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Without changing the situation in the country, nobody will help us - Hirunika Premachandra -

15 July 2022 02:30 am - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • I never go out to protest as a politician
  • It’s ridiculous to govern a country based on some black magic woman’s advice 
  • Ranil Wickremesinghe fooled the people 
  • After they won the war Mahinda Rajapaksa changed himself
  • There’s no unity within the Opposition
  • Most police officers are also suffering like us

 

 

 

Former MP Hirunika Premachandra has made headlines over the recent past as she has led several protests with the participation of women. A highlight in each of these protests were the hugs given to police officers, irrespective of whether they were male or female. She denies claims that these protests are being done with a political motive and reiterates the fact that she is staging a protest as a woman and a mother who has been equally affected by the prevailing crisis.  
In an interview with the Daily Mirror, Premachandra spoke about the intentions of staging protests, whether she has achieved the expected outcomes, her thoughts about her former leader Ranil Wickremesinghe and why the Rajapaksas didn’t stand by her father.   

Excerpts :

Q  The prevailing crisis has affected women because they can’t cook without gas, price of essential items have soared, there’s no milk powder etc. Have you been affected by this crisis as well ?

I also face the same problem as a housewife. Even though I have a helper who helps me, when she comes up to tell me that the meals are prepared, I fear when she would say that the gas is over. I have three children and we have seven members in this house. We try to cook every meal and this crisis has affected me as well.   

Q  But it looks like a majority of politicians have not been affected by this crisis as they don’t have to wait in fuel queues and they don’t have power cuts etc. 

Maybe some of them can survive but some can’t. I think there are some politicians who face these circumstances because it’s not the same for everyone. But politicians in the government have no problem at all. We see them going to the Kolonnawa shed and getting petrol without waiting in queues.   

Q  Don’t you think that if there was a strong Opposition there would have been a change in the prevailing political structure?

The problem at the moment is that the Rajapaksa regime is very strong. So one Opposition cannot do this task. Without party politics all should get together. The first battle should be to chase the Rajapaksa family away. Without any party politics all leaders should get together and win this first battle. After 6-7 months they can form a coalition government and then once the crises has been resolved we can go for an election. The Rajapaksas aren’t the only reason why international leaders are not willing to help us. Even the IMF is having second thoughts because people are asking the Rajapaksas to resign. They would never help a country without any stability. But if there’s some kind of trustworthy people who can come forward then they will help us. Without changing this situation in the country, nobody will help us.   

Q  But the party leaders don’t seem to be united …

If the SJB does a protest somewhere the other parties will criticize it and vice versa. There’s no unity within the Opposition. That’s why this crisis is dragging this long. If we get together and do a proper protest; we see 10 people protesting, some marching etc. but the Rajapaksas will never get the idea of people’s emotions unless everybody gets together. Still they think that only a few people are outside protesting and a majority aren’t bothered about who’s governing the country. This is why nothing is happening from the Opposition.   

Q  You initiated a protest near the President’s private residence in Mirihana. But when people started their protest it took a violent turn. Why didn’t you continue the protest?

At the time I went in front of Gotabaya’s house there were power cuts for 7-8 hours. People got fed up after the 13 hour power cut. Our people get used to anything. We had a thirty year conflict and people have prepared their mindset to any kind of worst scenario. Because of that they wait till the last minute. When I went in front of the President’s house some opposition parties said that I had a deal with the President and therefore I wasn’t arrested. But in reality, we planned it very secretively and not even the intelligence services knew about it. Still people were trying to find fault with us. Whoever is coming forward, whether he is from SJB, JVP or TNA people should support them without criticizing. There’s a huge fear about the Rajapaksa regime and mainly Gotabaya Rajapaksa. All I wanted to do was to show people that they are scared of us than people being scared of them. From that day onwards everything has changed. I associated with them personally and we were family friends back then and I know how they are. They are not scared of people as long as they are divided. When people are together they are scared.   

Q  What if you continued the protest, do you think there would have been a bigger impact?

On that day I told the policemen that it is the beginning. People will come here, sit on this road and protest. That night there were hundreds of people in front of my house. They thought that once that happened people will keep their mouths shut. But after the second Mirihana incident GotaGoGama started. I think it faded away after Ranil Wickremesinghe took over the premiership.   

Q  You also staged a protest in front of GnanaAkka’s residence and quite recently in front of Ranil Wickremesinghe’s house. Have you achieved the expected outcomes?

Anyone can have their personal beliefs. When you start to govern a country based on some black magic woman’s advice it’s ridiculous. You can worship any religion. But if GnanaAkka is going to decide if he’s going to support Russia or Ukraine, that’s absurd. This person’s family is in the USA and a person like that comes to Sri Lanka and follows black magic not for his own personal problems but to govern a country. But now she has stopped because that so-called divine protector has left her. Extremism, black magic, discrimination against women, other religions is at the core of the Rajapaksa regime. People have to break these walls as these are the walls that protect the Rajapaksas. So we need to come out of that. Even at the Aragalaya women are coming forward which we have never seen during last few years, people are talking about human rights, LGBTIQ rights etc. It’s very refreshing and we can have some hope in future that this era is gone.   

