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Political climate ideal for a Presidential election - Minister S.B.Dissanayake

Higher Education Minister S.B.Dissanayake said the overall political climate in the country was ideal for the Government to hold an election and the UPFA should take the best election choice where they will be victorious.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that the Presidential Election was ideal for the UPFA as there is no Opposition candidate who can pose a challenge to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the UNP's presidential candidate and he is no match for the President thus ensuring a landslide victory. the President is popular with all sections of the people. After a lapse of a 100 years, he is the only leader who has initiated development. He eradicated the scourge of terrorism and restored peace in the country. Nobody can challenge the popularity of the President.

The Minister said a huge victory would mean getting over 65 percent votes and a loss would mean obtaining less than 45 percent. This is the methodology adopted from 1956. This changed completely after the eradication of terrorism under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In the 2009 Presidential Election, the UPFA obtained 70 to 80 percent votes and the UNP's vote reduced to nearly 20 to 26 percent. Looking at the vote base of the UPFA and the UNP, the UPFA has nearly 4.4 million votes and the UNP has 2.4 million votes. The UPFA has a majority of nearly two million votes.

If the UNP, the JVP and Fonseka's party join, they have nearly 2.9 million votes. Still the UPFA has an overwhelming majority. I think Sri Lankans are aware of this situation.

Q: What is the impact of political bigot Jayalalithaa's conviction on Asian politics?

A: I think Jayalalithaa's imprisonment is advantageous to Indian politics and to India as a whole. Because she nurtured the LTTE remnants in Tamil Nadu.

She provided security and other facilities to them until she was imprisoned. Not only the LTTE, even extremist Muslim groups such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and Hamas also operate their terrorist organisations from Chenai.

Karunanidi also came on the National List and he is also a racist.

Now he is too old and his son is not a mature politician. At the last election, from 39 seats, Jayalalithaa won 38.

She influenced the Indian Central Government on anti-Sri Lankan moves. They pressurised the Indian Government to get Kachchativu back.

She instigated Tamil Nadu fishermen to cross Sri Lankan territorial waters. She is one of the main political characters in India who tries to tarnish the longstanding Indo-SriLankan friendship. Sri Lanka is also at an advantage due to Jayalalithaa's conviction. It is more advantageous to India, because now they can eradicate terrorist groups based in Chennai.

Q: The post Uva changes in the UNP high command is a boost to increase its vote base in the country. How doe sit affect the UPFA's political prospects?

A: This is an absurd argument made by the UNP. I am happy about it. Because the UNP is living in a dream world.

Out of all the districts in Sri Lanka, the worst district for the SLFP and the UPFA is Badulla. When the SLFP- led People's Alliance won after 17 years in 1994, we lost Badulla.

Although we got a landslide victory in the 1994 Presidential Election including Central, Eastern and Southern Colombo, we could not win the Badulla electorate.

The UNP won Badulla and Mahiyangana at that election. Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga was re-elected at the 1999 Presidential Election, she lost the Badulla electorate.

The PA lost Badulla at the 2000General Election once again.

The UNP secured a landslide victory in the 2002 General Election in Badulla where I was also in that government. If the UNP lost and the UPFA won the 2004 General Election, they retained power in Badulla.

Even though President Mahinda Rajapaksa won the 2005 Presidential Election, he lost Badulla. Except the North and the East, Badulla was the worst district for the SLFP and the UPFA.

This is the truth and that is why we came last in Badulla at most of the former elections.

But we won Badulla easily at the recently concluded Uva Provincial Council Election. We also won the Moneragala district with a comfortable majority.

This shows the UPFA can comfortably win Badulla and Moneragala in any future General or Presidential Election.

The UNP's Chief Ministerial candidate for Uva was a star candidate. All UNP members elected for the Uva Provincial Council were former parliamentarians. The UNP Chief Ministerial candidate Harin Fernando resigned from his seat and launched a massive campaign in Uva.

Harin's campaign cannot be compared with any of our candidates campaigns. We didn't have a national level leader among our candidates. But somehow, we won Badulla.

At all other times from 1994, we have won almost all the electorates but lost Badulla.

This time around we won Badulla. How can the UNP say that they have won.

