It is not the question of simple party politics. A careful study is needed. In any country social changes do occur, but they do not follow a regular sequence 1, 2, or 3. They happen as political leaps in the society. 

Q It is clear from the complex JVP political beliefs, and to put it in the common man’s words, that you all are running after a mirage.

No it is not so. Do not think that the masses are fools. They know that this government is robbing. People are aware that after coming to power this government is helping only those criminal gangs around them. People are aware that they are burdened with high taxes, and those who ruled the country for almost seventy years had imprisoned the country in a mountain of debt. There is an issue, we as a political force had not been able to gain power. At an election they consider one of the two parties as capable in assuming power. Being mindful of this position we are building up public opinion with the hope of gaining power at the next elections. 

Q The public confidence that Anura Kumara Dissanayake had prior to 08th January 2015 is greatly diminished now.

I need not measure it. 

Q There were several allegations against you recently.

We are not surprised by these activities of the Rajapakse group. 

Q But these allegations were not made by the Rajapakse group but by those who assisted you in bringing this government into power.

Do not jump to conclusions. Wait till I reply. There is a threat to the existence of the Rajapaksa group. They cannot speak about frauds as they are the ones fully involved. They cannot speak about democracy as they were those who murdered the masses. They cannot speak about reconciliation in the country as they worked to create dissension among the communities. They cannot speak about good governance as they were the ones who led the country towards a dictatorial rule. The JVP had posed a big challenge to the Rajapaksa rule. Therefore they are bent on hurling accusations that there is a relationship between the UNP and the JVP through me.

Q There were accusations that you obtained money from several sectors under your party name.

We brought down the rule of Rajapaksa and we contested in August to usher in a different rule.

Q In politics you seem to be portraying the role of a person free of all the vices.

No. There are various strategies in politics. Immature politicians cannot understand this position. These are hurdles and one has to go over them. We proved our position on 08th January and also repeated it on 16th August. (DailyMirror)

No political hope left for MR – Lalkantha

kdlalkantha(Ceylon Today) Chairman of the National Trade Union Centre K.D. Lalkantha in an interview with Ceylon Today said that UNPers have undoubtedly shattered their aspirations for a better economy.
Excerpts of the interview:

?: How do you read the current political developments in the country?

A: People were disgusted with the Rajapaksa administration so they formed a new government under the leadership of the President Maithripala Sirisena. Rajapaksa regime had come to a natural death due to the absurd ways of its administration during their tenure. Now the same has come upon the present government in a very short span of time. People are in dire need of a solid alternative. They are compelled to walk away from the last two consecutive governments because they have witnessed and tasted the bitterness. People have rejected Mahinda Rajapaksa at two consecutive elections; therefore there is no political hope left for him. Moreover, the number of corruptions and misappropriations of the previous government have reached the people. So they know what transpired during that era. There is a vacuum for an alternative force in society. So we strive towards bridging that gap.

?: Your union extended support to the demonstrators and strikers at the Hambantota Port, what was the story over there?

A: The employees were recruited to work in the Hambantota Port. These appointments were made by Namal Rajapaksa, Rohitha Abegunewardena and the current minister Arjuna Ranatunga.
Some of those employees had given up their previous employment to join Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA). It is a known fact that the salaries paid by the SLPA are comparatively higher than at other institutions. But later on they realized that they were working for a private company and providing manpower services to the Ports Authority. The issue is if these employees provided their services to the SLPA, why, can’t they be made permanent employees of the SLPA. There was an identical request made by the man power employees of the telecom some time back. The National Trade Union Centre lead that struggle and ended it victoriously.

These port workers request the government to make them permanent employees of the SLPA. The protesters have taken a ship under their custody. That was an attempt to seek national attention to their problem. That was a correct union action to gain attention. Also, the Navy launched rescue mission to take over the ships is also the correct decision. But the Navy Commander made a blunder when he attacked a media person. Navy has a bigger responsibility to serve, at this juncture, where Indian fishermen invade our seas and take home what rightfully belong to us. This is something the Navy should have been dealing.
There is no way a strike to continue for a long time. It is a wise decision to stop it before going any further when the protestors had gained nationwide attention, to their issue. There are few steps ahead of them. But that will be an easy task since the issue is known nationwide by now.

?: Is there any pressure from the government towards unions and their activities?

A: There is no direct pressure on unions, as was, during previous governments. However, there are instances where the Prime Minister had attacked union leaders in Parliament. He had called out union leaders by name and attacked, thinking that the union leaders are rioting against them. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe had never been able to serve the complete duration of his tenure. With the way things are going we see no exception this time.

?: Do you think the government will topple before its time?

A: It’s not the entire government, but it is evident that Ranil Wickremesinghe is probably going to lose his position as the Prime Minister of this country. There is a very good possibility that a new Prime Minister will be appointed instead of him. A political storm is imminent. There are factors developing for the members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party to walk away from the Unity Government. In that case the TNA would lose the leadership of the Opposition. This is due to the fact that Ranil Wickremesinghe works like a dictator. Late President R. Premadasa once said that the position of the Prime Minister is just like a peon, but see what it is like today. Ranil Wickremesinghe has made the Executive President of this country to look like a peon. So how do you expect the government to go any further with this ego?

?: What factors, in your opinion, contributed to the peoples hatred towards this government?

A: Firstly the government has walked away from the objectives of its formation. They promised to bring the looters and the plunderers of the previous government to justice; and get back the lost hard earned public funds. No matter how many people lodged complaints to the respective authorities such as the Bribery Commission (CIABOC) and the Financial Crimes Investigation Department (FCID) but nothing has worked out. Also the people were anticipating the present government to fully eradicate corruption in keeping with the principles of their governance. That has become a mere thought in the minds of the people.

There was a belief among the UNPers and some clusters of the middle class that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is a ‘clean politician’, a politician who has never got his name dirty with allegations of corruption. So, the people believed in him when they cast votes. Now the idea had been challenged; even though some may still be reluctant to think of him as a looter, but surely they believe that Ranil Wickremesinghe had provided the required protection to those who were, due to be put behind bars for corruption. Majority of the people believe that. And also there is a common belief that the people will get money to their hands whenever a UNP Government comes into power. That belief has also become just another fiction, by now. When considering the recently passed Appropriation Bill (budget) in Parliament, it shows the manner the hard earned money of people have been pulled out by means of taxes and fines. There are no avenues for people to enhance their income. There was no dialogue by the government to propose ways for the people to enhance their income but there were extensive dialogues to implement new taxes and fines all along the way.

?: What is the ulterior motive of the government in doing all these?

A: The government wants to cripple the purchasing power of the people. So that it paves the way for the government to collect monies from people through taxes and fines. The government plans to save on spending dollars, so the consumer demand should be discouraged.

The government pledged that they would bring investments to the country. But, so far, they have failed. Now the rupee is left to depreciate to attract more investors. That is why the government allowed the depreciation of the rupee from Rs.131 to Rs.151. Now the people have to spend more money for the same goods and services purchased at a comparatively lower price earlier; in a situation where the rupee income of an individual remains the same. Again the purchasing power of the employees is being discouraged by depreciating the currency. Another obstacle in attracting investors is the level of high wages of our employees, in comparison to the situation at the regional level. That’s why the agreements like ETCA surface to provide low cost labour to industries. UNPers have undoubtedly shattered their aspirations for a better economy. And the entire society knows that. That they are not capable and competent enough to do it.

?: How do you see the government’s decision, to privatize Hambantota harbour, in order to save themselves from debt?

A: The government is selling the Hambantota Port and the 15,000 acres around it for more dollars. Purchasing power of the people has been shrunk to save dollars. The government’s only objective has become saving dollars. See, even now they are not getting investments which will generate income to the people. There are a number of constructions on the ground to show that the previous government was keen on undertaking construction, but how many projects are generating actual revenue to the people. It’s like spending all the working capital and constructing a wall around the house. It will surely add glamour, but draw no actual income for the people. We should always aim at sustainable development.

?: The previous government had undertaken a number of mega constructions. They undoubtedly increased the country’s capital assets?

A: Previous government have highways, towers, ports, air ports and many more concrete structures to show but none generates a decent profit compared to the size of the investment made. So how can you call them appealing investments? They are merely projects to destroy public funds. So what really matters is not the size of the capital asset, but the income it is capable of generating.

We purchase goods to the value of US$ 20 billion a year; we export merely a US$ 10 billion worth of goods and services. So this is a vicious cycle leading the country to an enhanced trade deficit. Country’s debt proportions keep going up day by day and have a ripple effect. Therefore rather than wasting money on glamorous constructions, the government should push towards enhancing production. Governments have never had a vision to enhance production and to encourage entrepreneurs to take up manufacturing ventures.

In order to get over this issue the government should have a short term, medium term and long term plan. But what does the government actually have? It’s just a plan to sell out peoples precious assets. Why do you actually need a government to sell the assets that belong to the people?

There are nearly 2,000 acres being given to the BOI, still, there is space for investors to come and undertake ventures. But, in this situation 15,000 acres are being given to one single country, China. So they can do whatever they want in the country. Considering our stake in the transaction we would not be having any say on decisions.

?: Government is planning on Amendments to Labour Laws.
How do you see this?

A: The government is striving to change 15 important labour laws to facilitate investors. For example, according to the earlier rule if any employee undertakes an employment for more than 180 days, he should be made permanent in the respective position. But now the government plans to change the duration from 180 to 365 days. Why does the government have to take away the rights of the employees in order to facilitate investments?

What’s the worth of any investment when the rights of the people are deprived in the process? Late Fidel Castro once said “Now I’m capable of giving only one glass of milk to my people, but if I can give 2 glasses per day, I would welcome such investment without any hassle.” That should be the right mindset of a leader when negotiating investments on behalf of his people. You don’t need governments to work like this.

It’s the people who need to change – Comrade Lal Kantha

comrade_lalkantha

Red Power: The government presented a budget for 2017. Who is this budget for?

