UPFA confident of victory at LG Polls - Prasanna Ranatunga
Prasanna Ranatunga, Chief Minister, Western Provincial Council
Prasanna Ranatunga who represented the Western Provincial Council (WPC)
for more than 16 years and is now its Chief Minister in an interview
with the Sunday Observer says that the time is not yet ripe to decide
whether the Provincial Council (PC) system suits the country as it has
been in operation for two and half years only under normalcy.
He says the Western Provincial Council will make a big change in the
solid waste management sector by establishing the biggest ever compost
manufacturing site and power generation project to make use of garbage
collected by all local bodies in the province putting an end to garbage
The Chief Minister says that winning the forthcoming local government
election will be an easy task for the UPFA as the opposition has already
accepted the fact that they cannot win the election.
Q: As a Member of the WPC for more than 16 years and as its Chief
Minister for nearly two years, what do you think of the PC? Can it do
something for the country or is it a burden to the country?
A: The Time is not ripe for us to predict about the PC system. For a
human being 30 years is considerably a long period. But for a country,
it is not a long period to decide on an administrative system. On the
other hand from the date the PC system was in operation the country was
in war. It is in the last two and half years that the system has
functioned smoothly. there were problems in the implementation of the
Constitution. So this is not the time to decide whether the PC system
suits this country or not. It is only now, after the end of war and the
restoration of peace in the country can people feel what exactly is
happening through this system. I am of the opinion that we could manage
this system to cater to the needs of the province effectively whatever
the merits and demerits it has.
Q: The WP is the most populated in the country. What are the problems
and challenges you've come across.
A: I was a provincial councillor and Chief-Minister when the People's
Alliance and UPFA governed the country, except for the two years of the
UNP regime from 2002 to 2004. I was able to resolve many issues relating
to the Council, after discussing them with the Central Government. When
I was the Health Minister and Transport Minister and presently as Chief
Minister, discuss problems with the Central Government without
disruption to the Council's work.
Q: Education and Health are two fields which directly affect people
and come under the purview of the Central Government (CG) and CS. How
can you cope?
A: Education and health are free services enjoyed by the people. It
is only in Sri Lanka that the services are free. Not even in socialist
countries can we see free education and free health given together.
We enjoyed these when the country was in war with no shortages.
People spend Rs.4,000 to Rs.5,000 on a visit to a private hospital.
Doctors charges and lost of drugs can be saved when they go to
government hospitals. They must pay for drugs available at government
We give uniforms and text books in addition to the education. The
subjects are allocated to the Central Government and the Provincial
Council and are managed by two administrations. It is better to operate
them under one administrative system. The WPC handles these two subjects
effectively, maintaining cordial relations with the Ministers of the
line ministries for the well being of our people.
Q:In the western province people can see the inequity in the
distribution of resources in the national and provincial schools is
clear. Even in the schools under the PCs there is no equal distribution
of resources. How do you tackle this situation?
A: The uneven distribution of resources in not a problem. It has been
there in the system. Not only in Sri Lanka even in developed countries
the situation prevails. Vast differences between schools within the same
province is seen. Our program is in accordance with the education policy
of the central government. We are also planning our program according to
the program initiated by Minister Bandula Gunawardena to develop 1,000
secondary level schools countrywide when our schools have also been
Q:Grade one admissions are a controversial issue. The Education
Ministry of the central government and the PC is declared that they will
not intervene. What is your opinion.?
A: There were many bad precedents with regard to grade one
admissions. Last year when the central government increased the number
of students per class room to 45, the WPC could maintain the policy of
having 42 students per classroom. The limit was exceeded only under
extreme circumstances. Even this year we think that we will be able to
maintain that limit. Unlike earlier occasions, the authority of
admitting the first 35 students to grade one is solely vested with the
principal of the school. The Education Ministry or the Education
Department cannot interfere. All criteria have been stipulate. Then next
seven students will be filled from operational services. These lists
will come by March or April. We can interfere with the system only when
there is a vacancy in that school. Everyone knows that only the
principal has the authority to admit students to the schools and there
is no point in taking letters from me or any other politician to get
their child admitted to school. We are issuing letters on the request of
the parents but school principals have the right to reject them. In
2010, 17 school principals were interdicted due irregularities in grade
one admissions. Instructions were given to principals to act strictly
according to the circular issued by the government and not to accept
letters from politicians. If not we will take action against them.
Q: Due to the uneven distribution of resources and lesser number of
students some schools in the Western Province are on the verge of
closing. What is your opinion regarding this situation ?
A: There are many factors behind this issue. Due to birth control,
over a long period, the student population is less compared to the past.
Earlier we had some eight to ten children in a family. Now we have only
one or two. Unlike in the past, parents now try to get their children
admitted to the best schools. With improvement in transportation access
to schools in urban areas is easy. That is why urban schools are
developing so fast, and there is a sort of threat to rural schools.
There are schools with a big demand even with no proper transport
facilities as they produce good results. This depends on the principals
and teachers. Transport facilities, education levels of the teachers,
the administration of the schools are factors for the demand of a
school. We have decided to close the schools which have less than ten
students. We have found some schools which are having only ten students.
We have to allocate five teachers to serve them. This is a waste of
resources. So we decided to shift those students to nearby schools and
make use of the teachers effectively. We also encourage the division of
the primary sections of the schools from the secondary section as
primary schools do not need the resources which are needed for secondary
level students. Therefore, we are taking steps to take maximum service
out of the minimum available resources.
