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Massive victory for President inevitable -Minister Rajitha Senaratne



Construction and Engineering Services Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne

In an interview with Sunday Observer Construction and Engineering Services Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said President Mahinda Rajapaksa will definitely get over 65 percent votes at the Presidential Election. The Minister expressed confidence that after winning the Presidential Election, the people will give a massive mandate to the Government to form a Parliament with a two thirds majority at the General Election.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

In that Parliament, the JVP will be at a minimum and the UNP will be very weak. There will be more UNPers who will support the new Government. Because they will not wait for another six years in the Opposition. We will create a two thirds majority and move forward removing all obstacles laid down by this Constitution.

Q:The Government has declared that a Presidential Election would be held first. Will the Opposition candidate pose a serious challenge to the President, even if it is General Sarath Fonseka ?

A: Now we are prepared for the Presidential Election. We have announced the election. The next day after the election was declared, all the SLFPers and pro-Government supporters had come to the roads and distributed leaflets and started the campaign. Still we are on the campaign.

The Opposition say they have a common candidate. There is a third candidate as Dr. Vickramabahu Karunaratne has announced he is also going to contest. Now how many days left for the Common Candidate to go around and get votes ?

There is no threat by anybody coming to compete with the President. Because he is the one who saved our country. He is the Leader who will move forward to develop the country and he is with the people. Therefore there is no threat at all.

Q:Is the Government also confident of gaining a two thirds majority or a massive victory margin at the General Election which should follow shortly after the Presidential Election ?

A: The President will definitely get over 65 percent votes at the Presidential Election as well. Whoever the candidate there will be a difference of two or three percent and the difference would be very marginal. Whoever comes, we would go ahead with the campaign to show how much of votes that the Opposition can get.

They will see the reality at the end of the day. We would form a two thirds majority Parliament at next General Election. The late President J.R. Jayewardene introduced this Constitution thinking that it would last forever. Because the two main parties will never come together to change this Constitution.

But at the last victory from the North Western Province up to the Southern Province, all the provinces were won by the UPFA by a two thirds majority. That will be followed. After winning the Presidential Election, definitely the people will give their mandate to form a two thirds majority Parliament at the General Election.

In that Parliament, the JVP will be at a minimum and the UNP will be very weak. There will be more UNPers who will support the new Government. Because they will not wait for another six years in the Opposition. We will create a two thirds majority and move forward removing all obstacles laid down by this Constitution.

A strong leader and a two thirds majority of a Parliament can develop a Third World country. That is how Lee Kuan Yew developed Singapore, Mahathir Mohamed developed Malaysia and Park developed Korea. Therefore it would be a strong leader plus a strong Parliament.

Q: Why has the UNP and the JVP decided that their own leaders Ranil Wickremesinghe and Somawansa Amarasinghe are not good candidates for the Presidential Election ?

A: That is the reality. When I told the UNP this is the fate of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, certain hardcore UNPers blamed me. Today they have no guts to put forward their Leader into the fray. That means they know definitely Ranil Wickremesinghe will lose his deposit as well. That is why they are trying to find outsiders.

This is the fate of the UNP today. The UNP has never ever tried for candidates from outside. They always had a good Leader to fight with the Left. That is how the UNP has won all the elections. But today the UNP has no such candidate. The JVP does not have a presidential candidate. Their former Presidential candidate is in the Government now. All the JVP’s popular characters are now with the Government. Therefore the JVP also doesn’t have a candidate. Due to this desperation, the two enemies have come together.

Q: Why have the UNP and the JVP, which have diametrically opposite views on many issues, decided to work together?

A: The UNP and the JVP were always against each other. They were sworn enemies. Whenever they meet, they try to kill each other. But when there is flood in the area, they both will get into the same timber log to save their lives. They will move forward to save their lives without fighting. This is what has happened to the UNP and the JVP. It has come to that point for their existence. So they have come together now.

Q: The UNP and the JVP say the Executive Presidency should be abolished. Is that a mere slogan or a genuine demand ? What is the Government’s stance on abolishing the Executive Presidency?

A: What is the stand of the JVP ? If they are so against the Executive Presidency, why did they press former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga to take over three key ministries from the then UNP Government using her executive powers.

What principle they had then? Why did they push former President Kumaratunga to dissolve the UNP Government using her executive presidential powers ? Later President Kumaratunga had blamed Mangala Samaraweera and the JVP for pressurising her to take this decision. If they are so principled parties, how can they use the executive presidential powers. They say they saved the country.

What saved the country ? The executive power of the President saved the country. Why the Executive Presidency is bad for them now ? If they could have saved the country at that time, why cannot the country be saved now ? President Mahinda Rajapaksa used the executive powers for better purposes. That is to save the country from Prabhakaran.

