Govt should be vigilant on subversives Ė Minister W.D.J. Seneviratne
Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister W.D.J. Seneviratne
makes no bones about his stand on any issue. Overwhelmingly voted to
represent Ratnapura district, he is firmly dedicated to the principles
of his party both in triumph and in defeat. Disciplined by temperament,
he speaks a little, but confines himself fully to his job. Even in the
midst of virulent attacks from the Opposition, he keeps his cool letting
the arguments of his rivals to stultify. The Minister in an interview
with the Sunday Observer said the people have realized the true colours
of the UNP. That is why they magnificently responded to the call by the
Government to report to work without taking part in the token strike
called by the joint Opposition on May 21.
Minister Seneviratne said apparently there seemed to be a campaign to
tarnish the image of the Government and they use this electricity tariff
issue to embarrass President Mahinda Rajapaksa and his Government. It is
quite obvious that there is a politically motivated force which wants to
take advantage of the situation. However, the people have really
understood the situation and the implications of a strike at this
juncture so that they didnít support the Opposition campaign.
The Minister said when the main Opposition UNP was in power, they
didnít do anything to solve the power crisis in the country. In fact, no
steps were taken by them to remedy the situation but turned a blind eye.
They completed the Mahaweli project and thereby added 660MW of power to
the national grid. Apart from that, they didnít do anything even when
they were in power subsequently.
At the time the UNP was in power, the Japanese Government offered
financial assistance to put up a coal power plant at Norochcholai. Had
they accepted it by now we would have set up a more technically advanced
coal power plant at Norochcholai with the least environmental pollution.
Unfortunately the UNP Government declined the offer. Except for
installing several high cost diesel power plants, the UNP which was in
power from 2002 to 2004 didnít do anything to overcome the power crisis.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: The one-day token strike launched on Tuesday in protest
against the electricity tariff increase is regarded by the Government as
a politically-motivated measure. Your comments?
A: My opinion is that the strike which was organised by the
main Opposition UNP and the JVP led-coalition is an absolute flop. That
is because the vast majority of the people, almost 95 percent reported
for work. In certain places, the number of people who reported for work
was more than the average number.
The people didnít feel the air of any strike. Transport and health
services worked very well while the routine administration too continued
unaffected. As the Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister, I
can say my main office where there are about 500 Government servants,
480 had reported for duty. At the Registrar Generalís office, the
average number reported for work had been increased by 10 or 15. In the
Department of Pensions too the normal number of employees had reported
for work. So there was hardly any sign of strike at all.
I donít say that the people donít feel the electricity tariff hike.
If I say so I may be lying to you. Of course, people may feel it.
Nevertheless, they know supporting the strike declared by the Opposition
political parties would not bring down the electricity tariff. Instead
they would realize that they would be supporting a political campaign
launched by the Opposition.
Their aim was to gain political mileage out of this strike. People
are wiser now. Unlike in those days, they are now not in the habit of
holding placards and shouting slogans and taking part in demonstrations
just because somebody else wants it. People think of its propriety and
how genuine are such people. Knowing very well that this strike is
politically motivated, the people kept away from it.
Q: According to statistics, attendance of Government servants
on May 21 had been well above the average which depicts the confidence
they have reposed in the Government despite the attempts made by the
joint Opposition to make the strike a success. How do you look at this
A: Yes, definitely. This amounts to an indictment of the
Opposition. That is what I say. When you say an indictment, it is
serious. When the main Opposition UNP was in power, it didnít do
anything to solve the power crisis in the country. In fact, no steps
were taken but they turned a blind eye to it. They constructed the
Mahaweli project and added 660MW of power to the national grid. Apart
from that, they didnít do anything when they were in power subsequently.
In fact, when they were in power, the Japanese Government offered
financial assistance to set up a coal power plant in Norochcholai. Had
they accepted it, we would have by now put up a very technically
advanced coal power plant at Norochcholai with least environmental
pollution. But the UNP Government declined the offer of the Japanese
Government. When they came to power in 2002 and we had experienced
There were power-cuts in 2001 and 2002 and the then Government in
power was toppled because of power cuts. Then the UNP came to power in
2002 remained so till 2004. During that period, they didnít do anything
except for installing several high cost diesel power plants.
That was the main reason which could be attributed to the increase of
electricity tariff. People have seen the true colours of the UNP. That
is why they responded so magnificently to the call by the Government to
report for work.
Q: Some political analysts have alleged that the so called
token strike mooted by the JVP and backed by the UNP is a conspiracy
hatched by some unscrupulous NGOs to tarnish the image of the
Government. Is there any truth in it?