Q  But when you went to the Prime Minister’s residence people focused more on the photo that was shared on social media..

Yes. I have nothing against Ranil Wickremesinghe. He’s a clever person. But he has always put those abilities to protect his seat. Throughout his parliament career he has maintained a promise that whoever loses will not get a seat from the national list. But he has broken his own promise. He waited for one year and then came to Parliament. He wanted to build UNP again but if he really wanted to do that he should have given that seat to Ruwan Wijewardena. I really respect him because he’s a gentleman. Akila Viraj Kariyawasam is another gentleman politician. He worked hard when he held the education minister portfolio. If he wanted to do something for the party he should have made these appointments. People had some sort of faith thinking that he will bring dollars into the country through his overseas contacts. But when there’s no stability in the country nobody will lend us money. Knowing that Greece is bankrupt Cabraal still gave money to that country. People in countries such as France, Japan etc. are vigilant. Whatever the money those countries give us are people’s money at the end of the day. They are asking their governments as to why they are giving money to a bankrupt nation. Ranil Wickremesinghe knows that but he still fooled our people. He knows that he can’t get money like that. Even after few months if he’s asked to resign he still can get a position at a renowned international body like the UN. But for a little bit of gain what he has done is ridiculous. If Ranil Wickremesinghe loses his seat the UNP will be done for. He hasn’t initiated a second line of leadership. He’s angry with the SJB as he thinks that we destroyed the UNP. He therefore thought that if he gets the premiership under UNP a few SJBers would cross over. But only two people crossed over and his plan didn’t work. He was only 27 when he entered Parliament. He was never a backbencher but has always been in a position. The friendship between him and Rajapaksas was another matter. He should have consulted other opposition parties before getting the prime minister. Not even his party people knew about this appointment, Therefore the point of protesting was to show people that he took this appointment for his personal gain. So far the IMF talks haven’t been successful as they haven’t promised us anything. We have made enemies with most Muslim countries. There’s not even one member in the Pohottuwa party to go to an Arabic country and have discussions. This is why we went to his residence and asked him to resign. But unfortunately because we had a clash between the Police my chest was exposed. It’s very unfortunate that people have only seen my breast but not the motive behind the protest. It was a few women who went up to the Prime Minister’s house. But we all can get the benefit of these protests. They are doing that for the country. When someone go out protesting people only talk about how they talk, how they shout, which part of the body has been exposed etc. If you can’t join the protest at least appreciate and if you can’t say anything just shut your mouth.   

Q  There’s a notion that you’re staging protests in an attempt to enter Parliament next time. Is there any truth to that?

I don’t know when the next Parliament election is going to be. I’m not a member of Parliament either. I’m just another mother. I never go out to protest as a politician. I protest as a mother, woman etc., and all the time there are women around me. It’s a struggle of mothers and there’s no political motive behind these protests. Yes, I will contest at the next Parliamentary election but I don’t know when it’s going to happen. I’m not gaining anything out of it. Compared to a less fortunate family I have some sort of resources. It’s only myself and my mother who are here. I can always migrate but I think that my children aren’t the only children who should have a good life. But it’s not only about them anymore. If I can make some sort of change that’s what really matters. Everybody should think like that. Many youngsters are going to Dubai etc. People are struggling to migrate but there are no job opportunities in those countries anymore. Therefore it’s better to stay back and win a fight and change this system. We can’t expect one person to come and rescue but that’s what happened for the past few years. If a good bunch of people come out with very good policies; there should be some changes to the law, Constitution etc, and this way irrespective of whatever the government that comes to power the system will not change.   

Q  You were obstructed from traveling to Fort recently. What happened there?

It was a small incident that was blown out of proportion due to the childishness of the policemen. Social media activist Tharindu Uduwaragedara was summoned by the CID and I went there to support him and his wife. Once he finished I asked my driver to drop me off and got another vehicle to pick me. That vehicle was parked near the road leading to the President’s official residence. I was walking towards the vehicle and I was there with two friends and one of them wanted to withdraw cash. There was an ATM down that road and as we were walking towards the ATM and around 20-25 policemen blocked the roads with barricades. It is a public road and even if I had to go towards the President’s house there are around five barricades that I should pass. But because of stupid politicians and policemen this incident happened. If I can’t cross the road as a civilian it’s ridiculous.   

Q  Do you think it is a retaliatory move by the government in response to your protests?

I saw the ASPs getting calls. I asked the ASP stationed there to show the court order to close the road. He said that the IGP has given him the orders.   

Q  Why do you hug police officers during protests?

