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LSSP, left parties support President Mahinda Rajapaksa - Prof. Tissa Vitharana


Prof. Tissaa Vitharana

Minister of Science and Technology and Leader of the LSSP, Prof. Tissa Vitharana told the Sunday Observer that his party decided to support President Mahinda Rajapaksa running for a third term because he was sworn-in as Executive President on his second term only after the 18th Amendment was incorporated to the constitution and there were constitutional impediments.

He said that sections of the international community, led by the US and other conservative forces of the world, are endeavouring to make the forthcoming Presidential election an opportunity for regime change.

Their main representative in Sri Lanka is none other than leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe whether in the guise of a common candidate or a candidate directly from the UNP, the Minister said.

The outcome will be a change of regime where ultimately the UNP will come into power. The LSSP and other leftist parties are totally opposed to those changes and that is why they have been consistently taking a stand against regime change and support the candidature of President Mahinda Rajapaksa although there are many shortcomings which need to be corrected, he said.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: There is much controversy over President Mahinda Rajapaksa running for a third term as President and your party, as one of the UPFA constituents, has said that it supports the President's decision. Your comments on that ?

A: There is no legal obstacle to President Mahinda Rajapaksa contesting a third time. Although he won the Presidential election in January 2010 , he was sworn-in as president only in November well after the 18th Amendment was incorporated in the constitution, in September.

As such he took his oaths in accordance with the provisions of the amended constitution. There is no reason why he cannot contest a third term. As far as the LSSP is concerned, we wanted him to delay the polls until he runs his full term of six years so that during the interim period necessary changes to the constitution could be effected with the two third majority of the UPFA government.

It should have been ideal period to make the changes. We made such a request on the changes which we deemed necessary and gave it in writing, in the best interests of the future of the country.

We were hoping that that it will be done. But unfortunately the President informed all the leaders of the UPFA constituent parties at a meeting that he had already decided upon and made arrangements to have an early presidential election and therefore he will not be able to make the changes.

Therefore, we as the UPFA ally decided to adjust ourselves to the situation and to support him as the UPFA candidate. But at the same time we are continuing our discussions with him as well as with the SLFP leadership to get our point of view across and to get possible changes incorporated in the constitution after his election and before the dissolution of the UPFA Government.

Q: One of the UPFA constituents, the JHU has resigned from the ministry portfolios and other responsibilities that it held while the SLMC, another constituent, remains undecided on whether or not to support President Rajapaksa running for a third term. Do you think that as UPFA constituents, they should make a uniform approach ?

A: Each party has its own policies and distinct identity. We respect the individual identities and policies of the UPFA constituents, but we came together to implement the common manifesto in the best interests of the country and the people. There have been shortcomings.

Certain promises have not been honoured while certain things not in the manifesto have been implemented to our dislike.

However, these are matters which should be raised within the UPFA for discussions and subsequent changes, instead of taking recourse to pressure on the government which would strengthen the right-wing opposition and the foreign forces that are backing them.

Q: Many leftist leaders are the view that sections of the international community and organisations , including the EU and the UN, are unjustifiably penalising the government because it is left centered with all major left parties as its allies. Your views on that please?

A: It is clear that the so called international community is a bloc of powerful developed countries led by the US. The countries, former colonial rulers, continue to dominate the world economically and politically.

They want governments in our country , obedient to them capable of carrying out their agenda, to their advantage but detrimental to our national interests. The UPFA Government led by President Mahinda Rajapaksa has not bowed down to the pressure tactics of the US-led international community and refused to fall in line with their neo-colonial agenda.

If the government bowed down our economy will be sold out to them and they would be exploiting us to their benefit and to our disadvantage. This international community is endeavouring to make the forthcoming Presidential election an opportunity for regime change. If you look at the main representative in Sri Lanka of the US and the conservative forces of the world it is none other than leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe. The UNP is the main force in the opposition whether in the guise of a common candidate or directly UNP candidate. The outcome will be a change of regime where ultimately the UNP will come into power. We are totally opposed to those changes and that is why our LSSP and other socialist alliance parties have been consistently taking a stand against regime change and supports the candidature of President Mahinda Rajapaksa although there are many shortcomings which need to be corrected.

Q: Do you think the TNA seeking foreign intervention to resolve problems is a wise approach?

