'Will prove myself at a General Election':
Hirunika says she did not parachute into politics
Young, ambitious and outspoken politician Hirunika Premachandra
speaks of her dreams in her political career in an interview with the
Q: The death of a politician is now a qualification and
short-cut by kith and kin to launch a political career, even by those
who lack dedication, interest and the will to serve the people. Can you
differentiate yourself from this category?
A: In countries like - India and Sri Lanka- this is a common
means of women entering politics. But leaders like Margaret Thatcher, a
former British Prime Minister, had no such background. She was a
As for me I must admit my father's untimely death was instrumental in
my commencing a political career this early. The fact that my father was
killed and I was compelled to continue what my father started and that
is something I cannot deny.
But how I establish myself in this male- dominated field will be my
own work. I will have to work hard and I know the path ahead is not
Having said that I should also add that I am from a political family.
I have lived with politics as a child. My father did not keep his
political work away from home. Our home was his supporters 'home'.
Politics is nothing new to me. I have not parachuted into unknown
territory and claimed something that I have no right to claim.
As for my educational background I have done Political Science and I
am currently pursuing a legal career. I don't want people to see me as a
celebrity, I am an activist. After my father's death I fought for
justice. I maintained and still say those who are responsible, must be
brought to book. I think people admired me for that and I earned their
recognition and affection.
I never hoped for a political career in this manner, I did not want
to make an entry as the daughter of slain Bharatha Lakshman
Premachandra. My ambition was a different one altogether. My father
wanted me to establish myself as a lawyer first. He said I needed to get
married, become a mother and think of a political career when I was
mature enough. That was his expectation. Everything changed overnight
with my father's sudden demise. Now I have started my political journey
and I cannot stop.
Q: Some people criticise your move to join the UPFA. In their
opinion you should have joined the Opposition ?
A: My father was one of the few people in the party, who
supported President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his journey to become the
President. I did receive invitations from other parties to contest the
election but I do not think leaving the SLFP will do me any good in my
quest to seek justice for my father.
It is not proper to criticise the entire party for the actions of a
few. That is not done. I have a right to be with this Government.
I believe that if I show my strength to my father's party and to the
people, then the mere 'passengers' in the party, will someday fade away.
But I will remain and be there to protect the party. I feel I took the
right decision. I will stand by my policies. If I join another party and
start criticising the Government, I will not be helping our people.
Q: There is speculation that you will be offered a provincial
ministerial post if elected. Is this true?
A: No, no one said anything to that effect to me. I too, heard
that new councillors would be considered for ministerial posts this
time. But that is just a rumour. I have not been promised anything. I
have to win this election and make my mark first.
Q: You will be contending with experienced senior politicians.
Do you think you will win the most number of preferential votes in the
A: I never said I am the only one who can get the most number
of votes. True, I believe in myself and my people. I know they love me
and have a good impression about me. There are strong candidates in the
Western Province. They already have a vote base which is not the case
with me. I have to speak to voters and make my presence felt. Still I do
not know where I stand. To understand my strength, I have to face this
Q: Suppose you get the most number of preferential votes and
if the Chief Ministerial post is offered to you, will you accept it?
A: There are seniors who have given their everything for the
party. I cannot match their experience. I just entered politics, I do
not believe in unrealistic dreams. I will work hard to do my best in
this election. This is not an easy game, the UPFA has fielded an
outstanding team this time. I may not stand a chance in securing a
higher number of votes. But I will aspire to be among the top scorers.
Q; How do you see women representation in politics in Sri
A: Women represent 52% of the population in Sri Lanka but only
a disappointing fraction of them are in active politics, if I am right
the number is less than 3%. I feel this is a kind of discrimination.
I believe more women should enter politics and that they should be
given a fair chance. For a country which has produced the world's first
woman Prime Minister and a Woman President, the situation now is rather
We need to change the mindset of women and their attitudes while
creating awareness as to how important their contribution for the future
of this country. I represent the women and the youth and I intent to set
an example. I hope they will be more courageous and willing to make a
Q: What is your ambition, vision and expectation in your
A: There are 22 national schools in the country which are
under the purview of the Central Government the balance over 10,000
schools are under the purview of the provincial authorities. Minister
Bandula Gunawardena has invited me to make a contribution in the
education field. I believe education is the key to anyone's future and I
like to play a role in developing the education sector with the
blessings of the President and the Minister.
