Lest he forgets | Daily News

Lest he forgets

Former minister, and, chairman of the pohottuwa party, Prof. G. L. Peiris has in recent times demonstrated a visceral hatred towards the UNP, of whose government he was at one time a Cabinet minister. In a wide ranging interview with our weekend publication, the Sunday Observer, the former law professor, in effect, says his party would not touch the SLFP, of which government, too, he was once a minister, with a barge pole, so long as it is in alliance with the UNP. According to him it is the pohottuwa which is the standard bearer of the SLFP policies of the Bandaranaikes. By joining hands with the UNP, the SLFP had contaminated itself. It (the SLFP) can redeem itself by only severing its links with the UNP, in which event, they, of the pohottuwa, would favourably consider a realignment with the former.

Going further, he queries as to how could the SLFP remain in a UNP led government which is bent on selling national assets. He said it was the SLFP, or, SLFP led governments which embarked on nationalization, and, goes onto recall the nationalization of transport, and, the Land Reforms of Sirima Bandaranaike. Going one step further, Peiris says, it was Mahinda Rajapaksa who got back the national carrier from Emirates.

Here, the learned professor is being economical with the truth. The acquisition was made out of sheer pique, after Emirates refused to accommodate Rajapaksa and his jumbo delegation, who were in transit, in London, after offloading passengers in the Business Class.

Peiris, who abhors everything that is UNP, was very much a key player in the sale of national assets under both, UNP and SLFP governments. He was a minister in the Chandrika government in 1994, which rolled back the inward looking policies of the SLFP and embraced the market economy of the UNP, where privatization, an euphemism for the sale of state ventures, in the red, was an integral part. One of the first things CBK did was bring down the Shell Company which, Mrs Bandaranaike, who is today spoken with reverence by Peiris for her nationalization spree, showed the door, in her first stint as Prime Minister, in the early sixties.CBK also famously said that while she was a good socialist in the past she would now endeavour to be good capitalist and pledged to give a human face to the open economy, whatever that meant, a system which embraces privatization as a cornerstone of the economic policy.

Peiris, who, today accuses the UNP of selling national assets, and, brings this up as the main reason the pohottuwa will have no truck with the SLFP (for being the other half of government led by the UNP), did not so much make even a token protest when CBK embarked on her privation venture, even outdoing the Greens. Nay, Peiris acquiesced with the whole process and as Deputy Finance Minister introduced the necessary laws and financial regulations to facilitate the privatization programme which entailed, part, or, wholesale disposal of national assets which were a burden on the economy.

This doublespeak by Peiris is akin to his selloff talk pertaining to the proposed new constitution. G. L. Peiris who is waxing eloquent about the government acting at the behest of the Tamil diaspora and western powers, had no qualms when he led a government delegation to world capitals to hold “peace talks” with the LTTE, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Anton Balasingham, Thamilselvan, Pulitheevan, Karuna Amman et al. Peiris it was, as the leader of the government delegation, who agreed to a federal structure and to effect the necessary constitutional amendments towards this end.

This was not too difficult a task for Peiris, who, only in the preceding year, as Constitutional Affairs Minister in the CBK government, in alliance with the likes of Dr. Neelan Thiruchelvam, crafted, what came to be known as the packajaya, where the country was to be divided into a Union of Regions, which was all but federalism in name. The draft of that constitution was made a bonfire in parliament by the UNP, but not before frantic efforts being made by the government to buy over Opposition MPs, all of which was fair game for the respected academic.

In the interview, Peiris, predicting a landslide victory for the pohottuwa, at the LG polls, says that a split in the SLFP vote would not matter at all, so overwhelming is the support for Mahinda Rajapaksa. If he only he went back to recent history of electoral politics in this country Peiris would be more circumspect. The balance of power always had swung between the two main actors and there is no reason to believe it would be any different this time around. Vijaya Kumaratunga was at the zenith of his popularity when he broke away from the SLFP, with wife Chandrika, to form the Mahajana Pakshaya which came a cropper at the electoral test. The same fate befell the Lalith Gamini duo, whose efforts to create a third force ended in failure. Ditto for Rukman Senanayake. Crowds at election rallies do not tell a tale. If that were so, MR would still be President.


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