NPP unbowed and unafraid when representing the people - former JVP parliamentarian and NPP candidate Bimal Ratnayake | Sunday Observer

NPP unbowed and unafraid when representing the people - former JVP parliamentarian and NPP candidate Bimal Ratnayake

21 June, 2020

The National People’s Power (NPP) a group of 31 parties and organisations led by the leftist Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will face its first general election on August 5. This week in an interview with the Sunday Observer, former JVP parliamentarian and NPP candidate, Bimal Ratnayake, revealed the NPP’s campaign plans, slogans and challenges in the run-up to the Parliamentary elections.

Q: This will be the first Parliamentary Election faced by the NPP as a political party. What are your preparations for it?

A. Even though this is the first election faced by the NPP, it has been functioning as an organisation for over one and a half years. Some groups in it such as the National Intellectuals Organisation have been working with us from even before that. Thus, even though the NPP consists of nearly 31 parties and groups we do not have any difficulties in working together towards the election and we will be able to successfully face the upcoming polls.

Even before Covid- 19, we had already prepared for the election including creating our propaganda material. The NPP has, therefore, now commenced its election campaign in all districts around the country.

Q:The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed a number of limitations on election campaigning. What changes if at all, has the NPP made in its campaign to reach the people despite these limitations?

A. The Covid -19 situation must be accepted and cannot be ignored even in an election campaign. The JVP always had the tradition of meeting people face to face and holding smaller meetings. Therefore, our main campaign has not had to change much even in the Covid -19 situation.

But however, we notice that there is reduced participation of the people this time around as people are still afraid of Covid -19. This is an issue faced by most of the political parties except for the parties in the Government as they have media available to them to disseminate their messages. As the NPP, we have understood that we will have to rely heavily on media and social media making it nearly 60 per cent of our campaign.

In this situation, the Election Commission must strictly ensure that all parties get the same space in media outlets to ensure the election is free and fair as well as to strengthen democracy. If not, it is not only unfair for political movements but also to the people.

Q: But do you think the Covid-19 will negatively affect your party due to the limitations imposed?

A. I think the negative effects of the limitations are being faced by all parties other than those in the Government. As a party, there are difficulties for us to reach out to the people because of these limitations due to Covid- 19. But these are necessary due to the situation. If these limitations are applied equally to all, then, I do not believe they will be unfair in particular to us. But what we notice is that the Government is not adhering to these limitations while enforcing them on others. If that continues there will be a major issue.

Q: What is the main challenge for the NPP in the run up to the General Election?

A. One of the main challenges for us is getting the media space. The other is facing the massive mudslinging campaign against the NPP by parties in the Government. The same lies are disseminated through various outlets to establish it. We believe a large number of floating votes will move towards the NPP this time. This is clear because on observation one can notice that the Government often attacks the NPP and not parties like the United National Party (UNP) or the Sajith group. Therefore, not having the media space to disseminate our messages and to counter these attacks is the main challenge. Having limited resources for advertising is also a challenge for us.

Q: You mentioned a mudslinging campaign against the NPP. What has the party done to counter this?

A. The NPP as a political force also stands in as a moral force in the country. Therefore, we are not only an electoral threat but also a moral threat for the SLPP and UNP. They are attempting to portray to the public that we are the same as them. That we are thieves just like them. These mudslinging campaigns are taking place in an organised manner. Anything with integrity, rationality or principles is seen as a threat and attacked. But we have proved to the people that we are not thieves who have misused public funds. For example, when it was said I have bought five BMW cars for my wife, we offered to give one to anyone who can prove the claim. We have proved that many of these allegations are false but they continue to be propagated through media to be established as truths among their loyalists.

Q: Due to the split in the UNP there are concerns that a weak Opposition will be formed. Your take on this?

A. Winning members of the Sajith group and the Ranil group will invariably be bought off by the Government. In 2010 - 2015, the UNP was in the Opposition but what service did they render? The UNP has never played its part as the Opposition. Either they are bought or accept deals. Even back then, the JVP had to carry out the duties of the Opposition alone. The JVP continues to be the party with the most active MPs. Even when the SLPP which has the most inactive MPs in Parliament was in the Opposition all they were able to do was to throw chilli powder and create a ruckus. But JVP MP Sunil Handunetti, for example, was able to checkmate the Government through his work in COPE. Both main parties never played their role when in the Opposition. Thus, that the Opposition will weaken is a fallacy as they will never do their duty as the Opposition. Since 2010 it is the JVP that did the duties of the opposition and will continue to do so given the opportunity.

Q: What are the NPP’s slogans for the upcoming elections?

A. Firstly, we want to tell the people why they must vote for the NPP. We will explain to them the dangers of the SLPP rule including threats to democracy and a family rule, that it is highly probable that many of those who have been accused of corruption from that camp will be elected to Parliament. We will show them that discipline, law and order, good governance will fall on the wayside. Democracy will take a hit while corruption will only increase and the rights of the people will also be affected as evidenced by various incidents recently.

The country will have to be saved from these. For this, the country needs a clean Parliament. People have rejected all MPs because there are no policies, discipline and as many are criminals. Only the NPP has people with policies and discipline. Also, we are unbowed and unafraid when representing the people. We will present these to the public to show them as to why they must vote for the NPP.