Party leaders, politicians ready to support President’s program – Akila Viraj Kariyawasam | Sunday Observer

Party leaders, politicians ready to support President’s program – Akila Viraj Kariyawasam

9 July, 2023

United National Party (UNP) Assistant Leader and Senior Adviser to the President Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said in future elections, instead of party politics, attention should be focused on the capable leader who can successfully accomplish the task carried out to rebuild the country amid emerging challenges.

The UNP Assistant Leader in an interview with the Sunday Observer said a lot of Party Leaders and politicians are willing to extend their support to President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s program irrespective of party differences.

They will extend their support to the President at the appropriate time. The President has been able to take the country on the correct path and all moderate people accept this. There is a group of people who don’t accept this ground reality due to their political hypocrisy.

The Opposition is attempting to somehow hinder the ongoing program to get the country out of the current crisis and have sadistic pleasure of it.


Q: How do you view the leadership given by President Ranil Wickremesinghe to the country at this crucial juncture? Do you think if the President didn’t accept the challenging task, the country would have turned into a more bigger crisis today?

A: It is not only me, the entire country irrespective of party affiliations accept the leadership given to the country by the President at this crucial juncture. This is an extraordinary situation.

Everybody knows except President Wickremesinghe, there is nobody in the political arena who can give this kind of full-fledged leadership to the country at this critical juncture. However, some of those engaged in politics are reluctant to accept this due to their political hypocrisy.

Q: The Opposition says that the Government has no mandate, especially after the events of the Aragalaya and a General Election is the only solution. What is your comment on this?

A: The Opposition political parties want to somehow implement their political agenda. Therefore, they have launched their capgaign to realise their ulterior motives. They never concentrate on the situation faced by the country a year ago and as to how the country should move forward overcoming the present obstacles. Last year, the people had to undergo immense hardships due to long hours of power cuts and lengthy fuel and gas queues.

There was a situation in which the people couldn’t fulfill even their basic requirements. However, anybody in the Opposition was reluctant to accept the challenge of taking the country forward.

Those who are in the Opposition have a lack of ability and capability to accept challenges. Capable leaders should be able to give leadership when the country has faced a crisis.

Those in the Opposition who conduct media shows didn’t have the courage or ability to accept the challenge. In a situation where his house was set on fire, President Wickremesinghe accepted the challenge to get the country out of the crisis due to his political maturity and vast experience.

Now the President has been able to take the country on the correct path and all moderate people accept this.

Unfortunately, there is a group of people who don’t accept this ground reality due to their political hypocrisy. They attempt to blow some minor issues out of proportion to get undue political advantages. This is the political culture which prevails in our country.

Q: Is the Government planning to hold a Presidential or General Election anytime soon? If it is Presidential, is the candidate going to be President Ranil Wickremesinghe? Will the SLPP support such a move? And how ready is the UN P for any future election?

A: As the UNP, we continue our party organisation activities. In future elections, instead of party politics, we should focus our attention on the Leader who can accomplish the task carried out to rebuild the country amidst emerging challenges. We believe everybody should extend their support to President Ranil Wickremesinghe to fulfill this task irrespective of politics.

Party politics has become a challenge to all political parties. As the President said, no single political party will be able to secure 50 percent of votes at a future election. Under the prevailing atmosphere, it is very obvious that except President Wickremesinghe, there is no other alternative.

At one time Opposition politicians say we should go to the IMF. Another section says we shouldn’t go to the IMF. One occasion they say the debt restructuring should be carried out. When that is going to be done, they attempt to incite the public against it. Most of these Opposition politicians and parties are engaged in a ‘double acting’.

Those who say our foreign loans

should be restructured attempt to create a fear psychosis when attempts are made to restructure domestic debts. If we request to restructure foreign loans, we can’t ignore restructuring domestic debt. That is not justifiable as well. The IMF has put forward certain conditions. If we don’t go for domestic debt restructuring, there is no other alternative. However, we can see how opportunism comes forward on various occasions when strategies are taken in this regard. This is an unfortunate situation.

Opposition Party Leaders made a big hue and cry about convening Parliament on Saturday and Sunday. They said except for an emergency situation, even the British Parliament has not been convened on Sundays. Then they take examples from the Westminster parliamentary system. When the Broadcasting Authority Bill is to be introduced and positive features in similar acts in the UK and other developed countries are taken, they just oppose it without taking any example from those countries. This shows their political bankruptcy.

They only concentrate on capturing power and are reluctant to speak the truth. Any moderate person can realise the deliberate attempt made by the Opposition to somehow hinder the ongoing program to get the country out of the current crisis and have sadistic pleasure of it. We could see how certain sections captured power in the recent past and finally dragged the country towards destruction by promoting race, religion and nationality. If they are not in a position to follow the same old tactic to hoodwink the people, they select other avenues to realise their ulterior motives.

