Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, in an interview with Daily Mirror, speaks about the next Presidential election. He also responds to the question whether he will come forward as the candidate and about his participation in a programme at Harvard University in the United States. He shared the following:-
- SLFP is dead now
- UNP can never form a Govt single-handedly in future
- I work for the victory of policies, not individuals
Q You played a pivotal role in the installation of this government. Its term has now come to the tail end. How do you look at it retrospectively?
The government ensured openness, dispelled fear and empowered society. These were the urgent requirements of this country’s society. The ad hoc powers vested with executive presidency were pruned. There was a democratic environment ensured in the governing system.
Be that as it may, the government failed to have a clear-cut economic path. People yearned for a political system where meritocracy was rewarded. That is one downside of the government. Though the leaders of the two main parties joined hands, no such unity took place among the rank and file. The political cultures of the main parties did not undergo structural transformations.
The urgent reforms in certain sectors were not realized. We made the judiciary independent. Yet, we failed to make it efficient and impartial enough. There is a backlog of 270,000 cases in the judicial system. It takes 17.5 years on average for court to dispense with a case. We cannot expect justice from a system like this. There was no legal redress in regard to cases related to mega frauds. The judicial service was not made efficient enough. It became apparent that powerful and influential individuals could escape the legal web.
In our country, certain professional groups maintain their own mafias. Society suffers as a result. In 2016, there were 1410 demonstrations and protest rallies. Investment is unrealistic in the absence of industrial peace. There is a drop in the use of credit facilities offered by the banking system during the past few years.
Professionals with technological skills should join politics
Q If it is a failure in that sense during the last three years, would there be any success in the future with the latest Cabinet reshuffle?
I don’t say the government is a total failure. Today, anybody can discuss and debate this failure because of the democratic atmosphere created by the government. Otherwise, media men were subjected to assaults on the roads in the past. In fact, there is democratic freedom in excessive form.
Q Do you mean to say that this freedom has to be regulated?
I don’t mean regulation. Yet, the country needs stable governance. If people get onto the street for every trivial matter and media exaggerates fake information with vested interests, society will be led in
Q Will you anticipate any economic revival within the next one and-a-half years?
We have three systems of governance in the world today. One is scientific governance. Governance has to be done in a scientific manner. It means the government should scientifically identify economic targets and priorities to be realized, subject to a proper review mechanism. As for education, the government should identify whether it should prioritize investment in primary education, secondary education, vocational training, tertiary education or research and development. Then, we have to do a background study on the area identified and implement. We should decide scientifically whether we should build electronic classrooms or distribute tabs among schoolchildren. That is the scientific method.
Then, there is democratic governance. Here, the governing side, along with the approval of the opposition if possible, identifies priority areas- for example, education, highways etc- in a democratic manner. If the majority of people want highways, the government goes for it albeit it is needed absolutely or not in scientific perspective. It all depends on the democratic will of people.
The third one is ad hoc governance as I call it. Here, you find the implementation of fancy ideas of those in power.
In Sri Lanka, apart from the 1970-75 and the 1978-94 governments, there had always been ad hoc governance. The two governments, I mentioned first, tried to follow democratic governance whether we like or not. There has never been scientific governance in our country.
Q Do you advocate the scientific governance?
Yes, I stress that this country needs scientific governance.
Q You recently attended a workshop at Harvard University in the United States. It is a programme dedicated for topnotch political leaders across the globe. What do you feel about your selection?
It is the biggest university in the world. It is a powerful seat of learning in areas such as finances, business studies and politics. The world leaders from John F. Kennedy to Barak Obama have studied there. Even the current Singaporean Prime Minister had studied there. A number of Sri Lankan leaders have also studied there. President Maithripala Sirisena also went there once. I was able to learn how the countries that matter to us in the world are governed.
Q With such an idea in mind, do you harbour any plan to become the President of this country?
A lot of people say various things to sling mud at us. For anyone to become the President, more than 51 percent of voters should cast their ballots at an election in his or her favour. Those hailing from the background of family rule cannot govern this country in the future. Likewise, those, who advocate cronyism, also cannot run the country. Anyone, who can’t read the pulse of people , cannot take this country forward even by an inch. We tested all. We found both family rule, and cronyism. Now, we need scientific governance driven by meritocracy. The world is headed towards the fourth industrial revolution now. The country can be run by a political leadership that commands technological knowledge. The general public has to understand it. Once they understand it, they will decide who should be the President. Otherwise, some people can day-dream about becoming the President. Yet, they cannot take the country forward.
