The Sunday Leader

I Don’t Have Money For Polls Campaign – Reginald Cooray

Senior Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) member, Minister of Aviation Services Reginald Cooray announced last week that he had decided not to contest at the upcoming election due to the lack of funds to carry out his election campaign under the preferential voting system.According to him, politics in the country under the present system has further deteriorated and he does not have a colossal amount of money, unlike other candidates, to spend on his election campaign. Yet, Cooray is of the belief that he can take part in politics without having to hold portfolios or entering parliament. The Minister intends to continue to be in active politics in Sri Lanka to serve the country and its people

Following are excerpts of the interview:

 

By Waruni Karunarathne

 

Q. Why have you taken a decision to move out of active politics?

A. I have not taken a decision to retire from politics. I have decided not to contest the upcoming general election because I cannot spend a colossal amount of money on the election campaign and cater to the current requirements in the political arena. I have contested about nine elections and I have won all those elections consecutively without money. That was due to my character, principles, political history and conduct. HoweverM, this time, I do not think that I will be able to contest without money in this preferential electoral system. The spending capacity of candidates is becoming more important when contesting the elections. Recently, one of the politicians from Kaluthara said the most profitable business is politics and there are two main companies namely the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and the United National Party. According to him, he has about 800 lakhs to spend for the election campaign. I do not have that much money to spend on an election campaign. Other candidates have huge amounts of money to spend on their campaigns but I do not. Therefore, I have decided not to contest the upcoming general election. I will take part in politics and work for the alliance.

 

Q.If it is about funds, how did you manage to contest the election in the past?

A. The deterioration of politics is aggravated by every election. Funds were not so important in the past. Its role was not evident as it is today. Now, one cannot send even a polling agent without giving them money. During the last presidential election, both parties used their money to motivate people. In the past, people were motivated through a vision, ideologies and policies. Nowadays, it is all done with money and manipulations through other materials.

 

Q. If you received funds, would you have considered contesting?

A. I could have collected funds in small amounts but that would not have been sufficient. Even if various people give funds, after being elected, I am obliged to serve funders – not the people. At nine elections, I managed to get funds, but, I cannot keep going any further.

 

Q. You claim that it is evident that there is a problem with the current political system in the country. How do you suggest to change this system?

A. During the 100 Day programme, we tried to change the system. It was not possible due to various views of the political parties. When it comes to the electoral reforms, the main two political parties, the UNP and the SLFP, did not have a huge disparity in their opinion about abolishing the prevailing system. Minor and minority political parties insisted that they need to reconsider it and it takes a lot of time to concentrate on the desired changes to the system. We had to give up that attempt.

Q. Considering the current development in the political arena, what is your stance?

A. This is a very confusing and complex situation. In the past, the political stances of the parties were very clear: one is Capitalist and the other Socialist. At that point, taking a stance was very easy. Now, it is all mixed up. Politicians keep changing their political parties and their stances based on very trivial things like money and personal gain. The people seem to be supporting those politicians. In the good old days, if a politician changed their party, it would have jeopardised their political career. Now, it is not so. Politicians keep crossing over with a blink of an eye. There are some politicians who have changed their party dozens of times – yet they still exist in politics. I can give many names but it is not necessary because everybody knows.

 

Q. There was a set of people who broke away from the SLFP and joined the UNP. How do you view that move?

A. There is a common move against corruption and nepotism in this country. Different groups fight against corruption and nepotism in different ways.The target may be the same. Some think that an internal fight within the political party is necessary and stand against giving nominations to corrupt politicians. There has to be a constitutional and legal framework not to allow them to contest. Then, externally, the people can reject corrupt politicians, even if they are being given nominations. Democracy is good as well as bad. All the decisions are being taken by the majority, but the majority is not always right. Sometimes, a handful of people can be right. Yet, they do not have the power because the people are not supporting them. There is a difference of how the top and bottom level of society operate.  Educated elite and downtrodden, uneducated poor may react differently to issues.

 

Q.The SLFP had differences of opinion about giving nomination to Rajapaksa. Where do you stand on that matter?

A. As a result of that struggle, some people have not been given nominations. The SLFP still stands a chance. We were not totally victorious.  That struggle to keep corrupt politicians away will continue. That is an eternal struggle. Generation to generation, there are moves against corruption and we will have to continuously propagate that. The other part of the struggle will be at the general elections and when forming a government. Political parties have two targets to achieve. One is to win and the other is to purify the party. When they try to do both, they might lose the election.

If the nomination list does not consist of powerful people, and those who can spend money, they might lose. That is the dilemma. As President Maithripala Sirisena stated, the decision to give nominations to Rajapaksa was decided by the nominations committee. Though they may have done crimes, according to the law, if they are not proven guilty in a court of law, then, they are considered innocent. That is how it goes.

 

Q.How do you think your decision will affect your constituency?

A. The people will select someone else to represent them. We do not have members for every electorate, because this is a district system. At the last general election, even though some won their electorate, there was no member of parliament from that electorate as that politician could not collect enough votes from other electorates in their district.

 

Q.Do you think that people are opposed to the UNP forming a government?

A. It is hard to say. During the last election, our alliance seemed to have the upper hand, as there were huge crowds for all the meetings and there were placards, cutouts and posters in every nook and corner. The campaign was well organised. President Sirisena did not have a very strong campaign like that – but he won. The true ideas of the people came out. You cannot judge what is in the hearts of the peopleby looking at the outward campaigns.

 

Q.Are you going to campaign for the SLFP or do you have any plan to join the UNP in future?

A. I will remain with the SLFP. I do not worry, even if I lose everything. I worry about the people. The people do not get the chance to receive the benefit of my capacity as a politician. Veteran leaders like NM Perera, S A Wickramasinghe, Philip Gunawardena, they were recognised as intellectual people with golden brains, but they could not serve the country as much as intended.

 

Q.What is your opinion on President Sirisena taking neutral stance at the elections?

A. That is better. As the President of the country, he is neither a member of the UNP and the SLFP, he is above party politics. He should take actions for the betterment of the country and the nation, not to satisfy the UNP or the SLFP.

 

Q.What is your plan for the future?

A. Without a portfolio, I can still serve the country. During my political career of four decades, I have taken part in politics, without any portfolio, when I was in the university, in students’ campaigns. I can still do all those things. People think doing politics is only a matter of entering parliament, but that is not so.

2 Comments for “I Don’t Have Money For Polls Campaign – Reginald Cooray”

  1. DR.wijebahu

    It is good if Mr.Cooray retires. He has no common sense and is good at appointing people with shady past into responsible positions so they can rob. One such appointment is to the Sri Lankan air line board of directors. A son of one his old friend who is a strong Mahinda Rajapakse supporter is appointed to the board of directors of Sri Lankan air lines. .May be yahapalanaya ,but the people who supported Mr. Sirisena’s election victory with death threats are disgusted with this kind of behaviour. The appointee has already shown his intensions by taking his family on a free holiday on ‘ director’s family ticket to Europe’. God help Sri Lanka.and Sri Lankan air lines.

  2. but you have nusty mouth

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