A software engineer from Monash University, Australia and a Constitutional lawyer Udaya Prabhath Gammanpila is a forerunner if not the key contender for the post of chief minister of the Western Provincial Council. The Legal Adviser of the JHU, Gammanpila who had been the Western Provincial Minister of Agriculture, Agrarian Development, Irrigation, Trade and Environment of the last council had been in the forefront of the modern nationalist movement of Sri Lanka for the past two decades or so.
Our goal is to correct the government and make it more receptive. There is a contract between the government and the people, the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ election manifesto. So we are all duty-bound to ensure that the government implements it
Q: In the recent past, the JHU had many grievances with the government over certain issues such as the heroin issue and the casino issue. Taking this into consideration, why did the JHU join the UPFA? Wouldn’t it have been better for the JHU to stand alone at the elections?
Not really. Overall, this government has been very progressive in many ways. This government defeated terrorism which went on for three decades and ensured that it would not raise its ugly head again. It successfully faced the international pressures mounted by the western superpowers. The government has done well in terms of infrastructure development and poverty alleviation. So the government’s positive aspects outnumber the negative aspects. Therefore, we have decided to stick to the government and negate the negatives.
The objective of the opposition is to tarnish the government’s image in order to topple them. But our goal is to correct the government and make it more receptive. There is a contract between the government and the people, the ‘Mahinda Chintana’ election manifesto. So we are all duty-bound to ensure that the government implements it.
Q: As one of the most experienced politicians contesting the upcoming PC elections, how do you plan to lead UPFA into victory?
Frankly, we don’t need many plans. There is no threat whatsoever from the opposition. Our victory is assured. What we are trying to do is increase the margin of the victory to send a message to the international community.
In order to do that, we have been explaining to the people how beneficial this government is to the country in comparison to the opposition. If you are going to topple the government, you need to find a better alternative for the current government. And the simple truth is that there is no viable alternative to this government.
Q: Don’t you think the JHU is strong enough on its own to be a viable alternative to the present regime?
No, not at all. The JHU is a party based on Buddhist principles and ideologies. We should know our own strengths and capabilities. We are not strong enough to form a government. Unfortunately some political parties, without knowing their capacity have tried to establish a government on their own and have disappeared from the political sphere altogether.
But the JHU have become an essential part of this government. If we had been in the opposition, we would have been shouting slogans on the streets, without obtaining any results. Instead, we have effectively contributed to this government’s forward march. When the government has gone off-track, we have intervened and brought the government on the right path. We couldn’t have made such an impact if we were in the opposition.
If the opposition is able to prove they have had a stronger impact and done more for the people, when compared to the JHU, then we are ready to join them.
Q: Have you been officially declared as the chief ministerial candidate for the UPFA from the Western Province?
No. no such official statement has been made and I have not aspired for such a position either. There was such a rumour circulating but I have in no way contributed to it. I don’t waste my time trying to attract votes claiming that I am the CM candidate. I expect people to vote for me because of the service I have done for the people and because of my vision for the future. It is up to the President to decide on that.
Q: Some are of the view that PCs are a ‘white elephant’, meaning that they are a useless unit in the administrative system of the country. Do you share this view?
We have to admit that PCs have done a service to the people. However, they are not an essential element to the administration of the country. Most importantly, the PC system would pave way for separatism. This is why JHU is against the PC system.
Q: So you are contesting in the very system that your party is trying to abolish. Isn’t this a conflict of interest?
No, there is no contradiction at all. Whether we like it or not, as long as it exists, we have to be a part of it. Furthermore, a lot of important subjects such as education, health, local government, agriculture and industrial development are vested with the provincial councils. So if we are to serve the people in these areas, we have no choice but to be a part of the system. In order to make the change we desire, we need to live within the system. So, while I stand for the abolition of PC, as long as PCs exist, we have to work in it.
So if we are to serve the people in these areas, we have no choice but to be a part of the system. In order to make the change we desire, we need to live within the system. So, while I stand for the abolition of PC, as long as PCs exist, we have to work in it
Q: Do you believe that certain standards and prerequisites should be introduced to maintain the quality of candidates contesting in the elections?
Regardless of your profession and other demographical factors, if you have the essential ingredients of a politician, then you are qualified to enter the political arena. What is this criterion? Firstly, anyone who is aspiring to become a politician should be sensitive to the suffering and the problems of the general public. And they should be intelligent enough to find solutions to these issues. They should also be brave enough to implement these solutions. Fourthly, a politician should possess the managerial skills to supervise and run the government. Finally, he should have a fair understanding about international and local trends. Some people do possess these qualities and some do not.
Q: What are your thoughts about women’s participation in politics?
I am glad to see more women entering politics. Around 55 percent of the population are female. Unfortunately, they are under-represented in public assemblies such as the parliament, provincial councils and local councils. So we should encourage more women to participate in politics. Only then will we be able to understand their grievances and aspirations.
Q: There are many allegations about election law violations and that there is no chance of a free and fair election. What are your comments about this situation?
We must appreciate the Election Commissioner for his unprecedented attempt to implement election laws to the dot. As a person who has stuck to all election laws, I am glad about the Election Commissioner’s efforts.
I am not saying that there are no violations at all but they are far more insignificant when compared to the incidents which have taken place during previous elections.
Q: How do you think the government should be handling the upcoming Geneva conference? Do you believe that they are on the right path with their foreign policy?
If Sri Lanka had listened to the US and declared a ceasefire at the tail-end of the war, we would not have faced these issues with the western superpowers. However, we would not have been able to defeat terrorism either.
Now the USA has two problems. Firstly, they are ashamed of themselves because Sri Lanka – a tiny, poor nation – defeated the most powerful terrorist organisation in the world in the span of Thirty years, while the USA, even with the latest technology, the biggest army and ample resources failed to defeat the Taliban in the Afghanistan for more than 10 years. That is why they link war crime charges to our victory, to devalue us.
Secondly, Sri Lanka did not listen to the USA, France and UK calls to declare a ceasefire. Unless they punish Sri Lanka for defying their directive, they will not be able to maintain their grip over the world.
Pix by Waruna Wanniarachchi