This is a struggle of love and most police officers are also suffering like us. But because of the uniform they have to do their job. There were many women police officers when I went near the President’s personal residence in Mirihana and I realized that most of them were mothers. I hugged each and everyone of them and some of them thanked me for protesting on behalf of them. Some of them cried and some apologized for being there. Most senior police officers can get their fuel, gas etc., without any issue but women especially have to carry out household duties and then wear the uniform. There’s a mother who’s struggling to live under that respected uniform. This is why I want them to understand that we are on their side. But there are some policemen who will never understand the pain. So it’s basically to spread the message of love.   

Q  Your leader Sajith Premadasa was chased away from the Galle Face protest site. Your comments about the incident?

They say that the road he entered was wrong. But after the incident people were angry. At that point whoever who comes to help them shouldn’t be treated like that. Both Anura Kumara Dissanayake and Sajith Premadasa are in the Opposition but they didn’t attack Anura. Maybe some didn’t like the fact that Premadasa arrived with his security but that is the security given to an opposition leader. It’s a protocol and they can’t do whatever they feel like doing. After that incident most SJB people have stopped going to the aragalaya. Thereafter people felt it was going on a different path. Even though it was called the struggle of love, many who don’t support violence are not going there anymore. The UNP people aren’t going there anymore, but SJB people were there to help the aragalaya with food, water etc. and even people from overseas. But all these reduced after the incident.   

Q  Why didn’t you visit the aragalaya?

They say it’s a non-political protest and even though I protest as a mother I’m a member of a political party. I don’t want to go there and have a problem with them.   

Q  People have started to chase away politicians who visit protest sites. Didn’t you experience a similar incident in Kegalle?

There was a protest march from Jaffna to Matara and while in Kegalle there was a non-partisan protest site on the other side of the road. But it wasn’t true because we were going in another direction. What had happened was some people have hijacked that protest and they were close associates of Kanaka Herath. We were planning to protest in front of politicians’ houses and probably he thought we would protest in front of his house. Out of all protests the Kegalle protest didn’t happen well because Herath hijacked it.   

Q  The clash that happened between your father and another leading politician is reportedly said to be due to drug peddling. Can you clarify on this?

If you go to my house in Kolonnawa you can see that we lead very normal lives. My paternal grandfather and grandmother were union leaders and worked in the Sama Samaja Party and Communist party respectively. Back then the UNP candidate in Kolonnawa was Weerasinghe Mallimarachchiand he was a very strong minister and a close associate of Mr. Premadasa and nobody in Kolonnawa was ready to fight against except my father. There were so many problems between Mallimarachchi but he has never pointed a gun at my father. Even though there were political differences and he was known to be a tough guy. Therefore to counter him my father also had to be tough. My father was the first to present a bill against the drug mafia and said that drug peddlers should be put on death row. It was Felix Perera who registered the bill. My father was known as a chandi man because he had to fight with these kinds of people. But in his first speech he thanked Mallimarachchi for turning him into a man. When this politician was offered as the organizer for Kolonnawa electorate he came up to my father and requested help. My father thought he was a young boy and they were getting along well. But after he became an organizer my father’s friends and relatives said that there were rumours about this politician peddling drugs and a number of brothels started in the area. He then asked him to stop all those activities as it was his hometown. He blamed the UNPers for spreading these rumours. When my father realized that he wasn’t doing anything for the electorate he went and complained to Mahinda Rajapaksa but Rajapaksa didn’t listen at all. My father didn’t have money but he had manpower. After they won the war Mahinda Rajapaksa changed himself. Back in 2005 he had a political motive but after the war people called him a king and his way of politics changed. This politician was a good friend of Gotabaya Rajapaksa and he was uncontrollable. During a speech he says that he exposed how this politician took Gotabaya to drug dealers’ houses and he said he was one of the people who brought the Rajapaksas to power and he would be the first to go against them. Two days later he was killed. Many who don’t know about my father follow gossips. They put the blame on us so that the incident would fade away. Ask any senior politician about my father and they would tell you. I’m not saying that he’s a saint but he always protected his leader.   

Q  As you said your father and Mahinda Rajapaksa were close associates but he didn’t stand by your father. What are your thoughts?

That’s their nature. It’s the same if you take Mangala Samaraweera, Sripathi Suriyarachchi and Jeyaraj Fernandopulle. This is how they took advantage of those who knew about their history and after some time they would ignore them.   

What is SJB’s position about Ranil Wickremesinghe?

As a party we always say that he was our previous leader but we didn’t like him. The way he is, his relationship with Rajapaksas, his attitude towards voters etc. If we didn’t like him back then we don’t like him now either. I’ve never changed my words about him. I call him a brilliant, clever man. He’s very knowledgeable but he hasn’t used his brilliant mind when he was in power.   

 


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  Comments - 2

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  • Saliya withana Friday, 15 July 2022 07:32 AM

    Hirunika, You are part of the problem. You were given several chances, and you contributed to this siruation. So, Move away and let a capable, honest and patriotic person to take over.

    Menon Monday, 18 July 2022 12:57 PM

    Nothing is going to improve.... same old wine in new bottle...


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