No racist slogans to gain votes - Kanishka Senanayake | Sunday Observer
Parliamentary Elections

No racist slogans to gain votes - Kanishka Senanayake

Kanishka Senanayake, the son of Colombo’s Mayor Rosy Senanayake, will face his first election on August 5 under the banner of the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). One of the younger and new candidates entering the election fray, Senanayake says he hopes to champion causes relating to youth, education, and women, if elected.  

Excerpts

Q: What made you follow your mother’s footsteps into politics?  

A: I wouldn’t necessarily say I am following my mother’s footsteps into politics as I have been involved in politics for a long time. I have worked in my mother’s election campaigns and in the Presidential election campaign and local government election campaigns of the United National Party (UNP). I feel it is time that the youth should come to politics.  

For example, in Canada and Finland we see young politicians taking up roles such as that of Prime Minister and President. In Sri Lanka too there is a need for youth to come into politics. There has been a mindset created that all politicians must be old. But there is also an opinion now that they are no good and have done nothing for the people. The youth in particular have come out vociferously against such people. It is important for the youth to come to Parliament and also create avenues for other educated youth to venture into politics as well. 

Q: There is a call for new faces and clean politicians among the public. Do you fit this bill?  

A: I have a political background and I am also educated. I have a degree in Finance from the University of Tampa, USA and a Foundation Degree in Law from the University of Warwick, UK. I have nearly 15 years of experience in the private sector. That experience is also valuable to come to politics as I believe we must bring in a new wave of thinking. Fresh faces and fresh ideas are needed and I think I can bring that into Sri Lankan politics. I think it is a combination that is needed at present.  

Q: Do you think the split between the SJB and the UNP will be unfavourable to the SJB in terms of votes?  

A: The SJB is part of the UNP. The party was formed on a mandate given by the working committee of the UNP and Sajith Premadasa was appointed leader. We can’t really say, that there is a split. There was a collective decision that we would contest for the general election from the SJB. But for different reasons certain people have decided to take the UNP as a separate entity. It is abundantly clear that 95 per cent of the UNP voter base is with the SJB and Premadasa today. This will be evident after the results.  

Q: Your mother has publicly expressed her dismay at not being able to support your election campaign. Has this affected your campaign? 

A: She can’t be a part of my campaign today as the UNP has given her instructions that she should not help me as she was appointed Mayor of Colombo by the UNP while I have decided to contest from the SJB. She was sent a communique from the UNP in this regard. This has not affected my campaign though things would have been easier if her support was there. But she gave me the freedom to decide as to which party I wanted to contest from. My decision was based on who I think would be the best leader of the country and who has an untarnished record. I think we need a person who will work for the people and I think that is Sajith Premadasa.  

Q: As a young politician if elected what causes do you hope to champion in parliament?  

A: I will focus on three causes mainly. The first would be the youth of this country. Due to unemployment, many are turning to nefarious activities such as the drug trade which has become a major issue. We need to introduce new programs to help them become educated and find employment. 

 We need to create new types of jobs. For example, youth can even work on social media platforms and get a good source of income. We also need to make sure that KPO and BPO industries come to Sri Lanka and a knowledge-based economy is created to benefit the youth.  

I also hope to work on a few programs focused on education. We do not allocate enough funds from the budget towards education. We have to increase this. My great grandfather was P. de S Kularatne who set up schools such as Nalanda, Anula Vidayalaya and about 20 other schools around the country. 

 People like him gave us the free education system. But I think it’s time we bring this system into the 21st century and give children a better education system. If not, we will be left behind and our children will not be on par with students in other countries.  

My mother only made one request to me when I told her of my intention to contest and that was to support her cause on women. She has fought for women’s rights all her life and helped them. She came up with the idea to give pregnant mothers rations worth Rs. 20,000 under the previous government. She also championed the cause of obtaining 25 percent female representation in local government bodies. She has requested that I take these causes forward in parliament. 

Q: Some politicians and parties are being accused of peddling racism in their election campaigns. What is your take on this as a young politician?  

A: I am against anything that is based on racism. I think we should all stand against such things. Some political parties are basing their campaigns on racism because they have no other way of winning. It is happening around the country. The SJB and I, as a new candidate, believe we should not engage in any activities which use racism to gain votes. In fact, this should not be allowed to develop. The SJB stands for unity. We represent those of all religions and races in this country. We will not discriminate in any way. 

Q: It is commonly believed that the SLPP will emerge victorious at the upcoming elections. However, if they are not able to secure a two-thirds majority, is the SJB willing to support the SLPP to form a government?  

First, I do not think they are going to be victorious in this election. However, to answer your question, the SJB will not form any alliance with the SLPP. We don’t think they have the people’s interest at heart and we feel their intention of asking for a two-thirds majority is different from what they are telling the people. In reality, they want to get rid of the Independent Commissions. 

 These Commissions cannot be tampered with. But the Commissions are causing issues for the current government because they can’t run the government the way they want. We will, therefore, not be part of that. We will neither support them to gain a two-third majority nor form a national government with them.  

Q: Many leaders of the SLPP have expressed a need to do away with the 19th Amendment. What is the SJB’s stance on this issue?  

A: We will work against any efforts to get rid of the 19th Amendment. We are adamant that the Independent Commissions must remain. If there are some clauses that are mutually agreeable and are beneficial to the people that need to be changed, our leaders will make the decision. If it is detrimental to the country we will not allow them to go ahead with their plans to change the 19th Amendment. We will not allow democracy to be taken away from the people.    

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