Nomination Board to decide on MR's candidacy for general election -
In a Q & A with the Sunday Observer Opposition Leader Nimal Siripala
De Silva discussed the SLFPs plans for the forthcoming general election
including the possibility of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa
contesting the polls under the UPFA ticket.
While explaining the SLFP's decision on a national government after
the election, he said his party will support moves to scrap dictatorial
powers of the Executive Presidency under the new Government's 100- day
plan, provided it retains certain powers to uphold the unitary state of
Q: Will the SLFP contest the forthcoming parliamentary election alone
or under the UPFA with coalition partners?
I think most probably it will be under the UPFA. Because we in the
SLFP believe that we must get all the progressive forces together to
defeat the UNP. The JVP, TNA and Sarath Fonseka's party will contest on
their own. When you look at the electoral map in Sri Lanka, we think it
is advantageous for us to contest together.
It is the perception of the SLFP that all progressive forces should
be together and not be divided, so we are endeavoring to ensure that all
these forces are with us.
Q: The parties that crossed over to the common opposition, like the
JHU and the Liberal Party may return to your fold before the general
They are most welcome to join our ranks. I don't think the JHU can be
with the UNP. They have no future with the right wing UNP. We don't want
to isolate anyone. We want to have a strong government, our party
members are clamouring for a strong government. We have to see that
their wishes are fulfilled.
Q: There is talk about continuing a national government with the UNP
and SLFP joining forces, even after the up coming parliamentary
election. If the SLFP secures the majority in Parliament, will this
national government concept be taken forward?
This is a matter which has to be decided at party level. But I don't
think it will happen that way. If we can get the majority, what is the
need to go for a national government. Who will go for a national
government if they have a parliamentary majority.
Q: You mean even the UNP will not go for a national government if
they win the election with a landslide?
Even the UNP will not invite us to form a national government if that
happens. Let's see how the people of this country react to the situation
and take a decision.
Q: Do you think the UPFA can defeat the mini budget in Parliament?
We can defeat the mini budget, on the 7th. There is no question about
it. But we will not do that.
We gave a solemn undertaking to President Maithripala Sirisena, the
leader of our party, that his government's mini budget will be passed.
You can see that we will vote for the budget but we will critically
comment on the proposals. The lapses, shortcomings will be exposed.
President Sirisena was expressively specific that we have been given the
freedom to criticize matters of his government and the budget.
Q: It seems the people as well as some senior SLFPers were frustrated
over the conduct of the former President as evident by the election
outcome, as a senior and mature politician did you not see this coming?
Could not the seniors have asked for reforms to rectify the flaws before
going for an election?
The situation is this, I am strong party supporter, whatever defects
a leader has, I don't see it as a defect of the party. I have worked
with many leaders, there were shortcomings with all leaders, not just
In Sinhala, 'muna ekka tharaha wela nahaya kapa gannawa' (cutting off
your nose to spite the face). I did not want to do that. I always abide
by party decisions.
Mahinda Rajapaksa was unanimously chosen by the central committee of
the SLFP as the presidential candidate. It was endorsed by the UPFA, so
we have to work for him. We cannot argue about his shortcomings or that
his brother and son have shortcomings. Once you are committed to a party
you cannot give excuses. One has to maintain party discipline,
especially under the current presidential system this has to be strictly
maintained, otherwise you know the consequences.
That is why we too want to get rid of certain parts of the Executive
Presidency which is dictatorial.
Q: That was going to be my next question. What is your party's stand
on the Executive Presidency?
The consensus is clear. We don't want to retain the executive
presidency in the form created by J.R. Jayewardena. But there must be
wide discussion and we have to ensure that the unitary character of the
country must be preserved.
At the same time there should not room for division of the country or
for a federal government to emerge. It is the presidential powers, that
control most of these issues. Therefore we have to keep those powers
intact to ensure that the unitary state of the country is untouched and
devise a mechanism to take off dictatorial powers.
