Thirty three-year-old Shasheendra Kumara Rajapaksa claims he would be a bridge for the people of Uva to bring development to their doorsteps. Armed with several novel programs to develop Uva designed under ‘Mahinda Chinthanaya’, he said he entered the ‘battle’ to reach the poorest of the poor in the province.
The young man who is contesting the polls to become the Chief Minister of Uva, said that he practises the lesson - “Say what you can do and if you promise something make sure that you do it” - learnt from his father, Minister of Civil Aviation, Chamal Rajapaksa and his uncle President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
In an interview with the ‘Sunday Observer’, Rajapaksa said that not only people of Uva but all Sri Lankans know that the UPFA is the only political party which knows very well the heartbeat of the common man.
Following are the excerpts of the interview:
Q: The ‘Battle of Uva’ is hotting up each passing day, while the Government is placing its fullest strength to secure victory. How confident are you that you can lead the battle for victory?
|* The real battle of Uva - developing the province - starts after August 9. |
* More than introducing Rajapaksas to politics, the government really wants men who can serve the people better.
* Taking up challenges is the pride of Rajapaksas.
* More UNPers will join the UPFA soon.
* No one can force people to vote and they will elect the most suitable for Uva.
* No mudslinging political campaigns in Uva.
* People of Uva are always with the UPFA.
* Uva has a huge potential for development.
* Improving education is a major priority.
* No broken promises at all! UPFA government will do its best for Uva people.
A: The victory is definite! People of Uva know which party to vote. I always believe in democracy and hope the people have confidence in UPFA as to how it is leading the country towards a new era strengthening the hands of the poor to make them stand on their own feet. The UPFA Government knows the heartbeat of the common man more than the other political parties. That is the difference and it is also the major cause for all political victories. I believe in my people and similarly people have faith in me. I think winning the election is not a victory but soon after the elections, the real battle starts. That is the battle to develop Uva. For that I need the help of all my people in the province.
Q: But some claim that you were nominated to bring the third generation Rajapaksas also into politics. What do you have to say?
A: I think more than introducing Rajapaksas to politics the Government wants men who can serve the people better. Uva is a province that was neglected for many years and needs development. I, as the Basnayake Nilame of the Ruhunu-Kataragama Devale got the opportunity of associating with people of all walks. Over 18,000 acres of land in Moneragala belong to the Kataragama Devale and so in the Badulla district as well. I happened to serve those people whose generations have been working for the Devale. To do so I had to seek the support of many people including politicians as well as government servants. During my tenure as the Nilame I had realized that those people, whose main source of income is agriculture, need extra livelihood support. As I too hail from an agriculture family I thought it is better to serve the people in Uva rather than those in Hambantota. It is true that Rajapaksas know people’s problems better. My urge to serve the people together with my family background brought me to politics.
Q: It is said that the former CM Wijeyamuni de Soyza was not given a chance as he would be a threat to you.
A: I do not have any sort of threat from within or outside the party and especially he is not a threat to me. In fact, I know politics very well and also know how to politically deal with as well. He was asked to contest at the next Parliamentary election and he volunteered to stay out. But, anyone who comes to Moneragala can see that he is 100 percent campaigning for me. He supports me wholeheartedly. I think, if you ask him this question he will give a better answer.
Q: You are new and young to politics. Don’t you think you are not still mature enough to become a CM in a province which has lots of social and economic problems?
A: Let’s see the election results on August 8. I think taking challenges is the pride of Rajapaksas. If not, I would not be here contesting Uva. It was the challenges that made me to step into politics. I represent a leader who took the biggest challenge to end the 30-year-old terrorist war. I am from that generation and why cannot we face the challenges? We are used to face any challenge.
I have already spoken to all local leaders in the province and we could swear we develop this province. That is definite! Though I am new to politics, politics is in my blood. From my tender age I saw how my father and uncles were involved in politics. I can recall the situation at home when I was at the age of seven. That was the first election, which I can remember. They were fully engaged in the campaign. I still can remember how I went in rallies holding my mother’s hand to do canvassing for my father. Politics is bonded with our lives.
Q: The UNP says that they do not have ‘outsiders’ contesting the Uva election. Therefore, being an outsider how are you going to attract more votes for the Party?
A: I don’t think that I am an outsider at all because I am serving the people of Uva for the last six years. I know them and their needs better. What I can say is that the UNP does not have people ‘inside’ or ‘outside’ now. In Moneragala the UNPers are discussing themselves to join the UPFA. Some have already crossed over to UPFA. More will join us soon because they have lost faith in their party. They know that UPFA is the only party that can help the poor people.
Q: Is it true that senior SLFPers are dissatisfied as you are nominated to contest for the CM?
A: All those are mere ‘creations’ by some interested parties. The truth is all the SLFPers are happy that I have been appointed to contest because they know that I have a good vote base in Uva because of my service to the people. Keep counting the days and see the election results on August 9. Those who visit Moneragala will see the difference. The political campaign is going on smoothly. The environment is calm and quiet. As I said earlier I believe in democracy and no one can force people to cast their vote. They will elect the most suitable candidate to develop their areas and solve their grievances.
