By Chathushika Wijeyesinghe
A UNPer for 25 years from the Gampola area, Sarath Gamini Hettiarachchi who was also holding the prestigious position of the Mayor of the Gampola Municipal Council recently crossed over to the UPFA government. While insisting that he continues to be a UNPer Mr. Hettiarachchi says that he will support President Mahinda Rajapaksa to win the upcoming election. In the following interview he explains why he crossed over to the government.
Why did you decide to join UPFA, being a strong UNPer?
I have been an organiser for the United National Party (UNP) for twenty five years. First I was the organiser for Nawalapitiya and later I was appointed as the organiser for Gampola. I was appointed as the Mayor of the Gampola Municipal Council three times and have been in the Council for twelve years.
There is no development in the area. I tried to bring money in to Gampola for development projects since there was no sufficient government backing financially.
Then I spoke to Minister Basil Rajapaksa and told him that I can get foreign investors to develop the city. At this point Mr. Rajapaksa invited me to join hands with them. Minister Rajapaksa directed me to the President.
I still have the membership of UNP. After I joined hands with the UPFA, some members of the party attempted to cancel my party membership. In order to stop them I filed a case and I obtained an order from the District Court. The purpose I joined the UPFA government was to develop Gampola city.
Do you still have the UNP membership?
Yes I have the party membership and no one can do anything about my party membership.
Then what is the meaning of joining UPFA?
My association with the UPFA means that I will support President Mahinda Rajapaksha to win the upcoming Presidential election as he will help to develop Gampola city. Look at Colombo, Kandy and then visit Gampola. We still have the drainage systems which were established in 1968. The only leadership which can help to develop the city is President Rajapaksa.
You decided to join hands with the Government at a crucial point. But what if there is a regime change?
I am always with the people and they are close to me. If not for the people I would not have become the Mayor, three times. I believe the people in Gampola have their faith in President Rajapaksa. There would not be any change.
What is your view about the UNP and its leadership?
I am disappointed about the party and its leadership. I have been with the party for more than 25 years but the party has no proper plan. Daily we are going backwards.
But in 2010 you said Ranil Wickramasinghe was an efficient and talented leader. So why this sudden change?
Without showing leadership qualities Ranil Wickramasinghe cannot continue in politics. It is he who has to prove that he is a true leader. I have spent a large sum of money on behalf of the party. I have contributed in many ways to make him a leader. But all the efforts were wasted.
The leader has failed to appoint a common candidate so far. How can we proceed this journey with him? We cannot stay in a sinking ship everyday. People will curse me if I am unable to develop the city.
In an upcoming Municipal election would you still contest from UNP?
I will decide that later since there is more time.