“I Am Not A Political Thug” – Ranjan Ramanayake
by Ashanthi Warunasuriya
- Rowdies are trying to use their power to fulfill their own personal desires. But I represent the desires of the entire community
- The Divisional Secretary of the area is extremely rich. So I have lodged a complaint against her at the Bribery and Corruption Commission
- They have already fired several first volleys to topple the government. But the people have not yet forgotten what they have done during the past years
The following are excerpts of an interview :
Q: Due to your recent conduct some have even called you a ‘thug’.
A: The word ‘thug’ or ‘rowdy’ is an informal term that is used to describe bad people in the village. I will not accept being called a rowdy or thug. Instead, I see myself as someone who stands against injustice. I would like to remind you of a song of late Vijaya Kumarathunga. In the song he says that only those who love the country can raise arms against injustice. In the recent incident in Muthurajawela, there is a massive devastation of the environment that is being conducted in broad daylight. This is not one of my personal errands. Normally rowdies are trying to use their power to fulfil their own personal desires. But I represent the desires of an entire community. Akaragama is an area where I received a high number of preferences. It was the Buddhist Monks in the area who requested me to intervene as this reclamation of wetland has caused almost all the paddy fields in the area to lose water. I did not go there to become a show-off. I was only there to take part in a protest organized by the people.
Q: In the past, politicians such as Mervyn Silva, who tied government officials to trees, made the same claim. What is your justification for your actions compared to such incidents?
A: People know the difference between Ranjan Ramanayake and Mervyn Silva. Mervyn has so many allegations against him. They also know my track record. Frankly speaking, I still do not own a house of my own. So I do not believe that the people are going to believe what some mainstream media are telling them.
Q: But don’t you think that society is criticizing you for acting as the hero in a movie? This complaint has been made by even politicians from both the government and opposition.
A: I’m doing a good deed. So I see nothing wrong in carrying out a good deed. There are politicians who claim they are ‘intellectuals’ and Double Doctors. Even Mervyn Silva was given a Doctorate. I do not have such degrees from Cambridge universities. The only award I have is the award that was given to me by the people. They have crowned me as the actor of the people. So I must see what I can do with my personality and fame. The actor accusation was even raised against Vijaya Kumarathunga. Even in the case of the child that was accused of having HIV in Kuliyapitiya, I was accused over my involvement. Even though there could be problems regarding the method of acting, for me what is most important is the final result. However, at the end the unlawful activity in Divulapitiya has stopped. The Divisional Secretary of the area is extremely rich. So I have lodged a complaint against her at the bribery and corruption commission. We hope to urge the authorities to go for an extensive investigation to check not only her income and expenditure but also the assets of her family members as well. The Rajapaksas always kept their stooges in senior government positions. When we came to power, we did not remove them as they are going to brand it as political revenge takings. Therefore there still a large number of government officials who have assisted the Rajapaksas to carry out their corrupted deeds. In return they too have become significantly rich.
Q: It is said that Indika Anurudhdha had invited you for a public debate. Did you evade from accepting the challenge?
A: That is a tactic. I am not going to fall into their traps. I am prepared to come for a debate with any intellectual or a cabinet minister. But I have nothing to discuss with a destroyer of the environment. It is only going to make him even more popular. Despite the outcome of the debate, he will still receive massive publicity. There are certain failed singers who had failed even to secure a provincial council seat issuing statements challenging me for debates. When they sling mud at me on their Facebook accounts, then they start getting a lot of views. These are mere gimmicks to gain fame. If I pick a quarrel with Shah Rukh Khan and even if I lose the battle, I still see myself as a winner. So I ignore most of these challenges.
Q: It looks like the desire you have to capture the crooks is not shared by the government. Why is that?
A: The people too are asking me the same question. I still am on the stance that we should keep the promises made to the people on January 08. I do not have any personal motives. Since I am a bachelor, I can have all the time in the world to focus on my work. So I am doing the best I can to keep that promise; I can see that the people are approving it from their positive responses.
Q: But it seems that the investigating authorities such as the FCID have only been able to catch smaller fish while the principle suspects roam free. Why is that?
A: I do not approve that statement as most of the time, this accusation has been made by the thieves themselves. It is ironic that the thieves have been brave enough to ask us why we haven’t caught them yet. I think our country is still the only one where thieves are waving to the public when they are being taken into the custody as if they have been given an award. No government has ever nabbed corrupted personnel like we have done. Even Chandrika Kumarathunga boasted about bringing all those who have been involved in corrupt deeds on to the Galle Face grounds to punish them. But during her time we did not see any such action. The reason for our success is the unity between the President and the Prime Minister. So I respect this government. When the UNP is trying to catch thieves, on the other hand the SLFP is also trying to do the same. The final benefit goes to the people. Crooks such as Sarana Gnawardhana, Sajin Vass, Johnston Fernando, Mahindananda Aluthgamage, Prassanna Ranathunga, Nishantha Ranathunga, Wimal Weerawansa and the Rajapaksa family have been able to acquire a lot of wealth via illegal means. I would like to request the media to support our quest to capture these crooks. No government can counter corruption 100%. But we are trying our best. We have stepped up the investigation on Lasantha’s assassination. It is only those who are sided with the thieves that are accusing us for not catching them.
Q: When we talk about the present political situation and the internal conflicts in the government, the joint opposition is also claiming that the government would not last. What is your response to these remarks?
A: We do not need any predictions from thieves. Since January 08 2015, the Joint Opposition has been telling this tale. But the people taught them another lesson on August 12. They were not able to secure the amount of votes they were able to secure during the Presidential Election. So I don’t think the people would give value to these talks once again. It is a waste of time even to talk about these predictions.
Q: But despite the government’s claims the joint opposition’s political rallies have become successful. What do you think about that?
A: How do you say that the rally was a success? In movies there are group scenes. So there are agents who provide group actors for these scenes. They are providing such people for Rs.750 per person with food. These people would take part in anything for money and food. So how can we measure the success of a rally by the participation of the crowd? Mahinda Rajapaksa always had this desire to see large crowds. So we must measure the success only by the election results. They have already fired several first volleys to topple the government. But the people have not yet forgotten what they have done during the past years.
Q: There are talks of new movements in all corners these days. Do these things happen due to the inefficiency of the government?
A: These movements were in existence since a long time. But the last say is always with the people. I do not think that the people have any desire for such movements. The government may not be perfect. But we have not done anything that disqualifies us from ruling so far.
People like me are prepared even to criticize the government if there is a fault. Such things did not take place during the previous regime. Anyone who criticized the government were physically beaten by the Rajapaksas. This was stated by both Mervyn Silva and Gemunu Wijerathne. But today, the journalists have been given the freedom to draw cartoons criticizing the President. So there is no need for a new movement.
Q: Why is there a delay in abolishing the Executive Presidency?
A: So far we have been able to curb a lot of arbitrary powers in the Executive Presidency. I too share the same opinion that this post should be abolished.