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Sunday, 6 April 2014





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Chief Ministers on PC polls:

Marked decline in UNP vote base - Prasanna Ranatunga

After serving almost four years as Chief Minister the people in the Gampaha district voted him to the top of the preferential votes list giving 249,678 votes to make him the Chief Minister again. He took oaths again as the Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council last Friday to assume duties at the Chief Ministers office on Monday.

Western Provincial Council, Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga

The Sunday Observer interviewed Chief Minister Prasanna Ranatunga.

Excerpts of the interview:

Q: In the Western Provincial Council election the UPFA has been able to secure an unprecedented victory this time too. According to your opinion what were the factors and forces behind this victory?

A: This is mainly due to the leadership given by President Mahinda Rajapaksa and the leadership given to us by our District Leader, Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa during our election campaign. The commitment of the electoral organisers and all the candidates who contested the election made this victory a reality for us. I would like to mention that religious leaders and the public servants in the district also extended a big support during the election campaign. In common all members of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party and other affiliated parties to the UPFA and those who believed that we have done something for the betterment of the province during our tenure has also made this victory possible for us. This victory is a result of a combination of all factors.

Q: This victory has given you the chance of becoming the Chief Minister of the Western Provincial Council for the second consecutive time. How do you view this opportunity?

A: Before I go to the election I had the confidence in the people of Gampaha district that they really wanted to make me the Chief Minister again. I conducted my election campaign keeping that confidence. The decision of the Gampaha people made it easy for the President and the party leaders to take a final decision on appointing the Chief Minister.

Q: Were you confident that you would be able to become a Chief Minister again?

A: I had a good confidence and it was with that confidence I conducted my election campaign.

Q: When we take the final district result of the Gampaha district and the Western Province result as a whole, there is a claim by the opposition that there is an erosion in the vote base of the UPFA Government.

A: When we compare this election result with the 2011 Local Government election result, the UPFA has increased its vote base compared to the total vote obtained by the United National Party. There is a vast deterioration in the vote base of the UNP. But they are trying to compare this election result with the Provincial Council election held in 2009 and the 2010 general election. In 2009, we had an environment totally different to this time. The elections in 2009 and 2010 were held with the victory of the Security Forces against the LTTE. In that situation people voted the UPFA for defeating the LTTE. Now they are voting only considering the political view of the government and other factors. Even under this scenario the UPFA has been able to obtain nearly 57 percent of the total votes. So we can be happy that we still maintain a good percentage of votes with us which is generally reported only at a Presidential election. Generally we used to get only 52 or 53 vote percentage at election. But this time we have obtained 56 per cent vote percentage. Therefore, there is no problem regarding voter percentage we have obtained. But, based on that voter percentage we need to work further to increase that vote base in the future.

Q: There were a lot of other UPFA candidates who contested the election with an idea to become the Chief Minister. What do you think of them today?

A: At the previous Provincial Council election too many candidates said that they will be the Chief Minister. In this election too we saw that tendency. That is good to increase our vote base in all districts. But in the election campaign I never said that I will become the Chief Minister. I don't have any authority to say so, because that is a decision of people and the party. But some candidates, to get their vote bases increased propagated that they will become the Chief Minister. I don't see anything wrong in their claims because they said so to increase their vote base.

Q: Some candidates used different tactics to increase their preferential votes. Have you used such tactics to attract more preferential votes?

A: I did not adopt any new strategies to increase my preferential votes. I carried out my election campaign as usual with the people. No special strategies were used to get my preferential votes to be increased.

Q: When you become the first in the preferential votes list in the Gampaha district, the novices entering politics from Gampaha and Kalutara district came first in the preferential votes lists. How do you see this situation?

A: The vote base of any politician always built up based on the decision of the people towards that personality. Therefore they have got a better opportunity to work in the political field after gaining their experience through the Provincial Council system. Our party will get strengthened when we get more youth leaders to our party.

