There is no journey with the UNP
By Ranjith Kumara Samarakoone
Matara District UPFA Member of Parliament Kanchana Wijesekera said his leader is Mahinda Rajapaksa, and went on to say, "We engage in politics with policies. We are with the individual who represents the Party policies. Maithripala Sirisena became Party Chairman through various methods."
Excerpts of interview :
If we say that you came into politics because of your father, is that correct?
A: Actually I did not plan and come into politics; however, it was a strength that my father was engaged in politics. My father was a victim of a bomb that exploded in the South on 10 March 2009. As a result he had to distance himself from politics. I was invited by the former President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Dullas Alahapperuma to contest the Provincial Council Election held after that. It was from there that I started.
Mahinda who was in power for many years was defeated and a new Government was established by two parties. Were you not invited to join them?
A: At the very first meeting itself, President Maithripala Sirisena invited us. The request he made was to join the National Government as a group. About 30 of us told him that the mandate received was not to govern with the United National Party. We said that in common and then sent him a letter as well. However, he said that several were ready to join. Then some joined.
Friends, who were with us and said that they would dedicate themselves to Mahinda's victory, also joined the Government. However, we did not join. Even now they are trying to take some from us. But our numbers are increasing.
Did you not get a personal individual invitation?
A: I received continuous messages, but we engage in politics with policies and I cannot disillusion the people who voted for us. The other thing is that these are two parties and there can be no common journey. Then we had 41 members and today it has increased to 50.
Even though you say that, the Government of Good Governance which was going to defeat Mahinda said from the very beginning itself that they will establish a National Government. And the mandate was given for that. Why are you saying a contradictory story?
A: It was stated in the UNP Manifesto only, we never said so. From 8 January onwards we said that we will establish a Government led by the SLFP. The reason is because we know how Ranil Wickremesinghe runs Government. Today, it has been proven. See, a decisive debate on the Constitution is taking place in Parliament. Do the two parties have one opinion? No. Look at the Cabinet media briefings; there are three persons to give the same information. These are comical.
What is your party?
A: My Party is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.
So, the leader of that is not Mahinda. It is Maithri isn't it?
So, it is he who says that we will stay within a National Government. Isn't it the Party stance?
A: Party leader is not important to us. We are doing politics with policies. If we were to think that Ranil Wickremesinghe became the leader of the SLFP, if he does not follow the policies of the Party, can we accept him? We are with the individual who represents the policies. Maithripala Sirisena became the Chairman of the Party through various methods. After which he did not get on any stage to help the Party to win, he did not even help with words; at that time, Mahinda came forward with an entire group to rebuild the Party. We invited Maithripala Sirisena to the rally in Anuradhapura, but he did not come. Then we invited him for all the other meetings too. He did not come. By that, he established that he was representing Ranil Wickremesinghe.
You are saying that. However, Mahinda contested from Kurunegala and polled a lesser number of votes than at the Presidential Election?
A: There are two reasons for that. One is that, at a General Election the voting pattern is different from that of a Presidential Election. At the same time, the UNP put greater weight on Kurunegala saying they would set up factories and even distributed job applications. The other thing is Mahinda did not campaign in Kurunegala. He had to go around the country. Finally the Chairman of the Party, himself, said that even if he won Mahinda was not going to be made the Prime Minister. With 48 hours to go for the election, the General Secretary of the Party even removed the General Secretary of the Alliance. Then people started thinking, if we are not given a chance to form a Government what is the point in voting.
Did you at sometime avoid working for the Joint Opposition?
A: Yes. It happened because of an incident in the district. We were not defeated because of Mahinda. He is the most distinguished leader this country produced. Even then there were a few people who were using his name for personal advantage. Such persons had got together and were coming forward; they are the ones who initially tried to cross to the other side after the election was lost. Later it was corrected.
What is your take on your father's politics?
A: Yes. My father was in several parties. He was in the JVP. He was the President of the Inter-University Students Union the Shishya Bala Mandalaya, then the Secretary was Ranil Wickremesinghe. Later my father left the JVP. That was because he was not in agreement with the armed struggle. When the SLFP joined the JVP then my father joined the UNP due to the incompatibility between those two parties.
Are you following him?
A: It is like this. He changed parties in keeping with policy. I am not joining this Government because of my policy. Ranil Wickremesinghe can get together with either the JVP or the TNA and rule the country, without us. Why has he taken members of our Party to do that?
