Minister of Power and Energy and General Secretary of the United National Front For Good Governance and Colombo District candidate Patali Champika Ranawaka spoke to the on the upcoming general elections.
Q On what basis have you all joined hands with the UNP headed by Ranil Wickremesinghe?
Even during the past, a party has always been a raft to us. Even Lord Buddha has said that the Philosophy of Buddhism should be used as a raft and that it shouldn’t be something that you carry on your shoulders. Our aim is to win objectives and to this end, a party will be a raft. When we joined Mahinda Rajapaksa and the UPFA it was in order to win our objectives - which were to protect the unitary character of the State and to defeat terrorism. Today, the main objective is to create a stable and peaceful governance structure and to reinvigorate the economy which was left in shambles. In order to do this, we have to create a stable political infrastructure and it was these objectives and aims that led us to enter into an agreement with the United National Party.
Q You have been very critical of Ranil Wickremesinghe and the UNP in the past even going to the extent of likening him to Don Juan Dharmapala. The UNP’s tilt towards federalism and the ceasefire agreement which you all heavily criticized were also examples of there being a core difference in ideology weren’t they?
There was a time when people said that terrorism could never be defeated. But it was defeated. Accordingly we not only defeated terrorism militarily but also the ideology and the politics of those who thought that terrorism could not be defeated. We don’t have any animosity towards that those who supported the cause or believed that it could never be defeated because in fact today we have emerged the victors. Terrorism is over and the terrorists have lost their battle. The next point is that Mr. Wickremesinghe has accepted the unitary nature of the State. It’s both on the national pledge that he signed the manifesto. The commitment to a unitary State has been accepted even by President Maithripala Sirisena. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa has accepted this fact - about the unitary nature of the State. In fact it is we who brought the SLFP and the UNP to accept and adhere to the principle regarding the unitary nature of the State. The previous agreement, the Liam Fox agreement between Chandrika and Ranil was an international agreement, or acceptance. Never was this acceptance and adherence driven through national forces except for the agreement that we drove this country towards. The unitary nature of the State is a national pledge today and once that has been agreed upon there is really no core difference.
Q The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has been propagating a Federal State. If we are to assume that your alliance wins a majority and are to form a government; will this propagation of the TNA be an issue in obtaining their support to form a government?
The ITAK (Illankai Thamil Arasu Katchchi), since its inception in 1948, have called for a Federal State. So it isn’t something that happened recently. SJV Chelvanayagam’s main proposal was for a Federal State. Thereafter in 1976, the Vadukoddai resolution went a step further and called for a separate State. The TNA contested the 2010 elections also on the basis of a similar ideology and that’s what they are doing even now. The way I see it, this is only a pipedream - something that is never going to become a reality, just like the JVP’s call for a socialist State. They have the right to propagate such pipedreams. I don’t think we would need the support of the TNA to form a government but there would be times during which we all could work together with the TNA on issues of national importance just like we did during the 19A. I think they would support the practical steps to strengthen democracy in the country, it won’t be only them, but even many elements from the SLFP would support these steps.
Q Minister, there is a notion among the Sinhala Buddhists that you betrayed them; following your defection and support to President Maithripala Sirisena. How do you perceive this?
Who calls me that? There is not a single person who says that, except for those fake Sinhala Buddhists who hover around MR. All those who are with MR are fake Sinhala Buddhists. None of these people was ever able to take on the LTTE. None of them took up the fight for a unitary State. It was all our endurance. During the past decade, there were three crucial turning points for the country. When the Mavilaru Tank was captured where were these so-called Sinhala Buddhists? What were they doing? Not a single soul was there. Show me a single person who came to the Pettah Bodhiya and joined a death fast in order to defeat the federal line that the then governments were taking or acceding to? Show me a single Sinhala Buddhist among them who went to the Dalada Maligawa against the P-TOM’s proposed by MR. Can you show me a single person amongst these so-called Sinhala Buddhists who was there in flesh, blood or ideology during these times? We were the ones who delivered the freedom to the country. We have always set the course for this country. The third turning point is the establishment of democracy in this country, and it was we who took that decision and steered the country towards defeating a regime which was considered unshakable. The educated Sinhala Buddhists went to the polling booth and voted against MR because of us, despite the hysteria whipped up by him. The educated Sinhala Buddhists have always been with us, not with these so-called Sinhala Buddhists who are in fact not the real Sinhala Buddhists. You would see an answer to your question on August 17. Sinhala Buddhists are compassionate people and not those who shout their throats hoarse and thump their chests calling themselves Sinhala Buddhist while driving hysteria in the country. We have spoken against injustice and would continue to do so, but that is with some sort of intellect - not in order to drive nonsense through to the common people.
Q Hasn’t there been a reverse in the swing that brought President Sirisena into power, following seven months of the UNP-led government being in control?
