Letís put our heads together - Keheliya
Former Minister Keheliya Rambukwella
Former Minister and Defence Spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella, who is
awaiting an important slot in the new Cabinet says that the priorities
one, two and three of the new government is 'development'.
However, there were plenty of speculations, but none could be said
for certain, as the President will decide only after the report of the
inquiry into Nawalapitiya incidents, is tabled.
In an interview with the 'Sunday Observer' Rambukwella said though
the Opposition, which is supposed to guide the ruling party of any
country, has been rendered weak, it would not affect the UPFA due to the
foresight on the part of President Mahinda Rajapaksa whose political
experience spans over 40-years.
" He will guide the post-war Sri Lanka to a new heights. He knows
what the country needs and he is the only leader who achieved the set
targets within a given time frame", he said.
Rambukwella said that though he was confident that he would be
offered a Ministerial post, he confessed that he was unable to predict
the exact Ministry.
The elected parliamentarians from Kandy district including
Rambukwella are waiting for the final outcome of the investigations over
the alleged incidents that took place in Nawalapitiya which led to a
He said that the new Cabinet and Parliamentarians need to work
together with the President to achieve the common goal - 'Development' -
the main target of the new government.
" I see fresh air in the Parliament this time with lots of new faces.
We have professionals and experienced politicians in the new parliament
and hope it will make easy for us to work hard to develop the country",
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: What do you have to say about the first post-war
parliamentary elections that recorded a historic victory for the UPFA
A: People have responded well at the Presidential elections
and the faith and confidence that they reposed in the President was
again endorsed at the parliamentary polls. Those who suffered for over
30-years, which is half of their lives, have given their clear mandate
to the UPFA government. People have shown their gratitude by voting to
the UPFA. At the end of the war, people who enjoyed the freedom dawned
upon them have responded well.
Q: You talked about the war victory and do you believe that
this alone resulted in re-electing the government? What are the other
factors that contributed to the UPFA victory?
A: Yes, I don't say the war victory alone brought the election
victory. The expectations of the people and the peaceful environment
have also contributed to this. On the other hand, people who entertained
fresh hopes after defeating the LTTE voted for the government.
While fighting the LTTE the government did not neglect the country's
development. Both ends progressed equally. The government achieved
significant progress in all the sectors and completed several mega
development projects in power, irrigation and ports sectors. The rural
development was one of major areas on which the government focused.
People who witnessed the overall development were happy to enjoy
themselves the development initiatives in their villages which had been
neglected for years. They voted for the government with more hopes for
People of the North and the East never thought that their villages
would develop so rapidly. But, even before the war was completely over,
people of the East had witnessed development. Their lives were
remarkably improved. All these resulted in this victory.
Q: What are the priorities of the new government as the war is
now over and signs of economic recovery are looming?
A: Well, the priority one, two and three is nothing but,
development. I don't think any one has bothered to calculate on a
realistic manner on what we have lost on account of the war. It is a
huge loss, not only the physical but also psychological and in many
other ways as well!
If we can calculate this huge loss, I don't think any one would talk
about other countries in Asia but Sri Lanka. But what has gone is gone
and what is now needed is looking forward to. If we go at this rate this
country will no doubt be one of the fastest developing nations in the
I strongly believe that if all of us put our heads together and work
hard for the next four to five years, we can achieve all our development
targets. Now the government had set its future goals. At the moment the
ground and the mindset of the people are set to achieve that target and
what is needed is a speedy implementation. There is a huge
responsibility cast on all of us.
Q: The new parliament has several new faces and as a senior
politician do you think that you can achieve the desired targets with
A: I see some fresh air in this parliament. This is a good
sign and it is quite a mix. There are professionals and experienced
politicians who have hailed from pradeshiya sabbhas to provincial
councils to the parliament. I hope that we can reach our goal with this
new blood. They have been elected by the people with some hopes. We have
young energetic, professionals coming in and no doubt I think we can
march forward with them.
Q: As a former UNPer what do you have to say about the UNP,
which has faced the worst ever defeat in its history?
A: UNP is a political party with a strong foundation but it is
now certainly shattered. I am not trying to put the blame on any body
but the whole country knows what the main causes for its present plight
are. They know what has happened! In principle, it is always good to
have a strong Opposition but unfortunately the UNP couldn't maintain
that status. It's pathetic.
Q: Does it mean the government will have a strong voice in the
Parliament as the opposition is weak.
A: Theoretically any government needs a strong Opposition as a
guide to the government. It clearly shows there is no strong Opposition
in Sri Lanka today. But this will not affect the government as it is
spearheaded by a leader who is gifted with a strong political maturity.
President Rajapaksa, who is in politics for over 40- years, will guide
the country on the correct path.
