The battle begins...:
MR and his clan of rogues will be rejected - Rajitha
One of the main architects of the 'January 8 silent revolution,' the
outspoken Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne is noted for his
advocacy on democratic rights and plural politics. He asserts that his
interest always lies in the country and not the party which comes second
The former President may be somebody in
the UPFA but not in the SLFP, which is headed by President
Maithripala Sirisena. Nobody can take action within the party
without consulting him.
In an interview with the Sunday Observer, the Minister said President
Maithripala Sirisena's recent speech would have a crippling impact on
the UPFA's election campaign as the President has explained his stance
clearly to the nation. Dr. Senaratne who predicts the imminent defeat of
former President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the upcoming General Elections
said the situation in which the former President was re-elected to
office in 2010 after the 2009 war victory does not prevail in the
country today while the majority vote is likely to be divided 50/50.
Interviews by Uditha Kumarasinghe
Q: UPFA politicians charge that President Maithripala
Sirisena's recent speech has an adverse effect on their election
campaign while others assert it as worthwhile. Your observations?
A: Yes. It would have affected them because the President
explained his stand to the nation. Every word will go against former
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his clan who are leading the SLFP at the
moment. The President's speech would have an adverse effect on the UPFA
election campaign. Most SLFP stalwarts say they have been greatly
affected because of this recent speech by the President.
Q: What are the prospects for a true UPFA victory with Mahinda
Rajapaksa who has a strong support base in the North Central,
Sabaragamuwa and Southern Provinces?
A: As the incumbent President says, Mahinda Rajapaksa can
never win. How can they win without mustering the minority votes? After
the 2009 war victory, he had a good opportunity to win the election
because at that time, the entire country stood with Mahinda Rajapaksa. A
similar situation does not prevail today. His has tarnished his image
with corruption, nepotism and other charges. Today the majority vote is
divided as fifty-fifty. With that he will be badly defeated at the
Q: The UPFA election campaign would be dented if not for the
Dinesh-Vasu-Wimal-Udaya group. Do you see any truth in this?
A: No. All these people are ineffective in their campaign.
Most of the people think that they are the people who took the SLFP led
UPFA to the extreme. Sometimes the UPFA could be greatly affected
because of their actions.
Q: The United National Front for Good Governance( UNFGG) could
have mustered more vot es if any of those charged with financial crimes
were prosecuted and punished. In the end, it was all "sound and fury,
signifying nothing". Do you agree?
A: Yes. It is correct. But we have no shortcuts. There are no
emergency powers at the moment. We don't like to use military powers as
the Rajapaksa regime used against Sarath Fonseka.
We have to investigate these charges within the existing legal
framework which will take a long time. But that is the only way to deal
with these financial crimes and other wrongdoings because we don't want
to introduce new laws to take action against the culprits. We have to
conduct probes only under the existing law of the country. But sometimes
some of those people will be charged during the election period as well.
The process is continuing. Others will be charged after the election.
Q: Assuming that the United National Front for Good Governance
wins the election, do you believe, you could proceed in the face of
irreconcilable policies of constituent parties such as the JHU, SLMC and
A: We have come to a common understanding. That is good
governance and the economic development. We are together on both these
aspects. I don't think there are drastic differences in principles or
policies. There will be some differences in our tactics. I think we can
sort it out in the way we sorted it out during the last five to six
months in the same Cabinet with all those stakeholders.
Q: What is the United National Front stand on the devolution
of power? Any devolution of power to Tamils has its impact on Muslims
Will the devolution be within the 13th Amendment or a 13 Plus?
A: It will be within the 13th Amendment under a unitary
Q: Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a power to reckon
with as he has been appointed leader of the UPFA's Election Committee.
Do you think it is easy to defeat the UPFA which has a strong vote base
in the country?
A: The former President may be somebody in the UPFA but not in
the SLFP,which is headed by President Maithripala Sirisena. Nobody can
take action within the party without consulting him. Actually those are
just names. Every party has only one leader.
Q: Those who were charged but not punished for corruption,
financial crimes and other vices have been given UPFA nominations. Does
this mean the UPFA is insensitive to public criticism and good
A: Definitely. Sarath Weerasekera was the only UPFA MP who
voted against the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Then former
President Rajapaksa went to Ampara and described him as a national hero
as he voted against the 19th Amendment.
That is his understanding of good governance and executive powers.
This is a leader who doesn't like any reforms.
I don't think anybody will support him for his stand. That is why
even he doesn't understand what is good and what is bad. That is why he
has given nominations to all the rogues in the party who have been
involved in drugs, ethanol, casino and all other corrupt businesses.
They will be totally rejected at the next election.
Q: Does the United National Front for Good Governance have
plans to form a National Government after the General Election as it is
the concept of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe?
A: Yes. We have already laid key emphasis on that. But this
would not be similar to the national government formed by the previous
regime to offer portfolios and cater to the interests of certain
The new national government to be formed after the election would be
based on the core ideals and principals of a true national government.
Q: Speculation is rife about a conspiracy within the SLFP to
replace President Maithripala Sirisena from the party leadership after
his recent speech?
A: That attempt has been thwarted now. Nobody within the SLFP
can take action or pose a challenge to the President as he is the
incumbent leader of the SLFP. According to the party constitution, the
President has been entrusted with all powers to take the final decision
with regard to any party matter.
Q: Your theme is 'country first, party second' but your
opponents say all this is to suit your interests.
A: This is not a sudden stance taken by me. I have been
advocating this theory for a long time. The country should be first and
then the party because parties are formed for the country.