I am always happy to hear that I look like my brother. It paves the way to success as, ‘Murali’ is a brand and I am the product. As a product I have the support of the brand, ‘Murali’. However, with an election pending people do not look for brands, they seek quality. People will vote for me if the ‘product’ is good, not because of the brand, the SLPP Nuwara Eliya district candidate Muthiah Prabagaran told the Sunday Observer.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q. You have entered politics fresh from a family which doesn’t have any political background. What is your experience so far in the 2020 parliamentary election?
A: In terms of profession I come from a business background. We do manufacturing, so, politics is something new to me and my family. What I have realised is that campaigning for an election and winning a seat in Parliament is not easy. I have taken up the challenge and started canvassing in my electorate even though its new to me. People in the Nuwara Eliya district are giving me their utmost support and I see a positive trend. Somehow I feel confident in this new field. Whether I like it or not, I want to take up the challenge.
Q. Has it been your long cherished dream to become a politician or is this your sudden decision?
A: This is a sudden decision. I have never cherished a desire to become a politician. Everything happened suddenly.
I have been impressed with President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision for the country.
Thus I changed my field from business to politics, and decided to become a parliamentarian, solely to support the President’s vision.
Q. Which strategies of President Rajapaksa impressed you to contest from the SLPP?
A: His vision for the country impressed me the most. He is the perfect leader for the country. The President invited me to join the SLPP to contest the Nuwara Eliya district. As a champion of his mission and vision I decided to support him to realise his dreams in the upcountry.
Q. What made you to choose the Nuwara Eliya district, although your native place is Kandy?
A: I was invited to develop the Nuwara Eliya district under the SLPP. There is no rule that a candidate should contest in his native district. Even though Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is from the Hambantota district he is contesting in the Kurunegalle district. Our commitment to the people is more important than our native district. My father is from Maskeliya in the Nuwara Eliya district. So I preferred to work for the people in this district.
Q. You and your brother Muttiah Muralitharan look alike. Do you see that as an advantage for your political propaganda?
A: I am always happy to hear that I look like my brother. It paves the way to success as, ‘Murali’ is a brand and I am the product. As a product I have the support of the brand ‘Murali’. However this is an election and people do not look for brands, they seek quality. People will vote for me if the product is good, not because of the brand.
Q. We heard that President Gotabaya Rajapaksa invited your brother Muttiah Muralitharan to be the Governor of the North soon after the Presidential election. Is there any specific reason for his refusal?
A: My brother Muralitharan is a well-known sportsman and he likes to be so. He has fans throughout the island irrespective of ethnicity or political affiliation. He wishes to remain a sportsman and not identified with politics. That is the reason for his non acceptance of the President’s offer.
Q. How does your brother Muttiah Muralitharan support your political intervention?
A: Although he doesn’t wish to be identified with a political party, he gives me the utmost support and encouragement in my political journey. In my new adventure I need the support of my family. In that respect he is helping me, and has accompanied me to several pocket meetings.
My brother has a vision and whatever it is he wants to achieve and he works for it. Hence his encouragement is a great incentive for me.
Q. According to health guidelines no big rallies are permitted in election propaganda. In such a situation how do you handle your canvassing in the Nuwara Eliya district?
A: Thank God, for the health guidelines. As a newcomer to politics I have no experience in facing a huge audience. So I have started my canvassing through pocket meetings.
Thankfully, people understand my mindset. I have many dreams for the people in the Nuwara Eliya district, and try my best to explain to them in my own words.
Q. What changes do you hope to bring to the Nuwara Eliya district if you are selected?
A: Low income is the major problem faced by the people in the district. I plan to increase their job opportunities to improve their financial status. Industries should be established in the district and women should be empowered with self employment to supplement their income.
Q. Jeewan Thondaman and you are two new faces in the Nuwara Eliya district representing the SLPP. You are both from well-known families representing the upcountry. How do you see this as a challenge?
A: Yes, we are contesting under the same party but on different lines. We are leading in our own way. We have to wait and see the people’s decision.
Q. How do you view the corruption associated with some politicians?
A: I have heard many stories of corruption. As a newcomer to politics I think discipline and ethics are important to become a good politician.
Q. Sri Lanka has been named as one of the best countries which eliminated Covid-19. What is your view on this?
A: We were able to achieve that status because of the leadership given by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. Their leadership helped the Tri Forces and the police to carry out their responsibility in a clean manner and handle the health sector. I am proud of my country and thankful to all who worked to eliminate Covid-19.
Q. As a businessman what are your plans to build the economy post Covid-19?
A: To rebuild the economy the country should focus more on localisation than imports. Without much effort we can run the country with local products which can provide jobs as well.
Q. Will you pressurise the government for the thousand rupee wage hike for the plantation sector workers?
A: The Rs 1,000 wage hike recommended in 2016 is not sufficient for estate workers to meet the current cost of living. There should be alternative means of earning an income, such as, farming, stitching, mushroom cultivation and other such projects.
Q. What is your opinion on the ‘line housing scheme’?
A: These people should have sufficient income to build their own houses on their land. I don’t wish them to be just labourers. I hope to make a change in their lifestyles. They should be able to earn a sustainable income to lead a good life