UPFA is not divided at all - Mahinda
July 23, 2015 12:13 pm
Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa today denied that the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) is divided and said that the reason he did not form his own party to contest the election is because he was not ready to abandon the SLFP for his personal gain.
Mr Rajapaksa held his first question-and-answer session since the January Presidential Election defeat on his Facebook page today (July 23), answering a range of questions — from his vision for the country if elected, economic plans and his reason for returning to politics.
“Education will be a big focus for us to develop the youth and talent in Sri Lanka,” the UPFA’s prime ministerial candidate said in response to a question regarding increasing budget spending on education.
When asked as to why he decided to contest the parliamentary polls and whether the UPFA is divided due to his decision, the ex-President responded saying: “I have come forward at the request of the majority of my party and the UPFA and most importantly the people of this country.”
“UPFA is not divided at all,” he assured.
Asked whether the party’s election manifesto for this campaign was a revived version of Mahinda Chinthana, he conceded that they have used the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ that had to be discontinued after 08th of January.
“But during the last few months we have started to look at things in a fresh manner and there would be new ideas which are essential for the development of the nation which we will adopt during the next 5 years.”
The Election Manifesto of the UPFA will be released very soon, he said, adding that the voters will realize the difference that the party is attempting to bring in.
As to whether he would improve Sri Lanka’s relations with China if elected as PM, Rajapaksa said: “Not only China, we will work to improve our relations with all our friends including the West.”
Asked as to why he is not attempting to win the hearts of the minority people, the former President said that the former UPFA government had carried out many initiatives on reconciliation and that they will continue to do so.
“A special charter will be floated to get opinions and ideas to improve harmony amongst all communities from grass root level with special programmes,” he added.
Responding to questions regarding starting a new party instead of remaining in the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) which is now led by President Maithripala Sirisena, Rajapaksa said that he is a loyal SLFPer.
“I am a loyalist of my party and was not ready to abandon for my personal gain. We will be strong and united to develop the country,” he said.
Rajapaksa, who is contesting the August 17 polls from Kurunegala District, said that the party’s first step – if elected- would be to take immediate measures to restart the development process, which he claims is currently halted.
“As you know there is a massive loss of jobs due to this very ignorant manner in which the new government is halting these new projects. The first thing would be to start development projects and move forward.”
“There are many other initiatives that would be adopted and implemented within a space of the first year. You will see this comprehensive plan when the UPFA Manifesto is released,” he stressed.
Asked whether he would put a stop to all wrongdoing by his own party members if elected as PM, Rajapaksa said that a UPFA government would ensure that all corruption is stopped and that a transparent mechanism would be introduced.
“Yes we will ensure all corruption is stopped and a transparent mechanism is introduced to ensure equal opportunity to all.”
On why he has not invited UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe for an open debate, the former President said that many have invited the Prime Minister for debates “but he is not ready to take the challenge.”
He further said that there will be a short term, mid-term and a long-term plan to uplift the country’s economy, which he claims has fallen “drastically” during these few months.
“Development has come to a standstill and because of that, unemployment has also increased rapidly,” he alleged.
Responding to a query regarding plans to rehabilitate the war affected Tamil people, he said that improving infrastructure was the first step towards helping the war affected, along with livelihood development.
“We will ensure more job opportunities are provided and support people to heal their wounds and move forward as one nation.”
Asked whether he actually wants to do service to people or need a place in the parliament, Rajapaksa said he was prepared to retire following the election loss in January but the people who visited him changed his mind.
“I was ready to retire. But thousands of people came to see me during the past few months, and this was their request. The people have changed my mind to serve the country I love.”
“I cannot ignore this request made by millions who visited me personally. My commitment to Sri Lanka and all its communities is still unwavering,” he said.