The UNP compares the 2009, 2010 and 2011 elections. But those were extraordinary situations. If we check from 1965 or go back to 1956, if the winning party secured a good victory it meant they got over 65 percent votes.

This 60 percent percentage was exceeded only by President Rajapaksa and the UPFA after the eradication of the LTTE in 2009. A big big victory means getting over 65 percent votes and a big loss means less than 45 percent.

That is the methodology adopted from 1956. This scenario changed after the eradication of terrorism under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

In the 2009 Presidential Election, the UPFA got 70 to 80 percen votes and the UNP went down to nearly 20 to 26 percent.

Looking at the vote base of the UPFA and the UNP, the UPFA has nearly 4.4 million votes and the UNP has 2.4 million votes.

The UPFA has a nearly two million majority votes. If the UNP, JVP andFonseka's party get together, they have nearly 2.9 million votes. Soonce again, the UPFA has an overwhelming majority. I think SriLanakns are well aware about this situation.

Q: How do you assess the overall political climate in the country for the Government to hold a General Election or Presidential Election?

A: This is a good time to go for an election. In the event of a General Election, local issues may crop up. For example, we lost the Badulla and Hali Ela electorates at the recently concluded Uva PC elections.

Harin Fernando resigned from his parliamentary seat and contested as the UNP's Chief Ministerial candidate. That also had an advantage for the UNP in Badulla.

The UPFA's candidates in Badulla and Hali Ela were weak compared to the other candidates. So Ministers Nimal Siripala de Silva or Dilan Perera cannot be blamed for that.

The President is overly popular with all sections of the people. After a lapse of a 100 years, he is the leader who initiated development. He is the only leader who defeated terrorism and restored peace.Nobody can pose a challenge that popularity.

The UPFA select the stronger election of the two which can easily be won. I think the Presidential Election is ideal as nobody can challenge the President.

Ranil Wickremesinghe will be the UNP's presidential candidate and we can get a landslide victory.

Q: Will the reunion of Ranil Wickremesinghe and Sajith Premadasa have a huge impact on the Government at a future election?

A: Wickremesinghe should give more powers to Sajith. Because Sajith is a role model in Hambantota. What is the UNP's strength in Hambantota right now?

When Sajith got Hambantota, the UNP's vote base was over 60 percent.Now it has come down to 20 percent. Sajith destroyed the UNP's strong social groups in Hambantota.

Earlier all communities joined and strengthened the UNP in Hambantota. However, Sajith destroyed that huge social community within the UNP.

In that 20 percent, Sajith is 19.9 percent. What has happened to the other 40 percent? I am happy that the same thing will happen in other areas as well.

If Ranil gives powers to Sajith, he will practice the same success story that he pursued in Hambantota in other areas as well.

Q: There is a proposal to sponsor Ven.Maduluwawe Sobhitha thera as the Common Opposition Presidential candidate. Do you think a priest of any religious denomination is the right choice to run a country? Would you like to elaborate?

A: I have great respect for Ven.Sobhitha thera. He and I studied at the same university but he is senior.

I have a close friendship with him. But I am hundred percent sure that if Ven.Sobhitha thera contests, many Bhikkus will not support him. Because the thinking of bhikkus is different to that of a layman and bhikkus are sure to oppose.

Even the JVP and the UNP will not support him. RanilWickremesinghe will be the UNP's Presidential candidate. The main Presidential candidates will then be President Mahinda Rajapaksa and Ranil Wickremesinghe.

The next Presidential Election will be a cakewalk for President.

Q: The TNA and the SLMC are discussing a joint front or some political alliance to exert pressure on the Government on issues that they are concerned with. Your comments?

A: If they get together and exert pressure on the Government or mainly the Sinhala based parties it would ignite communal flames in our country.

The Tamils and Muslims have enough experience about communal riots. If they are genuinely concerned about their community, they can get together and submit their common grievances to the Government or to the main parties.

If they join with the intention of exerting pressure on the main community, that will be an unfortunate situation.

Even though if they can get together and discuss,they can't face future elections as a single group.

Because the Muslims don't agree with the TNA to merge the Eastern province with the Northern province.

The merger has been badly affected the Muslims in the Eastern province. that is why they reject it.

The LTTE with the backing of the TNA killed and chased away the Muslims in the Northern and some parts of the the Eastern province.