Q: You said you have to stand by the party decision, despite the
flaws. However, because of this resolution we saw a strong government
collapsing overnight. Do you still believe what the party seniors did
The problem is the political system. You have to understand the
political system in Sri Lanka - the Executive Presidency. Under a
parliamentary democracy this would not have happened.
One has to be mindful of the system that we are working in, you are a
part of that system, certain decision processes are done in a particular
way under that system.
That is why we want to get rid of certain powers of the Executive
Presidency for the future.
There is no use talking about the past. Let's face the future with a
Q: There is talk about a revised electoral process. Do you think the
forthcoming election should be held after putting in place electoral
I don't think so, if they are going to dissolve Parliament on April
24, there is no time for electoral reforms.
In my electorate Badulla, we have only 54,000 voters, in Kaduwela
there are 170,000 voters and in Mahinyangana there are 120,000 voters.
Is it fair to have one representative in parliament for 54,000 voters in
the Badulla electorate and also only one for 170,000 voters in Kaduwela?
There must be clear demarcation of boundaries. That is not to say the
electorates must be equally divided but there must be some equitable
number of voters for each and every electorate if you are to promulgate
The other thing is, the plight of the minorities. For example in the
Badulla electorate the majority are Sinhalese, the minority can never
send their representative to Parliament, that way we have to carve out
some electorates for the minorities, so that there will be fair
representation for them in Parliament. What about the smaller political
parties? How are they going to survive? It is a complex issue that needs
careful review before we go for electoral reforms.
Q: Are you satisfied with the new Government's manifestation of good
governance so far?
It is only 14 days since the Government came to power.
You cannot assess the performance of a Government in a fortnight.
That embraces many areas.
But of course I must say, when I look at the post election violence,
especially in Minister John Amaratunga's electorate, in Wattala, what
has happened at the Pradeshiya Sabha is a clear manifestation as to how
good governance norms have failed.
I see the arrest of Tissa Attanayake too as a political move. We will
fight it in courts.
Q: I heard former Chief Government Whip and MEP Leader Dinesh
Gunawardena speaking of a different political force. Does that mean the
composition of the UPFA could change in the forthcoming election?
You should ask Mr.Dinesh Gunawardena about the different political
force he's envisaging. If that is a strong political force, if we are
convinced this force can defeat the UNP, certainly we will be there.
But we cannot join a weak political force. We believe the strongest
political force opposed to the UNP is the SLFP.
That is where all other political forces should join, if we are to
gain victory against the UNP. But if you want to keep the UNP in power,
the other political forces can go their own way, that will keep the UNP
in power but not the SLFP or the progressive forces in this country.
Q: Will the former president contest the next General election under
That is up to him. How can I say whether or not he will contest. The
other thing is elections are not yet declared, nominations have not been
called, no nomination boards have been appointed.
Once the nomination boards are appointed and if he says he wants to
contest the election under the SLFP, the nomination board and the party
will decide on that. It is quite premature to give a decision at this
stage. There will be a lot of people who want to come, may be the JHU
will want to contest with us.
Even some of the UNP members will want to side with us. That will be
decided at the right time. There is no hurry.
Q: If the former Army Commander wants to contest under the UPFA
Yes. Even that can be considered.
Q: The Opposition is envisaging a No Confidence Motion against Home
Affairs and Fisheries Minister John Amaratunga. When will it be
It will be presented soon.
(It was presented in Parliament on Saturday. At the time of the
intrerview there was no specific date mentioned).
Q: Do you think the present Government will last a 100 days?
It all depends. If Ranil Wickremasinghe wants to dissolve Parliament
and if he gets the consent of President Maithripala Sirisena, he can
even dissolve it earlier. If the President wants to dissolve it earlier,
he can do that.
Constitutionally he has the sole power and authority in taking such a
decision and acting on it. But we in the SLFP can go for a forced
dissolution of Parliament at any time because we have the controlling
majority in the House.