Chandrika- modern Dona Catherina:
Ranil- modern Don Juan Dharmapala:
Grave danger in Maithripala coming to power - JHU's Udaya Gammanpila
Pic by Chinthaka Kumarasinghe
Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU) Deputy General Secretary Udaya Gammanpila
said, just like D.B.Wijetunga and Chandrika Kumaratunga were made puppet
Executive Presidents in 1994 and 2001, in the event Maithripala Sirisena
is elected as president, without a comfortable majority in Parliament
will have to dance to the tune of his coalition partners who represent,
dictatorship, corruption and separatism.
“The Opposition claim that Sri Lanka has the most powerful executive
presidency. They say once Maithripala is made the president he can
ignore the dark forces around him and go ahead with his good governance
policies. That will only be a dream.”
The former Provincial Council Minister and Monash scholar said in a
semi- presidential system, the president's power is determined by
“When the Parliament majority is possessed by the president's party,
he will of course be powerful. But when he doesn't have the parliament
majority he is controlled and commanded by whoever who enjoys the
majority in the House.”
Gammanpila said he has not even asked for a vehicle, let alone
portfolios or monetary favours to support the President in his election
bid added, with the election promise to abolish the Executive
Presidency, the Common Candidate has already broken his agreement with
the JHU. The JHU had been harping on the continuation of the executive
office with reforms.
Excerpts of the interview,
Q: Why did you decide to re-join the Government?
We have been struggling to establish good governance practices in the
Government for the last two years. Frankly we failed to get a
satisfactory response from the Government. That is why we decided to
leave. We wanted to make a better Government. I was with that cause.
Actually I was the one who initiated that struggle within the party. I
was willing to leave the Government with my fellow party members to
establish a political force for good governance.
That was our strategy but after, Minister Maithripala Sirisena's
departure from the Government , the JHU all of a sudden changed its
policy and decided to support, the alliance formed for Maithripala
I had a lot of concerns about it. Firstly, we have been telling the
public that Chandrika is the bandit queen and that Ranil is the worst
dictatorial leader in post independent Sri Lanka.
I could remember my party calling Chandrika- the modern Dona
Catherina and Ranil as Modern Don Juan.
The TNA, Wickremabahu Karunaratne and Mano Ganeshan are separatist
forces in this country. All of a sudden Dona Catherina has become Vihara
Maha Devi and Don Juan has turned out to be Dutugemunu. I could not
grasp what was happening. These decisions were totally in contrast to
the JHU's founding principles.
I questioned their stance, but my party leaders failed to offer an
acceptable explanation. Thereafter, I decided to remain silent. I kept
away from the media for about seven days . Then my party said the people
were questioning my silence and that I should come before the media and
defend the party stance.
Frankly its against my conscience. I see a grave danger in
Maithripala Sirisena coming to power.
Q: The JHU leaders say, you were with them till 11.00pm the
previous night but did not raise any policy issues with them. They would
have responded if you did. Your comments?
A: I am so sad that the one and only Buddhist party of the
country has broken the Fourth Precept. I have been raising concerns all
I have said the JHU never worked to bring Ranil Wickremasinghe into
power at our Kalutara District convention held in early October. On
October 19 at our party convention, I was assigned to submit the 35
point proposal to the Government and explain on behalf of the party
leadership. At that stage I clearly said, we are not ready to bring
Ranil and Chandrika back to power.
On November 18, we had a press conference to announce our decision to
relinquish ministerial portfolios and I reiterated this stance before
the media. Thereafter we had a meeting at New Town Hall to explain the
party's stance on the Presidential election. I repeated the same. I have
expressed my stance four times in public.
If people are perplexed as to who is telling the truth, I am on
record saying that the JHU will not support the Ranil-Chandrika
If I was telling something against the party's stance in the
election, they should have corrected me. It was the initial party stand.
They never informed me that the party stand has shifted.
They have said I did not raise any policy issue, I will explain. Soon
after the Central Committee meeting on December 9, I explained to
Nishantha Warnasinghe informally that I cannot tow the party's current
stand and therefore I will resign from the party. the next morning I met
former Minister Champika Ranawaka and informed that I wished to resign
from the party since a credible explanation as to the party's stand in
the election has not been conveyed to me.
