Claiming “go to IMF” was my idea, they abstained at vote – Colombo District SJB A.H.M. Fowzie MP | Sunday Observer

Claiming “go to IMF” was my idea, they abstained at vote – Colombo District SJB A.H.M. Fowzie MP

7 May, 2023

Excerpts from an interview with Colombo District SJB PM A.H.M. Fowzie on the IMF and other pertinent issues.

Q:Why did you, an MP of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), vote for the IMF agreement in violation of the party’s stance to abstain?

The party did not present their stance. Leaving the House is not an expression of their stance. It is similar to voting yes. I believe they left the house during the vote out of embarrassment since they were unable to vote yes.

This is how people viewed their move. As the main opposition, they should have stayed in the House and voted no or they must vote yes. If not they must remain in their seats and abstain.

But they left because they could not directly agree. If they had decided to vote no, I would have gone along as well. But instead, everyone just left. I later heard this was pre-discussed but no one informed me.

Q: But why did you vote yes?

The IMF is the only solution to revive this country at this juncture. Everyone knows this. Even our party continuously maintained that the only solution to the crisis is reaching out to the IMF. According to this stance, I voted yes for the future of the country.

Q: Why do you think the SJB abstained?

I think they were just embarrassed. As representatives of the public, we must think about the people before making decisions. We are in Parliament for the people.

Therefore, if we neglect our duty we are turning our backs on the people. The leaders of our party kept chanting the mantra that we must go to the IMF.

Our leader recently even said it was he who first suggested that Sri Lanka must seek the IMF’s help. But leaving the House when the vote is called after expressing such views can only be deemed as supporting the deal.

Q:The party says it will take disciplinary action against you. Your comment?

No one officially informed me of this. I saw it on TV but know nothing more. I am unwell at the moment so I do not go out and also have limited visitors.

Q: What if the party expels you?

There is a court in this country. In the event of such a scenario, I will seek legal redress.

Q: Did you vote yes for the country or with another intention in mind?

Yes. I made the decision for the benefit of the country. If the party made decisions based on fair reasons I could have agreed to the stance.

But what other solution does Sri Lanka have at this juncture? They must then at least present a solution. I cannot let the country go back to the days of queues by rejecting the only solution we have. Once I was top of the list in the Colombo District. My politics knows no party or racial divides.

I have never been accused of favouring one group over another. Anyone can meet me anytime for any issue. We must save this country for the future generation. I did my duty for them.

Q: There is a legal case against you being heard at this moment. What if you voted yes to evade justice?

If that’s the case, I could have done it ages ago since the case was filed a long time back. President Ranil Wickremesinghe came to office a while ago as well and I could have acted in a similar manner at the time then too if my intention was to evade justice.

On the other hand, I did no wrong so why should I be afraid?

Q: Does voting yes mean you might crossover to another party?

I have no intention of crossing over. I left the Ministerial post of a party to join the SJB for the people.

Q: You claim to have joined the SJB for the people. But do the people actually hold favour with the people?

No, the people do not hold a favourable view of the party. They have understood that the leadership is weak. People do not like weak leaders. It is losing people’s approval day by day.

The party leadership cannot be accepted. I am not satisfied with the functioning of the party and its processes.

I asked them not to field Mujibur Rahman for the Local Government polls as it could harm his political career if the polls are delayed. But they did not heed my warning.

In the end, it’s as if he has now committed political suicide. How can one work with a leadership that fails to heed anything being said with good intentions?

Q: In your opinion does the current President have good leadership qualities that you speak of? 

He is definitely a good leader. I consider this the first time he was given to display his capabilities. Every other time he was second to another.

In the first change given, he thought carefully and did his maximum for the country.

Q: Do you think we overcame the hardships of last year due to the President and his efforts?

Of course. Today there are no queues or power outages. If not we would be facing the same issues even today. He used his vision to do this. One must always put the country first.

Q: What would the fate of the country be today if the SJB was in power?

Well first of all one must accept power to see the results. They did not take up the challenge because they have no vision to govern the country.

Q: Some opposition MPs see the IMF deal as a demon. What is your opinion?

Many countries have obtained IMF assistance. We must formulate a plan to repay the assistance given. There is no point demonising the IMF for that. We were given a loan because we have a need for it.

While rebuilding the country we must also plan how to repay the debt. Other than the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna everyone else agreed we must seek IMF help. So why are they making contradictory statements now?

Q: What is the opposition’s duty at this juncture?

There should not be a divide between the ruling party and the opposition now at a critical juncture such as this. Everyone must come together to rebuild the country.

To even conduct an election, the country must survive first. We can compete with each other later. People will vote for suitable representatives then.