UNP will win by a landslide - Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam | Sunday Observer

UNP will win by a landslide - Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

UNP Deputy General Secretary and Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam says, being the largest single political party in the country the UNP is ready to face any challenge in the political arena. When the SLFP led UPFA coalition jointly contested the last General Elections, the UNP contested alone and secured a majority of the seats. Whether the two SLFP factions contest jointly or separately, wouldn’t be an issue for the UNP.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Minister said, the UNP has the ability to consolidate its majority in the Local Government bodies, there is no doubt about it. In a situation where the UNP could form its own Government, it agreed to form the National Government purely in the larger interests of the country, if not for which, the UNP would have formed its own Government by seeking the support of six progressive MPs.

Q. Have you finalised the nomination lists and found enough women candidates to meet the 25 percent requirement?

A. We are now in the process of completing the lists of candidates. We have already deposited money with many Local Government bodies. We have nearly finalized our nomination process. We have found more than enough women candidates to meet the 25 percent requirement. At present, there is a big competition between the demand and supply for women representatives. A lot of women are asking nominations to contest the LG polls, much more than on previous occasions. The youth and women have shown great enthusiasm to contest the LG polls. Unfortunately, the party is not in a position to satisfy the aspirations of all these rising candidates. Credit should necessarily go to the UNP which presented an amendment seeking to give priority to women candidates at the LG elections.

Q. The LG elections this time are being held under the ward system, as opposed to the preferential votes system? What are the advantages and any disadvantages for the UNP under the new system?

A. The biggest advantage of this system is that the people can elect their representatives who would be held responsible for them. They would have their own representatives to address their needs. Under the previous system, the representatives were elected from the votes of that entire Urban Council or Pradeshiya Sabha area. However, the new electoral system has paved the way for the people to elect a candidate from their own respective area or electorate. This system is more practicable and has also catered to the 25 percent requirement of women candidates. In addition, if e.g. a capable person is not willing to contest the election, the particular political party has the opportunity to give him representation through their list. The new electoral system has thus embraced a series of democratic features and given representation to every sector.

Q. If the two SLFP factions join together to contest the LG polls, will it be a disadvantage to the UNP?

A. When all these SLFP led UPFA coalition jointly contested the last General Elections, the UNP contested by itself and secured the majority of seats. Therefore, if the two SLFP factions contest jointly or separately, it wouldn’t be an issue for the UNP at all. It is the UNP which commands a majority to run this Government. So we call upon the people to give the power of the LG bodies to the UNP and bring the country on the road to rapid development. The SLFP led UPFA and those in the Joint Opposition have ruled the country for the past 20 years. The UNP has just completed two and a half years in office. Therefore, we should be given at least five years to govern the country and show its performances to the voters.

Q. Regardless of the SLFP joining forces with the JO, will the National Unity Government continue in the present form till 2020?

A. Actually, we can’t predict what would happen in the future. Definitely, the UNP has the ability to consolidate power of a majority of the LG bodies. there is no doubt about it. In a situation where the UNP could form its own Government, it agreed to form a National Government with the SLFP in the larger interests of the country, and as a role model to the world. Otherwise, we would have formed our own Government by seeking the support of six more MPs. We honored the National Government concept as it is an ideal form for the country. There is no doubt that the UNP would secure a landslide victory at the upcoming LG polls. We are ready to face any challenge because the UNP is the largest single political entity and has successfully played its role throughout the post-independence era.

Q. Under the new electoral system, more than 8,000 LG members will be elected. How do you ensure that this massive increase will benefit the public, or will it be an additional burden on the public purse?

A. Various views have been expressed on this. It would be undertaken as a new experience. After the elections, the Government intends to amend the Election Act to rectify any shortcomings in the demarcation process of certain Pradeshiya Sabhas.

Q. Is the UNP happy with the breakup of certain Pradeshiya Sabhas, such as, Ambagamuwa to several Pradeshiya Sabhas under the delimitation process. How does this affect the fortune of the UNP?

A. It would not have any impact on the UNP vote base. At present, the UNP vote base has been further strengthened. If the elections are held under whatever electoral system, it wouldn’t be an issue for the UNP. The election results will prove the UNP’s strength.

Q. The Prime Minister has reiterated the importance of ethical conduct on the part of the UNP candidates and supporters. What measures will be taken to ensure that the candidates behave well without resorting to violence and other forms of election law violations?

A. We have established an independent Election Commission and Police Commission to ensure free and fair elections. These independent Commissions have been set up to wipe out the old political practices of unleashing violence and taking revenge from political opponents. When the Government is in a position to win the upcoming LG polls why should we resort to violence? No such incidents were reported even at the last General Elections. It was during the former Rajapaksa regime that violence was unleashed, political opponents killed and the media suppressed. Had the incumbent Government too wanted to adopt the same practices, we wouldn’t have appointed independent commissions, nor tolerated the media attacking the Government.

Q. How do you assess the future of the Joint Opposition (JO) and the National Freedom Front (NFF) which are experiencing mass defections to the UNP and the SLFP? What would be the political future of these parties after the defection of key members?

A. The JO is politically dead, right now. It cannot be resurrected. A group which was defeated twice would not be able to win an election. A Government has never been toppled at LG elections. Besides, the Opposition has never won an LG election. In the past, the power of LG bodies has always been captured by the Governments in power. At LG elections, the people have always extended support to the Government. The JO and NFF are gradually drooping. That is why some of their prominent leaders and front liners are joining hands with the SLFP and the UNP. They are well aware that they have no political future anymore.

Q. How would the fallout of corruption allegations of the Central Bank issue and other matters affect the electoral prospects of the UNP at the LG polls?

A. No allegations levelled against the Central Bank bond scam have been proved so far. The same methodology that had been followed in the past was adopted in this Treasury bond issue as well. Even the Prime Minister voluntarily appeared before the Presidential Commission to give evidence. Therefore, this is not an issue for us. Anybody who wants, can resort to legal action.

Q. With the focus very much on corruption, have you ensured that the UNP candidates are clean, honest and uncorrupt?

A. Most of the candidates selected by the UNP are clean. Sometimes, there may be a few who have been charged before courts on various allegations. But we can’t reject their nominations as they have not yet been found guilty. However, 98 percent of those put forward by us are reputed candidates.

Q. Will the UNP use this election as a test for the Provincial Council election which would follow the LG elections?

A. Actually, we don’t wish to do so. After we secure a comfortable victory at the LG polls, we would definitely win the Provincial Council elections as well. We don’t wish to carry out any further experiments as we are confident of victory at the upcoming polls.

When both SLFP factions jointly contested the last General Elections, the UNP contested as a single party and won. If both SLFP factions contest separately, they know they can’t secure a victory. Sometimes, the people will not vote for both these SLFP factions as they are fully disappointed with their actions.

Q. What do you think about the JVP campaign “ Javipeta gama deela balamu”. Will the JVP be able to make a significant dent into the vote base of the two main parties?

A. I don’t think so. The JVP doesn’t have a strong vote base. They have a very limited number of votes. Therefore, it would not have any impact on the UNP’s vote base.

Q.What do you think about the Budget 2018 victory? Does it give a strong signal about the stability of the Government despite reports of conflicts between the UNP and the SLFP and the differences of opinion among the UNP and SLFP Ministers on many issues?

A. The then President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga’s Government which came to power in 1994 survived the six years by a majority of one vote. However, that Government was able to be in power until 2005.

Whatever the differences of opinion, the National Unity Government has a two thirds majority. Passing of Budget 2018 by a two thirds majority is a strong signal given to those who hatch conspiracies to topple the incumbent Government.