2nd December  2001, Volume 8, Issue 20

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INTERVIEWS

Interviewpic1.jpg (17779 bytes) "Goodness is seen as weakness"

by Wilson Gnanadass

Karu Jayasuriya entered politics in 1994. Barely six years later, he has emerged as one of the leading and most respected politicians in the country. Jayasuriya who continues to engage in clean politics says however that at times, goodness is taken as a sign of weakness.

But he says he will continue to deliver the goods to the people in the most decent manner.

Jayasuriya is also certain that the country will see another administration after December 5. "The voters should vote for people who can honestly be called honourable. If we have a parliament comprising people with high standards and ideals, vision and integrity, then such a parliament will be able to fulfil the aspirations of the people and the nation," he told The Sunday Leader in an interview.

Following are excerpts;

Q: With just three days more for the general election, how do you view the UNP's chances?

A: We have been touring the country and wherever we went we saw a growing desire to vote the UNP to power. The people see the UNP as a party for discipline and good governance. Whenever we talked to people, they spoke with frustration. They also spoke with a certain amount of agony. The people are concerned about how the media is being abused and how the basic rights of the people are being taken away. People want a change for the better. All in all, we see that the people are tired of the present set up. We also see the desire on the part of the PA government to retain power at any cost. In my view they will do any thing to be in power.

Q: When talking of election related violence, even UNP members are seen to be perpetrators. For instance, UNP candidate Ranga Bandara has been arrested in connection with violence. With this track record how could you establish good governance?

A: The UNP as a responsible party and a democratically elected party which has always maintained discipline has told our candidates to always maintain and preserve law and order. UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe is very concerned about this. So far we are not aware of any incident where UNP candidates have got involved in violent acts. In the case of Ranga Bandara, we are yet to listen to his version of the story because there is a lot of political interference. We believe that he has been implicated to bring discredit to the party. Anyway let the rule of law prevail in this country.

Q: Going by election related violence reported by the police and other election monitoring organisations, we see a sharp increase this time. Do you think the forthcoming elections would be marred by violence?

A: Well, all indications are that this would happen. Especially President Kumaratunga's statements made in public forums and the statements made by Anura Bandaranaike are all provocative. Mr. Bandaranaike's repeated statement that the president will prorogue parliament if the PA is defeated and so on, sounds highly totalitarian. I don't expect any right thinking citizen to make such comments.

Certainly we do not have faith in this government and do not think that it would hold a free and fair election.

Q: You have personally taken steps to file legal action against the Lake House regarding the biased reportage and also been constantly warning both the inspector general and the elections commissioner about violence. Has there been any positive response from either the IGP or the commissioner?

A: We believe that the elections commissioner has been given adequate powers under the 17th amendment to the constitution and we still hope that he will act accordingly because the entire country is looking up to him for justice and a free and fair election. But with regard to the state, abusing powers and thereby trying to control state property and the media, we have made representation to the judiciary. The case is to be heard in February next year. So the very purpose of seeking judicial remedy is lost and we are very sad about it. Also, we are yet to receive the serious consideration of the elections commissioner to our representations. Nevertheless we hope that he would at least take some steps so that this unfair practice of rigging and so on would be minimised.

Q: The elections commissioner recently announced that he has no powers to implement any of the clauses that are enshrined in the 17th amendment. Is it true?

A: We believe he is going on the instructions of the attorney general but eminent lawyers in our party believe that the commissioner could act within the framework of the 17th amendment. There is no doubt about that.

Q: Do you have trust in the elections commissioner?

A: There is no reason why we should not have faith in the commissioner. But we do certainly have a lot of hopes in him. We hope he will not let us down at the last moment.

Q: The UNP has been widely accused of having links with the LTTE. The party has also been accused of having a pact with the Tamil political parties. What is your view?

A: We totally deny having links with anybody in this country. The only link we have is with the people of this country. But of course we are advocating that there should be dialogue between the warring factions, especially during a national crisis like this. We have been saying that there must be talks not only with the LTTE but even with eminent people and other parties, so that we could reach some sort of consensus. And unless there is a consensus arrived at by all parties, this type of problem can never be solved.