Q: There are major issues concerning the cleanliness of the cities
and solid waste management. What steps have you taken to address these
A: People talk of this with Colombo city in their minds. We have
three districts under the Western Provincial Council. The colombo city
also comes under the WPC but it operates as a different entity. Due to
legal procedures we could not handle the situation in the colombo city.
In Kalutara district the situation is handled effectively. We hope to
start the largest ever compost manufacturing project in kalutara to
provide a permanent solution to the solid waste collected by local
In colombo we are going to start a project in Karadiyana where there
were problems due to weak administration. The Central government has
decided to handover this site to the WPC. In the next three months we
are going to start a compost manufacturing project making use of 50
metric tonnes of garbage per day. We have consented to a mega power
generation project making use of garbage which will start in an year for
colombo city garbage. At percent these local authorities are spending
millions on garbage collection. Within the next three years in my
tenure, we will be able to create a situation to have a demand for the
garbage collected by local authorities. People will be offered money for
their garbage. that is what I want to achieve.
Q: There is a complaint that certain roads in the province have been
neglected. What is you plan?
A: There are different types of roads. A and B grade roads come under
the central government, C and D grade roads come under the provincial
councils and other roads comes under local government authorities. Under
Maga Neguma the roads under local bodies were developed. After 2005 for
the first time in the history of this country the biggest program to
develop roads took place.
There is a program to develop provincial roads also. In the Gampaha
district many roads are developed under the initiative of Economic
Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Under President Mahinda
Rajapaksa's initiative a new program will be started to develop many
provincial roads in Gampaha, Kalutara and Colombo districts. Large sums
of funds have been allocated for this program.
Q: What is your strategy to get maximum service from provincial
Councillors whether they are from the ruling party or the opposition?
A: We have a program for this. With regard to the education sector
the members of the ruling party have formed committees at zonal level to
identify problems and forward them to the relevant ministry for
In the road development sector also we are going to implement the
same system. The majority of our members their work with no concern for
privileges and facilities. We do our best to implement the Mahinda
Chinthana in the Western Province.
Q: What about the opposition participation?
A: There are some members working very closely with us. At the same
time some constantly criticise our work for their political gain. There
are people who do their job at village level.
Q: What steps do you plan to take to minimise environmental impact
due to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation in the Western Province?
A: We cannot close the factories established in the province. The
Provincial Council and the Waste Management Authority are closely
working to mitigate environmental impact. At present there are no major
problems like earlier. Even if there are problems they can be managed at
Q: What measures to minimise wastage and corruption at PC level?
A: Steps to minimise expenses from officer level to councillor level
were taken. We have given instructions to officials to make use of fuel
and other resources sparingly.
Q: Flash floods after heavy rain is a huge problem to the province.
What steps has the Council taken to control this situation?
A: There are two factors contributing to this situation. The rainfall
increase compared to the past; irrigation systems have been blocked due
to rapid urbanisation and industrialisation . Otherwise the systems can
cater to our present needs. We need to modernise and maintain them
properly. There is no need to construct new ones. We need the support of
the public to protect the systems.
We took initiatives to repair the entire irrigation system after the
flash flood that took place recently. Even after those repairs and
maintenance work we still experience flood situations due to increased
rainfall. Climatic changes have caused a flood situation in Australia
too. If we can maintain our canals and irrigation systems properly we
could mitigate major floods situations.
Q: Are you satisfied with the functioning of the local government
bodies in the province?
A: We have conducted investigations over some irrgualrities that had
taken palce in some local bodies which were run by the ruling party and
the Opposition, and commenced action. With the dissolution of the local
government bodies there are no members now. We have temporarily
suspended action and will to re-initiate action if they are reelected to
Q: A Special Commission was established to look into the
irregularities in the Colombo Municipal Council. The Council was
dissolved after former Mayor and some Members were found responsible for
financial irregularities. How are you going to take action against them?
A: With the dissolution they have already been punished. But with
regard to the financial losses incurred to the Council due to their
acts, we have forwarded the matter to the Attorney General seeking
advice. We will act on the advice.
Q: What would be the response at the forthcoming Local Government
A: The people of this country are knowledgeable. I realised this at
the 2005 Presidential elections. In that election when the leaders of
the party worked against Mahinda Rajapaksa the intelligent people of
this country voted him as President.
They had faith that he would find a solution to terrorism which was
the biggest challenge for the country and gave him a bigger mandate at
the 2010 Presidential elections. The common Opposition fielded Sarath
Fonseka as their candidate considering him a big hero. People saw the
difference between Mahinda Rajapaksa and Sarath Fonseka.
At this local government election people are aware that in a
situation where the President, the government and the Provincial
Councils are run by the UPFA there is no point of giving their vote to
another political party to run local authorities.
People are aware that to take the country forward the powers of these
local authorities should also be given to the ruling party to develop
their towns and villages. Even the main opposition has realised this.
That is why Sajith Premadasa has refused to accept the leadership
before the Local Government election. People have also got the message
that the UNP cannot win the election. Therefore, we are certain that the
UPFA will easily win this election. There is no doubt about it.
Q:What would be the future of your political career ? Don't you have
any idea to go beyond provincial level politics ?
A:What I have realised is that the place closest to the people of
this country is the Pradeshiya Sabas. The next is the Provincial
Councils. My idea is to work as long as I can, at Provincial Council
level and enter the Parliament when I am aged, to be eligible for a
pension, since Provincial Councillors are not eligible for a pension.