SLPP pledges to continue Saubhagyaye Dekma in the next Govt. - Anura Priyadarshana Yapa | Sunday Observer

SLPP pledges to continue Saubhagyaye Dekma in the next Govt. - Anura Priyadarshana Yapa

26 July, 2020

SLPP Kurunegala district candidate and former State Minister of Internal Trade and Consumer Welfare Anura Priyadarshana Yapa said the SLPP did not wish to introduce a new election manifesto targeting the upcoming General Election. However, we would ensure that the resounding mandate that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa secured at the last Presidential Election will be reflected in the next SLPP led Government to be formed soon after the election. The Former State Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said “We have nothing new to say. We have conducted thorough research in the past few months with the help of professionals in different fields. They have prepared a grand action plan, Saubhagyaye Dekma which we will successfully carry forward. We have already discussed the actions and the policies we would adopt in the next Government.”

Q. Are you confident the people will give a two-thirds majority to the SLPP at the upcoming General Election to form a stable Government?

A. It is our hope that the people will do so. All Opposition parties are divided and they have nothing to tell the people. They are infighting for their own survival. President Gotabaya Rajapaksa is a popular leader among the people. They expect a lot from him. To achieve their expectation, the people will definitely support the SLPP and give us a comfortable majority, a two-thirds majority.

Q. Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa has said that a two-thirds majority is a prerequisite to iron out the problems caused by the 19th Amendment. Do you also hold the same view?

A. There are some issues pertaining to the 19th Amendment. There are positive as well as negative aspects to the 19th Amendment. We can then discuss them and make constitutional amendments.

Q. Do you think there is a need to introduce a new Constitution rather than amend the existing one?

A. If the Government thinks they want to introduce a new Constitution, it is a good idea. There have been issues with the Constitution throughout the entire period starting from 1978. There were several attempts to bring in a new Constitution. We also feel that a new Constitution would be best rather than amend the existing one. It has been amended 19 times so that it is better to have a new Constitution. We have to decide what changes are to be introduced in the new Constitution.

Q. What in your opinion led SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa to contest the Colombo district, giving up his stronghold Hambantota?

A. I think he has failed miserably there. Even at the last Presidential election, he faced a humiliating defeat in the Hambantota district. Actually, he has not given any leadership in that district. He had antagonised the old guard in the area. You can’t do that, you have to work with them. So naturally, he must have felt that it is high time to leave Hambantota, and therefore he switched to Colombo. However, he left the district and his supporters high and dry, without introducing a proper person to lead them.

Q. Various sections have raised serious concern about the impartiality of the independent commissions set up by the former Yahapalana Government. Your comments?

A. This is the longest election period that we have in the country. It has created lots of problems for everyone including the Government, the people and the candidates. Conducting elections is a fundamental right of the people. T the outset the Election Commission made a mistake in postponing the elections. The Government did everything possible to free the country from the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic. Other than that, I think the independence of the commissions is important. Some commissioners have openly expressed their views on some issues and even gone to Court. That should not have happened. These are the issues in the commissions. Every country has an independent system to hold elections, so that independent commissions are not a bad idea.

Unfortunately, some commissioners by their actions have shown the people that they are not independent. That is the issue. It is up to them to prove how independent they are when we hold an election. At present, there is no proper system, and they are too rigid. The candidates cannot even propagate their numbers. It is important in an election that the candidates are able to propagate their numbers. They have not been able to do that due to the restrictions imposed by the Election Commission.

As a result, especially new candidates have faced a lot of hardship. It is too costly for candidates to conduct their campaigns via the media because most of them are not wealthy enough to do so. These are the issues the Election Commission has not taken into consideration. The independent commissions have to look into all these aspects when they make their recommendations and issue guidelines to the public and the candidates. Nevertheless, we need to have independent commissions so that the elections are held in a fair manner, truly representing the people’s will.

Q. SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa and some prominent SJB members say they would form the next Government and Sajith would become the Prime Minister. What is your view?