The irony is that so long as the government holds talks with the LTTE, it does the correct thing. And when the government accuses the LTTE and condemns it, it is also doing the correct thing. This is a very unfair way of treating the people of this nation by a government. The president herself has advocated talking to the LTTE in the recent BBC interview she gave. So here we see a double standard. We also see that this is to propagate racial disharmony. We do not have any agreement with the Tamil National Alliance. But I must confess we have had a good relationship with them. For that matter we have a good rapport with all the opposition parties. Even with the Muslim Congress and the JVP. The emergence of the 17th amendment was as a result of this relationship.

Q: Former Speaker Anura Bandaranaike who crossed over from the UNP, himself says there is a link?

A: Well, I have witnessed many speeches made by Anura Bandaranaike when he was with us. And at that time he held a completely different view. And after crossing over to the government side, I am not surprised that Bandaranaike is making all these statements. But of course the people of this country will decide whether he is telling the truth or not on December 5.

Q: What are your views on Bandaranaike's utterances on public platforms? He says the president will prorogue parliament over and over?

A: We have heard such statements being made by the president, by other cabinet ministers and Mr. Bandaranaike as well. If the president can decide who is appointed as the next prime minister without knowing the will of the people, then why hold an election? We could have done it without spending so much of money. This I would say is an unwarranted statement made by Bandaranaike. In that case, how come in 1994, Chandrika Kumaratunga was called upon to form the government by former President D.B.Wijetunga? So these are statements made for political reasons and for survival. We were in fact shocked to hear this from Bandaranaike. This type of statement should not be entertained in a democratic country like ours. This is certainly an insult to the intelligence of the people.

Also, if I make reference to the president's statement about killing, I would say that too was highly unwarranted. Mr. Bandaranaike's threat to prorogue parliament is a hit at democracy. We should not entertain such a dictatorial approach. This is a clear indication that the PA is not going to respect the views of the people. Certainly we will not object to the PA forming its own government and appointing its prime minister if the PA wins the election. But if we win the election, that chance should be given to us. On the whole we are shocked that the statement comes from a former Speaker of this country.

Q: President Kumaratunga goes on saying she will appoint the ministers. According to the constitution who has the powers to do so if the UNP is elected to power?

A: Let us look back at 1994 when Chandrika Kumaratunga was elected as the prime minister and she recommended her cabinet to the then president. For whatever policy that has to be implemented, there is a certain convention that has to be followed. You can't act arbitrarily against the will of the people. If Mr. Wijetunga did it, I can't understand why President Kumaratunga can't do it, if the PA loses the election. The head of state should bow down to the will of the people. If the PA loses this election, that means the people do not want this government.

Q: What are your personal views on Somawansa Amarasinghe's return?

A: We are concerned about certain statements he made. One is the killing of 6,000 people and his plan to compensate them. We cannot accept that. How can precious lives be compensated for with money? He also spoke of another arms struggle. Now that is a very serious statement to have been made by a leader of a political party.

Q: The government has also taken one of your members, Dr. Jayalath Jayawardene, to task, linking him also with the Tigers. What would you say about this in your capacity as the party's deputy leader?

A: We are very satisfied that Dr. Jayawardene has acted in good faith in all his dealings with rural communities and religious groups. He is also an active member of our ethnic affairs committee and we are certain that he has not done anything that is in contravention to the party regulations. We are also certain that he has no links with the LTTE. I would say the government media propaganda has become a virtual 'joke' these days by trying to implicate the UNP and Dr. Jayawardene in this issue. Chandrika is using this for political reasons.

Q: Finally, politicians come to power promising a lot of goodies to the people but end up doing little or nothing. Why?

A: I dread to look at the current culture of politics in this country. Sometimes when I look back, I regret coming into politics. Having said this, the voters in the Colombo district and Gampaha district numbering nearly half a million placed their confidence in me during the last election and the provincial council election. Despite all odds and frustrations, I am bound to do something for them. This is why I am sticking on to politics. I do not believe in confrontational politics. But there are times when our philosophies are seen as a sign of weakness. I will continue to do politics as long as my conscience is clear. The day this is not clear, I will end my political career.


  • Ex-JVPer recounts the events that led to the
    attack on the Dalada Maligawa

"I was a member of the JVP team that attacked the Dalada Maligawa"

by Raine Wickrematunge

On February 8, 1989, during the height of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna terror campaign, a group of people believed to be members of the JVP, carried out an attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa in Kandy, the most venerated place of Buddhist worship in this country.

