A senior member of the country’s left movement, Democratic Left Front (DLF) Secretary and National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva says that the government was not following the Mahinda Chinthana. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Nanayakkara said that the atmosphere created by neo-liberal policies have attributed the increase in crimes and corruption in the country. “We must re-examine the laws related to the accountability of wealth,” he said. The Minister also blamed the police and authorities responsible for the police for the failure in taking action against crimes in the country.
Q: How do you see the current path of the government?
A: We are well set in the path to progress if the Mahinda Chinthana is followed. It provides for human development, which is where progress and what relates to it lies. Other areas related to human development are material and infrastructure development, strategic developments and investments and social development. We need a human development index to be looked at like the one set by the UN in relation to Sri Lanka.
It could be used as a guideline. A human development index is seldom used, but it should be referred in state documents when speaking of progress. It is important to understand that human development is inter related with progress. Sufficient attention has currently not been given to this fact.
Q: The crime and corruption have increased in the country. Why have you been silent in public?
A: Firstly, the reason I have been silent is because the media has not asked a question on this matter from me. I have my position with regard to the issue. The prompt enforcement of the law and a speedy judicial process that would convict those found guilty would ensure a reduction in the crime rate. Any potential criminal in such a scenario would be deterred and not encouraged by the knowledge that they would be apprehended, convicted and sentenced without delay. When there is a speedy process, potential criminals would be deterred. Delays in the process would encourage criminals. Another matter is the present atmosphere of money making. The making of money and in large amounts in the shortest method is what ensures and guarantees status, power and influence in society. Therefore, it is the quickest way in making large amounts of money that have caused certain people to commit financial and other related crimes. There are other crimes in the country apart from murder and abuse. Committing financial frauds, cheating and forceful occupation of lands, etc., are also crimes and they have increased. Making of quick money has become a way of life for some. These are atmospheres created by neo-liberalism.
Q: How do you see this changing?
A: This is not changing or cannot see any change now. It is only enhancing. Money laundering and drug trading are ways of earning quick money.
Q: Is it not a shortcoming on the part of the government?
A: We must re-examine the laws related to the accountability of wealth. There’s currently nothing in place. We have to see how we enforce the law? In order to seek the accountability of wealth of a person. It would also reduce corruption and ill gotten wealth. Corruption is one of the main sources of ill-gotten wealth. The Bribery Commission, police and Inland Revenue does not have enough personnel to investigate whether a person’s wealth is ill-gotten, I don’t mean immoral, but unlawful. Attention should be paid to monies made unlawfully. If a person takes a commission it is immoral, but not unlawful. However, if that money is not declared, it becomes a fraud. But there are no checks on these issues. Those who engage in such activities include politicians from both the government and opposition. This is the reason there is an asset declaration to be done, but there is no follow up. People’s minimum needs have changed. They need money and are engaged in lawful, unlawful and immoral activities to find money. Most of the abuse cases that are being reported are with the consent of both parties carried out in want of present day minimum needs. It is my view that over 70 percent of the families in the country earn less than Rs. 20,000 every month. This is poverty. The Census and Statistics Department based on sample surveys say that the average monthly income of a family is around Rs. 35,000. However, in reality it is not the same. As a parliamentarian I travel around my constituency and most families earn only around Rs. 20,000 every month and most often it is the male who is the sole breadwinner of the family. Neo-liberalism gives value to wealth and non investigation of such matters is conducive to such issues.
Q: You were a vociferous fighter for the democratic rights of the people. How do you justify your support to a government that is perhaps the most dictatorial in recent decades?
A: If you pin point and ask incidents
I will tell what I feel. My impression is that the most dictatorial government was that of President J.R. Jayewardene. We were not even allowed to do a picket. His gangs assaulted and stabbed our people. We were always at the receiving end. People can now picket and protest, except when they try to enter the high security zones.
Q: One of the main areas of concern is with regard to the issues faced by the media with inferences being made to “patriotism” and traitors”
A: State security has certain requirements. Spreading false stories with a view of causing disaffection of people towards the government. It is a provision of law considered a crime. If you cause by any publication a public disaffection towards the government, then the government could take action. It is therefore not being dictatorial when the government asks websites to be registered.
Q: But there is no law for websites to register?
A: There is no law, but the government has announced a requirement.
Q: The government has failed to act against crimes in the country?
A: Some crimes have not been successfully investigated. The police and those responsible for the police must take the blame. But they are few.
Q: One of the recent cases was of Julampitiye Amare who was roaming freely in public while court warrants had been issued on him with the protection of senior government members?
A: I don’t have enough evidence to comment on it. If you ask me about Julampitiye Amare, I blame the police for not arresting him and producing before court. He should have been arrested before he surrendered. The police should have known where he was.
Q: He was out in the open carrying weapons?
A: I have received evidence of him being present in public places and in general in the area.
Q: When you take all these incidents…
A: It is not all it is just one incident. What are the others?
Q: As I said earlier, about the cases involving the assault and killing of media personnel and the ongoing harassment of the media?
A: How have media personnel being harassed.
Q: Last week the Defence Secretary turned abusive towards The Sunday Leader Editor?
