Although the Government is trying to pit one against the other, the United National Party is united and will ensure that Maithripala Sirisena is made the President on 8 January, stressed United National Party Assistant Leader Ravi Karunanayaka, denying there is division among Party leaders in supporting the common candidate. He further stated that Muslim and Tamil voters have already endorsed Maithripala Sirisena. Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: How would you describe the progress of the common candidate’s election campaign?
A: It is progressing very decently from our side, amidst all the violence from the Government. Even though the Government tries to provoke us at all times, we work as one team.
Q: Tissa Attanayaka has said that 20 UNP electorate organisers will join the Government. What are your comments on this?
A:Tissa Attanayaka lives in a fantasy land. He has forgotten his beginnings. He has been bought over with money. He should not judge others by his standards.People were expecting more Government crossovers during the past week.Let’s wait and see what happens over the next couple of days.
Q: Is it true that common candidate Maithripala Sirisena lacks votes on the ground level?
A:This is a myth of the Government that is been conveyed all over the media. Firstly, the SLFP said they don’t even have a contest. There were talks of shadowboxing. That is now forgone. Next, they admitted that there is a fight. Then they said they will do anything to secure victory. Now they say that even if Maithripala Sirisena wins, they will not let go of the Government. That’s the level they have fallen to.
All I can say is we have confidence of the people. It is not through posters or banners on a lamppost or roundabout; Maithripala Sirisena has been marketed in a way that he is in the hearts and minds of the people. That cannot be erased. Our people are on the field.
You could see them working in a united manner with the UNPers, genuine SLFPers, the JHU, DP, Tamils, Muslims and the JVP. All of us are holding hands and walking together. As per the Government, it is only Mahinda Rajapaksa, Wimal Weerawansa, Dinesh Gunawardena and the Bodu Bala Sena.
But political analysts are of the view that President Rajapaksa holds an edge at the village level.
That must be Daily News, Rupavahini and ITN analysts. There is no truth in such analyses.
Q: Why was Maithripala Sirisena’s manifesto postponed?
A: Our manifesto will be out on 19 December. The Government doesn’t have a manifesto. They are only carrying on the mayhem that they have commenced. We are coming up with a believable, implementable work plan that can be put into work from 9January.
Q: Is there any truth to the allegations that UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa is not backing Maithripala wholeheartedly?
A: That is a lie. The Government is trying to pit one against the other. They are trying to embarrass one another. We are all together; Ranil Wickremesinghe, Karu Jayasuriya, Sajith Premedasa and Ravi Karunanayaka have come together as one party to ensure that Maithripala Sirisena is made the President on 8 January 2015. This is a myth unnecessarily being circulated by the Government, who are now even using their bogus statements about Maithripala Sirisena in order to carry their campaign through. They have fallen to that level.
Q: Are you in discussions with the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the Tamil National Alliance in order to gather their support?
A: You will see that in the future but irrespective of any of them, the Muslim and Tamil voters have already endorsed Maithripala Sirisena.
Crossovers don’t rob President’s votes: Mahindananda
Denying allegations that the Government is pressurising Opposition members to support Mahinda Rajapaksa, Minister of Sports Mahindananda Aluthgamage stated they are not keen on crossovers. “Let them be there. Only heads are moving, votes are not moving.” He added that although Maithripala Sirisena has an edge in certain parts of Colombo, the rural vote is still with President Rajapaksa. Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: What is the Government’s stand on Wednesday’s incident in Wanduramba?
A:We condemn this act. We don’t approve of such work. Whoever did that should be held responsible for it. The President has already instructed that investigations be carried out on this incident. I personally do not believe that our people are involved in this type of cheap work.
The common candidate is going through a difficult period. There are hardly any crowds at his election rallies. This is how he is trying to gain some publicity. The Opposition is trying to carry out very successful attempts to show the whole world there is violence in the country. But the truth is, not a single complaint has been recorded with the police. Our election campaign is going very smoothly. However, if someone from our side was involved in this, we will not hesitate to take action against them.
Q: Some claim their lives are under threat?
A: Why would we go to that extent? The people who crossed over to the other side have taken a decision to commit political suicide. After the election, these people will not be able to face the public. At the next general election, they will lose their seats. The decision to cross over was political suicide. We don’t need to waste time threatening such people. That’s a joke.
Q: How successful is President Rajapaksa’s campaign?
A: The President returned to the country last weekend and since then, the campaign has been excellent. In Nawalapitiya alone, we had more than 50,000 people. This was just one single electorate. When the President was in Kandy, he held six meetings at which more than 45,000 participated. The village people are with the President. Votes in all rural areas will go to the President. Not a single UNP office could be found in Nawalapitiya. Not a green flag or a poster was there.
Q: The Government is emphasising the fact the village level voters are with the President. In other words, are you admitting to the fact that Maithripala Sirisena has an edge in Colombo and the suburbs?
A:Not the suburbs. In Colombo, Maithripala Sirisena has an edge in a very few areas. It’s not theentire Colombo district – Avissawella, Kaduwela and Homagama are with the President. However, the Colombo city is a UNP stronghold. That is not a secret.
Q: When will President Rajapaksa launch his election manifesto?
A:Very soon. We have not fixed a date yet but it will be out soon.
Q: Are you waiting until Maithripala Sirisena launches his manifesto?
