A UNP'er in UPFA Cabinet, says Bogollagama
By Asif Fuard
Kurunegala district UNP parliamentarian Rohitha Bogollagama who was sworn in as Advanced Technology and National Enterprise Development Minister claims he is still a member of the UNP though a minister of the UPFA Cabinet and adds he still accepts Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as his leader.

Mr. Bogollagama in an interview with The Sunday Times said, in the past there have been instances where members from the opposition have joined the Cabinet like the members of the CWC who have accepted portfolios though without joining the government.

Below are excerpts from the interview:
As a Minister for Advance Technology and National Enterprise in the UPFA government, what are your responsibilities?
Advanced Technology and National Enterprise Development is a major area in today's world. The Government has identified the enhancement of technology. This is an area the country was lacking in since independence. There has been no focus on entrepreneurship for the last so many years.

This subject is well recognised in the current budget when it comes to medium and small scale industries. Time and money have been allocated in order to develop entrepreneurship in Sri Lanka. This Government has very correctly addressed this issue and I am happy to say that we have a development programme that will carry this through and bring the national economy to a higher level and a greater contribution from service and industrial sectors, agricultural and plantation sectors.

But we already have a Ministry of Science and Technology. Now what is the difference between the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Ministry of Advanced Technology?
There are designated areas that have been assigned to the Science and Technology Ministry which covers a wide area of subjects. Our Ministry will always look at areas that are not assigned and does not fall within Science and Technology. Areas such as research and development.

You were in the UNP for a long time. So does this mean you have left the UNP and joined the UPFA?
I have not left the UNP. I'm still a UNPer and I'll continue to be a UNPer. As a member of parliament I've been called upon by the President to serve in her Cabinet and to pursue a bipartisan approach in resolving some of our objectives.

The people in your electorate voted you in as their representative to serve the UNP, but now since you have crossed over haven't you let them down?
I haven't crossed over. I'm still in the UNP. And I plan to remain in the UNP.

So Mr. Bogollagama does this mean you are in the Opposition?
No, I'm not in the Opposition. I'm in the Cabinet. The CWC is in the Opposition but they are members of the Cabinet and also in the past there are similar examples. For instance, Lakshman Kadirgamar and D.M. Jayaratna who were from the Opposition were appointed by the President to serve in the UNF Cabinet last year. So they are from the Opposition, but serving in the Cabinet. They were serving under the administration of Ranil Wickremesinghe because the Cabinet appointments are made by the President. So if Parliament could discharge the responsibilities of a Minister, this is where the Constitution has made correct provisions.

You were a very close associate of UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. In fact you even edited and published a book about him. So what does he think about this?
With my membership in the UNP, Ranil Wickremesinghe is still my leader. He is a good leader and I have associated with him for a very long time. I have worked with him very closely. So the need for a bipartisan approach on national issues is understood.

Did you inform Mr. Wickremesinghe that you were joining the Cabinet?
I informed the Leader of the Opposition after being appointed a Minister.

There are reports that when your son fell ill while studying in the United States, there was an undertaking by the President to pay the hospital bills through the President's Fund. Is it correct?
Not at all! He did not get any money from anywhere. People fall ill but my son was not treated by anyone's fund, for that matter. Journalism should not stoop so low. I don't think you should have even raised that question. If a person is not well why should it be questioned. We all fall ill for that matter.

But what about the hospital bills?
My son did not take any money from any fund.

If there is to be an election in the near future, under which party would you contest the elections?
A. That is a matter for the future, so there is no point raising hypothetical questions. I'm a UNPer I will contest under the UNP ticket.

Have there been any members of your party (UNP) who may have opposed your joining the Cabinet?
I don't think they opposed me being in the Cabinet because the right thing to do is to support a national issue. Nothing will be left of this country unless the parties unite and resolve the problems.

Today a judge has been killed. There have been so many leaders who have been killed and this is a major catastrophe in society.

We can talk politics, we can become leaders but there will not be a country left to govern.

UNP to take disciplinary action
The UNP is set to take disciplinary action against the new Minister of Advanced Technology and National Enterprise, Rohitha Bogollagama.

UNP Deputy General Secretary, Tissa Attanayake said disciplinary action against Bogallagama would be taken once the Working Committee and Executive Committee approved it. The Parliamentary group has already given its go ahead. He said the process would take at least three months.

Minister Bogollagama in an interview with The Sunday Times said he had not left the UNP but likened himself to others who functioned as Government ministers while remaining in a party not within the UPFA, though he conceded he did not inform the party leader prior to his move.

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