The Sunday TimesNews/Comment

25th August 1996



Born at home: no mix-up of babies

By Roshan Peiris

An angry Anura Bandaranaike has thundered he would have attacked General Anuruddha Ratwatte on stage if he had been present when the General insulted the Bandaranaike family.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Mr. Bandaranaike said he was born at Rosmead Place and not in a hospital as General Ratwatte said, when he made some crude allegations about mixed up babies.

On more important issues, Mr. Bandaranaike reiterated his call for a national government and accused Minister G.L. Peiris of talking absolute nonsense about the government's performance in the past two years.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: You are playing an important role in the UNP's propaganda work. What is the goal?

A: Obviously it is towards gaining office, considering the mess the country is in.

If the government carries on, as it is, the country's economy will come to a standstill soon. The people though fed up are still not turning towards the UNP. Now what I would call the "nonagathae" period that you get just before the new year where everything comes to a standstill . The people are angry but do not know what exactly to do or where to turn. It is the UNP 's job to give them hope of a better future. So our campaign is bent naturally that way.

Q: Is there any kind of time frame for your campaign to bring the govt. down your views.

A: We cannot play to a time frame . Of course, there is always the possibility of defeating them in parliament, before the term expires.

Q: The President has vowed to go the full term no matter what.

A: What else could she say. But I hope for the sake of the country that would not happen.

Q: The President's chief spokesman G.L. Peiris in an article on two years of P. A. rule said "the Government has rejuvenated Sri Lankan society and kept faith with the people who elected it. Your comments?

A: What a lie! (with a chuckle). Tell him to give me just one example where society has been rejuvenated in these past two years, or the government has kept its faith with the people. What absolute rubbish is he talking? How have they kept faith with the people when not one single promise made has been fulfilled starting with the abolition of the executive presidency. And what rejuvenation is he talking about? Society is in the doldrums what with a sadly crippled economy.

Q: In the same article Dr. Peiris goes into ecstasy over the "restoration of democratic values and the respect for human rights." Your views?

A: What respect for human rights? Amnesty International has recently commented on this. May I remind him that in the past two years too there have been floating bodies in rivers and what about the killing of civilians in Mullaitivu according to what the Tamil political parties tell us.

From where does G.L. Peiris get these ideas? Human Rights, with your own Editor charged in Court as well as the Leader editor and Rohana Kumara locked up for asking General Ratwatte to resign. Human rights. Local Government elections have been postponed and the provincial council of Sabaragamuwa and North Central were dissolved and he talks of democratic views.

Q: Would you care to comment on the government's attempts to solve the ethnic issue?

A: My view is that the Government is not interested in solving the ethnic issue.

Q: Why do you say that?

A: If the government and the President were interested what she should have done was to ask the UNP for support. Without us the devolution package can never go through Parliament. But she is short sighted, and from day one, both personally and politically have gone out of her way to antagonise the UNP so much so that the UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has refused to talk to her now.

Q: What alternatives does the UNP offer to the country?

A: We have now convinced the country and the people the bona fides of our economic policies when the UNP governed. Today stock market, tourism and the economy are in the doldrums. This did not happen with us. The economy was buoyant or to use G.L.'s phrase rejuvenated.

The UNP is already working out a scheme for the better management of the economy. We have plans to get more foreign investors and generate more wealth and jobs.

Q: Recently there were rumours that Ranil Wickremesinghe was to be arrested, if so from whom would be orders have come?

A: I believe orders came from the top. My mother, the Prime Minister with her experience in State craft objected vehemently.

Q: There is speculation that you are part of an effort to form a national government. If circumstances change will you consider going back to lead the SLFP?

A: No. I will never join or lead the SLFP, but I still maintain that in the best interests of Sri Lanka the most desirable thing is a national government. I think I am well placed to say this with my experience in both parties. I know both sides well.

Q: You have been critical of General Ratwatte who has also hit back at you. Is it personal, political or both?

A: I have nothing against him personally. I asked him in Parliament why he did not come to be sworn in by the Prime Minister. It is the normal form and so far in the political history of this country this type of churlish behaviour has never taken place.

Of course, he acts like a pocket Hitler or like a Cardboard Sando. How dare he insult my parents talking crudely about mixed up babies. If I was on the platform as my sister was, I would have attacked him without much ceremony had he said so about my sister. Our personal differences as brother and sister are one thing, but I will never stand for such insult to my parents.

Moreover doesn't he know that I was born just here at Rosmead Place at home and not in a hospital. I was born around midnight.

Q: The President says she can work for twenty four hours, can she?

