Will Initiate Massive Development Drive After 5 August Victory
By Udeni Saman Kumara
Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa in conversation with our sister paper Mawbima says he did not see any disadvantageous areas as far as the SLPP was concerned and that he expects a majority in the Tamil and Muslim community to vote for the SLPP this time around
The election propaganda campaign ends today. Both the President and the Prime Minister participated in election campaigns covering the entire island. What is the result you expect in the Parliamentary Election?
A: I was assigned propaganda activities only in a few districts, barring the Northern Province. I observed an overwhelming response in all the areas I visited. I also noticed that the President got a huge response from the people in every district he visited. I think the opportunity given to the people to speak out their problems was very important.
In which districts does the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) lead? What are the disadvantageous regions?
A: I do not see any disadvantageous areas, I saw unprecedented enthusiasm everywhere.
The SLPP targeted Sinhala Buddhist votes in the Presidential Election. Do you expect the same strategy will be valid in the Parliamentary Election?
A: Actually, it is valid. People voted in Gotabaya Rajapaksa to implement his policies. Those policies can be implemented only through Parliament. Therefore, we need power in Parliament.
Did you specifically address minority votes in this election campaign?
A: I expect a majority in the Tamil and Muslim community to vote for us this time.
Mahinda Rajapaksa is a political icon in Sri Lanka. Despite this we saw wide publicity being given to you recently. Is it because there are some doubts lurking?
A: I do not get involved in my propaganda. It is done by others. Previously, I campaigned in the entire country, but now I contest from a district. I toured in Kurunegala only for two-and-a- half days. Both President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and I went there to give our support to candidates and they organised the rallies. I did not campaign for myself.
You first contested from the Kurunegala District as an Opposition MP. Now you contest as the Prime Minister. The people of Kurunegala will expect massive development from you.
A: Definitely, Kurunegala is a district where four old kingdoms were located. There are many archaeological sites and memorials. It is a district that is very good for tourism. The full potential of areas like Dambadeniya, Yapahuwa and Panduwasnuwara, have not been yielded. I will serve the people of Kurunegala to the best of my ability.
The farmers in Kurunegala have longstanding problems.
A: Some areas do not have water even for drinking purposes. We must initiate a programme to both irrigate and provide drinking water. The entire North-Western Province will benefit if the Left Canal of Moragahakanda irrigates the area. I have already instructed officials led by the Director-General of Irrigation to compile reports on the water issues at Divisional Secretariat levels.
Although the split in the UNP initially appeared as an advantage, now it seems rather tricky when Ranil, Sajith and Anura attack the Government on three fronts.
A: They always attack. They were on a single front in the previous Parliament. I saw on Facebook that Anura Kumara saw Ranil as Lenin. Their politics is based on such blunders.
The Government failed to reduce the cost of living. In addition, the relief of the reduction of fuel prices was not passed onto the people. Didn’t these things affect the election campaign of the Government?
A: We gave the benefit of the reduction of fuel prices to all Sri Lankans. Petrol is used by a few people who own vehicles. But, the benefit reached all the people, whether they owned a vehicle or not. For example, we granted
Rs 5,000 relief to the people and the money was allocated from these funds. We assigned those savings to all the projects.
The previous regime vowed to take corrupt elements to Court. Now you say that you will not take revenge. People say the corrupt elements on both sides are saved due to the political deals between both parties.
A: It is a wrong idea. We do not take revenge like the UNP did. If we arrest them and begin investigations, they will accuse us of political vendetta. We will sue them after gathering evidence via the CID and obtaining the advice of the Attorney General’s Department.
The committee that investigated corruption in the Central Cultural Fund submitted its report yesterday. There is evidence of misuse of Rs 11 billion of public money. What action will be taken now?
A: We will take legal action, as I mentioned previously.
What will happen to the investigations into the Central Bank Bonds scam? Former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in a television interview that there was no course of action against Arjuna Mahendran. He says the funds alleged to have been defrauded are in freezed bank accounts and inquires why there is a need to bring Mahendran into the country.
A: As far as I know, bringing a person from another country to this country is not easy. We must first interrogate him. Such things have not been done so far. We need to do all that to obtain a Court order. But, we will do it.
Ranil Wickremesinghe said that Mahendran had talked to him on 19 July as well. As he said, Mahendran talks with other persons too. Who is wrong then, the public?
A: Arjuna Mahendran has never talked with us or anyone in our party, as far as I know.
The entire country was shocked by the involvement of some Police Narcotic Bureau personnel in drug deals. The people’s suspicion that the caches of drugs apprehended by the Police go back to the hands of the racketeers has been proven now. What is your view about this?
A: This was happening for a long time. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a person who seeks results. These things might not have been revealed until this Government came to power. It is the people’s victory.
Two weeks have passed since the demolition of an archaeological site in Kurunegala. Although the committee appointed by you to investigate recommended the offenders to be produced before Court, still no arrests have been made. Why is the Government silent?
A: The report does not mention who the culprits are. As far as I know, the Mayor has not ordered to demolish it. I checked it.
Do you mean that the offenders will not be arrested?