Comrade Lal Kantha: The government states it presented a budget. Of course, it is a budget for the government. But for the people in this country it is only expenditure. They do not gain anything from it. Whichever government that has ruled this country has talked about means for people to get an income so that they could conceal the taxes and fines imposed on the people and to stop disapproval of the people for the budgets. At the budget proposals presented this time while presenting it to Parliament, in debates Parliamentarians who spoke on behalf of the proposals never spoke about how people could get their incomes. They cannot do so as there is nothing in the budget to help people in their incomes.
This is the programme that takes forward the policy of the government. It is a programme based on selling resources, high taxes and heavy fines. It is a programme that makes living a challenge for the ordinary folk as it talks only about heavy expenditure without any income. It is a programme that allows the government to while away for another year.

Red Power: The government imposed VAT two weeks before the budget presentation and burdened the masses in addition to what was heaped on the masses from the budget. How would the masses endure the burden of VAT and other increases?

Comrade Lal Kantha: All those who get permanent incomes are dragged towards a critical economic crisis through the budget. The self employed carpenter, mason, barber would increase their charges. Those in the informal sectors could do so. However, those in institutional and formal sectors such as government employees, employees in the private sector, those who get permanent incomes, even the farmer would have to confront the most difficult times of their lives. For, the budget doesn’t mention any means of income. Others will increase their incomes when taxes, fines are increased. The barber who cuts hair for Rs.150 would increase his fare to Rs.200. The producer would increase the price according to his expenses.
The biggest blow from the budget is for the permanent income recipients. Even at this moment we are having this interview the budget debate is going on. We challenge the government to say how people could increase their incomes. There is no such thing in the budget proposals. People are unable to bear the burden of the expenses. Just as they were fed up with the previous regime, they would reject the two groups that are ruling the country now. They will have to take up the path of struggle for their existence.
The people have a responsibility to understand that they cannot go further with the present day rulers. They will have to detach themselves from conventional political parties. They will have to choose a different socio-economic system. The existing state is not the fault of the rulers. It is no use blaming the rulers. For, they carry out their economic policy. Hence, as Brecht said bringing such rulers for power is the mistake of the people. Bringing such rulers to power and blaming them later is fruitless. The people should understand that it is necessary to defeat the rulers as well as the existing socio-economic system. It is the people who have to change. This is why Bertolt Brecht said the people should change.
The solution for the issue is a different attitude of the people. The responsibility of the intellectuals and artistes in this country is undertaking the task of changing the people; to create citizens who become aware of their power.

Red Power: The Minister of Finance is repeating the recipe given by the IMF. Proposals are brought to sell state institutions. Proposals are included to encourage privatization of education and health services. How do the working masses in these sectors confront this situation?

Comrade Lal Kantha: The policy of this government is not taking part in production. Production is goods and services. The government is specially withdrawing from education and health services. The budget proposals are presented according to this policy. As such, allocations for health, education and agriculture have been slashed. The intention of the government is to go along with this policy. The government is not at all concerned about how many patients would die without medical attention, how many would lose their jobs, how many children will be denied education opportunities or how many farmers will commit suicide.
This budget is disadvantageous to the people; it is harmful. Due to selling of state resources, excessive taxes and fines the working masses in the state sector and the private sector will take the path of struggle. There would be a struggle lead by these sectors. Other downtrodden masses too have a responsibility of joining these struggles to achieve victory. When the budget proposals are implemented in January, 2017 the masses throughout the country will have to enter the path of struggle. However, the struggles against these policies could gain a lasting victory only in a political arena. The people should defeat the traitorous policies of these governments on the very first opportunity they get in the political arena.

Red Power: At the moment the working masses as well as all the people have been called for a common struggle. How do these struggles merge with the programme of the JVP of building a broad people’s force for a power transition?

Comrade Lal Kantha: No party was given power to form a government of their own at the last general election due to the frustration masses have regarding the so-called main political parties. Using provisions in the Constitution they have formed an alliance government despite people not voting them to form such a government. In 2020 people will not vote for Maithri’s SLFP, Ranil’s UNP or Mahinda’s ‘bud’. As such, what they intend doing is to form a tri-party coalition government in 2020. It would be the most reactionary government in the history of this country.
Even now the three groups are unofficially linked with each other. They use this state to escape from being punished for frauds, corruption and thefts. All fraudsters and their protectors would join to form a tri party coalition. Already, this coalition has been unofficially formed. This is why Minister Lakshman Kiriella participating in the budget debate says that Mr. Mahinda Rajapaksa should help them.
The people should understand this situation and the hazard. Forming such a government should be prevented, all three reactionary forces should be pushed aside and a political movement that is capable of forming a people friendly government should be built. The JVP warned at the last election that the existing alliance government would be formed. Also, we said that thieves would never work against thieves. This has been proved. People have the responsibility of taking measures from now on to defeat the alliance of people’s enemies.
People have a struggle before them to protect state resources, services they have partaken and punish fraudsters and the corrupt that plundered people’s assets. This struggle cannot be won from fighting only in one’s sector. It is a common struggle of all of us. We invite people to rally around the broad people’s front that is being built by the JVP that foresaw the danger and launched building the front.

JO has become a laughing stock – Tilvin Silva

(Ceylon Today)

tilvin_silva_5General Secretary of the JVP, Tilvin Silva said in an interview with Ceylon Today, that many corruption inquiries were undertaken by various governments.’UNP and SLFP always conduct such inquiries only within a safe zone favourable to them.’ Excerpts of the interview:

?: JVP issued a statement back in 2015, during the election that Mahinda Stores consists of contraband commodities and at the same time no assurance could be issued on the commodities available at Maithri Stores. How do you assess the validity of this statement when you look back on the past 20 months?
A: As we said earlier, it is proven that Mahinda Rajapaksa’s was a corrupt government; this government too acts in a similar fashion. This government obtains unbearable loans for its survival; this government sells off State owned properties, this government too has started to loot public funds, this government too has misused hard earned tax payers funds, this government too has disregarded the promises that it made to the people, they have no remedies for the issues of the working class, such as farmers and labourers, no difference to the previous government.
This one is also marking time to sell education. Apart from the faces in control, there’s absolutely no difference between the two governments. What more proof do you expect to validate our statement?
?: JVP leader Anura Dissanayake once stated that no UNP and SLFP Government will do proper corruption inquiries against each other. What made him to make such a statement?
A: You see there were many corruption inquiries undertaken by various governments. UNP and SLFP always conduct such inquiries only within a safe zone favourable to them. Those investigations are not aimed at fulfilling the aspirations of the people. There are many inquiries conducted now, they have been initiated due to the immense pressure mounted by civil society, JVP and the progressive people. These organizations have provided evidence, complaints and sometimes conducted fierce protests pressurizing the authorities to undertake investigations. Police is probing into these allegations, but what has happened to the findings?

?: But there have been some arrests?
A: They have instituted legal action against a few in order to dilute the mounting pressure; but not against all. Especially the ones who joined the government seem to have walked away scot-free. Frontrunners of the previous government such as S.B. Dissanayake surprisingly have no inquiry against him, even though his name came up in many allegations. Therefore it is evident that all those inquiries have been launched creating a safe zone for those who are in the government. It is clear there is no genuine intention to probe into corruptions as the government is formed with the help of corrupt politicians.
Mahinda Rajapaksa bought over UNPers to strengthen his government; likewise, the present government has incorporated corrupt SLFPers to rule the country. How can they probe into each other when those alleged looters are sitting in their own circle? They make arrests for namesake, when extensive pressure is mounted by the people, from time to time.

?: What in your opinion is the reason behind this?
A: The UNP and SLFP have amalgamated for a common course, they have the same policies. There is no difference between them. Even the Rajapaksa fanatics in the Opposition are allusively supporting the Prime Minister and the government.

?: Leader of the JVP also played a part in the committee appointed to overlook the mechanism, instituted to investigate corruption. What have you achieved through that?
A: That committee has come to a closure after the prescribed period. We forced the government and the authorities to take prompt action on those cases. However, you may see we were engaged in many protests and poster campaigns to pressurize the government. We gave them evidence and proof that was in our possession. In fact Namal Rajapaksa was arrested after a complaint made by our member Wasantha Samarasinghe. We have done whatever we could within our reach. The government has been forced to undertake inquiries due to that. The government had plans to probe corruption from the beginning. You see, no action was taken against Wimal Weerawansa when he was caught misusing passports. The government has no real intention to probe into these allegations for the reason that the government itself is engaged in various corrupt practices. Corruption probing is taking place today, at least at this level, merely due to the pressure exerted by the JVP and the progressive civil movement.

?: Government has incorporated the office of the Missing Persons Bill, how do you assess it?
A: It’s really good to have a legal frame work like this. This Bill states no time or geographical demarcation to inquiry. This could go back to 1971 or 1989 if one may have a case to look into. We presented amendments to the draft and they were accepted. When there is a mechanism in place like the OMP, it prevents governments from working on their whims and fancies to abduct people as they may please. Those who oppose the Bill are striving to hand over a license to the government to abduct people. This is absolutely not the right thing to do.
We should be vigilant that no ulterior motives are associated with the Bill; especially, when it comes to the earlier proposal to hand over findings of this office to a foreign third party. We opposed that proposal, so later it was removed from the final Bill.

?: The Joint Opposition (JO) says that that Bill could lead the armed forces to the guillotine. What do you have to say about it?
A: How can they enter into the pre assumption that this Bill has an effect on our brave soldiers? If they say so, they admit to the fact that they have misused the soldiers in abductions. Those who have skeletons in their closets should be afraid of such a law coming into effect. Now when they oppose the Bill they oppose inquiring the abductions of 71 and 89. Now we have seen the same gang oppose the move when establishing FCID and enforcing the CIABOC. They are the same people who were involved in abductions and looting of public funds. So it’s a natural resistance to save them from evident danger. It’s not the soldiers but the people who gave orders to act who have become so frightened by the law.
The same people who have insincere tears for our soldiers have made use of the same soldiers as slaves in their domestic chores; to do everything, including bathing the dogs and helping them get dressed.

?: We have observed some of the alleged properties of Basil and Yoshitha Rajapaksa were confiscated due to failure to provide evidence of ownership. Isnt this a progressive step in terms of fighting corruption? Or do you see as a predetermined deal?
A: I do not know whether it’s a deal or not, but it was purely due to the mounting pressure against corruption. The alleged two properties were not claimed by Basil Rajapaksa as being his. The government should confiscate such property and establish a government institution there. The government was forced to initiate limited actions regarding the claims.

