Tamils and Muslims have implicit faith in SLPP - Gamini Lokuge | Sunday Observer

Tamils and Muslims have implicit faith in SLPP - Gamini Lokuge

19 July, 2020

Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Colombo District Candidate and former State Minister of Urban Development Gamini Lokuge said the Tamils and Muslims have realised that the SLPP is not a party that offers false promises to get political mileage. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the former State Minister said that the SLPP is committed to promoting the wellbeing of all communities. Tamil and Muslim voters would decide whether they would vote for those who give false promises or elect an SLPP led Government to fulfill their expectations. He said many people who didn’t vote for the President at the last Presidential Election have appreciated the program launched by him to rebuild the country and are willing to give a two-thirds majority to the Government at the General Election to make the President’s endeavour a success.  

Q. What are your views on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution? Do you want its salient features to remain or to scrap it altogether?

A. The 19th Amendment should be abolished. The need of the hour is to formulate a new Constitution suitable to the country. The 19th Amendment introduced by the former Yahapalana Government has led to controversies. Various sections have raised serious concern about the independent commissions set up under the 19th Amendment. The time has come to scrap the 19th Amendment and formulate a new Constitution to suit current needs.  

Q. What made the UNP die a slow death? Could you attribute all ills of the party to leader Ranil Wickremesinghe or are there others to share it?

A. All those who have contributed to ruin the UNP should be held responsible for its present plight. They should have made reforms to take the party forward. If they have failed to fulfil that task, they all should be held responsible for destruction of the party.  

Q. Would you like to comment on Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) leader Sajith Premadasa’s pledge to give Rs.20,000 to the people and cancel the March and April electricity bills?

A. The Yahapalana Government which was in power eight months ago could have done that. Will the people accept these utterances by Sajith Premadasa targeting the election? If they were concerned about the people, they should have implemented such proposals during their tenure in office as that was a Government which had a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The people are well aware that these are false pledges to hoodwink them to get their votes.  

Q. Much emphasis is laid on the need to have a competent team to run the country. Would you like to elaborate on this?

A. Those who are not genuine and don’t have a capacity to emerge as politicians make such statements to get the people’s votes. The people know that it was Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and other political leaders around him who gave the strength and the leadership to make Gotabaya Rajapaksa the President.

The Prime Minister and those leaders carried out a vigorous campaign throughout the country to educate the public and seek their mandate to elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President. These newcomers think it would be easy for them to get elected to Parliament. It is not an easy task. As we all as a team could form a new political party, SLPP and made its candidate the President, it won’t be an issue for the same team to govern the country with President Rajapaksa.  

Q. Have the Viyathmaga contestants posed a threat to veteran politicians in the SLPP?

A. There is no such a threat. The people are aware that except minor offences, such as stealing some coconuts, ordinary people never resort to bigger frauds or corruptions. If we take the Central Bank bond scam and other financial frauds and malpractices in the world, all those were committed by well-educated and intelligent people. The people have a good understanding about this. Professionals and intellectuals rallied round the SLPP as we formed a broad political entity by securing a resounding victory at the last Local Government election. We welcomed them to the SLPP as we also need professionals and intellectuals of such calibre.  

Q. Is new legislation needed to prevent political crossovers?

A. In a matter of national importance, if the leaders of a party are heading in the wrong direction, a Parliamentarian should have freedom to represent the correct point of view to rescue the country from that disaster. I don’t say political crossovers are a healthy feature for democracy. However, in a matter of national importance, it is the duty of Parliamentarians to safeguard the country. On such an occasion, a politician should have the right to take a correct decision on behalf of the country.  

Q. What made the JVP lose its grip on the votes?

A. This is because our voters are intelligent. After the JVP entered Parliament, they did the opposite of what they said on the political stage. They became a cat’s-paw of capitalist parties. The JVP was at the forefront of defeating the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa in 2015. When the military operations were launched against LTTE terrorists, it was the JVP that crossed over to the Opposition to weaken the then Government by catering to the agendas of international forces. The JVP voted to postpone the Provincial Council elections. The JVP will not secure a single parliamentary seat and at leat 3.5 percent votes at the election.  

At the last General Election, the JVP said they had nominated professionals from their National List. When the JVP MPs who contested the election were defeated, they got rid of professionals and allowed defeated JVP candidates to enter Parliament.  

Q. Will not the confrontation between some SLPP and SLFP politicians be detrimental to securing a two-thirds majority at the election?

A. There is no issue among our leaders. There would be intense competition even between a father and a son at an election under the preferential voting system.

For example, at a General Election, a father and a daughter contested under the same party banner in a district and the daughter secured victory defeating her father. This is the nature of the preferential voting system.  

Q. Voters say it is the responsibility of political parties to nominate decent candidates while politicians assert that the voters should be wise to vote for suitable candidates. Where to draw the line?

A. That is true. If we are nominated to contest from a political party, it is up to the voters to elect suitable candidates to Parliament. If the MPs have not fulfilled their duties, the people can reject them at the next election. This has always happened in our political history. The people elect a capable group of Parliamentarians to the Legislature while those who are first elected to Parliament will have to go home after the next election if they have failed to fulfil their duties. It is the right of the people to elect suitable candidates to Parliament. The people elect us to Parliament based on our conduct and the program we implemented to resolve their issues.  

Q. What is your assessment of Tamil and Muslim votes?

A. The Tamils and Muslims have realised that the SLPP is not a party which offers false promises to get political mileage. We are a political party which is committed to the wellbeing of all communities. They would decide whether they would vote for those who give false promises or elect an SLPP led Government which has a potential to fulfil their rights. That would be witnessed at the General Election.  

Q. The Opposition alleges that the restrictions imposed on the Covid-19 pandemic were lifted by the Government targeting the election. Would you comment on this?

A. Though the Opposition acts in such an absurd manner and makes such irresponsible statements, the people are not ignorant. They have a good understanding of the prevailing situation.

The people compare us with other countries on the Covid-19 pandemic control. Another Covid-19 cluster has emerged. The Government has taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus. The Opposition wants to postpone the election by creating even a second wave of Covid-19. The people are aware of their ulterior motives.  

Q. Earlier the Election Commission Chairman Mahinda Deshapriya said it would be difficult to conduct the election if health guidelines are not gazetted. Your comment?

A. The Government since inception successfully managed the Covid-19 situation in the country. Despite laws, the Covid-19 outbreak was controlled due to effective and timely moves by the Government. In the future too, the Government would take measures in keeping with the situation. There is no need for new laws to control the Covid-19 pandemic because of the election. It has been controlled in accordance with existing laws.  

Q. Serious concern has been raised about independent commissions set up under the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Would you explain?

A. It is obvious when looking at the conduct of some members appointed to these Commissions. Otherwise, the people don’t want to complain about it. One member of the Election Commission even went to the court against the dissolution of Parliament. However, there is a forum for him to discuss that matter within the Election Commission without going to court. He is not a suitable person to hold that position.  

Q. Will the Government secure a two-thirds majority and form a stable Government?

A. The voters at the election will fulfil that task on behalf of the Government. Many people who didn’t vote for Gotabaya Rajapaksa at the last Presidential Election have commended the program launched by him to rebuild the country. They are willing to give a two-thirds majority to the Government at the election to make the President’s endeavour a success.