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  1. You were one of the few MP’s who   crossed over with Mr. Maithripala Sirisena  in  November 2014. You supported him at the January 2015 Presidential poll. He was elected president and you were made a state minister. Subsequently you resigned from that Govt but remained supportive of President Sirisena. However after the August 2015 Parliament elections you were not appointed a national list MP. Why  do you think that happened and where does it leave you now?

I suspect I fell victim to the internal warfare between supporters of President Sirisena and President Rajapaksa. I took seriously the President’s decision to give his predecessor nomination, since that was the best way of promoting a SLFP / UPFA victory, and ensuring indeed that the party was not decimated.

But those around the President panicked him with stories of what a Rajapaksa led SLFP victory would mean for him, while in turn this was fueled by the latter’s supporters claiming that they would be revenged on the President if they won. Neither side took note of the reality that the party was not likely to win an absolute majority, and that even if it did, there were enough solid supporters of the President to ensure that the Prime Minister would be someone he chose (though it would of course have had to be with his predecessor’s support).

As a result the President played games with the Secretaries of the parties, and sadly the UPFA allowed this to happen. The claim was that he had to be absolutely sure of the allegiance of any National List nominees, and those who were currying favour – none of whom had dared to speak out when the Sirisena campaign was launched – doubtless told him I could not be relied on, even though I had been told that he had wanted me on the National List, and he should have known better. But in any case the UNP had been allowed a significant plurality, which is why this is not really a genuine coalition, but one dominated by the UNP. Perhaps that is just as well, since it is more likely that President Sirisena, if he really believes in the manifesto on which he won the election, will realize that that cannot be fulfilled by a UNP government as constituted at present.

 

  1. When you became State minister of Higher Education in President Sirisena’s Govt much was expected of you as you had wide knowledge and experience in that sphere. Yet due to differences with the  cabinet minister and also the Prime minister you resigned within 5 weeks. What  led to your resignation?  Has the passage of time made you  regret the decision?

Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.30602779I am writing in response to the letter from Mr Kamal Nissanka which appeared in the columns of the Sunday Island on July 26th. He claims in an email sent to other party members that this was in response to an article that appeared on the 19th. In fact the Island rang me up with regard to a press release he had issued, which makes it clear that bringing this matter into the public domain was a strategy employed by Mr Nissanka for reasons that should be obvious.

His latest letter is replete with inaccuracies and half truths. It is possible that his memory is faulty, but fortunately there is email evidence to the contrary with regard to his claims.

1. Mr Nissanka said that ‘I handed over Dr Rajiva Wijesinha’s nomination application to Mr Susil Premajayanha at the Ministry of Education at Battaramulla’. However, though the party had suggested my name be put forward, Mr Nissanka had also put forward his own name. When I met the President I asked him about a candidacy for the Liberal Party, at which point he said ‘Who is this Nissanka whose name has been given? We want you on the List.’ I did not mention this to Mr Nissanka at the time, but I discussed this with him later, and he did not deny this.

2. Contrary to what Mr Nissanka is now claiming, there was no great discussion in the Party about the 18th Amendment. There was no need for pressure from the party for me not to vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, since my reasons for not doing so have been explained by me very clearly. I should note that, in discussion, there were a couple of lawyers from Kurunagala whom Mr Nissanka had introduced to the party, who were in favour of the impeachment.

3. He claims that ‘My political relationship with Dr Wijesinha began to sink as he resigned from the state minister post without informing the party.’ On the contrary it began to sink because I did not appoint him to a position in the Ministry. The several emails he sent in this regard make the position clear.

The first was sent on the very day I assumed duties, with another immediately after.

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Jan 13

to Ananda, me

They expect me to have some position in the Rajiva ministry. I think in political type positions priority should be given to me and Stephen. Our ultimate goal is to go to parliament through NL or district contest. Party expenses are also vital. If we have political type positions we can contribute to the party.

There should be a dividend to the great sacrifice for the party.

