UPFA Candidate WimalWeerawansa, a main speaker of the stage of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, says his party will get 117 seats at this election. In an interview with the Dailymirror , he says there are many UNP members willing to join hands with the UPFA after the elections. Excerpts:
What is your assessment of your party’s standing at the moment?
It is a gigantic task for a political party to emerge as a force to reckon with, in the immediate aftermath of an electoral defeat. Yet it is clear there is a groundswell of support for the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA). It is visible both in the urban and the rural areas. We have witnessed it from the first rally in Anuradhapura to the recent one in Kottawa, Colombo.
Earlier, they accused us of bringing bus-loads of people to political rallies. They cannot make that allegation now. This is voluntary participation of people. We are slated to get more than 117 seats at this election.
How realistic is your analysis? At the Presidential Election, the UPFA leaders made similar predictions, but they were proven wrong.
It is different this time. This is a Parliamentary election. The UNP and the other political forces that ensured 6.2 million votes to President Maithripala Sirisena are scattered this time. They contest separately. At this election, the political parties stand the chance of getting bonus seats by winning districts.
We will definitely win 12 or 14 districts. We will win some districts like Badulla where we were defeated marginally at the Presidential Election. The reason is Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) contesting separately. Our vote base has also improved. The UNP and JVP try to project the picture that the UPFA polled 5.8 million votes at the last election with the governmental power in hand.
We got those 5.8 million votes despite a vigorous campaign by the opposing camp with a horde of allegations. These 5.8 million voters cast their ballots in favour of the UPFA even after they heard such allegations.
We believe e these people are with us even this time. We are inclined to get over 6.2 million votes this time. We will perform even better in districts such as Ratnapura. JVP and UNP know it well. So, they come up with different arguments.
Q : Can you mention the districts advantageous to the UPFA in your view?
We will win all the districts in the southern coastal belt starting from Hambantota. There seems to be a close fight in the Colombo District. We will even win Badulla. Altogether, we will win 12 to 14 districts for sure.
But, the President said in his speech that he would pick somebody other than UPFA Candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister in case the party won. What have you got to say about it?
That argument is no longer valid. Even the President has wished best of luck in a newspaper advertisement to the UPFA at this election. Categorically, he mentioned in his advertisement that the victory was certain for the UPFA. If it is a UPFA government, its MPs will decide who will be the Prime Minister. The UPFA is virtually in agreement with people to appoint Mr. Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister. The President, willingly or unwillingly, will understand the reality and act. The UNP is trying to create confusion within the system by making references to this advertisement.
But, the President categorically he said he would choose someone other than Mr. Rajapaksa to the post if the UPFA won.
At the beginning, he made the statement. But, he regretted that statement with some UPFA leaders, whom he met later. He had assured that a similar statement would not be made hereafter. The President must be regretting his remarks at the moment.
Yet, was this advertisement was put up by him in consultation with the other UPFA leaders?
It is an advertisement published by him. It is his independent decision. He might have been compelled to place such an advertisement as the UNP also put up one with his picture and that of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The President chose to be independent. Despite that, the UNP put up this advertisement. I personally believe that the President wanted to counter it to ensure his neutrality at this election.
What have you done this time to attract voters, who were unhappy with the UPFA at the last election?
We denied nominations to some persons as a corrective measure. We have fielded a set of candidates who are better than those in the UNP. In the UNP list, there are various candidates facing charges. In the Hambantota UNP list, there is one facing charges for treasure hunting. In the Gampaha district, a person facing criminal charges is included. In Kalutara, a similar candidate is found on the UNP list.
The UNP preaches principles of Good Governance. But, they are not reflected in the way they have selected candidates.
They hurled abuses and allegations against our candidates. But, none of them has been proven by a court of law.
But, there is infighting within the UPFA with some candidates openly asking people not to cast preferential votes for those who are not with Mr. Rajapaksa. How has it affected the campaign as a whole?
There is infighting for preferential election at every election. It surfaces in different forms. This is the usual tussle for preferential votes. One tries to outsmart the other. The present election system has to be blamed for that.
Besides, the death of rugger player Wasim Thajudeen is blamed on the previous UPFA government. There is allegation that it is a murder committed by those linked to the previous government. How does it affect your party?
As for the death of this rugger player, no one of his family has raised any doubt and said it was a murder. Only the Police, on certain instructions, have reopened the case, and obtained a court order to exhume the body. If there were any doubt about this alleged murder, why did they wait for eight months to act upon? Why did they wait till the election time to reopen the case and take action? Had they started it at the beginning, they could have even dispensed with it. But, it did not happen that way. They waited till the last moment of the election. Then, the report of forensic examination will be released after the election.
Earlier, they branded Mr. Rajapaksa as a plunderer of public wealth. Now, he is projected as a murderer for political ends. People believed in such allegations before January 8. But, they will not believe in them on August 17. People have transformed politically now.
The UNP seems to be interested in forming a government with the backing of the Tamil National Alliance (TNA). The TNA support is conditional. It means the northern and eastern provinces have to be re-merged. The right to internal self-determination has to be accepted. The homeland concept has to be accepted.
If a coalition government is formed with the TNA, these conditions will have to be accepted. In such an eventually, the government will be compelled to cede all of these to the TNA. Already, some Diaspora leaders have said that they cannot achieve Tamil Eelam if Mr. Rajapaksa wins. The Diaspora is even trying to charter flights to return to Sri Lanka to vote at this election. Hotel reservations are being done at the moment. Only a UNP-led government will make way for secession of the country as demanded by these extremist Diaspora groups. The sacrifices of 27,000 soldiers who fell in the war will be wasted.
It means the UNP stands the chance of mustering the support of other parties to form a government even if it trails behind the UPFA in the number of seats obtained initially. What are your views?
It is impossible. We will get more than 117 seats. Then, there is no need for a coalition. We can form our own government. Suppose we fall short of 117 for a moment. A national government has been defined in the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. The national government is the one formed by the party with the single highest number of seats, together with other parties. The single largest party or the independent group has the right to form the national government. The party with the second highest number of seats cannot do it according to the Constitution.
On the other hand, there are many UNPers willing to join us after the election. If we get a number close to 117 even, there are enough UNPers willing to team up with us. Some Muslim parties are willing to join us.