Translation by Dr. Siri Gamage
Opening question: If AKD becomes the next President, what are your plans?
Response: There is an uncertainty as to what we will do if there is our government. It is difficult for some people to visualise it, as we did not rule the country before. This interview will provide a good opportunity to elaborate what we will do?
Q1. Like some other leaders have you prepared your dress (costume) to be the President?
R: Not at all. I have my preferred dress. What we need is not a change in the dress of the person responsible for governance. We need to change in the direction of politics as it is moving to destroy the country. Instead of a society where there is no trust and the people look at each other with suspicion, we have to create a better society where each person work with others in a unified way (samagiyen). We need to change the economic policy that led to the destruction of society. What is important is not the dress but what we can do to transform our economy, polity, and society. We emphasise these. We are engaged in discussions on this path for a transformation.
Q.2. If you become the President, what action will you take urgently?
R: We will propose a vision to build this society collectively. In our country, politics is located in the upper floor (Udu Mahala). The politician who inhabits it is not subject to the rule of law. The politician has a privileged position. He entertains significant privileges (Varadana, Varaprasada). Therefore we are in a position where we think the existing political culture has to be changed. This society has to be changed into a virtuous one (Yahapath Bhavaya). Our aim is to prepare basic foundations required for that journey. We don’t say that we will give free shoes or make the labourer the owner of an estate/plantation. Our duty is to restore the economy, society and the state once again. In our government, the first thing we will do is to prepare the foundation for this journey for reformation along the following lines: 1) remove all privileges given to politicians 2) take steps to stop fraud and corruption 3) Subject everyone to rule of law 4) Implement a new economic plan. These are not actions that will come one after another. Our aim is to implement these simultaneously.
Q.3. Many people talk about the executive Presidency. If you become the President, what will you do? Will you change it?
R: Since 1947 until 1977, our country was governed by a system centred on the parliament. Between 1977-2021, the system was centred on the executive President. If we look back, we can observe that the executive Presidential system has not been successful. In the tribal societies, the leader controls everything including the formulation of laws, administering justice and meting out punishments. He holds legislative, executive and judicial powers. As civilisations grew, instead of a governance system centred on one person, a system based on collectivity emerged. This became the norm. Out country went back to the uncivilised (Ashista) world/era. Instead of the rule by various structures/institutions, the power was concentrated on one individual. Take the examples like change of the Litro gas chairman, the decision to stop importing fertiliser, change of four secretaries in the Ministry of agriculture. The last secretary was an expert in the field. He could not stand the decisions made (by the Government). Some professors with expertise were removed. It is the executive power that led to the problematic situation we face. Under this any (momentary) thought that comes to the mind of the executive President can be implemented without checks and balances. In our country, leaders do not have a higher mindset suitable for the position. He can set free someone already punished by the courts. He can implement half judgement, delay, and stop. Release someone from the prisons. Why is such a power is given (to the President)? If a person is wrongly accused then he can intervene. Thus the leader should have a mind suitable for the power he holds. Authoritarianism has been strengthened through the 20th amendment to the constitution.
Given all the difficulties we face, we think the executive President system is not suitable for us. Therefore, it should be changed. We will bring necessary legislation to do so before the parliament. This is a decision of our collective movement –not my individual view. I am only one factor here. Ours is a collective effort. We have to take the power back to this collective. We can bring about a positive change that way. We have a group of people who are sincere, dedicated to the task of changing this society.
Q 4. Country’s economic problem is the major problem we are facing today. People are suffering from multiple issues. Many accuse the leaders for not developing the economy since 1948. If you become the President, how will you reform the economy? How will you move the country to be a developed one?
R: I will guarantee that we will do it. I am happy that you are asking such questions. In the past, governments changed and people voted not on the economic factor. In 1994, people voted to change the 17-year curse (He gives other examples here). Today we are facing all these problems due to the economy. Economy has become the main factor for deciding on the next government. The main responsibility of politicians has become the securing of economic development. We need a better program.
However, economic program alone is not sufficient. We need a government that is not corrupt. (Mind you) There are good features of the existing economic program. But bad features come to the fore due to bribary, corruption and commission taking. Therefore, before the economic program, we need a government (Deshapalanaya) that is not corrupt. We will establish such a governance system. Secondly, we need collective action. Public servants, the private sector, entrepreneurs, youths, farmers, fishermen etc. have to come to an agreement/decision that we will collectively work towards restoring the country within 3-4 years. For this to happen, we have to escort politicians from the upstairs (Udu Mahala) to downstairs. Citizens should feel that politicians have given up privileges and made sacrifices. In our country, we have to appeal to the youth. To bring about collective responsibility, we have to remove privileges from the politicians.
Thirdly, we need a definitive economic program. We need to get over the debt trap. The gap between imports and exports has to be reduced. We need a program to restore our production. Income disparity needs to be reduced. We have an economic program covering all these aspects. In it we give attention to the specific location of our country, natural resources, human resources, geopolitics of the world, and our civilisation. The task of government is to set targets to achieve. For example, in tourism we have to look at data, predications, trends and determine that we have to take the sector to such and such level by 2030. We have to then invite private entrepreneurs to build hotels. Likewise advice those producing tiles to go ahead with their production levels. Same for food producers. Training for hotel sector is required. Such an approach is necessary in all fields including agriculture, tourism, and construction. I don’t say that I will give free fertiliser. We have to move forward collectively according to a plan. The main priority is to develop the country.
