March 29 will mark the beginning of a new era - SPC UNP district
Provincial Council elections for Western and Southern Provinces are
round the corner, and all major political parties and some independent
groups have filed nominations and are actively engaged in their election
campaigns. Since the introduction of the Provincial Council system in
the country, these two provinces are ready for the fray for the 7th
consecutive term. Both these councils had been under the UNP rule only
once (in 1988) and since then both had been under SLFP led UPFA rule for
over 20 years.
Dhanawansa de Silva
The UNP group leader of Galle District Ashoka Dhanawansa de Silva
started his political career as a young student supporter of the
political campaign of former parliamentarian Norman Vaidyaratne in
Balapitiya electorate. He became an active member of UNP student union,
Eksath Samavadi Shishya Peramuna and later held various positions of the
Front. He was elected to the Southern Provincial Council in 1991 and
from 1993 upto date he has represented the SPC at every successive
election. He has been nominated as the group leader of the Galle
district for SPC elections of 2014 and the Sunday Observer had a brief
interview with him to ascertain the political situation in the province
and his program of work in the run up to the election and the chances of
winning the district for the party. Excerpts:
Q: Your party leader had reposed high confidence in you by
appointing you as the team leader of the district. How do you hope to
meet this challenge and prove your mettle at the forthcoming elections?
A: Yes, my party leader and the nomination board have
correctly identified the most suitable candidates for the district and I
have been assigned to lead the team. I do not consider this as a very
big challenge as I possess all the qualifications to be the leader in
the district. As a dedicated UNP activist I know practical politics from
pasting posters right upto discharging duties and responsibilities as
the chief minister quite satisfactorily.
All our team members are actively engaged in their propaganda
activities and we have unanimously decided to muster support for the
party rather than running behind preferential votes. We have already
launched our political campaign visiting from house to house and
educating the people about the present political and socio-economic
situation in the country.
Q: How about the major development projects already carried
out by the government in your Province?
A: Over 90 percent of people are heavily burdened with the
high cost of living and lack of essential commodities. Health and
education are the two important attributes of a nation. Unfortunately
our Southern Provincial administration had failed to address the issues
of these two vital sections during the past number of years. In this
backdrop it is not difficult for us to win the PC elections.
Matara district UNP candidates are led by the former Opposition
Leader of the Southern Provincial Council Sirisena Wijewickreme who had
created a record by having won at all the previous PC elections since
1988. He had started his political career as the private secretary to
the former deputy minister Keerthi Abeywickrema in 1977 and functioned
in the post till he entered PC in 1988.
Q: Your party had reposed lot of confidence in you having
appointed you as the leader of the Matara district for the forthcoming
PC elections. How do you hope to meet this challenge?
A: Yes, as the most senior councillor, and the immediate past
Opposition Leader of the Southern Provincial Council, our party had very
correctly appointed me to lead our team. With my long years of
experience in Provincial politics and the present socio-economic
situation in the country and with the tug of war among the others for
the chief minister's post, it is not difficult for us to mobilise the
masses against the present rulers and win the Matara district for our
Don't forget the fact that the Southerners have always begun the
political campaigns to change governments in power in the political
history of the country. We are quite confident that Southern PC election
results on March 29 will mark the beginning of a new era.
Q: But your own party people say that there is no unity among
your party front-runners and it's not possible for you to challenge this
A: That was the very reason for us to remain in the opposition
for so long. Now we have sorted out our internal problems and everybody
is working hard to put the party back in power shedding petty
differences. The Government has realised it and that is why they still
try to tarnish the image of your party exposing minor issues as major
conflicts to demoralise our grassroots level membership.
A lot of UPFA activists have now joined us saying that there is no
future for them under the present leaders.
Former UPFA stalwarts such as Justin Galappatti, local government
member, his son Tharaka Galappatti and former Opposition leader of the
Matara Municipal Council and another strong personality who had done a
great service to the area and expected UPFA nomination are also backing
our election campaign along with a large number of former UPFA
supporters with the firm intention of defeating the UPFA administration
of the Southern Provincial Council.
Q: The Government had already executed a large number of
development projects in the Southern Province. So in this backdrop how
could you say that you could defeat it?
A: Though the government had executed development schemes,
people have not been adequately benefited by them.
Tea cultivation in the province has been very badly affected due to
lack of good fertiliser and there are also lots of problems with the
fishing community with regard to their produce and the distribution.
The biggest problem the ordinary people are confronted with today, is
the unbearable high cost of living. Prices of all essential commodities
have skyrocketed and the income of the average man remains same driving
him from frying fan into the fire.
All our candidates are aggressively involved in the election campaign
exposing all these shortcomings of the government and we hope to present
our program of work to the voters and I am pretty sure that we can
topple the southern PC on March 29.
Somapala Ekanayake, the UNP team leader of Hambantota district is a
seasoned politician from the Southern Province who had worked with
former parliamentarian of Tangalle electorate Jinadasa Weerasinghe. He
has represented the district as a Provincial Councillor continuously
since 1993 and had rendered a great service to the Southern Province.
Speaking to the Sunday Observer, he said that the Southern Province
at present has been badly neglected by the rulers and people are
undergoing immense hardships with high cost of living. He said the
majority of the people are innocent peasants living in remote villages
of the district whose main livelihood is based on agriculture.
Fertiliser, agricultural chemicals and even the agricultural
equipment have gone up in price making the life more and more difficult
for the farmers. There is a substantial percentage of registered voters
in the district who do not have a plot of land of their own.
During the previous UNP regimes lands were given to people in the
area under the Mahaweli scheme and their economy was strengthened.
He said that the United National Party being in the Opposition for
the last number of years had rendered a great service to the people in
the Southern Province under the district leadership of Sajith Premadasa.
We have provided self-employment opportunities to a substantial amount
of people with Sajith Premadasa's funds.
Southern Provincial Council had been under the UPFA rule for well
over 20 years now but no productive project or systematic program of
work has been launched to alleviate the suffering of the downtrodden of
Ordinary people are riddled with innumerable problems such as health
care facilities, education for children, agricultural requirements and
with ever increasing high cost of living.
When asked about the election campaign he said that the team members
are working quite cordially and aggressively to win the district for the
party to prove that Southern Province always take the initiative to
change the government in power.
Ekanayake said that their party activists have to face various
problems with the police in the area in their propaganda activities.
Police do not allow us to set up our legitimate temporary offices and
sometimes they do not even allow us loudspeaker permits to conduct
election rallies. But with all these constraints we are quite confident
of our victory at the forthcoming elections, said Ekanayake.