When a Party wins an election isn't it obliged to fulfil the promises to the people?
A: Most definitely.
Whoever prepares the new Constitution, it has to be adopted in Parliament with a two thirds majority and then go for a Referendum.
Then only will it be passed. It is a complex task. However, what you are objecting to is the Interim Committee Report!
A: As soon as the war ended the then President Mahinda invited all Tamil Parties including the TNA to join an All-Party committee.
Did they come? No. They boycotted for several years. Then they doubted it. Today, it is those who did not come then, who have joined together.
Where is the room for our opinion today? Only seven members of the Joint Opposition got the opportunity to speak at this debate.
Can those seven give the opinion of fifty odd persons? The TNA is on all these committee. We are only in one or two. Does that mean that the right of a certain group is suppressed in order to provide someone else's right? Anyway there is suspicion about this Government. Everything they do is suspect. See the speeches made by the TNA. They talk as if Prabakharan is still alive. The other thing is that, they think that Tamil people live only in the North. Do they not live in the South too? Don't those people have any rights?
If the people in those areas also make a request, in a short time, will they also be provided with solutions? Rajitha and others say they thought about this for the past 40 years. A Constitution is prepared for several hundred years; it isnot the aspirations that existed then that are there now.
Even though you say that, if Mahinda had treated the other races properly, how could he have lost in the North? The other accusation against that Government was that they were not mindful of the minorities.
A: I will give you one example. As soon as the war ended an election was held in the North. Then Rajitha, Champika and others said not to hold the election. Those who are shouting today that power should be devolved, then said, that if an election was held then the power will go to the TNA. However, what Mahinda said was that we should give them that opportunity. The North has the same powers as the others have. However, do they carry out work there? No. Allocated money is sent back to the Treasury. What is the Bill this Government presented to strengthen democracy?
Your faction is accusing the Government of corruption and fraud. However, does the Government take any action against those?
A: What action!
The Minister accused in the Treasury Bond fraud resigned. Even the Prime Minister is ready to face the Commission. Other Ministers also left or were removed?
A: Resigning, being removed and having to go because of pressure are three things. When the President removed Arjuna Mahendran, the Prime Minister appointed him as his own Economic Adviser. After Marapana resigned he came back as the fourth citizen. Ravi Karunanayake resigned as otherwise the Government would have in peril. Karunanayake who resigned has now become the pilot in strengthening the UNP countrywide.
In reality Arjuna Mahendran, Aloysius and Ravi should have been in prison by now. Has that happened? However, they capture our people then put them in prison and only then start the rest of the work.
There were others in your Government, in the past, who had accusations against them?
A: Yes. That is our fault. Those persons have joined this Government of today. They are receiving protection from ministerial positions. There are accusations about hedging, about irrigation, so they are in this Government. Even the President is being targeted by accusations from Australia. This is the Government that took persons into custody merely on allegations.
Everyone was waiting for an election. Are you ready for it now?
A: We waited for years. We are ready. The Commissioner says it will be held in January. However, we have no faith until the date is announced. Meantime, if someone else goes to Court it could drag on.
If there is an election from where will you contest?
A: We will contest from wherever our policies are upheld. Now, anyway we are in two factions. We will contest with the SLFP only if they leave the Government.
Your party is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party?
A: Yes. I represent its policies.
Who is your leader?
A: Mahinda Rajapaksa
But then the leader of the SLFP is Maithripala Sirisena?
A: He could be the leader in name but what is important to us, are the leaders who safe guard the policies.
If Maithripala Sirisena leaves the Government with the SLFP?
A: If so we will provide total support and work with him. That is what we always said. The person who comes forward to protect our policies is our leader.
Now the Party has been broken into two?
A: Yes. That is not a secret. Now, everyone is leaving the Government. Already three have left.
Will you stop with the Podujana Peramuna?
A: There is no decision about that as yet. However, if the election is being contested from there we will win it.
Are you for abolishing the Executive Presidency?
A: We are against assigning executive powers to Provincial Councils. However, I agree with, to it being abolished.
Are there any allegations against Kanchana Wijesekera?
A: Nothing against me but I heard that they are looking to find out whether there was anything done by my father.
If you had joined the Government you would have been a minister?
A: My goodness, they will give me any ministry I ask for.
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