Twelve years later, on the eve of an election, that attack has become one of the most controvesial topics, with the present Janatha Vimkuthi Peramuna leadership publicly denying any involvement in it.

After reference was made to the JVP attack on the Maligawa during a TV talk show, Media Secretary JVP, Wimal Weerawansa, in characterisitic style, hotly denied it. This was followed by an indignant reply by the Diyawadana Nilame Neranjan Wijeyratne who charged the JVP had indeed carried out the attack.

The JVP's only surviving politburo member Somawansa Amerasinghe who arrived in the country last week after a long exile in London joined the bandwagon and at a public rally announced the JVP had never carried out this attack. "We have not even damaged a wall of the Maligawa," he said. However, quashing the righteous indignation and repeated denials of the Marxist group, the Venerable Maha Nayakes of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and the Anunayake of the Asgiriya Chapter made public statements that the JVP did carried out the attack on the Maligawa.

Into the melee comes 'Adhikari' alias 'Kosala,' an ex-JVP member who says he was a member of the team that participated in the attack.

"This is a crude joke perpetrated on the entire JVP. As a JVPer who took part in that attack, I wanted to put the record straight when I heard these denials. It is a shameless act on the part of these so called leaders to deny the attack; it is an insult even to those hundreds who died for the cause of the JVP," 'Adikari' told The Sunday Leader.

Today, Adikari is a repentant and much disillusioned young man. The youngster is kindly and soft spoken; a far cry from the terrifying image of a blood-thirsty revolutionary.

While outlining the events that led to the attack on the Maligawa and other events during the terror era, 'Adikari' says he now regrets those actions of a hot-headed young revolutionary , swayed by Marxist rhetoric and inspired by their breast-beating leaders expounding anti-government, anti-Indian ideology.

"I ask forgiveness from the Triple Gem -- the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the Maha Nayakas and from every Buddhist in the world for my part in the JVP attack on the Maligawa," Adikari told The Sunday Leader in an interview. Excerpts:

Q: Where were you born?

A: In Teldeniya in the Kandy District, I studied at the Teldeniya Madya Maha Vidyalaya.

Q: When did you join the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna?

A: In 1985.

Q: What were the reasons that led to you joining the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna?

A: While the situation in the country at the time had some bearing on my decision to join the JVP, I was also influenced by friends and associates who were members. There was a huge wave towards Marxist thinking and ideology and I became part of that.

Q: Did you attend JVP classes on Marxist ideology?

A: Yes. First there were one day classes, then two day classes followed by one week classes and two week classes. It was according to one's devotion to the party that he/she went on to follow the next set of classes. I attended these classes while still pursuing my studies.

At these classes, a lot of emphasis was laid on Indian expansionism. We also had lectures on economic policy. One of the aspects of this was that all tea estates should be converted into banana plantations.

Q: As a JVP member, what was your alias or assumed name?

A: I was known as Adikari and Kosala.

Q: Who were the leaders that you came into contact with at that time?

A: There were the seat organisers, the district organisers and the electoral organisers. One of the leaders I dealt with most at the time was a man known as Sunanda. There were also three Ajiths -- Loku Ajith, Podi Ajith and Kalu Ajith. Kalu Ajith was politburo member D. M. Ananda. I have not met any of them since the crackdown.

Q: Can you describe Sunanda?

A: He was around 32, short -- about 5 feet -- lean, had a brown complexion, wore a goatee beard and was a very pleasant person. He always carried a black diary in his hand.

Q: Did you receive any weapons training?

A: The members of the armed group conducted arms training classes in a village in Meemure in Teldeniya. One had to walk 16 miles into the jungle to get there. They gave us a training on how to use a knife, a T-56, repeater gun, swat gun and a pistol.

Q: How many were in that group that received training?

A: There were 11 of us and we were trained for two weeks.

Q: How did members of the JVP collect weapons?

A: If we heard someone had a weapon in the village, we would get it from him. Not even a sword was left in a house. Our task was to collect weapons and to educate the people on traitors and to justify the killing of these traitors.

Earlier, in 1983 too, when the JVP had gone into hiding, they had started to collect weapons.

Q: Who did you identify as traitors?

A: Police informants, anyone who didn't agree with our principles; members of the UNP and other parties we believed were traitors.

Q: Did you carry out any large scale attacks in a bid to collect weapons?

A: In 1987, we attacked the Pallekele camp.