?: What is the root cause of all these? Is it after the President changed his stance from being the independent common candidate to the leader of the SLFP?
A: We told the public very clearly that we do not trust anyone. The President said he will be the independent common candidate during the campaign. But after his victory he got hold of the SLFP and started working to rebuild the party. There is a discussion in progress to study the possibility to retain the Executive Presidency without completely abolishing it. The government failed to abolish the Executive Presidency when the 19 Amendment was presented in Parliament. That clearly shows the integrity of the capitalist parties to present fairy tales during elections and act in differently when elected to power.

?: The JO organized a protest march from Kandy to Colombo. How do you see the image of the former President before and after the march?
A: Mahinda Rajapaksa lost his image when he became a Member of Parliament after the Presidential electoral defeat and also much gravely after calling himself the ‘Shadow Prime Minister’. He has no public image now. Also the whole bunch of JO has become a laughing stock among the people. Neither knew the difference between numbers, nor the direction they were heading whether it’s from Colombo to Kandy or Kandy to Colombo. Look at the following, in the march; they were nothing but drunken people who had absolutely no discipline. They got a child to recite intriguing statements about the President who is apparently their present leader. After all, it turned out to be nothing but a protest against the SLFP. JO has finally become nothing but a joke.

?: At the recent Sri Lanka Economic Summit 2016, JVP leaders along with other UNPers had expressed their views on the economy. JVP and UNP have very clear and different philosophies when it comes to economic reforms. Dont you think that the JVP affirms their change in stance by taking part in this forum?
A: Don’t look at it in that way. This was organized by the Chamber of Commerce. The highest applause was for the speech delivered by our leader. We made it a forum to stage our voice; express our concerns; we pointed out the salient factors. That cannot be translated as a move to endorse the opinions of the UNP.

?: The government associated a western aligned stance in the beginning, but, now we see it divert back to China, momentarily. How do you see this?
A: It’s very clear. The government never had its own policy on the economy. We should always be open to the international community but with the only intention of achieving beneficial agreements for the country. We do not need to bend down in front of the Westerners, Indians or Chinese if we have proper plans in place. This is what happens when we do not have an independent economic plan for our country.

Govt policy discourages paddy farming – President ACPF

(Ceylon Today)

namal_karunarathne_1This week trade union talk is about farmers who are an important segment on the labour force of the country. Ceylon Today interviewed the President of the All Ceylon Peasants Federation (ACPF) Namal Karunaratne who spoke of issues concerning farmers.

During the interview, Karunaratne said that although there is a certified price for paddy which is higher than the market price, only the government paddy stores purchases paddy at that price. He noted, only around 5 per cent of total paddy produced is bought by government paddy stores. As a result of that most of the paddy is sold at a very low price. Even the paddy bought by the paddy stores, is later sold at a very low price. Although the price of paddy comes down, the price of rice is never reduced. There are few wealthy and powerful businessmen who control rice prices.
ACPF suggests reducing the cost of production. According to estimates of the government the cost of production per kilo of paddy is approximately
Rs 33. He pointed out that the support of the government to reduce the production cost of paddy would benefit farmers as well as consumers.
Following are excerpts of the interview:
?: More often than not farmers in Sri Lanka are faced with issues; what are the burning issues faced by farmers these days?
A: There are a lot of issues faced by farmers these days. Paddy farmers had to sell paddy at a very low price as the price of paddy had come down. The government intervention in paddy purchasing is not sufficient. Paddy farmers cannot even cover the production cost by selling paddy at the market price. At present the price of a kilo of paddy is Rs 26 and it is likely to go down by next month when harvesting takes place. Meanwhile, big onion farmers too are facing issues due to the high cost of production and the low selling price. The fate of the vegetable farmers in the up-country is pretty much the same. The high price of fertilizer has affected them badly. Very soon soya farmers will face the same issue.
These issues are nothing new. Farmers have been facing these issues over the years, yet the politicians have turned a blind eye to their plight.
?: When you say that farmers do not receive a sufficient price for their produce, it also indicates that by the increase of the price of such produce as rice, farmers should receive more. In that case, the consumers will have to pay more and the cost of living would go up. How do you suggest balancing the two?
A: We suggest reducing the cost of production. According to government estimates the cost of production per kg of paddy is approximately Rs 33; this is a pretty outdated estimate. The production cost is higher than that. However, as I noted before the selling price of a kg of paddy is only around Rs 26. in that context, we ask the government to take measures to reduce the cost of production so that the consumers too will get rice at a lower price; that way the consumers’ interests as well as producers’ interests are ensured.
At present, there is a certified price for paddy which is higher than the market price. However, only the government paddy stores purchases paddy at that price. Only around 5 per cent of the total paddy produced is bought by the government paddy stores. As a result of that most of the paddy is sold at a very low price. Even the paddy bought by the govt paddy store is later sold at a very low price. Although the price of paddy comes down, the price of rice is never reduced. There are few wealthy and powerful businessmen who control the price of rice. These businessmen are affiliated to politics too. They keep a profit around Rs 15 for each kg of rice and the farmers as well as consumers pay for it. It is in that context, that we call for strong government intervention.

?: What are your suggestions to address the issues faced by farmers; what specific measures should the government take?
A: As I told you the production cost has to come down. For that production subsidies should be given to farmers and a certified price should be imposed on paddy, applicable to everyone. The government should take control. Rice Research and Development Institute, was established for that very reason of protecting farmers and consumers.
We suggest providing fertilizer subsidies and machinery at lower prices and also providing relief. It should be noted that most farmers do not get a high income. Providing these subsidies is not a one way transfer. The domestic food production in a country is very vital and it is the job of the government to promote it. It is in the national interest of protecting domestic industries and with the long term objective of gaining self sufficiency.

?: Agriculture as a percentage of the GDP has declined over the years; farmers are moving away from agriculture as well; how do you view this scenario?
A: Actually, steps taken by successive governments forced farmers to leave agriculture, which is bad decision making, given that domestic food production is very vital to the economy. Recently, the Finance Minister had said that paddy farming is not that important and it is cheaper to import rice from abroad. So far the government has not claimed that it is a personal view of the minister and not of the government. This government appears to be of that stance and their attitude towards paddy farming is a negative one.
The policy of the government is to discourage paddy farming. Paddy cultivation is affiliated with the culture of the country too. In addition, in a recent statement by the Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake he claimed that the government wants to take land off agriculture. All of the actions are aimed at discouraging farmers. The cost of fertilizer is high; cost machinery is also high, which force farmers to leave agriculture.
The Minister of Irrigation claimed that the space used for agriculture should be reduced. He said one hectare will be taken away from agriculture. At present, every farmer is faced with issues. Sadly, the new generation distance themselves from agriculture. The government has a master plan to buy lands from farmers and sell it to the private sector.
During this year, nearly 250,000 farmers have left paddy cultivation. In fact they were forced to leave agriculture by the government; through not supporting them in their efforts. Water was not provided to farmers and their issues are ignored. Each year a lot of rice is imported. The government is lying; they have no intention of developing the agriculture sector.

?: Efficiency in agriculture seems very low; while nearly 30 per cent of the labour force is in agriculture. The contribution from agriculture to the GDP is only 10 per cent. What are your views on that?

A: It is true that agriculture is very labour intensive in comparison to production. As you said, we too have identified that as a concern. However, the issue is the government’s negative attitude towards agriculture. The government had claimed that there can be excess production of paddy; and the labour involved in paddy is of no use. However, it should be noted that the job of the government is to make ways for the excess produced to be exported and develop the agriculture sector instead of having a negative attitude towards it. People have a lot of respect for farming and it is affiliated with age old culture. The government seems to have totally forgotten it. We cannot forget the culture that is affiliated with farming.
The government needs to provide farmers with new technology so that the productivity of the agriculture sector can be increased. The productivity in the agriculture sector is very low in Sri Lanka in comparison to many other countries, the harvest per square metre is very little and that can be increased by introducing new types of seeds as well as new farming techniques. However, such actions were not taken by the government. There has to be an attitudinal change in the leaders regarding agriculture.

?: There are talks about using information technology to develop the agriculture sector. What are your thoughts on it?
A: As we see there are a lot of ways in which information technology can be used to develop the agriculture sector. However, as I told you the major issue is with the government attitude. As long as the government does not have a positive attitude towards the agriculture sector, no progress will take place. Not only information technology, there are many latest technologies that can be used to develop agriculture, but it requires effort from the government.

“Ours is a country battered by imperialism” – Tilvin Silva

tilvin_silva_1The JVP is for socialism with modern Sri Lankan characteristics

Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) General Secretary Tilvin Silva, in an interview with the Dailymirror , said his party opts for socialism with modern characteristics rather than deviating from the party’s original principles, policies and objectives.  Excerpts of the interview:

The JVP, played a role in the 100-day government by participating in the deliberations of the National Executive Council (NEC). What would be the JVP role after the General Election?

At the January 8th Presidential Election, our focus was to defeat the authoritarian family rule of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa.  A large force rallied behind the move to unseat him. We also made a contribution to it. More than Mr. Rajapaksa as an individual, we defeated his family rule. During the 100-day programme, we were instrumental in establishing certain things for establishing good governance and strengthening democracy.  Now our challenge lies is to make sure that the people’s aspirations are upheld. It can be done only by the increase of JVP’s parliamentary representation.

After been unseated, how do you see Mr. Rajapaksa’s  re-entry into active politics?

It is not the mere question of Mr. Rajapaksa getting nomination. Along with him, his aides, charged with various allegations, have joined him  The same forces that were rejected by people at the January 8th election, are now raising their heads.

But, the enactment of the 19th Amendment does not leave room for authoritarian rule in the country again. What are your views?

We are certain that Mr. Rajapaksa alone cannot form a government after the next election. His comeback [to politics] need not be feared because he is not with executive presidential powers but a person unseated from office. He has not only lost the party chairmanship, but  contesting from a district which is not his home base. It is similar to an Inspector General of Police (IGP) trying to be an Officer-in- Charge (OIC) of a police station.  We can contribute towards his defeat.

Do you regret supporting President [ Maithripala Sirisena] at the presidential election, at least indirectly?

We are satisfied with what we did. We asked for the defeat of the family rule and it happened. We also asked people not to  shop at   one place because we could not give quality assurance for what was available for sale at other places. We defeated Mr. Rajapaksa’s regime, a step taken to strengthen democracy. If there are attempts to scuttle the process, we will intervene.

