Since her entry into the media spotlight in 2011, Hirunika Premachandra, daughter of assassinated SLFP politician Bharatha Lakshman Premachandra created ripples in the country’s political arena as she fought for justice for her father’s murder.
A law student and aspiring politician, in her interview with Daily Mirror Hirunika speaks of the speculations concerning her candidacy for the upcoming Western Provincial polls, the goals she has set as a young politician and of her determination to continue her father’s legacy:
Q There have been speculations concerning your candidacy at the upcoming Western provincial polls. You had recently stated that you were yet to decide. Have you made a decision by now?
Yes I have been invited by several parties to enter politics but I have been receiving the offers even before the WP polls were in the offing. But since I am already involved with the Mahajana party I don’t have any intentions of deviating from my present choice.
Q So if you do contest, it will be as part of the UPFA alliance?
Yes, if I decide to contest from the Mahajana party I will be representing the UPFA alliance. But the Mahajana party is also very independent and if there were policy decisions which we felt were not favourable for the public, we would not hesitate to raise our objections concerning such issues.
Presently I am discussing my entry into politics with my mother, my close relatives, close political individuals as well as with several political parties in order to decide my future course of action, and whether or not I will be making my initial step into the political arena through the upcoming WP polls. I will be making my announcement in a few days, most likely before the end of this week.
QWhat are the factors you have been considering in making your decision?
I believe the upcoming WP poll is an ideal entry point into my political career - the kind of chance that wouldn’t occur twice. It has been two years since my father’s death and yet, people haven’t forgotten the injustice committed upon him and I believe it is mainly because of my voice.
I have been continuously vociferous about my concerns over my father’s murder and I believe it is admirable that the public still remembers his murder unlike the countless wrongs that occur in this country daily, which the masses tend to forget quite easily.
So I feel the opportunity presented to me with the WP polls should not be overlooked. As I mentioned earlier, this is the ideal time to establish myself as a political individual and if I seize this chance people will gather around me, which would make it easier for me to contest at future elections, as I wouldn’t have to start from scratch to gather my voter base.
Instead of waiting for another election, I think I should make use of the momentum already built.
However, there are several issues to which I require answers from the government and the President. Once they are resolved I will make the decision on my candidacy for the upcoming provincial polls.
QDo you mind mentioning what the issues are?
They are a few personal issues, which I cannot mention publicly. But I can assure that it is not an attempt to cut a deal or sell out my father’s death. However, some of it is related to my father’s death and the ongoing case.
Q What do you want your entry into politics to signify?
My primary aspiration would be to continue my father’s legacy – to not be just a politician but also a social worker. Moreover, I wish to focus my work not just on Kolonnawa but the whole of Colombo.
A plethora of social issues have been rampantly victimising the youth within the past few years – drug rackets being one of them. Subsequent to the rapid infrastructure development that is being carried out in the city, I believe it is also important to develop the living standards and welfare of those living in the city.
For example if you take Kolonnawa, it is an infamous fact that over 50% of young men are addicted to drugs. The area is associated with drug addicts and dealers and has developed such a negative reputation that proposing a young girl from Kolonnawa in marriage has turned into a daunting task for the mothers.
Moreover, unlike most females who enter politics I am not going to state that my primary focus is going to be on women and children. I will focus my work on uplifting the youth as a whole because women are not the only segment of supporters. The youth in this country today have little faith in the justice system and they have grown tired of the existing structure where only a handful of individuals reap benefits. These are some of the issues I wish to address as a young politician.
I believe positive attitude changes in the public are vital for the country’s progress. Changing the attitudes of young citizens through awareness and education is relatively easier than attempting to do so in a senior citizen. If the younger generations can be convinced that there is still hope for a better future, their contributions can then be harnessed into development process of the country, which will be one of my first moves as an upcoming politician.
It is also important to note that my father’s case and my political career are two very different factors of my life. I will always seek justice from the judicial system and if all sectors in which I look for justice fail, I am certain that the people who vote for us will someday execute justice through their votes.
I have no intention of seeking revenge from those who have been accused of my father’s murder through politics because as a law student, I still believe that justice will prevail – if not now, someday.
I will fight till the end for justice for my slain father but I will never mix politics and his murder.
Q A few years ago you had mentioned that your priority was seeking justice for your father’s murder and that your entry into politics would only happen afterwards. The plan seems to be altering swiftly?
Entering politics has been my only dream and it was to eventually happen upon establishing myself as a lawyer. But the plan picked up pace following my father’s death.
Seeking justice for my father is still my number one priority but a ruling on the case would take five or six more years and I do not wish to wait until then to launch my political career.
This is why I believe the upcoming WP polls, is a good opportunity for me as it would give a chance for me to start at the grassroots level. I do not wish to contest directly for general elections so the provincial polls will be a great platform to learn and gain experience on working with people closely and thereby lay a strong foundation for my future in politics.
At present, I have been speaking out against the cold-blooded murder of my father only as a victimised daughter. The culprits who committed my father’s murder can easily silence me. But if I was in a recognisable position as a politician my concerns would definitely carry more weight and it would be far easier to voice my concerns and expose injustices to the public.
Q Chances for female participation in local politics has been mainly due to familial connections and more recently owing to celebrity status. What are your comments?