I will play a role in the 'Mahindodaya' and 'Lama Mithuru' schools
projects of the Education Ministry. It will be a pleasure to represent
the children and education in the Western Province. I will not forget
what happened to my father. The fight for justice for my father drove me
prematurely into politics. That goal will never leave my mind. These are
my immediate goals and expectations.
Q:You said you came to politics to seek justice for your
father. Don't you think that this objective undermines the faith voters
will have in you, they need a representative to fight for their rights?
A: My political career and fight for justice for my father
will go parallel but on separate paths. I will not mix the two and be a
disappointment to my voters. But I will make sure that my father's death
would not be in vain. While not interfering in the judicial process, I
will make my contribution to seek justice.
I did not venture here to seek revenge but to seek justice. As a
believer in law I am keenly following the court proceedings. As a person
training to be a lawyer, I must have faith in the judicial system.
My father had a vision to serve his people. He became the voice of
poverty- stricken people who struggled to live. He was a friend not only
to the Sinhalese but Tamils as well as the Muslims. I will continue from
where he stopped.
Q: Where will your political journey lead you?
A: I don't want to end my political journey here. The
provincial election will be my starting point and it will help to test
my strength. In a few years time a General election will be held and I
have to work hard in the mini election to think of a bigger future.
Q: Have you been given the green light by the UPFA to contest
the next general election?
A: Actually my nomination to contest the general election will
depend on how I fare at the provincial polls. I have not been promised
Q: Due to the violent political culture in Sri Lanka, women
and professionals shy away from active politics. Your comments?
A: I do not believe in violent politics. My campaign is
definitely going to be a peaceful one. I have asked my supporters to
strictly adhere to the election law. I keep telling them that my
campaign is not a chance to seek revenge from our opponents.
This is a chance to prove our people power.
People no more vote for rowdies and thugs to represent them in public
office, they look for educated and well behaved people.
Q:We saw many film stars and celebrities line up to receive
nominations from the UPFA and the UNP. How do you see this trend?
A: I don't have a personal issue with them. But do they really
have good intentions to take to politics? Most of the film stars venture
into politics using their popularity.
But at the end of the day people are disappointed. Film stars hardly
have time to serve people. Being a people's representative is not a part
time job, it is a 24/7 job. There are no off days, half days or short
leave involving this job.
Hoping to split time between a political career and a busy acting
career is a joke. You cannot say that you are in the middle of shooting
a film when a supporter needs to contact you or your presence is
urgently needed to settle an issue.
We have seen actors and actresses such as Jayalalitha and Gamini
Fonseka becoming successful politicians. It was not a part time job for
Politicians have to be accountable to voters. People expect their
representatives to be role models. I am still 26. I like partying with
my friends and wearing fancy clothes like anyone else in my age. I like
to lead a carefree life. But such things are behind me now.
I want people to look up to me. My dress code has completely changed.
The moment I decided on a political career, I knew it was the end of my
Q: Who are your campaign sponsors. How can we say that you
will not become a puppet of your sponsors once elected ?
A: It is true, there are many people who want to support my
campaign. Many come offering different types of help and support. I try
to uncover their ulterior motives before accepting any sponsoring. I do
a strict background check. That way I try to keep miscreants at bay.
I make it clear that I will not do 'favours' in return. I have
asserted that I am not willing to bend the law to reciprocate their
support in my campaign.
Such people did approach me, I did not entertain them. The genuine
people who helped my father before had also come forth and I have no
fear in accepting their support.
Q: What are the shortcomings in the Western province as a
whole and your seat - Colombo Central in particular as you see it?
A: The biggest shortcoming is the disparity in wealth
distribution among the people here. While a minority of rich people get
wealthier by day, the middle income people who constitute the majority
in the Western Province have been deprived. This has to change. I too,
belong to the Middle Class, so I can relate to their problems. The 'eat
what you get and do as you are told' attitude of people must change.
Q:What is the support you get from President Mahinda Rajapaksa
A: His support had been a great courage. I often update him
about my campaign. I am no stranger to the President's family. He keeps
a close watch over the campaign and helps me when I need it. I hope that
this will continue in the future too.