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