It is an irony in a country with a history of over 100 years of Trade Unionism and with 95% literacy, outsiders continue to manipulate the destinies of the workers. These self appointed protagonists are either politicians or followers of come decadent ideology and use Trade Unionism to maintain to climb to power to preserve the positions they already hold.
Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe, the lone ranger of Sri Lankan politics who earlier dared to defy the UPFA as a Minister in President Mahinda Rajapaksaís first term when he wanted certain doubtful transactions of the state banks probed and was outspoken on many other issues, has now in a patriotic zeal has literally grabbed the UN Secretary General by his shirt collar pointing out with in depth research into UN where Ban Ki-moon had gone wrong with his advisory panel on Sri Lanka. We spoke to the outspoken parliamentarian now representing the UNP on the issue. Following are excerpts:

By Rohan Abeywardena
Q: When you take a bold step like this, the enemies will sling mud at you and already one web site has insinuated that you took this stand because there is a CID investigation into your unpaid taxes personally directed by the President. What was your reason for going out of your way to take on the UN Secretary General in defence of the country?
This is an allegation made by Rajitha Senaratne in 1999 when I appeared against him in a case where the court expelled him from parliament. I know that according to the Inland Revenue Department rating, I am one of the best tax payers since 1984. I never had any problem with the Tax Department, but in a particular year, prior to 1998 there was a delayed payment of Rs. 60,000. That is what he had highlighted. There is nothing. If I had that kind of thing when I crossed over there was ample time, about three years, to drag it out. I donít think the President will come down to that level knowing my past conduct.

Q: There is also the allegation that you recently met President Rajapaksa after informing your Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and then on April 25 morning when you informed him of your decision to make the special statement regarding the report of the advisory panel of the UN Secretary General, Wickremesinghe had wanted to see it first, but without showing it you had gone public with it.
I never said I am going to make a statement. I did this in a professional way. It is not a statement. I wrote a letter explaining the legal provisions in the UN Charter and the international law. I kept him informed. That is all. I also informed him that I am not entangling in political issues and it has nothing to do with party policies and purely a legal document. In fact the letter refers only to legal matters and nothing else.

Q: Could it be an immediate reaction to your letter that Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed a party team headed by retired civil servant Bradman Weerakoon to study the panel report, knowing very well that Weerakoon was an ardent fan of the controversial CFA?
I cannot exactly say it is the reason, but that is possible. I of course wrote as a lawyer. Ten years ago I was made a Presidentís Counsel and in that sense one of the most senior lawyers and the oath I took as a PC in the Supreme Court said whenever there is a problem, jeopardy or a predicament faced by Sri Lanka, then without even charging a fee, when the state requests my services I am prepared to do it. That is my oath.
In Parliament at present I am the one and only Presidentís Counsel. Therefore I was really concentrated from day one when Ban Ki-moon first expressed his idea to appoint a committee in March 2010 in the heat of the election campaign here. I was the one and only politician who spoke against that to the media. There was nobody either from the government or the opposition to speak out against it. Prominent publicity was given to it by Swarnavahini. On that day also my stance was the same. In the last five to six months I got down the relevant materials and books, some from the UN itself and from America. Then I studied for couple of months before preparing this letter. I must have spent several lakhs of rupees buying material to study the subject matter.

Q: So it was purely for the sake of the country.
Certainly. I donít know whatever the quarter from which the allegations are coming, but even earlier on so many occasions the President has invited me. I donít want to do any conspiracy or underhand work if I want to join the government or to get a portfolio. In fact the President earlier gave me a portfolio and Mrs. Bandaranaike also gave me, but I did not want to take at that time. I am sure if I wanted he might accommodate me.

Q: Are you interested?
Absolutely not. In fact the President called me. He thanked me for doing this kind of thing for the country despite being an opposition member. Nothing is expected by me in return.

Q: What was the reaction of Ranil Wickremesinghe?
I kept him informed. On the same day I sent a copy to the President simultaneously a copy was also sent to Ranil Wickremesinghe. So far there has been no comment by anybody.

Q: Even when you were in the UPFA you spoke out without fear or favourÖ.
That is I know in Sri Lankan politics when you speak out without fear or favour, it is disadvantageous to that person whoever it is. It doesnít matter because I am not here to win over anybody. I only want to convince my conscience that I am doing the correct thing.

Q: Like any good lawyer you seem to have studied your brief thoroughly, but the world order is such that it is weighted in favour of the powerful nations where they even get away with mass murder, while preaching to the world about human rights and good governance. Now various people are proffering all sorts of opinion to the government on this issue, but what is your advice?

