Two Sides of the Coin: Gampaha District | Daily News


 

Two Sides of the Coin: Gampaha District

Gampaha District SLPP candidate Indika Anuruddha -Gampaha District UNP candidate Dr. Dhanawardana Guruge
Gampaha District SLPP candidate Indika Anuruddha -Gampaha District UNP candidate Dr. Dhanawardana Guruge

Daily News correspondents for the Gampaha District Sudath Keerthi and Mahanama Vithanage interviewed Gampaha District General Election candidates Indika Anuruddha (SLPP) and Dr. Dhanawardana Guruge (UNP) to get their views ahead of the August 5 polls.

‘Immediate priority to uplift economy’

Q: What prompted you to take up politics?

A: I was always fond of serving people and have been engaged in politics from a young age at various levels.

I contested in the local authority election in 2011 for the first time. I was elected as the Pradeshiya Sabha Chairman with a resounding victory in my first election itself. Then I was entrusted with various development projects in villages by former Minister Basil Rajapaksa and the present Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. When we lost the Presidential Poll - 2015, there was no one from our side to give political leadership to the Divulapitiya Electorate. I accepted that responsibility and challenge and was later given a chance to contest the General Election which I won with over 70,000 preferential votes to enter Parliament.

Q: What vision do you have for our nation?

A: We need to build a united nation, with a confident society infused by strong moral and ethical values. We have to build an economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous country. The economy should be competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient. I will fully support the President and the Prime Minister to achieve these visions.

Q: What about the Gampaha District and your electorate?

A: When Gotabaya Rajapaksa became the President, I was appointed as the State Minister for Housing.

So far, we have implemented a lot of programmes and they have been highly successful and beneficial to people. Our housing targets have been achieved.

I will take up any challenge given to me not only for Gampaha and Divulapitiya but for the whole country as well.

When talking about the Gampaha District, it is important to further enhance the livelihood avenues of the people who were affected due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We also have to create more employment opportunities for youth and uplift the SME sector. We should strive to further uplift education and try to give the children a holistic education so that they can compete with the best.

Q: Where do you want to see your electorate in terms of development in 4–5 years time?

A: I want to see poverty completely eradicated and all children are given equal opportunities and resources in education. We also have to strengthen the trade community with a developed economy and create an environment-friendly background, and reduce waste. I would like to see Gampaha becoming the most-developed district in Sri Lanka in the next 4–5 years.

Q: If given a chance to amend one key point in the Constitution, what would you change?

A: In 2019, we elected President Gotabaya Rajapaksa who has proven during this short period what a strong and capable leader he is. If given a chance I would like to propose to bring amendments to abolish term limits for the President and allow Gotabaya Rajapaksa to remain ‘President for Life’. Of course, this should be with the consent of the people.

I also strongly believe that the 19A should be repealed following the General Election as it has created many issues.

Q: Any predictions about the election results?

A: We can achieve a two-thirds majority. The main Opposition has split in the middle and they are fighting with each other instead of trying to win the election. One side is trying to capture power in Sirikotha and the other is trying to keep its party headquarters safe. UNP members are joining with us daily as they no longer believe their party is capable of winning an election. Muslim people who voted against us earlier are rallying round the President after seeing how he works. Both Muslim and Tamil people are highly impressed. Not only them, but traditional UNP and JVP members too.

Q: If your party forms a Government, what will be its immediate priorities?

A: Our immediate priority will be to uplift the economy which was mishandled by the previous Yahapalana regime. We need to strengthen businesses and build a viable investment climate, improve manufacturing sector and boost exports. We must generate more opportunities for our youth at employment. We also should focus on improving infrastructure.

Q: Do you approve party-switching by elected members?

A: I do not approve party-switching by elected Parliamentarians. This amounts to a betrayal of the trust placed in you by voters. I will support any legislation to stop this anomaly.

Q: A final word for the voters?

A: The popularity of the Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is at a new high due to its efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic which is wreaking havoc even in the most-developed countries.

Sri Lanka with limited resources has been able to control the pandemic effectively due to the guidance of the President and the Prime Minister. The President and the Prime Minister have shown that they can lead this country towards prosperity.

