focus is ultimate peaceĒ
Telecommunication Minister and one of the founder members of the
Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) D.M. Jayaratne has charged that
the Marxists JVP have to learn more lessons to compete with the
SLFP. Totally condemning the present attitude of the JVP, the
seasoned politician said the SLFP will certainly not invite the
JVP to contest elections in the future. ďIf they donít learn
lessons then we canít go on with them. They need to show that
they are mature in politics,Ē he told The Nation in an
interview. Jayaratne was only 20-years-old when he joined the
late S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike to form the SLFP. He has served jail
sentences and even been shot at by his arch rivals. The UNP
government has also framed 43 illegal charges against him. He
says political experience is not mere education; it takes one to
the other shore.
Following are excerpts:
Q: In the recent past, the JVP has cast aspersions on the SLFP
even to the extent of matching the party to the oldest
profession in the world. What are the causes for the sudden
A: The JVP is a young party. It is quite natural for youngsters
to mock at the old ones. We have seen this in our country and
the older ones in my view donít take this serious. Therefore I
think the JVP has much to learn and become mature. Now I am
aware of the JVP branding the SLFP a den of prostitutes. Now my
simple question is why associate with prostitutes if one thinks
they are bad? The implication here is that if one calls the
other a whore and continues to frequent her, then he is also
engaged in prostitution. Now the JVP in my view has not thought
about these serious implications before making any statement to
the public. This is why I say maturity in politics is essential.
Q: Though the JVP entered into a working arrangement with the
SLFP, it has constantly found fault with the SLFP. Earlier, the
JVP walked out of the PA government which led to its collapse.
The party now refuses to join the government despite repeated
calls by the President. What is wrong?
A: The JVP has its extreme views on several issues; especially
when it comes to the ethnic question. The problem with the JVP
is, that it is not pragmatic. When the party submitted 20
demands we could not agree with four which dealt with the
ongoing peace process. You see when we cannot accommodate any
demands we have the right to say no to it, which the JVPers find
difficult to stomach. The four demands were to oust the
Norwegians, de-merge the North-East, prune down the cabinet and
abrogate the CFA. Now our focus is on achieving ultimate peace
and therefore there are certain issues we cannot afford to
fiddle with. But the JVP wants us to do the same which we cannot
and will not. This is why they are angry with us.
Q: The JVP also gives the impression that it is capable of
weakening the SLFP. Is it possible?
A: The JVP may be able to weaken us in parliament but not
outside. Outside, we have gained much more support than the JVP.
On the other hand the JVPís political base has dwindled
drastically and the party needs support from us.
Q: Prior to entering into any coalition with the Marxists, did
not your party foresee a danger in the future?
A: Well we did. In fact, we were not going to be played out by
anyone and we knew that anything adverse could happen to us. But
what gave us the confidence was the willingness on the part of
the JVP for a change of heart. The JVP did express in no
uncertain terms that it was willing to enter into the true
democratic stream. But when we saw the elections results, it
became certain that they would not be in a position to cheat us
or run over us. Of the 12.6 million voters they received only
some .5 million votes. They also lost most of the local
councils. This gave us the reassurance that they are not that
powerful as they seem to be.
Q: Speculation is rife that there could be a coup attempt by the
JVP, similar to the one in 1971. Do you think itís possible?
A: No chance. We will never let that happen. How can it be
possible given the ground support the JVP has right now. For a
coup díťtat, a party needs the ground support which the JVP does
not have at the moment.
Q: JVP leader Somawansa Amerasinghe claims to be the architect
of the Mahinda Chinthana. Now tell me whose document is this
Mahinda Chinthana? The JVPís or SLFPís?
A: Amarasingheís claim is absolute trash. It is the SLFPís
document but of course supported by the JVP at large. No one has
the right to claim ownership. It was the SLFPís work and we
continue to follow the Mahinda Chinthana.
Q: Amerasinghe also says the Mahinda Chinthana has become too
heavy for President Mahinda Rajapaksa and that now he tries to
deviate from the Chinthana. Is there any truth in it?
A: It is an allegation. There is no truth. We are obviously
following the provisions enshrined in the Mahinda Chinthana.
This is why I said earlier that the JVP is not pragmatic. You
see, even if a lot of things are said in the Mahinda Chinthana,
when it comes to daily governance, things can vary according to
the ground situation. If something is good for the people and if
the Chinthana has no room for it, then it is only fitting to
deviate from the Chinthana and do what is good to the people.
This is politics. But the JVP does not understand this.
Q: Amerasinghe has also said that the Mahinda Chinthana has
given priority to solving the problem through a unitary system
and therefore would oppose the present move by the government to
solve the crisis through a federal structure. Does the Chinthana
talk of settling the problem through a unitary system?
A: As far as I know the Chinthana talks loudly about solving the
crisis without separating the country. Now this is what we all
Sri Lankans want. This is why it is said the law is an ass. Laws
are just words. And they are made by men. Prudently thinking,
these words must be able to be changed according to the present
demands. Now when this happens then it is evident that our
society is enlightened. Even now we have a system where power is
devolved to the regions under the 13th amendment. So even if a
federal structure is introduced, it would be the same. You see
we must think of a solution without dividing the country. But
the JVP seems not to understand this concept.
Q: A general feeling among the public is that the North-East
problem cannot be solved by President Mahinda Rajapaksa as he is
too dependent on the JVP and JHU. Could this be possible?
A: No. Neither the President nor the SLFP is too dependent on
the JVP and JHU. The President has already exhibited his
independence in numerous ways. Certainly he cannot simply
jettison these two parties because they supported him during his
presidential election. But this does not mean he has to listen
to them to govern the country. If what they say contradicts with
what the people say, I think the President must do what the
people say. The President has proved that he is not dependent on
these two parties. Otherwise the Norwegians would have been
asked to return home. Even though the JVP brought huge pressure
on the President to send them back, he stood by his conviction.
Q: What is the progress of the UNP-SLFP talks?
A: It is progressing well. But I donít agree that we should try
to discuss all the issues as demanded by the UNP. Right now what
is important is to ensure that the country has a better economy
and the North-East problem is solved. If both these parties
could find out ways and means to iron out the economic problems
and the ethnic problem, I think the other problems would be
automatically addressed. We must try to confine ourselves to
these two important issues I think.
Q: Are both parties expected to strike a deal to form a national
A: Well, I am personally opposed to any form of national
government. If a country has to have true democracy there has to
be a vibrant opposition. And if a national government is formed,
we cannot have a vibrant opposition. So I am not in favour of a