United People’s Freedom Alliance’s Mayoral candidate for the Dehiwala- Mount Lavinia Municipal Council Kesaralal Gunasekara in an interview with Daily mirror spoke about the progress of his campaign and presented his analysis on the upcoming elections.
QWhat is your impression of the campaign so far?
The election procedure has changed this time. Earlier, there was intra-party rivalry. Today, people can vote for the party of their choice. As a result, intra-party fighting is all gone. The best candidate can put forward his manifesto and get the support of the masses, who are ultimately going to gain.
There is a shift as far as voting is concerned. Traditionally, UNPers and SLFPers detested each other when it came to voting. By and large, we have had a good campaign. We have enough material. We have a good team. I am coming forward as the mayoral candidate. I have enough experience both in Parliament and the local administrative system. We are more equipped to handle local government issues than any other party.
QNow, the anti-UNP vote base has been divided. One group is contesting under the betel leaf and the other contests under the flower bud symbol. How will it affect the final outcome?
This is fundamentally a city. Many people are of the view that this will not have any bearing. Some of the people whom we met aren’t aware whether there is any other party. I must tell you that it isn’t easy to get a party and its symbol familiar with the people. In that context, I doubt the new party’s performance.
QYou are contesting for the second largest municipal council of Sri Lanka. What are the specific issues you have identified in the area?
There are so many issues. Main among them is the garbage issue. It’s a serious issue. If we set a date for the collection of waste, it has to be done as predetermined. So far, we haven’t been able to implement something of that nature. Once we secure power in the council, we intend to do something in this regard. Secondly, there are instances where people turn to the councils seeking solutions to the matters of their concern. Then, the municipal authorities direct them to take legal action. We need to have a departure from that practice. The judicial process is a costly exercise. What we plan is to create a situation where there is a committee to look into such concerns. After that, a decision can be taken regarding what to do.
QGoing by your interactions with the people during the canvassing process, are they merely concerned about the local issues or national issues?
They are very much concerned about local issues. I hardly came across anyone talking about the cost of living. May be, it is because this is a city area. People came up with issues like garbage disposal, street lighting, and sewerage disposal.
QBut the leaders of the main political forces always speak about national issues when campaigning for the elections. Some even ask people to see this as a referendum. What is your view?
This is an election for people to elect representatives to run their localities. You cannot ask people to forget about these matters. This is not a local election. You need a team.
QThe UNP and the SLFP are critical of each other. How will it affect the future of the Unity Government?
A similar question was directed to me at a recent TV talk show. It was attended by experts in the field of economics. One must understand that there is no other alternative. You have to go ahead whether you like it or not. As far the statements by any party threatening to form its own Government, I must say that they aren’t experienced enough in politics. There is no way the Government can be taken in this manner. The best thing is for the two parties to get together and work. You may have issues all over. You need to manage them all. We need to move in the correct direction. We need to understand that fighting each other is not going to provide the answer.
QDo you mean to say that the Unity Government should continue?
It has to run its full term. Both parties are looking forward to each other’s goals. The course of action should be to get together and see how we can take the country forward. So many people are coming up with theories as to what happened during the past few months. The local authorities aren’t for them. In fact, I detest certain politicians coming and talking at our meetings. They are talking nonsense. Some senior members of the party absolutely talk rubbish when they address our meetings. They must concentrate on local affairs.
QThe Dehiwala- Mount Lavinia Municipal Council has always been with the UNP barring on a few occasions. How do you see it this time?
There are two electorates falling under this municipal area. One is Dehiwala and the other Ratmalana. They are two contrasting electorates. They would not come out the same. One party may do better in Dehiwala and the other party in Ratmalana.
If you look at the results of the last elections, we were stronger in Ratmalana than in Dehiwala. That is why we could establish the administration.
- It isn’t easy to get a party and symbol familiar
- National Unity Govt. should continue as there is no other alternative- UPFA candidate for Dehiwala
- Garbage disposal, street lighting are key issues to be addressed
- New Election Law is better
- There is no intra-party rivalry
QDo you think it will work the same way this time?
Yes, we have a better team. We are much more equipped.
QFormer Mayor Danasiri Amaratunga is contesting from the other party. How will it affect the UPFA as a whole?
I have categorically said that the party is not going to be the strongest in the area.
QIn your view, the UPFA is the party to win?
Yes, it is.
QWhat is your assessment of the new election law?
The change is good. There is no intra-party fighting. Yet, the number of people to be elected is too big. It is too heavy.
QWhat are the pluses and minuses of the new election law as far as campaigning is concerned?
The advantage is that it is easy for us to drive a point. You go from house to house. You do not need to have massive meetings. It is easy to visit households in a limited area.