The following is a transcript of an exclusive Sunday Times Q and A with SLPP Presidential candidate Gotabaya Rajapaksa.
Q: When General Sarath Fonseka contested the Presidential Elections of 2010, you felt at the time that a military officer cannot transform himself into a politician. Being a military officer yourself, how do you feel about it now?
There are many examples of military officers transforming themselves into successful politicians in other countries . But in almost all these success stories they had entered mainstream politics after being involved in social and political work for some time. Only then you get a clear idea of people’s expectations and the socio economic problems that you have to deal with. You need to spend sufficient time developing a clear vision as to how you are going to serve the people if you want to be an effective politician.
Q: You pride yourself as a ‘doer’ rather than a ‘talker’ like most politicians. You deserve that title for winning the war effort and your work at the UDA. However there is a public perception that you have an authoritarian disposition and way of getting a job done. Any comment?
Each leader has his own leadership style. What matters is not the perception but the actual results. Also remember that perception is not necessarily the reality. I have always been able to motivate people for better results
Q: Are you only a stand-in for your brother to run the country? Is that perception entirely wrong?
It is a fact that President Mahinda Rajapaksa cannot contest the election due to the 19 th amendment. But my selection as the presidential candidate was based on the requests of several political parties, national organizations, opinion leaders and general public. They have seen a merit in my nomination. Also I have got a large number of independent professionals, academics, entrepreneurs and other categories of people involved the process of developing our election manifesto. I will be implementing these policies
Q: Both main candidates seem to have a lot of baggage with them (some questionable supporters).How can you shake them off, or will you be able to manage with them?
The new administration is not formed yet. You should wait till its done. We intend to have the right team to manage the country. As I have repeatedly mentioned the key members of our team will be selected based on merit.
Q: The contention against you is that nepotism and concentration of power within one family is going to be the order of the day should you be elected. Are we going back to a virtual monarchical era in a modern democracy?
Have you ever seen any signs of nepotism in the ministries that I managed?. I have always picked the right person for the right job. Thats how I was able to deliver results in every task assigned to me. Even in future I will abide by my principles and work ethics
Q: Who was involved in the murder of Lasantha Wickrematunge and the attacks on journalists? You were Defense Secretary at the time.
The current government has access to all the findings of the investigations conducted by the relevant authorities. They also had the opportunity to start fresh investigations if they had wanted. If they are unable to say who is responsible then there are only two possible conclusions. Either the findings are not conclusive or they have some reason not to disclose the latest findings.
Q: So many of your supporters also have pending cases – even you. Will you allow the administration of justice to take its course in all of these cases?
We all know how the present government manipulated the legal system for political suppression. Two solicitor generals and the chief of FCID have spoken about the way it was done. So most of the cases you are talking about fall into that category. However, we will not interfere with the law of the country and the cases will be properly concluded. However we will request the process to be expedited as dragging these cases is not fair by those who are politically victimized
Q: Briefly, what is your foreign policy? Are you China- bent?
As we have mentioned in our manifesto we will maintain friendly relations with all counties but we will never compromise on our national sovereignty
Q: Have you received a formal renunciation of your dual citizenship?
Yes it was done during the early parts of 2019 and it has been reported on media on several occasions
Q: What is your first priority should you win in the election on November 16?
Restore national security and law and order.