Mahinda’s best option is to field Shiranthi - Lalkantha | Sunday Observer

Mahinda’s best option is to field Shiranthi - Lalkantha

Firebrand JVP Trade Union Leader K.D. Lalkantha made waves last week when he declared that former President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s best option to resolve his candidate crisis would be to field his wife and former First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa. Lalkantha argues that Namal Rajapaksa’s path to the presidency in 2025 will be blocked by his uncle and former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa. In a wide-ranging interview with the Sunday Observer, Lalkantha spoke about what he called the ‘myth’ of the new constitution and vowed, his party would field an alternative candidate at the next presidential election if their plans to get the 20th Amendment to the constitution enacted through the House.

Here are a few excerpts from the interview.

Q : A new constitution is in the offing. Will the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna extend their support to it?

As a party, we recognize and accept the need for a new constitution. However, due to the current political scenario, there is a practical issue in getting a new constitution approved. This is why the JVP has now opted to put all its efforts into getting the 20th Amendment (20A) to the constitution passed, instead. During past elections, a large number of people expressed the need, to abolish the Executive Presidency, a new electoral system and other reforms. But, the Government was not able to fulfil this need. With the people being deeply dissatisfied and an election looming in the vicinity, the government is using the idea of a new constitution to gather the support of various groups. However, this is a mere eyewash.

Currently, there is no consensus as to what form the new constitution should take. It will only be successful if all parties agree and vote in favour of it in the current political situation. Whether they are able to draft such a constitution agreeable to all is the question before us today. Therefore, it is doubtful if it would ever come into fruition.

Q : In a deeply divided political scenario how confident is the JVP of gaining the support of all the main political players in the country for the 20A?

Many political parties are currently in a dilemma over who to field at the upcoming political scenario. Some leaders who hope to contest are in doubt regarding their possibility to secure a win. Mahinda Rajapaksa, for example, does not even have a possible candidate yet. The JVP will also gather the support of smaller parties to field an ‘Alternative Candidate’. This we believe, would affect the vote base of other candidates, as well. Hence, we hope to bring leaders such as Ranil Wickremesinghe, Maithripala Sirisena and Mahinda Rajapaksa to a point where they would have to agree with the 20A and the abolishing of the Executive Presidency.

The JVP is also keen on gauging public opinion on the 20A. Though leaders have commonly mentioned abolishing the Executive Presidency during elections, it is often tied to other factors leading the people to vote for different reasons. Therefore, our request is that Parliament gives it the necessary two-thirds support so that the 20A can go forward to a people’s referendum. It is worthwhile to understand the pulse of the people regarding the Executive Presidency. If the people reject it, we can set it aside. But we need to resolve this issue once and for all.

Q : Is there any progress in gaining the support of the political parties?

Currently, we have discussed with the Communist Party and several others. Meanwhile, the People’s Movement for Social Justice has expressed their support to us.

We have planned to commence discussions with several other groups prior to holding official discussions with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, as admittedly the 20A will not be successful without their support.

Q : If the JVP candidate secures a win at the upcoming Presidential Election, does the party pledge to abolish the Executive Presidency?

The party’s policy will always be that the Executive Presidency should be abolished. However, it cannot be achieved by the JVP alone and must be done through the existing constitutional process in place. Therefore, we cannot abolish the Executive Presidency by our candidate becoming President alone. After the Presidential Election, therefore, we will seek the necessary power in Parliament at the next General Elections following the success at the Presidential Election.

Q : Recently, you were quoted as saying, Shiranthi Rajapaksa would be the ideal Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) candidate for the upcoming Presidential Election. What is your rationale behind it?

Mahinda Rajapaksa has built his political dynasty as an inheritance for his son Namal Rajapaksa. But with Namal unable to compete in a Presidential Election till 2025 Mahinda must keep a tight grip on his supporters and power till then. If he chooses to field another family member such as, Gotabaya Rajapaksa it is assured that Namal’s path will be blocked. With this being the dilemma faced by him today his best option is to field his wife Shiranthi Rajapaksa and attempt to win the election, thereby leaving him to crown Namal as his political successor in 2025.

If not, his next option is to field a candidate who would lose and allow another politician to win until Namal can compete in 2025. Even for that, he must maintain the current support enjoyed by him. Even in this instance, the best solution is Shiranthi as it doesn’t matter if she will win or lose, it can nevertheless secure Namal’s position in 2025.

Q : There is talk of fielding yet another common candidate. Isn’t the JVP leader Anura Kumara Dissanayake suitable to become the next common candidate?

The common candidate who was fielded and won is a living example of the failure of the concept of a ‘Common Candidate’. Therefore, the JVP has serious doubts that a candidate labelled as such could win in an upcoming Presidential election. The JVP has its own political identity and political views and we do not want our candidate to be bogged down by a failed concept. Our own candidate will be an ‘Alternative Candidate’ instead. Anura Kumara is one of the most suitable candidates for the purposes but as a party, we have not taken a decision.

Q :Aren’t both, the concepts of a ‘Common Candidate’ and an ‘Alternative Candidate’ the same idea?

There is a different political meaning behind the concept of a ‘Common Candidate’. The idea is, all other parties must come together to field a candidate against Mahinda Rajapaksa or any other person fielded by him at the next election. That is their rationale. We are not agreeable to this and therefore as a party, we now reject the idea of a common candidate. We saw how the common candidate shed his ‘Commonness’ in a matter of days going back to party allegiance. The JVP’s move is to now present an alternative option to the people.