Is the enactment of the 19th Amendment the only gain of the 100- day government?

Along with it, there were some concessions given to people by way of reducing fuel prices and so on. But, many other promises were not kept. Some steps were taken in allegations of corruption and fraud.   [On such issues], we made our own investigations and lodged complaints. Now, we see cases pending before court. Earlier, there was only political rhetoric about fraud and corruption.

In your view, what is the reason for that?

The UNP leaders and the President have second thought on taking action regarding certain cases. The President did not press for action on certain cases involving his own party men fearing it would be an obstacle to consolidate his position in the party.  The UNP also ruined its name; the Central Bank bond scam and their interference with the Sri Lanka Customs.

In the event, the JVP gains parliamentary majority to form a government, what would be your priorities?

We will consolidate democracy and good governance in conformity with public aspirations. Immediate attention is needed to address them. We need to identify strategies in a  manufacturing economy.   Our natural resources should also be utilised and local entrepreneurs and those in agriculture given more opportunities.

In the education sector, a serious crisis is looming. Annually, 360,000 children are enrolled in secondary education schools, but 60,000 drop out before Grade 11. Only 25,000 students get the chance for university education. It means thousands of students do not have access to higher studies and our education system does not create opportunities for them. We have to create an education system with broadened opportunities for children and linked to the needs of economic development.  Unemployment is a serious problem in our country. Annually, 300,000 persons enter the job market. But, both the government and private sectors can accommodate only 65,000. The increase of unemployed youth leads to various social problems..   Housing is yet another problem.   Our transport sector is not up to the mark. People waste time on roads travelling. The issue has to be addressed. An increase in crime is also visible in the country. Police reports say that instances of rape are reported every three hours. We have as many as 100,000 drug addicts. It means one drug addict (kudu karaya) for every 50 households.  We have learned that 23 school children have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and that fourteen persons commit suicide every day.  Depression and despondency prevail in society.

There is a wide perception that the JVP has deviated from its founding policies and principles, and instead, has chosen issue- based political approaches. What is your response?

Our political opponents, particularly those who defected from our party, raise this matter from time to time. But, none of them has gained by being engaged in politics different to ours.  Politically, they have vanished into thin air. The JVP has not deviated from its founding idea of creating a ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’. But we cannot achieve that target without public support.  The JVP should evolve in the present context, but it does not mean a change of policies.   A political system remaining   static will get outdated with the passage of time. Today, the geo-political situation has changed.  In the past, armed struggles were launched to capture power. Today, it is not applicable and the JVP believes it should achieve political power through democratic means.

What do you mean by ‘socialist society with modern characteristics’?

To a great extent, we can learn about socialism from its adoption in Soviet Russia. Then, there is socialism of Cuba and China.  Certain characteristics of socialism were based upon the degree of advancement in science and technology at a given time. So, we need a modern form of socialism conjoined with the latest advancements. Socialism does not advocate the replacement of tractors with buffaloes in agriculture. It advocates production growth through modernity in all sectors.

Does it mean you are for socialism with Sri Lankan characteristics?

Of course, we have to adapt it our culture. Ours is a country still battered by imperialism; but, we have patriotic feelings and sentiments . We have to preserve our cultural values, ethos and strengthen family and social links that had languished  under capitalism

Listen to your conscience – Comrade Anura Dissanayake

anura-dissanayake-img_8582_fmtThe JVP supported the election of the current president with hopes of a great change in the country. What are your thoughts on the progress so far? Have the promises been fulfilled?

Our primary aim was to topple the Rajapaksa regime. At that time we explained to the people that the Rajapaksa regime should be removed from power, but we cannot guarantee whether the new government will fulfill their promises. We wanted the people to organise themselves to safeguard their rights. The current government is a temporary one, because what usually happens is that soon after a presidential election is held, there is a general election. This time the agreement was that within 100 days of the presidential election, the general election was to be held. That was because there were major areas to sort out before holding the elections; that is constitutional amendments, legal amendments, punish those who had committed fraud and corruption as well as crimes, and relief for the people in terms of reduction in prices. Those were the main responsibilities that this government had to perform. But when we look at the progress of this government since January 8, they have failed to fulfill the promises that they made to the people.

If you look at the current cabinet, there are more ministers than promised and most of them are those who worked against President Sirisena, what are your thoughts on this?

On January 8, the people defeated not President Mahinda Rajapaksa, actually more than him, the people were disappointed with his Cabinet ministers and MPs. Usually the people are more displeased with the leader and less with the government, however, this time it was the other way around. The mandate that President Sirisena received on January 8, was not against President Mahinda Rajapaksa alone, but also against his Cabinet ministers, deputies and MPs, especially their actions and involvement in crimes, corruption and fraud. They were involved in illegal alcohol and ethanol businesses as well as treasure hunting. It was against all of this that the people gave their mandate to President Sirisena.

President Sirisena should understand why the people elected him as the leader of this country, their hopes and aspirations. What we see today is the same old game as before, nothing has changed. President Mahinda Rajapaksa during his time created a culture of providing incentives and benefits to individuals to maintain his power. The best example is that even close to the presidential elections he took the general secretary of the UNP and gave him a ministerial post just for 20 days. It was against all of this that President Sirisena was elected. But the incumbent president too, in order to maintain his power is doing the same thing as there is a power struggle within the SLFP between two sections-Mahinda group and Maithripala group. In order to strengthen the Maithripala group he has used his presidential powers. That is why we find more and more ministers being sworn in. We have seen that he does not hesitate to give ministerial posts to whoever supports him in Parliament.

He has bestowed Senior Advisor positions to former Prime Ministers D M Jayaratne and Ratnasiri Wickramanayake of the previous regime. Former Prime Minister D M Jayaratne has been accused of helping those involved in the drug business. We can see that Maithripala Sirisena is following in the footsteps of Mahinda Rajapaksa where he is granting positions, ministerial posts and other benefits in order to maintain his power. This is totally against the mandate that the people gave him on January 8.

During the presidential elections there was a lot of talk about mega deals and corruption, however nothing has been proven either in Sri Lanka or abroad. What are your thoughts?

It takes time to investigate assets and funds that may be abroad. However, there are many misdeeds that we can see right in front of us, even investigations into those activities have been halted. There are many reasons for this, from one side Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that those he has to investigate and punish are members of the SLFP central committee, SLFP district leaders and also his ministers. Due to the division and struggles he faces within his party, he thinks that if he punishes these people then he will lose his power. Everyone knows that Maithripala Sirisena is hindering the investigations.

Then on the other hand Ranil Wickremesinghe is thinking that a division has to be created within the SLFP. For that division to happen, the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp should be strong. Therefore, if he goes to punish anyone, the Mahinda Rajapaksa camp will be weakened. Even Ranil Wickremesinghe is thinking in order to break the SLFP, the people who are supporting Mahinda Rajapaksa should not be punished.

Mahinda Rajapaksa too is hindering the investigation to safeguard his family, those who are close to him and himself. They have been able to disrupt the activities of the Commission to Investigate Allegations of Bribery or Corruption. The previous government appointed all three commissioners and with one of the commissioners submitting his resignation, the Commission is now rendered inactive.

The Financial Crimes Investigations Division was formed to investigate financial fraud. The primary aim of Mahinda Rajapaksa now is to destroy that division. His supporters have threatened everyone that is from the DIG to the police constable in that division, and then they have also filed cases in the Supreme Courts to stop the investigations. In this manner they have done many things to hinder the continuation of the investigations.

The main reason for this is that many of the allegations are made against the Rajapaksa family. If you conduct investigations into the numerous deals such as the purchase of MIGs, the filling of land to build a museum that is dedicated to his parents and the money spent by certain institutions, you will find that the person responsible is Gotabaya Rajapaksa. Investigations into Divi Neguma will lead you to Basil Rajapaksa. The forcible use of the transmitting towers of state television and other resources by CSN and securing exclusive rights to broadcast cricket matches from cricket authorities as well as the murder of a leading rugby player will lead you to Yoshitha Rajapaksa. Then the Securities and Exchange Commission has provided large sums of money to Tharunyata Hetak to educate the youth on the stock exchange, but those funds have been used for other purposes. The special lights from Kettaramaya have been removed and taken for the Kandy Night Races and have not been returned. Investigations into all of this will lead to Namal Rajapaksa. Investigations into who gave money to the LTTE will lead to Mahinda Rajapaksa. Shiranthi Rajapaksa is responsible for the misuse of funds of the Siriliya Foundation and also for the purchase of a number of houses in Colombo. Investigations into the deals of SriLankan Airlines will lead you to Shiranthi Rajapaksa’s brother, Nishantha Wickremasinghe. Investigations on to who provided arms to the rebels in Ukraine will lead you to one of Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cousins. In this manner the entire family is under investigations for various crimes.

There are also investigations against his officials such as his Secretary Lalith Weeratunga for the misuse of 600 million rupees of the TRCSL. Then, Gamini Senarath, his Chief of Staff, Central Bank Governor as well as the Secretary to the Treasury are all under investigation. The Road Development Authority was under the direct purview of the former President, its Chairman R W R Premasiri is also under investigation. Chairmen of the various public institutions such as the Sri Lanka Ports Authority who were very close to the former President are all under investigation. Many investigations are being held into the actions of his ministers as well.

There is now a push to halt these investigations. This is due to the fact that with the knowledge of Mahinda Rajapaksa, this process is being hindered and Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe are not doing anything in order to secure their power.

After this government came into power the people are actually feeling that it is more about revenge and vengeance than actually doing anything else. The economy is not moving, the prices of essential items have gone up and there is no relief to the people. When you look at it there is no benefit to the people. What are your thoughts on this?

This government has no right to engage in economic planning or direct any economic activity. Ranil Wickremesinghe does not have the mandate to be the prime minister of the country. This cabinet does not have a mandate to govern the country. The opposition leader has no right to hold that post. There has been no announcement in Parliament as to who the opposition leader is. As such this government has neither a mandate nor a right to govern this country. This transitory period that was assigned to this government was for a very short time.

The UNP has always been seen as experts on the economy, where their policies drive the economy forward. They are now proving in this very short period of time that they have not been able to direct the economy in a new direction. I saw Ranil Wickremesinghe saying on stage that everyone’s pockets are filled with money. But no ones pockets are filled with money. The rupee has depreciated greatly against the dollar, to a level that has never been seen before.