What is the stand of the UNP ? They are the people who brought this Executive Presidency and it was no other person than Ranil Wickremesinghe’s own uncle. Ranil Wickremesinghe was a Cabinet Minister at that time. What did he do at that time? Now he has changed his mind after 31 years.

What principles did we have when he became the UNP Leader after 15 years? He has lost twice and he cannot lose the third time. So he is against the Executive Presidency.

This is a mere slogan for their existence. The Government is ready to discuss whether the executive Presidency should be abolished or remove certain clauses of it which have adverse affects. But this has to be done through a rational dialogue.

Q: UNP General Secretary Tissa Attanayake has stated that his party to ready to take back the 17 dissidents including you, who joined the Government. Will you rejoin the party before or after the elections, especially if the UNP/JVP/SLMC/TNA candidate wins the poll?

A: I don’t think anyone in our 17 member group has any mental problem to rejoin to a bankrupt party by now. At present the former UNP is not there. This is a new group of people who are only bothered about their posts and not the victory of the party. What can be done to the country by Ranil Wickremesinghe and Tissa Attanayake’s party ? Who will go back there ? We all are fully confident that President Rajapaksa will win with a thumping majority.

Q: On the other hand, are more UNPers ready to join the UPFA Government ahead of the Elections ?

A: Actually there are members not only from parliament but also from Provincial Councils and other Local Government bodies who are willing to cross over to the Government.

In addition, some of the Leaders who have signed for the new opposition alliance are also ready to cross over. At the moment we can’t take too many people and expand the cabinet. There is no time for it. If we need one or two to get the two thirds majority, we will take them after the election.

Q: The Opposition alleges that the Government misused state property and engaged in other malpractices to win the Provincial Council elections. They say the same thing will happen at Presidential and General Elections. Can the Government guarantee a free and fair election in all areas including the North-East ?

A: What did the UNP Ministers do when they were in power? Didn’t they use their official vehicles and departmental facilities ? What nonsense is this ? How many of the UNP members who propagate these things used all their state machinery for their purpose in 1994 and 2004 elections.

Then how was that election a free and fair one which the Opposition won. The Government’s victory cannot be changed by this kind of malpractices. It will be a free and fair election. But some people may misuse state properties. How can we change it? The same thing happened during the UNP regime as well.

Q: The Opposition says the Government wanted to hide the conditions imposed by the IMF for the loan through passing a Vote on Account instead of a budget. Did the IMF impose any conditions and how do you view this allegation?

A: The IMF Director General is the best person to talk about this. He gave a complete interview and stated that the IMF did not impose any conditions. The IMF did not put forward any conditions to the Government to remove any health facilities, educational facilities or other social welfare measures. But the UNP Leader was so impotent to accept the conditions put forward by the IMF. The Opposition thinks President Rajapaksa will also do the same thing. President Rajapaksa is a very far thinking Leader.

He will never bow down to any international pressure. Even when the President was fighting with Prabhakaran, World Leaders put forward so many conditions. But he never bowed down to any condition. The Government will definitely present the budget in April 2010 after the elections.

Q:The Government has expedited the release of IDPs from camps and granted to freedom of movement to Jaffna residents and IDP inmates. The Opposition says these have been done under international pressure and also with an eye on the elections. Is this true?

A: If we did this under international pressure, we would have released the IDPs earlier. When there are landmines, how can we resettle the IDPs? In order to expedite the de-mining activities, the Government purchased 10 de-mining machines spending millions of rupees.

They have done a lot of work and certain areas have already been cleared. This has facilitated to resettle the IDPs. Otherwise how can we resettle the IDPs ?

The Government has not been subjected to any international pressure. Landmines are the only pressure to the Government.

It is nothing to do with elections. The President at the very beginning said 85 percent of the IDPs will be resettled before the end of this year. Now the President has stated that the balance IDPs will be resettled by the end of January 31, 2010.

Q: Is the Government ready with proposals to solve the genuine grievances of Tamil civilians in the North and the East? Will they be implemented after the Presidential or General Elections if the Government wins?

A: Yes, that has to be done. The President will seek views from all the political parties. He will be more powerful after the elections. We will have a more powerful and stable Parliament as well. Earlier some of the people said the President cannot win the war against terrorists.

But he won the war. Now that very same people say we cannot win the election. But we will win the election by a thumping majority. The President will definitely settle the problems faced by the minority communities and develop the country.

Q: What are the major constructions planned by the Government for expediting development especially in the North-East?

A: Anybody who visits Batticaloa, Trincomalee and Ampara can witness the massive development taken place under the “Eastern reawakening program.” At present a massive development is being taken place in the North under the “Uthuru Wasanthaya Program.”

Two corporations of my Ministry have engaged multimillion rupee projects in the North to expedite development work in the area. Up to now, private sector contractors have done over Rs.86 billion worth projects in the north while my Ministry has done over Rs.100 billion worth projects in the North.

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