Dr. Kapila Ranasinghe, one of the silent architects of the 8 January political change, in a candid interview, said it was very unfortunate that the President and the Prime Minister have not been able to resolve their political issues after the February Local Government elections in the same way they did prior to setting up the Government on 9 January 2015. Dr. Ranasinghe said they owed it to the people who put them in power to work together and fulfill their mandate. He added that the economy was suffering as a result of this. The following are excerpts.
Q:You were a silent mover together with Chatura Senaratne of bringing the Prime Minister and President together with the Health Minister prior to 8 January to discuss political strategies.
A: Yes, we met to finalise many issues. There were others - Ravi, Rathana Thero, Chatura and Dinesh were also there at those meetings. Unfortunately over time the people who put this Government in power were sidelined and people like Mahendran, Ratwatte and Paskaralingam were imported and given the power to run the Government. See what happened with the Central Bank, SriLankan and now with the economy? All this could have been avoided.
Q: What is happening now in the coalition?
A: It is now a challenge because the SLFP is full of people who worked tirelessly to defeat the coalition. Now they have become ministers and their heart is somewhere else. Their total commitment is suspect. How can the Government work? Because the government isolated the hardcore politicians in the government and gave power to others. As a result both groups forgot why they were elected in the first place.
Q:Were there agreed terms for the coalition to run after 8 January?
A: So many things were decided and agreed. Most of them were implemented. A political committee was to be set up. The committee was supposed to take all the key decisions. Once they won they forgot the committee. Where is Chandrika Kumaratunga, one of the key architects of this movement? She is hardly involved in any decision-making now.
Q:What are some of the successes of this Government?
A: The 19th Amendment; the freedom to voice your opinion; the restoration of GSP+; a huge reduction in medicine price. Now even stents are given free at government hospitals. International confidence went up overnight. There is much more. Unfortunately, the people given the task of marketing these achievements have failed miserably. Even after they failed for three years they are still allowed to continue in office.
Q:What are some of the negatives?
A: The unavoidable truth is the bond fiasco. That broke the backbone of this Government. As a result the Government got side-tracked. When SriLankan Airlines became an issue, the Prime Minister should have taken action. You can’t blame the President only. He gave so much of room for the UNP to operate. There is a limit that he can watch and wait. The Government is under his watch. He is the executive president.
Q:What is the way forward for both the Prime Minister and President?
A: It is still not late to unite to defeat the no-confidence motion and work on an agreed plan for 18 months. Unfortunately, the Government since the election debacle has lacked balance and objectivity. This has to change.
The Prime Minister is a visionary, however he needs to be a team player not a loner. As a democracy with strong demographics, the next 20 years presents Sri Lanka with a window of opportunity to get its economic and foreign policy in synchrony. The Prime Minister is the best man to do this. This UNP-SLFP combination is our best opportunity.
Q:Should the President help the UNP defeat the no-confidence motion?
A: Yes, they must. He is the head of the Government. The Prime Minister sacrificed his place and worked very hard to make him President. This Government must complete its full term and fulfil their promises. The President owes it to us. They both owe it to us without playing politics with the lives of future generations.
The Prime Minister must learn to work with the coalition in a transparent and objective manner. He must appoint people on merit not because they went to school with him. If this happens there is so much hope for all of us.
The President on the other hand needs to agree on a common program and ensure the Government performs according to that program. He cannot take ill-advised decisions. This is a country with an $ 80 billion GDP and 21 million people. So much is at stake. Both leaders need to have good people to help them, not people with vested interests. I sincerely hope they will sort out their differences and work together after 4 April for the sake of the country. Like the Bible says, “A house divided against itself will not stand.”