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