Q: Do you mean to say that there is no mud-slinging among the contestants?
A: Yes, no mud-slinging at all. All the people in Moneragala have their faith in the UPFA and they want to see the Government is winning the election. They give us their fullest support.
Q: Grievances of Vedda community were neglected by the politicians. It seems that you are the only politician to devote a section of your election manifesto on the need to solve their problems. What are the major problems faced by these people?
A: They are a part and parcel of the Ruhunu-Kataragama Perahera and their ancestors had a special duty to perform in the perahera. As the Basnayake Nilame of the Devale I got to know about their problems and I want to help them continue with their traditional way of life. When I was the Basnayake Nilame, they thought that I was the best person to approach to get the State support for some of their problems. I helped them. Vedda community have lost their rights to be in their forest habitat as traditional hunters. I have already discussed their problems with them. There are lots of rules and regulations of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry that hinder their freedom to be hunters. I am planning to discuss these matters with the relevant authorities so as to solve their problems.
Q: Do you have specific development goals for Uva, which you have identified as the priorities?
A: Yes, Uva is full of resources which can be harnessed for development.
There are so many natural resources which are yet to be tapped. There are historical and religious places which can be promoted as tourist attractions. And there are neglected industries which can bring revenue. Tea, rubber and gems can be a good source of income generation in the province. But these resources need to be properly managed and used in a sustainable way. The Government has taken steps to increase the Gross National Product from four percent to eight percent in 2015. The Uva will be completely developed under Mahinda Chinthanaya, as is clearly spelt out in page 76. My aim is to build a “new Uva”.
Q: Uva lacks proper education facilities and there are many shortcomings as well. One of your main slogans in the election campaign is facilitating the education sector.
A: Yes, providing educational facilities is vital as Badulla is one of the districts that has a low literacy rate. So is Moneragala district. Over 46 percent of the school going children have dropped schooling due to economic constraints. There is a shortage of teachers and also basic facilities for education. I have already planned the ways and means to solve these immediate problems in the education sector.
Not only education but also the other sectors like hospitals and various State institutions suffer due to shortage of manpower. This is mainly because there is a brain-drain in Uva. Educated people leave Uva seeking better employment opportunities elsewhere and those who get transfers to Uva also try to move out into another area due to lack of facilities. I see improving facilities in Uva as a solution for this chain of problems and have planned to get the support and expertise of the intellectuals in the province to develop their own areas.
Q: Estate workers in the province contribute a lot to the national economy and what are the plans in your manifesto to uplift their living standards?
A: I have already drawn plans to look into their problems. Housing is their main problem and so is the infrastructure facilities. I have already met their village level leaders to discuss their problems.
Q: An Airport proposed to be built in Wellawaya has been shifted to Hambantota. Some claim that if you have concerns about the Uva people why can’t you propose the airport to be built in Wellawaya.
A: The Government had decided to build the country’s Second International Airport considering the technical, geographical and climatic situation in the areas proposed. An airport targets a good income generation and when the airport is built close to the Hambantota Port, that will bring lots of economic advantages. The proposal to build an airport at Weerawila was changed due to the same reasons. The social problems should also need to be considered when going ahead with such mega projects. It is sad that those who make such allegations are not aware that people of Moneragala will also be benefitted from the airport in Hambantota. These are mere allegations to mislead the people to gain political mileage but people of Uva is much more intelligent than those politicians.
Q: People are given lots of pledges during elections. Will all your pledges and plans too be mere slogans until you secure victory?
A: I never make promises in my political campaign. If I can’t fulfil them. I believe it is the duty and the responsibility of a politician to make the lives of his people more comfortable than those in other areas. I always try to serve in my best way and give the best to people of Uva. Therefore, I don’t make broken promises for people of Uva. I will do my best to them.
Q: Do you think that your family background and the blood relationship to the President will help you to get more votes in the forthcoming election?
A: I don’t deny that these two factors have contributed to mould me into a politician. But to win an election I have to serve the people of the area concerned. As I explained earlier, I have got the opportunity to work for these people as the Basnayake Nilame and I know their problems and how to solve them.
The experience that I gained as the Private Secretary to the President gave me the know-how of decision making. I saw how he handles tough situations like the terrorist war and political problems. I saw how he gave leadership to solve them. As a person who worked very closely with the President I know how he foresees things like development of the country. I hope these will help me to be a good politician and to have a thick skin to face challenges in the field of politics.
He handled crucial issues single-minded. He faced many challenges in politics. He rose to the top step by step. As an official working under him I saw how he faced whatever the challenges coming his way. I learnt a lot from him and will continue to do so in future as well. This will help me to serve my people well.
Q: While having the opportunity to contest a Parliamentary election why did you prefer to contest the provincial council elections?
A: I believe when a person starts his career from the very basic level he can go a long way as he knows everything well from the beginning. And I always wanted to serve the poorest of the poor and believe the Provincial Council is the best way to start reaching the people who deserve my services.
source - Sunday Observer