Our slogan is for a change of Govt. – JVPs Chief Ministerial candidate Samantha Vidyaratne

Q: How bright are the prospects of you becoming the Uva Chief Minister?

I have been appointed as the Group Leader of the party for this election. We are now carrying out a vigorous election campaign. We have already held a large number of whistle-stop meetings at the grass roots level and several massive rallies at central points in the province to enlighten the people on issues relevant to their day-to-day life. We have good reasons to believe that we are going to get a much better voter response in Uva than we did in the Western and Southern Provinces.

Q: Does it mean that you look forward to taking over the Uva PC administration following the September election?

The decision as to who should take over is left in the hands of the people. However, we are confident that our showing at the election is going to be a decisive factor in the power equation at the next PC administration.

Q: ou are pitted against a formidable candidate hailing from the ruling Rajapaksa clan?

The bastions of the Rajapaksas have begun cracking up and stumbling down. The Rajapaksas like Mahinda, Chamal, Basil, Gotabaya and Namal were reigning supreme in the West and in the South. Yet they suffered a setback at the last elections. They ‘imported’ to Uva another Rajapaksa kinsman. He as the Chief Minister has done no development worth talking about. People in Uva will give a more painful reply in September!

Q: You say that Sashindra Rajapaksa was ‘imported to’ Uva. But didn’t you import Lal Kantha to the Western Province in a bid to make him the Chief Minister?

Your argument holds water in the context you are making it. But I suppose you know as others do that Comrade Lal Kantha is the leader of our Trade Union Wing. He is the head of the National Trade Union Centre. You know that there is a large concentration of public sector employees in the Western Province. Therefore, he has a strong tie with the Western province. Uva is a separate kettle of fish. There are several SLFP stalwarts hailing from Uva. One of them could have been fielded as the Chief Ministerial candidate. But why did they import a Rajapaksa to Uva? Because they are particular about concentrating the power and authority in every district in the hands of the Rajapaksa family. There is growing disaffection about this state of affairs within the SLFP and it is a public secret!

Q: The UNP is also fielding a young popular person as the Chief Ministerial candidate. Don’t you think that you are facing a formidable challenge?

Harin Fernando is also an imported product. However, he has a link of some sorts to Uva. Harin being a popular figure is no challenge to us. Now the people are expecting a change of government. But the UNP is unable to meet this demand. The UNP is no suitable alternative to this government either. The UNP today does not command the clout necessary to change the government in power. Besides, it is the UNP that provides sustenance to this government whenever it becomes weak. It is the UNP that keeps this government in power today. The Government is already working out underhand deals to buy people from the UNP in case the number of seats they win falls short of a majority to form the administration. That is why we maintain that the only party that can bring this government to its knees is the JVP!

Q: Don’t you think that the Democratic Party led by Sarath Fonseka would become an impediment to your party as it did at the Western and Southern PC elections?

They are not an obstacle to us. We don’t think that they would place us at a disadvantage in Uva. They made some headway in Wayamba and in the Central Province. But their electoral gains gradually declined in the South and the West. A further decline is on the cards in Uva. Even an ordinary gust of wind can bring down a tree that has not sent roots deep down into the ground. You may remember the fate that befell the ‘Eagle’ party founded by the late Mr. Lalith Athulathmudali. Such political parties are formed by way of letting off the bottled up steam. The party dies when the steam is off. They cannot make a long journey in politics in the absence of an ideological base. We are a militant political party with a history of a long struggle behind us. Therefore, the Democratic Party cannot pose a challenge to us.

Q: You maintain that both Chief Ministerial candidates from the two main political parties are imported persons. If Uva is your home turf, why didn’t people send you to Parliament at the last general election?

At the last general election, I ran short of about 1,700 votes to get elected to Parliament. People have their own ways of making feedbacks and choices. They do not always make correct decisions. It takes time for what is good to gain ground. People gradually come to terms with reality. People realize their mistake in electing certain leaders only when they are badly let down. Most government MPs returned from the Uva Province do not open their mouths in Parliament to raise a voice on behalf the people who voted for them. People have now realized this reality. The day is not far away when they rally round our party.

