Objective is to stabilise economy - Akila Viraj Kariyawasam | Sunday Observer

Objective is to stabilise economy - Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

25 September, 2022
Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

Thirty percent of the people had abstained from voting at the last general election:

There are right-thinking people in all other parties:

The United National Party (UNP), the second oldest democratic political party founded by its leader D.S. Senanayake in 1946, celebrated its 76th anniversary recently with a lot of glamour at the Sugathadasa Stadium presided over by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and attended by a huge gathering of party supporters from all corners of the country.

The UNP had produced seven Prime Ministers and four Executive Presidents since Independence including the incumbent President Ranil Wickremesinghe who was elected by Parliament through a constitutional process.

Since independence all UNP Governments headed by its leaders had performed an immeasurable service to the nation based on their ideology party policies and political visions. It is not possible to explain in detail the progressive measures taken by the previous UNP leaders for the countrymen, but a deep analysis may reveal that all of them had focused their attention on building inter-communal harmony and economic, social, educational and cultural development while safeguarding the sublime democratic rights of the people.

However, it had been in and out of power on a number of occasions since independence up to 2005 and thereafter the electoral performances of the UNP gradually deteriorated in every successive election and at the past general election it was reduced to nothing causing utter dismay and surprise to the party supporters.

Based on the total number of votes cast for the party islandwide, only one national list slot was entitled for the UNP and after repeated requests from party stalwarts the leader of the party Ranil Wickremesinghe was sworn in as a Member of Parliament representing the UNP after almost one-and-a-half years.

From the beginning of 2022 the Rajapaksa regime was becoming rapidly unpopular due to the wrong economic policies, mismanagement of vital institutions, arrogant behaviour of handling very sensitive issues and the unprecedented degree of corruption taking place in all development projects, which directly affected the cost-of living of every Sri Lankan.

There were fuel and gas shortages, scarcity of essential medicines and infant milk powder and long black outs and exorbitant price hikes of day to day essential food items directly contributed to the voluntary public uproar against the Government.

People from all walks of life irrespective of any differences got on to the streets and agitated against the Government demanding the resignation of the President and the Prime Minister.

On May 9, a large group of protesters led by university students and backed by bankrupt political opportunists had a confrontation at the Galle Face Green with some hooligans of the Pohottuwa Party which led to a mass scale destruction of public and private property and a cold-blooded murder of a sitting parliamentarian.

In this crisis Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa was forced to step down and the entire Cabinet fell vacant.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa abiding by the Constitutional requirements invited Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa to form a new Government for which his response was negative and it was so with others whom the President invited for reasons best known to them.

Then President invited the UNP leader the solo parliamentarian in the house Ranil Wickremesinghe who accepted the challenge boldly with his long-years of political experience and ocean of knowledge in steering the country especially in a crisis. He was appointed Prime Minister by the President and he formed a temporary Cabinet.

However, the protesters continued their agitation even more aggressively supported by a number of anti-Government groups and amid this tense situation Gotabaya Rajapaksa left the country and Ranil Wickremesinghe became the Actg. President.

When the resignation letter of Gotabaya Rajapaksa was received by the Speaker a few days later, he immediately announced the new presidential election in Parliament according to constitutional requirements. The UNP leader, acting President Ranil Wickremesinghe was elected with a handsome majority in the house proving to the world that he is an indispensable political icon in Sri Lanka.

The UNP membership received a new lease of life with the ascension of their leader to the Presidency which was quite evident at their anniversary celebrations recently. Party activists from all corners of the country are back again on the move in their areas.

The Sunday Observer had an interview with the UNP Asst. Leader Akila Virak Kariyawasam to ascertain the future programs of work of their party reorganisational activities and how they intend to cohabit the parliamentarians that are now supporting the President.

Excerpts of the interview

Q: Your party had done a great service to the nation from its inception under your previous leaders and it was considered a formidable political force in Sri Lankan politics. But you suffered the worst ever debacle at the last general election. What was the reason for this humiliating defeat?

A: Well, the success and defeat is common to every democratic political party. We have suffered defeats in the distant past too. But we emerged victorious again. The past general election it was a bit different. People reposed unduly heavy confidence on the Rajapaksas. And also we had a breakaway group headed by Sajith Premadasa and also our deep analysis had revealed that over thirty percent of the people had abstained from voting at the last general election and over 75 percent of them are UNP supporters especially in the metropolitan and urban areas.

Unfortunately, the Easter Sunday attack which had been executed by some religious extremists also affected our vote base in some electorates.

Q: As the past leader of the party you have a great responsibility in reorganising the party for a future election. What are your plans for the future?

A: Well, right now our main focus is not about the party organisational work but to help the President and the Government to salvage the economy from its dire straits. Although we are not in the Parliament, we make our contribution to the relevant ministries, authorities and institutions in stabilising their productivity which had been badly neglected during the Rajapaksa regime. Our leader, President Ranil Wickremesinghe has entrusted us many responsibilities in reviving the shattered economy and we are committed to achieve the desired goals.

Q: When you try to intervene with the work of ministries and department and some institutions, will there not be conflicts and misunderstandings with the relevant officials?

A: Absolutely there is no problem. We work together with them with a very good understanding. We discuss matters, share our views and come to a compromise before arriving at a final decision.

Q: Won’t you like to say something about your party re-organisational activities?

A: As I told you earlier our primary objective is to stabilise the economy and provide a decent living standard to the downtrodden masses of the country.

We hope to commence our party reorganisational activities from January next year. We will be compelled to make many changes in electoral organisers. We will be appointing a committee to look into these activities.

Q: There is speculation that a number of other party sitting members are prepared to join the United National Party before the next general election. Is there any truth in it?

A: Well, I don’t want to comment on that, but I can say that there are right-thinking people in all other parties who are genuinely interested in working for the people leaving aside their political affiliations. If there is any we will welcome them with open arms.

Now the time has come for all politicians to change the political culture in the country and many of us have realised it and I am sure that quite a number of political parties will rally round Ranil Wickremesinghe when he delivers the goods within the next two years.