The controversial bond issue by the Central Bank has created a massive instability in the country.Therefore, within this short period of time the Maithri-Ranil coalition has proven that they do not have any direction in terms of the economy. We also feel that they do not have the right to continue with governing the country.

What is the stance of the JVP?

There is a form of anarchy in our country where no one answers or is responsible to anyone. Currently in parliament we cannot pass an important resolution or even discuss anything important. The Parliament has become a place to deliver the sympathy notice of members who have passed away. The Parliament met four days last month and the only matters that were discussed were the passing away of a member. To overcome this sad state, the people need to be given the opportunity to select a new parliament.

According to the mandate given on January 8, President Sirisena swore-in his new cabinet only for 100 days. Even the prime minister said he has oxygen only till April 23. At the numerous discussions we had with the president, we stressed that this government has no right to continue any further. Due to the power struggle within the SLFP, President Maithripala is thinking in order to secure his position and also the leadership of the SLFP, he needs to weaken the Mahinda Rajapaksa group. There is no other reason for this parliament to be dragged on in this manner. That is the reason for the state of this country right now. The general election should be held immediately so that people have a chance to elect a new government. We are not the only ones who are saying this, even the Speaker was compelled to state that this parliament cannot continue in this manner.

Currently the government is UNP and SLFP and the opposition is SLFP, there is no difference between the two. What is the alternative JVP or Mahinda Rajapaksa?

Mahinda Rajapaksa will never be an alternative for the people. Why should he be the alternative? Mahinda Rajapaksa wants to come back not to take action against those who have committed crimes, but to protect them. Why should the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime that has been accused of murder come back? The Rajapaksa regime isolated this country internationally. How can Rajapaksa be an alternative when he funded those who created problems before the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim people? All democratic institutions were crippled. All power was centralised within his family and supporters. Then how can such a person be an alternative to our country? If Mahinda Rajapaksa comes back it will result in a government that commits crimes, fraud, international isolation, disharmony between communities and the end of democracy, so then why should such a person be an alternative? Therefore, Rajapaksa will never be an alternative in Sri Lankan politics and he should not be brought back into politics, ever.

The situation within the parliament is ridiculous. According to the traditions of the parliament there is the party in power and the opposition. Parliament is the centre of democracy. There is a government and an opposition. And whatever proposals the government brings forth, the opposition has to critically analyse it and debate it so that these can be brought forward to the people. But what has happened today?

The Central Committee of the SLFP has decided that a certain number of people should sit on the government side and the others in the opposition. The treasurer of the SLFP is a minister of the government, the deputy chairman of the SLFP is a minister in the government, then another deputy chairman of the SLFP, Rajitha Senaratne is a minister in the government. The senior deputy chairman of the SLFP Nimal Siripala De Silva is the leader of the opposition. This is like the playhouse we had during our childhood where we decide who is the police and who are the thieves, who should hide and who should not. Today, parliament has also become like that. The SLFP Central Committee has decided that some of its members sit in the government and the others will be in the opposition. Then when one side proposes, the other side will question. So it is a ridiculous situation. What this country needs is not this ridiculous governance. What is Mahinda Rajapaksa’s political stance? What is Ranil Wickremesinghe’s position?

This country has to completely move away from this immoral and detrimental political journey. The country needs something completely new. We need not just the change of parties or people, but a complete policy change. A complete change in the political culture and a change in the economy, international relations, strengthen ties between Sinhala, Tamil, Muslims and all communities in the country where the rights of the people are protected, a change where basic values and morals are respected. That is the type of change that we need. There needs to be an alternative not only in parliament, but also outside and that is the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna. The JVP provides an alternative to bring forth a new system and complete change for the country.

The people were seeking for a great change. But do the people have a better life now?

First and foremost bringing down the Rajapaksa regime was a great achievement in Sri Lankan politics. There was a time that people were scared to speak to each other over the phone. People were scared to discuss their thoughts out in the open. If it were a businessman, they would be scared to speak to another person from a different political party Rajapaksa had the entire country enveloped in a culture of fear because the only way to survive was by instilling fear. Therefore, the fall of the Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka is seen as the advent of a period of freedom for everyone where there is a space to express ones thoughts freely. That space is very important, but the aspirations of the people of this country was not only to have that space, they also wanted employment, housing, access to good health services, education, efficient transport system and hope for their lives. What has happened now is that this government has failed to bring that hope to the people. We should never regret that the Rajapaksa regime was removed. That was extremely necessary, because now we have the true sense of freedom. The responsibility to take the country forward is not in the hands of Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe, but the forward thinking political forces that understand the aspirations of the people, civil society organisations should get together because that is what the people really want.

Maithripala Sirisena or Ranil Wickremesinghe cannot fulfill the wishes of the people. It is not only a matter of the individual though they have made this problem even greater. By removing Mahinda Rajapaksa if we put Ranil Wickremesinghe or Maithripala Sirisena it will be the same. In the past how many times have we played this game? The entire system has to change; it is not enough to merely change only the individual. Without changing the system we cannot seek a solution.

Within a very short period of time, this Ranil-Maithri coalition has proven that they too journey on the same path as of Mahinda Rajapaksa. It is for this reason that the people have become disappointed with them. Look at the way they are behaving with an election approaching. If they are behaving in this manner now, then how will they behave if they are in power for a longer time frame? In this short period of time the deals that they have made, appointments given to relations and friends as well as political appointments to state institutions are considerable.

The past few months should be a litmus test for the rule of Ranil and Maithri and they have failed that test. We should not allow them to govern this country any further.

We invite the people to move away from these traditional and old-style political parties and governing methods because the country needs a new and modern thinking political force. The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna is ready to be that force. But we cannot do this alone. We invite artistes,  industrialists, businessmen, entrepreneurs, trade union representatives, farmers, fishermen, professionals and members of the media and everyone to join us and form this people’s force. Without this kind of force coming together, we will not be able to find a solution or stop the continuous destruction. Our thinking is that there has to be a total change in the system.

You are also a member of the National Executive Council?

The JVP proposed the National Executive Council as the thinking was to hold the general elections after 100 days of the presidential elections. There were many resolutions that had to be passed during this 100-day period; constitutional amendments, legal amendments, punishing those who have committed fraud and corruption, and relief for people with the reduction of prices. Those are the four main areas that were the responsibility of the National Executive Council. The objectives, responsibilities and even the name for the council were proposed by the JVP. It was never part of the government machinery. The government consists of the president, prime minister, Cabinet ministers and the party in power. The Council was completely out of the government machinery. The responsibilities assigned to it were clearly defined, it had a clear time-frame.

The National Executive Council has fulfilled its duties within the specified time-frame therefore, it is no longer functioning. After April 19, the Council has not met. We feel that it is no longer necessary to have the National Executive Council because the 19th Amendment has been passed, the responsibility of reforming the electoral system has been taken over by the president, investigations into fraud and corruption are taking place, the formulation of the right for information act has been completed by the Council and passing that is now the responsibility of the parliament. The National Executive Council has completed its functions and has been inactive for about one month now.

What are your thoughts on the 19th and 20th Amendments?

The 19th Amendment could have become a greater amendment than it is now. However, we were unable to make this an amendment that would increase the democratic right of the people as expected by them. There are some reasons for that; in our country the main reason for the decline in politics is the crossovers by individuals for personal gain, MPs and ministers can be bought for favours, money and portfolios. They have become similar to items that you purchase at the shops. To prevent this we proposed a very important amendment where if a person crosses over they cannot keep their ministerial post. This proposal was submitted to parliament, but we were not able to proceed any further. Why? Because the proposal has to be passed by the people who are doing the exact same thing. They will not pass an amendment that will punish them. As such this was removed from the 19th Amendment. We were able to clip the powers of the executive presidency. With a 2/3 majority our proposal was to remove all the powers of the executive presidency. But, for Maithripala Sirisena only, they kept certain powers intact. Due to the intentions of Maithripala Sirisena, Ranil Wickremesinghe and Mahinda Rajapaksa the 19th Amendment to the constitution could not reach its full potential.

If we look at the 20th Amendment, no one has a clear idea as to what it is. There was a discussion on the change in the election system. But what was approved at the cabinet meeting was not what we had discussed. Then something completely different has been gazetted. The electoral system is not the one that we discussed and it does not include any of our proposals. What is this 20th Amendment? Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that through this amendment he can weaken Mahinda Rajapaksa. By basing this system on electorates, if a current SLFP organiser resigns and contest from the Mahinda group he will have a very slim chance of winning. As such Maithripala Sirisena is thinking that through the electoral system he can minimise the number of people leaving the SLFP. That is the real intention behind this.

Maithripala Sirisena has not been very vocal regarding the changes in the 19th Amendment, because it is with this amendment that his powers are reduced. He has not yet said a word regarding the various bills that need to be passed. He is not interested in taking any action against those who murdered Lasantha Wickrematunga, those who assaulted Poddala Jayantha, kidnappers, those who killed people during protests at Rathupaswala, Chilaw and Katunayake, the murderers of Raviraj and Joseph Pararajasingham, Lalith Kumar Weeraraj and Kuhan Muruganathan, the perpetrators are walking freely. Maithripala Sirisena has no interest in taking any action. He has formulated an electoral system that goes beyond all of that. This is for nothing else, but to strengthen his position within the SLFP because there is a division in the party. There is an ulterior motive to bring in this new electoral system.

Currently we have a multi party political culture in Sri Lanka, but through this new amendment it will become a bi-party political situation. Through this new electoral system all those who are supporting other political parties will be forced to support one of the two main parties only. We ask the question, don’t we have the right to enter the parliament? What does real democracy mean? It means that there is more space for people who have different views to express themselves.

We have Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities in our country, we are yet to build good relationships between the two communities. Is it right to take away their opportunity for representation? The proposed electoral system has been designed to destroy this country. We have discussed with many parties and our stance is that the 20th Amendment that has been gazetted should be withdrawn immediately. Discussions should be initiated to implement a proper electoral system.

It seems like at the end of the day due to personal interests of politicians, it is the people that are to suffer. As a politician what can you say about this?

