By Raisa Wickrematunge
In light of the new UNP constitution being released today (12), The Sunday Leader spoke with Sajith Premadasa on his views on the document, and his recent statement in Parliament on war crimes.
Q: What is the essence of the new constitution? Are the changes radical?
A: Certainly they are radical. We are in a situation of going from an autocratic, power concentrated system to power dilution and a more democratic system. Instead of two or three making decisions on behalf of party members, a larger group would be doing so. Of course, I would like to have achieved more grassroots participation, which is healthier. For instance, local government and provincial councilors being able to take part in decision making would make the process more democratic. But as far as the constitutional reforms are concerned, they are good. It will start a revolution within the party. It is path breaking and a unique situation for the party.
Q: Will the youth be given prominence within the party?
A: The youth ought to be given a larger role. Youth ideas and insights are needed for successful progress. As far as the future of party, they should be given concentrated roles and not just nominal positions, for the sake of it. In actual reality, youth members should be enacted into the integral path of policy and decision making.
The widening of the electoral process, when established, is a start. In terms of transparency, honesty and credibility we’ve come a long way. We have a long way more to go, of course, but you have to start somewhere
Q: There is still a lot of infighting within the party, particularly between the youth and the more experienced members. Has there been discussion to address the issue?
A: I think it’s healthy to have heterogeneity rather than homogeneity where party policy is concerned. Wide and disparate views and visions being pronounced is a healthy thing for the party. Rather than ‘yes’ men and women dictating the future of the party, a variety of ideas determining political decision making within that institution is a sound policy stance to be adopted, rather than a monotonous point of view, which will take the party down the drain.
Q: You said in Parliament that war crimes had only been committed by the LTTE. What is your comment on Deputy Leader Karu Jayasuriya’s interview published in a weekend newspaper?
A: I’m not privy to the context and circumstances in which Karu Jayasuriya’s pronouncement or statement was made. I don’t know the minute details. I’ve always maintained my stance. This didn’t grow from yesterday or the day before. It was my policy decision right from the beginning and will remain so. This proposal was put forward by myself in fact, and has become party policy; to protect the armed forces and the defense establishment that so courageously annihilated the LTTE after more than three decades.
Q: In that sense, you condemn the UN war crimes probe?
A: As far as war crimes are concerned, I don’t think the UN has taken a balanced approach. It has taken a partial discriminatory approach when it comes to the defense establishment. The UN is supposed to be impartial and balanced, not politically prejudicial and discriminatory. I admit the UN performs a magnanimous role in making society healthy and peaceful, but I have great reservations on its motives and actions on the war probe.
Q: What are your comments about the order brought against your fellow MP Jayalath Jayawardena?
A: I can only go by opinion and statements expressed by Jayawardena. First, we must take an impartial approach, looking at the facts and basic reality. We cannot determine the situation based on rumour and innuendo. The facts must be examined by all parties before we come to a conclusion. I don’t for one moment agree on arriving at a conclusion without this process.