State media is unbiased
It is not the puppet of the government, says Gayantha
and United National Front (UNF) for Good Governance candidate for the
Galle District Gayantha Karunathilaka believes an increasing number of
people are choosing a democratic and genuine political culture, which is
a positive sign for establishing good governance. Here, he talks about
the January 8 turning point in the country's political history and
ensuring media freedom
Q: The United National Front for Good
Governance is campaigning under the United National Party. How was the
election campaign in the Galle District?
A: The campaign continues
very well in the entire district. We secured victory at the January
polls and the same will happen at the General Elections. The decision
will be made by the people and we will respect that.
Q: How do you see the public response
to your campaigning?
A: I see a very high
response. Even at the village level, people were keen on establishing
good governance where they will be able to lead a peaceful life. Many
people of my electorate who were supporting other mainstream parties
joined with us this time. It is very satisfying to see people keen on
selecting true democracy and rejecting the corrupt elements in politics.
Q: You campaigned in your area during
the Presidential Election as well as in support of President Maithripala
Sirisena. After several months, you are campaigning again in the same
area for the Parliamentary Elections. Do you see a change in the
people's attitudes and demands?
A: Definitely. People made
a significant change on January 8. It was a turning point for the
country's political history. This time the response is far greater.
People who have never voted for us, like supporters of leftist parties
and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party have joined hands with us. They were
die-hard SLFP supporters previously. That is the major change I
experienced during this election.
Q: Civil society and the media are
more alert during this election, especially in selecting credible,
genuine people and promoting a free and fair election. What is your
response to this change, which could be challenging to certain
politicians who were used to a certain culture?
A: I feel very content
with the change taking place. This is a positive step in establishing
good governance in the country. Many media institutions are reporting in
a very balanced way. The State media is unbiased and is not the puppet
of the government as it was during the previous regime.
Q: You as the Media Minister always
emphasised on maintaining a free environment for the media to operate.
Do you think the government mechanism will maintain the same free and
fair atmosphere over a long period of time?
A: As long as Maithripala
Sirisena is the President, Ranil Wikcremesinghe is the Prime Minister
and I am the Media Minister, we can promise that media freedom will be
Q: What will happen to the Right To
A: We tried to implement
the Right To Information Act even while in the opposition. We hope to
expedite the process in transparency in order to eradicate corruption
and to steer the country in the right direction.
Q: Discussions were ongoing for a
period of time to establish a media policy that will be immune to
political changes of the government. Do you think the government will be
in favour of this?
A: We as a government will
continue to support media freedom. Parallel to our efforts, media
personnel must also use it with responsibility and discipline for the
betterment of the people and good governance.
The government will never cripple media freedom. Our only request
from media personnel is that they also must maintain discipline and
professional ethics. It will be supportive towards establishing good
Q: It was reported that you were
taking the first steps to settle the payments due for using three
official vehicles during the election. Do you think all Cabinet
Ministers contesting under the UNF will follow the protocol?
A: For the first time, the
Cabinet of Ministers took a decision to implement this protocol to pay
if they use their Ministry vehicles. I paid Rs.300, 000 for three
vehicles to the Ministry Secretary. I sincerely believe that all our
fellow candidates will follow the protocol as it is compulsory. This is
a decision of the Cabinet Ministers. There will be no question as to
whether to pay or not to settle the due payment for using vehicles since
it is compulsory.