ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday December 2, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 27

Will quit politics next year unless… - Dilan Perera

  • MPs are looked at as a commodity
  • Federal form of government is the only way to solve problem

By Chandani Kirinde

Non-Cabinet Justice Minister Dilan Perera is disillusioned with politics and wants to quit next year if there is no common programme to fight corruption and misuse of public funds in the state sector as well as on a solution to the national question. He shared some of his views on several issues in an interview with ‘The Sunday Times’. Here are excerpts of the interview:

  • You hinted in Parliament last week you may not be in the Legislature for long?

What I said was I may not be here for next year’s budget. I am not happy with what is happening here. Since the budget began, there is a wheeler dealer atmosphere; MPs are being looked at as a commodity that can be bought for money.

  • If you decide to leave Parliament, won’t you be denied of the opportunity to serve the people?

This system keeps rejecting people like us. We are cornered and isolated. If you speak of a federal solution, you are called a “Tiger.” If you speak against the LTTE, you become a lion. There is no room for human beings in this Parliament.

  • Why do you think that criminal, unruly elements are taking to politics while honest people are keeping way?

The present electoral system is largely responsible for this situation. Because of the Proportional Representation system, it is people who can spend the most money who can get elected. Candidates get money from various sources and come here, but they are not suitable to sit in Parliament. Those of us who came here to serve the people get disgusted. I feel sometimes my time would be better spent doing social service then waisting it here.

  • Do you still believe federalism is the solution to the national problem?

A federal form of government or call it by any other name is the only way to solve this problem. It is the people who believed in federalism like Lakshman Kadirgamar, Neelan Thiruchelvam and Nadaraja Raviraj who were killed by the LTTE. They (The LTTE) are against federalism. Those who speak against federalism (in the South) are the unseen supporters of the LTTE. They only help feed the extremism of the LTTE.

  • President Mahinda Rajapaksa has been in office for two years now. Do you think he can bring about a solution to this problem?

I am sure the President is not a racist and that he believes in a political solution to this problem. He is a man who has been fighting for the rights of the minorities as well as the workers as a trade union leader. It is up to elements within the SLFP not to be “yes men” and show the way forward. I know that the majority of the members in the SLFP especially in the Central Committee believe in devolution. But because we are in one party, they think talking out of turn like I do might show divisions within the Party. There is a time to speak out because otherwise you are not helping the party. If it (the SLFP) is not on the right track you have to speak out and get it on the right track.

  • If they speak out like you, can they till survive in the Party?

Not only can they survive in the Party but they can do a better service than me. My voice today is a lone voice. The President may give them a better hearing. If they all speak out loud, it’s good for the party and the country as well.

  • Even though you have spoken highly of the COPE report, isn’t it elements within the government itself who are undermining the credibility of this report?

The COPE report was brought to Parliament and in one voice all 225 MPs in the Chamber approved the COPE recommendations and agreed to send the report to the Bribery Commission, and findings on some institutions to the relevant Ministries. After that some of them have gone outside and said different things about the validity of the report. This is absolute political hypocrisy.

  • So 2008 will be the year that decides you political future?

When I said that this maybe my last Budget speech, I really meant it. I will only be in Parliament depending on whether there is a programme against corruption, bribery and misuse of public finances and at least a common agreement on the ethnic issue. If there is some arrangement on these issues, in the form of a grand alliance, not by breaking up parties but by staying in them and working together, that is the only way I can see Dilan Perera taking part in the 2008 Budget.

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