Voters must exercise caution when electing MPs – Harshana Rajakaruna
By Rasika Hemamali
Member of Parliament for Gampaha District, Harshana Rajakaruna, says "If people's aspirations are not fulfilled we will have to face defeat at the next elections".
Excerpts of the interview:
?: Did you join active politics on your father's influence?
A: Initially I got actively involved in politics by helping my father during his election work. Then I completed my degree and my post graduate degree and while I was working as a Senior Investment Advisor in the private sector, the Prime Minister requested that I join fulltime politics. In 2009, I contested the Provincial Council Elections and was elected. Now, I have committed all my time to politics.
?: Do the people in the Gampaha District work in cooperation with you?
A: I came in second in the Gampaha District at the 2009 Provincial Council Elections. I contested the PC elections again in 2014, and on that occasion I was able to win the first place in the Gampaha District. Later, at the Parliamentary Elections, I got the most number of votes, among the new Parliamentarians of the UNP, from the whole of Sri Lanka. I polled more than one hundred and twenty thousand votes. Now, I am obliged to give of my best in serving the people.
?: Have you identified the problems of the people of Gampaha?
A: As a priority, I feel the standard of education must be improved. In the 80s, the main problem was electricity, but today the main problem in Gampaha is the problem of drinking water. It is a huge problem. Providing job opportunities for youth is also an issue. However, the priority is in providing them with the requisite knowledge. Fulfilling the infrastructure needs is also an important requirement.
?: Preparations are underway for Colombo city garbage to be sent to Gampaha. Do you agree with this?
A: Each area should find solutions for their own garbage problems. That is the best method. What we should do in the future is to provide solutions for the garbage problem, from those areas itself. We have to provide facilities for recycling garbage. Not by taking garbage out of the district. The issue is to solve it on a short term basis. There is no time to wait for a long term solution.
It has to be solved very fast.
?: Are you saying that it is alright to bring garbage to Ja-ela?
A: Bringing outside garbage into Ja-ela is not what I am saying. I am against garbage from one area being taken to another area. I am definitely against bringing garbage to Ja-ela. This is not a problem to which answers can be found on a short term basis only. While searching for a long term solution for the garbage issue, a short term solution also should be found for the Ja-ela garbage problem.
?: What is your opinion on Divulapitiya UNP Organizer, Deputy Minister Ranjan Ramanayake's behaviour about sand mining in Gampaha?
A: It is not correct for me to talk about the behaviour of a fellow parliamentarian and I decline to speak about it. However, I believe that proper respect should be given to government employees. Government officials too should work in cooperation with politicians. I see some shortcomings on both sides. That sort of behaviour is not suitable for both parties and if both parties can overcome the shortcomings in their conduct, only then, will it be possible to render maximum service to the people.
?: You are the Chairman of the UNP Youth Professionals. Do you believe that professional youth are with the UNP?
A: Most definitely, there is a large youth force supporting us.
?: A main election promise of the UNP was to create one million jobs in five years. Even though two years have passed since the government came into power, there is no sign of any jobs being granted?
A: During the past one and a half years, we prepared the environment required for generation of jobs. There was no proper environment for either local or foreign investors to invest in this country. What we did during the immediate past was to correct that. That is why there was a delay there. A large number of investors have got together to come forward this year. That is of very special significance. That work is being carried out very well from this year onwards.
?: Intellectuals accuse the UNP of not recognizing the needs of the rural folk?
A: I do not accept that accusation at all. The largest political force in Sri Lanka is the United National Party. The UNP is not a party of those in Colombo Seven. This party consists of Sinhalese, Tamils, Muslims and everyone else, it is a party that represents all, Buddhists, Hindus and so on and it appreciates equality. That is why our party is so strong. We are the ones who obtained the most number of votes during the last elections. If we did not get the votes in the villages we could not have come first, could we?
?: There is a severe drinking water crisis in Gampaha. Have you focused your attention on a solution forthat?
A: Already the action required to solve the drinking water problem have been taken. This problem has now become aggravated as water management was not carried out properly in the past. Water has been supplied sans any management at all. Now, Minister Rauff Hakeem and I have laid the foundation stone in the Gampaha District for a water supply project, costing thirty two million rupees. It is due to be completed before the end of the year 2019. The Alawala Water Supply Project which will provide water to the entire Gampaha District is just about to commence. I discussed this with Minister Rauff Hakeem in Parliament. The Giridhara Water Project has commenced and is at Tender level now. It is only now, that action is being taken regarding such projects. I am happy to say that the new government has identified the people's requirements, and is giving priority to them.
?: As a young MP what do you think about the behaviour of parliamentarians?
A: Actually not only the parliamentarians, when you see the manner in which doctors behave, and the behaviour of certain intellectual groups, at times it is a huge problem. Especially in Parliament, we have a responsibility to maintain good behaviour.
At this time, I of course, point my finger at those who voted such people in. Voters should take the responsibility when they select their representatives and not vote according to the popular wave. Instead of regretting the person's behaviour after they vote the individual in; people should exercise caution and vote with more responsibility when electing representatives to Parliament. It is best if the most suited and qualified are sent to this august assembly.
?: Even doctors have begun protests and strikes. Students of all universities have taken to the streets. This is not a very good trend for the continuity of the government, isn't that so?
A: It is particularly due to the SAITM incident that things like this are happening. It was the previous government which granted total authorization to SAITM in the year 2014. COPE summoned the University Grants Commission and a lengthy discussion was held and it was revealed that by 2014, all approvals had been given to SAITM. Then, the Government Medical Officers' Association which is shouting today did not make a sound. They did not speak a word. What is happening here is that, the freedom, given after the Government of Good Governance came into power on 8 January, is being misused. There is also a belief that there is another objective politically, at the same time. I see it is a very low strategy to embarrass the government, as ultimately, it is the powerless innocent people of the country who suffer because of this. If they had any money, they would not go to government hospitals. If they had the cash in hand they would go to private hospitals, it is the poor who will get inconvenienced.
?: The people rejected the previous government, due to their shortcomings. If no solutions are found for these problems, there is room for what happened to the previous government happening to this government too?
A: Most definitely. If solutions are not given to people's requirements, we will have to face defeat at the next election. However, we believe that as a government we have moved forward, quite a lot, away from the situation that existed previously. By 2020 we would be able to provide solutions to a number of other problems too.
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