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19th April 1998

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"Government has shown its petty political outlook"

The UNP is growing from strength to strength and the party is strong as ever, says UNP's mediaspokesman Karunasena Kodituwakku in an interview with The Sunday Times. He says he sees in UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe a mixture of Dudley's sincerity and JR's vision and strategy and under his leadership the party has been reinvigorated to meet any challenge.

By Roshan Peiris

Kodituwakku: seeking mature politics

Kodituwakku: seeking mature politics

Excerpts from the interview.

Q: Reading some of the stories in the state-run media, one wonders whether there is a UNP, or at most a fragmented one. what is your comment?

A: Our party is by no means fragmented as some would like to think. We work as a party, and we are united and we are national. There is neither any dissension nor any factions, though I admit in the recent past there have been personality clashes such as the one between Anura and Ronnie. Which party does not have such clashes? Within PA, too, there are personality clashes. Can anyone deny it?

Q: There have been rumours that some of the younger members of the UNP are not happy with the leadership.

A: I am not some sort of oracle who can speak for everyone especially ambitious youth. As far as I know the mature and stronger factions of the youth have not expressed disatisfaction with the leadership. Those who are mature enough to understand current politics accept Ranil's leadership and understand the limited role of the Opposition.

I must say, not as flattery but as a fact, that Ranil is second to none. I have seen in his strategies a mixture of both Dudley and JR. He has the sincerity of Dudley in executing party policies and JR's political strategy and vision. Ranil Wickremesinghe has been influenced by both, having been close to them and having worked with them. He has chosen to emulate the positive qualities of both leaders, though he has his own style. After the 1994 elections the UNP was shattered but today under Ranil's leadership and the help of other party stalwarts we have grown from the polling booth to Siri Kotha level.

Q: The Wijeyapala Mendis issue is haunting the party. Is he now, according to some political speculation, being asked to quit the party?

A: I am not aware of Mr. Mendis wanting to leave the party. I know he has been given a month's time to decide his political future upon his request..

Q: The Opposition leader wrote to the Speaker seeking that allegations about certain land deals made during the party's one-month boycott be expunged from hansard. One has still not heard the end of that story.

A: I agree that according to Standing Orders, one cannot discuss in Parliament the conduct of a Member without a motion of misconduct. I understand that the references are being expunged after the Speaker informs the party leaders.

Q: So now Hema Premadasa has come out of political hibernation and claims that Colombo Central is a sort of Premadasa borough. What have you to say?

A: As far as I am aware the Party hierarchy has had no intimation from the Colombo District central committee indicating that Ms. Premadasa had made a request to represent Colombo Central.

Q: But now son Sajith, one is made to believe, is cheesed off at the rejection of his mother and is forming a Premadasa Peramuna in the South, starting one presumes from Hambantota. What has the Party to say?

A: Sajith Premadasa cannot do as he likes. I am not certain about this Peramuna business. Sajith has to learn to keep to the Party guide - lines. He must learn to follow them.

Q: Into this political jumble where does Sirisena Cooray come in?

A: While no one denies that Cooray has done a great deal in the past for the Party, he has chosen in the last three years, for whatever reasons to keep away from active politics. It is left to Mr. Cooray on his return from Australia to decide whether or not to enter active politics.

Q: It is rumoured that Ranil is having a coterie of friends around him in the style of a sort of conciliabulum - the inner circle. This apparently has upset some of the senior members such as Hameed, Mohammed, John Amaratunga and the like. Is this correct?

A: Ranil Wickremesinghe is not overlooking senior members as such. He only looks for talent irrespective of age. That is what a government must strive to have in the future, to have clever and professional men to serve the government. If not it will once again be a one-man show, or shall I say one-woman show.?

Q: Is the UNP optimistic about the outcome of the Provincial Council elections? The Government seems pretty confident.

A: Actually to be honest we thought that upto the end of last year the government had the confidence of the people. But now that is not there. The people have realised that for one thing none of the promises made to the three and a half million voters have been kept.

Secondly, the government is now blithely selling the family silver. Our valuable national assets have been bartered within dubious kinds of businesses with no transparency whatever. There is the AirLanka deal with Emirates which we are challenging, Kottagala Plantations to Malaysia, Tel Com to Japan, Steel to Korea, Duty free shops to Britain and the Colombo Port to Australia. The people are not ignorant of these transactions and have come to resent the whittling down of our national assets. Se we do stand a good chance at the Provincial Council elections.

Q: In what ways has the boycott of Parliament helped?

A: The boycott was a tremendous success since we conveyed the message not only to the people of Sri Lanka but also to the international community that the government is interfering with the democratic process in the country by trying to stifle the Opposition. The government has shown that it is too petty in its political outlook, or shall I say bankrupt, to want to use intimidating tactics.

Q: Does the UNP advocate talking to the LTTE.

A: The UNP believes that the solution to the ethnic problem has eventually to be a negotiated solution though no doubt our Forces are fighting the LTTE. We feel that for a lasting solution not only the UNP and the PA but also all parties must agree, and this naturally will have to include the LTTE. After all there has been dialogue with them before this, it is not something new.

Q: The UNP has given its alternate proposals to the government's devolution package like a strip tease dancer, in pieces. Why and when will these proposals in their entirety be in?

A: We still do have another instalment to come. Remember, it takes time to give alternate proposals. Besides the government has just two years more to go and that is hardly time enough to experiment with a new constitution. We know what happened with their experiment in 1972. This made all the Tamil Parties to get together in 1976 under the Vaddukoddai Resolutions to ask for a separate Tamil State. All major parties or even small ones must be ready with their proposals to go before the country at a general election, be it earlier or in the year two thousand.

