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DateLine Sunday, 19 August 2007

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To avoid financial crises later Govt must face positive criticisms - UNP

The United National Party (UNP)has been accusing the government for not fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people as promised in the 'Mahinda Chinthanaya', of the ruling party.

In an interview with the Sunday Observer UNP spokesman and Member of Parliament, Gayantha Karunatillake said that as the main party in the Opposition, they are determined to topple the government soon.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: The Opposition should be the watchdog of a country in directing its government towards the correct path. Do you think that the UNP as the main Opposition is playing this role today ?


UNP spokesman and Member of Parliament Gayantha Karunatillake

A: The government came to power by giving so many pledges. In the 'Mahinda Chinthanaya' there are over 190 promises, including the promise to bring down the prices of essential goods, maintain stability on oil prices, to give a glass of milk to every schoolchild and a pack of nutritious food to every pregnant mother. But the government has completely forgotten to fulfil these pledges.

So, the Opposition has realised this fact and we are with the people. As the Opposition, we are doing our best to get these benifits for the people.

There is no other party to assist the people. What is the role of the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP), which helped this government to come into power? Today the JVP does not see the faults of this government.

It protests against the government for the sake of protesting just by holding demonstrations or organising rallies. Mere protests by the JVP would not help to solve the people's problems.

The UNP is the only party that holds protest campaigns against the government. The UNP is the only challenge to the government.

Q: Today the UNP is attacking only the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU). Do you think that the JHU is a threat to the UNP? What is the main reason for the UNP to attack the JHU?

A: The JHU is not a threat to the UNP at all. Not only the UNP but, even a small child knows that the JHU will not win a single seat in the next election. People know the reality. They know what has happened to the country by voting for the JHU.

Therefore, the JHU is not a challenge to the UNP. On the other hand, it is wrong to say that we are criticising the small political parties. While we are challenging the government we also show the weaknesses of these small parties.

The Benz car issue highlighted by the Opposition leader has been made a major issue. The Opposition leader spoke against a transfer of a vehicle by the Bhikku MP. He did not talk against the 'Maha Sangha' as a whole.

The government media has exaggerated the whole issue and blown it out of proportion. We did not criticise the 'Maha Sangha'. What we are doing is showing the weaknesses of some political parties. All our criticisms are levelled against the government.

Q: According to UNP sources, the party is planning to topple this government. How do you intend to do it ?

A: This government can not continue in this manner. The escalating cost of living is a big burden on the people and they can not bear it anymore. They find it very difficult to make ends meet. On the other hand, the country's situation is not stable now. Sri Lanka is listed as a failed State. The international community is not happy. Therefore, the government cannot be in power for long.

We are with the people. We hope to get the people's mandate in an election in the near future to form a people-friendly government.

Q: Does the UNP intend to get the LTTE's support to win an election ?

A: The UNP has never obtained the support of the LTTE. We did not form a government with the LTTE but, it was done by this government. The UNP does not want to form a government with the support of the LTTE and it will never happen.

Q: Then, do any international forces dictate to you to change this government ?

A: The UNP does not want to act according to the needs of the international community. But, we know how to get the support of the international community to develop the country and to give relief to the people. The UNP does not have an international agenda to rule the country.

We definitly have no intention to topple the government according to the needs of the international community. But, the UNP is ready to form a government for the betterment of the people.

Q: A newly appointed UNP organiser has claimed last week that there are all kinds of frauds and thieves in both the government and the Opposition. So how can the UNP form a good government with corrupt politicians ?

A: I do not know much about this statement. But, what I can reiterate is the fact that there are no such corrupt politicians in the UNP now. The general idea among people is that the UNP is fully cleansed after the crossovers.

Today a young group of UNPers have come into the forefront. Therefore, we can assure that the UNP can form a clean government without any corrupt politicians.

Q: The Opposition has accused the government of taking huge amounts of loans and the country is in debt. How are you going to solve this problem if you come into power ?

A: Definitely. The UNP has a good strategy to develop the country's economy. A good example is how we controlled the dollar.

When we came to power, the dollar was Rs. 97 but, within a period of two and half years, we brought it down to Rs. 92. Then we maintained the dollar at that stable rate. We can have a good economic management while obtaining foreign loans. We have a group which looks into the economic strategies and we have a vision to develop the economy.

Q: These loans should be paid off by any party which comes into power. Why does the UNP want to mislead the people saying the country is in debt ?

A: No. We are not misleading the public, but we are telling the truth. We are going to inform the HSBC Bank about the decision of the UNP's working Committee that the proposed Rs. 56,000 million loan obtained at seven per cent interest will not be paid when we come into power. This will be a huge burden on the country. So, we as a party, which expects to come in to power soon, want to inform them that we will not pay back the money. Then the bank can take its decision.

Q: You said that the UNP will form the next government. What makes you say so ?

A: We firmly believe that the UNP will come into power soon. People do not have an alternative and they will vote for us. It was proved at the 'Jana Rala'. People have realised that the UNP can only fulfil their aspirations.

Q: The UNP has also submitted its proposals to the All Party Representative Committee (APRC). But why do you want to solve the national problem before the APRC's final decision is out ?