I think it was later that same year that six of us carried out an attack on the Bogambara prison. Every evening, at 8. 20 pm, a mobile army patrol would stop by at the Bogambara ground entrance to the prison and have a thambili there and talk to the guard. We went there about 20 minutes earlier; two of our group were dressed in army uniform. We stopped at the entrance and while the boys in uniform engaged the guard in conversation, the rest of us jumped out, put him on the floor and tied him up. We managed to take away four repeater guns.

Although we had been instructed to spirit away two of our members who were imprisoned here, that wasn't successful as we could not recognise the persons we were supposed to free. We later heard that some other prisoners had managed to escape in the confusion.

At that time, with the Victoria project on, it was easy to buy sticks of gelignite. Workers would sell a stick for about 100 rupees.

Q: What means did you resort to, to collect funds for the party?

A: We had identified the wealthy people in the area, those who had some money. We wrote to them asking them to make a donation; most often they did. If they didn't, then a little intimidation was resorted to, and this always worked. When they saw a weapon, the money would appear immediately.

Q: The JVP carried out several bank heists and robberies to finance their activities. Were you involved in any of these?

A: I took part in the Digana bank heist. Four others joined me in this; I didn't know some of them. We travelled in a hired Delica van. The owner of the van was also a member of the JVP but he wasn't aware of this plan to rob the bank. We went to the entrance of the bank in the early hours, threatened the guard with a deli pihiya (barber's shaving knife) and took his shot gun. Once inside, we filled four gunny bags with money and gold but we were not able to proceed to Teldeniya as planned as we spotted an army vehicle proceeding in that direction. So we went to Digana instead. We took it to a place known as the kiri mandalaya and handed over the bags to one Sarath.

Q: What were the other operations you were involved in?

A: I was involved in the February 1989 attack on the Dalada Maligawa.

Q: But the present day JVP leadership has vehemently denied any involvement in an attack on the Dalada Maligawa?

A: This is a crude joke perpetrated on the entire JVP. As a JVPer who took part in that attack, I was determined to put the record straight when I heard those denials.

Q: Do you feel betrayed that the JVP used you to carry out this attack and are now denying it?

A: Yes. It is a shameless act on the part of these so called leaders to deny the attack; it is an insult even to those hundreds who died for the cause of the JVP.

Q: Can you describe the attack on the Sri Dalada Maligawa?

A: A few days prior to the attack, I received a message asking me to meet Sunanda, the co-ordinator for Kundasale, Wattegama, Teldeniya and Udu Dumbara, at a house in Raja Pihilla Mawatha. There were two others at the meeting. At this meeting, Sunanda explained that they needed the tooth relic to be taken away from the Dalada Maligawa and kept in some safe place. He explained that the people would question where the tooth relic was; the Maha Nayakes would ask questions and the people would rise up against the government who couldn't protect the sacred relic. That was the thinking behind the attack.

I remember Sunanda remarking with a laugh, "We will become king if we have the relic." He was referring to the traditional acceptance that whoever had custody of the tooth relic was the leader of the country.

Sunanda then explained the need to find a place where the relic could be kept in safety. There was no temple in Kandy where the high priest had any sympathies for the JVP cause. Sunanda said the place we found should be traditionally Buddhist and a place where Buddha Poojas could be conducted.

A week later, we met at the same place. That day, D. M. Ananda (Kalu Ajith) and Somawansa Amerasinghe were present. The latter was referred to as Sanath. At this meeting, I said I had found a suitable place in a house in Meda Mahanuwara. It was the house of a JVP member who had been active in the party since 1971. Sunanda said he had heard of this place. I was then asked to be near the Queen's Hotel the next day for further instructions.

Around 2.00-2.30 pm the next day I was at the appointed place when one Priyantha, one of my old friends from Teldeniya who had in fact introduced me to the JVP, arrived. He said the plan was to get the daathu karanduwa that day and he introduced me to four boys (including Sarath, the person to whom I had once handed over the money and gold from the Digana bank heist) and two girls wearing white lama saris and carrying two trays of flowers. He told me my task was to go with the group to the Makara Thorana (near the entrance to the Maligawa). He said two others would join us at the entrance to the Maligawa and that they knew what had to be done thereafter. He said we would be able to identify these two by the pens in their pockets. My job, he said, would be over, once I came to the Makara Thorana.

