Mahinda Rajapaksa is a factor in this election and United People’s Freedom Alliance is well ahead of its opponents, said UPFA Colombo District candidate and former Minister Rohitha Bogollagama, adding that the ground realities are contrary to the statistics given by political analysts.
People want a government that will fight against separatism, a government that will protect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and also a government that will ensure values for the society, stressed Bogollagama, pointing out that President Sirisena was backing Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was a national hero. With these two combined the electorate will be more than happy to find the UPFA forming a government, he added.
Following are excerpts:
UPFA Colombo District candidate and former Minister Rohitha Bogollagama
Q: We are only a few days away from the general election. How successful is your campaign?
A: I am campaigning as a candidate in Colombo District from the UPFA. Going by the feeler of the electorate I think there is a tremendous gain that is getting registered towards the UPFA. There is quite a surge in popular public support coming to the UPFA. All the meetings that were held including the meetings that were attended by Mahinda Rajapaksa have been a tremendous success. The crowds have been good. Overall public enthusiasm has increased. I am confident that the UPFA will overtake the UNP.
Q: Why should people vote for Rohitha Bogollagama?
A: I go by my track record. I am quite free to comment on that. Every occasion I have held office I have achieved so much not personally for me but for the country. As the Head of the BOI I have made a number of significant achievements. Then as the Minister of Industries I was able to take the industries to the rural sector. I commanded the Indian line of credit to uplift the SME sector.
As the Enterprise Development Minister I created the National Enterprise Development Authority. I also contributed in creating the SME Bank now known as the Lanka Puthra Bank, registering a greater impetus for the development of the SME sector. When I was the Investment Promotion Minister I registered 640 million Foreign Direct Investments in 2006.
Then I was called upon to shoulder the responsibilities as the Foreign Minister and I have served four times as the Foreign Minister of Sri Lanka. When we defeated terrorism I as the Foreign Minister was able to get support of the international community. I am a professional and a lawyer. I am a politician who can stand for the people better equipped with my experience and exposure. So I very much preferred to be known as a candidate that suits Sri Lanka best.
Q: Do you think you can win?
A: Last time I won coming to within two months of whatever the counter issues were at that poll in 2010. The ones who interfered with my victory are paying for what they deserved to be paid for. But I had to regain the respect of the Sri Lankan politics without making a hue and cry on that. I am quite pleased with how my electorates have fared during the last five years. Big developments have taken place in Kotte and it is a reflection of all the development work we have done throughout Sri Lanka. Today people have realised how disciplined politicians can contribute towards the growth of their own constituencies. I ensure that I will work for a free society both from menaces such as drugs and alcohol and overall development for education and better living.
Q: Six months ago the people rejected the UPFA and wanted a change. Why should people vote for such a party and bring it back to power?
A: I don’t agree that people rejected the UPFA. I think there was a different endorsement for the UPFA at the last election. The choice was the UPFA well and truly; the issue was how the majority of the electorate preferred the candidacy at that time. Now everyone wants to vote with President Maithripala Sirisena who is in command. President Sirisena is backing prime ministerial candidate Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Rajapaksa is a national hero for Sri Lanka. With these two combined I think the electorate will be more than happy to find the UPFA forming a government. People want a government that will fight against separatism, a government that will protect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka and also a government that will ensure values for the society.
The leader of the country is part of the SLFP and the UPFA. His blessings have come in big way. With his public endorsement of the UPFA victory – in the last few days banner headlines were given to that – I think people are altogether happy. In fact I had the opportunity of addressing the Muslim congregation and with that I got the feeler that once again there is major restoration of confidence among the Muslim community back to the UPFA. I feel the President has contributed well there.
Q: Do you believe the UPFA can form a government?
A: Obviously, we are much ahead of the UNP. The UNP is rather an exclusive party and thereby they cannot reach the total electorate. The UNP never had a national level leadership for the last 20 years. The last time the UNP won a national election was in 1998 when Ranasinghe Premadasa won the presidential election. Since then the UNP never won any major election in the country.
People have forgotten the role of the UNP as a party that contributed towards the growth of Sri Lanka. Today the UNP vote base is only 23% of the total electorate which is a drop from the 40% they enjoyed. I think they have to make a major leap. Now they are commanding 47 seats so even if they get a 100% achievement they will not exceed 100 seats.
Q: But some political analysts have predicted the UNP will obtain 105 seats at the upcoming election?
A: I do not wish to disagree with political analysts. But statistically even President Rajapaksa at his worst won 12 districts of the country. The ones he lost in the south were marginally lost. They have now zoomed back into the UPFA campaign mode. The meeting we had in Kottawa was a turning point. We never witnessed a meeting of that size and strength recently by any political party.
Political analysts may be correct if they are true analysts in terms of the figures that you have been talking about. Media speculation can also sometimes be hyped up in terms of speculation. But the ground realities are contrary to these statistics that are being spoken of. There are equally political analysts who have said UPFA is well ahead of the 117 seats.
Overall Mahinda Rajapaksa is a factor in this election. Maithripala Sirisena’s leadership, presidency and being a member of the SLFP are again consolidation factors for the next government. Even if one votes for the UNP, I don’t think the UNP will ever have an executive role with the prime ministership. The President is SLFP, the President is the Head of the State, and the President is the Head of the Cabinet. The President will select the Cabinet. There is no power contained on the Prime Minister. Why did the UNP fail to field a candidate for the presidential election? They very well knew they couldn’t win if they fielded a UNP candidate. The SLFP has the benefit of having the presidency of the country and equally prime minister into the government. This is a major advantage for the SLFP.
Q: Who will be your Prime Minister?
A: The person who has the majority command and confidence will become the prime minister. The President has the Constitutional selection process and the due process will take its cause. The President will definitely select the person who has the highest command of the Parliamentary elected representatives and obviously it will be Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Naming a candidate and selecting a candidate is different. President Sirisena may not have named Mahinda Rajapaksa as the prime ministerial candidate. But I am sure the President will act according to the Constitution and appoint the person who has the highest command in Parliament. We have the blessings and agreement of all the UPFA members to appoint Rajapaksa as the prime minister.
Q: If the UPFA fails to form a government, will you support the United National Font for Good Governance to establish a national government?
A: The decision of national government will not arise. It will not arise for two reasons because during the last six months the UNP failed to deliver what they promised. Look at the Central Bank bond scam, the way the UNP handled the 20th Amendment; look at the way the underworld has emerged. These are major concerns of a UNP-associated national government. However I think this has to be decided by the President.
Q: You mentioned the emergence of the underworld but the UNP claims it is the UPFA who is behind the recent incidents. Your comments?
A: Who is the Prime Minister of this country? Whose Government is this? The answer is there. How can they claim the UPFA is responsible for these unwanted incidents? They have formed a Government with a limited number of seats. Now they are unable to run the Government. This is very unfortunate for the UNP. But what can the UPFA do?