A divided opposition, no threat to Government -Nandana Gunathilake | Sunday Observer

A divided opposition, no threat to Government -Nandana Gunathilake

Contrary to the Government’s belief of an easy two-thirds win at the General Election 2020, United National Party Kalutara district candidate Nandana Gunathilake said that the Government will have a tough fight to win even a simple majority in Parliament. In an interview with the Sunday Observer he said that the division between opposition parties, is a clear disadvantage to the governing party at the upcoming Parliamentary elections since they were in a do or die battle.

Full interview:

Q. The Government is eyeing a 2/3 majority in the next Parliament. In a situation where the main opposition is divided as UNP, SJB (Samagi Jana Balawegaya) and NPP (National People’s Power), it seems to be an easy target. What do you think?

A. No, that is a wrong assumption. In such a scenario, all these political groups will get every possible vote they can obtain, as a result of their improved activeness. Therefore, the possibility of these three groups receiving more Parliamentary seats is high. In other words, due to this high competition, the Government will also lose some of their potential voters. The situation which prevailed during the Presidential Election 2019 has changed now. Covid-19 is one reason. This is because the failure of certain action taken by the Government to confront the pandemic would badly affect the Government. In addition to that, the massive image built for Gotabaya Rajapaksa during the Presidential election is no more. He now has a shrunken image.

Q. Is there any possibility of both the UNP and the SJB merging into one group after the General Election?

A. We can discuss it as both are friendly forces. We were split due to a dispute on the election symbol. Therefore, more than joining any other party, it is easy to join a faction of the UNP.

Q. The National People’s Power, the JVP led coalition which was created at the last Presidential election is facing their very first Parliamentary election this time. Is the NPP a threat to the UNP?

A. I do not think so. The NPP had the same people backing them during the Presidential Election 2019. With all their support they received only three per cent of the turnout. Even though they have introduced certain attractive candidates I hardly believe that their results at the last election would change.

On the other hand, the JVP controls the preferential votes of candidates as a tradition. Even if certain candidates receive the highest number of votes, the party decides who gets the seat.

Q. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe said recently that a future UNP government would successfully defeat the second wave of Covid-19. But one could ask how a government which could not stop the Easter Sunday attack - a tragedy which could have been avoided - would successfully control such a pandemic. Your comment.

A. The previous government functioned as two forces based on Executive powers and Parliamentary powers. Even though the President’s group was small, they had certain powers because of the Executive Presidency. On the other hand, President Maithripala Sirisena did not work ‘together’ with the Ranil Wickremesinghe government from the beginning. Soon after he was appointed as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party he thought that he can continue alone as the Executive President. Therefore, his connection with the UNP deteriorated gradually.

As a result, former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe could not attend National Security Council meetings too. Things related to the Easter attack had been discussed during the time the former PM was not attending the Security Council. Therefore, the sole responsibility of the terrorist attack lies in the former President. But if Ranil Wickremesinghe had revealed beforehand that he was not invited for Security Council meetings, then he would not have faced all these allegations.

Q. When looking at the UNP candidates for the General Election 2020, several unknown faces and controversial characters can be seen. For instance, former Minister Mervyn Silva and Rajapaksa ally A.S.P. Liyanage are both contesting under the UNP banner this time. Why is that? Has the UNP deteriorated to a level where they cannot find their own candidates?

A. A party tries to gather all forces, all ethnic groups to win an election. As a result of that political tradition in Sri Lanka, the so-called controversial characters are in our list. On the other hand, the split in the UNP occurred at the last moment when nominations had been called. So any party would face difficulties in such a situation.

Personally, I do not prefer certain candidates, but we contest together as one team. Mervyn Silva has been on both sides. So, has A.S.P. Liyanage. He was once very close to late President R. Premadasa.

Q. Nandana Gunathilake is remembered by people as the Presidential Candidate for the JVP in 1999. With such branding for you as a former JVP stalwart, isn’t it challenging to contest on the UNP list and enter Parliament?

A.Yes, there is a challenge. But people know me and my past very well. It is not a gloomy past. I openly quit the UPFA camp in 2014, writing an open letter to the then-President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Then I did my best to defeat the Rajapaksa government in 2015.

During the last election, Ajith P. Perera received only about hundred preferential votes more than myself from the Panadura electorate. It clearly shows that UNP voters are supporting me. As I could not actively campaign at other electorates in the Kalutara district, I could not get elected to Parliament. UNP voters know my history and my capabilities. Therefore, I strongly believe that in the course of electing a new Parliament, they will stand by me.