Priyantha told me I should then proceed to Kundasale (the Kandy bus halt in the Kundasale town where we usually met up with our comrades) where I would be handed the karanduwa. He said there would also be someone waiting near the Katugastota bridge to receive it in case the route had to be changed.

I questioned as to how the attack could be carried out without a weapon. We were told that there was a weapon under the flowers in one tray. We were asked to go in at the time the Buddha Pooja was being held. Priyantha then left and I too proceeded to Kundasale. Here I waited for several hours and finally one of the party arrived and told me the 'plan had got upset.'

From what I learnt, the two girls had first gone in and they were passed through the checkpoint. The checkpoint was located just as one entered through the Makara Thorana. The boys followed and while they were being searched at the checkpoint, the two girls had stopped to wait for them. This had aroused the suspicions of the guards who had then proceeded to search the girls. Then one of the party snatched the gun from the tray and fired at the guard. A guard from above then began shooting at him and the others.

Q: As a Buddhist, didn't you have any qualms about getting involved in an attack on the Dalada Maligawa?

A: On the contrary I looked upon it as a great honour bestowed upon me by the party.

Q: Of the group who took part in this attack, how many are living today?

A: The two girls escaped and are still living. Two of the guys -- Sarath and Sugath -- died in the attack. At the time, the JVP pretended they were civilians who were killed in the vicinity and did not make any acknowledgement that they were JVPers.

Q: Are the JVP leaders who are today denying the attack, aware that some of those people who took part in that attack are still living?

A: They may be not knowing, otherwise will they deny it so shamelessly?

Q: Can you prove what you have stated about the Maligawa attack?

A: I have stated everything with names of places and persons. If the JVP leadership refutes my claims, I am prepared to meet Somawansa Amerasinghe, Tilvin Silva and Wimal Weerawansa in a public debate to prove that every word I have said is the truth.

Q: Do you have any regrets about being part of the attack on the Maligawa?

A: I ask for the forgiveness of the Triple Gem -- the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, the Maha Nayakas and from every Buddhist in this world for my part in the JVP attack on the Maligawa.

Q: What happened after the unsuccessful attack? Did you continue to take part in other attacks?

A: On February 17 -- my 21st birthday -- I went home to see my parents. I had not gone earlier because I knew they would have chastised me severely and I chose my birthday because I thought they would not scold me on that day. My mother dished me a plate of rice. Then a friend arrived and warned me of a police cordon. I told him there were some weapons hidden in an old, abandoned toilet pit in a house in Wattegama, and that we should go and get them. When we had proceeded a few yards, my sister came running breathlessly and told me the police and army had just surrounded our house.

I then proceeded to Kandy town where I met a relative who arranged for me to stay at a place in Kandy. During that time I began to wonder why no one from the party had bothered to find out what had become of me. I then thought of going somewhere else. I sent two telegrams to another comrade who arranged to meet me near the Kandy hospital. He never turned up. I later heard he had been captured while on his way to meet me. I left for Colombo. Later I heard that the police had lain in wait for six days expecting me to show up at home. Finally they set fire to our house. Now my parents and sister are living elsewhere.

During this time, DIG Udugampola was the terror of Kandy, going after the JVP with a vengeance.

Q: The JVP had crippled every sector of the country. They were all-powerful and civil life was conducted according to their dictates. It was the name of the JVP that drove terror into the people's hearts. How did the reversal of fortunes of this terror machine occur?

A: Yes, the JVP was all powerful. And we in our youthful fantasy, wallowed in that power. People were terrified of us. People who had earlier been enemies of our homefolk, became friends.

However, things began to change, especially with Udugampola's ruthless anti-JVP campaign. The final push of the JVP was to get the soldiers to decamp with their weapons under the threat of death. We asked our leaders whether they would really do it and they were confident. Of course they will, they said. However, the soldiers never did. Then we put out posters saying all their families would be killed if they didn't give up and come home. It was then that Udugampola's actions created a reverse fear psychology in us.

Q: At any time, did you ever falter in your beliefs? Did you ever question your actions?

A: There was one particular event that saddened me and made me wonder whether we were doing the right thing. We had planned to set fire to a bus and I was sitting by the Huna Ganga near the Victoria dam pretending to be just another civilian while I surreptitiously watched some of my comrades order a bus with a Bibile board to halt and the passengers to disembark before they set fire to the bus. Then suddenly an old woman came running out of the bus wailing and fell at the feet of one of my comrades who was brandishing a weapon. She was worshipping his feet and telling him something. A few minutes later a heavily pregnant woman got off the bus with great difficulty and I realised that the old mother was telling my comrade to wait until her daughter had got off the bus before setting fire to it. This scene moved me a great deal and I wondered about what I was doing.