A:No, there is nothing like that. We have completed everything. It will be out very soon.
Q: It is mostly the ex-UNPers who are being vocal and defending the Rajapaksa regime. Does that mean the genuine SLFPers are with Maithripala Sirisena?
A:The genuine SLFPers are with PresdientRajapaksa. People like JanakaTennakoon, TissaKaraliyadda, A. Chandrasena, C.B. Rathnayaka and NimalSiripala are working very hard in their respective areas. We don’t have time to publicise our work over the media. This accusation is mostly regarding Minister Wimal Weerawansa. He is based in Colombo and it is easy for him to talk to the media and attend political programs. But most of us don’t have time to do that.
Q: Why is the Government pressuring Opposition members to join the Government? Does this show the political bankruptcy of the Rajapaksa administration?
A: We are not pressuring any Opposition members. We are not inviting them to join the Government. Let them be there. Only heads are moving, votes are not moving.
Rathana Thero remains mum over Gammanpila crossover
“We will talk about Udaya Gammanpila after 8 January. Until then, we will refrain from making any comments about him and his moves,” asserted Chairman of the Jathika Hela Urumaya Athuruliye Rathana Thero. “We are in a political fight with President Rajapaksa and we will make every attempt to successfully reach our goal.”
Q: Udaya Gammanpila has said he has the support of 17 of 29 local Government authorities of the JHU. Is that true?
A: This is one subject I do not want to talk about. I do not wish to comment about people who have crossed over. We are involved in a more serious task. Talking about people who jump from one side to another will only waste our time.
Q: Reportedly, Gammanpila, together with the Bodu Bala Sena, are to form a political party to counter the JHU. What are your comments on this?
A: I don’t think we should talk about Gammanpila and his motives.
Q: What actions have been taken to prevent JHU members crossing over to the Government?
A: We have a responsibility towards the people in this country. Whoever wants to be help us in this endeavour will remain with us.
Q: Has Gammanpila requested a meeting with JHU Leader Omalpe Sobitha Thero?
A: We will talk about Gammanpila after 8 January. Until then, I will refrain from making any comments.
Q: How would you describe Maithripala Sirisena’s presidential campaign?
A: It is successful. We have people gathering around us. Actually, the campaign is progressing more than we expected at the beginning.
Q: You may have started the campaign with a lead but don’t you feel that the Government is back in the game following Tissa Attanayaka’s and Gammanpila’s crossovers?
A: Let’s not talk about crossovers. Our campaign is successful. The people are with us. We are in a political fight with President Rajapaksa and we will make every attempt to successfully reach our goal.
Nizam says SLMC might jump on winning wagon
The Muslim community wants to ensure there will be security, survival and no antagonism under a new President, stated Sri Lanka Muslim Congress Deputy Director GeneralNizamKariappa. He stressed that the SLMC should consider whether they want to support a government allied with theBoduBalaSena. Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: Has the SLMC decided whom to support at the upcoming Presidential election?
A: No, we are yet to reach a final decision.
Q: When will you announce your decision?
A: Nobody knows. Except for the leader, nobody knows anything. It all depends on the date we have a high command. We haven’t had a high command for in the last one week. We are waiting until it’s summoned.
Q: Can you elaborate on as to why the SLMC is delaying reaching a final decision?
A: What I have told you is all I can tell at this point. I can’t tell you anything more. Especially in a pending situation, we have to keep quiet. Only when we know what our decision is can we can elaborate on it.
Q: Are you deliberately delaying the process in order to figure out who is on the winning path and join that candidate?
A: Maybe… there may be some truth in that.
Q: Is it true that the SLMC is under immense pressure by the Government to remain with them and support Mahinda Rajapaksa?
A: Not to my knowledge but anyway, when candidates are desperate, they will always make such requests.
Q: Have you been approached by the Opposition?
A: They must be talking to our leader and asking for our support. I am one man who doesn’t try to do deals. I am a member who will always go for the collective. If the leader wants me to talk to someone or meet someone, I will do it. But other than that, I don’t get involved in these types of deals.
Q: What conditions will you lay down to the Presidential Candidates who seek the SLMC’s support?
A: We have not put forward such conditions thus far. My personal view is that laying down conditions is bad for the candidate and the party, as well as the community. We should always think about what is best for the country. Some of our people think that the community should come first. It is unfortunate that some even blame our leader. The majority of our community feels that we must make use of this opportunity.
Q: What is the SLMC’s stand on the common candidate?
A: He has offered something for the country but I don’t see him offering anything to the political parties. He has pledged to abolish the executive presidency and restore rule of law. His main slogan is to change the system. My community has other concerns such as security, survival and not to get antagonised. Unfortunately, I am not at a decision-making level in national politics.
Q: Is the SLMC also of the view that the executive presidency should be abolished?
A: Yes. Exactly. This is something we have been saying for a long time but there are other concerns that are now taking over, such as security and playing safe but I don’t want to elaborate any further about our concerns.
Q: The BBS has criticised a comment made by you that Muslims will have to face difficulties in the future if they support the common candidate.
A: Yes. They have had strong sentiments about it but I don’t want to talk about it.
Q: Do you want to align with a government that has the support and backing of the BBS?
A: This is one of the major concerns that we have been discussing. We have already expressed our concerns – I suppose these matters will be taken into consideration when we reach a final decision.