He said we want you to remain in the party, let's discuss about this.
If you cannot accept our stand, we are ready to talk about leaving
Maithripala's polls campaign.
He said this in the presence of Anurudhha Pradeep. Thereafter, former
Minister Ranawaka had to leave for a meeting. He said let's discuss this
at 9.00pm at his residence.
The previous night was a sleepless night and I was feeling unfit, I
took some medicine and had a long nap. I reached Champika's residence at
9.00pm. We discussed for about an hour, the topic was posters and
leaflets for the Opposition candidate, but nothing was brought up on the
issue that I had come to discuss. Nishantha, Anuruddha and Champika were
I raised the matter and the need to discuss it. After waiting for
about 30 to 45 minutes. Anurudhha said we had a meeting at 5.00am in the
morning and we are pretty tired, let's have the discussion another day.
Then I realised, by saying they don't have time to talk about
something so serious, they are signaling I should go ahead with my
The same night itself I decided to leave the party and pledge my
support to President Rajapaksa.
Q: Why did the JHU decide to side with the Common Opposition
in the first place?
A: There are different views expressed as to why they did it
and I have doubts about some of those views. President Rajapaksa has
mistreated JHU leaders in certain instances.
I know that they are angry over the way things happened. I can
understand if they want to settle scores with the President, but doing
that at the expense of national security cannot be approved.
Their goal is to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa at any cost. My opinion is,
if he is bad we have to replace him with a better person. The Chandrika,
Ranil and Sampanthan team is far worse than the present Government.
I was forced to come back when I realised that the intention to
create a better democratic force has been replaced by their aim to
defeat the President.
Q: The JHU is the only political party that represents the
Sinhala Buddhists. What will be the future of the JHU, given that it has
today suffered a major split?
A: When the JHU decided to back Maithripala Sirisena and his
team, the party side-tracked from its original cause which is
safeguarding the motherland.
In 2000 too, the party suffered a major setback when a group of
central committee members led by S.L.Gunasekera walked out. The party
leaders’ and members’ behaved shamefully following the incident. It was
disastrous for the party's image. Thereafter, discipline within the
party was given top priority.
As a result, when Ven.Uduwe Dhammaloka thera, Ven. Kolonnawe
Sumangala thera and Ven.Ellawala Medhananda thera departed, members were
After my departure, however, they behaved with a lot of hatred, venom
and viciousness. Their actions did not demonstrate Buddha's teachings. I
think the country needs a genuine Buddhist party.
There are political parties such as the SLFP, UNP and JVP and parties
that represent community interests such as the SLMC, TNA, CWC. The JHU
was the only party that represented the Sinhala Buddhists. With the JHU
deviating from its founding principles, a void has been created now. We
are ready to fill that gap.
Q: The JHU vote base is a crucial factor in the upcoming
election. Can you win over this vote block for the President?
A: The JHU vote base is represented by JHU public
representatives. We had 29 local council members. Seventeen out of those
29 pledged support to President Rajapaksa last night (Wednesday).
It's a clear reflection of where the JHU votes are. Secondly JHU
members are urban middle class. They do not expect different subsidies
and welfare benefits from the government. They are with us for an
ideological reason. To champion certain values like national security,
good governance and environmental protection.
They were following the direction shown by the JHU. Since our vote
bank has no obligation to party leadership for beneficial politics,
there is no reason for our voters to be with Maithripala's team.
Q: According to news reports, You and former Minister Champika
Ranawaka were planning to take on the Government, on JHU's 35 point
proposals after the Presidential election but Ven.Rathana thera had
insisted that you leave the Government before the election. Is this
A: I don't want to put the blame for that decision on any
individual. We as a party wanted to effect reforms before the
Presidential election. Their was a logic behind it.
We presumed the President may dissolve Parliament where he commands
two thirds majority after the election and if he did so, we will not be
able to implement the reforms comfortably.
The Government did not pay heed, hence we decided to leave. Up to
that point I was with the party. Then, instead of building a genuine
force for good governance, our party joined a bunch of rogues.