Q: During your years as a JVP activist, did you ever meet its leader Rohana Wijeweera?

A: I met someone known as Attanayake at the Akbar Hall, in the University of Peradeniya between 86-87. He was with Somawansa Amerasinghe and D. M. Ananda. He was introduced to me as Podi Mahaththya and I assumed he was a university lecturer. I never imagined that he was Rohana Wijeweera; he looked so different. He delivered a fine lecture on Indian expansionism and warned us all that India would soon capture Sri Lanka and that we should endeavour to do something about it.

As for Rohana Wijeweera, we had been made to believe he was a very clever doctor of medicine and that he was a dedicated leader who had built up the party to what it was. We were told he was either living in a jungle or was mingling with the people. We believed the former.

Q: What did you feel when Wijeweera was instead captured while living a life of luxury?

A: At first I did not believe it was Wijeweera. I told people it wasn't him. But when the truth finally dawned, I felt that my whole life was collapsing around me; my spirit was completely crushed (aathmya kadaa wetuna). I thought of the times we had been hiding in jungles, cold and hungry, bitten by leeches and here was our leader, living a life of luxury. A strict rule in the movement had been abstinence from liquor and smoking. The punishment for these was having your mouth cut off; and here Wijeweera's house was full of bottles of arrack and foreign liquor.

I was stunned, I felt sorry for myself. I broke down and cried. I cried for those who had died for the cause, but in a way I was happy they hadn't lived to see this monumental let-down; this monstrous duplicity.

My education was gone, I had no home. I had no party; the party had now disintegrated. All our great hopes and dreams were shattered. Where we had believed in a grand victory -- for we truly thought the masses were with us -- there was now only emptiness staring me in the face. I was neither here nor there. After two days of mourning and soul searching, I finally realised that everything was over.


UNP promises an 'economic revolution'

"The United National Party would most definitely attract, firstly, the local capital base, secondly, foreign investments in order to help make an economic revolution in this country. Today the People's Alliance has very successfully chased away the investors who came into this country. Therefore, we would basically explain our economic policies and ensure that governments are there to guide rather than run business," said CEO, Roton Vander Freighting and Former UNP MP, Ravi Karunanayake in an interview with
Dinesh Weerakkody

Q: Is the UNP really with the LTTE as the government desperately attempts to project at every election?

A: As quite rightly stated, this is nothing but an election gimmick. Every time elections are held only that such agreements surface. We have only one agreement and that is the agreement with the people of this country to develop this country, to bring prosperity, to ensure that the people of this country can live affordably and the younger generation is given an opportunity to feel that they have a better tomorrow. The government, unable to provide answers to the most important questions for the last seven years, very feebly tries to project lies and deception in order to stay alive.

Q: What would be the economic consequences of a PA victory?

A: Firstly, with a God above and with the will of the people, definitely there would not be a PA victory. After all, for seven long years the government has miserably failed on the economic front, the war, winning the confidence of the younger generation and adding Sri Lanka to the global village. Going on further, Chandrika with executive powers, with parliamentary powers, with provincial councils, with local councils and even with interfering into the judiciary, stifling the police, meddling with the media, yet this government has not been able to succeed for the last seven years.

Furthermore even if you are a born pessimist, the last election was a good eye opener. The last election with the CWC, SLMC, S.B. Dissanayake, G.L. Peiris, Mahinda Wijesekara, all of them being in the PA and with all the rigging and intimidation, they were only able to get a majority of six members. Therefore this time without CWC, SLMC, S.B. Dissanayake, G.L. Peiris, Mahinda Wijesekara and with all the economic downturns and cost of living being high, can you expect them to even dream of a victory?

Q: As a business leader, what is the current mood in the private sector?

A: As everybody is aware, for seven years the business climate has been at its lowest ebb. There has been no investor confidence that has been built up. The business climate that was set up and maintained through 1994 was destroyed by the People's Alliance government, so as a result today the business leaders are just waiting for the United National Party to come in so that they can get cracking with the projects they have in their hands. So, therefore, the overall business mood is excellent and a corroborating factor of this is exemplified through the stock exchange which has risen by 138 points from the date the People's Alliance government was toppled by the United National Party.

