Present Parliament is illegitimate
It needs to be dissolved, says Gamini Viyangoda:
Gamini Viyangoda is well-known as a writer in Sinhala, prolific
translator into Sinhala of many great western literary works, a
political columnist and pro-democracy activist. He is one of the
founders and chief organizers of the Puravesi Balaya (Citizens' Power)
social movement of artistes, writers, dramatists, filmmakers and other
intellectuals who threw their weight behind President Maithripala
Sirisena's successful bid for the presidency.
The Puravesi Balaya became famous for its tireless campaigning across
the country during the presidential election in support of the
restoration of democracy and good governance.The veteran media
personality in an interview with the Sunday Observer said although the
former UPFA Government had a two-thirds majority in Parliament for five
years, they never talked about political or electoral reforms.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: As co-convener of the Purawesi Balaya, you played a major
role in gathering forces to defeat the Rajapaksa administration. How do
you look at it now, especially in the context of the famous parable of
the burning house (Bertolt Brecht's poem translated by Prof. Carlo
Fonseka) you quoted on a TV show?
Before January 8, the biggest problem that we faced was to change the
Mahinda Rajapaksa regime. The policies that former President followed
were leading towards a dictatorial situation. We had to stop that. We
had to remove him from power as the first step. That is why I quoted
that Bertolt Brecht's poem.
After the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa, we expected the new government
to introduce democratic reforms. It looks as if it will be a difficult
task. Various difficulties were encountered when 19th Amendment was
enacted in Parliament. In fact this is not what we expected through the
We cannot be satisfied with what we have achieved. We have to move
forward. In that context, 20th Amendment is now being broached and our
politicians are trying to bringing it out.
Q: This Government came with much fanfare and expectations,
but do you think it has been able to fulfill them?
No, it has not been able to do so due to various reasons. The
Maithripala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremesinghe coalition promised to
achieve certain objectives within 100 days. They thought that it could
be achieved but they were wrong. Another two to three years is needed to
fulfill all the promises given to the country before January 8 and the
way the Opposition is behaving makes matters difficult. We witnessed
that when the 19th Amendment was brought in. The present Parliament
doesn't have a proper mandate to continue.
The Presidential Election results don't negate the 2010 Parliamentary
Election results. Maithripala Sirisena was the General Secretary of the
party which was brought into power in 2010 by a certain mandate.
He himself challenged the 2010 mandate and the January 8 results
necessarily negates what we got in the people's mandate in 2010. We had
to use the former mandate as we had promised a 100-day program.
The present Parliament is illegitimate and it should be dissolved.
Mahinda Rajapaksa's camp with the collusion of certain sections in
Parliament are trying to regroup. I won't say that the defeated
President has no right to contest again.
But once defeated, that person has a moral obligation to rethink
about what he has done.
He has to come before the people and confess regarding what he has
done. But up to now, the former President has not made any confession.
For example, when the FCID questions certain people who are accused of
corruption and malpractices, the former President says it is a
witch-hunt. He has no courage to look at his own past. Such a leader
should not be appointed to this august Parliament anymore.
When the UPFA had a two-thirds majority in parliament for five years,
they never talked about political reforms and electoral reforms.
Why are they taking up these issues right now and what is the
urgency? I am suspicious about their objectives. Their intention is not
to have a progressive piece of reform enacted in Parliament but to have
more time to regroup.
Q: Do you see the 19th Amendment as a landmark achievement
after years of tyrannical rule?
Of course. It was a landmark achievement. By that, we could reverse
what we had to face through the 18th Amendment which was dictatorial
piece of legislation. We have come back to where we were before 2010.
After winning the war, Mahinda Rajapaksa thought of moving further down
the road and get all powers into his hands through the 18th Amendment.
Though the 19th Amendment, we have annulled the 18th Amendment. We
will set up the Constitutional Council and some other independent
The Public Service was heavily politicized during Mahinda Rajapaksa
regime. It has to be depoliticized.
Q: How do you analyze the present stalemate over the 20th
Amendment? Do you think it should be passed before dissolving
Parliament? Will be unfair by the minority parties? And why are some
parties attempting to scuttle it?
