Corrupt Paada Yathra leaders should march straight to Welikada Jail By Uditha Kumarasinghe, Sunday Observer 2016-07-31

Corrupt Paada Yathra leaders should march straight to Welikada Jail
By Uditha Kumarasinghe, Sunday Observer 2016-07-31

UNP Deputy General Secretary and Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam says, the so-called ‘Joint Opposition’ (JO) or, the UPFA rebel faction, tends to come up with some ‘political mumbo-jumbo’ now and then, merely for their political survival. Commenting on the UPFA rebel-organized protest march that set off for Colombo from Kandy on Thursday, the Minister told the Sunday Observer in an interview that: “Strictly speaking, most of the JO frontliners who are leading the on-going Paada Yathra should now be in jail and not on the road.
They should thank this Government for providing them the opportunity to be on the road, safe and sound. Earlier, these corrupt, jet-set political elements lived a princely life in five-star hotels, misusing public money.”

Q: Is the Paada Yathra some kind of threat to the Government?
A. This is not a Paada Yatra. This is a Paadada Yathra! A cabal of crooks who have been charged with various frauds, irregularities, embezzlement and all sorts of malpractices during the previous regime have started this Paada Yatra to evade court cases. Therefore, this should really be called Paadada Yathra, not Paada Yathra. It poses no threat whatsoever to the Government. It is a futile attempt by a group of bankrupt and disgruntled politicians to regain lost perks and benefits, and resort to their usual corrupt practices by hoodwinking the masses. In order to realize their narrow political objectives, they attempt to rally round the people through this kind of misleading campaigns. It is absurd that despite the vehement protest by the Mahanayake Theras, the siblings of these JO leaders who organized night car races around the Dalada Maligawa have joined this Paada Yathra too. During the last ten years, these leaders stayed more or less indoors. It is high time for them to take a walk and breathe some fresh air.

Q: Is it possible to topple Governments with initiatives like this? Even the UNP had done this kind of thing before, but no Government was ever toppled … …
A: The JO cannot shake the Government even a wee bit through such stupid campaigns. People have elected this Government for five years. Who wants to topple a Government within a year? If somebody attempts it, he may be mentally-deranged. The JO suffered a massive electoral defeat at the last two consecutive elections. The newly elected Government should be given an adequate time frame to commence work. The Rajapaksas were rejected by the people after a lapse of ten years of power. This Government has to face various obstacles due to the wrong policies adopted by the former regime. Some people have forgotten the fact that the Government granted a Rs. 10,000 pay hike to public servants, brought down the fuel prices and reduced the prices of essential food commodities. We have put an end to all illegal dealings by the former regime. The Government has already launched its development drive to rebuild the economy and the JO attempts to sabotage it. The people won’t listen to the moribund voice of the so called JO once the country is transformed economically, similar to what Mahathir Mohamed in Malaysia and Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore, did.

Q: Is it possible to topple the Government before 2020, by any means?
A: The JO will come out with some political mumbo-jumbo now and then for their political survival. Strictly speaking, most of the so called JO frontliners who take the lead in the Paada Yathra should now be in jail, and not on the road. They should thank this Government for providing them the opportunity to be on the road safe and sound. Earlier, these corrupt, jet-set political elements lived a princely life in five star hotels, misusing public money.

Q: What was the motive behind the recent joint announcement by the SLFP and the UNP on the National Unity Government continuing till 2020, at least?
A: This National Government has become a serious issue to the JO. The Government in its agenda has laid key emphasis on the country’s future. We want to develop the economy, create new employment opportunities for the youth and make comprehensive reforms in the education sector. We, in the National Government are trying to provide solutions to burning issues, without going for any personnel agendas. The UNP had 106 seats to form a Government, with the help of some other political parties. This National Government concept is the ideal way to realize that goal of ensuring a decent standard of living for the masses. All those in the National Government can freely air their views and sentiments, and also think beyond tribalism and the exclusive ‘island mindset’. This progressive move adopted by the Government would definitely benefit the people at large. Therefore, nobody would be able to topple the Government until the end of its five year term. We would also draft a new Constitution after consulting all segments in society. Various rumours are doing the rounds, that the new Constitution will undermine the present status of Buddhism enshrined in the 1978 Constitution. But this false propaganda is short-lived.

Q: The President and the Prime Minister too have said the same thing about the Government lasting at least till 2020. What kind of message does this give to the local population as well as international community about the country’s political stability?
A: The message we give to the people and the international community is that there is a stable Government with a two thirds majority in Parliament. Therefore, the Government can successfully complete its full term in office. If there are any shortcomings in the Government , that can also be criticized openly. Can one expect more democracy than this? Today, even the state media can openly criticize the Government. That is why certain sections attempt to portray a distorted picture that the Government has become unpopular. It is not the truth. This kind of impression is created due to the prevailing free media culture in the country. They are salient features of a healthy democracy. If the Government wants, it can also impose various restrictions on the media, like the previous regime did. The licences of some private media institutions were cancelled by the former regime, while some journalists were killed and some private media organizations set on fire. Whatever futile attempts are made by the JO to topple the Government, it would certainly go on until 2020. The people would definitely give us the mandate to continue in office for another ten years, when the country would be developed, and the people’s living standards improved.

Q: The Government is facing a lot of problems with VAT, Cost of Living and such other matters, while at the same time it is important to increase the revenue inflow. How will the Government balance these concerns?
A: The Government was compelled to increase its revenue due to the adhoc decisions taken by the previous regime, to secure loans on high interest rates. Those huge loans failed to bring any dividends to the economy. At present, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has drawn up plans to convert the Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport into profitable business ventures. However, we have to wait some time until the benefits are reaped from these projects. During the tenure of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, VAT was increased up to 18 percent. When the new Government assumed office, VAT was at 15 percent and we reduced it by a certain percentage. Later on, we were forced to increase it by a small percentage owing to the prevailing economic instability. When the economy is strengthened, we would definitely bring down the VAT, as we reduced the fuel prices. The former Government never brought down the prices once they were increased.

Q: There is an allegation that investigations into misdeeds of leading politicians in the Government are painfully slow. What is your comment?
A: It is clear testimony to the fact that there is no state interference with these investigations or resorting to political revenge from rivals. When some of the JO MPs are granted bail for their alleged misappropriation of state funds, they come out of prison and parade in vehicles raising their hands, as if they have performed an act of gallantry. This is the biggest drama enacted by JO politicians. At present, these politicians have become the biggest jokers. When there is cogent evidence to prove that these corrupt politicians have swindled public funds, they come out of jail and give the impression that the Government is pursuing a political witch hunt. The Rajapaksas have the knack of indulging in any sordid act and finally interpreting it as a political witch hunt, putting the blame on the Government.

Q:A Government elected to power needs at least one year to plan out its development activities. What is the rationale behind the JO’s slogan to topple the Government at this juncture?
A: The Government completes its one year tenure next month, (August). JO politicians who have been charged with various frauds have begun to enact dramas due to the fear of conviction and imprisonment. Actually, this Paada Yathra should have the Welikada prison as its destination. When the Paada Yathra reaches Colombo, the gates of the Welikada prison should be kept open for the JO leaders to volunteer themselves into, ‘Maha Ulu Gedara’, the place for repentance for the past misdeeds.