Former minister and UPFA group leader in the Kandy District Dr. Sarath Amunugama comments on infighting within the party and the UNP’s poor chance of winning at the up coming general elections. He says the UNP’s promise of a Rs. 10,000 pay hike sounds like “a drowning man clutching on to a shred of straw”. Excerpts:
There has been quite a lot of infighting within the UPFA. For example you were the target of people booing at a recent meeting in Kandy which was attended by President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well.
What is your reaction?
Yes I agree there are certain elements in the UPFA who are behind such incidents. These include regional politicians such as Pradeshiya Sabha members, etc. who lack decency and discipline.
As the group leader for the Kandy District I have vehemently objected to the activities of these elements and that may be the reason I was targeted. Furthermore, any candidate should be able to contest whereever he/she feels it fit, Nawalapitiya or otherwise.
What steps has the government taken to arrest this trend?
The President has sounded a stern warning against these elements. He has said that the number of preferential votes will not be considered in appointing future cabinet ministers, if those candidates have been involved in intra-party rivalry. The message appears to have hit home, because there has been a sharp drop in such incidents.
Election laws have been flouted by all sides of the political divide such as the continuing presence of cut-outs, banners, posters, etc, with the bulk coming from the government side. Any comment?
Yes this is true. One has to check on the source of funding for such propaganda material. There are those who did not own a motorcycle while others were just salespersons, but today they are dumping millions into their respective campaigns. Either it is black money or they have used their offices for illicit financial gains.
The UPFA candidates have been breast-beating all these days boasting that they would secure a two-thirds majority at the up coming elections. Is this going to be a success story?
We are working towards this end. Nothing is impossible. The opposition is in the doldrums and our vote base will definitely increase. A constitutional change is important to get rid of violent elements. Furthermore the main opposition United National Party (UNP) will be finished after April 8.
The opposition, both the UNP and the DNA have repeated an earlier pledge in implementing a wage increase of Rs. 10,000. How viable is this?
This is like a drowning man that clutches on to a piece of straw. The opposition, particularly the UNP is bankrupt and so they utter all these false promises. Even financial advisors inside the UNP have said this is not viable.
The UPFA has fielded several artistes, sports personalities for the polls. Is this correct-thinking on the part of the party?
These people are also citizens of this country and there should no problem in this decision. It has happened even in India and the U.S. where even Ronald Reagan ended up as President. So what’s wrong if Sri Lankan artistes also decide to enter politics? After all it is the media that makes these people icons, and so with that popularity they are most likely to win.
Tighten your belts, is what the government told the citizenry during the height of the war promising relief with the end of the military campaign. One year later things are very much the same with the cost of living on the rise. What have you to say?
Remedial measures will come after the next budget. You see unlike in many other countries prices fluctuate here because of seasonal crops like rice and climate change that affects agriculture.
For example in the next few weeks the price of rice will drop sharply because a bumper Maha crop is now entering the market.