A. They are not in a position whatsoever to win the election and they won’t get many seats.

Q. Is there any confrontation between the SLPP and SLFP candidates? Some leading SLPP candidates openly say not to vote for SLFP candidates. Would this have an adverse impact on the SLPP-SLFP unity?

A. Personally I am happy that the SLFP decided to contest with the SLPP. I am an SLPP member but I like the SLFP joining hands with us. In an election such as this, there are issues regarding preferential votes. Everyone is trying to undercut the other. This is the system we have inherited. In this context, everyone is trying to pinpoint the faults of their opponent even within the same group. The leadership of the SLPP and other leaders of the party think it important to have a good relationship with other constituent parties.

We should not criticise anyone in our camp during election time. The leaders must instruct their members not to direct criticism against other political party members in our alliance. These are things we have to correct. There are various crosstalks going on with other candidates because all are looking for preferences rather than the party vote base. We have to cultivate the vote base so that we will get a better vote for the party which is very important.

However, it will not happen in an election based on preferential votes. That is the problem. We have a good relationship with each political party candidate contesting in the different districts. Two-thirds of the election campaign period is over now. Hence, it should be fine within the next few weeks.

Q. What is your view of the infighting between two UNP factions? There seems to be a power struggle among some prominent members for party leadership.

A. They don’t have any aim or policy, nor do they have a proper leadership. It is a sad situation for the country’s democracy because the grand old parties are no more now. There is no proper UNP or SJB. Apparently both parties have gone out of politics. A party which doesn’t have proper policies or leadership would be heading towards disaster.

Q.The UNP and the SJB have already presented their election manifestos for the upcoming polls. However, the SLPP has decided to carry forward the President’s ‘Saubhagyaye Dekma’ (Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour) manifesto. What made the SLPP not to present a new election manifesto?

A. We have nothing new to say. We have done a thorough research in the past few months with the help of professionals in different fields. They have prepared a grand action plan, ‘Saubhagyaye Dekma.’ We will carry forward that plan. We have already discussed the actions and the policies that we would adopt in the next Government. All these are stated in that particular manifesto. We don’t need to introduce a new election manifesto. We will ensure that the resounding mandate the President secured at the Presidential election will be reflected in the next SLPP led Government to be formed soon after the election.

Q. At the last General Election the UPFA secured eight seats in the Kurunegala district. Are you confident of getting more seats this time?

A. We hope to get 10 seats. The SLPP vote base has been expanded so that we would definitely get more seats.

Q. Election observers have complained that a large number of candidates have breached the health guidelines that were issued. Is there any truth in this?

A. I don’t think so. Everyone is trying their best to adhere to the health guidelines. I also strictly adhere to them and that is why we are holding small meetings. We are not organising big rallies except the those that the President or the Prime Minister attends. We have not violated health guidelines. We will do everything possible to ensure the safety of the people.

Q.The Opposition makes a big hue and cry on the demolition of an archaeological site in Kurunegala. What is your comment on this?

A. The Prime Minister appointed a committee to look into this incident and it has handed over its report to him. I am not aware of the contents of the report. However, the committee report would be the base for the investigation. I don’t wish to criticise, anybody personally. The Premier and the Cabinet of Ministers will take a decision regarding the matter. These are archaeological sites that belong to the public. It is our duty to maintain and safeguard those places in a proper manner.

Q. Government lawmakers have raised concern on the decision by the Election Commission to request the Acting IGP C.D. Wickramaratne in writing to defer further inquiries against former MP Rishad Bathiudeen in connection with the Easter Sunday attacks till the conclusion of the Parliamentary Election. Your comments?

A. It is my view that the Election Commission should not have been involved in that. They should have allowed the law enforcement authorities to carry out their job.

The Commission has gone a little too far. There are issues in the past where these candidates have been brought before courts. Our legal system is sufficient to take decisions when it comes to candidates contesting the election. I think the Election Commission should not interfere in such matters. I think that letter should not have been sent to the IGP by the Election Commission. That is my personal view.