UNPís no-confidence motion defies parliamentary democracy -
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena
Agriculture Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena said democracy has
today become a laughing stock thanks to the present Opposition.
The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that the
UNPís no-confidence motion against Foreign Employment Promotion and
Welfare Minister Dilan Perera over a petty issue is a serious blow to
morality, political culture and parliamentary democracy in this country.
There must be serious or specific allegations to warrant a no-confidence
motion against the Government or a Minister.
The UNPís no-confidence motion is just another motion which has no
basis or facts whatsoever.
Even the eloquent speakers of the Opposition failed in their mission.
They all spoke rubbish and not the real issue.
The Minister said Sri Lankaís defeat of terrorism is a wake up call
to the civilised world fighting terrorism with tooth and nail to act
without delay. The affluent countries which are harping on human rights
and democracy didnít utter even a word when 60 Bhikkhus were massacred
at Aranthalawa and children were brutally killed at Kebithigollewa by
the LTTE. Even destruction, killings and grave human rights violations
in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are not discussed at any world forum.
The UNHRC is completely silent about what is happening in Libya. They
are still worried only about Sri Lanka. They have never visited our
country but solely depend on third party information on what happened
here three or four years ago. But they are blind to what is happening in
Syria today. This is the discriminatory nature of human rights.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: Is there a national agricultural policy in Sri Lanka?
A: Yes. The basic government policy is that we should not
import anything that could be grown in this country. It also hopes not
to use agrochemicals which are harmful to the human beings and also to
minimise the use of chemical fertilizer.
Q: The misery of the paddy farmer is not solved since he
cannot market his paddy harvest at a reasonable price. Eventually it is
the private trader who will grab his produce. Could you explain as to
why this situation cannot be eased?
A: We had been struggling to reach self-sufficiency in food.
All our plans and programs had been geared to achieve this target. Today
we have achieved it. Now we have only to think beyond.
There are some problems. Most of the food varieties grown in the
country are not palatable to the foreigners. Brown rice is not popular
or largely consumed in the European market. So we will have to introduce
varieties suitable for export which will take little time.
Q: Post-harvest damage and lack of storage facilities are two
major hazards to the paddy farmer. What action has been taken to solve
A: Not only paddy farmers, even vegetable farmers and fruit
growers have also faced the same problem. During the harvesting season,
there is a glut in the market and the excess produce has to be stored
for the future. At the moment, we have this problem. Earlier the food
produced were not sufficient for our own consumption. Now we have to
think about the storage facilities. In the past, we had never witnessed
vegetables being dumped because the supply was not sufficient to meet
the ever-increasing demand. Now the production has increased a little,
exceeding the market demand. In the future, we will have to adopt some
means to meet the situation.
Q: The controversy on Arsenic issue goes on. The World Health
Organisation (WHO) report too has confirmed the ill-effects of
pesticides and other chemical applications on the people and the
environment. What remedial action is contemplated by the Ministry?
A: Nobody can ever say the agrochemicals used for cultivation
are not harmful to the human beings. It is harmful. But the optimum
agricultural production has to be ensured. There is no country which
does not use agrochemicals or chemical fertiliser for cultivation. The
WHO report says that this could be possible, but not definite. The
report has said that some chemical traces had been found in kidneys of
the dead people.
In some cases the residue that they found is alien to our country,
since the particular agrochemicals had never been used in this country.
Some such residue also available in those specimens. That is what they
had said. Therefore, you canít say all this had happened due to this
particular variety or others. Now we have banned the import of those
chemicals. That is the only measure that could be adopted.
Q: The vegetable cultivators complain that they donít get a
fair price for their produce while it is reported that large stocks of
vegetables are dumped as garbage at Dambulla Economic Zone. What has
A: I donít agree that the vegetable cultivators donít get a
fair price. This kind of things may perhaps happen. The Dambulla
incident happened immediately after the New Year. Our traders enjoy the
New Year the most-sometimes 10 or 15 days. Every year immediately after
the New Year, markets take about 10 to 15 days to return to normalcy.
Most of the vegetables were watermelon, cucumber etc. Vegetables such as
cabbage or leeks had not been thrown away.
Watermelon and cucumber are perishable. In any case, itís a pity to
witness vegetables being thrown away. We can keep the vegetables in cold
storage not beyond three days. So storage and transportation of
vegetables is not a problem for this kind of vegetable. What I feel is
that we will have to plan the cultivation of vegetables by taking all
these factors into account.
We have agricultural committees set up in every AGA and district
level. The planning of vegetable cultivation has never been under their
purview. Most of the time they discuss what could be cultivated during
season. That is not planned agriculture. If they decide that a
particular area should cultivate sponge gourd, bitter gourd or some
other vegetables we can do so as they have identified.
