‘UNP has the best team for the job’
UNP Kaduwela Electorate Organiser, Attorney-at-Law
Sujeewa Senasinghe says that the internal party
issues have not had any impact on the UNP’s election
campaign for the Western Provincial Council and
expresses confidence about victory at the polls.
Senasinghe spoke to The Sunday Leader hours after
having survived a shooting at his Kaduwela office.
By Mandana Ismail Abeywickrema
Q: Has the recent turmoil in the UNP affected your
campaign for the forthcoming Western Provincial
Council (WPC) elections?
A: Not at all. When you are in the opposition
you have these problems. These are regular
occurrences in a party in the opposition. Even for
the President it is not easy, but since he has the
executive powers he can survive. Even in my
electorate there are similar problems. In politics,
these are day-to-day things and it does not affect
me at all.
Q: Many party seniors and members have been spending
more time on addressing internal party issues. Has
it impacted adversely on the UNP’s election
A: No. I don’t think so. The UNP’s election
campaign is not based on the UNP headquarters
itself. We have very talented individuals who are
contesting the forthcoming elections. The whole team
is very versatile and talented and they have their
own trends. As a result, the campaign is not
affected at all. We are strong individually and the
UNP’s image as a party and its principles give a
morale boost for the party’s election campaign.
Q: What is the UNP’s current stance on the ethnic
conflict? Has it also been included in the party’s
campaign for the WPC polls?
A: We have always spoken of devolution of
power. We have spoken of the open economy, the
privatisation of loss making state entities and the
provincial council system. With regard to the
provincial council system, Mahinda Rajapakse who sat
on the tarred road in front of the Bo tree with Mrs.
Bandaranaike, is now asking to give more powers to
the provincial councils. How can this be?
When you are in opposition you vehemently object to
some issue and all of a sudden it becomes the
solution when in government. It is a solution given
by the UNP. The party has always said there has to
be a sort of practical devolution of power. It does
not matter what the word is. Mahinda Rajapakse
insists on the word ‘unitary,’ but he is now talking
of police powers and land powers.
also believe in the word ‘unitary,’ but he goes out
to the country and says the UNP is trying to divide
the country. It is how they manipulate with a little
bit of racial remarks and try to make it more
attractive. What we say is, not to hoodwink the
people anymore and tell them what they are getting.
You need devolution of power and that is the only
Q: The military offensive in the north and its
success has increased the government’s popularity
among the people and has also become the winning
ingredient for the ruling party at elections. How
does the UNP plan to address this situation?
A: It’s dwindling down now. The government on
February 4 announced that the war was over. With the
war over people will realise that the common enemy
is no longer Pirapaharan, but poverty. People will
then gradually realise that the war is over and
wonder where they would go from there.
Then it would only be a matter of time before they
realise the corruption and the ruination of the
economy that has taken place behind the cover of the
war. The government is now asking for Rs. 3 billion
to bridge the budget deficit and not for any
development. The IMF has named Sri Lanka as one
among the 22 countries with the worst economies in
the world. Sri Lankans don’t realise the situation,
they see the situation in places like Somalia on TV,
but don’t see that the situation in
Q: The Western Province, considered as the country’s
economic hub has been favourable for the UNP at
elections in the past. Do you think the party could
secure it at the forthcoming WPC elections?
A: Innovative, talented people must run the
provincial council because you have to form
regulations and find solutions to poverty. The
Western Province is in the wet zone and most of the
lands are suitable for agriculture. There are also
However, the provincial council has not taken any of
these areas seriously. We need to have proposals and
receive funding from donor agencies. People have
realised now that the provincial councils have not
done anything and are a white elephant. Nothing has
been done even for tourism. But the councils can be
very productive if you rule it properly. The way it
is going now is a clear indication of it being a
white elephant with an inefficient administration
starting with the chief minister.
Q: Why would you say the people in the province
should cast their votes for the UNP as opposed to
the government that has carried out a successful
military campaign in the north?
A: There is no military campaign in the
Western Province. If there’s a military campaign in
then we would have a problem convincing people. But
there is no parallel or equation to say that a
military campaign would help run the WPC in a
productive manner and to make it the economic hub.
45% of the country’s economy is in the Western
Province. People will also realise about the
councilors. I have entered politics because I have
done well academically and have performed well in my
legal profession as well. Our motive is not to make
money. We have a brilliant team from the UNP and
regardless of who becomes the minister; we can do
well in health, education, agriculture, cooperatives
and all other important areas. Although we are not
being given the full powers in the 13th Amendment,
we will make our own regulations and function.
Q: The war has nevertheless played a decisive role
in the successive provincial council elections held
since last year. It was so even at the recently
concluded North Western and Central Provincial
Council elections. Has the war not had an impact on
the voters psychologically?
A: The war has definitely had a psychological
impact on the people, but not as much as it was
earlier. According to the government, the war was
finished on February 4. But the war is not over and
the government celebrated it prematurely to win the
provincial council elections at that time.
