UNITED NATIONAL PARTY NATIONAL YOUTH FRONT CHAIRMAN AND GAMPAHA DISTRICT PARLIAMENTARIAN RUWAN WIJEWARDENEspoke to theDailymirroron how the UNP hopes to engage the fervour of Sri Lanka’s youth and provide them suitable employment. He also spoke about the repercussions for the government if it failed to resolve the national question by way of a political solution.
Mr. Wijewardene also expressed his views on accountability by politicians and the media.
Q: As Chairman of the UNP National Youth Front and the University Youth Front, do you think the UNP has adequate public support to engage the youth?
Currently we are reorganising our youth branches, we are visiting each district and electorate to engage the youth and get them to join our party and build up their enthusiasm towards the UNP and its policies; I think we have been very successful in this endeavour. However compared to a few years ago, it has become more challenging to get the youth involved; this is a difficulty being faced by all political parties. The reason being, the youth of this country have had enough of politics, they have been let down by successive governments and political parties in the past.
Recently the UNP has made some headway in getting in touch with the youth and they are engaging with us more. We had our first Youth Media Rally in Badulla and it was a huge success. Some 12,000 to 13,000 youth joined us and this shows that the UNP is gaining the confidence of the young people of this country.
We are not taking it easy or taking a break after May 1, we are engaging with young people all the time. We actually intend on having programmes for the youth in the Districts of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa and encouraging them to join our party.
Q:It is becoming apparent that the youth are becoming more fervent in opposing the authorities; there is more of a revolting spirit that is being stirred up in them. How does the UNP plan on harnessing this passion towards a positive political engagement?
I think the problem is within the universities. The university students are agitating because the universities have become increasingly militarised. If you put a lot of pressure on university students and they find they are not able to freely engage in activities they are passionate about, then their reaction is going to be more and more revolutionary.
I actually drew the attention of the government a few months ago, that if they go ahead with these policies in the universities by the ad-hoc suspension of students and having this Ratna Lanka Security Firm, which has three OIC’s and former Army Sergeants, providing security in the universities, then the students undoubtedly will feel threatened. I think the reaction of students is going to be quite revolutionary.
Q: If Students are having this fervour within themselves, isn’t this enthusiasm something the UNP can harness so as to bring about political change in the country?
We don’t want them to be revolutionary, but we do want them to know what their rights are and fight for their rights. I don’t think that what all the students are doing in the universities is right either; I mean there are times when they overstep their mark. There needs to be some sort of discipline in the universities, but then I think the authorities should know how to maintain discipline within universities without overstepping their mark and stamping down on the freedom of the students.
As far as the UNP is concerned we don’t want to exploit this situation, we want the students to concentrate on their studies. They will be the people who take this country forward. We don’t want to exploit that, but then we want to see an end to the situation that has arisen between the students and the government in the recent past.
Q: The government has been making these grandiose claims of engaging the youth and providing them jobs; especially within the, supposedly booming tourism sector. Do you think that the government has done enough and that its future plans are feasible methods of employment for the young people?
I think the government has done a lot to engage the youth; it would be unfair on my part to say that it has not done anything at all. However there are problems, if you speak to 10 young people at least seven or eight of them would say they want to go abroad and work and they don’t want to stay in this country. That shows there is a problem and that they are dissatisfied since they feel they don’t have a future in this country. We saw this a few years ago when there were job opportunities in Korea. A riot appeared imminent in front of the Police Park. The youth are not happy they feel that they don’t have a future in this country, and therefore the government has failed the youth.
As for the tourism industry, the government’s only hope for expanding the tourism sector is to open up casinos and is that its grand plan for engaging the youth—I don’t think that is very healthy for the youth of this country.
Q: You expressed that the government has no clear vision for the youth of this country, what is the UNP’s strategy for solving the problems of the youth?
Right now the UNP is setting up committees to come up with basic polices and proposals so that when a UNP government comes into power these committees ranging from agriculture, law and order, to economics and youth affairs would be ready with the ground work. In the youth committees they are looking at education and higher education; we feel that the government has failed miserably in the education sector as well.
These days we are concentrating on the proposals we have put forward with regards to the constitution. We are formulating ideas on those areas and will present them within a few months.
Q:What particular policies are you most passionate about?
For me education is the main area of focus, it definitely needs to be revamped in this country. The system needs a complete overhaul; from the various subjects to the training of teachers. We want the children to be engaged in subjects that develop their in-built skills and make them more employable like education in the English language. The teachers themselves have to be trained adequately and the government needs to put more effort into the education sector instead of into development work which does not yield any real results.
Q:We have seen in the past few months that Politicians have been acting in a disgraceful manner, this has also spilled over into the actions of their offspring and Local Council Members. What is your opinion on this?
I think the politicians forget they are chosen by the people to represent them, they think they have unlimited power and are therefore not obligated to follow the laws of this country. If a politician acts that way, then their children act in a similar manner.
Politicians who get elected know that they represent the people and thus must behave in an honourable manner, which respects the trust the public has placed in them. They should know how to discipline their offspring, after all they are in the public eye and they are the ones who are supposed to uphold the law. And if their sons do something against the law they should be held accountable.
Q:Do you think that it is fair for their children to be penalised for their mistakes, by being highlighted, in the media just because the politicians are in the public eye?
Politicians are in the public view and they have been elected by the public so they should know how to run their own family lives, if they are elected to run the country —they should know how to run their families.
Q: What is your opinion on the Code of Ethics that is being proposed by the Ministry of Mass Media?