The people of this country should not feel disheartened. According to the political traditions of this country, the people vote for their representative and then the people merely become spectators. The people of this country have to stop being spectators. You too have to become an active member of this process. Without that, there is no sense of being disheartened or sad by the prevailing situation. The people have to be a partner in this process. If the people do not become active, then they will continue to be part of a culture where voters are bought with roof sheets, meals, alcohol or bribes. To change this situation the people have to become partners and they have to be active members of the process that will lead to a new political culture. Do not be disheartened, be active partners of this process.

The JVP has asked for suggestions from the people. What will be the position of the JVP for the general elections?

We have made many plans. In order to take our vision and thinking to the people, we have formulated a strong propaganda campaign. Many experts in this field have volunteered to help us. Even your organisation helped us in 2004. We have strengthened our propaganda machinery. Our ability to organise has always been our strength. We don’t have as much resources as other parties, but we have always had our organisational strength. We have completed the formulation of our election campaign. We are in the process of preparing a strong candidate list. Without telling the people what is happening now or complaining, we are talking about where we should take the country in the future, the direction and what frameworks and activities that need to be formulated in order to take the country forward. We are developing a national plan. The people have provided us with many ideas and suggestions. Therefore, we hope to present a strong candidate list and provide a clear vision and national plan for the country, for the forthcoming elections.

The JVP will contest on its own.

The JVP was at one time a very strong party. However in the past few years the party was in the background. How are you going to regain that strength again?

Soon after the end of the war when the victory was centralised around the Rajapaksas, all other political parties got caught to a massive tsunami. This affected not only the JVP, but other parties too. We should never underestimate or belittle the end of the war because it gave the much desired peace and freedom to the people of this country, both mentally and physically. This gave the Rajapaksas great strength, but in turn the other political parties faced a time of uncertainty.

Additionally there were incidents within the party that resulted in our supporters becoming disheartened with the JVP. But we believe that we have faced all these challenges, because any political movement never journeys on a straight line like an arrow. There will always be difficult times and differences in opinions. We are hopeful and optimistic that the JVP will become a strong movement of the people and we will be able to win. The strength of the JVP can never be diminished or underestimated. We may not have crowned ourselves with various accolades during the Rajapaksa regime, but we took the first step to remove them from power. We believe that we have to come into power through a broad people’s front and we are taking the first step in the upcoming general election. The JVP can be likened to an iceberg submerged in the ocean, more than what you see on the surface the hidden part is much more larger and greater. The JVP is not a movement that will be fazed by small winds or storms.

What are your thoughts for the business community as well as on international relations?

We believe that the prevailing mechanisms have to change. In Business Studies we learn about custom duties, but in the country we see evasion of custom duties. Then we learn about giving a pay slip for the salary to employees. But what is happening is that with the salary slip we give another payment in an envelope. We also learn about maintaining a cashbook, but today we maintain a second cashbook as well. The businesses we have today are not those that we learn about in our studies. Every business has been compelled to get involved in black activities to ensure their survival. No one can sustain their businesses by paying taxes or paying their staff in the proper manner.

We have to change this situation. We have a vision and a target and we are discussing this with the private sector of this country. We are talking with the construction industry on the target that we want to achieve in this industry by 2025. We tell them to invest in construction and engage in  construction activities without any fear. Then, to the dairy industry too we have explained our target for 2025. In this manner we have communicated our target for a 10-15 year period. We are telling investors that they can invest without any fear or doubt. Today no one knows the direction or target of the government and the economy is floating in one place. We are proposing an economy with a clear direction.

Currently a businessman will engage in a business after making a vow in Kataragama, they will smash a coconut and also look at the auspicious time because they want to ensure that their venture will be a success. We will create an environment that is secure and stable for investors. That is the responsibility of the government.

Sri Lanka is not a country with a large source of natural resources. Our main resource is our land and the population density per one square kilometre is 343. Even in China, the country with the world’s largest population, the population density is 244 and in Australia it is three. But in Sri Lanka within a very small land mass there is a large population density. Our greatest resource is our people, we are not a country that has minerals or oil. We have a civilization that spans more than 2,600 years and especially with the introduction of Buddhism we had a good education system that was linked to the temples. We have to develop our human resources because they will then actively participate in the economy and thereby increase the production capacity of this country.

In 1978 Sri Lanka’s share in the global market was 0.5 today our share is 0.045. Our global market share has fallen by tenfolds. To import our requirements we need 20 billion dollars, what we receive from our exports is ten billion dollars. From where are we going to find that remaining ten billion dollars? We cannot continue in this manner. We have to regain our market share in the world economy. We have to decide what is the share we want in production, services, industry, agriculture and other sectors. We have to have a target and direction. We aim to bring down the trade balance to zero within a period of ten years. We have to find a new sector where we can earn the additional ten billion dollars. It is within that ten billion dollars that we will find new investment and the creation of new jobs. 100,000 graduates come out every year to join the government service. We have a clear-cut plan and vision to increase the market share of Sri Lanka in the world market.We had extensive discussions on this. We have taken into account and studied the many strategies used by countries all over the world. We have developed a very modern and practical economic policy that will ensure Sri Lanka’s participation in the global economy where we will be able to increase our global market share. We are ready to do that.

Many people think that the JVP is a very traditional political party. We are not traditional. It is the current rulers who are traditional. They are not interested in developing new ideas or concepts or even looking at new ways of driving the economy. We have an economic policy that will take this country forward with the rest of the world.

If we look at international relations, we know that in the world there is a power struggle. In 1990, before the socialist movement fell there were two opposing sides-the soviet led bloc and the US led bloc. After the 1990s, everyone started gravitating towards the USA and it became a US centralized global order. Today again there is a change where there are discussions to expel Russia from WTO as well as to impose sanctions on them. In Asia, China is seen as the new economic force. The thinking is that China will become the global economic leader by 2020. Our neighbour India is a strong player in the service sector of the global economy.

There are new camps in the global environment, as such as a political movement if we do not join hands with the rest of the world, we will have to live in isolation, but we cannot do so. This is not the Stone Age. We are proposing that Sri Lanka has to have good relations with all countries. We are in need of a good foreign policy. It should not be a policy of bribes, for example what happened was China was given Norochcholai to build, in the same manner in fear of India getting angry we gave them Sampur to build, then Hambantota Port was given to China and to India, KKS port; to China we gave the Matara-Beliatta railway to build, to India the Omanthai-KKS railway. This is not the kind of foreign relations that we want.

As a sovereign nation we need a policy that will safeguard our identity and where we can have pride in ourselves as a country. The JVP has a vision in that direction. We have a vision and to make it a success we need the support of the experts in this field. Some people think that the politician has to do everything. No, the politician has a vision, but to make it a reality he needs the assistance of the professionals of the respective fields.

Final thoughts?

The SLFP governs the country in one way and the UNP in another. The SLFP takes members of the UNP and governs the country. Then the UNP takes SLFPers and governs the country. Today both are governing the country together. During the past 67 years these two parties have governed this country in every possible manner. But what is the result? 0.5 percent of the country are drug addicts, that is for every 50 families there is a family member who is a drug addict. 0.5 percent of the population is in jail; that is for every 50 families there is a family member in jail. There are eight rapes  recorded per day in this country. That is every three hours there is a woman being raped somewhere in the country. And they say there are more than what is reported. 108 people die each day due to heart disease. During the past 161 days 1,200 people have been killed due to road accidents. That is about eight people are killed per day due to motor vehicle accidents. Every year 300,000 people join the employment queue, the government sector recruits only 30,000, then last year in the private sector only 35,000 jobs were created. Our economy can only absorb 65,000 from the 300,000 who seek employment.

In our country there are 500 marriages per day in the same manner there are 200 divorces per day. In a year 72,000 marriages fail. Our country is an Asian country where husbands protect the wives and the wives are loyal to their husbands. What has happened to this country?

When there are 180,000 marriages per year they all need housing as well. But only 60,000 will inherit houses, the remainder need new houses. What is the policy? 320,000 enter Grade 1, but eventually only 25,000 go through for tertiary education. Then what happens to the remaining children? In our country, five million people enter the local hospitals from a population for 20 million. About 1,000 people enter the hospital due to animal bites. The past 67 years of rule by these two political parties have left us with this balance sheet. This shows that they are incapable and do not love the people. Their rule is all centered around their families and their supporters.

We want the people to think deeply about the economic and social situation in the country where a new economic direction that will bring benefits to everyone will be implemented and a new system has to be implemented. Listen to your conscience.

We guarantee that we will be able to bring the quality of life that everyone needs by bringing in a new thinking and direction. Macau has the longest life expectancy of 89 years. In Sri Lanka it is 76, we guarantee that if we are given the chance to rule this country for ten years then we will increase life expectancy by five years. We want to increase the years that a person will lives. We will work towards a better future for Sri Lanka.

Anusha David speaks to Anura Kumara Dissanayake

(www.life.lk) Anusha David spotlights the hottest styles and statements in and around Sri Lanka – from political leaders to celebrity CEOs, masters of the game to fashion icons and stars of the silver screen and stage. Here are society’s leaders talking about the determination, vision, smarts, competence and professionalism. Today, she speaks to Anura Kumara Dissanayake.

“The JVP totally rejects violence. Twice we took up arms, however in the future we assure the people of Sri Lanka that this will never ever reoccur. We assure the people that the only way we will come into power is by winning the trust of the people. We assure the people of Sri Lanka that we will never ever take to arms again. During the last 25 years, the JVP was subjected to violence on numerous occasions, however we never resorted to violence and I assure the public that they need not have any fear, the JVP has rejected violence forever”!

This is the assurance given by the JVP’s leader Dissanayaka Mudiyanselage Anura Kumara Dissanayaka, one of the most charismatic and unusual politicians ever to enter the local political arena. Dissanayake was named the leader of JVP at the 7th national convention of the party held on 2 February 2014.

Born in Thambuthegama, in the Anuradhapura district, his father was a labourer, his mother a housewife. He has one sister. Today he is married and is the proud father of two children. His involvement with the JVP began during his school days. He was the first student from the college to be chosen for admission into university. He made his entry into politics with his participation in student political activities associated with the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1988 at the Peradeniya University at a time of great ferment in student politics. He later moved to the University of Kelaniya where he graduated with a B.Sc degree in physics. Subsequent to the violent period of 1988-89 when student activists were under great threat, his involvement in youth politics intensified following the changes that took place in 1994, and the defeat of the UNP Government after 17 years.

