Govt confident of resounding victory at PC polls - Minister Nimal
Siripala de Silva
Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de
Silva said that the Government is quite confident of its victory at the
upcoming Provincial Council polls.
The Minister told the Sunday Observer that during the past few years,
the Government has implemented a lot of development projects to provide
the infrastructure facilities in these provinces. Therefore, the
majority of the people in these provinces will definitely give a clear
mandate to the UPFA Government . However, the Government would also like
to see a strong Opposition. Sadly, the Opposition is not fulfilling its
national obligation today. Instead of doing so, it is divided into
Commenting on the prevailing drought situation in several parts of
the country the Minister said it is not because of any bad water
management or wrong planning as the JVP claims. Actually the drought did
not occur only this year.
There was also a drought in 2002 and similar droughts had occurred
throughout the history. These are baseless stories by the opposition
parties. If there is no sufficient water, naturally the paddy
cultivation will be affected. The JVP knows the truth, but they want to
take political advantage and rouse the people against the Government.
That is their political nature. The people are sensible and can
understand the reality. So they have no confidence in the JVP. That is
why the JVP is totally devastated and defeated politically. Farmers are
also well aware that the Government cannot be held responsible for this
is a natural calamity that has occurred. Therefore, the people cannot be
fooled or misled by these JVP utterances.
Minister de Silva said it is wrong to say that there is a wave of
crimes as there is no such wave. It is unfair to cite one isolated
incident and say there is no law and order in the country. Even in
Chicago or UK, Australia or any other country, crimes are committed.
Sometimes, the Police canít apprehend some of those who are responsible
for these crimes. That is nature. I must say in fairness to our Police,
they have investigated certain difficult crimes and have apprehended the
Q: Addressing the Rio Plus on green economy and sustainable
development, President Mahinda Rajapaksa introduced Sri Lankan economic
model which gives the pride of place to the environment. What are Rioís
benefits for developing countries?
A: Summits are held from time to time on environment. But the
perception of the world community at large is that what is happening on
the ground is not sufficient. Pledges made at the Kyoto conference have
not been fully implemented by the most powerful economic giants. There
is also the perception that the environmental concerns are only for the
third world developing countries while most developed countries are
ignoring the norms and parameters of environmental protection.
Therefore, I think even the Rio summit, emphasised the need to
protect the environment and ensure low carbon dioxide emission to the
space. When it comes to the question of the real action plan and the
assistance which has to be given to the developing countries, I am sure
most of the participants of the Rio summit will not be very happy with
Therefore, President Mahinda Rajapaksa highlighted the need for
sustainable development and the balance between the development and
protecting the environment as a timely thought for the developing
countries. At the same time we should not forget that we need to protect
the environment but the environment laws and regulations should not be a
stumbling block to the third world and emerging countries for economic
development. So we have also to keep that in mind.
Q: Despite the Governmentís assurance that there wonít be a
rice shortage, the continuing drought has its serious impact on paddy
and other subsidiary food crops. Is there any blueprint to cushion the
impact of drought and provide redress to the farmers?
A: The first thing is that we have sufficient paddy stocks.
Even the paddy which were purchased before two or three years are still
stored in warehouses. We all are aware of it. The other thing is that
this year we have started cultivating about 7000 to 8000 hectares more
than the last year. As a result of the current drought and if it if it
continues, nearly 29,000 hectares of lands will be affected.
This will be only nine percent of the total land area which we are
cultivating. If you take Gal Oya valley, Moneragala, Kathankudi and all
such places, there is no water problem. The water problem is only
confined to Mahaweli H system and some parts of Kurunegala, Girithale
and Parakrama Samudraya. Therefore we are confident that our total
production will not be adversely affected by this.
Q: The Government alleges that the JVP instigates the
drought-hit farmers against the Government while attributing wrong
planning and mismanagement to the current crisis. What have you got to
say about this?
A: We have to analyse what the crisis is at present. The JVP
always analyses in the wrong way with a wrong perception. What is the
reason? If you compare the rains experienced in Polgolla and Kothmale
areas last year and now, not even one hundredth of it is there this
All those are false stories being attributed as a cause for the
drought. If there were sufficient rains, we could have collected water
at Polgolla and divert it across Elahera canal to Kalawewa and then to
Girithale and finally to Polonnaruwa.
That is a simple technique. If the water is not available, naturally
the paddy cultivation will be affected. Actually the JVP knows the
truth, but they want to gain political mileage and rouse the people
against the Government. That is their political culture. But the people
who are experienced donít have reposed any confidence in the JVP.
That is why the JVP is totally devastated and defeated politically.
The people are sensible and can understand the reality. Farmers are
praying for the god for water or rain, as they know the Government is
not responsible and it is a natural disaster that has occurred.
Therefore, the people cannot be fooled or misled by the JVPís
Q: The North Central, Sabaragamuwa and Eastern Provincial
Councils have been dissolved. Are you confident of an easy victory
despite the Opposition making the natural calamities as a strong
political issue during the elections?
A: We are quite confident of victory and we can win all the
Provincial Councils. The Government has no doubt about that. During the
past few years, the Government had implemented many development projects
in these provinces.
The majority of the people in these provinces will definitely ensure
a resounding victory to the UPFA Government at the upcoming Provincial
Council polls. The Government would however like to see a strong
Opposition playing its role. Sadly the Opposition is not fulfilling its
national obligations. Instead of doing so, it has been split into
Q: The increased prices of kerosene, dried fish, vegetable and
many other consumer items have its impact on the poverty-stricken
people. Will this not change the pattern of voting this time?
