‘I had nothing to do with the bond issue’ -Malik Samarawickrama
By Shihara Maduwage
July 21, 2015


Q: As the Chairman of the UNP, can you shed light on the strategy of the UNFGG at the upcoming General Election?
A: As you are aware, we are coming in as a national front for good governance. The same forces that helped to elect President Maithripala Sirisena on January 8 have got together to ensure that the programme for good governance will continue.

Q: Why did the UNP decide to form a coalition rather than contesting the Election alone?
A: We invited all the parties and the individuals who believed in our programme - which we put out on January 8 - to join us. It is a case of continuing this programme which we implemented during the past few months which could have taken years otherwise. So much has been done and people really feel the change. We thought it was necessary to continue that and we invited all democratic forces to join us.

Q: Have there been any promises made or any agreements reached with the individuals who joined the coalition?
A: No, no such promises have been made. They have all got together to ensure that we won’t go back to the era where there was violence, corruption, nepotism and the plundering of state resources.

Q: Last few weeks have been turbulent with the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa gaining nominations to contest from the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). How do you view this turn of events?
A: This just shows how bankrupt the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) is. Mahinda Rajapaksa has been the President, the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition and to try to come back again as a member of the Parliament, just shows the bankruptcy of the SLFP as well as his own greed for power.

Q: Do you view the move of the President to grant nominations to Mr. Rajapaksa as betraying the UNP?
A: I don’t want to comment on the decisions of the UPFA or the SLFP. But I don’t think the President has betrayed us. He made it quite clear in his recent statement that it is important to continue with the programmes that we are planning to do. He said that Mahinda Rajapaksa won’t win and even if he does – in the unlikely case of the SLFP victory – that he won’t be made the Prime Minister.

Q: Looking back at the UNP’s performance at the past elections, are you confident that the UNP will be victorious at the election and will be able to secure the 113 seats required to form a government?
A: Yes, I believe that we are in a very good position to form a government. But having said that, the Prime Minister has very clearly indicated that it will be an all-inclusive Government. What we are trying to do is have a stable nation so that the people of the country and the next generation can look forward to a better life.

Q: Do you think that Mahinda Rajapaksa contesting from Kurunegala is a threat to the UNP?
A: No. He is just another candidate like all the other candidates from Kurunegala. There are many good candidates that we have put forward from Kurunegala. I am sure the people will decide whom to vote for.

Q: Your name is on the national list this time. Why did you decide to enter active politics?
A: I am a member of the party and some felt that I should be more involved in active politics. Of course a decision on that will be made only after the elections.

Q: Some feel that where the UNP went wrong during this period is with the bond issue and the appointment of the Central Bank Governor Arjuna Mahendran. What is your comment on that?
A: To be fair to the Governor, there have been several inquiries and there was a Supreme Court case which was rejected. There is also an ongoing Parliamentary Select Committee looking into this matter. So, whether the Governor is guilty or not will depend on the findings of these committees. The Prime Minister himself has informed the Parliament that there will be Parliamentary Select Committees to look into the matters of the CB. So of course, if the Governor is found guilty, he will have to face repercussions.

Q: But don’t you think that this incident tarnished the image the UNP was trying to build based on good governance and justice?
A: We are still for good governance. I personally don’t know what exactly has happened so I cannot comment on it. But this does not take away our focus from ensuring good governance. Even in the cases that have taken place in the Central Bank in the past, we are letting the process of law take its course. In the past, the Government interfered with the Court cases and it was a case of lock up and cook up. We believe in allowing the law to take its course. So I am sure that with the matter of time, those who are proven to have been corrupt would be punished.

Q: Even the President in his recent statement criticised the Governor and the Prime Minister over the bond issue.
A: I don’t know exactly what he has told the Governor so I cannot comment on that.

Q: Some have alleged that you too had a part to play in the issue of the CB Governor and the bond issue?
A: That is absolute rubbish. I had nothing to do with it. This is the Opposition’s political bankruptcy. I have not got involved at all in the bond issue. It is a matter for the Central Bank – not even for the Finance Minister or any other minister. Of course our job is to see that the funds that are required for various projects are available. And it is up to the Central Bank to figure out how to raise the funds.

