SJB confident of victory at next election - Imthiaz Bakeer Markar | Sunday Observer

SJB confident of victory at next election - Imthiaz Bakeer Markar

23 October, 2022

The United National Party (UNP) was founded by D.S.Senanayake way back in 1946 with the unstinted support rendered by all community leaders of the day who fought for independence leaving aside petty communal agendas.

The Muslim community was represented by Dr. M.C.M. Kaleel and T.B.Jayah who were later appointed Cabinet Ministers. Jayah was appointed Cabinet Minister of Labour in the first UNP Government headed by Prime Minister D.S.Senanayake.

Since the inception of the United National Party, Muslim leaders of the country had joined the UNP and worked with UNP leaders for the betterment of the country men irrespective of communal differences.

They commanded the respect of the Sinhala community equally and functioned as true statesmen. Some of those Muslim leaders were from predominantly Sinhala Buddhist areas but they established their political strongholds under the United National Party as they worked for the people based on party policies and principles irrespective of communal differences. All the UNP leaders had able Muslim lieutenants under their wing who rendered a great service to the nation.

Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake reposed enormous confidence on Dr.M.C.M.Kaleel and Naina Marikkar. President J.R.Jayewardene in A.C.S. Hameed and Bakeer Markar. Ranasinghe Premadasa on M.H.Mohamed and M.N.M.Mansoor and then Ranil Wickremesinghe appointed young Imthiaz Bakeer Markar as his Media Minister during his tenure of office 2001-2004.

Imthiaz Bakeer Markar is a well respected politician from the Beruwala electorate in the Kalutara district who filled the vacuum left by his beloved father former Speaker Bakeer Markar, a well-known politician.

The Sunday Observer had an interview with Imthiaz Bakeer Markar to ascertain his political activities, party’s position and future program of work with regard to forming a new Government.

Q: You were an ardent supporter of the United National Party from your student days at Ananda College and climbed the political ladder and became a Cabinet Minister in the 2001-2004 Government of Ranil Wickremesinghe. Since then you had been in political hibernation for a long time and emerged again in active politics with the SJB in 2020.

What made you to be away from active politics for such a long time being comparatively a young politician your dramatic paradigm shift from the UNP for which you loved, devoted and dedicated so much from your childhood?

A: It is wrong to say that I was away from active politics for a long-time. Only thing that I didn’t contest any of the subsequent elections since 2004. But I gave my fullest support to the candidates who contested under the green banner till the last general election. My late father and myself had represented the Beruwala electorate and Kalutara District for nearly five decades and on principle I pledged to the public in my electorate in front of Ven. Bopitiye Waththananda Anunayake Thera that I will not contest elections after becoming a Cabinet Minister. So I stood by my original decision as a principled politician paving the way for another suitable person to represent the Beruwala electorate.

Well answering the second part of your first question I should say that the United National Party founded by the father of the Nation right. D.S.Senanayake followed by our previous five leaders functioned as true democrats and maintained very cordial relationships with all nations without being biased towards any camp in the international political arena according to our party’s policies and principles.

But unfortunately with the change of the leadership in 1994 we saw that the party was not following the original stand taken by the UNP and gradually drifting away more towards capitalism or the Western camp. And the other thing was that no steps were taken to safeguard the internal party democracy. Due to these lapses of the party hierarchy a large number of our party stalwarts left the party and joined the Opposition.

Then quite naturally we started losing all the subsequent elections.

Over fifteen years we, as a united team tried our utmost to put the party hierarchy on the correct track to no avail. During this dark period of our beloved party we took innumerable measures to put things right but unfortunately no change was made in the dictatorial attitude of the leadership.

Finally, at the last General Election, quite contrary to the collective decision taken by the party’s apex body, the Executive Committee, some of them contested the general election and the party was reduced to nothing.

The SJB as a new political force under the able leadership of Sajith Premadasa secured over 50 seats in Parliament proving that 90 percent of the UNP membership islandwide is with us now. An epoch making leader even S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike secured less than 10 seats in Parliament in his first attempt after breaking away from the United National Party.

Q: What is your main role in the SJB?

