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Interviews


ďOur focus is ultimate peaceĒ

Posts and 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.

By Wilson Gnanadass
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 rage?
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 government?
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 national government.