WJM on parting with the UNP: “Mahinda Chintana is exactly identical to my thinking”
Mar 7, 2010
Many in his own party thought he was an eccentric or a quirk, when he called on people to embrace their traditional values, at the height of the craze for the open economy and everything that was imported from the West, but Wijeweera Jayasinghe Mudiyanselage Lokubandara proved many of his critics wrong, and rose to one of the highest positions in the land as the Speaker of Parliament. Now that he has been found ready acceptance in the SLFP house, he says, he was, literally, forced out of the UNP. Following are excerpts of an interview he gave to The Nation.

Q: First, you gave your son to the SLFP. Now you have taken the same path.

A: Given my son? Who told you that?

Q: He is contesting from the SLFP.

A: Yes. That is his wish. He is an adult.

Q: But now, you too, have decided to be with the SLFP.

A: Certainly yes, because I always admired Mahinda Chintana philosophy. That is exactly identical to my thinking.

Q: At one time, the UNP was an efficient, unbeatable political machine from 1977 to 1994. What went wrong?

A: Just as the SLFP, from 1970 to 1977, was unbeatable, these things happen. That of course, you should ask from the party leader, not from me. What are the reasons that went wrong?

Q: But now, since you have left the party, why won’t you speak your mind?

A: No, I am not going to comment on anything against the party.

Q: Is there any chance of you going back to the UNP one day?

A: What made you ask that question?

Q: You may not be happy with the way things are going there now, for you to leave like this.

A: No. No, I am not a political animal. I am very happy with the thinking of the leader, the President.

Q: In your opinion, who is the best person to succeed Ranil Wickremesinghe, in case he decides to step down?

A: That the party should decide.

Q: But you were such a longstanding person in that party.

A: I was there, but I am no longer there now. They have distanced me very cleverly from the party.

Q: Can you explain that? The ordinary people are not aware when you say that you have been distanced.

A: While I was the MP for the Badulla District, representing the Haputale electorate, when they appointed chief organisers for the Provincial Council Election, they did not give my son nomination. My wife was looking after the electorate, because I did not want to participate in active politics, as I was the Speaker. But my predecessors, of course, actively participated in party politics. So my wife was looking after the electorate. They did not consult either my wife or my son. Nor was I consulted. They appointed one Kulatunga as organiser of that electorate. Thereafter, now they have appointed some other person called Pragathi. I was the one who brought him into local politics. They never consulted me. That shows, no senior politician, member or anybody from the party inquired from me, although you are interested in knowing these things. Neither the Leader nor the Deputy leader even bothered to give a telephone call. I was distanced, and they did it very cleverly. They must be happy that I am no longer in their party. After the dissolution of Parliament, the induction of my son as an SLFP candidate took place in Bandarawela. So, for that meeting, I went with my wife to bless my son. I have always liked the thinking of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I admired his policies from the day he introduced the Mahinda Chinthanaya. When I went through it, I thought this is based on indigenous thinking. I appreciate that.

Q: Such ad hoc decisions of the party have alienated not only you, but so many others…

A: That you should ask from the leader or somebody interested in that party. I am not at all worried about those things now.

Q: Are outside interests taking crucial decisions of the UNP?

A: I am an alien.

Q: At one time, you were such a key member of the party.

A: Certainly, it is perfectly true. But during the last term, I was actually cornered, because I am a person from a remote village. I am not from the English speaking society. I am a serious student of Sinhala and Buddhist culture. Those must be the reasons. Otherwise, there is no other cause. If at all, there is anything that offended them, itt is my indigenous thinking and simple living. But Chintana is parallel to my thinking. So, I am not an alien to this type of thinking and this party.

Q: You being such a veteran politician, what are your predictions for the future?

A: President Rajapaksa will be able to gather the necessary strength to amend the Constitution. That is 100% certain, because he got a Parliament without even a Speaker from his party, but he managed to gather nearly 140 MPs. For such a clever leader, it is a simple thing to get a 2/3 majority this time.

Q: What are your predictions for the Badulla District?

A: It is definitely 5 to 3 in favour of the government, but if we work very hard it will be 6-2.

Q: The UNP is not even sure of its remaining people, and has taken undated letters of resignation from its candidates to prevent anyone from crossing over to the government after being elected

A: I feel ashamed about this, because I had to hand over a letter of resignation like that once upon a time. It is a shameful thing. That shows you have no confidence in your own people. The statement by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, that he will never call for such letters from his elected representatives, shows the difference in the qualities of the two leaders.

Q: Many in your then own party, the UNP, laughed when you called on people to embrace country’s values and requested them to worship their elders, and even answer the telephone with the greeting Ayubowan, instead of hello. Now, even some tourist hotels have adopted this form of greeting wishing long life.

A: Certainly. It shows the stability and strength of Mahinda Chintana. This is why I feel very free and at home with the SLFP. My thinking was never to use W.J.M., instead I use the Sinhala letters for my names Wijeweera Jayasinghe Mudiyanselage. I am a person who discarded the European attire from the time I entered Law College. The day I entered Law College, I threw away the trouser, literally from my psyche. I never wore it thereafter. I resort to the English language only to converse with those who cannot speak Sinhala. I use English as a tool, but I have not become a tool of the English. I have mastered English, but it has not mastered me. For me, it is certainly not an ornament, but a tool.

Q: Though we talk so much about our values, many of us behave like vultures. To use a pithy Sinhala term, many of us are guilty of hakke budu res bokke dada mas (while uttering Buddha’s virtues have illegally hunted game in our stomachs). This is the case even among sections of the clergy. What has gone wrong?

A: You can’t generalise and say this is the rhythm of the present time. Even in Buddha’s time, adjoining his abode Devuramvehera, Jetawanaramaya, there was a piggery. Devidattara, his own cousin was against him. These things happen, but that does not mean nobody will appreciate what Buddha preached.

Q: It is no doubt the Rajapaksas have achieved so much for this country. If not for his siblings being in key positions, President Rajapaksa may not have succeeded against the LTTE terror, as there were so many enemies within. But now, don’t you think there is just too many of them in public positions?

A: I would never say that, because, even our great chronicle Mahawansa, the reference is always made to so many brothers from the same family helping the king. For instance, Dutugemunu’s brother succeeded him. It is like that. It is not against our cultural pattern. What you should see is whether they are capable of delivering, not whether one is a member of the Rajapaksa family, but whether that person is capable. For instance, take Gotabhaya; I don’t think anybody can say anything against him when it comes to honesty or to damage his image. He is so outspoken and outstanding. Then, Basil is such a dynamic character and an active person. These things you cannot deny. The elder brother Chamal is a calm, quiet and innocent type of person. He is an ideal statesman I would say. Just because one is related to the Rajapaksas, that should not be the criteria to judge a person. He should be judged by his performance.

Q: When there are too many Rajapaksas, it is easy for the enemies to malign them.

A: Why do you say that? There was DS and Dudley, SWRD, Sirimavo and Anura.

Q: The UNP drew a family tree of Bandaranaike-Ratwatte to come to power in 1977.

A: The same thing was done by the other party. In Asia, these things are quite common. This is our culture. We should see whether they are capable; that is the most important thing. (RA)

Courtesy: Nation