Although we boast of high literacy rates and good education levels, the masses in Sri Lanka are still quite ignorant. It is time the public opened their eyes to the ground realities and realise that a pretty face, good looks or an individual’s popularity alone are not good enough reasons to appoint them as people’s representatives.
It is obvious that the majority of celebrities who are given the opportunity to contest at elections are exploiting their popularity to gain personal benefits through entering politics. It is important that we choose individuals with a good education – whom we can respect, to represent us.
It is also unfortunate that parties overlook those who have worked hard and supported them, in order to promote celebrities as their candidates. After a few years, due to having no actual interest in politics the elected celebrities either cross over seeking better benefits or completely disappear from the political arena, depriving another – possibly much better individual – of doing some service to the public. I believe it is time the parties too started introducing regulations to maintain discipline among their members.
I am not disapproving of celebrities entering politics but it would only be meaningful if it was done with good intentions. It is up to the political parties as well as the voters to ensure those who they promote and vote for do not turn into a ‘joke’ and are genuine in their interest to serve the masses.
Those with no political knowledge or interest entering the field have also impacted and ruined the image of other female politicians negatively. Women who enter politics are now looked upon as naïve, fragile individuals. Although we are educated and wish to take a different path in life, we too are judged and portrayed in the same damaging light.
It is important that women who wish to enter politics or are already in politics, read widely and educate themselves before representing the public. Throughout history it has been proven by figures such as Margaret Thatcher and Sonia Gandhi that women can excel in politics and do an even better job than men. The present negative image that has ruined the possibilities of females engaging in any serious politics because of the actions of a few can be changed through actions.
Q You have admitted the country has changed adversely during the past few years. Shouldn’t the present government be held responsible for the issues you highlight?
Moreover, wouldn’t you be contributing to the existing situation by deciding to be a part of the UPFA alliance?
I too have my questions and doubts, particularly concerning the illegal activities that have been mushrooming within the city in the guise of development. This is why I stressed on the fact that the Mahajana party is an independent party and if I am given the chance, I will raise my concerns regarding the issues that have caught my attention.
Irrelevant of whether I choose to be a part of the alliance or join an opposition party; my presence will not make a difference if I am not concerned of the issues. You have to have the courage and the will to take a stand against what you believe is injustice. It is true that as a politician one has to be diplomatic but it is not necessary to be so all the time. Where needed, I believe a true representative of the people should speak up and expose the wrongs.
Q Are you comfortable in being a member of a political alliance in which the individual accused of your father’s murder is also a member?
There will absolutely be no involvement between the said individual and our lives. In no way will I maintain any kind of communication or a negotiation with him.
It was my father as well as those who have been presently named as senior ministers in this government who have been with the SLFP right from the start, through the good and the bad. It is a known fact that the accused became part of the UPFA alliance recently in order to gain personal benefits by collaborating with those in power. It is not I who should have a dilemma about being in the UPFA alliance, because it is the culprits accused of my father’s murder who trashed and burnt the cutouts and posters of the President when he was contesting for the Presidential elections in 2005.
I don’t need anyone’s approval or permission to be in this party. I have the same right as my father to work with the UPFA alliance because my whole family has worked hard to bring the alliance to this position. I believe I have a better claim to join the alliance than anyone who recently joined to gain personal advantages.
Q The Mahajana party today has decreased in significance. Do you feel you can make a difference in bringing the party back to its former stature?
In Sri Lanka, only two main political parties have withstood the changes in the political arena through years. Mahajana party had a peak and even led an important political movement few decades ago but following the murder of Vijaya Kumaratunga, the status changed. This is a fate that has to be faced by all political parties unless it is SLFP or UNP. Once one charismatic figure moves out of the picture it becomes tough to survive.
So restoring the party’s former stature will be a significant challenge. For now the short term goal is to ensure that we increase our members in the provincial council level and eventually aim for a higher representation in the Parliament. It is an uphill task but with hard work I believe it can be achieved.
Q What of the threats and security concerns you had?
We have been assigned two policemen following my request for security. But I believe now that even if I am surrounded with 100 policemen, what is destined to happen cannot be prevented. Therefore, I am not concerned of threats anymore. Threats to my life still persist but I have chosen to ignore them because I do not wish to upset my mother. I am determined to remain positive and focus on the important things.
Pix by Kushan Pathiraja
what legacy is she talking about Not a single politician in this country made any legacy. They came to power accumulated a lot of wealth sufficient for five generations, sent their children for education in rich countries earned a lot of mony and vanished..
ROGER Wednesday, 08 January 2014 09:41 AM
WHAT A SHEMELESS HYPOCRITE, DOES SHE NOT REALISE ANY ALLIANCE WITH CURRENT UPFA MEANS SHE IS ACTUALLY JOINING A PARTY THAT HAS DENIED HER FATHER JUSTICE? THAT MURDERER DUMINDA SILVA IS ALSO AN ALLIANCE OF UPFA. MAY BE THEY CAN CONTEST TOGETHER IN THE FUTURE, NO DOUBT HER MURDERED FARTHER WILL BE PROUD.
Ben Hurling Wednesday, 08 January 2014 10:21 AM
Pretty good answers. Too sad she has to be in UPFA due to ground realities. Coz' UPFA culture cannot be changed. It is a rotten organisation. Utterly corrupt. Anyway I wish her luck.
Comments will be edited (grammar, spelling and slang) and authorized at the discretion of Daily Mirror online. The website also has the right not to publish selected comments.