On 15 Jan, 2015, at 7:50 pm, Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com> wrote:

Considering all these development I suggest that when positions are offered in Rajiva ministry priority should be given to me and Ananda Stephen. I have no opposition giving to other members of the committee thereafter.

In fact Mr Palitha Lihinikumara requested me tio get the “Post of Adviser- Student Affairs”. He said somebody who has an understanding  in present day radical student politics should be in charge on that.

I suggest Ananda Stephen be given “post of coordinating Secretary”. If not we cannot face our support base. I hope all of you agree with this parameter and suggestions. Fruits should be tasted by those who planted the trees.  

I explained at the Committee meeting we had a few days later that I would be happy to make appointments to cadre positions at my disposal for those able to work full time. Mr Stephen, the Deputy Secretary General, said he was willing to work full time but none of the others was able to do this.

I also explained that the post of Student Advisor had been created by a special Cabinet Paper prepared by my predecessor. With the change of government that had lapsed. I said I was not like my predecessor and did not think it proper to create new positions. I do not think it a legitimate use of government funds to help the party.

Despite this the claim was reiterated in an email of January 25th –

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Jan 25

to me, Ananda, Shalini

I have emphasized that I should be given suitable position at least for the next six months until the next parliament comes and depending on how we face elections. I thought the “Student Area” is the best for me where I could develop new relations. If possible I think Peradeniya, Rajarata, Wayamba Jaffna, Eastern, could be one area {plus or minus Sabaragamuwa and Uva) or any different arrangement. 

It should be noted that numerous ex-party members and our recent political friends are also expecting various favors through me from you and. In some cases not jobs but maybe a letter or other help. (This is the nature of Sri Lankan politics).

My view is that those who worked for the regime at the last election should not be given any position in the ministry and that would discourage us and will create an ongoing conflict. (I am not going to interfere with existing members)

And then attacks on my leadership began after what can only be described as a bitter sign off.

Kamal Nissanka <kamalliberal@yahoo.com>

Mar 27

to Ananda, me, shalini, Roshan, ravindra.abeyw., rkottageapo, Sarath, drnewtonpeiris, dunstan53, Upali, Adikari, Dr, Romesh

Some of the active members of  Rev Sobitha group pushed me to get “Student Advisor” postfrom Rajiva. I also being a mad guy eating (sic) the dead rope suggested (to) Rajiva that I should be given “student advisor”. What was Rajiva’s response? “I am not going to act like SB in appointment(s). That is the end of LPSL secretary asking favours and position from Rajiva ministry. I don’t want to be the leader o the party at this juncture. So there is no leadership struggle but I am dead sure that Rajiva can’t lead the party. For the betterment of the party he should not be the leader, we need an alternative. I thought this would be “leadership council”

4. He is talking nonsense with regard to the attempt to dismiss me, because that happened in December, and my case was very ably handled by Mr Harsha Amerasekera with no input whatsoever from the Party.

5. Finally, with regard to the vexed question of an MoU, the party decided at its January meeting to write to the UPFA about an MoU. Mr Nissanka took some time over this but he finally did so. Towards the end of March Mr Susil Premjayanth sent an MoU and wanted it signed and sent back urgently. I signed it but before I could send it, Mr Nissanka and the Deputy Secretary General said that Mr Nissanka should sign it. I had no problems with this but did worry about the delay in him getting to Colombo to sign it. Mr Nissanka had not attended the Committee meeting in February and we did not have one in March.

However he did sign the MoU finally at the meeting held on April 11th. I gave this to Mr Premjayanth, but he has not as yet given me back a copy of the document signed also by him.

It is odd that Mr Nissanka does not mention that he signed an MoU

Ananda Stephen

Jun 30

to Kamal, me, Roshans, Shalini, Sarath, dunstan53, Upali, Newton, Romesh, Adikari, tilak, Dr, ravindra.abeyw., bakmeewatta, Anura

Dear Kamal, 

Thanks, what happened to the MOU which we signed few months back ?????? initially Rajiva was planning to signed  and subsequently you signed .I strongly feel that we should ask for a meeting within next couple of days with UPFA to discuss this issue. If they don’t give us nominations the only other option is UNP, no other, we have to act fast.