Q 05. You are asking people to (support you) to gain power. Government states that there will be no election soon. If so, what is your plan?
R: today there is a lot of unhappiness about the government. According to our (existing) system, people’s power has been transferred to a group of people for 5 years. However, a majority in the parliament can vote to dissolve the parliament and advice the President who can then dissolve it. I don’t think the MPs will dissolve the parliament by simple majority. They want to remain in power for the full term. If dissolved, many can’t return. Today’s politicians will attempt to preserve their power until the end. Our task is to prepare for an election.
Q 06. There is no election forthcoming soon. As people are suffering from various policies they say let’s give our vote to the JVP and see? Will the people forget JVP at an election?
R: The crisis today cannot be solved by patchwork. Citizens ask us what the governing parties will do at the last minute (before an election)? It is good that they think like this. We are the JVP. Our aim is to build a people’s movement going beyond the political parties. NPP is such a movement. Current need is a modern freedom movement. If we are losing our national assets..? A few who have exploited our resources are covering our bodies. We need a NPP. We will extend it to common people at the village level. We ask them to set aside their blue, red, and green hats. We will build a people’s movement to free the country and then rebuild. We are working in different sectors to achieve this goal. Journalists, professionals, academics, farmers, trade unionists are involved. For us, when the election will come is irrelevant. People are determined to restore their country out of the current calamity. Such a people movement is necessary not only to secure power. It is necessary for nation building also. Our main agenda is to build this movement.
Q 7. Who supports the NPP? Is it China, India or another country? Can a party come to power without such support?
R: We know that in our country governments are brought to power by embassies. They make parties and break them. (Next time) the power will be determined by how far the common people (podu janaya) trust the NPP movement? Ours is not a political movement that is dependent on embassies or dance according to their tune. We do politics according to people’s heart rhythm. We exist on the people. But we have political dialogue with different countries. We have close relationship with the Chinese Communist party. Likewise, we have relations with the Indian embassy staff. None of our discussions are focused on bribing to get MPs from one side to another. We are ready to work with other countries to rebuild this country.
Q 8. Many political parties are inviting the JVP for a coalition. But your party says you will not agree to any coalition. Do you have confidence that the JVP can gain power on its own?
R: We thank those parties for keeping trust on us and for their belief that we will bring a transformation (Parivarthanaya) to the country. Why are we unique? Lets look at the two parties that ruled this country. They are different on the surface in terms of appearance, colour, faces etc. But they are tied to each other by one thread. i.e. corruption and fraud. When we try to find reasons for the current economic decline and foreign debt this is what can be seen as the reason. The request (from other parties) you mentioned in your question comes from such superficial differences yet the agreement and close relationship underneath. They are lined up on one line. We are lined up on another line. If we join them we will be joining their line. If that happened, there will be 1,2,3 lines and voters will have to choose one out of these. They are on the line of destruction. We are on a different line for a solution. We don’t claim that good and sincere people are there only in our movement or the patriots are there only in it. They exist outside (our movement) also. Those who resist the path to economic destruction are there only in our movement. They argue for a different path away from corrupt, destructive policies being pursued currently. They are committed to nation-building. The NPP is open to all of them. There is no point us joining other camps.
Q 09. To obtain power for the JVP-NPP is cleanliness (Parishuddha bhavaya) in politics enough?
R: No. But it is an important factor to secure power and build the nation. In the last 73 years, this has not been the case. Sincerity and trustworthiness are very important. A better vision and an operation to achieve it (implementing a corresponding project) are also important for nation building. We place more emphasis there. We have prepared a plan for re-building this country. We engage with that plan. For example, we identify 5 main problems and give priority to them: 1) improve production 2) address the debt trap 3) Reduce the gap between imports-exports 4) Reinstate the rule of law 5) provide health, education, transport facilities. As these are our priority areas, our capital investments, interventions, programs (Karya Sadhanaya) will be directed to solve these problems. Checking the price of rice in Pitakotuwa market, Prices of Wattakka in the Pola (fair) or whether there is a long line (polima) in the RMO are not real solutions to our existing problems. They are only the symptoms of our current crisis. Our aim is to go after (follow) the targets we set to solve the key problems we identify. It is necessary for re-building the country/nation.
Q 10. What will be the difference between a government led by the JVP vs. by other parties without you in 2030?
R: Today people leave the country to go for work (overseas). Others also leave for various reasons. The former is normal. In essence, today people with professional qualifications and capital leave the country. Many are doctors. Why? Many leave the country due to the uncertainty in the country and the future (prospects) for the children. People are leaving not due to one reason only. One reason is the breakdown of the economy. Next is the absence of rule of law and lack of discipline. Another is the increasing crimes. The comical (style of) governance is another. I recently met 53 doctors from Moratuwa University. (I was told that) 50 of them left the country. Doctors have respect, decent income, house, car, children are in good schools. However, the wife tells the doctor ‘what will happen to our children’s future’? (let me assure) If the government is not by us more and more people will leave. A small number of families who will extract the essence of this nation will emerge. Don’t let this happen. We will salvage the country from such destruction. Under our rule in 2030, instead of the mentality (described earlier for compelling the people to leave the country), we will build a generation who will place their trust in the country’s future.