Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 26 May 2013





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Government Gazette

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 scenario?

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 power-cuts.

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 tariff increase.

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 comments?

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 advisable.

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 worker?

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 service.

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 their Ministries.

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.



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