After the recent Cabinet Amendments, all statements by you to the media have been contentious. Are you trying to criticize the government while being in government, planning a cross over?
A: No. Actually, it is not good to under estimate the results of the past election. The reason I am saying this is because this is not a normal Local Government Election, 80 per cent of the people voted at this election. Generally there is only about 60-65 per cent who vote at such an election. The people showed us whether they were in favour of this government or not.
When the result is different from that of the General Election at the LG Elections, there is a lesson to be learnt. There is a Provincial Council election this year; and if we go on like this we will not be able to face that election. What we want is to change the situation and show our strength. If not, we will not even receive these votes even, at the Provincial Council elections. I made every statement mindful of that.
Before making these statements, on various occasions, did you not discuss them with the Party Leader?
A: We talked this over with the Party Leader on several occasions; but, he holds a different view. He is of the view that he should not be changed! Therefore, we stepped back, however unwillingly and decided to stay with the Leader, in the interest of Party unity.
Is it correct to keep uttering critical slogans and destroying the Party after having decided to step back?
A: We are not destroying the Party. We told him that if the Leader cannot be changed to at least share with others the powers of leadership. We told him to remove his friends whom he brought in through the National List and provide an opportunity for younger persons. We proposed to the Prime Minister to appoint a minister from every district.
Did the Leader agree to that?
A: Yes. He said that is what it will be like in the future. Though he agreed at moments like that, what we can see is, it is the same group that is attempting to carry on with running the Government. He is trying to protect those who have fallen out of favour and those who were defeated by changing their portfolios! It is like a game of musical chairs! When I saw these things I felt very disheartened; and wondered whether we were such fools.
However, the Cabinet reshuffle is being defined as one that would make a change for the better for the country?
A: How could that happen?
The Prime Minister gave his portfolio to Sagala Ratnayake and took Sagala’s portfolio. It is a big joke. We did not expect this. We wanted a complete change that would enable us to face the people of this country. We were to go to the village level with that change. We wanted to correct the Party mistakes and rebuild our image and go to the people, to listen to what the people had to tell us. It was then that we wanted to go into the village with a fresh look, now that cannot happen, we cannot go to the villages again with this UNP.
From what you say, are there no changes taking place within the Party?
A: What is apparent now is that there is no visible change. However, we will continue with our struggle.
You have said you will usher change by good or bad means?
A: I did not say that it will be done in a good or bad way. I said that if the change does not come about in a good way, it may happen in a bad way, in a way that we have not foreseen.
Why did the President approve of a Cabinet reshuffle which has resulted in this crisis?
A: What the Prime Minister told the President, is that he had spoken to the entire UNP and that several changes will be made among us; then we will join to establish a new government, together. However, I am personally aware of the fact that, the Prime Minister did not speak to the entire Party.
Is the UNP trying to assist the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna and the UPFA‘s attempt to form a government?
A: I will say with confidence that no one from the UNP will be a part of that, and no one has signed any No-Confidence Motions.
Minister Range Bandara said that a No-Confidence Motion should be brought against the PM.
A: No. What he said was that with the internal changes there should be a change in the Party too. At the same time the government should present a clear change to the people he said. He also said that if we try to go ahead without heeding the people’s views we will get pushed to a corner. Minister Range Bandara said that we should not get pushed into such a situation.
Does that mean that you will be bring a No-Confidence Motion against the Prime Minister?
A: If there is no other alternative that would be the final, is what Minister Range Bandara is saying. It is a very fair thing to say. If these problems cannot be solved through democratic means, what we are saying is what other alternative is left to us.
If you do not want Ranil who is the alternative…?
A: We agitated within the Party, up to now, we can continue with the agitation for about another week or two to bring the Party to a point where they will listen, bring about the changes and move forward smoothly. If that does not happen we will have to take the next step.
A crisis in the government, will it not be advantageous to other forces?
A: If we contest the Provincial Council Elections without correcting the mistakes we will have to face a greater defeat. This is not in-house quarrelling. What we are trying to do is strengthen the Party and strengthen it to a position, where it can be a good competitor at the next elections.