A: Nonsense, since she was a child she loves to sleep till late. She has little concept of how to manage time. She talks too much and so over steps time and keeps both Ministers and officials waiting. A member of the latest financial team from Malaysia seemed quite huffed that she did not come in time. The trouble with my sister is that once she starts talking she cannot stop.

Ravi: I am no lapdog

By Anthony David

A defiant Ravi Karunanayake, in the centre of a controversy over his recent outburst in Parliament, says he is nobody's lap dog and is responsible not to the PA but to his DUNLF leader.

In an interview with The Sunday Times Mr. Karunanayake said he was fully for the workers and felt the PA itself should be the protecters of the workers, rather than bringing in a charter for that.

Excerpts from the interview :

Q: Your recent statement in Parliament in which you commented on the government's performance has stirred controversy. What prompted you to make this statement?

A: We belong to the DUNLF and like our former leader and our present leader, Srimani Athulathmudali we have gone on the basis that MPs are watch dogs of the people and not lap dogs.

From that point of view if would be hypocritical if we do not conveyer things in the correct perspective. When you say criticism it should be seen from the correct perspective. We will no way want to distort or convert truth to untruth.

My speech was only a reflection on statements made by high ranking officials in various ministers. I was only expressing their views. Concerning our country. It was no indictment on the government. It was more or less a protective statement for the betterment of Sri Lanka.

Q: Did you make some of the party views known through the statement?

A: Yes. When commenting on the devolution proposals, it was the party stance. When I spoke of the economic policies it was a reflection of the views of some officials. When it came to the censorship issue it was something that Mr. Athulathumudali was very critical of both within and outside the government. Although it was not a party statement I closely followed party policies.

Q: The PA has called on your leader to take action against you for making this statement. What is your response?

A: The PA firstly has no right, because we are an independent party and my leader is Ms. Athulathmudali I am held responsible to her. Our response which is being sent out would reflect what we are trying to say. Our leader categorically says that the remarks made in my statements have been made in the proper perspective. It has been made in a constructive manner and it should be taken in the proper perspective. So I don't think that any outside force can dictate to us.

Q: Do you defend your position to make such comments?

A: We are a responsible alliance party. We were against a system that was prevalent and we succeeded by winning. We were a part and parcel of making a new government. So we are stake holders in that. So we will never act in manner that harms or tarnishes the image of the government. If we feel there are pitfalls on the way we will speaks and try to correct the path. Even Lalith Athulathmudali's vision was when there obstructs we should not deviate from our vision, but alter the roadway.

Q: The government has decided not to give time in Parliament for PA MPs who are regularly critical of the administration. What do you feel about this?

A: First is that democracy? Second I am only a small man and will leave it to the Leader and the party to take it up with the relevant people. I don't think the PA is so naive to try to restrict or stifle its members, because the administration was for a vibrant democracy.

I saw an interview given by Minister S. B. Dissanayake to a newspaper. He says that different opinions should be there. So I leave it in the hands of the leader.

Q: In your Parliamentary speech you said the "nonsensical" "Workers" "Charter" had put the country on the reverse gear. But hasn't the charter been a non-event?

A: The fear of it (Worker's Charter) coming was the problem. It has not been approved by the cabinet. The statement which I made holds validity. That's why I was trying to protect the government. I was reflecting the views of the cabinet which has not still approval the charter out.

Q: What are the ill effects you see in the Charter?

A: There were lots of strikes, a drop in investments and job opportunities and general fear in business circles.

We don't need this Charter to protect the workers. We ourselves will protect them.

Q: You made serious comments about the collapse of the economy. In your view what's the situation.

A: There again I was making observations on statements made by officials. So anyone in say the PA says saying is wrong, then what top government officials are saying who are the ones who have also wrong. I quoted from Central Bank reports. Thilan Wijesinghe has gone warned that. If the Workers' Charter comes through goes he so I was only reflecting the views of all of them.

As I said, we are watchdogs of the people. Remember if we lose the economic war, we have lost everything.

Q: How do you analyse the performance of the PA during the past two years?

A: Certainly it has taken important steps in the human rights sector. In other areas there is room for improvement. When every government comes into office it needs some time. And I think two years is long enough and it is time to get things moving. We are a heterogeneous group working towards the same goal, so with the national interest in mind we have to go ahead.

Q: How has the government's reputation been harmed by the censorship which enters its 19th week?

A: Certain defence areas are sensitive, but in other areas they should allow free expression so that different views of the people can be reflected on the ongoing problem. One thing which Mr. Athulathmudali always said was that when you are in office you don't get to know what is going on, because there are people around you who tell you what is good for you and not tell what is bad for you. The media are vibrant instruments which basically presents a full picture though sometimes out of context.

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