A: I donít think so. The prices of vegetables and some other
essential food commodities, have come down compared to those in the
past. Therefore, people could purchase these consumer items at lower
prices. At the same time, peopleís earning capacity has also gone up. I
think the price hike of kerosene will not make a big impact on the
election as it is not widely used by majority of the people now. At
present electricity is used by nearly 90 percent of the population.
Q: There is the allegation about the law and order and rule of
law break down and the inaction by the Police which is said to be the
main cause for the rising wave of crimes. Is there any substance in
A: I clearly demonstrated in Parliament even under the UNP
regime, certain crimes had been committed. The rate of the crimes has
not increased. There are criminals who are engaged in various crimes and
there is also an under-world.
They commit crimes. If you take the Kahawatta incident, I think those
who were involved in it have been apprehended. If we take some bank
robbery or other crime etc, the culprits in many robberies and other
crimes have been produced in courts.
So we canít take one incident in isolation and say there is no law
and order. Even in Chicago or anywhere in the world, UK, Australia or
any other country, their people commit crimes. Sometimes the Police
canít apprehend some of those responsible for these crimes. That is
nature. But I must say in fairness to our Police, they have investigated
certain difficult crimes and have apprehended the culprits. Therefore it
is wrong to say that there is a wave of criminal activities as there is
no such wave.
Q: The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) to resolve the
problems of Tamils is yet to be appointed. Why is this still lagging
behind with no signs of moving ahead?
A: We are ever ready to meet. But the TNA must send the names
of their nominees to the Speaker to appoint the PSC. They have not yet
sent the names. Even the UNP has not sent the names. So how can the
Speaker appoint the committee? It is the Speaker who will appoint the
committee. As far as the UPFA is concerned, we have already sent our
names to the Speaker.
Q: Powerful countries have made it a habit to invade
developing countries arbitrarily for regime changes under the pretext of
protecting human rights as in Iraq, Libya and Pakistan. How do you look
at this situation?
A: That is the scenario that we condemn. The territorial
integrity and the right of the people of a country to elect their own
leaders and governments has been affected by this scenario. Sometimes
they are going in search of oil, minerals and other resources.
Sometimes they try to show their strength and impose some of their
own perceptions of democracy on other countries. It is entirely up to
the people in any particular country to elect their leaders and decide
on the form of government they prefer. We canít deny the rights of the
people in one country and substitute the thoughts of another. Therefore
this scenario must be condemned and resisted.
Q: Bribery and corruption have become the countryís bugbear.
There are allegations of bribery and corruption even against some
legislators. Could the Government ward off this social evil at all?
A: Bribery and corruption is in every society. If you take the
case of Japan for instance, how many Governments have fallen as a result
of allegations of bribery and corruption against the political leaders.
So it is up to the Bribery Commission to ensure that all complaints are
investigated. The other thing is that people should not make baseless
allegations. Instead they should make credible allegations. Anonymous
petitions wonít do. They must be supported with facts and figures so
that the Police and the law enforcement authorities could investigate
Q: The Government speaks of rapid economic progress while the
Opposition and some professionals point out that the economy is in
doldrums. What is the actual situation in the backdrop of recession and
inflation in the developed world?
A: If you go into economic indicators and various theories
relating to economic development, one could surely interpret things in
different forms. For example, if you take an average person, a tea,
rubber or cinnamon smallholder, he is earning a good income for his
The other thing is that can you get a rural labourer for less than
Rs. 1000 a day now? I met a number of industrialists who said they find
it difficult to get labourers for their factories. That is the position.
At present the unemployment rate has dropped. At the same time, the
Opposition complains that farmers have find it difficult to subsist as
the vegetables and other commodity prices have dropped drastically.
That shows the cost of living has come down. There was a time where
the vegetable prices dropped drastically and now it has stabilised. Even
the price of paddy has stabilized. To gauge economic development, you
have to speak to the common man without going into economic indicators.
We have checked unemployment and cost of living index. In addition, lots
of development work have been done in our areas.
I donít think people have anything to grumble. But certain
shortcomings are there. The Dollar has gone up in relation to the rupee.
But the exporters are doing well. So that is a boost for exports in view
of high oil prices and the high export-import bill. There are certain
issues associated with our balance of payment.
But our expatriate income is there. We have to ensure that we should
export more and more goods. We should move forward for an export
economy. We are also making progress in the tourism sector as well. So
we have to struggle hard. Even in China, the export income has dropped.
So is in India and US. But their domestic income has gone up. Likewise
we have to diversify our economy. I think those challenges are there not
only for Sri Lanka but also for all other countries. Despite those
challenges Sri Lanka is moving forward.
Q: Time and again politicians of all hues talk of changes to
the present electoral system, but nothing has happened so far. Your
A: I am also very disappointed since electoral reforms have
not been implemented. This is my personal view. It is the need of the
hour that the electoral system - local government, Parliamentary and
other forms has to change. We have also the Dinesh Gunawardene report.
It is time that we must get away from this preferential voting system
which has made politics very much complicated and violent.
Q: What are your views on the question of Bhikkhus being
elected to Parliament? Is their representation in parliament the
interest of the country or for other reasons?
A: The Bhikkhus are also human beings. They should also have
their own political rights and ideologies. We canít say Bhikkhus have no
right to vote. That is not democracy. If the people wish to elect
Bhikkhus it must be permitted. We canít deprive a person of his right to
contest an election. It is up to the people to vote for a Bhikkhu or
not. That is a matter for the individual voters to decide.