Q: Another allegation against you is that you were the one who caused a split or a rift within the UNP because of your loyalty to Ranil Wickremesinghe. What is your comment on this?
A: The UNP is not split. We have put everything together. It is the UPFA and the SLFP that is split. My loyalty is first and foremost to the party.

Q: Are you confident of a UNP victory at the General Elections?
A: Yes, we are confident but there is a lot of work to be done. We cannot be complacent.

Q: What kind of work?
A: We still have to ensure that people will vote. And propaganda is beginning; we have just kicked off our campaign. We have to ensure that people will vote for the right candidates. It is a choice between your future and the future of one family – the Rajapaksa family.

Q: Some feel that the 100-day programme was unsuccessful. What is your response?
A: If you ask the majority, they will say that the 100 day programme has been a total success. No Government has been able to do so much in such a short time.

Q: But even with the 19th Amendment, we saw that what was passed in Parliament was not what was intended…
A: Don’t forget that at the time we did not have a majority in the Parliament; we had only 41 members. Even with the few Government members who came to join us, we did not have more than 80 members. So that is the best that could have been done under the circumstances. But in the future, the necessary amendments can be brought in. Even the electoral reforms can be done if we have a majority in Parliament.

Q: We learnt that the reason the Parliament was dissolved was because there was to be a no-confidence motion against Prime Minister Wickremesinghe. We heard that there were UNP members themselves who were in support of this motion. Is that true?
A: No, that is absolute rubbish! There is no truth in this claim whatsoever. Bringing a no-confidence motion was the Opposition’s way of attempting to stop the progress. They were even refusing to approve the finance bills. So it was difficult for the Government to raise funds and the President had no other choice but to dissolve the Parliament.

Q: Speaking of finances, there are allegations against the Finance Minister for mishandling the Treasury and of corruption. What is your comment on this?
A: That is a completely unfair criticism. He has been there for just over six months. We should not forget the amount of corruption that took place during the Rajapaksa regime – how vast amounts of state resources were plundered.

Q: The UNP keeps using the “Rajapaksas have been corrupt” claim over and over again but nothing has been proven yet.
A: That is why I said before also that we are going through the legal process. It is easy to drag in and lock up people the way they did to Field Marshall Sarath Fonseka but we don’t believe in that. We believe in going through the legal process so it will be a matter of time.

Q: At the upcoming elections, do you expect any violence and violations?
A: I don’t think so because the country’s situation has changed drastically in the last six months. You could see that on the day of the nominations, how calm the whole country was. So people have already realised the difference between this regime and the past regime.

Q: One of the criticisms against the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was that he was not able to identify and relate to the masses. Do you think he will be able to win over the ordinary citizens of the country at this election?
A: He is a visionary. The manifesto and the programme he has come up with will show that he is very much concerned about the common man. That doesn’t mean kissing babies and hugging everyone and waving at everybody. His concern about the common citizens is reflected in the programme he is putting out. His plan for economic and social development is in his manifesto. He has proven that he is a man of words and he will do what he promises to do.

Q: Some of those who have allied with the UNP to form the new coalition have different policies and ideologies to that of the UNP. How will the UNP – a more rightist party – be able to come to an agreement with these various parties with clashing views?
A: We have all got together; this is a programme which has been accepted by all. This is not just a UNP programme, all other partners who have joined this front have accepted this programme. We have come up with it in consultation with everyone. As you can see now, we are more of a central party than a far right party now. Over a period of time there has been a shift in our policies. Others have come to the same position.At the end of the day, the people want a better future. The younger generation want jobs according to their qualifications and abilities; they don’t want to go behind politicians anymore.

Q: In case the UNFGG cannot secure a majority at the elections, what is the future of the UNP?
A: We are sure that we can secure a majority. Even then, we want the members of other parties also to join us in forming a Government.

Q: Looking at the current Government, don’t you think that this concept of forming a Government together – or a National Unity Government – is a failure?
A: I think it is necessary for at least five years so that the fundamental issues are addressed and the reconciliation required between the North and South can be completed. The education system and the health services have to be improved. There is so much to be done and that can be done only if everyone decides to work together.

Q: It sounds good in theory but do you think it is possible in practice because what we saw in the last few months was a mess?
A: In the new Parliament, people will elect responsible members – those who are more interested in the country than in themselves.

Source: Daily Mirror - Sri Lanka

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