6. Subsequently both Mr Nissanka and Mr Stephen, following correspondence with HE the President, sent in applications to Mr Premjayanth for nomination to District lists. They were not called for interview, and then declared, at the meeting of our Committee on July 7th that they did not wish for nomination. However the minutes as written by Mr Nissanka noted that ‘committee did not want to sabotage if any member of the party further negotiate with President regarding nominations. Dr Rajiva volunteered to discuss with President Maithreepala Sirisena regarding a national seat nomination and a district nomination for Kurunegala’. In fact I asked for a mandate from the party for this. The district nomination was a reference to the application of one of our Pradeshiya Sabha Members who had also sent in an application, and who perhaps tactlessly I had said was potentially our best candidate since he had already proved himself.

It should be noted that he had supported the candidacy of President Rajapaksa in January, and I believe the reference to not giving positions to those ‘who worked for the regime at the last election’ in the January 25th email was to him, even though he had been unanimously co-opted to the Committee at the previous meeting.

7. I should add that I am astonished that the Secretary General, without any authorization from the Committee that met on July 7th, put forward four lists off his own bat for the election. The leader of the Colombo list told me that he had found us on a website, and that he had previously contested with Dr Wickramabahu Karunaratne – whose political stances have been light years away from those of our Founder, Dr Chanaka Amaratunga.

http://www.island.lk/index.php?page_cat=article-details&page=article-details&code_title=129279

Daily MirrorProfessor Rajiva Wijesinha, son of late Sam Wijesinha, Former Parliamentary Secretary General is a member of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. In June 2007 President Mahinda Rajapakse appointed him Secretary-General of the Sri Lankan Government Secretariat for Co-ordinating the Peace Process, and in June 2008 he became the Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights. In February 2010 he resigned from the Ministry and the University, and became a member of Parliament on the National List of the UPFA following which he was appointed a member of Parliament. In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Professor Wijesinha speaks about the lack of control among ruling party leaders, the loopholes in the educational system and the civil service in Sri Lanka.

Q. Describe your entry into politics

qrcode.26633243I have always been interested in political history and I have done a lot of political writings. In fact one of my best papers was political philosophy. Basically I have been involved with the Liberal party of Sri Lanka. Liberalism means freedom and for freedom you need several factors. When talking about an executive presidency, about having too much power, ever since the time of Montesquieu, there has been an idea of the removal of arbitrary powers. But the first thing we should all realise is that in any government the most important and in fact the most powerful is the executive. You need to check that executive; whether it is a child, a president or a prime minister from exercising arbitrary power. Also what are the instruments that will control the arbitrary power of the ruler on behalf of the people?

Montesquieu suggested two institutions which needed to be powerful; the Parliament, whose role was to pass the laws and money and oversee the proper spending of that money-which was why the budget was such an important occasion in our lives. The other is the Judiciary, who should independently administer the law. Another extremely powerful institution that plays a role on behalf of the people is the media.  Another element is the public service. Increasingly the concept developed around an independent public service with no servants for a king or a minister.

The need for a free economy should be addressed. However, I am delighted by the fact that statism changed its phase after JR’s open economy was established. At that time I was writing for my PhD and by the time I got back I found him to be rather authoritative and I was horrified by the type of things he did.

Daily Mirror1

RW 16 Dec 2014 1Q. What was the concept of the Liberal Party?

We were the first people to say, “control the power of the executive”. Before the 17th Amendment, the President appointed anybody he wanted for anything. We were the ones who said that on a political philosophy it was totally unacceptable. We pooled in a lot of ideas then, which are now universally accepted. Chanaka Amaratunge had a deep knowledge about the constitutions all over the world. We said that the election system was mad and proposed for a mixed system. We said a lot of things and gradually people came to accept them.

