Blocking the formation of alliance on August 5 Grave Blunder - Patali Champika Ranawaka

29 August 2019 12:57 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Megapolis and Western Development Minister Patali Champika Ranawaka, in an interview with Daily Mirror, speaks on the present predicament of the United National Party (UNP). He shares his views on how to break the gridlock triggered by the internal crisis of the UNP.

  • UNP should immediately form an alliance
  • UNP needs economic and social transformation
  • Those who block will realize its gravity by December 9, 2019, or January 2020


Q There is internecine warfare of the UNP. As an alliance partner, how do you look at it? 

It is now clear that the Presidential Election will come first. It will be conducted by the end of November or at the beginning of December. It means the country will be geared up for electioneering from October onwards after calling for nominations. Before that, the country is in need of some urgent reforms to incorporate. After the Easter Sunday attack, Muslims live with fear in their minds in interacting with the rest of the communities. They had suffered segregation in society to some extent even by the time of the attack. It was exacerbated by the bomb attack. Likewise, the non-Muslim societies started being sceptical about Muslims. If we go for an election under the current circumstances without addressing this problem, it will reflect in the final results. All in all, it will be difficult for us to get a positive electoral verdict in the current scenario. We have to introduce reforms so that people can live without fear.

We are facing a new form of terrorism. The Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) is the only legal tool we have in countering it. It is a law introduced way back in 1978. Today, terrorists adopt different tactics. We need new counter-terrorism measures. In addition to new laws, we need to upgrade our military to tackle the internet-based propaganda activities of these terrorist outfits. This is not a war to be waged with cannons installed in the Vanni jungle. We need to counter money-laundering and terrorist financing. We must have a common law for the whole country to be applied across the cultural divide. Whatever religious or ethnic group we belong to, there are universally accepted human rights. Today, the concept of humanism has evolved as a significant milestone in human history. We have to accept reality whatever is mentioned in religious texts. We have to accept what is proven through empirical facts. There has to be one common law for all Sri Lankans. If we need a secure future for our country, we should stop encoding cultural elements as laws of the country.

The UNP needs both economic and social transformation. The UNP should absorb leaders from different segments of society to steer it. We are in a smart age. We need smart leaders. If the UNP fails to do it, it will be reduced to a nonentity.

Q Does the government have political strength for it?

Both the government and the opposition should get together in this case. These reforms have to be enacted in the same manner the parties voted the 19th Amendment to the Constitution into law. A handful of Mullahs may be opposed to it. But, we, as a society, should take steps.

Q But, the parties may be reluctant to do it fearing that they will lose their vote bases within the minority communities. What is your view?

There is nothing like that. At the last General Elections, some had even sought help from Mohamed Zahran to canvas votes. Some sought electoral support even from LTTE leader Velupillai Prabhakaran in the past. They hinder the forward march of society. But, we need to forge ahead as a country. Unless we evolve common laws, there will be thousands of Zahrans. Today, Muslims have been cornered in society. Their businesses have collapsed. Muslim professionals find it difficult to perform their jobs. Therefore, an overwhelming majority of Muslims support these reforms.

As for the presidential election, one side is clear about its candidate. That is the political camp dependent on a certain family which flaunts its enormous influence on it and determines its policies. It is backward thinking, but it has a following in the country. On the other side, we have the democratic camp. Yet, people have questions about its delivery on issues during the past four and a half years. People feel repulsive about it. There is a group in a rush to choose the candidate. What is to be done first is the formation of a democratic alliance. Then, an action plan has to be evolved to be implemented by this alliance to build the country. Afterwards, we need a collegial leadership. Those with tainted names should not be included here.

The UNP should form this alliance forthwith, and announce its policies immediately.

In 2015, we only talked about political reforms to be carried upon election to office, and it was the biggest blunder. We gave a carte blanche for the UNP to decide on economic and social reforms for the country. However, they (the UNP) did not contribute to further economic growth or a solution to the fiscal management crisis. The growth of per capita income from 2015 to 2019 is only US $ 102. It means the economy has been stagnant in financial terms. We are in a critical fiscal crisis. It is a fiscal cliff, I would say. During the past six months, the State revenue stood at Rs.890 billion. We expected revenue amounting to Rs.1,200 billion, though. We need Rs.1,100 billion for debt servicing alone.

Q The UNP seems to be in disarray being unable to form the alliance. How do you overcome it first?

On the one hand, some individuals and groups have overrated themselves in this instance. On the other hand, there is a brewing leadership crisis in the UNP. More than anything else, the UNP has been unable to transform itself. Most of its stalwarts dwell on their 1980 policies.
The UNP needs both economic and social transformation. The UNP should absorb leaders from different segments of society to steer it. We are in a smart age. We need smart leaders. If the UNP fails to do it, it will be reduced to a nonentity.

Q You have only a limited period for the Presidential Election. Is it practically possible to do all these things within such a short time?

In politics, a phenomenal change can happen within a few days in an unexpected manner. The political dynamics changed within a single day after the attack led by Mohamed Zahran.

Q In 2015, your party played a pivotal role in electing the present government. What will you do this time?

We stand for social and economic transformation. We stress four aspects here. We need to move for sustainable development. We should brace for water crisis to be triggered by climate change. Next, we should opt for the knowledge-based economy. Thirdly, social transformation is needed based on meritocracy, honesty and pragmatism. This is what we have to talk about rather than making empty rhetoric such as free shoes for schoolchildren, subsidized fertilizer for farmers etc. It may be possible to capture power by giving populist promises. But, the country cannot be developed by doing so.

Q Are you in agreement with the formation of an alliance with the UNP under the current circumstances?

We are ready for an alliance. Yet, it is not something to be imposed on us. We will not accept any alliance that is being imposed on us.

Q What do you mean to say?

Some UNPers try to palm off their internal problems on us. There is internecine warfare. Then, the UNP should resolve it internally. They all should bear in mind one thing. One faction of the UNP blocked the formation of an alliance on August 5. By December 9 or at the beginning of January in 2020, they will realize in retrospect the gravity of the blunder they committed. Maybe, the UNP feels the importance of individual leadership. It is fair by them. The country has witnessed both a one-man show and one –family show. Time is ripe for one nation show.

We stand for social and economic transformation. We stress four aspects here. We need to move for sustainable development. We should brace for water crisis to be triggered by climate change

Q Individual personalities matter a lot in politics. Don’t you agree?

They do. But, there is always a limit to it. There is a limit to what an individual can achieve. In the United States or in the world, we don’t find epic personalities as such.

Q What do you think of Minister Sajith Premadasa as a prospective candidate?

He is a young political leader. He can bring about a certain change. Yet, he needs to have a proper team. One thing is that he should remember this is no longer the repetition of his father R. Premadasa’s era in the 1980s.

Q It means the Premadasa era is no longer valid?

Yes, the Premadasa era is not valid. Likewise, the Jayewardene era is not valid. Also, the Sirimavo or the Bandaranaike eras are not valid any more. The Rajapaksa era has also been rendered invalid.

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