- Local authorities face gridlock in forming administration as a result
- New electoral system has positive features
- Dilemma in nominating female candidates
- Govt. should work for a general election
- SLPP will introduce fresh policies
- Lawmakers failed to ensure safety nets to avoid any gridlock
Former Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who spearheads the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP), speaks to Daily mirror about the way forward following the conclusion of local government polls and the present impasse of the government.
QHow do you look to future politics in the wake of the current electoral victory?
This is like a cricket match series. There are different kinds of matches. We have 20-20, one day and test matches. We have won the 20-20 game now. It is probably the most difficult one. Next we will have to face the Provincial Councils elections. Afterwards, we will have the Presidential or General election. We will face them according to a systematic plan.
There is public mistrust on the proposed Constitution. People feared the country would be destabilised. They voted against the alienation of national assets and curtailment of subsidies
QYou faced the election under a new system. What is your experience?
The initial part of the new electoral system was worked out by us during our time. Today, we are criticised for certain defects in it. In fact, we have to be credited for the positive features of it. We introduced the electoral ward system. We did away with preferential voting. This is a mixed system.
QIn most cases, the party that won has been unable to secure an absolute majority to establish the administration. What are your thoughts on this?
It is the duty of lawmakers to pave the way for smooth administration. They should make it a point to avoid any form of gridlock. That is to be kept in mind when evolving legislation. There were safety nets introduced when enacting the Proportional Representation System during the time of late President J.R. Jayewardene. The bonus seat is one such safety net meant to avoid any gridlock.
Another is the cutoff point. The present rulers did away with both of them. In the world, we find countries having both these safety nets. Or else, there is at least one of them. Sri Lanka is the only country to act regardless of both.
This is a serious gridlock. Not that alone, there is a gridlock in ensuring women representation. In fact, there are instances where the party that polled the second largest number of votes can block the formation of administration in the local authority concerned. For instance, the United National Party (UNP) as the second largest party for the Kaduwela Municipal Council got nine seats from the list. We did not get any from the list because we won the wards. The UNP has to nominate women to all nine slots from the list. One party is compelled to ensure women representation for the entire council. If the UNP does not act in this regard, we cannot form the administration. For a council, 25 per cent of slots should be filled with female candidates.
The UNP can do it in Kaduwela. Similarly, the SLPP can do the same in the Colombo and Negombo Municipal Councils. If we do not nominate our female representatives, the UNP cannot form the administration.
This is a transparent electoral system. It is a positive feature. It made way for a peaceful election. The election was conducted at a local, village level. Counting was also done locally.
The President’s party secured only 13 per cent of votes. Even the JVP suffered the same fate. It could not win even a single ward. The vote base of the TNA has also dwindled
QHow are you planning to form the administration in the councils you won?
People have given us a great responsibility. We act with responsibility. People were considerate about three aspects at this election. One is to elect a team of representatives representing people at a given local body. Also, this election was the chance for the government to get an evaluation report from people on its performance during the last three years. People also registered their protest on what the government is contemplating to do in the future. There is public mistrust on the proposed Constitution. People feared the country would be destabilised. They voted against the alienation of national assets and curtailment of subsidies.
QConfusion and uncertainty have taken over the central government after LG polls results were announced. How do you see it?
I mentioned the matters considered by people in rejecting this government. Some of them are directly relevant to the central administration. For the first time in history, people voted against the government at a local election. We won a bulk of councils defeating the party that is in power at the centre. The UNP assumed it could win as the ruling party, but it was proven wrong. There are instances where the ruling party resigns from governance.
When the British gave a verdict asking the ruling party to quit the European Union, the government resigned.
Ours is a party founded on the principles of Mahinda Chinthana. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is our iconic leader
QDoes it mean that the government should resign making way for a general election?
This is a situation that demands resignation of not only the government but also the President. I do not say it in that sense. But it is the wish of the people. The President’s party secured only 13 per cent of votes. Even the JVP suffered the same fate. It could not win even a single ward. The vote base of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA) has also dwindled.
QIt is not easy to get a parliamentary election at this hour because there has to be a resolution passed with a two-thirds majority. How do you press for it then?
Whatever the law might say, the government should respect the public opinion and take steps for an election.
For the first time in history, people voted against the government at a local election. We won a bulk of councils defeating the party that is in power at the centre. The UNP assumed it could win as the ruling party, but it was proven wrong
QHow challenging was it for you to form the SLPP?
There was a risk involved. No one in the joint opposition opposed it. Yet, there was a debate whether we could take such a risk. It was debated whether people were ready to accept a new party.
QHow do you live up to the aspirations of people?
We want to block the enactment of a new Constitution and the alienation of national assets. We have to fight for relief. Also, we should render this government politically fragile. If we can do these, it will be a victory for us.
QYou vowed to press for a sudden general election. How do you go for it?
The parliamentary group of the joint opposition and the guild of local government members have taken a decision in this regard. We will initiate necessary measures.
There is a gridlock in ensuring women representation. In fact, there are instances where the party that polled the second largest number of votes can block the formation of administration in the local authority concerned
QSLPP is yet to appoint its leader. Who will take up the leadership?
There are provisions in the Constitution for this purpose. We will have a convention and decide on it at the appropriate time. Ours is a party founded on the principles of Mahinda Chinthana. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is our iconic leader.
QYou were in power for more than ten years. Is there any policy change under the new political climate?
Yes. We have appointed a committee to work on these measures. It will coordinate with the general public. The government is creating economic issues every day.
QThe JO has decided to cooperate with the President to appoint Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva as the PM. Is there any chance of the SLPP joining hands with the SLFP again?
We have asked the government to stop all forms of treacherous activities. We have power at the local authorities but that alone isn’t sufficient to stop such actions. There is public enthusiasm. This is the time to urge the government to cast away its traitorous agenda. We will support a government that does not have any form of UNP representation.
We have asked the government to stop all forms of treacherous activities. We have power at the local authorities but that alone isn’t sufficient to stop such actions
QWill you review your policies on foreign affairs and the ethnic problem?
We will have a look at everything.
QHow do you intend to review your foreign policy?
There will be minimal change to our foreign policy. We can direct our foreign policy. The Tamil people believe there is an ethnic problem. We have to work for the elimination of it.