When you assess the performances of the last five years, this is
quite evident. He has been able to achieve all the set targets in the
given period. He knows what is right and wrong. He is armed with a
comprehensive plan on how to develop the country in the next six years.
Q: According to your assessment what are the main factors for
this once strong political entity to become weaker and weaker?
A: Well, principally it is the top level administration of any
political party that should be responsible for its weaknesses. I am not
going into the details. But, when you look at the UNP's Constitution you
would observe it is dictatorial. Very few people know exactly what
exactly the UNP Constitution is and they know that the Constitution
itself is a total dictatorship. This may also have led to its present
If you assess the many things that happened during last couple of
years, you would observe there is no participatory approach within the
UNP. Decisions taking process was always centered around two or three
individuals. Many of those adhoc decisions taken by the top level have
also led the party to lose its popularity among its members.
Q: Are you confident that the UNP can have a better future and
revert to its former glory?
A: During the last seven to eight years, the party had a very
poor administration and poor co-ordination. These are the main causes
for UNP's poor performance. People lost faith in the party. This is the
lowest level to which the party has descended, in its proud history.
But, I don't say that the same will prevail throughout. There will be
good signs to say that the UNP is coming back to its former glory. It is
only possible through a new administration as the UNP is not a political
party disowned totally by the people.
Q: They talk about changing the present leadership of the
party. Will this make a difference?
A: They have been talking about this for the last 10 years.
After every election the UNP on its post mortem talk about changing its
leadership but after a few days it dies a natural death.
The other main reason for the UNP to become so weak is that it has
totally lost its common touch!
Q: Is it true that the UNP is going to join the government
A: I am not aware of it.
Q: You played a vital and challenging role as the Defence
Spokesman and do you think this post is still necessary as the war is
A: Of course, war or terrorism is defeated militarily but not
internationally. If we don't defeat them internationally it will further
create problems for us. We cannot be totally happy that the LTTE is
completely eradicated. The LTTE remnants are still haunting locally and
mainly in foreign soils. There are signs that the LTTE is raising its
ugly head again in some of the countries. It was a huge organization.
Therefore, we need to be watchful. In such a scenario the post of
Defence Spokesman could not be dropped and it still has a major role to
Q: Do you think still the Tamil Diaspora is active and also
propagates the LTTE ideology? What do you think the new government
should do to suppress their activities?
A: We need to look at this aspect very seriously. I am happy
to see under the leadership of President Rajapaksa and with the
energetic participation of Basil Rajapaksa who led a rapid development
drive in the North and the East, a very positive picture was shown to
Tamils here and abroad. Now they have been convinced by the development
that they are enjoying.
Now the Tamil Diaspora cannot claim that the North and the East
development is overlooked and Tamils suffer due to poor health,
education etc. lacking in infrastructure facilities. The government has
given top priority for developing these two provinces. Today they enjoy
themselves better facilities far than the people in the South do.
Considering President Rajapaksa's political acumen no one can say
Justice was not meted out to the Tamils and the Muslims.
Every citizen of this country is equally treated. If you make an
assessment of the performance of this government during this short
period of time, you may certainly concede that no other government could
match the progressed registered by this government!
Q: Though we have poured lots of money to develop the North
and the East, still majority of them voted for the ITAK, the constituent
party of the TNA, which was the LTTE proxy. Why?
A: I am happy to see the TNA getting support and they should
be in the parliament to air their views. Then we can have an idea on the
requirements of Tamils as they are solely representing those areas. On
the other hand, we can explain to them why we cannot fulfill some of
their demands if they are in the Parliament. They should not be driven
out of the mainstream!
This time they have lost one third of votes that they got at the last
elections. More than a quarter of the TNA voter base, which has accepted
the government's policy, have voted for the UPFA and that is why the TNA
could not secure more seats in the North and the East.
Q: How confident are you that you will be getting a
A: I am sure of getting a portfolio but not yet confirmed as
the inquiry is still going on.
Q: It is said that you are to be offered the media Ministry.
How true is this?
A: I also read this news in the papers and speculations are
going around. But I really don't know whether I would get it. Let's wait
Q: How long it will take to complete this inquiry?
A: I think it will take a week or so.
Q: The Amnesty International has called upon the new
parliament to do away with the Emergency regulations and to abolish the
Terrorism Prevention Act. They have also insisted on release of those
detained under emergency regulations? Is it possible to accede to these
A: Well, my response for them is that we should not be
dictated by anybody. If the Opposition makes these demands in the
Parliament, we can at least consider them as they are representing the
people of this country.
If they asked me, I would have told them, "Look, you have enough and
more problems at your doorstep. We do not want any body to direct us as
to what we should do and we know exactly what we are doing". We are not
concerned about any body that has no say. I also believe that
organizations like them should make some comments now and then for their