“I think if we have not been able to achieve any of the promises made to the people during the past two years, we must try at least in the next three years to fulfill these promises made to the people. These are promises given to the people by the President too. Therefore, both parties should get together and see what we have failed to deliver so far and focus on fulfilling these promises during the next three years,” he said.
While there are many challenges that the National Government is currently facing with regard to decision making, given the policy differences of both parties, Dissanayake is of the view that these are just minor obstacles that can be overcome and said it will in no way hamper the governance of the consensus government. The Agriculture Minister and also entrusted with the challenging position as the SLFP General Secretary, Duminda Dissanayake, in an interview with Lanka News Web,
Q. Why has the Unity Government run into difficulty?
A. There is no crisis within the National Government. However, it is inevitable that certain differences of opinions and conflicting ideas are bound to arise, especially when two opposing parties join together to form a consensus government. There are certain disparities where the policies and ideologies of the two parties are concerned. These two parties were poles apart for many years. Through this National Government we hope to bring both opposing parties to a midway point and work together. However, this is always not that easy and we need to discuss certain issues and compromise if both parties are to work together for the greater good of the country. However, although certain issues or difference of opinions may crop up, this in no way will affect the future of the National Government.
Q. But, according to the UNP, it is because of the SLFP faction that the process of formulating a new Constitution is being hampered. Is this true?
A. Constitutional amendment, changing the electoral system and devolution of power are all promises that were given to the people during the election campaign. Therefore, it is the responsibility of both parties to fulfill these pledges. As far as the Constitutional amendments are concerned I don’t know who is saying they cannot do it because of us, but that is not true.
Q. UNP also claims that even the President was brought in by them?
A. No, the UNP cannot take the credit for that singlehandedly, because if not for the support of the SLFP voter base this feat would not have been possible. Although we put forward the President as the common candidate, so far we have not changed out party not the colour of our party. The President stood as the common candidate as the SLFP General Secretary. Even at the election, none of the two parties had the majority in order to form a government and that is why the two parties decided to come together and form a national government. Now how can anyone claim that this is a UNP government or SLFP government?
The entire UNP are stakeholders in this government, but, due to internal disputes within the SLFP only some of us are within this government. But that does not imply that this is a UNP government based on just their headcount. This is a policy decision that was taken and not a government of any party. This was a decision taken by both parties to form a unity government for the betterment of the country.
Q. By August 17, It will complete two years since the Unity Government came together. What is the plan for the next three years?
A. My view is that we promised the people five years of governance. Hence, I think if we have not been able to achieve any of the promises made to the people during the past two years, we must try at least in the next three years to fulfill these promises made to the people. These are promises given to the people by the President too. Therefore, both parties should get together and see what we have failed to deliver on so far and focus on fulfilling these promises during the next three years.
Q. Well, at what point is these plans at currently?
A. We plan to commence these discussions in the near future.
Q. Now that the Sinhala and Hindu New Year is round the corner, Why can’t you put aside all differences and unite?
A. We have no animosity with anyone. There is nothing personal. What we are taking of are certain policy factors. We are the same and we have not engaged in mudslinging against anyone. However, we will criticize anyone based on certain policy matters. There were certain instances where we had to criticize even Mahinda Rajapaksa for certain decisions he had taken as the party leader. We have nothing against him personally. We are not angry with him, in fact we still are friends on a personal level, but we have disagreements on certain policy matters.
Q. Do you believe that there will be an election this year?
A. We have urged the government to hold the Provincial and Local Government elections this year. By September this year, the official terms of three of the Provincial Councils and we need to have those elections.
Q. What is your message to the people for this Sinhala and Hindu New Year?
A. I wish the people of this country a happy and prosperous new year!