confident twenty PA MPs will support amendment
Former Leader of the House and ex-minister
Richard Pathirana has expressed confidence that at least 20 PA MPs
will join him in voting for the 19th Constitutional Amendment to
clip the powers of the President. In an interview with The Sunday
Times, Mr. Pathirana said he was not afraid and was ready to face
or challenge any disciplinary action by his party.
by Harinda Vidanage
Q: What are your views on the proposed 19th Amendment?
A: I think it is a very good amendment since the President
has to dissolve Parliament on a request made by Parliament. There
is no problem with this amendment, I will support it.
Q: Why do
you state that it is a good amendment?
A: Parliament makes the decision and that means it is more democratic.
Therefore, I think it is a good amendment.
Q: This amendment
includes the curtailment of the President's powers. Is this a positive
A: Yes, that is the will of the people which is identified as
the people's sovereignty.
Q: The PA
proposes a total abolition of the executive presidential system.
What is your view on this?
A: I don't know. That question has to be answered by the PA,
but I am a democratic person and I will support the 19th Amendment.
Q: You are
saying that 20 or more from the PA will support this amendment.
How confident are you?
A: I am very confident.
you have been distancing yourself from the party and party meetings.
Why was this?
A: I was not informed of any meeting. The party secretary informed
me only of the Central Committee meeting.
a senior vice president of the party wouldn't your actions have
a damaging effect on the SLFP?
A: No, but we have to work according to party policies such
as supporting the abolition of the presidential system.
Q: But still
you are not attending party meetings regularly.
A: They can take any action against me for it.
Q: Are you
concerned action will be taken against you?
A: I'm not afraid.
is speculation that PA members may vote for the 19th Amendment to
get positions from the government.
A: No, that is not true.
Q: Have you
been approached by the UNF?
A: No, but the Prime Minister invited me to come over to that
side and take up a portfolio, but that is still not decided.
Q: Have any
other portfolios been offered to other people who might vote for
A: I think so, but I am not sure.
Q: How is
your relationship with the President?
A: The President asked me at the Central Committee meeting whether
I would support the amendment. I said 'yes' and she replied by saying
she will take disciplinary action against me.
Q: What was
A: I said 'do whatever you can. If you want I will resign from
the party since I'm not greedy to be in Parliament.'
Q: What made
you say that?
A: I have no problem because I can win the next election not
only from Galle but even from Colombo. I hold the record of winning
two by-elections for the seat of Akmeemana when a UNP regime was
in power in 1983 and 1986. Thus I'm not afraid of elections.
Q: What makes
you defy even the President?
A: My view is that today we need a stable government. If that
is not achieved people like Prabhakaran will grow much stronger.
Secondly, if we want to resurrect our economy we need to get more
foreign investors, but if they see that we have an unstable government
they will not come.
Q: That means
you are going to support the UNF government?
A: Look at Singapore. It is developed without possessing any
natural resources but we are still in the 1947 era. The people have
given a strong mandate to the Prime Minister to undertake the task
of development. It is our duty to support him to achieve this. Also
we should respect the will of the people.
Q: Why can't
your party gain the support of the people?
A: At the last general election we lost some SLFP strongholds
which had been ours since 1947. This shows that the people have
no faith in us at all.
Q: Why have
the people lost faith in the PA?
A: The PA was unable to fulfill any of its pledges given to
the people at the general election of 1994. Now no Indian or Sri
Lanka Tamils are voting for the party, neither are Muslims or even
you try to point out the weaknesses of your party and try to rebuild
A: I held a two-hour discussion with the President regarding
this a year ago and I suggested the necessity to restructure the
party immediately. Remember that in 1994 I was the chief government
whip and we managed to stay in power for six years with a majority
of one seat. However, in 2000 we had an 18 seat majority and survived
only for eleven months.
Q: Why didn't
this restructuring materialize?
A: Some leaders of democratic parties should be reminded that
by chasing out senior members of their parties and going after junior
members will not result in developing the party. I mentioned this
at the Central Committee meeting. Also I want to point out some
leaders protect their favourites and gather more of them around
Q: Has the
party chased out many senior members?
A: Yes, I am really sad that since the demise of Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike many members have been chased out of the party. Both
Messrs. S.B. Dissanayake and Prof. G.L. Peiris spoke to me before
they left the party and said they no longer could tolerate verbal
Q: Are you
hinting that the party is trying to expel you?
A: No, I will resign before that. Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe said
that we can do something for the country together. This statement
made me-a vehement critic of the Prime Minister-have great confidence
in and respect for him. Even the President knows about this and
in fact she has inquired about it.
Q: Are you
saying that you have no respect for the President?
A: No I'm not saying that but if one is comparing the two leaders
Mr. Wickreme-singhe is a great leader.
Q: Why do
you say that?
A: Because he is not proud of his post nor is he an arrogant
leader. He talks with any one in Parliament, even with JVP members
who are very critical of him and he can be easily approached. He
has developed his personality by leaps and bounds after becoming
the Prime Minister. I don't see anything wrong in President Kumaratunga
but she must be able to protect the dignity of her position and
Q: What would
you do if you are expelled from the party. Will you and the others
form an independent group?
A: No, but if we are expelled from the party we have to continue
our political activities and thus we have to seek alternatives to
you try to convince the President to support the government.
A: I sincerely requested her some time back to support it and
she replied that the UNF is trying to form a one-party government.
Q: What is
the main problem in the SLFP now?
A: The SLFP is facing a crisis of leadership after the demise
of Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike. She made me the chief opposition
whip during the regime of President Premadasa and I was the one
who verbally thrashed him on the day the impeachment motion was
brought against him.
He was a feared leader but he never replied such verbal abuse anyway.
I am afraid of no one. If I can challenge President Premadasa challenging
the current President is nothing.
what are your views on the peace process.?
A: I totally support the peace process of the government but
we should remain a unitary state and never be divided.