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We can easily secure close to 115 seats

UNF team leader Kandy District, Lakshman Kiriella :

The team leader of the United National Front (UNF) for Good Governance, for the Kandy District, Lakshman Kiriella is confident of the party sweeping the August 18 polls with a majority of over 115 seats, literally leaving the United People's Freedom Alliance (UPFA) led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, in the dust with a 15% drop in their vote base.

Here he talks about the positive changes made in the last seven months, development plans, creating investment opportunities and prospects of a national government.

Excerpts:

Q:The UNF and the UPFA are engaged in a do or die battle to win the August elections. Are you confident of its outcome?

A: I have no doubt we will sweep the election. We can easily secure close to 115 seats. Once you lose a Presidential Election, you lose 15% of your vote base at the subsequent election. That has been a pattern observed in the past. The UPFA led by Mahinda Rajapaksa will face the same fate.

Q: Media highlighted a leaked intelligence report that predicted a UNF victory before the postal vote for teachers. Was it a tactic by the government to manipulate the poll result?

A: I can speak for the Kandy District. The UNF had secured an overwhelming 65 % of the postal votes.

Q: What is your opinion about former president Mahinda Rajapaksa enjoying special privileges as another candidate in the fray?

A: This situation has not arisen before. This is the first time a former president is contesting a parliamentary election. We have to get an opinion from the Supreme Court on this. But since he is a former president, I personally feel that he should be given adequate security.

Q: Are you satisfied with the government's score card on development, economy, law and order?

A: In the past several months, as far as the economy is concerned, we have done much more than what the previous government of Mahinda Rajapaksa did in ten years. We reduced the cost of living effectively, addressed the pension anomalies, cut down fuel prices to name a few. We have even given a guaranteed price for tea and rubber. Today the Elections Commissioner is free to function independently. Under the 19th Amendment he got a certain amount of independence. We are not going to interfere with his work.

Q: Has the development work come to a standstill or held up due to the election?

A: No. The day before yesterday, we inaugurated the Colombo Kandy Expressway, which will open up the entire country. Kandy is the centre of the country and is the second capital. It should have been done ten years ago. When Ranil Wickremesinghe was the Prime Minister in 2002, he was making plans for the Central Expressway.

Q: Can you assure that the development work already set in motion will continue undeterred if the UNF comes to power?

A: It is not only the development work already initiated, but many more new projects will be inaugurated by the UNF Government. Many countries have come forth to assist us.

They are waiting for the election results. Once there is a stable government in place, the flood gates will open and the investments will flow in. We have been able to restore rule of law and in turn investor confidence, now what we need is a stable government.

Q: What would be your first and foremost task, if there is a UNF government after the election?

A: There are many proposals and projects in the pipeline, but I think bringing back the genuine investors is the biggest task that lay ahead us. We need to open up factories to employ the youth who are waiting for a decent income. In the last five years 20 garment factories were closed down.

Q: You said your government brought in a peaceful electioneering culture. How do you explain the Bloemendhal shooting at a campaign event recently?

A: That was clearly orchestrated to silence Ravi Karunanayake. There is no doubt about it.

Q: Even though the government accused the former president and his regime for corruption, nepotism and stealing of State assets, none of these charges have been proven beyond doubt. How can the voters know for sure that these allegations are not mere political mud slinging?

A: We have arrested so many people against whom we have evidence. Cases have been filed against them. We have to follow the due process. We can neither abduct people in white vans nor can we just drag people to courts, we have to gather evidence.

Q: The UNP is considering the option of a national government. So far the UPFA has rejected the offer. In the event of a national government after the polls,will you accommodate Mahinda Rajapaksaas well?

A: No, we will form the national government with the help of a section of the UPFA. There is an understanding to this effect.

Q: Is that the understanding between UNF and the UPFA members?

A: Yes. There are several who are willing to join us in my district also.

Q: The election heat is gathering momentum. Will there be violence in the election run up? Can the UNF commit to a peaceful election even under provocation?

A: The UPFA is becoming highly desperate because they have hung on to power for so long illegally. They are becoming frustrated by the day. But the security forces will maintain the law and order.

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