Maithripala Sirisena ignored my request to be appointed Security Advisor – Sarath Fonseka MP | Sunday Observer

Maithripala Sirisena ignored my request to be appointed Security Advisor – Sarath Fonseka MP

11 October, 2020
SJB MP and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka
SJB MP and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka

“The country and its people benefited from the 19th Amendment. If someone disagrees with that fact he’s a hypocrite. But we agree that the two leaders – the President and the Prime Minister did nothing for the country during the Yahapalana rule” said SJB MP and former Army Commander Sarath Fonseka in an interview with Silumina, our sister paper

Q: Why do you reject the 20th Amendment?

A. We have many reasons to reject it.

After the 20th Amendment, the person who will be President will have excessive powers.

When you weaken independent commissions, the police will get weakened. The President can manipulate the Public Service Commission and the Judicial Service Commission because he will retain the power to make appointments to these commissions after the 20th Amendment. The members of the Commissions will have to please him to save their positions and these Commissions will lose their independence.

We remember the damage caused by the 18th Amendment.

On the other hand, the Auditor General will not have the offices of the President and Prime Minister under his purview.

He cannot audit the transactions of the institutions under them. That is detrimental. All past leaders who have reigned this country were accused of corruption, what is the guarantee that it will be different this time?

The new Amendment will also deprive the power to audit institutions of which the Government holds over 50per cent of shares such as Sri Lankan airlines and Sri Lanka Telecom.

The officers in these companies draw heavy paychecks, sometimes, worth millions of rupees.

Q: But the Government has refuted this, it says the President’s office and the PM’s office can be Audited after the 20-A is introduced?

A. But not only the President’s and PM’s offices, many other institutions will be exempted from Audit if the 20th Amendment becomes effective.

We are concerned about the way government members are behaving, already there are reports of massive illegal land clearing and destruction of protected forests. Lawmakers seem to be above the law. Alarmingly, the President says his word should be regarded as official administrative circulars.

Q: But the Government has stressed that the flawed 19th Amendment must be replaced if the country is to flourish?

A. We don’t agree with that stance. The 19th Amendment should not be blamed for all the Yahapalana woes and blunders. The former President and Prime Minister were weak and they let the issues between them overshadow the most important task at hand - governance. And the country was destabilised as a result.

No Amendment can help if the Heads of Government and the Cabinet are weak in performance. The Constitution should not be blamed for the problems they created.

Q: It is claimed that the 19th Amendment was a curse ?

A. The country and its people benefited from the 19th Amendment. If someone disagrees with that fact he’s a hypocrite. But we agree that the two leaders – the President and the Prime Minister did nothing for the country during the Yahapalana rule.

Yet, we managed to correct a lot of misdeeds committed up to 2015. Health, Education and Agriculture sectors showed a progress. The ‘closest school is the best school’ concept gained momentum. Transport and road development too recorded positive trends of progress. “The Gamperaliya program” found solutions for the rural masses.

The Government failed due to the actions of the President, Prime Minister and a handful of other ministers.

Q: It has been ten months since the President assumed office, hasn’t he done anything to fulfill the people’s wishes in your opinion?

A. He has not fulfilled any of his election pledges. The cost of living has sky rocketed.

Life has become a struggle for the common man, and so is having a proper meal.There is a ban on exports, from a bicycle tire to ordinary garments, people can’t find anything to buy. This situation directly affects our economy.

Q: The President’s vision is to strengthen local industries by limiting imports, is that a bad policy ?

A. We must strengthen our economy, before stopping imports. We cannot afford to stop imports abruptly. First of all, we must develop local production to meet the demand. The best example is the sudden prohibition of turmeric imports. This has created an acute shortage, local production cannot meet the current demand. The housewives are the most affected. The Government has no solution so far.

Q: The Government says they have the two-thirds to pass the 20 th Amendment in Parliament?

A. We cannot be certain of anything in politics, which means it’s a possibility. There are weak characters in the Opposition. In the past we saw how MPs got sold out. During the 52 day government MPs were bought over. So, the Government might bribe the Opposition MPs to secure two-thirds majority.

Q: Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage has openly said that 30 MPs from the Opposition will support the Government to pass the 20th Amendment.

A. He speaks nonsense, we don’t pay much attention to his utterances. But the team of MPs in the SJB works hard and I’m certain none of them will get sold-out.

Q: You have accused the Government of not apprehending the top men behind the Central Bank Bond Scam committed during the Yahapalana regime?

A. Not just the Opposition, even the people are blaming the Government. The Prime Minister and the President at all election rallies said that the first thing they will do after the election is to apprehend offenders of the Bond Scam and expose corrupt officials. Where are those thieves now?

This exercise is going to be a big farce. We have seen this trend over and over again in our history. Sadly, the people will be cheated once again.

Q: You are a former Army Commander, what is your view on this Easter Sunday terror attacks ?

A. It could have been averted. We fought with a bigger threat – a ruthless terror outfit- and defeated it. If the President and the PM acted accordingly, Easter Sunday terror attackscould have been averted. In fact in 2014, Major General Lal Perera had identified Saharan and warned him.

The then government should also have taken more action in that regard. The Yahapalana government had not looked into this at all. The intelligent apparatus and the law enforcement had found out about him and informed the relevant units in the Police and the Government but the leaders have not acted on any of these reports, nothing was done about it, this is clear.

The Minister of Law and Order then was Minister Sagala Ratnayake and later the President had taken over the subject but none of them had acted on these intelligence reports.

Later, when intelligence of his planned attack on Easter Sunday was received, it was not taken up at the Security Council meeting. The then Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe washed his hands saying that President did not allow him to attend the Security Council meetings and the Law and Order Minister and the IGP did the same.

It is more than clear now that they turned a blind eye to the attacks, even after receiving intelligence of the exact date, time and place of the incident.

There was a team of people who assisted Zaharan to carry out the attacks, and others who knew about the attack but did not try to prevent it. All of them must take responsibility for the devastation, the mayhem and the suffering of the people. They are directly responsible and they must own up to it. And they must be punished accordingly.

Q: You too were part of the Yahapalana government holding an important Ministry at the time of the attacks, why didn’t you act on these reports.Did you know about these intelligence reports ?

A. It was completely outside my ministry’s purview. I did not know about Zaharan’s plans. In fact, those who knew about it did not speak a word about it.

President Maithripala Sirisena did not get me involved in the law and order, judicial or security matters. If they did I would not have let this happen.When Sirisena was elected President, I was not an MP, I was just a leader of a political party. He asked me if I would like to be appointed as a head of a foreign diplomatic mission, I said instead I would like to be appointed as an advisor on security matters.

He did not do it, I reminded him twice, but he ignored it.

Q: There are allegations that the Samagi Jana Balawegaya has lost its unity?

A. That is not true. There are no major issues within our alliance. We are the strongest force in the Opposition. We have detached ourselves from the uncouth elements that were responsible for corruption and other misdeeds during the last government.

Today, we have an immaculate leader and a robust team of members. We are working on having our own government soon. Over 15 former UNP Ministers and MPs contested under the UNP and lost.

We don’t need to join them in the future as well, people have rejected them.During the last General Election the mainstream political parties whio stood with us are asking for an alliance. That is not a difficult demand. We faced the election as the Samagi Jana Balawegaya party, in future we will be known as the Samagi Jana BalaPeramuna.