Q: What would the UNP do to 'jump start' the economy?

A: The United National Party has always placed a lot of emphasis on the economy and our intention is to spearhead a economic revolution by zonalising the nine provinces to five regions.

We intend developing the service industry especially in the;

Western Province - Information technology, banking - rural institutions, insurance, universities, hospitals, aviation and shipping, etc.

  1. Southern and the Uva Province - will be looked at developing;
  2. Ports, airports, steel plants, power generation plants, agriculture, fishery, etc.
  3. Northern and Eastern Province - we intend looking at many industries to be started such as agriculture and industries.
  4. North Central Province - will be looked at from an agro-based point of view. Utilising the agricultural sector that is being expanded, it will also look at agro-based industrial development in order to develop our industrial base.
  5. Central Province - will be looked at developing;
  6. Plantations, tourism, textiles, etc.
  7. North Western Province - Textile industries/heavy industries, tourism, fisheries, etc.

Therefore we would kick start the economy by ensuring that we allocate a heavy share of the budget of the country to capital investment, rather than waste money on recurrent expenditure.

Q: What is the UNP's strategy to uplift the living conditions of the rural poor?

A: Well, it has always been the intention of the United National Party to eradicate poverty rather than to retain it. The SLFP has been always trying to retain poverty so that it is a vote bank on which they try to thrive upon. But the United National Party has always been trying to eradicate this and our intention is to ensure that there is a sustainable living allowance as well as creating a job for the family in order to help alleviate them from the misery that they are in.

Q: Can a UNP prime minister and a PA president coexist in a country like Sri Lanka?

A: Why not! The will of the people will be demonstrated through the December 5 election where the United National Party will get a stunning victory. Thereafter, the president has to realise and take cognizance of the fact that the people want a United National Party government. Thereafter, it is her duty to work with the government that has been elected, and if by chance there are attempts to stymie it, it will be to the detriment of the executive president and it will be a question of whether we protect the country or the Bandaranaike family. So, cohabitation is possible as long as the executive is willing to realise that the people have mandated it to happen. If it has happened in many other countries, why not in Sri Lanka? Furthermore, it happened in D.B. Wijetunga's period for three-four months, peacefully.

Q: Education also needs to be reinforced, what is the UNP's strategy?

A: There needs to be a complete revolutionary change in the educational structure. Countries like Singapore, Malaysia etc., have become fast-developing countries, owing to the education policies that they have put in place. We from the United National Party have laid a lot of emphasis including allocating a heavy percentage of GDP for education. And also to make education proactive, nation-building and at the end of the day, be able to contribute to the national well-being. Therefore, we have three levels of education, the primary, the secondary and the tertiary.

The primary would basically lay the necessary foundation. The secondary will permit the students either to continue or wield off at a particular point to practical fields of employment and the tertiary would basically lead the students up to university level and pursue their career there onwards.

But all of this would be possible only with a national education policy in place.

Q: What would the UNP do to attract foreign direct investment, if elected to power on the 5th?

A: The United National Party would most definitely attract, firstly, the local capital base, secondly, foreign investments in order to help make an economic revolution in this country. Today the People's Alliance has very successfully chased away the investors who came into this country. Therefore, we would basically explain our economic policies and ensure that the governments are there to guide rather than run business. We will invite high technology, the technology that is non existent in Sri Lanka and the technology that would support industries which have been defunct due to lack of knowledge.

Q: Tell us something about your Global Park concept?

A: Being a professional, I have realised the potential of Sri Lanka and the government has not exploited this for the betterment of the country. Therefore, our partners and ourselves decided, let us give leadership to this area. We successfully convinced European buyers such as Marks and Spencer, BHS, Tesco and companies of that nature, that it is cheaper to store their goods outside the country to ensure that deliveries are taken directly to the stores, where there will be a tremendous cost saving.

Today after much persuasion, they have realised this and it has become a dream come true. So our intention is to use Sri Lanka's geographical location and hold stocks here in order to supply directly to foreign stores. This would be also matched to the US market and I hope that it would be a tremendous job creation opportunity for our country. Furthermore, this being the first logistical park in the Asian region, it basically puts Sri Lanka in a very dominant position in order to attract business from the region.

 

 

 

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