The Code of Ethics that is being proposed, according to Minister Kheliya Rabukwella, are not regulations, they are just a Code of Ethics that the media could follow if they want to. However I don’t see why they need to bring a Code of Ethics, because there is already a Press Complaints Commission that is run by the Editor’s Guild and other stakeholders. Therefore there is no need for the government to come in and say they are formulating another Code of Ethics that the media should follow.
There has to be some kind of checks and balances when persons are wronged by media institutions. But I think the Press Complaints Commission has been doing exemplary work in that area during the past few years.
Q:What is the UNP’s strategy for the Northern Provincial Council?
After Mr. Maheswaran was assassinated, during the war, we lost our link to the North. But currently we have Ms. Maheswaran as our member of parliament. However for this election the UNP is fielding its own candidates, and we feel very confident that through this list of candidates we will find some good leaders for the North. When you look at the list we are putting forward you will notice that it consists of a lot of good leaders and therefore we are pretty enthusiastic about the elections.
Q: What is your opinion on the government fielding former LTTE cadres?
I think it is quite hypocritical on the part of the government, because if the UNP was doing it we would have been labelled as a Tiger-loving-LTTE-supporting-party, which is the label that has been given to the UNP by this government. When Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe came to power, the UNP came to power on a peace ticket, people were fed up with the war and what Mr. Wickremasinghe wanted to do was to bring them into that process where they will contest elections and give up arms.
At this moment we have come a full circle, we suffered through a war where 60,000 soldiers, cadres and civilians lost their lives and we have come back to the same position where we are giving these same people the ticket to contest the elections. I believe it is too soon for former LTTE combatants to be given a ticket to contest.
The government has pretty much said the LTTE is a terrorist organisation and they should be held accountable for what it did during the war. I don’t think that KP has spent a single day in remand; he is given the freedom to move around in Jaffna. Thamilini has gone into rehabilitation for a year or less. I think the government is desperate; they want to show that they can win this election and they feel the best way to win is to use this strategy. The government is just desperate to win; it’s sad, it is very sad. But then again, I think it would have eventually come to this, but I feel it is too soon to bring them in right now.
Q:How effective do you think the rehabilitation process has been?
I can’t really answer that, because I don’t know what the rehabilitation process entails. In the past few months we have seen soldiers marrying ex-LTTE cadres and the cadres being shown around Colombo, so maybe they are doing a good job.
But I really can’t say because I don’t know what the process entails.
Q:But don’t you think it is a little scary, that there is such a lack of information on the actual process of rehabilitation?
True, I don’t really know what goes on, in the rehabilitation process. There needs to be transparency in the process, we don’t know if they are forced to rehabilitate. I hope that they are doing a genuine job of rehabilitating them.
Q: The UNP has stated that it was not boycotting the Parliamentary Select Committee but instead it was waiting for the government to get the Tamil National Alliance and the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress on board. What are the other conditions of the UNP for participating in the PSC?
I think the main criticism of the PSC is that the government itself does not know what it is going to do; there is infighting in government ranks. Some say they want to amend the 13th Amendment, and others say they are against any amendment and want it to be 13+ with Police and Land Powers. I think that until they come to a proper agreement on their agenda there won’t be any solution through the PSC.
Obviously the PSC needs the TNA and the SLMC, I think that without them the UNP and the Government cannot just sit there and decide what the minorities need to be given. Therefore the PSC has to include the TNA and get it involved.
I also think that Tissa Vitharana himself should be involved in the process; he has done exemplary work as the Chairman of the All Party Representatives Committee, but he has been excluded from the PSC. Our leader has written to the President, telling him that there has to be certain conditions agreed upon before the UNP comes into the PSC. One of the main conditions is that the government should enact the 17th Amendment. If the government does bring in the TNA and the SLMC and they are agreeable to these conditions then of course we will join the PSC.
We have seen all the leftist party leaders speaking on behalf of the 13th Amendment as a whole and Douglas Devananda saying he has 38 ministers who agree with him that the 13th Amendment should come as a whole. Then you have the hardliners like Wimal Weerawansa and Champika Ranawaka, who are opposing it. Even Basil Rajapaksa is yet to inform us what the Indians have said, therefore until the government tells us what its agenda is there really is no point in engaging it in the PSC.
Q: Do you think there is any hope of salvaging the relationship with India, if the government backtracks on the 13th Amendment?
No, there is no hope if they backtrack. The Indians have been championing the 13th Amendment since the time of the peace accord between JR and Rajiv. The President himself promised the Indian Foreign Minister that he would grant 13 plus. I don’t think that they can really backtrack on these promises, if they do, its going to be a severe strain on our relationship with India and I don’t think that we can afford a strained relationship with India at this moment.
Q: What repercussions will this have on the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting and later in Geneva?
I think that all eyes are on Sri Lanka at this moment and if it does not work out a political solution as promised, Sri Lanka is in for a lot of trouble. Sri Lanka is already being seen as a semi-pariah state, as far as the international community. If we don’t go ahead and bring in a political solution, I don’t think that Geneva or CHOGM will be very favourable to Sri Lanka.
what some university students are passionate about is to hurt the others by bullying and ragging. Passion for education can never be disturbed by any militarization. Students must realize that they have the higher education at the cost of another 96% who don't get the opportunity. You will be a people's leader who will go places.
Namal Perera Friday, 12 July 2013 12:13 PM
Only you can bring the UNP back to power. Hope Ranil the most unpopular current Leader of UNP will realize this soon and will not see the party buried with him. Hanging on to the leadership he is not only destroying the UNP, he is allowing the corrupt Regime to survive and destroy our Mother Lanka.
Rakhitha Hemawardana Sunday, 14 July 2013 03:49 PM
marunath api me pakshaya heradha noyana athra, tharunaini,niyama pakshaya wata den pamineena.kalaya pamina atha.........
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