It is like forming an organisation for liberation of women with
rapists. I could not accept that move and I decided to rejoin the
No individual is to be blamed for pressurizing the government for
reform. It was a collective decision of the party.
Q: Have you been given a pledge by the Government, that these
reforms will be taken up soon after the election?
A: My support for President Mahinda Rajapaksa was
unconditional. I came back for different reasons. I want to prevent
Maithripala Sirisena coming to power. I have associated with him, I
don't say he is a bad person.
As you know Sri Lanka is a semi presidential system. The Opposition
claim that Sri Lanka has the most powerful executive presidency. They
say once Maithripala is made the president he can ignore the dark forces
around him and go ahead with his good governance policies.
That will only be a dream. In a semi presidential system, the
president's power is determined by parliamentary power. When the
Parliament majority is possessed by the president's party, he will of
course be powerful. But when he doesn't have the parliament majority he
is controlled and commanded by whoever who enjoys the majority in the
To explain this better, we can refer to history. In August 1994, when
president D.B.Wijetunga was in power, Chandrika Bandaranaike's People's
Alliance secured the parliament majority. Despite the so called powerful
office of the executive president, the Prime Minister became the
de-facto Head of Government.
On the second time around, in September 2001, the PA lost the
majority in Parliament because of the SLMC's cross over to the
Opposition. Then President Chandrika Kumaratunga invited the JVP to join
forces. The extreme left wing JVP commanded only 10 seats in Parliament
at the time.
Thereafter these 10 parliamentarians took over the country and the
so- called powerful president became nothing but a puppet.
She was implementing whatever reforms the JVP was calling. In the end
she was compelled to dissolve Parliament.
In December 2001, with Chandrika Kumaratunga in the executive
president's office, the UNP formed Government under Ranil Wickremasinghe.
Ranil then became the de-facto head of state, he signed a peace
agreement with the LTTE jeopardising national security.
He held an international donor conference in Tokyo in April 2003 to
determine the future of Sri Lanka. The powerful president could not do
anything to prevent them.
This is enough evidence, to show that the country is ruled not by the
executive president but whoever commands the majority in Parliament.
After Maithripala Sirisena's election who will command the parliament
majority? Maithripala failed to get at least one member to cross over
from his electorate, Polonnaruwa. His government will be controlled by
Ranil, Chandrika and Sambandan.
They will reduce army presence in the north, initiate a war crimes
probe and such things will create the environment for separatism in the
country. I fear that if Maithripala wins, this nightmare will come true.
Q: Do you think the JHU leaders don't realise this danger?
A: They are intelligent enough to understand what I have just
explained but unfortunately, their heads are full of hatred. I do admit
that they were ill treated and that is not good. But they should not
take revenge from the motherland.
Q: The 35 point JHU proposals, talk about a new economic
policy, agricultural policy and election reforms. Will you be taking
these proposals forward after the election?
A: Of course. We will ensure the proposals end up in the
election manifesto and government will be under pressure to implement
President Rajapaksa's first term was dedicated to national security,
second term was dedicated for infrastructure development. An expanded
middle class in the country talk about good governance. The government
will be under pressure to implement these proposals.
After the Presidential election there will be a parliamentary
election within an year. If they fail to deliver on the election pledges
by then, people can punish the government without compromising national
Q: Will you be obtaining the UPFA membership ?
A: I am a member of the UPFA but I will not join the SLFP. We
intend to form a new Buddhist party in the future to fill the void
created by the JHU.
Q: How do you describe the present political atmosphere where
we witness a free culture of cross overs ahead of an election?
A: Political defections are nothing new to Sri Lanka. We
remember in 1940, there was a split in the Lanka Sama Samaja Party – the
very first political party of the country- due to an ideological reason.
The majority of the LSSP believed in Trotskyism while some believed in
Stalinism. The party suffered a split and as a result the Communist
Party was born.
In 1951, there was an ideological battle within the UNP, because
Bandaranaike wanted the UNP to be more national-oriented and spoke
against duplication of western systems. He then, along with a set of MPs
walked out to form the SLFP. There have been many political defections
in our history on ideological reasons.