Did the President also grant time for this government because of decisions within the UNP?
A: As I see it, the President’s group is not at all willing to join this Government. That is why he took his time regarding this matter. Then they will start looking for another alternative.
Will the UNP have to go into the Opposition?
A: There will be no support from the SLFP for the government. It is possible that they will say for us to be in government and they will remain outside and support. The country views this Government as a heap of garbage. There are two shareholders of that heap of garbage. One is the President and the UPFA and the other is the UNP and the Prime Minister. If the UPFA does not join the government the entire heap of garbage will be embraced by the UNP. Then it will be still more disadvantageous to us. Therefore they will not topple the Government but will not be a part of it.
Why did this happen to the UNP?
A: It is not only the Prime Minister who should be blamed for this situation but those around the Prime Minister should also be held responsible for this. They are worse than the Prime Minster and cannot hear even as much as the Prime Minister, can. They are a group that is neither here nor there; who came in directly through the National List and have not done anything at all. They cannot even get five votes. They do not know what is going on in the country. They do not know what the people want. They are all living in their own worlds.
Who will be the alternative leader? Sajith is avoiding it. So is Karu Jayasuriya. So then where is the alternative…?
A: A leader will be born. There are leaders among our back benchers too. There are potential leaders among the women’s faction too. There are those who are State ministers and there are Deputy Ministers.
The UNP always made radical changes. However, there is no place for the youth within the Party. Why is that…?
A: Young people will never ever be given the leadership.
Is that because of fear?
A: Will someone who doesn’t have confidence in his own leadership build up another leader? When you consider history, the best Cabinets were during the times of D. S. Senanayake and J. R. Jayewardene. During the time of D. S. there were Dudley Senanayake, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, Sir John Kotelawala and J. R. Jayewardene. All of them became leaders of the country. During the time of J. R. Jayewardene, there were leaders such as Lalith, Gamini and Premadasa. But today there are none like that.
However, Bandaranaike also broke away from the Party?
A: Bandaranaike without a doubt recognized D. S. Senanayake as his leader. Bandaranaike did not leave the Party, because he fell out with D. S. Senanayake. When he asked who will be the leader of the Party after D. S. and when he did not receive a reply to that, he left the Party.
Wasn‘t the Party reformed before this too?
A: All of that was just to mark time.
If Gotabaya Rajapaksa becomes the candidate at the 2020 Presidential Election, will he be able to compete with the new leadership of the UNP?
A: Not Gotabaya Rajapaksa, anyone who contests from that side will win, because of the situation is right now. It will happen because the UNP is not organized. If we organize ourselves from now on, we would be able to win in 2020. If we listen to the voice of the villagers; if the Party corrects itself and wins the trust of the people; we will be able to win. Today, we do not have the Sinhala Buddhist foundation; what we should do is to make this the Party of the Sinhalese Buddhists and protect the minorities at the same time and reorganize ourselves as a Party. We have to listen to the farmers. This cannot be made into a Colombo Seven Party.
You are in the UNP; as there was no position for you there, you join the SLFP. Once again you come back to the UNP. Then you engage in struggles…?
A: I am engaging in a struggle for the advancement of the Party. During the time I was in the UNP I was not allowed to contest the elections. That happened because I was a Senanayake. Had I stayed on in the UNP then, today I would not have been even a Parliamentarian. I went to the SLFP and showed them by becoming a Member of Parliament that people still treat the Senanayakes well. Many in the UNP are scared of the Senanayakes.
Did the same thing happen to Rukman Senanayake?
A: He trusts people too much. He is too naive in politics. He is also a Senanayake! He very quickly got caught to other people’s ploys. Today a certain section of the UNP is destroying the Party. They tried to modernize the UNP. Today the people have given their answer to that. We have to consider whether the country needs American Policies or Policies of D. S. Senanayake today.
From what you say, will this change take place within the month?
A: I will fight with all my ability to the maximum for this change, even on my own.
If you fail…?
A: We are attempting to do what we can. If we fail, that will be the end of the Party. It is to prevent that happening that we are making an attempt to bring about this change.