Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s aims - Unity, anti corruption and progress - Sujeewa Senasinghe | Sunday Observer

Samagi Jana Balawegaya’s aims - Unity, anti corruption and progress - Sujeewa Senasinghe

15 March, 2020

Marching to different beats- UNP and SJB

One of the oldest and the biggest political parties, the United National Party suffered a major split, a week ago with its Leader Ranil Wickremasinghe deciding to contest the up coming parliamentary election in April separately, breaching an earlier Working Committee agreement. Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa has clung to his guns and have declared that he will along with his support group within the UNP will contest the election under the newly formed alliance - Samagi Jana Balawegaya. Former Minister Daya Gamage and Former State Minister Sujeewa Senasinghe who are supporting the rival groups within the UNP explain the back ground to the decisions taken so far.

Q. For the first time, after many years ,the UNP has suffered a major split. United you could have posed a threat to the rival alliance led by the President. But now , don’t you think the party is heading for a massive election defeat ?

A: If you analyse the history of the UNP we were in the opposition for only five years the maximum at a time. This was the case under leaders like D.S. Senanayake to R.Premadasa. We had a flourishing era and mega irrigation projects. Gam Udawa, the garment industry, Mahapola and Janasaviya were some of the landmarks of that era.

That was during a time when Asia was not even developing. Singapore set us as an example and China came and learnt from us to manufacture, they visited our free trade zones and that is the model they took back to China.

But unfortunately in 1994 Ranil Wickremasinghe took over. From then on, we had been in the opposition under Ranil Wickremasinghe for 25 years. You can imagine the decline.

In cricket, if the team kept losing, you will change the team. This step is going to mark a new era in the UNP. We will ensure that the party will regain the golden era which it had in 1977.

If we hide behind this ‘United’ slogan and do nothing, Ranil Wickremasinghe is going to be at the helm for many more years, and then pass on the leadership to a leader whom he prefers, and as equally incapable as he is. The Rajapaksas will be ruling the country for eternity.

The change we have brought about is what the people wanted. There are three to four black sheep in the party (UNP) who were doing deals with the Rajapaksas. They are defending Wickremasinghe at the moment.

True UNP supporters want their removal to be effected and want capable ,dynamic leaders who can take straight forward decisions and do not drag their cronies and family into politics.

Q. Don’t you think the UNP’s decision to contest separately under the elephant symbol will have any effect on your election victory?

A: The effect on our vote-base will be less than three per cent , but at the same time there are people, waiting for this change. They voted for Gotabaya at the last election because we did not bring this change before. Just before the Presidential election, Ranil Wickremasinghe declared that he will be the PM under a Sajith Premadasa presidency. That sealed our fate.

We did a survey and it showed 2 per cent support fromWickremasinghe. Then they showed a 8 - 10 growth for us if he leaves the party. If we compare that growth we can ignore the 2 per cent loss. Then there is a 30 per cent floating vote which is looking for a change within the UNP.

On the other hand, nationalism was a major issue with Wickremasinghe. The majority community and all the temples were going against the party as a result. The UNP vote base eroded significantly under Wickremasinghe’s leadership.

Q. The Samagi Jana Balawegaya will be contesting without the familiar elephant symbol. On top of this, the UNP will be there in the ballot paper as a separate party and their symbol will be the elephant, how will that affect your vote-base ?

A: That will not have any effect at all. When Chandrika Kumaratunga contested in 1994, she contested under the betel leaf. It was not an established symbol. All she had was a good team. Pohottuwa is not an established symbol too.

Our aim is the unity, anti corruption and progress of the country. We will respect our history, and culture while safeguarding nationalism. Rights of the minorities too will be protected.

When the UNP nomination list was rejected at one of the Mayoral elections, the party backed an independent group and a three wheel driver was elected as the Mayor.

But this time we have a team of UNP parliamentarians who have been with the people. I will sacrifice all my wealth for the people. All we need from politics is the people’s respect, love and affection. The day we cannot get it, Sajith and I will be out of politics .

Q. The United National Party is in the race separately, the JVP will be coming as a strong alliance. Don’t you think you will be reduced to third or fourth place in the Parliamentary Election?

A: We will be number one. The stock market has collapsed, the cost of living has sky rocketed and the loan repayment is the worst at the moment despite the promises given by the SLPP at the last election. People are struggling now. There is a completely confusing tax structure. The Government is collapsing.

We cannot imagine what effect the new coronavirus will have on the country. Fortunately it has not come in full force so far.

We managed to lift the ban on the fisheries exports, get back GSP+ trade concessions for our exporters. We built 140 km of highways, completed ground work for 20,000 acres of Industrial zones, there is the light rail system plus the Kerawalapitiya power station. The people are now wondering why the hell did we voteout the last government.

Q. The General Secretary of the UNP has issued a statement, two days ago, asking the former UNP parliamentarians to support the party at the upcoming election. He has threatened them with action according to the party constitution if they side with any other alliance or any other party.

A: How did this General Secretary rose up to that position? It is because of the connection he had with Ranil Wickremasinghe, nothing else. How many senior people were overlooked to give him that position? We must ask why ? No,w it’s his turn to save his leader. His only concern is that.

The Working Committee took a decision for this alliance to move forward, that is the binding decision, for Sajith Premadasa to be the leader and Chairman of the nomination board and appoint a General Secretary. The UNP Working Committee endorsed the appointment of Ranjith Madduma Bandara as General Secretary of the Alliance.

We will challenge them in t court and dare them to make their threat in courts. The majority of the Working Committee members are with us. They have only five to six cronies who have turned politics into a business. One is already in hiding. All this infighting created by them will give advantage to the Rajapaksas.

Q. Will the Samagi Jana Balawegaya be giving nomination to notorious wrong-doers to contest the upcoming election?

A: No, we will not. Ranjan Ramanayake has no charges of corruption. Proven offenders will not contest under our alliance but others without proof or credible evidence, they will be allowed to contest. Those are tactics to silence those who iare vociferous against the former regime. There are such unfounded allegations against me, Rajitha and Champika.

Q. Have you appointed the nomination boards, when are you going to finalise nomination lists?

A: We have already finished nomination lists of fourdistricts. And I was also one of the Chairmen of the nomination boards but I could not participate as I have to handle legal issues and the national campaign along with other MPs.

Sajith Premadasa is our Prime Ministerial candidate.

Q. Don’t you think Sajith Premadasa has betrayed his father’s party by creating a major split within the UNP?

A: No. He is actually trying to save it. If he did not take this drastic step, Ranil Wickremasinghe will still be the leader at 90. And we’ll be looking for alternative candidates to run for Presidency. They are asking random people to contest the General Election, they don’t even have people. One man has brought this party to such destruction. Mark my words, the UNP will be untouchable in five years time. We will rule for about 15 years and make this country a Singapore.