A: I think that it is time the TNA leaders accepted the current realities in relation to resolving problems. The UPFA government defeated the LTTE and united the country geographically. Any problem of the Tamil people have to be sorted out with the government in Colombo, through negotiations and discussions. If the TNA is not acceptable to that and wants to bring undue pressure on the government that is an unwise move. In India, the BJP government led by Premier Narendra Modi has stated very clearly that that the solution to the problem of the Tamils is an internal problem of Sri Lanka and, therefore, the TNA must hold discussions with the government. I would advise them to forget about the LTTE diaspora. The TNA was elected to represented the Tamil people of the North and the East. They must act in the best interests of the Tamils living here.

The social left is doing everything possible to exert pressure on the government to evolve a political solution.

In spite of my being the leader of the LSSP and Chairman of the All Party Representative Committee (APRC) I have been left out of this Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC). So has leader of the SLMC Minister Rauff Hakeem.

This is an unwise move on the part of the Government. But despite that I have appealed to the TNA to go ahead and participate in the PSC proceedings, put forward their views and have discussions.

They should hold discussing with the government and the other political parties represented in the parliament.

Many parties represented in the parliament have similar views as the LSSP on this issue, including the Communist Party led by Minister Dew Gunasekara and the NSSP led by Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara. They will also give the necessary support to the TNA towards finding a just solution.

Q: Do you think more powers, especially relating to land and police, should be devolved to the TNA represented Northern province?

A: That again is a matter that should be taken up with the PSC. The question of the government not implementing some provisions of the 13th Amendment, implementing them partially or implementing only a few is an issue that concerns not only the TNA but the other parties represented in the parliament.

It affects people not only in the North but also in the South. So this whole issue in relation to appropriate devolution of power is a matter for discussion among political parties representing the entire population.

When I was chairman of the APRC and we had extensive discussions on the 13th amendment and found that some of the provisions were not suitable for small country the size of Sri Lanka but suitable only to the Indian States which have their distinct languages, cultures and traditions.

In Sri Lanka, as everyone knows, the Tamils resident in the South are much more in number than those living in the North and the East and they have their own problems.

We cannot blindly implement the 13th Amendment but we have to suitably modify the amendment in the context of the needs of our country and its people.

Q: Sections of the media insinuate that New Delhi is averse to growing Chinese presence in Sri Lanka. Will it lead to political instability ?

A: In the unipolar world dominated by America and Europe , and also Japan to some extent, Sri Lanka has lots of dealings with them. Now it is becoming a bipolar world. The East is coming up led by China.

Japan. Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. They have become a major economic and political power in the world. In addition they are working in alliance with the BRICS countries - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - with other Non-Aligned countries. We have to have good relations with all those countries.

We have to have political, economic and trade relations and exchanges with them . Almost 60 percent of our economy was tied up with markets in America and Europe. But they have not come out of the recession that started in 2007. So in that situation it is foolish for us to hang on to them without developing new opportunities and new links. So the UPFA government led by President Rajapaksa is thinking and working in those lines. India very well understands that . India itself is on a course to promote its links and exchanges with China. So it is not a problem either with India or any other country. There is no justification in the fears raised of the TNA or the UNP-led forces on this issue.

They make out that having economic and political ties with China is a crime. It is not so. It is a sensible course of action which is inevitable in the context of the emerging world economic situation.

Q: As Minister of Science and Technology how do you plan to bring Sri Lanka's younger generation on par with those of the other technologically and scientifically advanced countries?

A: I have been pressing from within the government to make our country a science-based country. To develop a science culture and then to maximise the investment which at the moment is very inadequate. I want the government to maximize the investment for science and technology at least by one percent of the GDP - for the promotion of knowledge, innovation and research.

If we do that then we will be able to effectively develop the industries using our own raw materials, specially employing high-tech so that we can be an advanced industrial economy.

To achieve that we have to move into the new world order where science and technology are the dominant forces and where there is a knowledge economy.

I am glad that the UPFA government has introduced the 1,000 secondary schools program and 5,000 secondary schools program. The government is establishing laboratories in all those schools, not only computer laboratories but science laboratories and technology laboratories, thus setting up a link.

In this respect we are on the correct track and through this we can mobilise resources and become an industrial country based on science, technology and innovation.

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