Dr. Thusitha Wijemanna, first woman PC Opposition
‘We maintain cordial relationship with ruling UPFA’
The Provincial Council system was introduced to Sri Lanka during J.R.
Jayewardene's presidency in 1987 under the 13th Amendment amidst
objections from various parties including some of his own party
stalwarts. The main reason for setting up PCs was to find a solution to
the North and East problem which had been dragging for years.
It is doubtful whether this purpose was served by the then merged
North East provincial council which had only a short life-span and
functioned under the Chief Ministership of Varatharajah Perumal who made
a UDI (Unilateral Declaration of Independence) and vanished from the
country. However, all other Provincial Councils took firm root in the
provincial administration and worked cordially with the Central
Provincial Council elections are held in all the provinces and there
had been six PC elections since the system was introduced.
Elections for the Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern provinces
were held recently and there ruling UPFA retained power in all three
councils. It had been observed that senior parliamentarians in both
camps introduced their relatives into parliamentary politics through
provincial councils and almost all the politicians of both main parties
endorsed the PC system wholeheartedly.
The Sri Lanka Freedom party and Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna vehemently
rejected the PC system when it was introduced and refrained from even
contesting the PC elections at the beginning.
However, later on, accepted it since it entailed perks, privileges
and power in addition to providing service to the area and party
The Sabaragamuwa Provincial Council (SPC) was under UNP rule for
three consecutive terms since its inception, but during the last two
terms, was ruled by the UPFA under the Chief Ministership of Maheepala
After the UPFA's success at the recent PC election, Maheepala Herath
was re appointed by the party hierarchy as the Chief Minister.
The United National Party reposed confidence on the highest scorer at
the election from Kegalle district, Dr. Thusitha Wijemanna and appointed
her Leader of the Opposition of the SPC, replacing the former leader
A.A. Wijethunga from the Ratnapura district.
The Sabaragamuwa Province consists of two districts: Ratnapura and
Kegalle and includes 17 electoral areas with a total population of over
four million and close to three million registered voters.
The Sunday Observer had an exclusive interview with Dr. Thusitha
Wijemanna, the new Opposition Leader of the SPC.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: You are a qualified medical officer attached to the
government service and enjoying a good private practice as well. What
made you take to politics?
A: yes, I worked for 10 years as a doctor in a number of
hospitals in the province and thought I could provide a better service
to the people in my area through politics. That is why I resigned from
my job and took to politics. It doesn't mean that I have completely
given up my profession. I still practise my profession and help the poor
as often as I can. I do not practise this profession to amass wealth,
but to enjoy myself and help the needy people in my area.
Q: Who is your political mentor?
A: Undoubtedly, its my father, who was a politician from my
childhood. He was the Chairman of Ruwanwella Pradehsiya Sabha for a long
time and UNP politics is in our blood. He worked closely with all UNP
leaders of yesteryear.
I could still remember how he brought to the notice of party leaders,
the problems faced by people in our area and sought redress for their
grievances. So, I naturally developed a liking to politics.
Q: When did you enter active politics?
A: I first contested the Provincial Council elections in 2004
and emerged third from our party. At the 2008 Provincial Council
elections, I was the first from the Kegalle district. In 2008 I was
appointed Chief organiser of the party of the Provincial Council and I
performed my duties to my fullest potential.
I was appointed chief organiser of the United National Party for the
Ruwanwella electorate when former Minister Rukman Senanayake stepped
down from active politics after the 2004 elections. Since then, I have
been engaged in full time politics in the area.
I was also appointed as the president of the UNP's lak Vanitha
movement of Kegalle district and still function in this position. I have
taken various measures to garner the support of our rural members to the
Q: It is quite evident that the United National Party is
fragmented into a number of groups such as Ranil's group, Sajith's
group, Karu's group etc. To which group do you belong?
A: Let me put the facts straight. There are no groups in our
party. We are a united party and I belong to that party. Unscrupulous
media institutions are making a desperate effort to create problems
among our membership.
In any organisation, not only in a political party, the top leaders
have their own confidants and loyal people who are very near and dear to
them. It doesn't mean that the leaders are divided.
During the last PC elections, both Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith
Premadasa rendered their unstinted cooperation to me and all other
candidates in the district. They never had any favourites. So how can
you say there are various groups in the party?
Our leader is Ranil Wickremesinghe and deputy leader is Sajith
Premadasa. I have equal respect for both of them. In any democratic
political party there could be differences of opinion among the
front-runners on certain political issues. It doesn't mean that they are
I know there are some disgruntled political elements who are envy of
our resurgence; they are engaged in a malicious campaign to tarnish our
image. We are not worried, disturbed or bothered by such futile efforts.
Q: You are representing the Kegalle district. Ratnapura
however, a bigger district than Kegalle and with a larger population. As
the Opposition Leader of the Province, you are expected to coordinate
and supervise the party activities in both districts on provincial
level. How do you hope to do this?
A: All these years I have been maintaining a cordial
relationship with all our party members in the Provincial Council as
well as all local bodies and my senior members in parliament who
represent both districts. I hope to work closely and more effectively
with every one of them and am sure that I should be able to handle the
affairs of my new post to the satisfaction of my party leaders and all
Q: Do you have a comprehensive program or blueprint to revive
the party in the province?
A: Well, the party development activities are conducted
according to the guidelines provided by our party headquarters. We hope
to go into the interior areas of both districts and identify the
people's problems, obtain first-hand information and make a feasibility
study on how we should strengthen the party at rural level.
We have already identified our lapses on certain matters and we shall
not leave room in future for those to be repeated under any
circumstances. We will educate the masses as to how the party policies
would be effected under a future regime of ours.
Relationship with ruling party
Q: How is your relationship with the ruling party members of
the Provincial Council including Chief Minister Maheepala Herath? Didn't
you have any problems during the run-up to the election?
A: I would proudly say the relationship is very cordial. In
fact, I have had many things done for my party supporters' through our
Chief Minister Maheepala Herath during the last few years. We argue,
disagree, oppose and debate on policy matters in the council, but we
always maintain our dignity and remain as decent politicians outside the
Even during the run-up to the election, I didn't have any major
problems except for petty issues such as somebody pasting a poster over
mine, which are common in any election.
Q: Do you think that the PC system has achieved its target as
far as the Sabaragamuwa PC is concerned?
A: I wouldn't say that it had fully accomplished its target,
but you have to understand that a substantial amount of development
activities had been carried out from its inception under both parties.
Q:What are your independent views on devolving Police and land
powers to PCs?
A: It's a controversial issue. I personally feel that vesting
land and Police powers to PCs could lead to a number of unprecedented
problems. Moreover, it could lead to a rift between the PC and the
Q: Some of the constituent parties of the Government are
agitating for the abolishing of the 13th Amendment. What is your party's
stand on this?
A: Our party's stand is very clear about the 13th amendment.
Even the present government was talking about a 13+ sometime back. Why
didn't these constituent parties agitate at that time? This is a
political farce to suppress the burning issues of the day.
Q: As the very first woman leader of the opposition in a PC,
you have already made a remarkable achievement. What have you got to say
A: Well, I am proud about it and am grateful to the people in
the Kegalle district and my party leader for making this achievement