Q: Although predicted on several occasions, so far there have been no mass scale defections from the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) to the Government side. Are you certain that more SJB MPs will defect?

A: Many Party Leaders and politicians have decided to extend their support to the President’s program when the opportunity comes. However, this is not the time for it and a national election has not been declared so far.

A lot of politicians are willing to extend their support to the President’s program irrespective of party differences. We believe these Party Leaders and politicians will extend their support to the President at the appropriate time. The Government’s program will be further strengthened due to the domestic debt restructuring and other initiatives taken by the Government.

In the near future, more solutions will be provided to the burning issues of the people and will get the country out of the crisis. We also admit the people have faced hardships as the prices of commodities have gone up. The prices of all commodities should be reduced in a fair manner.

During the recent past, several leading companies earned huge profits by putting consumers into severe hardships. Stern laws should be introduced to overcome the situation. At least the prices of essential food commodities should be reduced by a fair amount. We hope these positive changes will take place in the near future.

Q: The Government has been accused of saying ‘yes’ to all the conditions put forward by the IMF and the Opposition is saying that they will negotiate some conditions if and when they come to power. Is it possible to avoid some IMF conditions?

A: Then the main Opposition SJB should accept this challenge and govern the country. They should have an alternative plan for it. We cannot implement what they are saying from the Opposition.

The President has categorically said if the Opposition doesn’t agree with the Government’s program, submit their alternative program but none of them had such a program. The IMF follows the same criteria when the loans are given to each and every country. They don’t give us a loan without putting forward conditions.

Q: There is a lot of controversy over domestic debt restructuring. What is the need for this as many people seem to fear it?

A: Even the IMF has asked to go for domestic debt restructuring. Actually, the Opposition is well aware of this. The President and the Central Bank Governor said that domestic debt restructuring will not have any impact on deposits. However, the Opposition attempted to create an unnecessary fear among the people. That is how they implement their political agenda.

Investors, entrepreneurs and those who have invested in various fields are in a great crisis as their loan interest rates have gone up drastically.

This domestic debt restructuringwould pave the way to create financial stability. Similarly, we hope interest rates will also come down and this would help the economy to move forward. When the nation is faced with a crisis, each state institution and the banking sector should make some sacrifice to overcome the situation.

Q: The Opposition says the Government is trying to suppress the electronic media through the Broadcasting Authority Bill. What is the need for bringing such a Bill?

A: We have to check and see whether the discipline and ethics were there within the media during the recent past. Actually, it were the owners of the media institutions and journalists who decide on the kind of Government to come to power. They created an opinion among the people because the political literacy of our people is not at a high level. As a result, the people decide on something after watching what appears in the print, electronic and social media. When we act properly and correct decisions are taken on time, perhaps, we may not be popular among the people.

Each sector including the media should have moral values. Similar to the financial discipline, it is also vital to maintain media and political discipline as well. All laws required by the country to suit present day needs should be passed without further delay. Otherwise, this country will not move forward.

Q: The President will travel to India and China soon on State visits. What is the significance of these visits given the geopolitical rivalry between these two countries?

A: The President’s foreign policy is very transparent and it is a nonaligned policy. On occasions like this, the President doesn’t take the country to cater to the needs of any power bloc.

We should get the support of everybody and move forward.

Neighbouring India is very important for us and they have helped us a lot during the crisis. Similarly, China is a very vital factor for us and we also need their assistance to move forward. India and China extended their support to get the IMF credit facility. The President is following a neutral foreign policy due to his political maturity. It is important for us to get the support of the US, Japan or other countries. We should act in cooperation with all countries.

The President is the last in the line of honourable politicians and statesmen. It will take a few decades to produce a leader such as President Wickremesinghe. He, through his foreign policy, will be able to bring lots of benefits to the country in the near future.

Q: The Aswesuma has come in for a lot of criticism. What are the plans under way to streamline this program and remove from the program those unsuitable?

A: There may be certain amendments in the Aswesuma program. It is obvious there is a politically motivated move behind those protests conducted against it.

The Samurdhi program should not be turned into a political cat’s-paw. That is what happened in the past. We should not engage in politics by making use of thousands of recipients who are in the Samurdhi movement. These benefits should be given to those who are in the bottom line without having any assistance.

The Aswesuma is going to be implemented to provide some sort of relief to those who don’t have any assistance at all.

When the Government asked officials and Samurdhi Development Officers to formulate and implement a proper mechanism, they ignored their national responsibility.

Then the Government implemented the program through Samurdhi Development Officers. Sometimes, Samurdhi benefits have been given to those who are not eligible to get them. There are some people who misuse the criteria and get Samurdhi benefits. It deprives the opportunity for the deserving people to get Samurdhi. Steps should be taken to provide benefits under the Aswesuma program only to deserving people.