Q. What do you think of this newly emerging ‘defection-culture’ and the political scenario as of late?

I think the country is pleased.  In my opinion, every individual who crossed over to the Opposition had a strong identity. I think Maithripala Sirisena is a very capable person, yet the cross-over by Tissa Attanayake is quite ineffective. The opposition need not be sorry that he is gone.

Q. Do you regret your transition from being an academic to a politician?

No. I have done a lot in academia and I was responsible for taking the initiative to transform university education, through the introduction of ‘co-courses’. The British education system relies on a very good school education. In America, students are taught basic skills in universities and this was initiated from Harvard in the 19th Century. What they said was that as soon as you came into a university you didn’t specialise, but you have to learn a little bit about science, mathematics and the like.

The Harvard by the end of the 20th Century had expanded the co-courses into 10 separate things and the students had to do a little of each. These courses included communication, inter-cultural skills, inter-personal skills and the like. When I went back, I introduced this system at the University of Sabaragamuwa. So every student had to do English and they also had to do both Sinhala and Tamil, because my Tamil and Sinhala students could not write anything. Along with these I also introduced critical thinking. At first they used to curse me for this but then later they said that this was what they got when they went for jobs. Also many of these students did not know how to use a book. For example, when asked to find the largest country in the world the whole class was busy turning pages, but of course there was a contents page. Therefore, I also introduced library skills. Since these skills were introduced, which I think are very important to any student, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has announced that they were mandatory.

In any society 80% has to go into business, technical work and you must educate people for that. You cannot educate 100% of a population. We see graduates coming unemployed and our rulers offer them jobs. The brightest minds in the country are going and sitting at the Divisional Secretariats as Samurdhi officers and when I ask them what they when I ask them what they are doing, they say ‘data collection’. When asked for the purpose, they keep staring at me. So we can see that no one has been doing anything about this mismatch in education. In fact I think what I did was quite useful. Read the rest of this entry »

qrcode.26604602Nearly two months back the Liberal Party wrote to the President urging that he not hold elections in haste, and indicating that he should proceed first with the various reforms he had pledged. We got an acknowledgment, but not a response, though I suspect a call from a close relation urging that I support the President was a consequence of the letter. The refusal to consider issues seriously, while simply providing assurances that things will improve, is not however something that can be accepted ad nauseam. Indeed, while in India I was told by a political scientist who had been fully supportive of our destruction of the Tigers in Sri Lanka, that the President, having promised the Indians that he would implement the 13th Amendment, was heard to say as they were leaving that he had fooled them again.

I refused to believe this, and argued that the President would not have behaved like that. My own view is that he is generally sincere in the commitments he makes, and he did his best on various occasions to promote the LLRC. But unfortunately he imagines he is weaker than he is, and gives in to pressures from others, all of whom have their own agendas. So, following his commitment to the Indians, he did nothing when that was repudiated by a spokesman, and he did not bother when G L Peiris did not respond to a request for clarification sent by the Indian Prime Minister. As Lalith Weeratunge said with regard to the clear commitment to change the Chief Secretary of the Northern Province, he could do nothing because his hands were tied – but this was probably not, initially at any rate, by the President.

It is this failure to move straight, despite what I continue to believe are admirable political instincts, that led the Liberal Party last week to confirm its earlier decision and support Maithripala Sirisena. Though it is argued that the Sirisena candidacy is the result of a foreign conspiracy, it is in fact a continuation of the present regime that will lead to increasing interference in our affairs by the more prejudiced elements in the international community.

And we now have hardly any defences against such incursions that are based on rationality. I think the recent removal of Chris Nonis, following his able defence of the country when dealing with the international media, suggests that those close to the President are determined to destroy our defences. In some cases this may be due simply to jealousy, but I suspect this was stirred up for ulterior motives, the same motives that led to the dismissal of Dayan Jayatilleka and Tamara Kunanayakam.

