Two Sides of the Coin: Matara District | Daily News

Two Sides of the Coin: Matara District

Matara District SLPP candidate Dullas Alahapperuma-Matara District JJB candidate Saroja Savithri Paulraj
Matara District SLPP candidate Dullas Alahapperuma-Matara District JJB candidate Saroja Savithri Paulraj

Daily News journalists Nadira Gunatilleke and Maneshka Borham interviewed Dullas Alahapperuma (SLPP) and Saroja Savithri Paulraj (Jathika Jana Balawegaya) respectively to gain an insight to their aspirations for the voters in the Matara District.

‘People in Matara witness genuine politics I do’

Q: How do you differ from other politicians?

A - I have not used any poster or cutout since 1994. I only distributed one handbill once. My electorate Kamburupitiya is the only electorate in Sri Lanka which does not have a wine store. I was offered eight liquor licenses during my political career but I did not take even one. I took only one out of the seven vehicle permits offered to me during my political career.

I am the first and the last from my family engaged in politics. My son is 25 years old. My wife is like a mother to me and she is the jewel of my life. She does not know where my office is. She or any of my family members, relations did not take part in foreign tours with me during my political career. She was the only artist who became the best singer and the best actress. She has never taken part in any of my political activities. I held a Cabinet portfolio for 10 years but she only once took part in a television programme on Rupavahini during that period. Her very first album was banned by former President Ranasinghe Premadasa.

Q:What do you think about the people who stood by you all these years?

A - Matara people and the people of Kamburupitiya value things other than money and power. I do not have money or a well-built body. These people cannot be cheated.

My team and I have a policy which we did not change during the past few decades and we are well disciplined. The people say I am simple.

I am very fortunate to have a family with overloaded love, kindness and understanding.

The significance of my family and relations is they do not pressurise me to gain anything misusing my status. I groom young politicians such as Kanchana Wijesekara. I give all opportunities to them. They are our future leaders; not my son or siblings. That is why people call and ask what my number is to go and vote for me.

Q: What do you think about holding an election at this time and obtaining a two-thirds majority?

A - The peak of democracy is the universal franchise for which holding an election is essential. Even small and poor countries such as Burundi held elections in the middle of COVID-19 pandemic in addition to countries like Korea. An election is more important during problematic times than normal times. The Election Commission did not hold the election during the 70 days before any COVID-19 patient was found in the country. Out of the 17 past General Elections, this is the very first General Election to be held without an Opposition. The opposition political parties are now trying to put their personal pressures on the shoulders of the people. They are divided.

The Government needs a two-thirds majority in order to rectify the Constitution distorted by the previous regime and rectify all the other errors in every sector.

It is funny that Sri Lanka has four different electoral systems for four types of elections. The 19th Amendment is a total distortion and it distorted the entire Constitution.

Any country in the world needs political stability. There is no journey forward without political stability.

We need a two-thirds majority in order to establish political stability in Sri Lanka. It was not COVID-19, but Yahapalanaya which destroyed Sri Lanka.

Although our President Gotabaya Rajapaksa does not say he is a simple man, the people of Sri Lanka understood that he is very simple.

He stops his vehicle for the red lights on the road. He does not talk about the past.

He only talks about the present and the future.

He has his beloved and experienced brother beside him. People used to hate 225 Members of the Parliament but the President changed it. He changed a major part of the political culture of Sri Lanka on November 16 last year. The rest will be changed on August 5.

This is the politics in the 21st century.

If we consider the Presidential Election 2019, we won 127 seats in the Parliament with the National List seats. We only lost six districts but this time, we will win them and definitely win Digamadulla and Nuwara Eliya districts.

Q: What did you do during the past seven months?

A - During the past seven months in the middle of COVID-19, curfew and the struggle to take care of people, we took all required decisions to implement the pledges mentioned in President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Policy Document, ‘Vistas of Prosperity and Splendor’.

We worked and took decisions in connection with the education sector.

For example, we took decisions in connection with the increasing the number of National schools from 373 to 1,000 in order to reduce the demand for popular schools.

We took the initial step to make all 240,000 teachers trained graduates through the provision of training and degrees, conversion of teachers into professionals, development of an examination system that does not put pressure on students, reduction of time wastage in between examinations and release of results and commencement of the next grade. We made system changes in the education sector.

During COVID-19 curfew period, I took all decisions thinking as a father but not as the Education Minister.

The Government gives the priority to the safety of schoolchildren. Their safety is the most important factor for the Government.

There was no reason whatsoever to suspect the details given by health authorities and the Armed Forces.