Then the kind of glut could be avoided. Unfortunately this is not
being done and the farmers too are not prepared to accept it. The reason
is that some people had begun to grow tomatoe or sponge-gourd. ĎThat is
their habit. Despite occasional losses, still they cultivate the same
vegetable again. That is something inherent in the system. Even if they
are instructed on the correct procedure the farmers would say that they
can cultivate, but the government should purchase their entire produce.
There is no possibility for us to purchase the whole lot. Even the
Paddy Marketing Board purchases only 8 to 9 percent of the total paddy
production. The balance 90 percent is purchased by the private sector.
The Government finds it difficult to intervene. The private sector
should come forward. I am happy that there are a few private sector
traders who have developed their industries. They export vegetable and
have cold rooms at Homagama. They could help solve this problem in the
Q: The peasantry agriculture in Ruhuna had been neglected for
centuries. Are there any new agricultural programs introduced to boost
the productivity of those farmers who cultivate paddy and other food
A: In the wet zone, the paddy cultivation is not profitable.
Therefore, we will have to direct them to some other cultivation.
Most of the people grow paddy to ensure food security. Nobody can say
the Ruhuna has been neglected. Specially the Hambantota district is
rapidly changing into a commercial hub. In such a scenario, the
agricultural sector will get low priority.
Airport, port and other business activities are coming up very fast
in Hambantota. Some agricultural lands have been taken over for these
projects. But Hambantota is going to be a key business hub soon, not an
Q: The Opposition parties have criticised the inefficiency of
the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) and the private power generation
companiesí arbitrary pricing habit as the main reason for electricity
tariff hike. Why are not these probed?
A: Actually this is completely a new subject to me. I donít
know what has really happened. But this complain had been there right
from the beginning. I think the government might take it into
consideration. When I checked it up, I was told that the contract with
most of the private power companies would be over by the end of this
Then it will not be a problem. I think nobody should ever forget that
the oil prices are invariably on the increase. Hydro power can meet only
30 to 40 percent of the electricity demand. The remainder is met by
either coal or diesel power. The private sector power supply is about 10
to 20 percent of the total power needs of the country. Can that 10
percent create a big impact on the 90 percent of the power supply? The
contracts of private companies are going to be over very soon and
thereafter the CEB will be on full control.
Q: Is it not the fact that the UNP is so bankrupt as to revive
Rizanaís case at this late stage when there are more vital issues, if
they so desire to take up with the Government?
A: This is the problem that we have. The Government took all
possible steps whatsoever to save Rizanaís life. Unfortunately the law
of that country is such that even their King cannot change it. That was
the reason why this unfortunate thing happened.
Q: The UNPís voting pattern and its more eloquent speakers
keeping mum at the debate is proof of the fact that the no-confidence
motion is ill-timed. Your comments?
A: A no-confidence motion against the Government or a
Government Minister is a serious issue. There must be serious or
specific allegations to warrant such a no-confidence motion. This
no-confidence motion is one which has no basis or facts whatsoever. Even
the more eloquent speakers of the Opposition had failed in their
mission. They all talked rubbish and not the real problem. They should
have proposed that the Government should change the existing law to
prevent under-aged people going abroad for employment. That kind of
issue would have been much more valuable.
Q: Is not the UNPís no-confidence motion on a petty issue, a
serious blow to morality, political culture and parliamentary democracy
in this country. Your comments?
A: Of course. Now democracy has become a laughing stock
because of the present Opposition.
Q: Strictly speaking there are grievances equally suffered by
the Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim communities. Are there any special
grievances of the Tamils or any rights denied them?
A: There are problems which are common to all communities. For
instance, problems such as unemployment and land are common to all
communities. As the Sinhalese, we also have the land problem. For
example, if there are five children in a family, all five cannot be
assured of suitable lands for cultivation.
Even I myself canít assure my children of adequate lands to cultivate
or build their houses. Therefore, the problems faced by the Sinhalese,
Tamils or Muslims are common to all. There are no specific problems
pertaining to one particular community, area or locality.
Q: Sri Lankaís defeat of terrorism is a wake up call to the
civilised world fighting terrorism with tooth and nail. Why should five
star democracies try to ďprosecuteĒ Sri Lanka for fulfilling what they
could not do?
A: They are talking about the human rights. Nobody talked
about human rights when 60 bhikkhus were massacred at Aranthalawa and
children were brutally hacked to death at Kebithigollewa by the LTTE.
Those affluent countries which are talking about human rights and
democracy didnít utter even a word on atrocities committed by the LTTE.
Destruction, killings and grave human rights violations committed in
Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq are not discussed at any world forum. Even
the United Nations is silent about it. The UNHRC keeps mum about what is
happening in Libya. They are still worried about Sri Lanka. They have
never visited our country. They get information from third parties on
what happened here in three or four years ago. They cannot see for
themselves what is happening in Syria today. This is the discriminatory
system of human rights of the United Nations.
Q: Will the Opposition rise up from its slumber and play its
legitimate role in the interests of the country?
A: Had they wished, they would have done it long ago. Still
they are not doing it. I believe they will not do anything in the future