In an interview with the Dailymirror trade unionist, North Central Provincial Councillor and Anuradhapura JVP candidate Wasantha Samarasinghe spoke of the similarities between the Mahinda and Ranil governments and the complaints made by the JVP to the FCID. Excerpts.
Q : What is the campaign theme of the JVP this time?
As the JVP we have a programme for the entire country. The “Hardasakshi Sammuthiya” was made after looking into the needs and dreams of the people.
Q : What will you do for your constituency if elected?
There are some problems faced by the people in Anuradhapura. Every parent there wants to give their children a good education and a good job. There are so many health issues, like chronic kidney diseases to look at.
The people in Anuradhapura have a historic agricultural background but economically they are downtrodden and they need our helping hand.
Q : There is a split in the UPFA. Do you think it will increase votes for the JVP in this election?
It doesn’t matter if the UPFA has split in two or four, likewise people know the UNP and the UPFA would come together to make a government after this..
The people are with us not because of the splits in the parties but because they can now see that we are the only people who are sincere about developing the country. They are listening to us and are talking about it.
Q : When compared to other elections, do you think the JVP will harness more votes during this election?
Definitely; people have voted for many parties in the past 67 years and they have realised they were always tricked by them. However, people have seen the changes that we made and what we can deliver.
Q : Do you think all the promises made on January 8 have been fulfilled?
No, they haven’t kept their promises. They decreased the taxes but at the same time they took away businessmen’s debts instead of the farmers. They said they would reduce the interest rate for gold but they didn’t, they said they would give Rs. 3000 to kidney patients but they didn’t.
Q : As a private sector trade unionists how do you see the government’s broken promise of salary increments?
That is not the only thing, they promised an increase on January 8. They have been avoiding it until Parliament was dissolved. .
We have been fighting to get the cost of living index gazetted since 2010. The 100-day government couldn’t do it either.
The private sector needs to be ‘pushed’ if there are to be more jobs, but what does the governments do? They tax and fine people but there is no economic relief.
Q : How do you propose to give such the private sector this ‘push’?
There are 20,000 retiring from the public sector and another 60,000 from the private sector. Apart from this the govt. should create more jobs each year. If we don’t change the economy with the changes in the world we will be left in the dust.
They speak of the cars in Japan and electronics in Korea but here they yet speak of slavery.
Q : You filed a number of complaints with the FCID about corruption. Are you happy with the investigations?
The officials do what they can with a scarcity of resources and man power.
We lodged about 50 complaints at the Bribery Commission and we stopped because we realised that investigations were slow. We started to lodge complaints with the FCID after that.
The last complaint I filed was about a 8-foot chandelier worth at least one million rupees.
Q : Who removed it?
The Secretary of Defence at the time who was overlooking the UDA intervened in this. Not even a nail went astray without him knowing about it, so he knows where it is. So we filed a case about it.
Q : When you ask the UNP they say the elections commissioner requested there be no arrests during the campaigning period. Do you think a change will take place with a new Parliament? Will these investigations continue?
They have been here for 160 days, what did they do to capture the criminals? Instead of looking into these they wait until the elections are over. It doesn’t matter who is elected to parliament next, be it them or anyone else, it is the responsibility of Parliament to take to task those who have squandered public property.
Q : Do you believe that action will not be taken for the complaints you have lodged?
We know that the officials did their job; they tried to continue investigating and collect the necessary information’ but there was interference.
Mahinda Rajapaksa didn’t leave a decent public sector employee alone. Ranil Wickremesinghe went along the same road. They didn’t allow these institutions to work independently. Those who are fed and maintained by the public have no right to do such things.
Q : Most of your slogans are anti-Mahinda. Is there anything new?
It is not anti-Mahinda but against the system that was there.
It doesn’t matter if it is Mahinda or Ranil, they are two sides of the same coin. The things happening in this country is what happened with a government that was in power for ten years. Even though the bottle has changed, it’s the same people.
Q : If they are two sides of the same coin, why support them? The JVP doesn’t have an MoU with the UNP, it supported presidential candidate, Maithripala Sirisena.
We were not on the same stage as them.
Q : Even though you didn’t…
Is it wrong we came forward to change the socio- economic conditions of this country? That we speak up against those who are corrupt?
Q : That was not what I meant...
We made it clear at the time. Maithripala’s victory would have a positive outcome on our political stand. It was the need of the people at the time because of the dictatorial family rule at the time. To change it, we have fought not only during the presidential election but also in 2010 when Mahinda Rajapaksa came into power a second time.
We didn’t ask the people to bring the UNP or the SLFP into power. They are the same so lets get together and defeat them both.
Q : How many seats do you think the JVP will win this time?
We hope to win more than 113, we will fight until then. We will continue our fight until we can establish a formidable force inside Parliament.
Q : Samantha Korelearchchi? What action will the party take?
Samantha is not only the team leader for Puttalam but also the convener of the NTUC. He may have gone to hospital to look at a problem but the people could have assumed he was there for the elections.
Q : Are you saying he wasn’t there to distribute leaflets for the election?
Samantha is not someone who doesn’t understand what he is doing. If a mistake has been made we are ready to accept it before the law.
Q: You were elected to a provincial council and now you are contesting at the general elections. Isn’t this a betrayal of the people who elected you to the provincial council?
The people didn’t vote for me to stay in the provincial council. Now they say they will send me to Parliament as well.
Q : JVP candidates never contest elections from the same turf?
We are not regionalists but internationalists. If the party decides I should go to Latin America and join the revolution, then I will go. It’s not the place that matters to us. If we are to leave Parliament and go back to provincial councils tomorrow, we will. We are people who would work for the people from where it is necessary.