Shaveen Bandaranayake, the son of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake who was caught in a whirlwind of controversy, is contesting at the upcoming General Election as an independent candidate.
QYou don’t hail from a political family and you don’t have a political background. So why did you decide to enter politics at this juncture?
I believe that the youth has a major role to play in politics and how and which direction this country is taken in. After all, it is my generation who will have to ultimately take responsibility for the future of the country and we are the ones who will have to live with the consequences of actions taken now. I have witnessed that there are many issues at hand but before we can even start to address them, I believe we need to elect the right kind of people to represent the citizens. That is the reason why I decided to enter the political fray.
QNow we know that you are the son of former Chief Justice Shirani Bandaranayake. Aren’t you entering politics riding on your mother’s popularity?
If I was attempting to use my mother or anyone else’s fame to gain power, I would have contested from a major political party. But as you know, I am stepping in as an independent candidate with the objective of educating the public on how to elect deserving and competent candidates to Parliament. So I am definitely not riding on anyone’s influence or popularity to get into the Parliament.
QWhat are your main priorities if you are elected to Parliament as a people’s representative?
My goals are three-fold. First is to prevent unsuitable people from being given nominations by political parties. This can be done by establishing a minimum level of education and having the hopeful candidates take an aptitude test before nominations are given. The Elections Commissioner should also call upon a Police and Grama Seva report on each candidate.
The second one is to empower the Elections Commissioner to control the conduct of candidates during election times. Here, I want to especially highlight various donations given to parties or individuals. Provisions need to be brought in so that the public and the Parliament know exactly how much was spent on campaigns and where the money has come from.
Third is to have a mechanism where there is an annual or bi-annual review on each of the Parliament members that are elected. This should be done through an independent commission. The parliamentarians should be reviewed on whether or not they have fulfilled their election promises and on their conduct. We need to have a substantial ‘right of recall’ mechanism. Currently, the citizens can give candidates a mandate to get into Parliament but the people should also be given the democratic power to recall those who are unfit to serve in Parliament. In other words, society needs a mechanism to revoke the mandate given to politicians if they are deemed unsuitable to serve the people. This is difficult to implement because politicians do not want these regulatory and monitoring mechanisms to exist but we have to start somewhere.
QDo you have any other goals that have to do with the major issues of the country such as health, education, youth development, economic development, etc?
Actually, my main focus is the three points that I highlighted before. I don’t consider myself a politician; I recognize myself as a public servant and a citizen of the country. As a twenty-four year old, it is not my place to make various promises to the people saying I am going to address certain issues. That is not within my capacity as yet. It is a catch-22 situation where I first need to get elected to Parliament. But I feel that my suggestions are something that any citizen would want and how I am going to do it is very clearly stated.
QWe know that some of the independent candidates support major political parties or individuals. Are you also aligned to any major party even though you are contesting independently?
No, absolutely not. I am not aligned to any particular party but what I am saying can be applied to every party. No party can reject what I am trying to bring in because then they are indirectly saying that they are against clean, competent and deserving individuals coming into the Parliament. So my main goals are applicable to all parties.
QOne of the main issues concerning this election is the question who the next Prime Minister should be. As an independent candidate, who do you think should be the next Prime Minister of the country?
Since I am an independent candidate, I cannot name any person because then I would be indirectly supporting another candidate. What I can say is that if I am to select a PM, it should be someone who has the capacity and the competency to take this country forward, someone who has a good track record and has proven that he or she can develop the country economically.
QAs an independent candidate are you confident of being elected and do you think you will be able to make an impact?
At this point, all major political parties have spent large amounts of money to get their message across. Promotions done by major political parties are very prominently out there. However, most of them have highlighted what they want to do but not how they are going to do it.
For an independent candidate with a zero budget it is somewhat difficult to get the message across but I think I have highlighted what I want to do as well as how I am going to do it. So it is really up to the citizen to decide on whether they want me or not. This will show how many people I have managed to reach.
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