Muslims can live amicably with the Sinhalese. Some Muslim candidates have won majority Sinhala electorates like Kandy, Balangoda and Mawanella by defeating Sinhala candidates.

According to the prevailing situation,it would be difficult for the TNA and SLMC to work together because both parties use communal slogans to fulfil narrow political objectives.

Even though the SLMC is with the Government, they use unethical and undemocratic communal slogans at every election to get the Muslim vote.

The Tamils and Muslims in the North and the East should realise that it is they who have the greatest advantage of defeating the LTTE.

At the moment, the TNA has captured power in the Northern Provincial Council.They should do something for their people instead of criticising the Government but they are not doing anything.

Q: The need of a new Constitution has been underlined by many parliamentarians. Are you in favour of replacing the present Constitution or moving amendments to suit changing conditions?

A:My view is that a more powerful and dictatorial leadership is good to eradicate poverty and lead the country towards prosperity.

We won the war against terrorism because of the Executive Presidency. Even during that time, we faced the 2007 world economic crisis and the 2008 oil crisis.

With these crises, the economies of the US, the UK,France, Germany and even Japan and Singapore were paralysed.

Even though there was a marginal downward trend, our President managed the economy well and won the war on terrorism by rapidly developing the country.

Last year, the fastest developing country was China. The Communist party dictatorship controls China. Vietnam also has one party and there are no elections. There are no private media in Vietnam or China.

But they have to moved forward and developed their country. We are much better than India and the rest of the world..

This is not an appropriate time to discuss about more democracy or human rights. This is the time to rapidly develop our country and reach the developed country status. This should be our only target right now. The success behind Singapore, Malaysia and Korea was the dictatorial leadership of Lee Kwan Yew, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed and Gen.Park Chung-hee.

Without a dictatorship, Sri Lanka has achieved rapid economic growth and we are now moving towards international development levels. At this juncture, the President and the Government needs more power. We lived as a poor country for the last 10 decades.After 2005, the country has entered a path of rapid development.

This should be our priority. The leader should be more powerful to develop the country fast.

Q: Issues such as a lack of quorum, need to amend Parliamentary Standing Orders and Opposition's allegation on inordinate delays in answering oral questions arise time and again.Would you like to comment on these issues?

A: Those are not issues at all. The Opposition thinks that we should answer all their questions.

This is not so. According to Parliament Standing Orders, the late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike told an MP that she does not need to answer his question. She maintained that stand.

When I was in the Opposition, once or twice then Defence Minister Ranjan Wijeratne said that he will not answer my question. That is the right of a Minister. If a Minister thinks that he need not answer a particular question he can refrain.

Even the Speaker can't do anything. But our Speaker is too democratic. That is why he says that Ministers should answer questions.

Ministers try their level best to answer questions out of respect for the Speaker. At present, most of the questions raised by the Opposition is to get political mileage.

Ministers could easily refrain from answering absurd questions. They have a right to do so. If the Opposition asks a question from me to get cheap publicity, I go on a verbal attack.

They exert caution before asking questions from me. Other Minister should follow suit.

Even though Standing Orders are amended and a Minister decides not to answer a question, the Speaker can't do anything. Because that is the right of the Minister and nobody can challenge it.

Q: Educational qualifications required of a parliamentarian has become an important issue. In view of declining parliamentary standards, do you think we should insist on a higher educational level for parliamentarians?

A: People who talk about educational standards themselves have not completed their examinations. What is DNA MP Anura Kumara Dissanayake qualification? They have not succeeded in their educational endeavours.

What about the late Prime Ministers D.S. Senanayake and Sirimavo Bandaranaike's qualifications?

If a politician has not passed the G.C.E. Ordinary Level or G.C.E.Advanced Level examinations, it does not mean that he is not a good politician. Look at some of the successful businessmen in the country, they don't have academic qualifications but are successful businessmen.

Even in history, there are plenty of successful politicians who have no basic educational qualifications.

In a democratic society, people have a right to decide whom they should vote.People don't vote for useless candidates.

Merely because somebody has a PhD or for that matter any certificate, people won't vote for them.

We see senior professors who contested the elections and lost. On the other hand, ordinary people who did not possess any academic qualifications and identified with the pulse of the common people won the elections. Educational qualifications is not a barrier to contest elections or enter Parliament.

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