|Interview with S.L. Gunasekera
Sihala Urumaya not racist: S.L. Gunasekera
Q. The Sihala Urumaya is the baby of the political parties with a 146 day existence. As one of the founders of the Parties what is the reason for its formation?
A. Sihala Urumaya was founded to fulfil a long-felt need in our political firmament by giving the Sinhalese a voice in Parliament. Both major parties have taken the Sinhalese for granted and, acting on the assumption that both have block Sinhalese votes which will never change whatever they do to the Sinhalese, obsequiously woo the forces of Tamil and Muslim chauvinism in the belief that they hold the key to power, pander to their unconscionable demands and whims and sacrifice the rights of the Sinhalese in the process. Thus it is that both the Government and the UNP have agreed to destroy every trace of a unitary state and convert this country into a federal state. When even the MEP which had, albeit ineffectively, fought for the rights of the Sinhalese, betrayed the principles it had professed till then and supported the President at the last Presidential election despite her pledge to implement the Devolution Package, and the UNP leader expressly agreed in writing to support a bill for the implementation of that Package, we had no option but to form this party to prevent the ultimate betrayal of the Sinhalese people which would have led to the vivisection of our country and spelt the end of the Sinhalese race.
Q. We note you are carrying out an extensive publicity campaign. How does your party stand at grass-root level?
A. Being a new party which is not even five months old it is essential for us to carry out an extensive publicity campaign and our campaign is only as extensive as our means permit. With a general election at hand, it was necessary for us to commence our publicity campaign in the more populous areas of the country, namely, the urban areas, to get the maximum return from our efforts. At the initial stages the residents of remote villages which are not reached by newspapers or the electronic media other than the state controlled electronic media were unaware of our existence. However, from the urban areas we have expanded our activities to the periphery and our campaign at grass-root level is now gathering both momentum and support. This is particularly so in Sinhalese villages in the war torn areas where some of the founder members of Sihala Urumaya including me were involved in voluntary relief and rehabilitation work ever since the attack on the Dollar and Kent Farms on the 30th November 1984.
Q. You stand for the principle one country, one people, one law: why did you select the name Sihala which gives the impression of a racist Party?
A. A racist party is one which advocates the members of a particular race being accorded special privileges or rights and members of other races being correspondingly discriminated against by reason only of the races to which they belong, in the whole or part of the country. It is parties such as the TULF, EPDP, EPRLF, PLOTE, TELO etc., which propagate the nonsensical policy that the Northern and Eastern Provinces" are the "exclusive homeland of the Tamils" and that the indigent and landless Sinhalese are, by reason of being Sinhalese, disqualified from being settled in Land Settlement Schemes in those provinces which are racist parties.
Sihala Urumaya advocates no policy of such a nature. It was precisely to fight obnoxious policies such as this and to fight for the Sinhalese being accorded equal treatment with the minorities in all parts of the country that Sihala Urumaya was founded. It is the policy of Sihala Urumaya that every citizen of this country has equal rights with every other citizen in every part of this country regardless of his race, caste, religion or political opinion and that no part of this country is the exclusive preserve of any particular racial or linguistic group. At the same time, while Sihala Urumaya recognizes the equality of all individual citizens with one another,
Sinhala Urumaya believes that where the interests or aspirations of racial or linguistic groups are concerned. The interests or aspirations of the majority Sinhalese must take precedence over those of minorities such as the Tamils where there is a conflict for 12% or 18% can never be equal to 74%. We do not believe in the utterly inequitable concept of Minoritarianism which is being propagated by the forces of Tamil and Muslim chauvinism in tandem with foreign funded NGOs posing as groups of liberals or intellectuals. Thus, Sihala Urumaya is clearly, a Sinhalese nationalist party but not a racist Party. It was to reflect the Sinhalese nationalist character of the Party that we chose the name Sihala.
As for being called racist, that is an occupational hazard which anybody who dares to propagate the view, (considered heretical by putative liberals, foreign funded NGOs and the forces of Tamil and Muslim chauvinism) that the Sinhalese also have aspirations, interests and rights in this country has got to face. Thus, even if we called ourselves the "Communal Amity Party" we would still have been labelled a racist party!!
Q. On your campaign trail do you observe the possibility of a hung parliament?
A. Not merely a possibility but a certainty if there is a free and fair election.
Q. Does Sihala Urumaya have a role to play in a hung Parliament? Would it be more in the national interest to have a strong Government in the centre?
