- UNP national organiser Gamage commenting on the bond issue
In an interview with the Dailymirror UNP National Organiser and Eastern Provincial Councillor Daya Gamage spoke of the UNP’s efforts to reach grass roots and also the bond scam.
Sri Lankan voters have seen when they elect businessmen to Parliament, there had been instances in the misuse of power by them. Politicians also use their influence to promote their business. How would the voters know you won’t do the same?
If you are a businessman it’s better not get into politics. However, if you need to get favours, you can still get them without entering politics. You don’t really need any political influence if you’re a proper businessman.
One of the biggest problems in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is the issue of the Indian fishermen fishing in Sri Lankan waters. If you are elected what will you do about it?
That is a vast subject but I think the fisheries ministers of both countries have to be involved along with the foreign ministers. However, this is not a problem between governments but between the fishermen. Indian fishermen fish in our waters and take away our fish. It is something that we should handle tactfully.
As the national organiser what are the specific programmes that you have made for this election?
During the last presidential election we organised the entire country from grass root level upwards. It was the biggest change that took place during the last elections. However, I think we lost Sinhala Buddhist vote but think this time we will get that vote too.
What have you done to capture the votes at grass root level?
We have reduced the prices of diesel, petrol, kerosene oil and gas. When you reduce the price of these things, the prices of everything else comes down. Transport costs have also decreased; that is what we wanted.
What we did was creating competition. The UNP does not want to do business, but we help the private sector to do business. We want to develop proper policies and help people with funds if they want to start a business or make investments. There are a lot of businessmen who have joined us and they said they had seen the UNP economic policy during the last six months and that it is something they have not seen for the past 20 years.
The Eastern Province is the only province with an equal proportion of all three ethnicities. And if you look at their voting patterns people don’t vote for candidates of other ethnicities. How will you overcome these ethnic boundaries?
I think only I can change this. The TNA and certain other parties are trying to get more votes using ethnic diversity as a criterion. Even though the SLMC is contesting with us we have put forward good candidates of our own and they will have a tough time getting votes.
The SLMC is requesting for a different administrative area in Ampara. What is your stand on this issue?
We have 20 divisional secretaries and 8 of them are for Sinhalese areas. There are other divisional secretaries for other ethnicities. In Kalmunai however, the divisional secretary has a Tamil population of 50 per cent and a Muslim population of 50 per cent. And they are asking for different divisional administrations. We can discuss it, but I think separate administrations would create another problem.
For example, Colombo doesn’t have different administrations based on ethnicity. I don’t think that will work. This is created by some political parties, but people don’t want that. Although leaders of such political parties say this in the Eastern Province they contest from other districts because they knowthey would not be elected. This is a very sensitive issue.
You’re relatively new to politics, do you think you have enough experience for national level politics?
Most politicians talk but they have no experience what so ever. I started with Rs. 70. If you speak of the UNP, its voter base came down to 23 per cent but we increased it to 44 per cent.
We have organized the whole party, as a national organiser I think I have done my best. We had a lot of problems and we have overcome them.
Do you think there is a decrease in UNP support because of the bond scam?
I don’t think so. I can firmly say that my leader is not involved in anything that is corrupt. He is not someone who needs money, and he is a simple person. Everyone knows that Ranil Wickremesinghe is a genuine person; no one can suspect him of doing anything wrong. The bond issue will not affect him.
You said prices of some goods have been decreased, but you think the price drops have been felt by ordinary people?
It has benefited middle class people already. It has not been felt by the lower level of the private sector but it is not the same with the other sectors. We also wanted the private sector to increase employees’ salaries as well but they too are just breaking even. But next year everyone will pick up and salaries can be increased. There are a lot of investments coming in that will result in more job opportunities.
The UNP accuses the Rajapaksa’s of nepotism. But, while you contest the election your wife has been included in the national list. So there is a high chance that both of you would be in Parliament. Don’t you think it is the same as the Rajapaksa’s?
You can’t say that. Both of us don’t need to be in politicians. My wife doesn’t want to be in politics; she didn’t even know I had put her name in the national list.
After she entered politics, she has done a lot of things on behalf of the community. She’s in the national list and if she is given any responsibility she will deliver. We don’t have any idea that both of us need to go to parliament. For some people politics is a job, but for us it is a service. She is a veterinary surgeon and has served the government. She joined me in business and has been selected for three consecutive years as the best women entrepreneur of the year.
So you can’t compare the Rajapaksa family with the Gamage family. We came here for the district and the party and to help form this government.