Jt. Opposition not speaking for people, only for Mahinda - Peopleís
Intellectual Assembly Jt. Secy
The Peopleís Intellectual Assembly has been formed by professionals,
academics and activists from a wide cross section of society with the
primary objective of offering an educated and rational response to
national issues. Joint Secretary of the PIA, lawyer Chrishmal
Warnasuriya in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, their
immediate intention is to act as a pressure group and make sure that the
Government they helped to form, is on the right track.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is the reason for forming the Peopleís Intellectual
Assembly (PIA) and why do you think the Government is on the incorrect
A: The reason for us to come together was the meeting of
several intellectuals who got on the streets to help bring the incumbent
Government to power. At a time when the people were scared even to talk
of the previous regime, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, former Chief Justice
Sarath N. Silva, Ravaya Editor K.W. Janaranjana and I, were the first to
come forward and rally round the banner saying, former President Mahinda
Rajapaksa cannot contest for a third term. We wanted to change the
nepotistic and cruel system where one family was ruling. Having done
that we donít want this Government to lose track of the peopleís
revolution. It was the people who made the January 8 silent revolution,
while the media also played a pivotal role. We made all the sacrifices
as we thought there should be a peopleís government. Now, several
unpleasant things are happening, such as, the influence brought upon the
Central Bank Governorís appointment and the Auditor General being
summoned. We donít want what used to be a family rule, and those around
the family sharing the wealth to be transferred to an elite set of
friends in Colombo, and allow them to continue the same power. Then we
have changed only the faces, not the system. We are responsible to the
people because we asked the people to change that regime. Now, the
people are asking us what we are doing and why we are silent. We all
need to take this Government on to the correct track. Otherwise, we are
going to lose the peopleís victory. Politicians appear to be getting
more and more corrupt and are only interested in themselves, their perks
and budgetary allocations. As academics and professionals, we should
critically analyze it. Unless we change the thinking of the people, we
canít change the system. That is why we came together.
Q: If the Government is not on the correct track, what are the
alternatives you suggest?
A: We want to act as a pressure group. That is our immediate
intention. For example, on the Auditor Generalís issue, we want to
convene gatherings like this and try to find ways of getting our message
to the people in terms of law, regulations and democratic governance. As
academics and professionals, we donít see this is the right way to
proceed. The other aspect is direct intervention. If there is a public
agitation or the need to write to relevant officials, we will do it. At
present, we donít have a vibrant Opposition in Parliament. Democracy
means, you must have a cogent Opposition. In England, we say, the
Opposition should be breathing down the neck of the Government. Do we
have an Opposition like that in our country? We have something called
the Joint Opposition who only want to bring back former President
Mahinda Rajapaksa to power. The so called Opposition that Sampanthan is
heading is silent on national issues, and are only talking of the ethnic
issue and the law. We donít have a constructive Opposition in
Parliament, which is a major constraint. We want to give a voice to the
people. As the PIA, we would educate the public to do the right thing.
At a subsequent stage, if we see that these people are not going to
follow the proper governance process, we might even think of directly
intervening in the political process and giving the people a third
choice. We might do that. Right now we want to act as a pressure group
and make sure the Government that we helped to form is kept on the right
Q: If the law is not equally applied to everyone, what is your
suggestion to improve the judicial system, assuring its independence?
A: First, we need an overhaul of the whole system. We havenít
discussed it in detail at our committee stage. We should reform the
overall system and make it more user friendly so that the people make
use of the courts. Now people tell us as lawyers, to find them ways to
avoid going to courts, which shouldnít be the case. We have to make
litigation more cost effective and address the lawís delays. These
delays take a lot of time and the people are losing faith on the
Q: Do you think a Code of Conduct should be introduced for
Ministers and Deputy Ministers, some of whom apparently think they are
above the law?
A: We need to bring a more concise Code of Conduct that
applies to all public officials, including Parliamentarians. Everyone
who is paid by the public funds should follow a Code of Conduct. In
regard to judges and the judiciary, there is something called the
Bangalore Code of Conduct which most of our citizens are not even aware
of. Justice Weeramanthry who became the Vice President of the
International Court of Justice chaired the committee on the Bangalore
Code of Conduct for Judges with an international resolution. Except for
Sri Lanka, many countries including Bangladesh have ratified the
Bangalore Code of Conduct for Judges. We need to bring sweeping reforms
which we promised to the people in January 2015. The Code of Conduct
should not be restricted to Parliamentarians. Some public officials also
think they are above the law. Each time a government changes, they
change all heads of Departments, board of directors and chairmen. People
think if one keeps on praising a Minister he can stay in office.
According to the Constitution, all public servants take oaths to serve
the Republic, not Ministers. The Republic is above the people. The
Constitution says the sovereignty of the Republic is with the people,
not with Ministers.
Q: Why do you think the investigation on corruption is slow?
Could there be some sort of deal to either stop or mitigate the
investigations? What are your suggestions to expedite these
A: Corruption should be immediately tackled. We need to go
fast behind these acts of corruption. I donít think the Government is
doing it the right way, they are just using it as a political reason.
This Government is using the threat of punishment for political
advantage, which is more dangerous. Sometimes, they send out a news item
saying they are going to arrest a certain person. Then they use that
threat to gain political advantage by either getting some bill passed in
Parliament or getting that person to cross over.. We want corrupt
persons to be punished. We donít want them to cross over to the
Government. It is not what we promised to the people.
Q: Do you think the peopleís expectations have been shattered
by the government giving so many ministerial portfolios, and buying
hundreds of new vehicles for Ministers, despite their promise to reduce
the number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers?
A: Absolutely. Not only reduce, we said we would to limit the
numbers. The first draft of the 19th Amendment had provisions limiting
the number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers. Later on, they made a
provision that if they form a joint government, the number will be
increased. At that time I posed a question as to how it could be done.
If 18 or 19 million people in the country need 25 or 35 Ministries, what
is the rational of increasing the number of Ministers? If Ven.
Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera who led the National Movement for a Just
Society was alive, he would have been shocked at the breaches of
promises taking place.