know who I am and what I am capable of"
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Q: Have you asked for a position in the UNP?
A: Never in my life.
Q: In your previous interviews, you often said that
if offered the responsibility, you would serve the
party to the utmost. Doesn't this denote you would
indeed like to hold a position in your party?
A: Having an inclination to hold a position
and being offered a position are two totally
different things. They also differ from asking or
clamouring for a position.
There is absolutely no need for me to write a resume
and apply for a position anywhere in the political
spectrum in Sri Lanka. I think people in this
country have a pretty good knowledge who Sajith
Premadasa is and what he is capable of.
I am invited to hold any position within the party
or a UNP-led government, I will heartily agree to do
so, because this means serving my motherland through
the political party that I identify myself with.
Q: If you are offered a post, do you think you may
be able to quell some of the dissent that seems to
be prevalent within the UNP?
A: I shall certainly strive to do so. Having
said that, I must add that while not having any such
position within the party at present, I am trying to
do everything within my power to unite our members.
my own way, I am trying to strengthen our party and
to retain and enhance its political base. It is our
collective duty to make our party a vibrant and
innovative political force that can be assured
electoral victories. That will also be a victory for
the people of Sri Lanka.
Q: Could you explain as to why there is so much of
dissent within the UNP right now?
A: I think there are several issues but if I
were to point them out, I would not be doing justice
to my political party and in fact, I might end up
further aggravating the present situation. Therefore
it is best that I reserve my comments, though I
would certainly love to answer your question. My
silence is in furtherance of party unity.
However, I have raised my voice at the correct fora
within the party. I am morally inhibited from
explaining myself any further on your question.
Q: However you just said there are issues affecting
the party at present. One such issue is that a
section of the parliamentary group is no longer
willing to accept Ranil Wickremesinghe as leader.
Would you agree?
A: Well of course, within the parliamentary
group, there is generally a plethora of opinions.
That should be so. A lot of people have been
expressing divergent opinions.
But I would not venture into explaining any further
on this question, as I could not be fair by the
party and more so, the party cadres who would not
want to see the UNP in turmoil and its problems
publicly thrashed out which will eventually impact
on the electorate.
do hope that you do understand why I limit myself,
despite being a very forthright person.
But this once, I think I must conduct myself with
the party's interest at heart.
just hope that our party does get back into the
right track and will soon give political expression
to the silent majority of Sri Lanka, who indeed are,
I think would want the UNP to function better and
perform a crucial political role.
Q: Are you not guilty of maintaining silence and
getting others to further your cause and push you up
the political ladder?
A: Never in my political life have I
instructed or used others to get them to speak on my
behalf. I am sure if they speak well of me and see a
career for myself, they do so with the goodness of
their hearts and not because of being prodded by me
in anyway! I am not that kind of politician in the
Yes I have been silent in recent times. But it is
incorrect to say that I have been silent all the
time. I have been quite vocal on certain issues,
forthright in giving my opinions, all of which I did
in furtherance of our party's goals. Time and again,
I have submitted proposals too.
This time I thought I needed to speak up and did so.
I spoke from my heart as well as my head. Did so
objectively. I felt that we were on a slippery
slope and I saw a Doom's Day scenario for the UNP
that needs to be averted. Again, I said all that for
the party that we all love.
Q: Why have UNP members chosen this inopportune time
to dredge these issues, considering that there is
yet another crucial election, the Western Provincial
Council poll around the corner?
A: It is actually a Catch 22 situation. The
situation is very crucial. We are facing an
election, and an important one at that. We did
consider the possibilities of disregarding these
issues and/or whether to deal with them promptly. We
asked this question from ourselves.
is a difficult one to answer whether to ignore the
various eruptions that continue unabated. The
issues surfaced naturally.
think the leader of our party, Ranil Wickremesinghe
should now demonstrate his character and make the
crucial and vital decisions to take our party back
to its glory days. It is his responsibility now.
Q: Does this mean that he should step down?
A: I think it is a matter for the party
leadership to decide. Many have expressed various
views on the matter. The party should decide whether
heads must roll, elevated, replaced or step down.
Our party is a highly centralised and a highly
hierarchical party. I also think the necessary
constitutional moves to provide the backdrop for
correct decision-making should also be considered in
this midst. I hope and pray that we will make the
right decisions to not just for the party's sake and
Q: Do you aspire for presidency?
