Over 20 dummy candidates in the fray- USP Leader | Sunday Observer

Over 20 dummy candidates in the fray- USP Leader

20 October, 2019
Siritunga Jayasuriya
Siritunga Jayasuriya

Siritunga Jayasuriya, Leader of United Socialist Party (USP) who is the candidate with the most attempts at the Presidency, says the two main parties have fielded dummy candidates to swing the votes in their direction and this has undermined the democratic values of Sri Lanka’s elections.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer he said the masses are fed up not only with the green and blue camps but the red camp as well - the red camp which had played the ‘king maker role’ for all presidents elected since 1994.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: You have run for President’s office the most number of times of the 35 candidates in the fray. What inspired you to run for office four times in a row?

A. We contested the presidential election for the first time in 2005. The party concluded that the country needed an alternative economic policy for development and the existing parties can never deliver this burning people’s need.

These parties differ from each other on the surface, but their underlying policies were the same.

All of these major parties follow ‘neo liberal’ open economic policies. Therefore we decided that we must offer an alternative.We received a good response from the people in 2005.

Q: Winning a presidential election is a distant dream for your party, what is your ultimate goal?

A. We believe that this country must be rescued from its current predicament. But we are not competing on a level playing field, hence our message does not get across easily and the masses will have apprehensions about our claims. Only about 10% of the voters hear our voice. We are driven by the belief that if we make the people understand and listen to us, we can aim for better results.

Q: What are your priorities?

A. We believe that the nearly 72 year old national question must be resolved once and for all. We had a 30 year old war. From time to time the UNP, SLFP, JVP as well as the LSSP were either ruling the country or were part of the sitting government, yet no one was able to resolve this age old issue. These right wing parties and their cohorts cannot solve this national problem.

We represent the left, the working class and the grassroots, we have a good understanding of their needs, aspirations and hopes.

We believe that Tamil people must be given the freedom to find a home grown solution to this issue. If it should be done in a referendum or by any other means is to be determined later, firs we have to accept that they have a right to decide their future.

Q: Are you saying that they should be given autonomy?

A. They must decide that, whether they want to live together or separately. We need to fill the gap between Sinhalese and Tamils.

Then the next priority would be the repayment of loans. Then comes freeing our country from colonial shackles to which we are still tied. We are still not a free country. The colonial tentacles are still intact in the guise of IMF and World Bank’s conditions. We need to set our country free. We need to reinstate people’s sovereignty.

Saving farmers from loan sharks and making them active members of the country’s production process is another one of our priorities. We have an alternative set of plans to what have been implemented so far by all past governments.

Q: What is your political background?

A. I began my political career in 1964, from the LSSP. Then when it partnered with the SLFP to set up a Government we walked out. Then in 1979 we founded the Nawa Sama Samaja Party. I was with Vasudeva Nanayakkara and Wickremabahu Karunaratne. Then again I had issues with the stand the party took during the time IPKF was invited to the country. While the other leaders of the party agreed J.R.Jayawardena was right in signing the Indo-Lanka pact, I considered it wrong to submit the country to a foreign military force, even on a friendly note.We objected to it as a matter of principle. In 1989, I formed the United Socialist party. I have been in active politics for over 50 years now and I don’t do any other job since 1975. Politics is not a part time job for me.

Q: What is your vote base, has it increased over the years since 2005?

A. In 2005 we secured nearly 40,000 votes. May be we could not meet people’s aspirations, we have been getting lesser votes since then. One reason could be the higher number of candidates each year. For many, the presidential election has become a joke. What’s the rationale behind having 35 presidential candidates in our tiny country? Most of these candidates are dummies of the two main parties in the fray.There are nearly 20 such dummy candidates. Those parties created this mess.

These elections are an unbearable burden on the tax payer and unfair on the part of the Election Commission staff since they are stretched to the limit. Besides, this has overshadowed the minor parties like ours who are here with a genuine objective.

Q: As a seasoned politician who had faced presidential elections which way is the ball swinging this time, what are the voter’s aspirations ?

A. This election is very decisive. The voters are highly disappointed in both the main parties (SLPP/SLFP alliance and UNP led alliance). They are of the view that entire the 225 Members of Parliament must be sent home. It has created a healthy space for the alternative candidates.

Q: One of the scathing criticisms levelled against left parties is the absence of a second level leadership?

A. Yes that claim is there - that the second level leadership is not allowed to flourish within the left movement. But as far as our party is concerned, that criticism is not true. Our second leadership consist of attorneys, professionals and social activists, even females .

Q: Do you support any major candidate in the presidential race?

A. No. We reject both the main candidates, we don’t even indirectly support anyone. Gotabaya Rajapaksa is an accused, there are many court cases against him. His record as the defence secretary is tarnished by abductions and killings.

At the same time, if elected he is planning to appoint retired military officers as administrators. His intention is to create a semi military rule in the country. I know that some left parties are supporting his candidacy. It can be justified better as a survival tactic, else I don’t know how they can justify siding with a candidate who’s riding on communal lines.

Sajith Premadasa on the other hand, has no proper vision for the country. He is part of the Neo liberal economic policies of this government. He has entered the fray to peddle his party ideology. So we think the voters have no legitimate reason to vote for him. I believe the others are focusing on getting the Sinhala Buddhist vote while we think of a president who can meet aspirations of all communities in the south as well as the north, a president who can solve issues within a united Sri Lanka.

Q: What is your funding source ?

A. Audited party accounts are submitted to the annual convention. Our main source of funding is membership fees. We are very open and transparent in our financial transactions. We opened a special account for the Presidential election 2019 and we will limit our campaign to below Rs.500,000. But some of our opponents spend about Rs.5 million on just one rally alone.

Mr.Naganantha’s case is a good eye opener.

Q: Do you think the JVP candidate will make a good impact at this election?

A. JVP is also like the LSSP and Communist Party. For the past 25 years they helped one party or the other to come to power.... they helped Chandrika Kumaratunga in 1994, in 2005 the JVP backed Mahinda Rajapaksa, in 2010 it joined the UNP to work for Sarath Fonseka’s victory and in 2015 aligned with Maithripala Sirisena’s campaign. They were even part of the 100 days program.

They abandoned socialism, the class struggle and embraced capitalist parties. They no more represent the left.