Interviews

Next candidate should uphold democracy, not take revenge: Kumara Welgama

By Skandha Gunasekara

Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) stalwart MP Kumara Welgama asserted that the ideal candidate for the next presidential election in his opinion would be an individual who upheld democracy, shunned revenge, and wore the national dress.

Below are excerpts of his interview with The Sunday Morning:

How is the SLFP gearing up for the presidential election and will it be fielding its own candidate or supporting a candidate or another party or alliance?

I’m an SLFP Member of Parliament. I have been in the SLFP for the past 37 years. But after Maithripala Sirisena became the President of this country and he wanted our support to form the Government, I refused and left. I’m the first SLFP MP who left the Central Committee soon after President Sirisena came into power and took over the party leadership.
I don’t know what is happening with the SLFP anymore. I have been supporting former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Though I’m an SLFP MP, I don’t know what’s happening inside.

Have you taken SLPP membership?

No, I haven’t and I have no intention of doing so.

Looking back at past presidential elections, various promises have been made by candidates but very little has been achieved. Can the public have faith in any candidate at the next election?

No, not at all. My view is that all these politicians who are overage – that is those above 65 years –should give up politics, because for the past 70 years, nothing has happened to this country. This country has taken revenge from the people who have been against a government. So I have no faith, and I think the old hands must go away and encourage good, young people to come into politics and take the country forward.

What do you think should be the main focal points of the candidate looking to contest and win support at the next election?

For me, the number one factor would be the ensuring and maintaining of democracy. The candidate shouldn’t be someone who takes revenge. Because both the SLFP governments and UNP governments have taken revenge, and that has been detrimental to the country. A young individual should come up now who has integrity.

What of the economy? Shouldn’t that be a focal point as well?

Of course. Any young blood that takes over will take the economy forward. As you know, all of the old hands are corrupt. I don’t have to say it; the people themselves know this. Everyone knows the old hands are corrupt and are only looking for money. That’s why I say we need young blood to take over the country. The people are sick of the old hands. I don’t want to mention names but the people are sick of the old people who are in power and ruining their lives. They are all outdated. Like a milk packet, once it’s expired, they must be discarded.

Any young individual in mind, that you believe is a good candidate to lead the country?

I can’t mention anyone off hand. Let’s see how it goes.

There is already speculation that former Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa will be the presidential candidate of the SLPP. How do you see his move to contest at the election?

This has not been confirmed. I will make my remarks on that once it has been confirmed.

Would you support him if he is concerned?

I have given my views to you on this. I don’t want to comment any further. I have said that my views of an ideal candidate would be someone who respects democracy and doesn’t take revenge. But I must say, despite President Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe ruining the country’s economy, not a single political death has occurred in the last four years. This must be noted.

Is there a need for a new face to be put forward by the main parties at the next election?

I’m not going to comment on that just yet. All I can say is that it should be a man who wears the national dress. If a man who wears the national dress comes forward, he will win. J.R. Jayewardene, R. Premadasa, D.B. Wijetunga, then Mahinda Rajapaksa – all wore the national dress and became President. So the next president will also be someone who wears the national dress.

Even President Sirisena wore the national dress…

Yes, I forgot to mention that. President Sirisena too wore the national dress and became the President. Whoever knows the people and wants to win the election, they will wear the national dress.