|Crisis simmering in the UNP;
Mahinda under JVP fist: SB
national organiser S.B. Dissanayake is frank in his opinion and
openly says there is a crisis within the party. He cites delays
in implementing vital reforms as the cause for this crisis and
says there is a section within the party who does not want any
change done. While assuring that he would not leave the party,
Dissanayake told The Nation that he feels it is difficult for
the UNP to march to victory unless reforms are implemented.
ďThere is a section that does not like any change within
the party. Another section think if we go on like this there is
no future for the party and it will get destroyed. I also hold
that latter view. Therefore a clear, decisive change should
happen within this party. This change has to be done quickly.
Certain action is being taken towards this end.Ē
By Kesara Abeywardena
Following are excerpts:
Q. It seems the country is back to all out war despite
pronouncements by both sides that they had not violated the
ceasefire agreement. Your observations?
A. Both sides are at war. They are bombing each other. But both
sides do not want to accept responsibility for violating and
breaking the ceasefire agreement. Both sides are killing
innocent civilians. - And the war is raging on. Both sides are
lying when they say they are not killing civilians. They are
also lying when they say they have taken over this or that base.
At the moment there is no ceasefire or a ceasefire agreement.
Q. Would the situation be different if the UNP was in power?
A. The UNP went to the ceasefire at a time when the country was
divided. They had their own police stations, courts, banks, post
offices and other administrative mechanisms. At that time the
government had suffered several setbacks militarily. We went to
a ceasefire at such a moment. By 2002, the UNP government signed
the ceasefire agreement and brought both the main political
parties to a common understanding on this issue. If that process
which we initiated moved forward without being obstructed the
whole world would have been with us. They would have helped us
in many ways even if there was a necessity to fight with the
Q. Do you mean that situations like Mawil Aru would not have
A. Definitely no. Our government was dissolved at a time when we
were almost ready to start peace talks again. We could have come
a lot forward in the peace front by now if that did not happen.
The only way to solve this problem is through maximum devolution
of power within a united Sri Lanka.
Q. There is a perception that this entire war effort is being
carried out on the whims of the JVP and the JHU and the voice of
the SLFP had been buried. What do you see?
A. Quite clearly so. We can see that the President wants to
devolve power but both the JVP and the JHU does not allow him to
do so. Mahinda Rajapaksa although he is the leader of the SLFP
and the PA, now is under the fist of the JVP and the JHU. He
also does not have any other option. Although he wants to go on
a different direction he canít because the government will
Q. Do you think that the President is genuinely interested in
A. I donít think so. There was a viewpoint in the SLFP that
power should be devolved and the genuine grievances of the Tamil
people should be answered. But Mahinda Rajapaksa was never in
the forefront of that school of thought. But now he must be
realising that there is no other alternative than finding a
solution through devolution of power.
Q. Will it serve any purpose having an all party conference at
A. No it is a hoax. It only deceives the country, the people,
the world and finally the President himself.
Q. The criticism levelled against the UNPís ceasefire and peace
process is that they were giving into all demands of the LTTE
and the Tigers strengthened themselves using the ceasefire and
even transported bombs to the South during that time. Your
A. Did the Maradana bomb, the Dalada Maligawa bomb, the Central
Bank bomb, the Katunayaka attack take place after the ceasefire.
All these attacks happened while there were barricades and
checkpoints all over the city and outside as well. So there is
no logical ground to support the view that the LTTE strengthened
itself because the checkpoints were removed. There is no country
in this world where problems with ethnic and racial tones were
solved by fighting. In India for example there was no Tamilnadu
till 1965. One section was in Kerala and the other part in Andra
Pradesh. They made Tamilnadu because people struggled for it.
The states of Tripura, Mizoram, Nagaland were created after the
government was not able to defeat the uprisings in those places.
Indonesia completely burnt Timor but they lost it in the end. In
Aceh, Indonesia is trying to solve the problem by devolving
power to extreme lengths. If power is not devolved what
ultimately happens is that those countries breakup.
Czechoslovakia broke into two, Yugoslavia broke into five. Even
today the Chechnyan guerillas are fighting with Russia. They
could not finish it off. Devolving power is not done in
desperation or out of fear of the LTTE. It is the correct thing
to be done. The unitary form of governance is a very primitive
system. Only kings, tribal and fascist leaders maintained this
form of centralised power. When countries developed and people
got educated power was devolved. So telling that Sri Lanka is a
small country and there is no point in devolving power is wrong.
Switzerland is very much smaller than Sri Lanka but there are 26
small councils. Belgium is smaller than us but there are seven
councils. These are highly developed and wealthy nations.
Countries have not become poor from devolving power. Devolving
power while keeping the country together is a highly civilised
feature, centralised power is a feature of the savages. But
Mahinda can only keep fighting because the JVP and the JHU would
not allow him to go towards such a solution.
Q. Will the UNP support the government?
A. If Mahinda wants he can come to some arrangement with the UNP
for two or three years. But I personally believe that he does
not have the strength to do that. He does not have the strength
to throw away the JVP and the JHU and work with the UNP.
Q. Is there a crisis within the UNP as well?
A. There is a crisis. After we lost the Presidential election
many people thought that there should be some major changes
within the party. The leader, the deputy leader and everyone
agreed to do that change. But it is not happening. Because of
that there is a big crisis. There is a section that do not like
any change within the party. Another section think if we go on
like this there is no future for the party and it will get
destroyed. I also hold that latter view. Therefore a clear,
decisive change should happen within this party. This change has
to be done quickly. Certain action is being taken towards this
Q. Party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe presented his own proposals
for reforms recently. Do you agree with them?
A. We give our whole hearted support for a clear change in the
party. We started discussions on his proposals. There were some
good proposals and there were some that needed to be changed.
But these should be done quickly.
Q. There is an idea that the UNP is not powerful at the
grassroot level, particularly in the villages. What has to be
A. We should go from village to village and carry out our
organising campaigns. When that is done people will get a new
hope. We should create hope within the party at village level.
There are many good UNPers in villages who say it is useless as
we have been losing 14 elections. To rejuvenate them we should
give them hope. This was the case with the SLFP in 1993. But we
brought in a new face in Chandrika at that time and created that
hope in the minds of the people. There is a breakdown in the UNP
in the village as well as at town level. That is why reforms are
needed. If we do that and go before the people in a new way I am
confident that we can come to power at any moment.
Q. There were reports that the political affairs committee of
the UNP is to be dissolved. As a person who had raised vital
issues on party reforms at the political affairs committee do
you think this is another move to block reforms?
A. I also think it is not good that things we discuss at the
political affairs committee appear in the newspapers. That is
not healthy because we very openly discuss and criticise each
other at the political affairs committee. We are doing a major
struggle there to take this party in a new direction. So it is
not good that things we discuss there appear in newspapers. But
there is a certain section that does not want party reforms and
want the political affairs committee dissolved. My personal
opinion is that the reforms we think of are not happening in
this party. Because of that it is not easy for the party to win
as well. Therefore for me it does not matter whether the
political affairs committee or the working committee exists or
not or whether I am in them or not. But I will not leave the UNP.
I will work within the UNP to correct its course and move