to be the most developed district soon
“I want to be my
own light, not the light reflected from another” –
Hambantota, once a synonym for the backwoods of
Sri Lanka, is fast growing in its importance as an
economic hub. The home turf of President Mahinda
Rajapaksa and that of the Giruwapattu Rajapaksa
clan, Hambantota has also served the son of a former
President as the launching pad for his parliamentary
career. The latest event that turned the focus of
the nation on Hambantota is the advent of young
Namal Rajapaksa to parliamentary politics as an UPFA
candidate from this district.
The leader of Nil Balakaya and Tharunyata
Hetak, Namal Rajapaksa in an interview with The
Nation explains his vision and mission as a young
politician while replying to various allegations
being made against him by opposition critics.
Namal says that the idea of putting up
election posters never appealed to him. “I stopped
the poster campaign and I am spending the funds thus
saved on the purchase of text books for distribution
among school children in the district.”
Asked for his opinion about his political rival in
Hambantota, Sajith Premadasa, Namal’s magnanimous
reply was: “Sajith Aiya is a good politician...”
Asked whether he expects to get a ministerial
portfolio after winning the election, Namal says: “I
don’t expect any ministerial portfolio…….The
distance I have already travelled is very short. But
the journey ahead for me is very long.”
Following is the full text of the interview:
Question: We all as children cherish a dream
of being somebody when we grow up. For example, some
look forward to becoming a doctor or an engineer,
didn’t you have such a dream when you were small?
Answer: Yes. I did have such a dream. I wanted
to be a lawyer. And, in fact, now I am on the way to
realising that dream. I look forward to appearing in
court cases in the future. I hope to practise my
profession for the good of the poor and helpless
people. In fact, my father too rendered a great
service to the people as a lawyer. He represented
the interests of the disappeared youth of Hambantota
and in other parts of the country. Well, he
fulfilled a need of the hour. Today’s priorities are
different. I hope to practice as a lawyer to suit
the needs of the people today.
Q: Can you tell us as to when you decided to
contest a Parliamentary general election?
A: Politics is not something strange to me or
the other members of the family. In fact, we have
been living in the thick of politics. We have always
been very close to people. Doors of our home have
always been thrown open to ordinary people in the
Hambantota District. To the people in the district,
our father is not His Excellency the Executive
President of Sri Lanka. To them, he is still simply
`Mahinda Mahatttaya’. Given this political
background of the family I have had no life
distanced from politics. I had a desire to
participate in politics even from very young days.
Contesting at this general election is my first step
into the political arena. However, I have been
moving closely with the people, the youth in
particular since some time. I have been working for
the wellbeing of the youth in particular.
Q: You have been implementing community
service projects under the banner of an organisation
called `Tharunyata Hetak’. However, the opposition
charges that the `Tharunyata Hetak’ is nothing but a
propaganda gimmick aimed at promoting your image?
A: I am quite aware of the allegations being
made against me by the opposition. But the youth in
the country know what `Tharunyata Hetak’ means to
them. We launched a series of programmes under the
`Tharunyata Hetak’ to ensure a bright future for the
youth in this country. The youth in the country have
greatly benefited from our programmes. This is a
reality none can deny. We are doing some work for
the good of the youth. This is a continuing process.
I cannot help if my name is mentioned in connection
with this good work. You get a good name if you do
good. You cannot call it image-building. I am happy
my name is linked to good and not to bad.
Q: There was much talk in the run-up to the
last Presidential election about the propaganda
adverts run by the Tharunyata Hetak. The opposition
was questioning the sources from where the funds
that met the cost of adverts were forthcoming.
A: I must say at the outset that the adverts run
by the Tharunyata Hetak were a great success. Those
adverts hurt the opposition. They went to the length
of getting up a series of specially designed adverts
to counter our series. The opposition through sheer
spite made various allegations against me. They said
that I had got funds from the LTTE to finance my
propaganda campaign. Some people charged that an
LTTE leader called Emil Kanthan was bankrolling my
campaign. I must clearly state that the monies that
the Tharunyata Hetak spent on the propaganda were
not our own, but the monies from the President’s
election fund. The opposition knew this, but wanted
to make an issue of the campaign led by Tharunyata
Hetak, for the sole purpose of slinging mud at me.
However, there is a reason for me to feel happy
about their mud slinging. They resorted to vilifying
me because they had realised that I was for them a
formidable challenge to reckon with. The youth in
the country know well about the Rajapaksas. They
know well that the Rajapaksas would never embezzle
people’s money. Therefore, people do not take the
malicious allegations against me seriously. If the
Rajapaksas had diddled the people’s funds, they
would not be able to do politics for 70 years in a
Q: You are known to be the architect of the
organisation called ` Nil Balakaya’ as well. What
are its objectives?
A: We founded the Nil Balakaya as a rallying
point for the youth in the SLFP and to empower them.
If a political party is to forge ahead as a popular
force, and if it is to have a bright future, it
should have a dynamic representation of the youth.
We founded the Nil Balakaya to meet this need.
Q: There is another allegation that you are
trying to build a team of your own in the government
through the Nil Balakaya. Another allegation that
has gained currency is that you have initiated a
move to ensure that the members of the Nil Balakaya
in the fray at this election would top the
preference vote lists in their respective districts.
A: I am aware that the opposition is making this
allegation. It looks that some in opposition are
afflicted with `Namal Rajapaksa Phobia’. I am just
another candidate contesting this election. Why
should I form a team? Namal Rajapaksa is only a
member of the SLFP team or the UPFA team.