A: Yes, I heard about the dialogue between the Defence Secretary and your editor Frederica. I would like to first ask the Defence Secretary whether he said so. Without asking him if he had said all that has been published by Frederica, I cannot make any comment on it. I don’t believe that the Defence Secretary ever used such language or said anything of the type that has been published. But if either the Defence Secretary admits he said those words or if he denied and Frederica can prove then we can make a comment. What are the other issues of media personnel?
Q: A few issues are the attack on Keith Noyar and Namal Perera and the murder of the founding editor of The Sunday Leader Lasantha Wickrematunge?
A: The attacks are an outright condemnation. But who did it is not known. One is that there has not been a successful investigation and the other is that a person has been attacked seriously. These put together does not bring any blame to the government except for the unsuccessful investigations.
Q: But these acts were committed under the government’s watch and is the responsibility of the government to ensure the safety of citizens in the country be it media personnel or any one else?
A: How can the government provide security?
Q: It is not providing security, if there is a good law and order situation in the country these issues would not arise?
A: The law and order situation in the country is not good and we all know that.
Q: Why has the government allowed such a situation in the country?
A: The government has not allowed it to be so. I have explained why crimes take place and their nature. It is all in the successful investigation, prompt action and speedy judicial process. What I’m saying is that there is a crime that is unsuccessfully investigated about which the police have to take the blame. You cannot say it is the government’s fault or that the government engineered the attack on Keith Noyar.
Q: What I’m saying is that even after an incident takes place, the state does not show genuine interest in carrying out an effective investigation to bring the culprits to book?
A: That can be your inference. I can’t draw that inference. I only draw the inference that the police have failed to do a successful investigation on the assault of media personnel. It is a failure on the part of the police.
Q: But the police are politicized?
A: Everything is politicized. What is not politicized? Politics is what prevails and pervades the society. Any one who claims not to be political is in fact political. Police should not be politically influenced to prevent or discourage them from carrying out the law. That is accepted and where any this else happen we will condemn. The case of Keith Noyar’s attack cannot be attributed to a person so we do not know. We can imagine and infer and that is what you infer that the state does not have a genuine interest. I can say the state has not been successful in the investigation for no deliberately intended reason. The police is to be blamed and those who are accountable for the police. Number of journalists have been attacked and killed and the investigations have drawn a blank. That is an indictment on the police, but you cannot convert it to the position that the state has been responsible for the attacks.
Q: The police come under the Defence Ministry and if there is any failure on the part of the police, then action needs to be taken.
A: Of course yes.
Q: When the FTZ worker was killed last year, the then IGP said he resigned, but was appointed as Sri Lanka’s ambassador to Brazil.
A: That is a step taken by the government.
Q: But does it not reflect the government’s direction?
A: We must not generalize. We need to specifically to look at things and then add them. The crimes that have not been successfully investigated where the criminals have not been found are matters where the police should be condemned and negligent use of weapons and all these issues need to be looked into. Police have to be punished for such actions of negligence.
The government is doing that. They had arrested the person involved in the negligence. Failure to detect is not an offence, but negligence resulting in a shooting is an offense. Disciplinary inquiry needs to be taken against the police for failing to take action against Julampitiye Amare. Failure to detect could result in the police being reprimanded, but they could also say that they had been successful in many other investigations.
Q: What if they cannot conclude investigations due to political reasons?
A: Then they need to say so. If any person says he cannot conduct an investigation due to a senior officer or government official, then we can look into the matter.
Q: The government’s promised reconciliation process is at a standstill. As National Languages and Social Integration Minister how do you think this situation could be overcome?
A: The political solution is considered. It is a serious issue that requires the consensus of the political parties by placing them before a parliamentary select committee (PSC) to do their deliberations. But this is being prevented by the non participation of the TNA, UNP and JVP. The government does not have an alternative method to bring about a political solution. However, when the TNA says the government must give its position, the government must give an encouraging response. Although the exact position of the government cannot be given since the present government is heterogeneous, the President must give an encouraging response.
The government must give definite presentations to parliament regarding the positions of each party. Everyone would then know the positions of the parties. Once the PSC discusses the issues and reach a majority decision the required step, a constitutional amendments or a referendum could be held. But nothing can be done without the constitution of the PSC.
Q: You have been a consistent advocate for minority rights. Do you think this government will fulfil your vision?
A: When you speak of minorities, it is the Tamils and the Tamil speaking Muslims are the ones that matter. They have asked for certain arrangements of governance. The government will consider the views of the PSC, views of the people through a referendum, Indian concerns because of Tamil Nadu and the international opinion and consensus. These are issues the government cannot ignore. The government is committed to bring a formula.
Q: Members of the left movement holding positions in the government do not seem to be having much of a say any more. Why?
A: We have a say. There are four of us in the government holding responsible positions and we express our views in the Cabinet. Our views are given due respect. But the current form of government is not good and it contributes towards the negation of democracy. There should be parliament headed by an elected prime minister without an executive president. It is also a commitment of the Mahinda Chinthana.
Q: What future do you see for the country under the present government?
A: A very bright future if the Mahinda Chinthana is followed.