City limps back to normal

By Chamintha Thilakarathna

The usual buzz in the city of Colombo was virtually silent last week with a large number of government employees and traders out of the city for the New Year. Work went on at a slow pace at many offices trying to get back from the festive to the working mood.

Work is not likely to get back to its usual pace till Monday, according to officials who said that their employees are not expected till tommorow. Everyone seems to have relaxed last week and many sectors of the economy were affected, including transport of vegetables.

The number of vegetable lorries which came to Pettah market decrease to 40 this week from last week's 65.

"Last week 65 lorries came into the Pettah Market and the number dropped to 20 by Thursday and went up to 40 by Friday. The number will go up steadily and come back to normal by Monday", said an official of the Agrarian Research and Training Institute.

He added that although the usual increase in vegetable prices during the New Year season was experienced, all vegetable prices except for carrots have gone down. " A kilo of tomatoes, for example, has gone down by Rs. 40. But, this will not continue to next week", he said.

Most of the bakeries were closed last week with consumers forced to search for alternatives.

Government offices were also struggling with a huge work load that piled up last week due to absence of employees. "60% of our employees live in outstations, and they have all gone on leave till Monday. As a result work is slow", said the chief clerk of a government department.

A similar situation was observed in several ministries where officials have not returned from their holidays. A spokesman for the Ports Ministry said that although the ministry is short of staff at present it had not affected the pace of work.

What the Batalanda Commission recommends

As explained in de tail in preceding chapters, one of the main reasons which led to the establishment and the maintenance of places of unlawful detention and torture chambers, was the manner in which Politicians of the then Government and Police Officers, conducted themselves in reaction to the Insurgency of 1987 to 1990, as mentioned earlier, what ever the degree of provocation be, there ought to be certain rules according to which responsible Government and its agencies should react, even during a period of insurgency. All actions should be in accordance with the Rule of Law. The fundamental Rights of all citizens guaranteed in the Constitution have to be protected.

Extra judicial activities: no action would be taken to arrest the situation

Extra judicial activities: "no action would be taken to arrest the situation"

-We recommend that Your Excellency be pleased to consider inviting Representatives of the people (such as Members of Parliament) to discuss these matters in detail, and propose a set of guidelines, applicable to politicians and Law enforcement officers in their conduct during extraordinary situations, where there is a serious threat to peace and public order. If necessary, suitable amendments to existing Laws including the Constitution would be considered. In this process, it is recommended that, People and representatives of all social groups be given an opportunity to express their views.

-It would be appropriate that, Representatives of the People consider developing and adopting a "Code of Conduct" for themselves.

In the event of Representative of the People (such being found guilty for having violated the aforementioned Code of Conduct, it is recommended that the other Members of the relevant forum be entitled to move for the impeachment of the guilty Member. Upon such impeachment, the relevant Member shall cease to be a representative for a specific period.

-As stated in the preceding chapters, we have observed serious violations of Human Rights by both Senior Police officers and politicians of the then Government. Notwithstanding the jurisdiction vested in the Supreme Court, and the appropriate exercise of the said jurisdiction by the Court, we observe that, such violations have been repeated with impunity. One reason for the continued violation of Fundamental Rights by certain persons representing the Executive is that, their conduct is not reprimanded by immediate and appropriate sanctions, We recommend that, the Supreme Court be vested with suitable additional jurisdication, to impose suitable sanctions in the form of "deprivation of civic rights," on persons who repeatedly violated basic Fundamental Rights of Citizens.

We have observed in the course of this inquiry that, certain persons who came to know directly and indirectly of the establishment and the maintenance of places of unlawful detention and torture chambers at Batalanda, refrained from complaining to the Police due to fear of harassment, and danger to their lives. Another reason was that, they had reasons to believe that no action would be taken to arrest the situation, since those who are responsible were also Police officers.

Hence, they did not expect a fair and impartial investigation.

-We are of the opinion that, in instances such as this, it is appropriate to empower Judicial officers (such as Magistrates) to cause necessary investigations and supervise the same, and forward the investigational findings to the Attorney General, for the consideration of the institution of criminal proceedings. Amongst other investigative powers, the relevant judicial authorities should be empowered to proceed to the relevant venue in which it is suspected that illegal activity is being perpetuated, and examine the same,.

In this regard, we recommend that, Your Excellency be pleased to appoint a Committee to consider formulating suitable amendments to the Code of Criminal Procedure Act, to implement the recommendations contained herein.

In the course of the proceedings before this Commission, it transpired that, various Police Officers had committed serious offences, which included Abduction, Murder, Wrongful Confinement, Causing Grievous and Simple Hurt. We recommend that Your Excellency be pleased to direct the Inspector General of Police to cause comprehensive investigations into all complaints made to the Commission, with the view to instituting criminal proceedings this regard, Your Excellency may be pleased to forward to the Inspector General of Police the report of this Commission, along with the proceedings, the Notes of Investigations and other material pertaining to the investigations conducted by the Police officers attached to the Commission.

We have listed out in the preceding chapter, serious disciplinary lapses and violations of Police Departmental Regulations by Police officers.

It is recommended that, your Excellency be pleased to forward the Report of the Commission along with proceedings to the relevant Disciplinary Authority and the Inspector General of Police for the consideration of the institution of necessary disciplinary action against the relevant Police Officers.

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