“Looking back, I was never interested in getting a job and settling down. Politics was my passion. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to transform and improve our society”.

Here are some excerpts off the interview with him.

Tell us about your childhood.

I was born in Thambuthegama, Anuradhapura district. My father was a labourer. My mother was a housewife. As a child, I faced the same problems that many people in our country continue to face today. My involvement with the JVP began during my school days. I went to Thambuthegama Gamini Maha Vidyalaya. I sat for my ‘O’ Levels here. Afterwards, I sat for my ‘A’ levels at Thambuthegama Central College. I was the first student from the college to be chosen for admission into university. I first attended Peradeniya University but I – along with many other students – left after three months due to threats. After a year, I was able to secure a transfer to Kelaniya University.

Looking back, I was never interested in getting a job and settling down. Politics was my passion. To be honest, I’ve always wanted to transform and improve our society.

Tell us about your parents.

My parents were never happy about my involvement in politics. But they always allowed me to make my own decisions. However, after joining politics, my decisions were in line with the interests of the party.

What is the JVP’s position on the 20th Amendment?

I think the electoral system of this country needs to be changed, but the 20th Amendment is not the solution. The manner in which the 20th Amendment was broached with the other parties was wrong. Why I say this is wrong is because what was discussed with us was one thing, what was proposed to the Cabinet was something else, and finally what was gazetted was yet again different. Therefore, I say the 20th Amendment was not discussed with us. Secondly, the new system too has a lot of technical flaws; some of the candidates themselves don’t have the vote, yet they are coming forward as nominees. There are also independent candidates who if they win can become Ministers, however there is a problem as to what District he or she represents. These are just some of the technical problems that will arise through this new system. From a political angle, as per the new system, it is designed in such a manner that only the two main parties have power. The other parties don’t stand a chance unless they align themselves to these two main parties. In short, we still have the two-party scenario. There are several minorities and minority parties in this country and they too have to be represented in parliament, however the new system does not allow this. Because of this, the JVP does not agree with the 20th Amendment.

How will the JVP approach the issue of the missing and disappeared during the Bheeshanaya period and the war?

The 1988 / 89 period was a tremendous shock to us, and we can’t imagine how this happened. We admit that that several atrocities took place, things which should never have happened, happened. We admit that. However, the UNP, which was in power at that time, postponed parliamentary elections by way of a referendum. Had elections been held, a fair number of JVP’ers would have entered parliament legitimately and the 88 / 89 disaster would not have occurred. The UNP proscribed the JVP saying that we were responsible for Black July in ‘83. However that was 100 percent wrong as the perpetrators of Black July were J.R Jayawardene and his cronies and their thugs. We were operating as a democratic party until then, however after being proscribed we were compelled to take to arms to fight for our rights. Certain mistakes were committed by the JVP during that period while we were fighting for the rights of the people. For this we are truly sorry. It is now 25 years since this disastrous period, we have learnt several bitter lessons from it and we pledge that such incidents will never take place at the hands of the JVP.

What do you think of the Police inaction that has prevailed in this country?

Unfortunately we had reached a state where law and order had virtually ceased in this country. People had no recourse to justice. The formulation of fiscal policies, enactment of law and order is in the hands of parliament, the duties enacted by Kachcheris no longer take place, places of religious worship which were sacred and upheld basic human dignity and the correct norms of behaviour have failed in their duties. In such a scenario, we cannot only hold the forces to account, it’s the fault of the system. Marx said that people’s good qualities have been put into iced water and destroyed. That is the state our country is in today. Even if you try to put your child into a school, you can’t do it without bribing the officials. It is no use making laws, if you cannot enforce them. During elections, and at other times, the police behaved as per the norms set down according to the government in power at the time.

What do you think of President Maithripala Sirisena and his performance thus far?

The elections held on 8th January 2015, which saw the downfall of MR and his government, gave rise to a lot of hope amongst the public. However, these hopes and aspirations of the public have not been fulfilled by President Sirisena and his government. Both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have purposely delayed to bring the wrong doers to account. The 19th Amendment where the Presidential powers were going to be curtailed also has not happened. The economic burdens laid on the people by the Rajapakse government have not been alleviated, despite promises made. The promised Right to Information Act still has not been enforced; the promised Audit Commission and the law to regulate the behaviour of Ministers have yet to be tabled. None of the people’s hopes have been fulfilled by the President Sirisena – Ranil Wickremasinghe government. The fact that the Rajapakse regime came to an end is good and President Sirisena and his government did the people a service by bringing this about, however that was the beginning and the end of it – they have failed thereafter! Their biggest achievement was defeating MR. Thereafter they have failed in their election promises.

Despite assurances, favouritism and cronyism that goes on – what do you have to say about this?

The sad fact about our country is that the mere changing of leaders does not bring about real change. At the 8th January election, what the JVP said was ‘defeat the Rajapaksa government, however we cannot give any assurances or guarantees regarding the new government’. The people must unite to ensure that election promises and pledges are fulfilled. The problems that prevailed in the country were not solely due to the Rajapaksas and you cannot resolve the problem merely by removing the Rajapaksas; you have to change the system. For 67 years all we have done is change the party and the leader, we haven’t changed the system. When President Chandrika Bandaranayake was first elected the people were hopeful about her, however soon the people realised that she could effect no real change and they got tired of her. Thereafter MR came into power and the same disappointments set in. Similarly, the same hopes were brought into play for the Sirisena – Wickremesinghe regime, but those hopes too were very soon dashed. Why is this repeatedly happening? The reason is that though governments change and leaders change, it is the same system that prevails.

What were President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s biggest mistakes during his second term?

He did not see to or fulfill the needs of the people. He did not try to change the system. Subsequent to the end of the war, MR had the golden opportunity of uniting all of the people of this country, be they Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslims, Burghers and Malays, but he let that opportunity go! All Rajapaksa thought about and spoke about was the fact that he won the war and destroyed the LTTE. He did not look to the future or try to win the peace, in fact even now his thought process is the same – that he won the war, but he has not considered what needs to be done thereafter to keep the peace. His major mistake was that subsequent to May 19th 2009, he failed to change and bring about the change that was required.

Has the JVP definitively renounced armed struggle?

Twice we took up arms. However in the future we assure the people of Sri Lanka that this will never ever reoccur, not just here in Sri Lanka but in the world, as with the technology available now, as well as the expertise acquired by today’s armies, people all over the world reject violence. The JVP totally rejects violence. We assure the people that the only way we will come into power is by winning the trust of the people. We assure the people of Sri Lanka that we will never ever take to arms again. During the last 25 years, the JVP was subjected to violence on numerous occasions, however we never resorted to violence and I assure the public that they need not have any fear, the JVP has rejected violence forever! Since 88 / 89, the JVP has conducted themselves without resorting to violence of any form and we assure the people of Sri Lanka that we never will resort to violence again.

You stated that Sri Lanka needs “a new economic order”. Could you elaborate further?

Sri Lanka needs a new economic policy. The economic policies that have been followed so far have failed the people. There are five million families in our country of which there are 100,000 in jail, which means out of every 50 families, one family has a person in prison. We have over 100,000 heroin addicts in this country, which means one person in every 50 families is a heroin addict. For a day, 14 suicides take place. In fact Sri Lanka has the 4th highest suicide rate in the world. Eight rape cases take place a day in Sri Lanka, which means every three hours a woman or girl is raped in our country. For a day, 500 marriages take place, however 200 divorces also take place on a daily basis. For the past 67 years, we have been promised that our country will be another Singapore, however it has been proven that both the economic policies of the UNP and the SLFP have not benefitted the people of Sri Lanka. What we need is not just an economic policy but a whole new plan for this country, which encompasses everything; the economy is just a part of it. We need to develop our education system and modernize it.

Sri Lanka does not have a lot of natural resources, we don’t have gas, oil and mineral reserves; our greatest asset is our people. If we are to develop our country and bring it on par with other developed countries, we first have to invest in and develop our people. Today we have a total of 360,000 children entering Grade 1. When they get to Grade 10, over 60,000 drop out. That means one in every six children drop out when they reach Grade 10. At the Grade 11 stage – ‘O’ levels, though 300,000 students sit the exam, 140,000 students fail. At the ‘A’ levels, though 160,000 sit the exam, 135,000 fail, which leaves us with a mere 25,000 qualifying to enter university. What is this education system of ours? Today, education lies in the hands of parents. Our intention is to make it the responsibility of the government and to create an educated and enlightened public. In 1978, Sri Lanka’s worth in the World Market was 0.5% . Now our value stands at 0.045 %, which means our value has dropped by ten! We need to improve our standing in the World Market, if not we cannot proceed into the future.

Our former leaders lacked the vision to secure Sri Lanka a place in the World Market. All we have been doing so far is carrying on the legacy left to us by our conquerors, namely exporting tea, rubber and coconut. Subsequently, several replacements for tea have come into the market, thus devaluing tea. Today, we have artificial rubber. As for coconuts, even people in Sri Lanka have an insufficient supply. Our intention is to create a place for Sri Lanka in the World Market for Human Resources and Services. As far as production and manufacturing go, we need to identify specific areas and develop them with the help of the private sector. The government needs to have a vision and set a target and together with the private sector achieve this with the help of foreign investment. The targets have to be set by the government. In the field of construction, where does Sri Lanka want to be in the year 2025? In the field of industry, where do we want to be in the year 2025? Where do we want our milk production to be in the year 2025?

The government sets the targets and we work with the private sector to achieve it. All this time have any of our leaders set the private sector a target to achieve? Today the private sector has no set direction. They proceed without any proper direction from government. Today’s businesses operate outside the law. EPF, ETF is not paid, instead under the table payments are made to get out of paying statutory dues. They don’t pay taxes and false invoices are presented. In fact most businesses today operate with two sets of invoices and two sets of cashbooks. Whether you like to admit it or not, every business today operates in a ‘black’ or dishonest environment. We promise the people that we will clean up local business and bring about an environment that is conducive to good governance and honest business practices – that is of prime importance. For businesses to develop, people have to have money in hand, every person has to be able to earn a living wage honestly without resorting to dishonest practices. Housing, education and health are of prime importance and must be available to all.