No, I don’t think anything of that sort has happened. It is State power that determines a lot of these factors and I think we can estimate that around 20% of the vote swings according and due to State power. I am certain that over 20% of those who voted for MR during the Presidential Election would shift towards our alliance. The best example is the General Elections of 1993, when the UNP had State control. They obtained 3.5 million votes while the Peoples’ Alliance led by Chandrika Bandaranaike obtained 3.8 million votes. Just thereafter a Presidential election was called for with Gamini Dissanayake contesting from the UNP and Chandrika Bandaranaike contesting from the PA. If you look at the gap in the voting, the PA got 4.6 million, while the UNP, despite the sympathy wave created due to the death of Gamini Disssanayake obtained only 2.9 million votes. So there were 900,000 votes which were cast for the UNP that were cast in favour of the PA. I am certain that over 20% of the vote that went to MR would be cast in favour of our alliance. Apart from this, there are many people with new hopes for the future, too who will join hands with us. MR and his cohorts belong to the past. There is no point talking about the principles of the MR camp because it all rests on the well-being of their family and cronies. This Sinhala Buddhist story that you spoke of was also a complete lie, and if we are to take the Colombo District, the UNP will win every single seat in the district.
Q The Mahinda Rajapaksa camp has consistently maintained that a serious threat to national security has emerged. It has also continually said there would be instability and turmoil if the UNP-led coalition was elected. Going by the past six months, isn’t there some truth to this assertion?
There is not an iota of truth in this. In fact, if MR comes into power, there would be instability and turmoil in this country. The main reason would be the isolation of Sri Lanka from the rest of world. The stupid foreign policy of the MR regime led this country to the brink of an economic turmoil. We lost foreign investments, the GSP plus, and there would be chances of sanctions being imposed on this country. All because of the foolish foreign policy practised before and intended to be practised by a MR-led government. Because of this we would have to mortgage ourselves to certain foreign elements, and that would be the biggest threat to our national security and sovereignty. The other issue is the emergence of the LTTE. In the event MR is elected, they would become stronger because of the way he and his government operate. Today the LTTE elements, which were previously with the TNA have been isolated and are in fact out of the TNA. The separatist elements within the diaspora have also now become silent. You would remember that when the former President went to the UK to give a lecture at Oxford, thousands of them protested against his visit and he had to turn back. They tried to muster up the same crowd during the recent visit of President Sirisena but there were only a handful of protestors. Further it is not only the LTTE that put the security of the people of this country at risk. There was a massive cartel of extortionists that functioned during the previous regime. The extorting ring had spanned across the economic divide and had reached the street vendors as well as the millionaires. People were abducted, tortured and murdered, professionals were killed or had to flee the country for their safety. Has there been a single incident of this nature reported after January 8? No. We can only assume that all these things happened with the knowledge and at the behest of the Rajapaksa regime, because nothing else explains the sudden cessation of this activity following the change of government. The pilots of this culture of impunity have been proved beyond reasonable doubt.
Q The UNP has always been viewed as a Pro-Western, if I may use the term ‘pro- imperialist’ party. Do you think this perception among the masses of the county has changed?
The UNP has to transform itself. It also has to progress along with the rest of the world which has seen an enormous volume of progress during the past few years, technologically and ideologically. When President Jayawardena was in power he had a pro-American foreign policy and this resulted in India and the Soviet Union pushing Sri Lanka to unwanted misery and disaster. We have to follow a non-aligned foreign policy. The entire world is looking at Asia and it’s our region that decides the course that the world takes in the future. If we are to take a simple example: Indonesia could become one of the top ten economies in the world within the next decade or so. In fact the centre of energy would shift from the Arab world to Indonesia. This is what is taking place in the rest of the world and we have to align ourselves in line with these developments. If you look at the free market, innovation, trade, technology - we are witnessing rapid developments and the catalysts for these developments have been countries in our region. Even America is looking towards Asia and has based its policies on this part of the world. We have to always be in line with these developments and that is why we, as a country, should always propagate a strict non-aligned foreign policy.
"We are the opinion makers and all progressive forces in this country, including the youth always understood the relevance, significance and the depth through which we articulate"
Q Many analyze your political behaviour, especially on social media maintain that you are a mover from one place to the other in order to help sustain yourself; instead of a principled switch in stance. If you look at your political history beginning in 1987, isn’t there a credence to this assertion?
I have not moved from one place to the other; instead they have all moved towards us. They have all been brought towards accepting our ideologies. Just because 3 or 4 of those who are paid by the Rajapaksa clan speak this kind of nonsense that this country doesn’t believe. The educated Sri Lankan is aware of our struggle and how we had conquered them. What is important is to look at what happened at the places we moved to. That is what is important. When this country was on its bended knees in Mavilaru, and MR was giving money to the LTTE, it was we who drove him to defeat terrorism. How many people opposed us joining hands with the UPFA but wasn’t it we who at the end set the course for the resulting victories of this country? When we joined the swan, wasn’t it we who shifted the people towards defeating an undemocratic and corrupt regime? Look at what we have achieved because of our shifts. Each and every alliance and/or party that we have shifted towards has always resulted in victory for this country and that is the most important thing. Society has always stood with us. We are the opinion makers and all progressive forces in this country, including the youth always understood the relevance, significance and the depth through which we articulate. That is what you have to look at. Even during this election, there is no doubt that we will triumph over these corrupt forces and help build a progressive and vibrant State with solid and unshakable infrastructure in all systems of its democratic institutions. We have and will continue to be the compass through which the direction of this country is guided.
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