Q: What kind of a role do you think that youth like Hirunika and Senal who came first in the preferential votes list can play under your term as Chief Minister?

A: I am a person who always accept the views of others. Therefore we can take the views of them also into consideration on behalf of the young generation of the country when serving the people through the Provincial Council system.

Q: What are the programs you have in mind to utilise the youth contribution?

A: As I mentioned earlier we are giving priority for the improvement of education in the province. We are giving priority to improve qualitative education, to improve the results of the students, to improve the facilities provided for their education, to improve the human resources within the education field.

Apart from that we are also expecting to improve the moral education among the students by improving religious education based on Dhamma schools. In addition we are planning to empower the women population in the province by strengthening them economically. When implementing those programs all the Members of the WPC can make their contribution to make those programmes successful.

Q: The polls for Western and Southern Provincial Councils were held soon after a US sponsored resolution was passed at the UNHRC in Geneva. What kind of impact was made on the results of the election due to the UNHRC resolution against Sri Lanka?

A: We were able to secure our vote base due to the people's faith in President Mahinda Rajapaksa. People had great confidence in him. People rallied round him when he was challenged. Above all people voted for the UPFA because its capability to end the three decade long war and its ability to develop the country.

Q: When some new faces came to the fore some seniors lost their seats. How do you see this trend?

A: When attractive new faces enter politics there were changes in the pattern of people casting their preferential votes. Some of the seniors lost due to this situation. Although these seniors lost their seats we are not going to abandon them. We will take their contribution also towards activities when implementing programmes in the Western Provincial Council.

Q: During your next tenure as the Chief Minister what kind of program are you expecting to implement in the Western province?

A: People of this country have always endorsed the Mahinda Chinthana programme. As a partners of this Government we are trying our best to become a strength to this government. Therefore, we are doing our best to implement the Mahinda Chinthana and Mahinda Chinthana Vision for the future, through our programmes.

At the same time, as I said earlier, we will also work towards improving the education system in the province, to improve moral education and also to solve the unemployment problem among the youth through our programmes.

Q: According to your opinion what kind of a situation prevails in the province with regard to unemployment and also relating to other sectors such as education?

A: With regard to graduate unemployment we were able to provide jobs for the youth who obtained their degrees upto the year 2011. We are expecting to hold a competitive examination to recruit the youth who graduated from universities after the year 2011.

We are also expecting to solve the unemployment among other people through various other programmes. Like that we will also empower the women by providing them self employment opportunities.

Q: When we take the education field, Western Province used to retain the first place. But in some instances the Western Province is losing that place to the other provinces.

A: When I took over the Education subject in the province in 2009 we had only 51 percent of trained teachers in the primary sections. We were not able to achieve the desired targets. But now we have 99 percent trained teachers in the primary education sector. We are planning to provide subject based training also for the teachers.

Q: Following the release of the Provincial Council election results the UNP claims that they have laid a strong foundation in their process to topple the UPFA Government.

A: UPFA has been able to secure 57 percent votes in the Gampaha district. The total number of votes the UNP obtained from the Gampaha district is less than the number of preferential votes I have obtained. Before toppling governments they will have to secure their vote bases in the district first.

Q: The Democratic Party and the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna have also been able to increase their vote base. How will this situation affect the future elections?

A: With the change of leadership of the JVP there is an increase in the vote base of the JVP. That we accept. But we have observed that though they were able to increase their vote base when they contested the election with other political parties, as a single party they have failed to increase their vote base.

Therefore, JVP won't be a problem for us. The Democratic Party obtained the votes for the candidates who could not obtain nomination either from the UNP or the UPFA. In another few months times some of their Members will also join us. That will be the end of that party also. Therefore we should not fear them in the future.

Q: How do you see the team you have got at this election?

A: I have a good team with a good combination representing the younger generation, older generation, and women.

Q: What is your opinion about the Ministers you have got this time?

A: This time too I have got a good team and we will continue our work as usual, as one team.


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