For a year, over 50 million persons visit government hospital OPDs; this has to be rectified. If we come into power, I promise that within five years we will bring the number of sick persons down to 25 million. Public health has to be developed and improved. With the present resources – i.e. doctors, nurses and hospitals – the health service provided to the people can be doubled. The nation with the highest life expectancy is Macau with an average life span of 89 years. In Sri Lanka, it is 76. Give us the mandate and we will increase this in five years. The JVP’s economic policies and vision are not castles in the sky, but founded on reality. Our policies are connected to the people; they are based on education, jobs, housing and health. In order to make this a reality we will seek the assistance of the private sector.

Are you happy with the investigation of the Bond issue?

There is no way anyone can be satisfied. When Arjuna Mahendran’s case was brought up in Parliament, all what the Prime Minister did was talk of the past Central Bank Governor, Ajith Cabraal. What he tried to do was talk of Cabraal’s faults and thereby cover-up Mahendran’s. Bonds were issued for 1 billion, but 10 billion was taken. A company owned by Mahendran’s son-in-law was involved in this issue, which was a conflict of interest. This makes it apparent that this was a shady deal. As a result of this investigation, it is apparent that Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government does not punish wrongdoers, instead they protect them.

Over the last decade, the JVP has strengthened its position as a third force in politics. How do you expect the party to perform at the upcoming parliamentary election?

We are not a third party, we are instead an alternate party. The SLFP and UNP have the same policies. Our policies are completely different. In the past, the JVP had a number of seats in parliament, however this fluctuated. We are confident that soon we can increase our seats in parliament as we can see that the public is behind us and that they are tired of the two-party system, which has not benefitted the country at all. There are people amongst the voters who like to see the JVP having a presence in parliament, however they will not vote for us. I urge these people to please give the JVP their vote. To the people who are already giving us their vote, I urge each of them to get us 5 votes more from amongst their friends and relations. We are confident that we will increase our voter base significantly, and we are planning our campaign accordingly. We are formulating a set of new policies for the forthcoming elections and we are not doing that by ourselves, instead we are obtaining ideas and input from the public as well. We have in place our list of candidates for the election, which includes several powerful, educated, honest and credible citizens and we are confident of getting the people’s mandate.

What are your views on Tamil nationalism and the demand for a political solution in a post-war context?

Subsequent to the war, Sri Lanka had a phenomenal opportunity to unite all peoples living here – Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims, Hindus, Burghers – but Rajapakse destroyed that opportunity. All civil services in the North and East were controlled by the Army; subsequent to the end of the war Rajapakse should have done away with this. Even a small eatery was run by the Army. The people’s land issues were not resolved, the question of missing persons, both children and adults, has not been investigated. The people’s day-to-day issues such as education and earning a livelihood have not been resolved. The North in particular, which was ravaged by a 30-year war, should have a separate policy and plan in place to develop the area, but as yet this has not taken place. Over 45,000 families have lost their bread winners/husbands during the course of the war. This is a burning issue, yet the problem as to how these families are to survive has not been resolved. There are 5000 children who have been orphaned as a result of the war; however, there is no plan in place as to what is to become of these children. Subsequent to the end of the war, so much needed to be planned and implemented in the North, however to date there is no such plan in place, let alone being implemented. However, subsequent to the war, all Rajapakse did was to fan racial animosity to strengthen his power base. Now, Mangala Samaraweera is travelling to Europe to meet with the Tamil diaspora.

But how many times has he visited Jaffna? Not once! The problems are right here, not in Europe. What needs to be done is right here at our doorstep, not across the ocean. The problems of language, culture and earning a living wage should be resolved, whilst winning their trust and making them feel that the government sitting in Colombo is their government as well. However, to date that is not the case; therefore, those people whose basic needs have not been attended to will definitely seek to form their own government. The only way to resolve this is by ensuring the restoration of the full democratic rights of the people in the North and East and giving them the same privileges available to the Sinhalese people. However, all today’s leaders are capable of doing is to bring about a situation where ethnic warfare is inevitable! As far as the Muslims are concerned, all the government is trying to do is resolve Hakeem’s problems, not those of the Muslims. Similarly instead of resolving the problems of the up-country Tamils, all the government is doing is resolving Thondaman’s problems, because that is the easier path! The Tamils up in the North are being ignored, instead the government is concentrating on the TNA’s problems. Recent governments are of the opinion that by giving vehicles and ministerial positions to the leaders, they are resolving the problems of the people. What has happened to date is that the people have been trampled on, their votes have been obtained, but all the benefits and perks have gone to the leaders of the respective parties and not to the people. The only way to resolve the problems of the people of the North and East is to physically go there, open a dialogue with them and see to their issues.

What do you think of the late Rohana Wijeweera and the way he led the JVP?

We feel that Comrade Rohana Wijeweera did a lot of good, he accomplished a lot and he adapted Marx’s principles to suit Sri Lanka. He established a party for those who had no party and who had no representation. Until then, parties and governments were formed by landed proprietors and people who lived in walauwas. Comrade Wijeweera came from a village and gave the voiceless a voice.

The gap between the rich and poor is bigger than ever – worldwide and in Sri Lanka. What is your idea of a just society?

The richest 20 % of people in this country possess 55.1 % of the income of this country. The poorest 20% possess a mere 3.6%. To make this clearer, the richest 10% possess 36% of the wealth of this country, the poorest 10% possess 1.1% of the country’s wealth. The manner in which the country’s wealth is distributed is grossly unjust. As per government records, the income of 42% of the country is less than 2 US Dollars a day. What is their life? How can they provide for their families? The JVP’s policy is NOT to take from the rich and give to the poor. It is common sense to realize that for those who have to live a safe and secure life, the other strata of society have to be able to live a decent life. If not, all that happens is that criminal and underworld activities thrive. The only way to ensure a law abiding society is to ensure that all segments of society earn a decent wage and are able to cater to the needs of their families. Today, the poor of this country have been marginalized. They have been reduced to dust! They have been removed from the economy of this country. 51 % of Sri Lanka’s economy resides in the Western province; 4 % in the North Central province and 9 % in the North Western province. It is not only amongst the people that there is a disparity but the contribution from different regions of the country also differs. The economic policies of the country have to match the lifestyle of the people. We are determined to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor. When the gap between the rich and the poor is wide, law and order cannot prevail. The wealthy people in this country need to reinvest their money in order to create jobs and develop livelihoods for people who need it the most.

Does the JVP have a strategy to combat youth unemployment?

We need to create 300,000 jobs every year. The state sector can only accommodate 30,000 new employees, since 30,000 state employees retire every year. According to EPF forms, the private sector created 35,000 new jobs last year. So taken together, the private and public sector only provided 65,000 jobs, which means 235,000 people were left without employment last year. This year, it is even worse. According to EPF forms, 70,000 people lost their jobs in the private sector. Prime Minister Wickramasinghe promised to create jobs, but we can’t simply rub a magic lamp and create jobs, can we? Job creation has to be an integral part of our plan for the development of the economy. The previous government provided 100,000 jobs to university graduates. Some were given jobs in kachcheris without seats and in libraries without books. Other graduates were employed as agriculture officers and asked to distribute plants to the farming community. This is a waste.

There are two sections we need to look at in order to create jobs. The first is our service sector, which needs to be expanded across the country, and the second is production. No matter how many shops and market places open up around the country, only 3 million people visit these places daily. This is in stark contrast to India, where 38 billion people visit shops and market places daily. I see an opportunity here. We need to understand what we can sell in India, carry out research, develop products and enter their market. Similarly, we need to study the European market, understand how consumer needs will shift in twenty or thirty years and develop products to suit that shift. This requires a great deal of research and development. The government’s expenditure on research is about 0.01% of the national budget. Other countries allocate a significant proportion of their national budgets to research. So I have to ask: How exactly does Ranil plan to create 1 million jobs? Sajith Premadasa wants to build 100,000 new houses. He probably wants to build the houses out of sand. You can’t give houses to people who don’t have an income. What you need to do is give people an income so that they can build their own houses. Instead of individual ministers coming up with their own solutions, what we actually need is a holistic plan that addresses job creation, health, education and housing.

Who has influenced you the most?

My party. As a man who was born in a distant village, who went to a normal school and who came from a normal family, the opportunities I have today did not arise because of my skills and talents but because of my party. The JVP has been a constant source of strength and a pillar of support in my life.

Name the books that shaped your life and your politics.

There are many books that changed my life. I was deeply inspired by the literature of Soviet Russia – War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, The Mother by Maxim Gorky and a number of short stories. The literature of that period had a great impact on our lives. I have read Senkottan by Mahinda Prasad Masimbula. Quite recently, I read ‘Adaraneeya Victoria’ by Mohan Raj Madawala. I’ve read Professor Abraham Kovoor’s work while at school. I enjoy reading autobiographies and biographies. I’ve read about the life of Marx, Engels, Mandela, Castro, Gandhi, Lenin and Clinton. I also enjoyed reading the story of Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito.

What does the leader of the JVP do during his free time?

I love to swim. I can swim the entire length of the Nuwara Lake in Anuradhapura. On average, I swim about two kilometers. So a swimming pool isn’t enough for me. To be honest, I don’t like swimming pools.

What are your views on religion?

We think religion assists in an individual’s mental development. But we don’t believe religion can solve the wider problems faced by society. For example, we don’t think religion can solve unemployment and health issues. In addition, we believe religion needs to be separated from politics. Places of religious worship should not be used for political meetings. If all of this is corrected, it will allow us to preserve the symbolic meaning of all religions. We visit temples, churches, mosques and kovils, but we don’t take the media with us and create a spectacle.

Who are your heroes?

Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Friedrich Engels, Rohana Wijeweera, Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

If you could select a different path in life, what would it be?

I honestly can’t think of an alternative. I’m dedicated to improving our society.

Do you have a message for the citizens of this country?

We need to change our society. For 67 years, we have endured one system. It hasn’t benefitted our country. If there is anyone who thinks we haven’t suffered, he/she makes up only 1% of the country. The other 99% are suffering. We need to think about the other 99%. We need to build a society that allows everyone to prosper. This is what the JVP stands for today and what it hopes to accomplish in the future. It doesn’t matter who you are and what you do, we need to work together.

www.life.lk (Interviewed by Anusha David)