When I wrote a letter I know that should have had a great effect than the entire government or the entire Cabinet writing to the UN. The allegations are thrown basically against the government. When an opposition member holds this kind of opinion and writes directly and also state I am willing to take the challenge to discuss face to face with almost the first citizen of the world, the UN Secretary General, they will take serious note. And there is a message given to the powerful countries and the organisation as far as the issue is concerned that the Sri Lankan community as a whole taking this as a threat and in addition to that irrespective of party politics the opposition is willing to stand with the government and fight on this issue. That is the clear message that has gone to the world.

Q: What is the next step? Has the government asked you to take part in the fight against the advisory panel report?

Whatever the government, if I am asked to fight against this unfair report - my position is this is illegal - I will certainly do it. Whatever the assistance the government needs from me, forget about politics, but as a lawyer and as a citizen certainly I will extend it. It doesnít mean I will have to go and join the government and get a ministerial portfolio. That is the thinking pattern. I donít want to come down to that level, but I am willing to support.

Q: What really drove you to take this trail blazing action in literally grabbing the UN by its throat while not even being in the government?

In the first place I studied the case for months and months. There was something which was really disturbing my mind. We know that a majority of the people are not educated on political issues the world over, not only in Sri Lanka and sometimes most of the people act on emotions. Knowing the history of Sri Lanka I have a fear that due to some reasons based upon this report if they want to fix Sri Lanka or some leaders here, there can be another calamity. The people might be provoked into venting their emotions. Even in the last couple of days we saw that some unwarranted protests are going on. A slight spark just might ignite Sri Lanka as happened in 1983. Then that would mean we will never become a peaceful country during the lifetime of the present generations.
I think to avoid such a repetition it is the duty of everybody. We cannot face such type of bloodbath or commotion in future. We cannot come down to that barbarous level. If it happened during the rule of a so called versatile leader like J.R. Jayewardene, it can happen under the leadership of anyone else. That is my concern. I wrote this letter to prevent such a situation. For that I am not expecting any certificates or awards, but that is what pushed my feelings to do it and to take any risk on that account.

Q: Has there been any reply from the UN?
Not yet. But we get information from lots of Sri Lankans working there. We have got the information that they have seriously considered this letter and after the release of the report early this week the Secretary General dealt with two matters that is to concede that it is not within his authority. Those two grounds referred to in his reasoning are the two reasons I have given in my letter.
Number one we are not a signatory to the Rome Convention. Of course that credit must go to Ranil Wickremesinghe. That is the first ground. If you have to have this kind of investigation against Sri Lanka since we are a non-signatory, they have to get consent in writing from the Sri Lankan government. Only then they can start it.
The number two I have pointed out that what he had done was to arrogate the powers of the Security Council. If there was a Security Council resolution he could have acted upon it. Instead he had done it on his own. He has conceded that on these first two grounds he has no authority. In addition to these two there are four other grounds, but he has conceded these two.

Q: On the deliberate failure of the UNP leadership to get its previous interim Working Committee to appoint its National Organiser, a group of lawyers, including you had given the opinion that it was not a violation of the party constitution. Do you still believe in that opinion?
Whoever the lawyer who drafted that constitution should have had that provision. This constitution has not mentioned anything with regard to the appointment of office bearers at the first round. This is a continuation. Unless the constitution is amended, even for hundred years these are the operational provisions. It is the basic rudimentary principle of law, irrespective of any vacancy, in a working body or a decision making body, the decisions are valid. That cardinal principle is embodied in our constitution. Irrespective of the fact that there are vacancies in parliament, you cannot say an act or a bill passed by parliament is invalid. That was the rudimentary principle that was considered by everybody in the Working Committee.
It was discussed for days and weeks and all agreed because it was the constitution that had been adopted, but as you suggested you can put that question in a different way. If you ask me whether it is legal? It is definitely legal. There is no question about that, but if you ask from me whether it is ethical? Then there is an issue. As a lawyer when I am called upon to give a legal opinion I am not supposed to go through the ethical part. Even in cases there are so many unethical things, but when a judge has to look into those matters, he cannot look into ethical parts.

Q: Natural justice demands that goal posts should not be moved to suit certain interests, but such things are happening in the UNP even under the new constitution.

It is not a question of constitution. Four months had been given to elect the office bearers. I had no authority to appoint office bearers. If they had not done it, it is the fault of the office bearers who did not do it. It cannot be attributed to the person who drafted the constitution. Certainly on a question of ethics I think you are sound. You can ask what did you do for four months. It is a question that has to be answered by them, the persons who are responsible.