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“Want to be tractor and not trailer” - Ravi

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ravi_k_m3UNP Colombo District Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayaka made headlines few weeks ago with his change of attire - from European dress to Ariya Sinhala suit. This led to many speculations that Karunanayake also has launched a campaign to contest for the party leadership in the event of UNP Colombo District Parliamentarian Ravi Karunanayaka made headlines few weeks ago with his change of attire - from European dress to Ariya Sinhala suit. This led to many speculations that Karunanayake also has launched a campaign to contest for the party leadership in the event of an election to select a candidate for the post. Sharing his views on party reforms and his ambitions with The Nation the Parliamentarian said he only wants to be the tractor and not the trailer

By Gagani Weerakoon
Q: Several weeks ago when asked about party reforms you said the right time had not arrived yet for that. Has the right time arrived now for you to open up?
The right time has arrived only for the fact that an internal matter has been made an external matter by a few people. As a result it has got to be responded to. But I would say now that the matter has been opened up I will respond to any question.

Q: You recently said that whatever the reforms the party come up with should be practical. What do you mean by ‘practical reforms’ and can you explain it?
When I mentioned the practicability of reforms it was just to say that if a committee is having one or two names in mind and tries to find positions in order to fit those few names in, then the whole process of reforms becomes a farce. That is what I meant. It is very apparent that the committee is very desperate in trying to come to a conclusion because they continue to go to the houses of individual members seeking their ideas. That is what I meant.

Q: Do you believe that there is a need for a change in the present leadership?
What I believe is there should be a radical reform in the party. When I say radical reforms it means that you got to have a strong team to create a winning team, and my belief is that we should have a leadership council that would encompass all of the team, and ensure that they go forward from thereon.

Q: Popular demand within the party is that the leader should be appointed through an election, what is your opinion in this regard?
Well….. Popular demand…or…..

Q: If I say the ‘so called’ popular demand, what is your opinion?
Yes that’s a good question. The so called. What do you mean by so called? An election is necessary where democracy prevails. But it must start from the basics and from your own doorsteps. It must start from your own electorate, from your own constituencies. Even selecting an electorate organiser should be done through an election. If that process is there then it doesn’t matter. Not to have it implemented in one area in an abstract manner and then just have it at a particular section is absurd. It should be done right from the start. For that process the party is still not geared. If it’s election it must be an election for all areas. It can’t be for just one position. Now it is apparent that elections are sought for more or less only to have an elimination process rather than an all embracing process. That is what is being seen. I am fully for elections. But it should start from the electorates and then everywhere thereon.

Q: Suppose there will be elections for every post and not only for the leadership, if so, are you going to contest for any post in the party?
When the process is such that there are elections from all areas, from the electorates itself, then it is for everybody. Not that you have a choice. Let it be the system that means organisations have to be having their primaries or the election process at every given area. But that process is still not there for the party. So why one want it only for one particular area? That is s wrong approach that create a problem rather than to solve a problem. That is why I repeatedly mentioned. So once at every corner there is democracy at work then whether it is X, Y or Z, everybody has to go through that process. That is what I am standing for. We have a lot of strength in the party.

Q: There is an argument that if the present leader is re-elected in an election he has the chance to consolidate his leadership and will be cleared of the allegations of being not popular. In this case don’t you think there should be an election to select the Leader?
I am fully for an election as long as it is not going to be for X, Y or Z position. What I’m saying is elections are not there just for one positions, two positions or three positions. If it is for all the electorates that are there, from the rural to the urban, to every electorate then you start off and move to the district level and move forward, yes. Otherwise it is not democracy, if you just take one or two areas and then try to pinpoint certain things.

Q: What is your winning formula for the party?
That is the most important thing. What’s the point of reorganisation if you can’t have a winning formula? What do you mean by a winning formula? The winning formula is forming a government by a political party - of the people - by the people - for the people. Sometimes popular party leaders have become disastrous national leaders. But a good national leader may not be a popular party leader and that is the difference. Because if I give you an example - you might have been in an outstation school, you might have been a good teacher, but you may be a bad principal. But that does not mean that you can allow that principal to ruin the school. That’s what I’m trying to get through. The winning formula is to ensure the younger generation is given hope and renewed hope to say that the party is on a winning streak. Also, it has to be what the people want and not what they individually want. That is the most important thing. And also the ability to be streetwise and be politically savvy, those are the things that required. And also to ensure that you work as a team not as an individual. That is what puts you into a winning position.

Q: There is an allegation by sections of party members that there is a move by the Government to keep Ranil Wickremesinghe as the leader. Is there any truth for that?
I have also heard those types of things. With some of the things that we hear that there is a move bring certain people to the forefront of the party is also seems to be a government strategy. That is why we have to relentlessly fight for the party. One lot is saying to keep the present leadership, the other lot says to bring certain persons to the top posts. All this is government operated manoeuvres.

Q: Some people are saying that you are also on your own launched a campaign and trying to contest for the leadership. What do you say about these speculations?
I am in the team.
You ask the most relevant question. You asked me about the winning formula. I want to be a strong person in a winning team. In that case, yes, we are politicians. Politicians are meant to be ambitious. If a politician doesn’t have ambition he can’t be a politician. On that score all I want to achieve is winning. Also I believe that at the particular moment all that we’ve got to do is to strengthen everything, because your are fighting against an executive president who is virtually all powerful trying to destroy democracy and also trying to destroy opposition parties. As a result we’ve got to put everybody’s effort forward. So yes, the ambitions are there. I want to be a tractor and not a trailer. So on that score yes. I mean if you are a politician without ambition then there is no point. I want to be in that winning formula. First the party must win. And in order to do that everybody must unite. Some people are only interested in seeking positions. That is where the problem is. We have a problem where things have not been done in the right way it should have been done. We have a problem where we have permitted it to happen.

Q: There are allegations that UNP lost the faith of the people largely due to certain remarks made by party members during the last phase of the humanitarian operation. In that case, some people say that certain remarks by you contributed largely to defeats of the party. Do you admit this or regret for doing so?
I think it is absolutely ridiculous and stupid because what was not told was attributed to me. And remember going back to 2008 when the provincial elections were taking place. It is sarcasm that I made on the devious politics going on. Then Prime Minister, then Health Minister, then Minister of Agriculture had not achieved anything at all and failed in their own areas. They were highlighting those remarks as they did not have anything else to say.. So these are matters that prove that political remarks have been taken out of context. That is not what was meant.
You should look at Sarath Fonseka, look at the army, the navy, the police. Tell us one particular moment that we have refused support. So our support was there for the military forces. I think the success was because the opposition gave utmost support, unlike the UPFA in their history. When we introduced the Indo-Lanka agreement they were burning buses and they were doing all sorts of damaging things. Today they are unable to even respond by giving anything beyond 13th Amendment. Today they are only approaching the Indo Lanka agreement.
We have MPs that have not done there duty. We have leaders that have not led and have only followed. We have only gone through the easy process. That has been the situation. The UNP lost its power not starting from 1994. It lost the faith of the people in 1989. Why? We had at that time the leaders were frightened of professionalism. At that time they were frightened of Lalith Atulatmudali and Gamini Dissanayake. Then at that particular moment you had a younger generation who thought you don’t need to come from the party to come to power, you can come from any process that you want. So the youth left the party.
So then you had a leader being accused of giving arms to the terrorists at that time. Those are the reasons what finally killed Ranjan Wijeratna, Gamini Dissanayaka and Lalith. We were never able to come out of that, because of that impression. So the UNP was sliding from that 88, 89 period. It is only because of our support the Government won.