The entire society, especially children, parents and teachers were shocked due to the fabricated rumours spread by social media.

We protected the entire student population, teacher population, principals and non-academic staff from COVID-19 setting a world record.

After many days, unfortunately a few students were infected at their own homes.



‘Women’s reprepresentation much needed in Parliament’

Q: Why and how did you enter politics?

A: When the coastal areas were hit by the Tsunami in 2004, as a resident of Matara I witnessed the service rendered by the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna’s (JVP) relief service brigade called ‘Red Star’. Having volunteered myself for various causes, I was impressed by the JVP, its ethics and ideology. I then joined a number of organisations led by the JVP and rose in the ranks of the JVP women’s wing. I am a teacher by profession and among the 20 women candidates fielded by the JJB. I think I made the right choice to be in the JVP/JJB – I would not have fitted into the two mainstream parties that existed at the time. I also admire the leadership style of Anura Kumara Dissanayake who is keen to give a bigger place in the party for women.

Q: The majority is still reluctant to trust any political movement led by the JVP due to its past. Your comment?

A: It is a problem we still have at the ground level. People tend to be more attracted to what they have believed in traditionally. In recent times, the JVP has changed its approach and tactics. We have gathered a large number of youths and intellectuals to our fold to become the group responsible for a new awakening with novel solutions. But rather than opting for the JJB which has renewed itself through past experiences, people tend to stick to the older and insular parties.

Q: The UNP has now split into two fractions and is contesting at the upcoming elections separately. Will this push the JJB even down to perhaps the fourth or fifth place in Parliament?

A: The position of the JJB in Parliament is uncontestable. This is because even if these parties split further all of them are still in the same camp. Politicians from three fractions have claimed that they will come together to form a Government. If they were ideologically different, there is no way they can come together in this manner.

We are the alternative to that group and are in the number one spot as the country’s alternative political force. There is no other substitute. As the alternative, we will support any move for the betterment of the country but also unconditionally stand against anything that will harm it.

Q: Another allegation is that the JVP was the cat’s paw of the Yahapalana Government. Your comment?

A: We always weighed the good and bad of every decision taken by the former Government. We brought four no-confidence motions against that Government. In which camp are the majority of the Yahapalana Ministers today? It is laughable that our opponents are claiming we were stooges of the Yahapalana Government when it is actually they who are in cahoots.


Q: Many political parties do not give equal opportunities to women in its fold. Is the JJB any different?

A: In Sri Lanka, 52 percent of the population comprises women. However, within all other political parties’ female representation is merely a farce. But the JVP over the years and now the JJB have always tried their best to give opportunities to women.

The JVP, the Women for Rights organization, and several other women’s groups formed the Progressive Women’s Collective which is now a part of the JJB. Through this collective, we identified women from various backgrounds and fields who are capable but would not be given the opportunity through another political party to contest as they are not affluent or come from influential political families. The JJB has given them the chance to come forward without any fear or favour.

Q: Female representation is a much-discussed topic close to elections. But how important is it exactly to have female representation in Parliament?

A: In Sri Lankan politics, women have always been used as a decoration or ornament on election stages. In Parliament, only around five percent out of the MPs elected are women, which amounts to around 12 seats in the House. Women representatives have never put forward a Cabinet paper or reserved a time to talk about any issue in the grassroots. For example, there are 782 schools that have no toilet facilities and water. No female MP has brought this issue up. There is a plethora of other issues that affect women but leading male politicians are able to trick women by providing petty promises. If women had proper and quality representation in Parliament, they would not be able to do this.

Q: All Governments appear to have failed to resolve issues faced by women. How does the JJB plan to change this?

A: These issues remain unresolved because the whole system is a failure. Even in this election, we see politicians are marketing themselves and these issues through the media to ensure their own survival. The voters also have no idea of any long-term plans or policies of the politicians. No matter who comes to power, they must be forced to put the relevant programs into action. This is why we are asking people to join forces with the JJB.

Q: Why should the public vote for the JJB?

A: We need to change the existing political culture in Sri Lanka. Politicians acknowledge the people’s problems and then ask for the people’s vote to resolve them.

But then five years later they repeat this without having even brought these issues up. We believe what will follow the General Election will be a rule of nepotism and family bandyism.

Therefore a powerful opposition must be formed. Rather than believing in this failed political system and leaders, we ask the people to put their faith in the JJB.

The JJB has a vision for a new country. We ask the people to place their trust in the JJB and we will represent them in Parliament to guide this country on the correct path.




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