Lanka needs a leader, not a despot - Vijitha | Sunday Observer

Lanka needs a leader, not a despot - Vijitha

On August 18, the National People’s Power (NPP) led by the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will announce its candidate to face the upcoming Presidential election at a rally at the Galle Face Green. The candidate, (yet to be revealed) ,has been chosen from among the 28 political movements which joined hands to form the NPP.

According to JVP parliamentarian Vjitha Herath, the NPP candidate is the only ‘alternative ’ for the people of Sri Lanka, who have rejected family bandyism and corruption which is rampant in our politics. He presents their candidate as one who would protect the country rather than drive it towards enhanced militarization. Acknowledging the many challenges the journey may pose, Herath says the NPP is preparing to face them head-on.

Herath further discussed the much-debated candidacy of former secretary of defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the NPP’s plans and a number of other heated topics in an interview with the Sunday Observer this week.

Excerpts of the interview :

Q : The SLPP is the only party which has announced its candidate. It has chosen the controversial Former Secretary of Defence Gotabaya Rajapaksa as its Presidential candidate. What is the NPP’s take on the SLPP’s choice?

Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a military man who left the Sri Lanka Army during the height of Sri Lanka’s war. In other words, an individual who fled during one of the most difficult times faced by the country. He returned to Sri Lanka only after his brother Mahinda Rajapaksa was appointed as President to take up the post of Secretary of Defence.

During his stint as Defence Secretary, he acted without any financial or administrative discipline resulting in him becoming an accused in a number of legal proceedings. Rajapaksa has also been accused of more heinous crimes such as murders and abductions during the same period.

But leaving the country at the height of war, speaks volumes about his weakness. He is unable to face cases against him and instead goes to higher courts seeking orders to prevent these cases from going forward. He cannot face these issues bravely which shows he is in fact a weakling. Considering all these factors the Rajapaksa camp appears to have put forward the weakest individual possible as its Presidential candidate.

Q : The 19th amendment has ensured that the President has limited powers. But given his past track record, there is a fear that if appointed, Gotabaya will not adhere to these limitations. Is this fear a reasonable one?

The next President of Sri Lanka will not have the same powers as the current President. He will not be able to hold any Ministerial portfolios. But of course, he will be head of government and Commander in Chief with some powers. The President will not be completely powerless but he will not have executive powers either.

We should not give in to the fear at the mere mention of the name ‘Gotabaya Rajapaksa’. Some people appear to be in fear. We should not be afraid of him. Gotabaya is a weak individual and this fear is unwarranted. Even if appointed he has no capability to act in an ad- hoc manner.

Q : Though you say he is a weak candidate we have observed large crowds gathering around him. Some have even called it a ‘popularity wave’. Does the NPP therefore still believe he is the weakest link?

There is no popularity wave. This so-called popularity wave is one that is artificially constructed by their media machinery. Therefore this is a mere ‘media circus’, a media gimmick to trick the people. It is an illusion created by gathering their small number of hardcore supporters everywhere, rather than the actual gathering of the public around the SLPP candidate.

Q : Another popular view being peddled these days is that a vote for the NPP or another candidate other than that of the United National Party (UNP) would inadvertently ensure that Gotabaya Rajapaksa would win. What is your view on this?

This is the same misconception that is spread among the public every time an election comes around. It was the same in 2015 as well. They are trying to create a fear among the people about Gotabaya Rajapaksa to gain an advantage at the Presidential elections.

The UNP led government failed to deliver their promises to the people. They dishonoured the 6.2 million strong people’s mandate given to them. They failed to take action against ‘thieves’ as promised and even failed to stop their own from stealing. The economy has been in dire straits in the last few years, and the people are now rejecting the government. Now they think, if they can create a fear of Gotabaya Rajapaksa among the people, they would be able to conceal their own faults and obtain votes. The same wrongs will be committed once more if the people fall for this trap.

Only an alternative political force can defeat Gotabaya Rajapaksa. The UNP cannot defeat him. Neither can they defeat his policies as evident in the government’s behaviour in recent times. The Rajapaksa camp’s family bandysm and corruption can only be defeated by the alternative force to the NPP which includes the JVP.

Q : On August 18 the NPP will reveal its candidate. What are his qualities and qualifications required to be presented as the NPP’s Presidential Candidate?

Religious leaders including the Mahanayaka’s presented a number of prerequisites expected from Presidential candidates who are to be nominated in order to create a corruption-free nation. Our candidate has fulfilled all these pre-requisites. He will be able to take the lead to economically revive the country, to create a better political culture in Sri Lanka and ensure proper law and order. The NPP’s chosen candidate will do away with wretchedness that has enveloped society and restore National pride. He has the persona and capability to herald in these changes.

Q : Is the NPP an amalgamation of so-called “three-wheeler parties” a genuine force to reckoned with?

Twenty eight organizations have joined hands to form the NPP. The NPP currently comprises political organizations, Civil Society organizations, trade unions, farmers associations, fisher associations as well as organizations of Sri Lankans residing abroad such as ‘Ethera Api’ which is spread across the world, academics and professional bodies. We are also currently conducting discussions with a number of other organization who have expressed their willingness to support the NPP and its candidate.

Like the organizations within the NPP, there are a number of scattered groups who are against the Rajapaksa and the UNP’s politics. They have been working isolatedly. But the NPP has brought all of them together.

Q : There appear to be rifts within both the SLPP and the UNP. Will the JVP and NPP use this to their advantage?

We do not have to actively do anything, to turn it into an advantage. It has automatically become favourable to the JVP and the NPP. Gotabaya Rajapaksa for example still does not have the support of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP). Within the UNP three fractions are infighting unable to choose a candidate from the party. Witnessing this the supporters of both parties are losing confidence in their candidates and political parties. The people, therefore, are hopeful that an alternative leadership will emerge. The actions of the political leaders of these parties have turned their supporters against them which has become advantage to the NPP.

Q : There is talk of fielding a dark horse candidate as an independent candidate or a politician from a major party. What do you think of this?

The NPP is unconcerned about this. We believe our candidate is the only alternative candidate who is able to face off against the SLPP and UNP camps. We do not see any other alternative candidate that has that capability.

Q : Gotabaya Rajapaksa appears to have based his election campaign solely on the platform of National Security. Is this a good platform to rule a country?

National security is merely one component to govern a country. A country must also be secure economically. If there is no economic security, there will be no public safety in a country. Protecting a country entails that one must stabilize the economy, ensure public safety and face international threats to protect the country, protecting the people’s democratic and fundamental rights. Militarization will not protect a country. What Sri Lanka needs today is a leadership that can protect the country on all fronts - not a despot who will use the military to use force to govern the people.

Q : Cross over politics has raised its head as the election draws near. What is JVP’s take on this?

This is the result of the political culture created over the years by both the SLFP and the UNP. As elections are announced politicians habitually cross over to other parties. While this is common, the sad issue is that the public continue to vote for those who act in this manner. People must rethink prior to voting for these politicians who cross over to gain benefits (for themselves).

People also must note politicians who maintain links with ALL parties purely for their own personal benefit. For such is the case of Minister Vijith Vijayamuni Soysa who represents the UNP while his son is (conveniently) the Bibile seat organiser of the SLFP. They get the best of both worlds. This is a political gimmick. They engage in politics for their own personal benefit rather than for the people. But people are starting to reject these acts. The NPP’s fight is against such corrupt practices.