Daily News Dehiwela-Mt. Lavinia Correspondent Ashraff A Samad interviewed Colombo District candidates Dhanasiri Amaratunga (SLPP) and M.S.Mohamed (UNP) to listen to their views ahead of the August 5 General Election.

‘Voters keen to help President take country forward’

Q: Are you confident that the SLPP would be able to secure a two-thirds majority at the General Election?

A: I am confident. I contested the last General Election as well. Those days, we had to ask the people to organise meetings for us. This time, 30 to 40 groups come to my campaign office daily asking me to organise meetings. That shows the voters are keen to elect new people to Parliament and help President Rajapaksa to take the country forward. The people will take a decision on those who cross over from one side to the other for personal gain.

Q: The UNP has split into two factions. What do you think of this development ?

A: The Samagi Jana Balavegaya (SJB) led by Sajith Premadasa looks absurd. Being a former President’s son, I don’t understand as to why he resorts to such absurd things. His party members are clueless. That is why even Mangala Samaraweera quit the SJB. The people have rejected both UNP factions and the SLPP will win the election easily.

Q: Why is the SLPP is seeking a two-thirds majority ?

A: The 19th Amendment has created many issues. That was introduced by the then President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to realise their narrow political objectives.

They wanted to take revenge from Rajapaksas. It has to be reformulated in a manner that benefits the people.

That is why we seek a two-thirds majority to introduce far-reaching constitutional reforms. We request the President to introduce legislation to cancel the party membership if somebody crosses over to another party. Otherwise, some politicians will resort to their habit of crossing over from one party to the other. Somebody should put an end to this unethical practice.

Q: In most previous elections, the majority of the electorates in the Colombo and the suburbs were won by the UNP. Do you think this would change at this election?

A: Definitely. There will be a massive change this time because the UNP is no more as it has split into two factions.

Their supporters are reluctant to vote for them. Sajith Premadasa and Ranil Wickremesinghe have lost the trust of the people. The Colombo Central and the Colombo North electorates have been categorised as UNP strongholds, but the issue is that our people have not visited those areas. That is why these places have been categorised as UNP areas.

I visited these areas and spoke to the people. If we visit those areas and speak the truth, the people would rally round us.

There are many issues faced by the people in the Colombo North and Colombo Central electorates. They like to be with the Government to get their issues solved. This time, there will be a big change in the voting pattern in Colombo and the suburbs mainly because of what President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has done for the country.

Everybody, irrespective of their political differences, has recognised the President as an honest and capable leader who has the potential to rebuild the country. The people also love Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa as the veteran political leader in the country, who has rendered yeoman service to the country during his tenure as the President.

The people have commended the steps taken by the Government under the leadership of the President to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. This shows the credibility of the President.

The vast majority of the people like President Rajapaksa as he is a non-politician. The people want an administrator rather than a politician to rebuild the country. Now what the people want is a capable team who can work with the President. Many new faces will be in the next Parliament.

Q: SJB members say they would form the next Government and Sajith would become the Prime Minister. Would you like to comment on this?

A: Everybody knows he cannot become the Prime Minister. This time, it would be difficult for him to become even a MP.

If somebody wants to become the President or the Prime Minister, he should be able to do something more than what the ordinary people do. Premadasa is acting in an absurd manner, not as a political leader. National leaders never talk in such an irresponsible manner.

Q: What is your message to voters ?

A: I ask the people not to vote for those who left Mahinda Rajapaksa and joined hands with somebody else. They will go back again and do the same thing. They quit Mahinda Rajapaksa for money.

SLPP supporters will never vote for anybody who left Mahinda Rajapaksa. I suggest to the voters to give one preferential vote to a senior politician and other two preferential votes to new candidates.

The people want a Parliament with new faces.


‘Only the UNP can develop the economy’

Q: Tell us about your vision and mission ?

A: Empowering the Maharagama Apeksha Hospital to be one of the Best in South Asia in 2025 with the generous contributions of the general public equipping Apeksha Hospital with all the Advanced Technological equipment to take care of the most deserving ones in our society is our aim.

In April we started another project where we received donations from the generous public where funds were collected to buy two machines requested by Apeksha Hospital.

The Fight cancer movement I founded has more than 1800 members. Our Fight Cancer team will launch the next phase of its project which was inaugurated last April to raise funds amounting to one billion rupees for two radiotherapy machines (inac and Tomo) and a MRI scanner to the cancer Apkesha hospital to become the best in the South Asia region by 2025.

Q: Why did you enter politics and why from the UNP ?

A: I am not a politician but only a social worker, I founded a social work society called Khatheejah Foundation under my mother’s name 15 years ago. Through this organization we worked with poor families in education and gave scholarships for poor children, not only in Colombo but also in other parts of the country.

My main mission was to help cancer persons. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe invited to me contest from Colombo, saying there was a need for a good leader to represent the Muslim community in Colombo.

I discussed with my team members and we unanimously agreed that we need political power.

Otherwise we would have had to dissolve operations.

UNP has had great leaders like a D.S. Senanayake , J.R. Jayewardene, R. Premadasa and present Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe. Muslim Leaders like Late Dr. M.C. Kaleel, Sir Razeek Fareed, M.H. Mohamed, A.C.S Hameed, Bakeer Markar were rendered a great service not only to the Muslim Community but to all communities through the UNP. Presently there is no leadership in the Muslim Community. I want to work for National Unity and co-existence among the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim Community. I grabbed the opportunity when I could.

No party or leader is perfect. But now, I’m contesting from the UNP and I respect my party.

Q: If you win a Parliamentary seat in Colombo what are your plans for development ?

A: More than 350,000 minority voters are living in Colombo District. They are facing various difficulties in their education and housing matters. No Government has solved their housing problems.

They don’t have basic health facilities. Most of the poor are living in slums and shanties. We have to construct housing projects.

Minority communities need more Tamil Medium Schools according to their ratio. They also need more employment opportunities. Recently due to Covid-19 our country’s economy collapsed and the present Government is finding it very difficult to manage the economy due to their incompetence.

All the business, tourism sector, air and sea freight, export and Import business collapsed, most of the foreign workers lost their jobs.

We must remember that more than one million Sri Lankans are working in foreign countries and now they cannot come back also. People are suffering daily. Youth have no jobs in this country. The Cost of Living is very high. All the essential food items are very expensive. How can the ordinary people live? - Our Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe when he was Prime minister in the previous government introduced a good economic programme and also he has increased government servants pensioners and salaries. I hope I will win in Colombo through the UNP. I can work hard. Even if I lose I’ll continue my fight for the citizens as I always did in an individual capacity.

Q: Why should the UNP be the voter’s choice ?

A: No other party can match the UNP’s track record. It is the only party with a proper economic vision that can take the country beyond 2050.

While a breakaway group of the UNP tries to capture buildings, our leader plans to guide the destiny of the country for the next few decades.

We must have a plan on where we should be in the next few decades, not just the next few years. That is the hallmark of a statesman. The UNP has put forward a good team for the elections, which includes many professionals and men and women of standing in society.

They are not in it for the perks and money. They have a genuine desire to work for the people. It is crucial that we have an economic plan of action as we emerge from the darkness of COVID-19. Only the UNP has such a plan for the whole country. There should be a total revamp and revival in most sectors.

Only the UNP can bring stability, growth and discipline.

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