I don’t say the government is a total failure. Today, anybody can discuss and debate this failure because of the democratic atmosphere
Q Somebody has to come forward as the Presidential Candidate for people to vote?
Yes, people have to vote for him to become the President. All the main political parties and forces have to back him.
Q If these forces choose you as the candidate, are you ready to take it up?
That depends on the circumstances unfolding in the future. I have proved that I am not a person wasting public money. I have been financially -efficient in running whatever ministry assigned to me. I have managed all of them scientifically. I am a person bent on ensuring victories for the policies I cherish. Otherwise, I am not working for my individual gains. I stood for the defeat of LTTE. For that, I worked to elect Mahinda Rajapaksa as President to achieve it.
Q Are you advocating a model similar to the one adopted by China?
China is a good example. When Deng Xiaoping assumed duties as the President, the cadres of the Community Party, involved in the revolution, had been assigned ministerial responsibilities. Deng Xiaoping had a departure from it. He infused professionals to run ministries. Even among the professionals, he chose engineers.
We inherited a political culture from the British that law professionals should be in politics. But, the countries that made giant strides in economic gains chose professionals with technological skills- medical professionals, engineers, architects, valuers and accountants etc. Such professionals can direct the course of economy. Asian countries outsmart the US and the UK in the modern era.
Q You said professionals with technological skills should be allowed to run the country. You are an engineer-cum politician. Does it mean that you are the most eligible person among the current lot?
I don’t say I am the most eligible person. There can be enough and more qualified people around. The brightest students who get through the G.C.E. O/Level Exam choose science and math streams for their A/level studies in the hope of becoming doctors or engineers. How many of them represent the Cabinet today? I ask this question. There is a strong body of professionals in society. They should be brought to politics.
Q In 2015, the diverse political forces were brought under one umbrella to stand up to the then government. How applicable is that political formula for the next presidential election?
One thing is clear. People are not happy merely because there is road development and city beautification. Ours is a middle income country. The middle class is the main political force of Sri Lanka. The mainstream political parties are now devoid of their traditional strength. Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) which won the local government elections got only 40% of votes, the UNP only 29%. A large vote base remains outside the two main parties. The middle class did not recognize the much hyped development work of the Rajapaksa rule.
The defeat of the Rajapaksa rule is interpreted as a phenomenon created by Tamil and Muslim voters. It is not the case. Only the middle-class voters unseated that rule. President Maithripala Sirisena won the Kotte electorate in Colombo with a majority of 10,000 votes despite the fact it is the largest beneficiary of development work initiated by the Rajapaksa rule. The middle-class, along with professionals, did not accept that form of development work.
Q At the election conducted on February 10 this year, the SLPP led by Mahinda Rajapaksa won the local areas such as Kotte, Kaduwela and Homagama where the middle-class is concentrated. How did it happen?
MR hadn’t been able to increase the number of votes polled by him at the last Presidential Election. He has got the votes that remained with him since then. That is all. There is no improvement from that.
New political agenda is needed for these parties to resurrect themselves and stand to the Rajapaksa-led political force
Q Then, how did SLPP get 80,000 votes from Homagama whereas the UNP got only 30,000?
It is a problem of the UNP. The UNP did not realize the mandate given to it. Some UNPers had callous disregard for it. UNP deal makers, driven by political greed, made it a business for amassing wealth. People responded with a thundering slap to it at the election. The UNP made three mistakes. The UNP failed to maintain a clean government in keeping with the mandate. Secondly, the UNP paid scant regards to the development needs at village level. Thirdly, it failed to identify the infrastructure needs in areas of energy supply, water supply and transport, and make investments accordingly.
I have put forward a programme of work to be implemented in view of the next elections. That is aimed at bringing together the 3.6 million vote base of the UNP and the 1.4 million vote base of President Sirisena while winning over the confidence of the middle class.
It is a fallacy that the UNP can ever form a government singlehandedly. It will never happen in the future. The SLFP is not in a position to field its own candidate. The party is politically dead. The UNP is a party now dying off. A new political agenda is needed for these parties to resurrect themselves and stand to the Rajapaksa-led political force.
Q How crucial are the minority communities’ role at the future elections?
The Rajapaksas created a bogus sense of insecurity among the majority community. It was made through allegations such as the victimization of war heroes and the release of LTTE cadres from jail. The Rajapaksa government released 12260 LTTE cadres. This government did not release even a single LTTE cadre with charges served against him. There are 30 army personnel in custody for reasons such as their alleged involvement in the assassination of Lasantha Wickramatunga, assault on Keith Noyahr etc. No one has been taken to task for incidents involving the war.