ďMy resignation will force
find solutions to party issuesĒ
UNP MP Dayasiri Jayasekara says the
party leadership has failed to implement decisions taken, and he
wonít return to the UNP Working Committee unless these issues
By Rathindra Kuruwita
Q: You resigned from the working committee of the party on
August 12. Has the leadership accepted your letter of
A: No. Ranil Wickremesinghe told me that he will not accept
my letter, and he told me that he is not even willing to read
it. But that does not mean that I will be returning to the
Committee unless the issues I pointed out are resolved.
Q: The Working Committee meeting at which you handed over
your resignation was very tense. And it is rumoured that many
MPs were very critical of your behaviour?
A: No, thatís not what happened. Almost everyone agreed with
my decision. Some claimed that I was too rash and others claimed
that the system can be changed from the inside. But overall they
were very supportive.
Q: Do you think that your resignation will force the
leadership to find solutions to the problems you pointed out,
like the failure of the Working Committee to implement certain
polices adopted by the party?
A: I think it would. The fact that the decisions taken by
the party were not implemented by the leadership is a very grave
issue. And I think that as a member of the UNP I should question
why this is happening, and I think these objections should be
raised openly at the relevant places. But unfortunately when I
raised this issue in the past I ended up getting called a
traitor or a rebel.
The other option is to take a silent stance and ignore the fact
that the party is losing its footing with the people. But itís
something that I cannot do.
As that was the case, I thought that resigning from the Working
Committee was good for the party and itís good for the health of
my cardiovascular system!
Q: But this is not a new issue. It has been raised many
times in the recent past?
A: There are issues, but so does every party. Even the UPFA
has a lot of internal issues but since they are in power those
internal issues are hidden.
Q: And the consecutive losses at the recently held
elections have definitely contributed to the worsening of the
situation. If the UNP was in power, would these issues have
surfaced to such an extent?
A: With the war victories and the immense support that the
government managed to harness through it, itís not surprising
that the opposition parties are having a tough time at the
elections. And the government has also made sure that
independent commissions donít function. Therefore they can
politicise the entire state sector. We need these independent
commissions to make the playing ground legal, and to make these
elections free and fair.
Normally people associate violence with an unfair election, but
that is not always the case. The state can carry out many
activities below the radar that would have a lot of implications
Q: The non implementation of independent commissions,
specially the Police Commission, has had a significant impact on
peoplesí lives as shown by the recent incidents that involve the
A: In the absence of the Police Commission, there is no
place for independent and efficient Police officers. Everyone is
worried that if they take a decision against a supporter of the
UPFA, they might get a transfer or their career will suffer. And
the HQIs and the OIC are political appointees, and in decisive
moments they become the pawns of the government politicians.
Q: You speak about the non implementation of the
Constitutional Council, the independent commissions and the
misuse of state property. But it is also true that the UNP has
not appointed organisers for many of the seats. And that has
also had a significant impact on the poor performance?
A: That is also a one reason. In a situation like this when
the government is riding on a wave of success, many opposition
party supporters and representatives lose hope and are
disillusioned. So on occasions like this, some decide to leave.
But we should also constantly work on keeping our grass root
level organisers motivated and weather this storm and rebuild
Earlier Justin Galappaththi left the UNP because of a
disagreement over the appointment of MP Sagala Ratnayake as the
Matara district leader instead of him who had held the post for
a long time. I know as a party we could have done more for him,
but I really cannot agree with his decision to leave the party
as people who stood for him. He should have endured and stayed
But we canít turn back the clock and there is no point in
worrying about those that have left the party. We should focus
on rebuilding the future with a new set of leaders.
Q: You say that you need to think about building new
leaders. Who are you thinking about?
A: We have a set of leaders who have new ideas and they are
willing to fight for much needed reforms in the party. If we
look at the recently held Western Provincial Council elections
we see that the people have chosen many who are well educated,
and who I think represent the future of Sri Lankan politics.
For example almost everyone we put forward as candidates from
Rosy Senanayake to Shiral Lakthilake are people who have made a
lot of sacrifices for the UNP. And many of them were appointed
to the Council. Now it is up to them to prove themselves and to
convince the people that they are really peopleís
representatives. They should attend the sessions, point out the
mistakes of the ruling party and make their voice be heard by
Unfortunately, Shiral Lakthilake was not able to enter the
Council. But I think some members will move to Parliament in the
next general election, and Shiral also will get a chance to be a
member of the Council.
Q: There are a lot of MPs that claim that the party cannot
move forward with Ranil Wickremesinghe. If Wickremesinghe leaves
the leadership, who in your opinion can fill that void?
A: I canít predict the future but if there is a change in
the leadership Iím sure there will be people who will rise to
the occasion. And Iím not saying that I can see a clear
contender in the UNP, but when you look at any party there are
no real second tier political leaders. Our system stifles the
creativity of the youth and prevents them from developing
themselves into great national leaders.
But as I said before, there maybe a dark horse within the party
ranks and that person might change the partyís fortunes. For
example when Chandrika Bandaranaike left the SLFP many feared
that there would be no one to lead the party, but new leaders
came up and I think that when there is an opportunity someone
will definitely rise to the occasion.
Q: There were many media reports on the dispute between
you and MPs Akila Viraj and Sagala Rathnayake?
A: I have no personal antagonism with either. We had a
heated argument regarding policy. I think that the leadership
and Akila Viraj made a mistake regarding the way they filled a
vacant position in the North Western Provincial Council, and I
told that directly to them. I have always pointed out mistakes
very openly, and Iím also keen to accept any constructive
criticism levelled at me. So I think itís a mistake to think
that the argument we had was anything personal.
