Opposition parties, no challenge to the UPFA :
Focus on child-centred programs - Prasanna Ranatunga
Coming from well known political family in the Gampaha district,
Prasanna Ranatunga started his political career after contesting the
crucial Provincial Council election in 1993 from the Gampaha district
and climbed the ladder of politics within the Provincial Council system
becoming a provincial Minister and ending up as the Chief Minister of
the Western Provincial Council in 2009. After completing 20 years in
politics, this time too he is contesting the Western Provincial Council
election from the Gampaha district as the lead candidate of the UPFA.
The Sunday Observer had an interview with the former Chief Minister
Prasanna Ranatunga at his private residence in Udugampola about the
forthcoming Provincial Council election as he is preparing for his
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: Can you explain what kind of changes you could make in the
Western Province throughout your career as a Provincial Councilor,
Provincial Council Minister and also as the Chief Minister of the
Western Provincial Council during the past four years?
A: From 1993 to date I have served in the Western Provincial
Council as a Council Member, Minister and also as the Chief Minister. By
making use of my political experience and the knowledge gained by
associating experienced politicians I was able to turn the Provincial
Council system from a white elephant to a vibrant political system. I
get positive responses from what I have initiated. When I was acting
Chief Minister I was able to get the support of 71 members of the
Council including the Members of the SLMC. Due to the political
stability maintained in the Council we were able to implement a
practical program for the benefit of the people in the province
irrespective of the Financial and Administrative regulations. That is
why I am getting positive response from the people at this juncture.
Q: Western province represent nearly 30 percent of the entire
population in the country. As the Provincial Council do you think the
Provincial Council could address the issues problems directly affecting
the people in the province parallel to the development drive taken
forward by the government?
A: I did not try to apply my vision when solving the problems
of the people in the province. Mahinda Chinthana, the vision of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa had all the solutions for the problems faced
by the people.
It was not a list of promises but a program to address all the issues
relating to the people. When the central government is continuing its
program to construct highways, ports, airports, power houses I tried to
adjust the mentality of the people to face future challenges. Children
are the future of this nation and we focused much of our attention to
build their capacity to face future challenges of the country.
To meet this challenge we increased the allocation for education from
Rs. 800 million in 2009 to Rs. 2,000 million in 2013 to improve the
physical and human resources in the school network in the province. We
created a clean and beautiful environment in all 1,267 schools in the
province by allocating Rs.75,000 to Rs.150,000 per school.
That created a conducive environment in the schools for the students
to pursue their education.
We reduced the teacher student ratio from 1:26 to 1:20. Now for every
20 students we are having one teacher.
We plan to improve this further. During my tenure I have provided
jobs for 12,000 graduates in the province. I also initiated a program to
train the teachers in the province and now 99 percent of the teachers
serving in the province are trained teachers. We also looked into the
welfare issues of the teachers by expediting the process of providing
pensions and introduc an insurance scheme for teachers.
When I took over the Council there were 196 half built buildings in
those schools. By the end of 2013 we were able to complete more than 70
per cent of those buildings. We improved the education sector by
managing human and physical resources properly. Through that process we
expect to prepare the young generation of the province to take up the
future challenges in the country.
Q: In politics you cannot always take popular decisions when
solving problems. Do you think you also had to face challenging
situations when solving issues in the Provincial Council?
A: I have always said that politics is governing the country.
When governing the country we have to take unpopular decisions also.
During my tenure as Chief Minister I also faced such challenging
situation when we decided to train teachers in the province. All trade
union opposed this move when we tried to implement it. But at the end
they all regretted what they had done.
I also faced a challenging situation after the Rathupaswala incident.
But I was able to visit the two funeral houses and control the situation
without dragging that incident further amidst the protests. On another
occasion as the Provincial Transport Minister I took a decision to
remove the flat roof private buses and short buses from the roads.
There were huge protests when I tried to implement that decision. But
I implemented that decision without heeding those protests. Today such
buses are not operating in the province. If we did not take up that
challenge properly those buses would be operating on the streets even
today. We should face such situations without any fear. Otherwise we
cannot face challenging situation in politics and govern the country
Q: In the Western province we see lot of development projects
taking place. Apart form the development, the people in the province
also get affected from these project the in the form of displacement and
deprivation of their properties. Do you think these type of issues would
make any impact on the election campaign?
A: Today we see massive development process is taking place in
Colombo city. That has made the city more beautiful. When we go to
Madras in India we have to be more careful when walking in the streets
because the streets there are unclean. Earlier, Colombo was also like
that. But today Colombo city is clean and people also try to keep the
In the same way the slums in the city are also being replaced with
new buildings. When we construct new buildings the people living there
are provided with new houses. What is happening today is people living
in those slums are obtaining new houses after selling their old one to
This creates lot of problems. But people living in Colombo now
realise the benefits they gained through these development programs.
We need lands for the development programs. But we are not removing
them without paying any compensation or without providing an alternative
place. We are paying compensations and also we are providing them
houses. So that will not be a issue for us because people understand
this situation properly.
Q: You are the lead UPFA candidate in the Gampaha district.
What kind of assessment are you having about the UPFA team from the
A: When we take a cricket team, when the team is selected, we
have to play as a team. The team from the Gampaha district have been
selected by a high level panel from the party after an interview.