People are now wondering. It is almost April, they
showed Pirapaharan’s house and footage of many
places and items captured, but the war is not over.
It is all hype. For the people, they wonder what
comes next after the war is over. When the UNP
removed barricades and tourists started to come in,
it was very attractive and people were very
supportive. After a while, it was forgotten. The
same will happen. In fact it is happening even as we
“I will practice
what I preach”
Former Chairman, Central Environment Authority (CEA),
Legal Advisor and Western Provincial Council
candidate of the JHU, Udaya Gammanpila has said he
will abstain from using posters, polythene and
crackers in his election campaign as he believes in
practicing what he preaches.
an interview with The Sunday Leader Gammanpila said
a lot of people warned him that he was taking a huge
risk since this was his first election.
“But I thought it is worth taking this risk. Enough
is enough. Politicians should not fool the voters
anymore. In turn voters should make their decisions
not by considering promises given during election
campaigns, but by considering things said and done
by politicians before the election,” he said.
By Risidra Mendis
Q: Why do you think the public should vote for you?
A: A lot of candidates seeking a mandate to
do something give a lot of promises. In my campaign
I’m not giving a single promise to the people. My
request to the people is to review what we have done
and analyse who I am and decide if I’m good enough
for a vote.
let me explain my contribution to the nation. By
2000 I was a successful company director in a group
of companies. Then the Sihala Urumaya which is a
nationalist party was formed. They sought a mandate
to defeat the LTTE by military means.
They said the LTTE could be defeated and should be
defeated. I strongly believed in that course. So I
joined the party at the launching ceremony and was
actively involved with the party. Unfortunately only
1% of the voters believed that the LTTE can be
Thereafter I gave up my business and profession and
was full time committed to that course and because
of our hard work we were able to receive a mandate
for a unitary Sri Lanka at the last presidential
election. That was the turning point of recent
Although I have lost everything that I had earned,
we have regained our beloved motherland.
Traditionally professionals used to take up to
politics. Unfortunately that professional touch
cannot be seen in the present political arena. I’m a
lawyer, a software engineer and an economist.
Further I was able to become the island’s best in
the 1988 A/L examination and received a scholarship
to study computer science at the Monash University
in Australia. I was appointed as an assistant
lecturer of the university while I was a student in
the fourth year.
have announced that my campaign will be free of
posters, polythene and crackers. Moreover I have
made a pledge at the Temple of the Tooth in Kandy
known as the Ten Fold Dalada Pledge, in which I
promised to declare my assets to the people through
the mass media, before assumption of office and
annually thereafter. Further I pledged to abstain
from resorting to violence, and levelling unfounded
allegations against rival candidates etc.
Q: What are the new policies you will be putting
forward for this election?
A: I don’t intend to give a single promise
because I want to end the era of false promises. Our
politicians have misruled the country. People got
fooled by haal seru dekak in 1965, rice from the
moon in 1970, eight varieties of grains in 1977 and
eradication of poverty in two years in 1988 by the
late President Ranasinghe Premadasa and the promise
by former President Chandrika Kumaratunga to bring
back peace in five years.
Enough is enough. Politicians should not fool the
voters anymore. In turn voters should make their
decisions not by considering promises given during
election campaigns, but by considering things said
and done by politicians before the election. My aim
is to implement the Mahinda Chinthanaya in the
Western Province as well. I was a member of the
Mahinda Chinthanaya team and I have handwritten a
part of it. Moreover it has been endorsed by the
Q: In a culture where there is no accountability
among politicians how do you hope to make a
A: I believe in ‘preach what you practice and
practice what you preach,’ as advised by the
Gauthama Buddha. So I used to make a lot of speeches
on the conservation of the environment during
election time. To practice what I preach I decided
to abstain from using posters, polythene and
crackers in my election campaign.
lot of people warned me that I was taking a huge
risk since this was my first election. But I thought
it was worth taking this risk. I resigned from my
powerful post of Chairman, Central Environment
Authority (CEA) before handing over nominations,
because I thought that if I campaign at the election
while holding that post it would be unfair by the
Q: The public perception is that the whole
provincial council system has failed. How can you
make it work?
A: I don’t belong to the lobby who want to
strengthen the provincial council system and believe
in the usefulness of the system. For me it is a
white elephant. But we must utilise the existing
resources for the benefit of the people without
demanding for more powers to the provincial
Q: Are you going to fashion your political campaign
based on the government’s military victories?
A: I have the right to do that. I have
personally contributed towards the government’s
military victory. To my knowledge, there are few
candidates who can make this claim.
But I do not solely rely on the government’s
military victories. While claiming my due share, I
want to present myself as an educated, environment
friendly, ethical politician who has shown his
I canvassed for a military solution for the LTTE
problem since 2000, when few people believed in it.
Moreover I was personally involved in launching
military operations to liberate the Mavil Aru anicut.
That was the start of the war against the LTTE. With
this background I have every right to rely on the
President and the heroic soldiers in my campaign.
But I would not do only that. I will also rely on my
personal achievements and my character.