Q: You call yourself just another member of
the team. However, it is the Rajapaksas who are
occupying very high positions in the country’s
political authority. If I suggest against this
backdrop, that you are the most fortunate candidate
in the running at this election?
A: Yes. I am at an advantage. However, there are
many disadvantages as well. True, I stand out as the
son of the President and I cannot help being my
father’s son. But I don’t depend on my father’s
popularity to win votes. I want to build my own
identity. People in this country will determine the
political future of Namal Rajapaksa on the basis of
the image he has built for himself. I know that if I
am to succeed as a politician, I have to be my own
light, not the light reflected from another. I know
I would be a failure if I failed to assert my own
Q: Your father was only 24-years-old when he
first entered Parliament. He is the Executive
President of the country today. As for you, you hope
to enter the Parliament at the age of 23. Do you
think you will succeed in surpassing your father’s
A: Well. My father is the person who
successfully met the most formidable challenge that
the country faced in recent times. He put an end to
terrorism that bedeviled our country for three
decades. He is a great statesman of rare calibre.
Therefore, people in the country today refer to me
as the son of Mahinda Rajapaksa. However, my
ambition is to win such a niche in the hearts and
minds of people in this country, so that they would
begin referring to Mahinda Rajapaksa as Namal
Rajapaksa’s father! I know that such popular
acceptability will not come my way as a matter of
course. I will strive hard to gain it in the course
of my political journey.
Q: You have started your political journey
from the Hambantota District. What is the most
pressing problem facing the people in this district?
What are your solutions?
A: Unemployment is the most pressing problem in
the district. We have already taken steps to solve
this problem. Large scale development projects, such
the Hambantota harbour, Mattala International
airport, have taken off the ground. The youth in
Hambantota will be the immediate beneficiaries of
these projects. A plan is underway to set up a free
trade zone in the area lying between the Hambantota
harbour and the proposed international airport. A
number of new industries will be established in
Hambantota in the near future. Construction of a
super highway and a railway line to Kataragama is
making headway. There is also an international
cricket stadium under construction. This means a
massive development process is taking place in
Hambantota, which will turn it into the most
developed district in the country shortly. The long
era of want and suffering in Hambantota is fast
ending. People are about to step into the new era of
prosperity when they can enjoy the dividends of
development. The quality of life of the people will
further improve with the development in the sectors
like education and health. The water problem too has
eased now to a great extent. Most problems related
to water scarcity will end with the completion of
the Uma Oya project.
Q: What would be the result of this election
in Hambantota? Would it be five against one?
A: The UPFA would get 5 seats against the
opposition’s 2 if we are to go by the results of the
Presidential election in the district. But the
situation for us has changed for the better. We are
going to win 6 seats at this election
Q: Well. Tell us what would be the position
that Namal Rajapaksa is to occupy in the order of
preference votes polled by the winning six in
A: People will decide on which position I should
occupy on the preference votes list
Q: Have you made no pre-assessment of your
A: No. I am still young. I have no problem about
Q: How many Rajapaksas, in your opinion, are
likely to be returned to Parliament from the
Hambantota district at this election?
A: The general opinion of the people is that
three Rajapaksas will make it to Parliament at this
election. The decision lies in the hands of the
people. The position on the preference votes list is
not something that bothers any of us. The position
that Namal should occupy on the list or where
Minister Chamal, Nirupama Akka, Ministers Amaraweera
or Indika should be placed is not our concern at
all. We are not involved in a fight over`Manape’.
Our collective concern is the victory of the UPFA.
Q: Namal, you have stopped putting up posters,
and begun distributing books among school children.
Why did you give up the poster campaign?
A: From the very inception, I was not enamoured
with putting up posters. I reluctantly agreed to put
up one poster because many suggested I should do it.
I felt pasting posters is an exercise which is not
worth the money spent on it Besides, pasting posters
leads to unnecessary conflicts. None would charge
that you have pasted posters over those of others or
you have disfigured parapet walls if you give up
this propaganda exercise, I found that I could
provide books for school children in the entire
district at half the cost of putting up posters
throughout the Hambantota district. So I am now
distributing school books free instead of pasting
Q: A special feature in the contest in the
Hambantota district at this election is a son of an
incumbent President and the son of a former
President are in the running from two rival
political parties. What is your personal opinion
about politics being done by Sajith Premadasa in
A: Sajith Aiya is a good politician. We two
discuss political issues. I am closer to Madam Hema
than to Sajith. Sajith Premadasa is a young man who,
I think, has a good political future. Sajith Aiya’s
present conduct as a politician is decisive for his
Q: Do you consider him a challenge to you
A: Certainly not. I don’t treat anyone as a
challenge to me.
Q: You cannot disregard the JVP when
discussing politics in Hambantota. Many government
politicians say that this general election will mark
the end of JVP’s political journey. Do you share
A: I saw two or three JVP election offices in
Hambantota. Their activism is now at low ebb. They
have suffered a massive setback in the entire
country. This setback is visible in the Hambantota
district as well.
Q: Though you express a very negative opinion
about the JVP, you had recently expressed a very
positive comment about Wimal Weerawansa who had
broken away from the JVP. You said recently that
President Rajapaksa looks on Wimal Weerawansa as a
political progeny of his.
A: Yes. Wimal Aiya is like a member of our
family. Wimal Aiya made a very valuable contribution
towards the victory of President Rajapaksa at the
2005 and 2010 elections. The President treats Wimal
Aiya as a son...
Q: What is the ministerial portfolio which you
hope to get after winning at this election?
A: I don’t expect any ministerial portfolio. I
am still very young. I have just entered politics.
The distance I have travelled is very short and the
journey ahead for me is very long. I shall be quite
satisfied with being an MP.