As the leader of that group I have kept 100 per cent confidence on
that team. But I know in this electoral process we cannot avoid clashes
and confrontations even between two brothers. Therefore, we are trying
our best to conduct the election campaign minimizing the clashes among
our candidates and setting examples to the country.
Q: People from various fields are entering politics. During
the past few weeks there was a debate about the entry of artistes
specially actresses and vocalists in to politics. What kind of opinion
are you having about the actors and actresses entering politics?
A: A fine discussion on this issues was carried out in the
media during the past few weeks.
But if we take Vijaya Kumaratunga, he was a good actor and a good
politician. Gamini Fonseka also played a good role in politics. We
should have people from different fields in politics. But we should not
bring people unfit for politics. The voters also have responsibility
when casting their votes to such people. They should think whether these
people would be able to carry forwards the responsibilities entrusted on
them or not. If these actors and actresses can act responsibly there is
no point in rejecting them also.
Q: Corruption in the government and drug menace in the country
has hit the political stage in the Opposition. That has become the main
theme of the opposition campaign. How do you react to these allegations
and do you think this would make an impact on the UPFA election
A: The media is reporting lot about detection of drugs. How
these news published in the media.
They are published because of the detections made by the Police and
Police and Customs are government institutions. So, as a responsible
government we have actively involved in cracking down these drug mafia.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa
has always stated that government is committed to crack down on the drug
menace. Through these statements the hands of the government officials
were also strengthened to act against drug dealers.
These government officials have been given free hand to act against
them. But this is not a trend that had suddenly emerged in this country.
This has resulted after the introduction of the open economy. During
the war also the LTTE brought drug to the country and they raised funds
This has resulted due to various reasons and government is committed
to crack down the situation. People look at this situation intelligently
and they will decided who is correct and who is wrong. As the government
is doing its part there are no worries for the Government at the
Q: Do you think the main Opposition would be challenge to the
UPFA at the forthcoming election?
A: Today there is no proper leader in the UNP. It had great
leaders like D.S. Senanayake, F.R. Senanayake, Dudley Senanayake, J.R.
Jayewardene, Ranasinghe Premadasa, Lalith Athulathmudali, Gamini
Today they have only dummy leaders. If they cannot keep their party
in order how are they going to govern a country? But President Mahinda
Rajapaksa as a strong leader is keeping large number of political
parties under his leadership. The JVP is also now in total disarray and
trying to face the election after changing their leader.
Therefore, people cannot keep confidence on any of the political
party in the opposition. So at the last Provincial Council election some
of the people opted to vote for the Democratic Party.
But now Sarath Fonseka is also going to barber shops and people
cannot keep faith in him. Therefore, UPFA as a strong political party
can face the election without any challenge from the Opposition.
Q: The violation of election laws, pasting of posters, banners
and cut outs is also being discussed at various platforms these days. Do
you think that you can conduct the election campaign without violating
the elections laws?
A: Without violating the election laws we cannot do our
election campaigns. These elections laws are very primitive ones.
The innocent candidates have no opportunity to display their number
and cannot do house to house campaign also. They also cannot display
their names in vehicles.
Those who are having money can have paper and TV advertisements
paying huge sum of money. Therefore this is a unfair situation.
Therefore, I believe that this situation has to be brought to the
attention of the Elections Commissioner and these elections laws has to
The government and private radio and TV channels should equal
opportunities to all political parties. If we have electoral divisions
that will be good. Otherwise we need to change these election laws.
Q: Do you think that there are people who may become challenge
to in the Gampaha district?
A: There is no challenge for me in the Gampaha district. Last
time I received more than 186,000 votes in the district That was before
I was appointed the Chief Minister.
The second preferential votes were obtained by Nimal Lanza. He
obtained 75,000 preferential votes. I am confident that the programs
initiated by me has reached the grass roots level people.
I have worked for the betterment of the government workers also.
Therefore, I am confident that I will be able to get higher number of
votes this time too from the Gampaha district.
Q: Are you expecting the Chief Ministers post this time too?
A: If I say no it that would be a lie. I am expecting the
Chief Ministers post because I have worked for it and I am waiting for
the people's response towards my service.
If people wish to make me the chief Minister they will do it at the
election by giving their preference.
Q: If you are appointed the Chief Minister again what kind of
a program do you have in mind for the Province?
A: I never expect to continue the same programs again. If we
want that, the officials can do that. There is no need of politicians.
We are here to do novel and innovative things for the people.
As a person who closely associates with the people I hear what they
say and I take their ideas and create new programs out of it. That is
how I implemented a program to issue Rs.100,000 each to 2,789 Dhamma
schools in the province.
Through that program we could improve religious education among the
At the next Provincial Council I am expecting to implement programs
targeting the children women in the province because they are the
biggest partners in future development of the country.
Q: What kind of victory you are expecting for the UPFA in the
A: At the last election we had 27 Members from Gampaha
district and we obtained more than 68 per cent votes.
This time we hope to get 28 or 29 seats from the Gampaha district. We
are expecting higher percentage of votes compared to lat time.
Q: Do you have any doubt about the victory at the forthcoming
A: I don't have iota of doubt about the victory. If we
continue with the current response towards us I cannot imagine the
future of other political parties, because people are having more
confidence on President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his government.
There are shortcomings. But when we compare the things we have done
during the past four years that is more than enough for us to obtain a
historic victory at the Western Provincial Council election.