A: Yes. Apparently there seems to be some campaign launched to
tarnish the image of the Government. They have used this electricity
tariff issue to embarrass the President and the Government. They also
levelled many allegations in Parliament as well. So they exploited the
opportunity under the pretext of campaigning against the electricity
It is quite obvious that there is some politically motivated force to
take advantage of this situation.
It is correct for you to say that the people really understood the
implications so that they didnít support the strike move.
Q: The 13th Amendment, specially its Police and land powers
have become a hot issue in view of the proposed Northern Provincial
Council Elections. Some political parties demand the repeal of the 13th
Amendment while others favour it minus police and land powers. Your
A: I believe the 13th Amendment has been a part of our
Constitution for the last several decades so that we have come to live
with it. When the ethnic problem was at its height, we could contain the
situation because of the 13th Amendment. All the police and land powers
have been incorporated in the concept of the 13th Amendment and those
powers have not been exercised by any Provincial Council so far.
Therefore, what is said by Minister Douglas Devananda is more
tangible and forceful for the reason that we can go on with the
Provincial Councils without exercising powers vested under the headings
of lands and police. The same practice could be adopted in respect of
the Northern Province as well. But postponing the Northern Provincial
Council Election or abolition of Provincial Council system is not
We have given an assurance that it will be held. We have held
elections for all other eight provinces. So why donít we hold elections
for the Northern Province as well? If we donít hold, the international
community will accuse that we are discriminating the Tamil community.
The people in the North should also be allowed to exercise their free
vote. Under the devolution of power, I think the stance of the SLFP is
that we should hold the elections and allow the people to enjoy their
political freedom in ruling their areas within the framework similar to
what exists in other provinces of the country.
Q: The national security appears to be still at peril because
it has come to light that certain LTTE elements are still operating
underground. Does this not mean that the Government has to keep a 24
hour vigil despite a heavy defence budget?
A: LTTE was a very powerful military organisation. They had
all the weapons under the sun unlike any other terrorist organisation.
Still there could be elements operating underground as you say wanting
to really pursue or revive the LTTE activities. Definitely the
Government will have to be vigilant. This is an area where the
Government will have to keep a serious eye.
Q: The UNP has pledged the country that it would form a
Government in 2014 though the elections are due in 2016. What made the
UNP to arrive at such a conclusion?
A: We will have to see as to why the UNP says so with some
confidence, because I donít know whether there are any suspicious moves
on the part of the UNP to align with other forces who will launch civil
disobedience campaigns and violate the law of the country.
Therefore, the people must keep vigilant, because nobody should be
allowed to suppress the democratic rights of the people. The Government
can be changed only by democratic process. I think it is the duty of the
public to see that the democratic norms and human values are protected.
On the other hand, we know the UNP is very desperate today. They have
been out of power for a long time. In order to win over the people and
instill confidence in them, they assure the people that they will come
to power. The people are gradually distancing themselves from the UNP.
Q: Today the Tamil community in Sri Lanka enjoys political,
economic, cultural and social equality and freedom. The TNA cannot any
longer invoke the bogey of ďTamil AspirationsĒ to exploit votes. What is
the TNAís real political agenda?
A: TNAís political agenda is communalism as they still talk of
only one community in the North and the East. They donít talk about the
rights of other people.
They talk only about the rights of the Tamil community. That shows
how discriminatory is their attitude towards others. So TNAís policy is
none other than communalism.
Q: The heavy capital outlay on the maintenance of Sri Lankaís
public service does not appear to match with its productivity. Cannot
the public service be restructured to get the optimum out of each
A: It's true that we will have to modernize the public service
and a sense of efficiency should be inculcated. As Public Administration
and Home Affairs Minister I am not in charge of the entire public
Public servants who come under me are those under the Public
Administration and Home Affairs, Registrar Generalís Department and the
Pensions Department. They are the only public servants who come under my
purview. Other public servants come under the respective secretaries of
I can only talk about those who come under my Ministry. I donít say
that they are hundred percent correct. But they are better than what
they were. The officers are also better than what they were. People are
provided a better service than what they had those days. Therefore, I
believe we are gradually improving the quality of service provided to
the public through Divisional Secretariats and District Secretariats.
Q: In many Asian countries there are political dynasties. Now
that you have been in politics for over two decades, donít you believe
in grooming a successor to carry out your political mission?
A: I have a son and two daughters. Of course, they are well
educated. Unfortunately none of them is interested in politics. My
son-in-law Prabath Mahesh de Alwis won at the last Sabaragamuwa
Provincial Council Election. Now I am watching him as to whether he has
the capacity to succeed in politics and take after me.