A: We act upon the instructions of the Attorney General’s Department. People urge the Government not to interfere with the Judiciary. Meanwhile, the same people want us to meddle with the rule of law. I cannot understand what I have to do now. However, we shall not interfere with the Judiciary. It is up to the Police and the Courts.
The Director-General of the Archaeological Department said it was a monument that came under the Archaeological Act.
A: None of these buildings identified as preserved buildings which are over 100 years old. There are no Gazettes. There was a hotel called Buwaneka which ran unethical businesses too. Actually, the Archaeological Department did not adequately protect this place. This is not the Royal Court of King Buwanekabahu but a colonial building. They have told without study that this is the Royal Court of King Buwanekabahu. These are mere opinions. They later told me that it was only folklore, and there was no evidence.
Isn’t it true that it is over 100 years old and comes under the Archaeological Act?
A: That is true. It is a historical property. The building of CWE in Nuwara Eliya was also an ancient building, but the Archaeological Department granted permission to demolish it. Both the Post Office and CWE building in Nuwara Eliya were built during the same period. However, they put up a board saying ‘this building can collapse’ and granted permission to demolish it. Likewise, they acted in different ways. We will have to focus on the Archaeological Department as well in future.
Even the Temple of the Tooth Relic has not been gazetted as an archaeological property. Only 17 monuments have been gazetted in the Polonnaruwa District for example as archaeological sites.
A: Such monuments must be appropriately identified as a priority. People are not aware of their antiquity. Even the Government demolishes colonial buildings. Paulier Bungalow in Tangalle is one such building that was demolished. Now new constructions have come up. There must be a plan to conserve buildings that are over 100 years old.
People demand water projects from you at meetings saying they have no potable water. You promise to sort it out. Hambantota also has drinking water problems.
A: We worked for the country before the village. But we will resolve everyone of those issues. The road to our house was built very recently. UNP Minister Montague Jayawickrama visited that area and asked my father to build the road. Even the telephone service was given to the entire area and finally given to our home. Now, Sri Lanka is 99.9% electrified.
Sajith Premadasa promised to fully implement the 13th Amendment. Meanwhile, the Government vows to abolish the 19th Amendment. Are you trying to bring back the 18th Amendment and become the President forever?
A: No one can be a lifelong President because they need to be elected by the people. I was defeated by the people and Gotabaya was elected as President. People have acted according to the opportunity. They can be both right and wrong. However, it is the people’s decision. In 2015, they gave the perfect answer to those who were afraid that we would be in power forever. Our people have changed Governments continuously. People admitted that they had made the wrong decision.
How many members will be in the Cabinet in the new Government? The Opposition has anticipated that the Rajapaksas will take all the powerful Ministries and it will lead to another family rule.
A: The people also elect the President and the Prime Minister. We will give Cabinet portfolios to those who will be elected by the people. Both Rajapaksas and non-Rajapaksas will be in the Cabinet. They will be qualified persons.
Do you have a plan to have a National Government and to increase the number of Cabinet portfolios?
A: I do not see the necessity of a National Government at the moment.
The Opposition is claiming the Government will sign agreements such as MCC, which are detrimental to the country and the sovereignty, once you come to power?
A: We will never enter into agreements that are detrimental to our country and our sovereignty. We will submit all agreements to Parliament for approval. It’s only after that we will sign agreements.
You made a statement at Mawathagama that voters must vote early in the morning on 5 August because no one knows what will happen in the evening. Why did you say this?
A: It may rain in the evening and as a result there maybe natural disasters.
Is there speculation that something untoward might happen in the evening.
A: Voting early is relevant even to UNPers. I am not referring to my voters only. I am talking about all voters.
Why did you make a special request to make use of all three preferential votes?
A: The three preferences are three votes. Wasting one choice is wasting sovereignty. I must also mention that we have controlled COVID-19 compared to the rest of the world. It is exemplary and the President must take credit for that. The Ministry of Health and the defence authorities implemented his orders with dedication. People supported with patience. We must appreciate all of them. If the previous Government was in power, they would have made a mess of the whole thing and got infected and spread it to us.
Are you satisfied with the election process?
A: For sure and I must mention that I will meet the people of the Kurunegala District once in every two weeks after the election.
You stated that the President told you, he would develop the country while you engaged in politics. That statement can have many connotations.
A: Obviously, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa does not engage in politics. I do it. He welcomes people, asks them about their problems and solves them. He has proved his mettle and it is easy for me too. When I was President, I proposed things and they were implemented. There was Basil on the one side. Gotabaya on the other hand and Cabinet also acted accordingly. Gotabaya and Basil became popular and were recognised as smart persons because they delivered whatever was asked of them. The UNP targeted them and tried to destroy the Rajapaksas because they served the country. Now Commissions are exposing the outcome of the so-called Good Governance: So much so that the Prisons in the country will be insufficient if they are jailed for their offences. We have no desire to engage in such an endeavour. The Judiciary will act legally and take care of that.
What is your message to the people at the end of the work related to the Election in a positive manner?
A: Electioneering was peaceful so far. I wish the people will elect a good Government into power. Nearly 6.9 million elected the President into power. They must vote for a Government that will implement his policies. I urge them to grant us the opportunity to implement the programme they have approved. We will initiate a massive development drive after the 5 August victory.