NPP - the alternative political force - Saroja Savithri Paulraj | Sunday Observer
Parliamentary Elections:

NPP - the alternative political force - Saroja Savithri Paulraj

19 July, 2020

When Sri Lanka’s coastal areas were hit by the tsunami in 2004, Saroja Savithri Paulraj, a resident of Matara witnessed the service rendered by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP) relief service brigade, the ‘Red Star’. Having volunteered herself, Paulraj said she was impressed by the political party, its ethics and ideology. Paulraj as a result joined a number of organisations led by the JVP and rose in the ranks of the JVP women’s wing.  

An orator and teacher by profession, Paulraj is one of the 20 women candidates fielded by the National People’s Power (NPP). She will contest under the banner of the JVP led National People’s Power (NPP) from the Matara electoral district at the General Election. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Paulraj spoke on an array of topics, including female representation in Parliament, women’s rights, the public mistrust of the NPP.  

Q. Many political parties do not give equal opportunities to women. Is the NPP any different?

A:  About 52 percent of the population are women in Sri Lanka. However, women representation is a farce in all other political parties. But the JVP over the years and now, the NPP has always tried its best to give opportunities to capable women.  

The JVP, the Women for Rights organisation, and several other women’s groups formed the Progressive Women’s Collective which is a part of the NPP. Through the collective, we identified women from various backgrounds and fields who are capable but would not be given the opportunity through another political party to contest as they are not affluent or come from influential political families. The NPP has given them a chance to come forward.  

Q. Women representation is a much-discussed topic in election times. But how important is it to have capable women representation in Parliament?

A:  Women have been used as a decoration or ornament on election stages. Of the total voters, women percentage is around 65 percent. But women representation in Parliament is only 5.6 percent or about 12 seats. Even out of these, most women MPs stayed silent in the backbenches.  

Women representatives have never put forward a cabinet paper, reserved a time to talk about any issue at the grassroots level. For example, there are 782 schools that have no toilet facilities and water. No female MP has brought up this issue. There are other issues that affect women, but politicians trick women by giving empty promises. If women had capable representation in Parliament, they would not be able to do this and exploit women.  

Q. Successive governments appear to have failed to resolve women’s issues. How does the NPP plan to change this?

A:  Many women talk about the rising cost of goods, parents face difficulties when trying to admit their children to schools, farmers suffer without fertiliser and when they get a good harvest, they are unable to sell it. The issues are endless.  

These remain unresolved because the whole system is a failure. We see politicians marketing themselves. Voters have no idea of plans or policies of the politicians they support nor do they look at the system critically. People tend to believe politicians. No matter who comes to power, they must be forced to implement their programs. This is why we are asking people to join forces with the NPP.  

Q. The majority are still reluctant to trust any political movement led by the JVP due to its past. Your comment?

A:  It is a problem. People tend to be more attracted to what they have believed in traditionally. What people must look at is if the program is good, if the implementation is successful, which representative will champion these causes and if it will be beneficial to children, future generations and the country.  

We had to face two uprisings due to repressive measures by rulers in the past. However, the JVP has changed its approach and tactics. We have attracted the youth and intellectuals to our fold.  

Q. The UNP has split into two factions and is contesting the election separately. Will this push the NPP further down to perhaps the fourth or fifth place in Parliament?

A:  The position of the NPP in Parliament is uncontestable. This is because even if other parties split, all of them are still in the same camp. Politicians from three factions have claimed that they will come together to form a Government. If they were ideologically different, there would be no way they can come together in this manner.  

We are the alternative to that group and the number one alternative political force. There is no substitute. We will support any move for the betterment of the country and also unconditionally stand against anything that will harm it.  

Q. Another allegation is that the JVP was the cat’s paw of the Yahapalana Government. Your comment?

A:  We always weighed the good and bad of every decision taken by the former Government. We brought four no-confidence motions against that Government. In which camp are the majority of the Yahapalana Ministers today? What about the President of the former Government? He is contesting under the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna banner.  

Q. Why should the public vote for NPP candidates?

A: We need to change the political culture in Sri Lanka. Politicians acknowledge the people’s issues and seek the people’s vote to resolve them. But five years later, they repeat this without resolving the issues.  

Rather than believing in this failed political system and leaders, we ask the people to have faith in the NPP. The NPP has a vision for a new country.