So, my message to the voters is give us a two-thirds majority to form a strong and stable Government to uplift Sri Lanka as one of the most-developed nations in the world.

 


‘Cohabitation Government the best’

Q: What prompted you to take up politics?

A: People know me as an entrepreneur and a social worker. But I have been close to politics for a long period as well. I have supported the UNP for a long time. This time party leader Ranil Wickremesinghe himself invited me to contest. So, I decided to accept it. It will be a challenge, but I have never shied away from challenges. I believe it is only UNP which has a vision to take this country on the path of development and prosperity.

Q: What vision do you have for our nation?

A: We are currently in a debt trap. We are borrowing too much in the name of development. Economic growth and prosperity require investments, not loans. Investment may come from household savings in banks or taxes that are not used for recurrent state expenditure. To avoid a foreign debt trap, the Government should come up with adequate levels of taxation or, alternatively, ensure it is in a position to borrow from domestic private savings to finance national plans and related investment.

At present, this story is complicated by past foreign loans that remain unsettled, which also require more foreign borrowings to settle them. This is the debt trap that is worrying the country at the moment. We should develop our own agriculture, manufacturing sector and give maximum support to local businesses, entrepreneurs and spur domestic production as well as exports. This is my vision in a nutshell.

Q: What about the Gampaha District and your electorate?

A: Flooding is a major issue in Gampaha. I have already identified the reasons for this and how to mitigate flooding. I will also take steps to speed up the development of rural hospitals in the Gampaha District.

My community care services for hospitals was started years ago. I also hope to make the Gampaha District an investment hub. I have a lot of contacts both here and abroad.

I will use these contacts to make Gampaha an investment hub where there will be many viable investments by both local and foreign businessmen. Also we should uplift education and infrastructure.

I am highly confident that I can develop Gampaha in all areas with my expertise, knowledge and contacts.

Q: Where do you want to see your electorate in terms of development in 4–5 years time?

A: I want to see the lack of housing facilities fully addressed. Garbage disposal streamlined and flooding fully stopped. Hospitals will be upgraded and education will be given to all children. As I said earlier, Gampaha will be the economic hub in Sri Lanka. All workers should be able to earn at least Rs. 100,000 a month. Also, steps will be taken to preserve cultural heritage. Gampaha will be the leading district in Sri Lanka socially and economically. This is where I want to see Gampaha in 4–5 years time.

Q: If given a chance to amend one key point in the Constitution, what would you change?

A: I will propose further measures to strengthen the 19th Amendment. The 19th Amendment back then was approved with an overwhelming majority in Parliament. Some who voted yes for its approval are up in arms against it. I cannot understand this. If there are any harmful provisions, we can debate and exclude them. But do not forget that the 19A brought the reduction in the terms of President and Parliament from six years to five years; re-introduction of a two-term limit that a person can have as President; the power of President to dissolve Parliament only after four and a half years, the revival of Constitutional Council and the establishment of independent commissions. These are all steps to strengthen democracy.

Q: Any predictions about the election results?

A: I think the UNP will get at least 120 seats. The UNP is the only party which has a vision and a visionary leader to develop the country. We need a majority in order to make necessary changes to the Constitution and to form a strong and stable Government to drive the country towards economic and social prosperity.

Q: If your party forms a Government, what will be its immediate priorities?

A: Reviving the economy will be our main priority. The economy today is in a shambles due to wrong decisions and to a lesser degree due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The UNP is confident it can revive the economy without plunging the country in further debt.

Q: Do you approve party-switching by elected members?

A: No; absolutely not. I do not think any elected member has a moral right to switch parties. People vote for a party trusting its vision, policies, programme of work and its leaders.

Q: A final word for the voters?

A: I believe a cohabitation Government is good for Sri Lanka. This means the President and the Prime Minister are from different political parties.

I believe our leader Ranil Wickremesinghe as the Prime Minister can work with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa cordially and in a very fruitful manner.

It is true that the President and the Prime Minister did not see eye to eye in the previous Government.

But this was mainly due to the arbitrary manner the former President behaved.

A cohabitation Government I believe is good for both democracy and development in Sri Lanka. So, I urge the voters to elect the UNP to govern the country as it has the best and visionary leaders who can take this country forward.

 


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