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UNP has no strategy to win elections - Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage

Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage said the UNP's new Leadership Council won't work as it lacks public confidence. The introduction of this scheme is the biggest mistake the UNP has made. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said it is a conception not only in Sri Lanka but world over that people trust only the leader of a political party. Most people voted for this Government because of the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The majority of the people have reposed their faith in the President.

Minister Aluthgamage said that when a council or committee is appointed, people lose confidence. The chairman of this council is not a dynamic person. Had the UNP appointed a doughty leader and a few competent members to the Leadership Council, the people would have reposed their faith in it. These members appointed to the council are close associates of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The council will do what Wickremesinghe dictates. Merely because the UNP brings supporters from all over the country for demonstrations in Colombo, they canít win elections. A political party should have a plan to win elections. At present the people have lost faith in the Opposition. The people are not ready to vote for a bankrupt party of the likes of the UNP to form a UNP Government.

Excerpts of the interview.

Q: Why not the UNP as the main Opposition collaborate with the Government to defend Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions in the larger interest of the nation rather than harping on trivial matters and criticising Government actions?

A: The unfortunate situation in Sri Lankan politics is that the Opposition looks at national issues from a political angle. The Opposition gets political mileage even from national issues. Attempts are being made by certain Western countries to bring a resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC sessions to be held in March. It is high time that all Opposition parties collaborate with the Government to defend their motherland at the UNHRC irrespective of petty political differences. We faced a similar situation during the period of the war against terrorism. Even at that time, the Opposition didnít extend its support to put an end to terrorism.

This is a testimony to the true nature of the main Opposition, the UNP. This shows the plight of the UNP. Even at the Local Government and Provincial Council elections, the UNP will lose their vote base. Because they donít act on a national agenda. Instead of harping on narrow political objectives, they are not ready to reach a consensus with the Government on national issues. This is the biggest problem the UNP faces.

Q: Ostensibly the UNP could muster anti-government demonstrations summoning thousands of supporters. But it cannot win an election. Could you explain?

A: Merely because the UNP brings its supporters for demonstrations held in Colombo, they canít win elections. A political party should draw out a proper plan to win elections. The people have lost faith in the Opposition. People remember past UNP regimes which existed from 2001 to 2004. Former UNP Governments did not do anything for the people. They stopped development projects and curtailed the government sector and subsidies given to the people. The UNP is well aware of the repercussions. With the present UNP plight, I donít think the people would join hands with them. They might be able to bring a crowd of about 5000 to 10,000 from all over the country to Colombo. But I donít think the people are ready to vote for a bankrupt party like the UNP and give them a chance to form a UNP Government.

Q: The UNP has timed the Provincial Council elections well to set up the Leadership Council to regain its lost votes. Do you think this will be a threat to the UPFA victory?

A: This is the biggest mistake made by the UNP. It is not only in Sri Lanka but the world over, the people trust only the leader of a political party. The people vote for a person and itís a personnel choice. Most of the people vote for this Government because of the distinguished leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

The majority of the people have reposed faith in the President. When Barack Obama decided to contest, the Americans trusted him. When a council or committee is appointed, the people wonít have confidence in it. The other thing is the chairman of the council is not a dynamic person. Had the UNP appointed a doughty leader and a few competent members to the Leadership Council, the people would have reposed faith in it. These members in the council are close associates of UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. The council will do what Wickremesinghe dictates. The UNP's new scheme won't work as it lacks public confidence.

Q: When there are worst offenders of human rights violations who have committed atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya , what made the UNHRC to single out Sri Lanka for an international inquiry?

A: This is the biggest problem that we face. These Western countries are grave human rights violators. the atrocities committed by them in various countries are quite obvious. But they point fingers at us. The other reason is that these Western countries want to elect a puppet leader who would dance to their whims and fancies. The world witnessed how President Mahinda Rajapaksa took bold decisions during the war against terrorism without being subjected to external pressure. These European countries wanted to stop the war against terrorism and protect Prabhakaran. But the President turned down their request and wanted to end it. The intention of these Western countries is to make a regime change in Sri Lanka and elect their own puppet leader. They donít like to have a dynamic leader like President Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka.

Q: Some of the Government agencies have been identified as corrupt and inefficient. Donít you think that the existing administrative machinery could be effectively used to root out these social vices?

A: I agree that inefficiency is there in some state institutions. I also donít say that there is no corruption in any Government institution. Some state institutions are guilty of this. Inefficiency is the problem in the state sector. Every day 100 to 200 people seek jobs. When we offer them jobs in the private sector, they never go. Because they know if they go to private sector jobs, they have to work hard. They are ready to do any odd job in the government sector. We will have to have some machinery to get the government sector also to work like the private sector. Otherwise there will be a chaotic situation. There is corruption in the government sector as well. Even some Government officials are involved in such incidents. We should have some sort of machinery to minimise corruption. With the open economy such social evils cannot be curbed.

Q: Could you outline any development projects launched in the Nawalapitiya electorate which should keep pace with other rapid developing electorates?

A: When you compare with other electorates, Nawalapitiya is one of the most developed electorates in the country today. I can't compare it with Hambantota or the Gampaha districts. But when compared with other electorates, I think we have done tremendous work within the electorate. We have put up three new towns named Nawalapitiya, Kuruduwatta and Ethgala. Electricity has been provided to 97 percent of the households while drinking water facilities has been given to 65 percent of the people. All roads in the electorate are carpeted. We have distributed about 3000 land blocks among the needy and also put up about 1000 houses. In addition, we have given about 3000 to 4000 government jobs. Nawalapitiya is a clean and picturesque city. We have a well- planned elegant city in Nawalapitiya. If somebody goes from Kandy to Hatton via Nawalapitiya , he could see the difference.

Q: England, Australia and India plan to dominate the cricket world and Sri Lanka is set to lose a substantial income in cricket. Has your Ministry contemplated any steps to counter this threat?

A: I held discussions with the Cricket Board Committee on Thursday. We do not agree with the decision taken by the ICC. We have already informed the ICC that we won't support the move.

They have issued a press release saying all countries have agreed to their decision. We sent an email to the ICC that we do not agree with them. If we are going to accept what they say, that would be the end of our cricket. We will object their decision. What they are trying to do is out of 10 Test playing nations, England, Australia and India want to get the monopoly.

They want 65 percent of the total revenue. The balance 35 percent is to be divided between the other seven Test playing countries. They also want to cancel all councils and appoint an executive committee which comprise four members. Three of these members will be from England, Australia and India while they will appoint another member to that committee. So we would never become even a member of that committee. The chairmanship will go only to these three countries. This is not fair. Earlier we were members of the ICC and Asia also got the chairmanship. As a result, we got many advantages. These three countries are trying to get the monopoly for cricket. We have to challenge that.

Q: The Olympic Council of Asia has said that Sri Lanka is behind schedule in its preparation for the Asian Youth Games 2017 to be held in Hambantota. What remedial steps have been taken to expedite the work?

A: We have done a lot. The Cabinet approved to form a company. Construction has commenced. The master plan of the project is done. We have appointed a CEO. But they have written saying they are not satisfied with the work. I will respond in writing and tell them what we have done up to now. We are on schedule and there is no delay.

Q: What is the Sports Ministry's relationship with the International Olympic Committee (IOC)? Are we going to change the National Sports Policy as decided by the IOC?

A: We don't agree with all what the IOC is asking. But we are ready to do certain amendments to the National Sports Policy. Because there are unnecessary items in the Sports Law as well. We are willing to talk with the IOC, but we won't do what they want.

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