Swan symbol won’t be there at next election

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 MP Dilan Perera MP Dilan Perera

Dilan Perera entered mainstream politics in 1994 after having made his contributions to the nation at local government level. He is a talented orator as well as a sports lover. Representing the Badulla District, he has offered his expertise in several ministries. Holding a commerce special degree, he is also qualified as an attorney-at- law. Recently he was appointed as the spokesperson of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP).   In an interview with The Nation, he said he doesn’t wish to see the return of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to politics.

He warned the UNP saying that the remote control of the Government is with the SLFP. Perera blamed Ranil Wickremesinghe for silently supporting the Nugegoda and Kandy rallies with the intention of seeing the SLFP split.
Following are excerpts of the interview

Q: - Mr Perera. The country’s President is the leader of the SLFP. Though being an SLFPer, you represent the Opposition today. How this difference was made?
It is a very unique situation where county can gain a lot. He is the President for the people who voted him as well as the people who voted against him. Here, you see another unique situation. That is the government has been formed by a minority numbers of MPs while over 125 MPs in the Opposition. However, we have nothing to worry as we have the remote control of the Parliament. The leader of the country is from the SLFP. He is the leader of the Executive. He has the control of the legislature. That can be used for the betterment of the country.

Following are excerpts.

Q-It seems the SLFP has internal issues. While Minister Rajitha Senarathne says that the party is ready for a national government, another party stalwart MP John Senevirathne says that the party is against it. What is difference of view?
Mr. John Senevirathne is a very irresponsible person. We took a decision at the Central Committee of the party to join in solidarity or form a national government. Only one person was against it and that was MP Kumara Welgama. But he also abided with the majority decision of the party. He had the backbone to oppose it, but what Mr. John Senevirathne, who was the Senior Vice President of the party and also the Chief Whip of the Opposition, did was keeping mum at the Working Committee. I don’t know how such a senior person made such an irresponsible statement to media.

Q - Don’t you think that ultimately the UNP benefits from such statements and actions?
Yes, That’s what happens. He has become a party in the UNP conspiracy. However, SLFP is a party where all get together when the time comes. You see, President Maithripala became the leader of the party on an invitation by former President and then party leader Mahinda Rajapaksa. The SLFP is at its peak and supported by three former presidents.

Q- Will President Maithripala Sirisena be assisting the SLFP at an election?
 A: - He will definitely be on the SLFP stage. If the UNP says that President Maithripala can’t support his own party, the argument must be fair for the present UNP parliamentarians too. Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Prime Minister due to the victory of the swan symbol and not the elephant symbol. I mean then they also can’t represent the UNP as they are holding ministerial posts in this regime.

Q - But, the UNP’s argument is President Sirisena became President, thanks to the UNP and he is not in a position to forget that.
That‘s wrong. He (Sirisena) became President not only because of the UNP, but also as there were several other parties and organizations. Tamil National Alliance and Sri Lanka Muslim Congress supported the common candidate. There were several other reasons. Just tell me, is Ven. Maduluwawe Thera a UNPer? What about Ven Rathana Thera and Dr Nirmal Ranjith?

Q- At the last presidential election, the common candidate was supported by civil organizations and the younger generation more than the political parties. What went wrong with a party which had a leader who was capable of defeating a guerilla organization and bringing peace?
Yes, I agree with you. Today, The Father of the nation is Mahinda Rajapaksa and DS Senanayake became the grandfather of the nation. The whole country loved Rajapaksa. But things like transparency, good governance, creating racist elements, facilitating elements like Bodu Bala Sena with the blessings of former Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa misfired against the government.

Q- What is your take on Basil Rajapaksa?
 Mr. Basil Rajapaksa was an efficient organizer in the party. He strengthened the party and what Gotabhaya did was weaken the party. Tamils and Muslims left the SLFP because of Gotabhaya. He is a good military officer, but he had no vision or knowledge on politics.

Q- I am asking about his brother Basil?
I don’t totally agree with him leaving the country just after the election and it is completely wrong.  I think he became a betrayer not only to the party, but also to his own brother. But, I have to admit that he was one of the best national organizers of the party. Parliament granted him leave as it is the tradition. I am happy at least if he can come now and face the consequences.

Q: - You were attracted by the 100-Day Program? You have been heard saying more days should be given to achieve its promises?
Ven Maduluwawe Thera and Ven Rathana Thera, Minister Rajitha and Champika say that there was no promise by the Government to dissolve Parliament on April 23. What they say is they will go for an election after delivering what they have promised in “the 100-Day Program. Having a national government and bringing in electoral reforms before the next election are major promises in it, but they have not been kept.

The SLFP is willing to support them to change the electoral system and to curb the executive powers. Both these should go together.

Q- A draft of 19th Amendment is circulating these days. What is SLFP’s view on that?
The draft which Dr Jayamapathy Wickremerathna has put out is a sort of a secret deal between him and Mr Ranil Wickremesinghe. Ven. Athuraliye Rathana Thera who was with Maithripala Sirisena says that is not the draft they agreed upon.

Q- Does it mean, the SLFP does not want to see any constitutional changes?
No. What I am saying is there is no need to be in a hurry. That is the supreme piece of legislature of the country. Even the ones who are with Maithripala Sirisena to form this government say they need the program to be implemented, but it need not be done within 100 days. It has to be done properly and not in haste.

Q - Is the SLFP ready for an election?
The SLFP is ready for an election at any time. If you look at the last election which we lost, we won 80 seats while the Swan won only 66 seats. At the next election, the swan symbol won’t be there and the team will be in several groups. The last 60 days of the UNP government has shown the country’s inefficiency and more corruption.

Q - Bringing former President Mahinda Rajapaksa back into Politics is a popular talk today. There were two public rallies organized by few parties that allied with the Freedom Alliance. Your comments?
President Rajapaksa is a legend. What I wanted to say is he should not fall to petty political traps. Mr Wickremesinghe wants a split in the SLFP. He is the invisible hand behind the Nugegoda rally and Kandy meeting. 

Q- Does SLFP need him (Mahinda Rajapaksa) in Parliament?
 If he wants s to be in Parliament we will welcome him. No one will oppose him. But, I am sure he has gained wisdom, maturity and experience to be the legend he is. 

Q- You are honored with the title of the spokesman of one of the oldest political parties of Sri Lanka. Is it a challenge?
It is not easy to play this role while the party is in the Opposition. I will receive brickbats rather than flowers.

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