But in the recent past, most of the defectors have left their
respective parties on personal reasons. Most of the people who left the
government said they were ill-treated and were not allowed to function
the Ministry properly. Such complaints goes on to show individual
aptitude. Successful Ministers are able to use their resources to the
maximum to serve the people.
You join a political party for a certain cause, when that cause is
given up by the party, you cannot be there. But leaving the party for
personal reasons – for gain or for pain – that cannot be approved.
Q: If I allege that you joined the Government for state perks
and personal gain. How do you respond?
A: I want to know the perks that I have been receiving. I saw
this story in social media that the Government agreed to write off my
bank loans worth Rs.800 million in turn for my defection to the
I was posed the question if I was offered Rs.three billion to support
President Rajapaksa. I am glad that people, even my opponents have
valued me at a high price. I am thankful for that. These mud slinging
campaigns are against Buddhist principles. Unfortunately, they are
headed by so called Buddhist leaders.
I challenge them, if anyone can prove that the Government has written
off my bad debt, I will pay that person the same amount, Rs.800 million
or so. People may wonder how the guy who sought charity for his election
campaign is able to pay them such a huge amount. It is not because I
have money, but I know for certain that this story of a bad debt is a
Not just money, I have not received any post, or asked for a vehicle
to campaign for the forthcoming election.
Q: Have you any issues with the agreement reached between the
JHU and the Common Opposition?
A: I have gone through the agreement which I also helped to
fine tune. I have no issue with this agreement.
But Maithripala Sirisena has signed several other agreements, which
are of a contradictory nature, before the JHU agreement. He reached
agreements with the UNP, Sarath Fonseka's party and many other minority
We do not know the contents of the agreement he signed with the TNA,
it is not in the public domain. The TNA is supporting his campaign.
Usually their demands are the removal of military camps in the North,
removal of High Security Zones and power devolution beyond 13th
The JHU which has just two members in Parliament signed a detailed
agreement with the Opposition Candidate, I don't think the TNA with 16
parliamentarians would support him for free.
The Opposition is duty bound to publicise his agreement with the TNA
so that voters can take an informed decision.
Q: The Opposition has avowed to abolish the Executive
Presidency within 100 days. Your comments ?
A: Maithripala Sirisena, by that promise to voters, is
breaking the agreement with the JHU. He promised the JHU to protect the
executive presidency after reforms. The JHU as a political party with
principles cannot support a candidate who will abolish the Executive
Founding legal luminaries of the JHU such as.S.L.Gunasekera, Chula De
Silva PC have said the Executive Presidency and the 13th Amendment under
which the Provincial Councils have been set up are interwoven.
If we abolish the Executive Presidency without touching the 13-A,
this country will be in jeopardy, there is a huge risk of this country
being divided and separated into several countries. Dr. Dayan
Jayatilleke, a political analyst and a person who is known to possess a
leftist ideology, has clearly explained the danger of abolishing the
Executive Presidency while maintaining the 13-A as it is. He has taken
it from a political perspective.
Manoharan De Silva PC who is a nationalist has reiterated this
impending danger. He has explained it from a legal perspective.
Q:What will happen if Maithripala Sirisena comes to power?
A: A lot of people left Maithri's team fearing that he would
lose. My fear is that he will win. As I explained before, the true
rulers of this country under Maithripala's presidency will be Ranil,
Chandrika and Sambandan due to the nature of the semi presidential
system which is called the French model
Their slogan is good governance, How can we establish good governance
with a corrupt president in our history, who was titled bandit queen.
From Thawakkal to he Sri Lanka Insurance corporation, many well known
corrupt deals were done during her tenure.
For the first time, she brought the idea of a federal system for Sri
Lanka. She presented a package which fortunately did not see the light
Wickremasinghe started from where she stopped and convinced the LTTE
to accept the Federal solution. He possesses the Guinness World Record
for holding the leadership of a major political party for 20 long years
with successive defeats. He has suppressed and ousted all dissidents in
the UNP with a dictatorial grip.
When party dissidents held a procession from Matara to Colombo, he
employed thugs to attack it. Usually such strong arm tactics are used by
politicians in power. We have never heard of Opposition politicians
engaging in such thuggery. It is only a myth that there will be good
governance under them.