The Sunday Times has obtained from Ryp Van Winkle the secret transcript of a live presser by the main candidates for the forthcoming presidential election, SP, GR and AKD, held at an undisclosed location. The media were allowed to pose any question they wished on the condition that the candidates’ answers would not be made [...]


Gems from the presidential presser at secret location


The Sunday Times has obtained from Ryp Van Winkle the secret transcript of a live presser by the main candidates for the forthcoming presidential election, SP, GR and AKD, held at an undisclosed location. The media were allowed to pose any question they wished on the condition that the candidates’ answers would not be made public without their consent. The moderator was MD, the Chairman of the EC. One candidate was allowed to ‘phone a friend’ (in this instance, his brother), when answering difficult questions.





GR, what would you say to those who claim that you have no experience in government at all, not even being a member of a Pradeshiya Sabha previously?

GR: All of our previous leaders, with the exception of Sirima, had years of experience in politics before they took over the leadership of the country. Look at the mess created by so-called experienced politicians over the last seventy-one years. So, I don’t feel previous experience has been helpful or is necessary.

Is that true of your brother also?

GR: Of course, it is. Four years ago, forty-five years after first entering Parliament, he called for an early election because some astrologer told him to. What does that say about experience?

SP, you always speak of following in the footsteps of your father. Your father’s term as President wasn’t exactly the best, with the deaths of so many youths, being almost impeached and finally ending tragically. So, is that a wise path to take?

SP: Aren’t I already following in the footsteps of my father? When he wanted to contest, there was a group in the UNP which wanted JR to run for a third time but somehow, he got the nomination. Today too, there was a group in the UNP which wanted Ranil to run for a third time, but ultimately, I forced them to accept me as the candidate. When my father contested, AKD’s party people threatened to shoot the first voters in every polling booth but he won. Similarly, I will win.

SP, you haven’t said that you will abolish the Executive Presidency which was the position of your party four years ago. Also, your main rival has clearly indicated who his PM will be if he wins, but you haven’t said who your Prime Minister will be, if you win. Can you please clarify?

SP: Four years ago, that was Sirisena’s position- and look what he did. He tried every trick to stay on. I have always said that I will do what I say and say what I do, so I haven’t said that I will abolish the Presidency. As for choosing my PM, I will use the same method my father used.

What method is that?

SP: My father chose the three most likely candidates, Lalith, Gamini and DB and asked the same question: how much is two and two? Lalith said he would have to check the legal implications before answering the question, Gamini said the question was an insult to his intelligence and refused to answer it and DB said ‘Sir ta ona gaanak kiyannan’ (it is whatever you say). As you know, DB got the job.

 AKD, most people feel that you have no real chance of winning this election. Do you agree and if so, why are you contesting?

AKD: As a party, we haven’t contested the presidential election for twenty years, so we have to. Otherwise people will forget that we exist. That is why I am contesting. The other reason is that I am already being called a ‘rathu ali petiya’ (red baby elephant) and being accused of supporting the UNP, so I need to do something to try and convince voters that I am not part of the UNP, even though we have been working very closely together.

The last person to contest from your party, which was twenty years ago, is now in the UNP?

AKD: Karl Marx said, “History does nothing, it does not possess immense riches, it does not fight battles …”

GR, your rivals are saying that your party is just a front for your family. Even when there was a doubt about the verdict in the dual citizenship case, MR got CR to pay a deposit as a potential ‘backup’ candidate. What is your response to the accusation that yours is only a family party?

GR: Look at the others in our party. Apart from me and CR, who would you suggest? The next senior-most person is NS who falls asleep while standing. In 2015, CBK was looking around for someone from our party to run against MR. She found Sirisena and look at the crisis he created. Yes, it is a party where the best people are from our family. It is not something I am ashamed of; it is something I am proud of. If CBK’s clan can run the Sri Lanka Family Party for fifty years, we can run the Sri Lanka Pavul Pakshaya for the next fifty years. We have a ‘B’ team and an Under-35 team as well.

GR, what is your response to the claim that you have difficulty in making a speech or debating without prepared notes?

GR: My reputation is of someone who gets things done in the most efficient manner which is what I did during the war. I’m not a politician who can only talk. I am a technocrat who can only work. Yes, I am not good at making speeches but I am good at silencing people. I think my record speaks for itself. I pick the right man for the right job. So, I have people like Wimal, Gammanpila Johnston and Rohitha who do the work for me from campaign platforms. They are my lapdogs who bark on my behalf, so I can maintain a dignified image.

 SP, one of your ministers has withdrawn from your campaign. He says he will re-join it only if you give an undertaking that Ranil, Ravi, Rishad and Rauff won’t be part of your government. Will they or won’t they be part of your government?

SP: All of them are helping my campaign right now- although I can do without the help of at least two of them. I will leave it to you to figure out which ones they are. Because they are campaigning for me, I must make them feel that they will be part of any future government. When the campaign is over, it will be time for the ‘karapincha’ treatment—of spitting them out.

SP, you have promised free fertiliser, free school uniforms and mid-day meals and also to reintroduce ‘Janasaviya’. How will you find the money for all this?

SP: That is not an issue at all. All I have to is to investigate the billions that have been stashed away by my rival’s family members. If I have any difficulty, I might get Daisy aachchi to find the money for some of my projects- she seems to have lot of it.

MD: We will have to continue this next week. Please find time from your electioneering to meet the media.

This was exactly what your folks said last time. But your investigators found nothing – and the head detective has defected to the opposition.
GR (intervenes after phoning his brother): I too will not have any difficulty financing all the promises I have made. All I have to do is to get Mahendran from Singapore and get him to cough up the billions his family stole from the Central Bank.
SP: I don’t mind that at all, I can even help you with that, if you promise me that if you will get rid of all those involved in that scam- and you know who I am talking about.

AKD, you must have realised that both major parties have ruled our land for seven decades and they haven’t exactly done their best. In such circumstances, one would have thought it is time to give you a chance, but no one wants to do that. Why is that?

AKD: I don’t know the answer to that either. Maybe if we spent some more time being more constructive instead of organising strikes and getting university students tear-gassed, we would be in a better position today. I will think about that after the election.

At this stage, the moderator, MD, Chairman of the EC, informed that another candidate, a former Army Commander, was requesting a chance to be heard. SP, GR and AKD quickly talked amongst themselves and said that wouldn’t be necessary. MD asked them why. “After what has happened in the last four years, there is no way people would elect another MS as President,” all three said in unison.

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