A: As a new political force in the country all our senior members are working as a single unit discussing numerous matters, exchanging our views, analysing previous records and forecasting future developments and the way in which we should tackle the challenges which may arise in the future. In addition, we keep a close tab on present day developments in all spheres of the country and educate the public on all matters that affect the lives of our countrymen.

Q: Do you think that you had been given the due place in the SJB?

A: We frontrunners of the party are assigned with various responsibilities and I am not very much interested in positions. My main aim is to consolidate the party from all fronts and face the next election confidently and drive away this maladministration for the sake of a better future for our countrymen.

Q: Do you hope to contest the forthcoming election from the Kalutara district or seek a national list slot in future too?

A: The SJB is a new political force with a broader vision and all depends on the decision of the party and the people of the Beruwala electorate.

If the party decides to field me as a candidate and my electorate people will endorse my candidature, I have no hesitation in accepting the challenge and making the Beruwala electorate and Kalutara district victorious for the SJB with a landslide majority.

In the past elections I contested from Beruwala in the Kalutara District. I had polled the highest number of preferential votes and almost ninety percent of people in Beruwala who voted for the party had cast their preferential vote for me. I am quite confident that people in my hometown will never forget me specially with this novel political vision that entails a large number of salient features.

Q: Is there a shadow Cabinet in the SJB? If so what is your portfolio?

A: In the SJB we have a number of committees and groups to study, enumerate and analyse the activities and arrive at the most effective and viable conclusions on all vital subjects such as education, health, justice, labour, environment, ports, shipping and media.

We have appointed people with expertise knowledge to look into the relevant matters and we senior parliamentarians are also working with then quite closely. So once we achieve power, the party hierarchy may decide on our portfolios quite accurately on a scientific basis. I am sure unlike in the past we will form a very effective and vibrant Cabinet where the needs of the public will be addressed properly based on the systematic groundwork that the party has already formulated.

Q: What is position of the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution?

Is the SJB is fully supportive of same?

A: When we talk about Constitutional amendments in Sri Lanka it reminds me of a humorous story that I heard some time ago. A gentleman who is interested in politics and Constitutions of countries had once gone to a library in London and requested a copy of the Sri Lankan Constitution. The bookseller at the counter told him to check with the periodical section of the library to get a copy of the Sri Lanka Constitution as it changes every now and then.

The 22nd Amendment is the bone of contention for the past few months and no solid consensus had been reached by some of the ruling party members themselves. A country’s Constitution is the most important, valid and powerful and sacred document that any country has and it is the bounden duty of every countryman to protect and follow it.

When an Amendment is brought into the Constitution it has to be deeply studied and scrutinised and its repercussions by a panel of constitutional experts and get the unanimous approval of all stakeholders which had not happened with this Amendment.

However, as a progressive political party the SJB decided to support the 22nd Amendment since it consist of some salient features under the strict condition that it will not delete or make any new additions during the committee stage.

Q: What is your party’s stand on IMF negotiations will it address all the burning economic issues of the country.

A: We had warned the Government from a very long time that we were heading towards an economic catastrophe at the rate it was going with absolutely wrong monetary and economic policies.

But then they laughed at us saying that they could handle the economy, especially the then Central Bank Governor, Ajith Nivaard Cabraal and Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa who do not possess an iota of knowledge on financial management of the country. Now the challenge is thrust upon the present set of people who are making some effort to revive the shattered economy and we will have to wait and see to what extent they will succeed with the enormous expenditure they have to dispense.

Q: Will not there be any attempt either by the UNP or by the SJB to get together again and form a strong political force for a future stable Government?

A: The SJB is prepared to welcome any politician who may hold different political views as long as they are within the democratic framework and abide by our basic guidelines.

But not the people who talk about granting five-star democracy but harass the people brutally when they conduct even a peaceful demonstration against the Government.

Q: In the event of a victory at the next election, what is the stand of the SJB with regard to the Executive Presidency? Do you hope to continue with it or abolish it completely?

A: We have given serious thought to it and are in the process of drafting a new Constitution with the advice of constitutional experts.

It is not something which could be done in a hurry.

We discuss all the pros and cons, get the ideas of relevant officials seek the views of all stakeholders and we hope to present it to the public and when the consensus is received, we may pass it in Parliament.

We believe a country’s Constitution should remain unchanged at least for a few decades for the greater good of its nation.