I also spoke of the issue between Sagala and Justin although
Sagala is a very close friend of mine. This does not mean that I
will not cooperate with Sagala or Akila. I will work with them
to lead the UNP into victory.
Q: There are rumours that there is a dispute between you
and some other UNP MPs?
A: I donít think so. I have no personal issues with anyone.
I donít have a personal agenda. My only agenda is to bring the
party to power.
Q: You said you have an agenda to bring the party to
power. What is that agenda?
A: First of all we should understand the feelings of the
people. Secondly we have to come up with a plan to convince the
people that we represent what they want. For example we have
come to decide on our policies for the coming years. Are we
going to follow the open economy and the neo liberal principles?
Or are we moving towards a welfare system of governance? Are we
going to abolish the Presidency, and what steps are we going to
take steps to ensure good governance and real national economic
I admit that we have lost ground with the people, even with
social groups that traditionally supported us, but we can easily
restore faith, if we are able to properly formulate a plan that
people can accept.
Q: In the recently held Provincial Council elections, the
UPFA won over 70% of the votes in almost all the districts, and
many feel that they can repeat this performance at a general
A: No, I donít think so. The government got such large
percentage of votes simply because it focussed the entire state
machinery on a limited area and overwhelmed the population. The
UPFA government misused state property and the state media to
hammer down their will upon the people.
That cannot be done in a general election where they will have
to spread out the state resources, and with that they will lose
their edge. Iím sure we will be able to make a good come back in
the general election. In the coming months people will have to
face harsh economic realities, and that will wake them up from
Q: There are a lot of stories circulating about the UNPís
common candidate, and there are rumours that some people have
already been identified?
A: We are already working on it but we have not yet
specifically identified such a person.
Although I cannot go into detail, I can say that the common
candidate should be a UNP member. But he should also have the
capacity to unite other parties around him. He should also be a
well known and respected individual.
Q: Talking about the more immediate Southern Provincial
Council election, what kind of preparation has the UNP made?
A: Right now we are talking to our grassroot level
organisers. We are trying to motivate them and discuss strategy
with them. We plan to commence a massive election campaign when
we are done finalising the nominations.
Q: When the COPE report was presented earlier this week,
you along with the JVP MPs Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sunil
Handuneththi protested, claiming that you have reservations
about certain observations made in the report, particularly with
regard to the reactivation of the Sri Lanka Press Council?
A: These were many problems. First of all our viewpoints had
not been incorporated when COPE took a decision on the
reactivation of the Press Council. Secondly according to the
regulations, it is not permitted for any member of a committee,
specially a member of the Public Accounts Committee and the
Committee on Public Enterprises to discuss internal matters in
public. And if a member feels that he needs to add something or
make a statement he/she should present a report to Parliament.
But Lakshman Yapa not only publicised the matters we discussed,
especially about Press Council, he also took some statements I
made out of context, and told the media that the UNP is
supporting the Press Council. But when we checked, no opposition
MP has supported the implementation of the Press Council.
And we felt that some things that were included in the report
were discussed when some opposition members were absent. For
example the JVP MPs were absent when the issue of Press Council
was discussed, although I was there I opposed it but there is no
mention of that in the report.
We felt that the government was trying to use COPE for its
petty political agenda. Thatís why we protested and demanded
that things should be done according to procedure, otherwise
people will lose faith in the COPE. And last Thursday we
discussed the matter with the Chairman, Minister W. D. J.
Senewiratne and resolved some issues.
And during Thursdayís meeting we came to a common agreement
about three points regarding the future proceedings of the COPE.
1. No member can discuss internal affairs outside the committee.
2. We will not exert unnecessary force and intimidate the state
officials that we question.
3. Stop the unnecessary intervention by some ministers who try
to protect the corrupt officials
What we have to realise is that the COPE committee comprises
members of all political parties, and the questions we ask or
the issues we raise are not politically biased. All the members
are striving to look into the malpractices of state institutes
and rectify them.
Q: The previous Chairman of COPE was MP Wijeyadasa
Rajapakshe, and everyone agreed that during his tenure the COPE
performed well. But the appointment of Minister W. D. J.
Senewiratne raised many concerns about the independence of the
A: Traditionally the Chairman of the COPE is chosen from the
opposition, but this government changed that policy without any
regard to the accepted norm. When a government minister becomes
the Chairman, it affects the integrity of the committee. But
despite this we are doing our best to make the best out of this
Q: Are you implying that the committee under the new
chairman has underperformed?
A: I wonít call it as an underperformance but I admit that
we have still not touched important issues. We have not even
looked at institutions that have major issues like Maga Neguma,
Lanka Transformers, Mihin Lanka, Air Lanka, Ceylon Electricity
Board, and Ceylon Petroleum Corporation; these are institutions
that have a lot of irregularities. And we plan to bring these
institutions in front of the COPE in the coming months.
And also, as we pointed out, some institutions jointly owned by
the government and the private sector are challenging the COPEís
authority to inspect them. Those institutions refuse to provide
information to the Committee citing legal reasons, but after
discussions that took place last Thursday, we decided that we
should be able to get information from these institutions. So we
plan to bring them in front of COPE.
Q: Last Tuesday MP Mangala Samaraweera was verbally
assaulted at a UNP meeting in Kurunegala. And many claim that
this is the result of an internal dispute in the party?
A: I donít think that is the case. Mangala Samaraweera said
that it was carried out by the government and I also believe
that itís their doing. This is very similar to what the Naziís
did in Germany, stifling the voice of the opposition by breaking
their meetings by force.
This is a democratic country and people have the right to
criticise. If the government does not like it, they could have
used many alternatives that are permitted in democracy.