- We are the only party that had come up with a plan to face the COVID-19 crisis
- We have to make provisions for payment tools such as Pay Pal; actually to propagate it
- We will come up with the Agriculture Modernizing Act to introduce new technology to the agriculture sector
- It is only two parties which are contesting the election to form a Government. That is the SLPP and the UNP
- We want to form a Government and want a majority in Parliament
Warning that Sri Lanka together with the Asian region will have a minus economic growth this year as a result of COVID-19, former Prime Minister and UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe claimed that his Party’s campaign has reached a high tempo as it is contesting the 2020 General Elections with a clear programme to life the nation out of such a crisis. Wickremesinghe did not seem to be worried over the latest rift within the Party and some members going separately. Daily Mirror captured his election mood in a recent interview.
Q How is your campaign going now that you have launched your manifesto and talking about re-building the nation battered by COVID-19?
There has been a positive response to our manifesto. We have come up with a plan to overcome the crisis which the country is facing at the moment. We are the only party that had come up with a plan to face the COVID-19 crisis. That has boosted our tempo.
Legal provisions have to be made for the utilization of small lands to boost agriculture production
Q In your manifesto you have talked about several new legislations. Can you elaborate on them; especially regarding the Economic and Financial (Special Provisions) Act?
There are several emergency measures which the country has to take. We want to put all these measure into one piece of legislation. We have to make provisions for payment tools such as Pay Pal; actually to propagate it. That requires the making of some legal provisions in the monetary and finance law. There have been new aspects in the economy. The type of financial support which the Government is providing companies with may have to be mentioned in the law to make these measures stronger in terms of legality. There are many new items for which we want to give legal validity. We will come up with the Agriculture Modernizing Act to introduce new technology to the agriculture sector. Legal provisions have to be made for the utilization of small lands to boost agriculture production and to make them export oriented. There will be 500 million new mouths to feed by the year 2050 in the region. Sri Lanka can make use of this opportunity.
Q You are also talking about a Debt and Bankruptcy ( Special Provisions) Act in your manifesto. What do you intend to do with it ?
Under the current Sri Lankan Bankruptcy Law companies have to go for immediate liquidation. We would like a company which is facing liquidation due to the COVID-19 crisis to think of other options rather than going in for liquidation. Therefore we want to provide legal provisions to give a company a fair space of time to think of other options through the Debt and Bankruptcy (Special Provisions)Act.
There was a rift between J . R. Jayewardene and Rukman Senanayake. There was another break up with Lalith Athulathmudali,Gamini Dissanayake and others. The party had gone through all these earlier
Q You have referred to Offshore and Services Act in your manifesto. What do you hope to do with it?
This is to give legal provisions to the Port City that is being constructed. We have already drafted that Bill. It’s only a matter of getting it approved by the new Parliament. There are few areas which we need to discuss on.
Q You spoke about the Public Health (Emergency) Act recently and said that your party would like to discuss it with other parties and the general public. What have you done about it and have you had any response from any party?
We wanted to discuss it with the general public and I think people have begun focusing on it. What we intended doing about the Public Health (Emergency) Act is to give more time to discuss about it and once we come into power we can obtain the approval of the House for it. Discussing on it will now save time. We can feed in those suggestions that are aired about it to the Bill.
Q You often speak of an economic crisis that the country is facing. What kind of economic growth are you anticipating where Sri Lanka is concerned?
Sri Lanka is going to have a minus economic growth this year. Economic growth in the whole region is going to be a minus. The major issue is how we are going to get out of minus growth quickly. Sri Lanka has no plan to get out it. Other countries in the region will have a positive growth while Sri Lanka might remain stuck in a minus growth. If we remain on that way for two or three years it is going to be difficult for us. We are behind Afghanistan as far as development is concerned. We have to act now.
Q You talked of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) agreement the other day and also about the Security Repurchase Agreement with Federal Reserve USA which you said the SLPP Government would sign. You wanted the Government to clarify if you were wrong. Have you had any response?
They can’t respond. The repurchase agreement operates when there is a temporary shortage of foreign exchange and you have to borrow funds from other Central banks. If you cannot repay you have to source your securities. We tell the Government not to dispose the country’s resources. The Government promised not to sign the MCC agreement. If they want to do it they should obtain a fresh mandate from the people. The Government should tell the country that it intends signing the MCC agreement and get a fresh mandate for it.
Q What is you party’s stand on the MCC agreement?
We have no issue with it. It’s for the country’s good. It’s the SLPP Government that said it was bad for the country. Not us.
Q There is an issue on as to when the new Parliament should meet and as to who should take that decision. What is your view ?
It’s the President who has to decide on it. Parliament can automatically act if the President doesn’t decide on when it should be convened.
Q Your party is carrying out an election campaign at a time when a large number of party members have left the UNP and contesting separately. Given such a situation do you think you can win a considerable amount of seats in Parliament?
We waited till COVID-19 was over to begin our campaign. In February itself it was predicted that COVID-19 would become a serious issue. Countries had to face it. Most of the other parties have no plans to deal with the crisis. However we took our time and prepared plans to pull the country out of the crisis. Therefore we are in a good position.
Q Do you think that the UNP can pose a challenge to Samagi Jana Balawegaya ?
We are contesting the election to form a Government and present our proposals to the people to make things better for the nation.
Q There were conflicts between Sir John and Dudley Senanayake and between J. R. Jayewardene and Dudley Senanayake. UNP leaders in the past resolved their conflicts in an amicable manner.
The first rift was between the late Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake and Prime Minister S. W. R. D Bandaranaike. The second rift was between Dudley Senanayake and Sir John Kotelawala. Dudley did not contest in 1956 and Sir John had to take over. Sir John later gave up and Dudley Senanayake took over again. J. R. Jayewardene had to go to courts in order to prevent his expulsion. Then there was a rift between Dudley Senanayake and Mr. R Premadasa and it was sorted out after Mr. Senanayake’s death. There was a rift between J . R. Jayewardene and Rukman Senanayake. There was another break up with Lalith Athulathmudali , Gamini Dissanayake and others. The party had gone through all these earlier.
We tell the Government not to dispose the country’s resources. The Government promised not to sign the MCC agreement. If they want to do it they should obtain a fresh mandate from the people. The Government should tell the country that it intends signing the MCC agreement and get a fresh mandate for it
Q However wasn’t those settled amicably?
They were not settled. Some of them started new parties, Very few were settled.
Q Have attempts been made to get those who have left the party to return?
They’re contesting separately and gone now.
Q There is speculation that some of those contesting under Samagi Jana Balawegaya will come back after the elections. There is also speculation that some of them are having discussions with the UNP?
People did discuss with us earlier
Q Is there any possibility of any one of them joining the UNP after the elections?
We have to face the election. We want UNP candidates elected. Not candidates from any other party. We have to ensure the victory of UNP candidates.
Q How do you see the UNP’s future?
We have a good future. It is only two parties which are contesting the election to form a Government. That is the SLPP and the UNP. I don’t know what SJB is trying to do. They are not contesting for power.
Q If SJB Leader Sajith Premadasa wants to reconcile even after the elections, is the UNP open for it?
We want to form a Government and want a majority in Parliament. We will talk to parties and see whether they want to work with us or not.