Minority parties are not happy about what is contained in the 20th
Amendment. So we have to discuss and negotiate with them. It not be
practical to enact the 20th Amendment within a limited time-frame.
If the present Parliament continues up to next April, we would be
able to do that.
We can't wait such a long time as it is completely contrary to what
we promised the country. Ranil Wickremesinghe was the leader of a party
which didn't have the majority in Parliament. But Maithripala Sirisena
promised to country that once elected, he will appoint Wickremesinghe as
the Prime Minister. If other parties genuinely support 'good
governance', we can continue with the same Parliament.
But they are not sincere. They are trying their best to scuttle all
the progressive work that the new government is trying to do. The best
option that we have is to dissolve Parliament and go for a fresh
mandate. After that, there would be a strong government with a national
outlook which would consist of all parties.
Perhaps, we might be able to address the national question as well. A
better political atmosphere can only come in a new Parliament where we
would be able to continue the rest of the 'good governance' project.
Q: What do you think of the argument that people will need at
least a year to get used to the new mixed electoral system and hence the
next election to be held at short notice should be on the existing PR
Of course. Even the Election Commissioner has said that any country
which adopts a new electoral system will need at least one year to get
used to it. Once a new electoral system is adopted, it will take at
least a another year to understand its real ramifications. Even if we
20th Amendment in Parliament within a couple of weeks, we will not be
able to hold the next election under that system because the
delimitation work cannot be done within couple of weeks.
Q: What are the shortcomings in the present government? What
do you think of the Bond issue?
This is something that should not never have taken place. If our
governing people were somewhat prudent, this could have been avoided.
However, it has happened. But I don't agree with certain critics who say
that the Central Bank Governor has no right to be appointed to that
These are absurd arguments. During Mahinda Rajapaksa's period, there
were certain foreign citizens of his own family who held high profile
government positions. I don't think there is a barrier to a person such
as Arjuna Mahendran being appointed as the Central Bank Governor.
When they called for tenders for Bonds, he knew that his son-in-law
was also bidding. Therefore, he should have either stopped his
son-in-law from bidding or he should have resigned from this
post. When we talked about 'good governance', what we implied was
that we would not do the same things that the Mahinda Rajapaksa regime
There is something fishy in the Central Bank Governor's issue.
However, the incumbent Government appointed a committee to investigate
the matter. Now we have to act based on the committee report.
Q: What is your view on the attempts to make former President
Mahinda Rajapaksa the Prime Ministerial candidate of the UPFA?
The Presidency is the highest post that a Sri Lankan citizen can
achieve. A person attains that position, should be retire at the expiry
of his term of office. That is what many leaders in other countries do.
There are certain leaders such as Mahinda Rajapaksa who will never thing
of retirement until they breathe their last last breadth.
They are so greedy about power and they cannot stay at home even a
single day. It's like after winning a national trophy at a national
level contest and later participating at a village level contest.
This is exactly what the former President is trying to do. His
ulterior motive is to come to Parliament even as an ordinary member and
manipulate the people in the SLFP and other parties.
After some time, he might think of reversing what we have achieved
today, as this is not a system that he is comfortable with.
After the enact of the 19th Amendment, we have a different system in
the country. This is not a system he likes.
The former President has not made any confession up to now which
shows that he has not reformed. His present behaviour is a clear
reflection that the same Mahinda Rajapaksa who tried to be a dictator is
trying to make a come back. We have to stop that.
Q: Why do many people fear FCID investigations?
Corruption was the major part of Mahinda Rajapaksa's regime. The
whole system and the social fabric were corrupt from the lowest
government servant up to Ministers and the President.
We need a special unit to investigate such massive corruption and we
have to do that within a
Financial corruption has to be investigated by people who have some
expertise on financial matters. That is why the FCID was set up. After
the division was set up, many large-scale corrupt activities came to
The people who were accused of those activities had to be questioned
and taken into custody.
Former President Rajapaksa and others specially those who are trying
to bring him back have their own share of misdeeds.
They have to stop investigations as they don't want to be exposed any
further. That is why they are so nervous and getting panicky about FCID