Q: What are the main slogans that you use to win over people at this Uva PC election?

Our main slogan is a demand for a change of government. People elsewhere in the country as well use this as their main slogan. We are not calling for a mere change of heads in office, but for a change of the entire system. Only the JVP is capable of bringing about a change in the system for the better. People want this change because they no longer can put up with the oppression they are experiencing. People are suffering due to the difficulty in making both ends meet. A cultural decline is overtaking the country. The country is making headway not in economic development, but in vices like gambling, prostitution and heroin trafficking. Shouldn’t we call for a change in the direction that the country is heading in now?

Q: Government is using the maximum strength at its command to win the Uva election? Can the JVP reach anywhere near its expectations in this context?

The Government has to put its best foot forward. Mahinda Rajapaksa is a ruler who cannot come to terms with an electoral defeat, because he knows the defeat in Uva means the eventual loss of his Executive Presidency and power. Government leaders use every weapon they can lay their hands on to win, because they dread defeat. The President has allowed his cronies who hang around him the full freedom to openly engage in corrupt practices. The country is being ruled with no regard whatsoever for the rule of the law or democratic traditions. Cronies have been allowed the unrestricted freedom for land grabs and collecting commissions. Political leaders in the past went home after defeat. But some of our present day leaders may have to go to Welikada or Bogambara not home. That is why they are trying to win the election violating all election laws in the book. The verdict of the people will come sooner or later. All despotic rulers in the world fear the rallying of popular forces. Only the masses in the country can command the power to subdue despotic rulers. Fighting this dictatorial regime within the confines of Parliament and the PCs is not enough. People should launch protests, demonstrations, street battles and fasts. It is only the JVP that commands the ability to organise such activities.

Q: Have you observed any signs that people in Uva are prepared to listen to your slogans?

People, not only in Uva, but also elsewhere in the country are giving an attentive ear to us. When we visit villages, people freely talk to us. Therefore, we know that they now welcome a change in the system. People remember that when we got the chance on that occasion in the past to direct the journey of the government by “remote control”, we used that advantage to bring benefits to the masses. People have realised the mistake they made by giving a massive clout to President Mahinda Rajapaksa at the expense of the JVP. The next hour of the nation is inauspicious for dictators and auspicious for the ordinary masses.

Q: Samantha Vidyaratne once described the Uma Oya project as a death trap. What is the truth about it?

Uma Oya is the Maha Oya in Uva. This river originating from the Pidurutalagala Mountain meanders for about 75 kilometres through Uva-Paranagama, Welimada, Haliela and Viyaluwa before it enters the Mahaweli to feed the Rantambe reservoir. Now they have launched an Iran-funded project to build a dam across the Uma Oya to divert its waters to Hambantota and Mattala. I described this project as a ‘maralaya’ because it would result in a massive environmental damage and a water scarcity in certain parts in Uva. Environmentalists have amply explained the disaster to be caused by the project in their reports. Besides, the river does carry a sufficient volume of water for diversion. Therefore, this project is destined to end up as a failure like the Norochcholai coal-fired-power plant. Government politicians dare not find any shortcoming in any project launched by President Rajapaksa. The Uma Oya Diversion project is being implemented by the Ministry of Nimal Siripala de Silva. The project was launched when Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa was the Minister of Irrigation. This government has been launching mega projects mainly to fill their own pockets, not for the benefit of the people.

Q: Comrade Somawansa Amarasinghe is seldom seen at public functions these days. Has he gone out of date?

Oh! No! Comrade Somawansa Amarawansa is quite active in the party. He is participating in the party’s Uva campaign. He is an exemplary political leader in the country. He will continue to do his best for the party, the country and the people.

(Courtesy Sunday Lankadeepa)