A: I have answered this question a million
times. I would give the same old answer, yes.
would be an honour to serve my country in whatever
capacity, be it in the pradeshiya sabhas or at a
higher rank. Let the people decide in whichever
position they wish to see me perform. If it is in
the pradeshiya sabha, so be it. If it is the
presidency, so be it.
Q: Do you believe you have the necessary
qualifications to become head of state?
A: That is a question that you should pose to
the 20 million people of Sri Lanka. They will have
an answer to that.
"I want to bring the UNP back to power"
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Q: Do you feel that the time is right for a change
in the party leadership?
A: I would not respond to the question, as it
is an internal party issue. Therefore, it would not
be proper to speak about it in the open. I believe
it is wrong to discuss party issues out in the open.
Q: Haven't you been canvassing for a more
controlling position within the UNP?
A: No. I have personally not asked for any
position, controlling or otherwise, in the party at
this point of time.
Q: What kind of public support do you have in the
A: I enjoy a great deal of popularity in the
UNP. If you take people representing different
social segments, you would see that the Buddhist
monks love me; the intellectual as well as the
minority communities respect me. The results of the
recently concluded Central Provincial Council
elections, especially in the Kandy District where I
contested are a clear indication of the people's
support I have. I polled the highest number of
preferential votes at the North Western and Central
Provincial Council elections. I came first in the
preferential vote count in every electorate. I came
first in the postal vote count as well. All this
stands testimony to the fact that I do have public
support in the country. People have accepted me.
Q: Do you think that you have national leadership
qualities or a national support base to stake a
claim for eventual party leadership?
A: I think that I have national leadership
qualities and a support base. I also believe that I
should reach a position of leadership at some time.
Q: You have been accused of building a campaign
against the current UNP leadership and even
factionalising the party. Do you accept this?
A: When 17 UNPers defected from the party, it
was due to the party reforms proposal presented by
me. M.H. Mohamad and I prepared a list of 23
proposals aimed at reforming the party. The list was
given to the party leadership and was also
circulated among the party membership. The 17 UNPers
defected as a result of the response received to the
However, when presenting the proposals I said that
even if none of the proposals presented were
accepted by the party leadership, I would not leave
it. Therefore, I accept that I did play an indirect
role in the defection of the 17 UNPers. However,
this time around, it is different and I have not
played any role in campaigning against the party
leadership and factionalising it. Now I express my
views within the party framework and keep quiet.
The present issues in the party have been based
within the party's parliamentary group. I am not a
parliamentarian and do not come within that group,
so I have no role in any of the things I am accused
Q: What do you have to say to the criticisms that
you are actually destroying the UNP and is
performing a task for the government which needs a
weak opposition to survive?
A: Before commencing my campaign in the Kandy
District for the Central Provincial Council
elections, there were several surveys done to
ascertain the party's position. Three professors
attached to the Peradeniya University conducted
three surveys. The survey reports indicated that the
government was going to receive 65%-70% of the
Sinhala votes at the provincial council elections.
This amount also contained about 10% of the UNP
However, the survey also revealed that the swing in
the votes towards the government was going to be
temporary and most probably a one-off scenario that
has been brought about by the war in the north.
Many people had expressed a sentiment that there
should be an end to the war and therefore, the
government should be given the opportunity to bring
an end to the long drawn conflict.
Therefore, there was going to be a 7%-8% reduction
in the Muslim votes for the UNP while there were a
large number of Tamil votes that were to be cast in
favour of the party. The three surveys gave a clear
picture of what was to be expected at the provincial
polls. I entered the fray knowing this scenario.
Apart from the three main surveys there was also
another survey conducted which also gave the same
details as in the three surveys done by the
professors. All these surveys were random surveys
conducted in a scientific manner.
received 30,000-40,000 votes on my own. While the
UNP's vote base amounted to about 27%-28% in
districts like Kurunegala, Puttalam and Matale at
the provincial council elections, it was 38% in the
Kandy District. I personally contributed to the
party's vote base in the Kandy District. How can I
destroy a party that I have worked so hard to bring
to such a position?
made a lot of sacrifices and worked with commitment
to ensure the party received more votes in the Kandy
District than in the others. I want the party to
win. I want to bring the UNP back to power and will
do anything to ensure that the party gets there. I
joined the party after doing a lot of thinking. I
love the party.
also believe that our supporters have waited long
enough to see the UNP come back to power. Therefore,
the party has to be brought back to power as soon as