A: The UNP has announced its clear solutions for the national problem. The UNP did not change its stand from time to time to win elections.

We have a clear vision to solve the national problem. From the beginning, the UNP was and still is of the view that there should be a political solution to this problem which devolves power under a federal system. We did not change this stance.

But within the government there is no clear stand to resolve the national problem.

Different political parties have different views.

So if the government cannot come to one stand, it is just wasting time discussing different proposals to solve the problem.

Q: The details about the secret pact alledgly signed by the Opposition Leader and the LTTE was revealed by Minister P. Chandrasekaran. He says that he was a participant at this pact. How do you refute this serious allegation ?

A: If there was a Ranil-Prabakaran secret pact, Prabakaran would have helped Ranil Wickremesinghe to become the President. It was clearly proved that there was no such secret pact at the Presidential election, which was boycotted in Jaffna.

Today, it is very clear who is responsible for this allegation. There is a talk within the government that there was a secret pact between the government and Prabakaran and there was a monetary exchange in that deal. It was especially proved by Prabakaran at the election. If we received the votes from Jaffna, Ranil Wickremesinghe would have been the President of this country today.

Q: Do you mean to say that Minister Chandrasekaran's claim is false ?

A: No point of listening to Chandrasekaran's allegations. Prabakaran's behaviour has proved the whole deal. Even it was announced by Prabakaran who said that the LTTE did not want Ranil Wickremesinghe to be the President of this country, at the 'Maha Veeran Day'.

Chandrasekaran is now in the Cabinet and his claims are not so important. But the people of this country are well aware that there was no such secret pact between the Opposition leader and the LTTE. If there is no such secret deal how can he claim that he had participated at the alleged deal ? He talks about such a secret deal to please the President or to protect his porfolio.

Q: It is claimed that the Opposition leader has a close connection with the Singapore based businessman Charles Gnanakone who has alledged links with the LTTE. Does the UNP seek his assistance to topple the government ?

A: All these are fabricated stories by the government. Minister Karu Jayasuriya revealed this at the Parliament. Why cannot he complain about it to the Bribery Commission? Still he is not too late to lodge a complaint to the Commission. These are allegations levelled against the UNP to gain political mileage.

This whole issue emerged because the government knows that some government MPs would sit with the Opposition very soon. So the government announced before hand that there is a conspiracy to bribe MPs.

Q: The Opposition blames the government for not maintaining a stable price index and this is the main issue that the UNP talked about at a 'Jana rala'. How do you propose to maintain a stable price index ?

A: In Mahinda Chinthana it is clearly mentioned that the burden of the increasing oil prices in the World Market would not be passed on to the people. But, the prices of oil have gone up drastically and the government claims that it was a result of price hikes in the world market.

When we handed over the government, a litre of petrol was Rs. 51.20. But during the last one and a half years, it has been increased nine times and today it is Rs. 117. This is not because of the price hikes in the world market.

The price hikes in petrol and diesel are not because of the price increases in the world market. The cost of a barrel of petrol now is US $ 77 and diesel is US $ 88 today. But the government charges more than the actual price because of the various taxes that are imposed on fuel.

Today, people have to pay Rs. 39 as taxes for every litre of petrol to the government. These taxes include port tax (three per cent), VAT (15 per cent), Port and Aviation tax (three per cent), one per cent to provincial councils and one per cent as commission for dealers.

When the government sells a litre of petrol for Rs. 117, it includes all these taxes. It is unfair to impose such taxes. The government can give a litre of petrol for Rs. 106 while getting a profit of Rs. 12. After adding the government tax and the other expenses, a litre of diesel can be sold for Rs. 69. But, the government earns an additional profit of Rs. 6 from every litre of diesel. Now the burden is on the people.

Q: However, while combating terrorism, the government has launched several development projects. But the UNP claims there is no major development projects under way. Is the UNP trying to achieve political gains by criticising the government ?

A: What kind of development is taking place in the country now ? There are only foundation ceremonies today. The government's development process is limited to big cutouts, posters and foundations. The benefits have not reached the village.

The foundation was laid to build the Weerawila Airport, one year ago but the construction work has been stopped. The country's development does not mean having only billboards. Nothing is taking place at village level. There are no large scale development projects as pledged.

The government boasts about liberating the East. When President Chandrika Kumaratunga was in power in 1994 the East was completely liberated.

There were many of our military camps even in Thoppigala, Vakarai and Kadiraveli. We had restored the civil administration there. The provincial Council elections were also held in the East.

When Gen. Auruddha Ratwatte was the Deputy Minister of Defence he wanted to become 'Prince Sapumal' by capturing Jaffna and what happened was they evicted the soldiers attached to the military camps in the East and deployed them to capture Jaffna.

Then we lost the military camps in the East gradually and the LTTE captured the East.

When we captured the East we did not boast about it but gave the credit to the military. We gave the necessary political leadership to continue with the battle. We did not make it a political propaganda.

The UNP never underestimated the victory by the Sri Lankan military but we spoke against the politicians who were taking political advantage of the victory.

 

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