A. I will answer the second part of your question first. It would be in the national interest to have a strong government in the center only if that government is a good and honest government which has the interests of the People and the country at heart. On the other hand, it would be disastrous to have a strong government in the Center which is corrupt and allergic to honour and the national Interest.
Since any government that may be formed by either the PA or the UNP will, having regard to the track records of their leadership, necessarily be a government which is corrupt and allergic to honour and the national Interest, it is imperative in the National interest and the interests of unborn generations that neither the PA nor the UNP is permitted to form a strong government. In these circumstances the role that Sihala Urumaya will have to play in a hung parliament is to stay in the Opposition and control and direct the government as Thondaman and Ashraff did, with but one difference. That difference is that we will not use the votes of our Members of Parliament which we trust will be the decisive votes in a hung Parliament to bargain for benefits for ourselves or to secure the division of the gountry in the guise of devolution, but to support the Government on issues on which it is right and oppose it on issues on which it is wrong, and thereby keep it on the straight and narrow path of serving the national interest.
Q. If elected to parliament in which manner would you counter the Ashraff, Thondaman, Devananda impact which might arise from within the PA?
A. I think that your questions is incomplete because to that unholy trio of Ashraff, Thondaman and Devananda must be added the Odd Couple of Varadarajah Perumal and Dinesh Gunawardene who are now cosily nestled together in the bosom of the PA. To answer your question, there will be no question of Sinhala Urumaya having to counter the Ashraff-Thondaman-Devananda impact or even the Perumal-Gunawardene impact for, on the contrary, it is the conglomerate of Ashraff, Thondaman, Devananda, Gunawardene and Perumal who will have to strive in vain to counter the Sihala Urumaya impact, I say that they will have to strive in vain because our impact will be the of the unvarnished truth which cannot be countered, and is something to which neither the UNP nor the PA has had resort.
Q. Your main complaint is that the Sinhalese have grievances. Both the major parties are attracting votes from the Sinhala vote bank. Over the last 6 years have they adequately safeguarded Sinhala interests?
A. Certainly not. They have not only not safeguarded the Sinhala or the National Interest but consciously and intentionally betrayed them for their own selfish personal gains. If they had any concern for the the Sinhala or the National Interest the UNP would not have passed the 13th Amendment or the Provincial Councils Act or given Indian Tamils citizenship on the sole basis of affidavits executed by the applicants for citizenship? the PA would not have introduced the Constitutional Reform Bill or sought thereby to establish a Federal State or to give about 400,000 Indian Tamils who have obtained Indian citizenship under the Sirima-Shasthri and Sirima-Indira Pacts citizenship of Sri Lanka and thereby hand over political power in the hill country to Thondaman the UNP would not have given arms to the LTTE, and neither the UNP or the PA would have entered into negotiations with the band of criminals called the LTTE. The list of betrayals is endless. The betrayals I have mentioned constitute only the tip of the iceberg.
Q. You cannot deny that the UNP and JVP opposed the Constitution Reform Bill. Was that not an exercise to protect Sinhala interests?
A. No. That exercise resulted in the protection of the Sinhala interests but was not an exercise designed to protect the Sinhala interests. It was purely and simply an exercise to protect their own interests and political fortunes. The provisions relating to the devolution of power in the Constitution Reform Bill are virtually identical to those contained in the Devolution package put forward by the Government in 1997. In February 2000 Ranil Wickremesinghe expressly agreed to give the Government all the support necessary to pass that Devolution Package into law and make it the Constitution of our country. Thereafter, having negotiated with the Government for over 4 months, the leadership of the UNP agreed to every provision of the Constitution Reform Bill which related to the devolution of power. Indeed the utterly obnoxious provisions relating to the creation of an Interim Council for the North and East were formulated on the proposals of the UNP and agreed to by both parties. Although Constitutional reform by means of the conversion of this country into a Federal State was first mooted by the Government by its Devolution Package published in August 1994 and revised thereafer in 1995 and 1997, the JVP never opposed it, never sought to mobilise public opinion against it nor organized any protests against it. Until it saw the massive public opinion against the Package, the JVP nurtured fond hopes of gaining for itself the support of the forces of Tamil and Muslim chauvinism. It was only upon seeing the massive public opposition to the Bill which was occasioned by the efforts of organizations such as the Jathika Sangha Sabha, Sihala Urumaya and its founders, and organizations such as the Sinhala Veera Vidhana, the National Movement Against Terrorism etc that both the UNP and the JVP got cold feet and began to oppose the Constitutional Reform bill in order to save themselves from the wrath of the people.
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