Underlying all this is the absence of a coherent strategy. Tamara Kunanayakam relates how Sajin Vas Gunawardena had said that the government had no strategy when she asked what was the strategy to deal with the draft resolution against Sri Lanka that the Americans were preparing way back in September. Her staff had told her that this had been shared with Kshenuka Seneviratne on her private email address, but not communicated to Colombo.

Instead of looking into that aberration, the Ministry however was annoyed with Tamara for having found it out, and did not want to think about the matter. It was the President who had told Tamara to come to Colombo to discuss the matter, and been very clear in his instructions, to the effect that Tamara should not negotiate with the Americans, but should instead rally support amongst our usual allies. This Tamara did, and as had happened in 2007, when the British Ambassador had to allow the resolution he had tabled in 2006 to lapse, the American resolution, which the Canadians had tried to bring forward, was not moved.

But before that the Ministry had tried to prevent Tamara seeing the President, and had indeed ordered the Secretary to put her on a flight before the scheduled breakfast meeting with the President. Fortunately the Secretary then, Karunasena Amunugama, was a practical man, and when he found the ticket could not be changed, he had allowed Tamara to stay on. But contrary to the very clear instructions the President had given, which were in line with the strategy we had employed between 2007 and 2009 to defend our interests, Sajin had simply scoffed and said we had no strategy because the President changed it all the time. Read the rest of this entry »

Last week the Marga Institute held a discussion on several sets of proposals that had been forwarded to the Parliamentary Select Committee looking into ‘Political and Constitutional Measures to Empower the People of Sri Lanka to Live as One Nation’. After much animated discussion, it was decided to work with the set of proposals put forward by Vasantha Senanayake, and a couple of groups have been established to flesh these out.

Senanayake is perhaps the brightest of the young Members elected newly in 2010, a factor noticed by several embassies that have sent him on delegations of young Members to visit their countries. These proposals sprang from his work with the One Text Initiative which had seen him spearhead a group of Parliamentarians, representing government as well as different opposition parties, who had interacted with members of the Sri Lankan Diaspora, both Sinhalese and Tamil, in Britain. They had sent a report on their visit to the President, though there has been no response to the interesting ideas and suggestions they put forward.

Vasantha had worked together with a group of young professionals to put forward the proposals which included some startlingly innovative ideas. Perhaps the most important of them is not however new, because it was one of the principal elements on which three recent documents on constitutional reform agreed, namely those of the Liberal Party, the UNP and the group led by Rev Sobitha. This was the need to get rid of the present system of elections, and I think it would be useful to return to this now, since the last set of elections to Provincial Councils made crystal clear – again – how destructive the current system is.

Read the rest of this entry »

I referred some weeks back to the games being played by various individuals and institutions in Colombo with regard to the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung, the political foundation of the German Free Democratic Party. This is a member of Liberal International, though its Liberalism is generally more concerned with free market economics, and does not have the same commitment to social equity as say the British Liberal Party. Still, there are enough people in the FDP, and also in the FNS, who understand our commitment in Sri Lanka to a more Gladstonian version of Liberalism, though sadly they have been in comparative short supply in dealings with South Asia.

I suppose this is understandable in that South Asia tended, at the time the FNS established itself here, to be committed to social equity from a more socialist standpoint, and it was free markets that needed nurturing. However this led to at least some personnel neglecting other aspects of Liberalism, as with the official who said he saw nothing wrong with Ranil Wickremesinghe’s assertion that democracy could be delayed, as in South Korea and other East Asian countries, until development had reached a satisfactory level.

This mindset has contributed to a generally hostile attitude to the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, though there have been honourable exceptions, including the Regional Director who encouraged my conducting workshops on Liberalism in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sadly he was soon sent away from Delhi, though he has since contributed immeasurably to Liberalism in South East Asia, where the command model of an open economy held sway, and it was necessary for Liberal parties to argue for the restoration of democracy and social equity.

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Rajiva Wijesinha

April 2017
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