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Sunday, 16 February 2014

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UPFA gets ready for the polls

With all political parties and independent groups already having filed nominations for the March 29 polls to the Western and Southern Provincial Councils (PCs) and all contending teams already in the field campaigning vigorously , the Sunday Observer spoke to the UPFA chief candidates to the Colombo, Gampaha and Kalutara districts on what has been achieved individually and collectively during their last tenure in the Western PC, their future programs for the province and the prospects of victory in the upcoming polls.

Here are the excerpts:


Prasanna Ranatunga

Udaya Gammanpila, former Minister of Agriculture, Agrarian Development, Minor Irrigation, Industries and Environment of the Western PC and legal advisor to UPFA constituent the Jathika Hela Urumaya (JHU):

I am grateful to President Mahinda Rajapaksa for appointing me as the group leader for Colombo district. It is the first time in the history that such an appointment has been made outside the main party, either the SLFP or the UNP. I have continuously worked towards the betterment of the UPFA. Whenever the government made omissions , from my perspective, I never failed to point out. As a result, the government took corrective measures and the opposition now has no slogans to raise against the government.

As a Minister of the Western PC, I have introduced many new concepts. I have banned communications through the postal mode and have introduced emailing. I have installed PCs, laptops and the necessary software needed for email communications. I have introduced novel agriculture and home gardening projects which have been a resounding success. I have obtained for my ministry the membership of two international organisations. Although companies like the SLT, Mobitel and Sri Lanka Airlines are owned by the central government, not a single company was owned by a PC. But I was able to establish the Industrial Development Authority under the PC.

We received the ‘Excellence Award for Profitability'. The ISO 9001 international quality certificate was received in December 2013. We have been able to make a model ministry for the rest of the ministries to follow. I have represented the government locally and internationally. I have addressed the UN on behalf of Sri Lanka. At the 2010 Presidential election, I have participated in the highest number of radio and TV debates. I was the spokesman for the President along with Ministers Wimal Weerawansa and Dullas Alahapperuma. I think that the President has decided to appoint me as the team leader for the Colombo district in appreciation of my contribution for the betterment of the UPFA. We do not have any concepts for our Western PC. We work towards the achievement of the ‘Mahinda Chintana Future Vision’ concept.

During the last five years we solved many of the burning issues in the province. There has been no solution to the so many huge garbage dumps. But presently you cannot see any more than two or three which need mega projects to deal with. Seventy percent of all roads have been reconstructed or rehabilitated during the last five years. Home garden projects have been a huge success. Much has been done in the educational sector, Especially, the neglected Sunday Schools or the Dhamma Schools have been revitalised and much improvement to the infrastructure to the schools has been done.

Since we worked hard with the people during the last five years , we can now go back to them with great confidence. I am confident that we can secure an unprecedented victory and it is my responsibility as the group leader.


Prasanna Ranatunga

Prasanna Ranatunga (Chief UPFA candidate for Gampaha district), former Chief Minister (CM) and Minister of Finance, Planning Law and Order, Local Government, Provincial Administration, Education and Transport , Employment, Culture and Arts:

The future of the country depends on providing an education as well as an environment for our children to face the future world and that is exactly what we are focusing upon. When I took over as CM , with the education portfolio under my purview, the student - teacher ratio was 26 - 01 and in 2013 I was able to achieve a student - teacher ratio of 20 - 1. We recruited more than 12,000 graduate teachers for the Western province. The teacher training at the primary level was increased from 51 percent to 90 percent. We have increased the amount of funds allocated for education by 100 per cent in 2012 and 2013. Before I was appointed as the Chief Minister of the WPC, Rs.800 million was allocated for education.

This amount was increased up to Rs.1,600 million by 2012. We obtained Rs. 100 million from President Mahinda Rajapaksa and began a program to train primary school teachers. By the end of this year, we will be able to achieve our 100 per cent target. Qualitative education under the concept of ‘Best things for children’ was formulated. We started the work on constructing 196 new school buildings and 100 buildings have already been completed. We disbursed funds ranging from Rs. 75,000 to 150,000, depending on the number of students, for 1,267 schools under the program ‘Let us protect our schools using our own hands'. The material for refurbishing the school buildings and furniture are provided and the students/parents do the work. Thus a novel environment for the children that changes their outlook has been created. There has been improvements in relation to GCE results in the science streams as also in the arts and commerce streams. Employment-oriented programs are also being envisaged so as to help the students to get jobs. Dhamma school education was improved significantly. There are 2,700 registered Dhamma schools in the province. During the past two years (2012 and 2013) we have granted Rs. 100,000 for each of those Dhamma schools. Infrastructure facilities, including roads , drinking water and sanitary facilities , have been provided under the program. The grant was given to Dhamma schools belonging to all religions without any discrimination whatsoever and this became the most popular program of the WPC.

In the past, only selected schools received assistance and as a result of this a set of popular schools were created. But this situation will be changed so that all schools will receive equal assistance. We have already carpeted over 80 per cent of the provincial roads with fund allocations from Minister of Economic Development Basil Rajapaksa.

The fund allocation for the health sector has been increased b y 150 percent. State-of-the-art modern equipment have been provided to all hospitals and facilities at the Out Patients’ Departments (OPDs) have been increased several fold. The Government servants and the government administrative units are provided maximum facilities. We managed to give new vehicles in place of the old ones which have been in use for about three decades. We have provided PCs, laptops and other modern communication facilities. We are also constructing airports and harbours but we are mainly focusing on the education sector because the country's future depends on it. I am guided by the ‘Mahinda Chintana - Future Vision’ since the people have fully endorsed these concepts.

In the last PC polls, we got the overwhelming mandate of the people with 27 seats in the Gampaha district but this time around I am confident, as leader of the team for the district, that we will get 37 to 39 seats.


Angage Jagath Thilakasiri Perera

Angage Jagath Thilakasiri Perera (Chief UPFA candidate for Kalutara district), former Minister of Health, Indigenous Medicine, Social Welfare, Women's Affairs, Probation and Children and Council Affairs of the Western PC:

The main focus of my Ministry during the last 5 years of its term was on upgrading all hospitals with the provision of state-of-the-art modern equipments and on addressing malnutrition among children and women with the ultimate objective of transforming the people of the province as 100 percent robust and healthy. This objective has been achieved to some extent during the last five years. Some of the hospitals that remained in the same state without any improvements for over four decades were also brought under the program of upgrading. The First Lady and parliamentarian Namal Rajapaksa recently inaugurated the modernised and upgraded hospitals in Panadura and Kalutara. The amount of Rs.1000 Mn provided by Minister Maitripala Sirisena also helped the PC towards initiating the programs.

The dengue prevention program started in Negombo has been a huge success. Although 1800 patients were treated with the number progressively decreasing, the number of deaths reported due to dengue was nil. Incidentally some senior ministers also sent their dengue-affected children for treatment to the Negombo hospital. Many hospitals have been instructed to follow the example of the Negombo hospital in handling dengue patients. Programs to address the environmental hazards have been introduced on a provincial-level . Dengue awareness programs have been held in many places in the province. Laparoscopic equipment that provide a clear imaging on computer screens, facilitating precision and successful surgeries have been provided to major hospitals in the province.

Taking into account the fact that elders and senior citizens of the province will reach 1/3rd of the total population in the near future, many programs have been implemented for their health and welfare on a GS division level. About 1960 ‘Bala Mandalayas’ have been formed for promoting recreational and cultural activities among the elders and about 1960 Senior Citizens’ Committees are also functioning. Suitable self-employment ventures have also been introduced for them.

Many pilot projects on prevention of infectious and contagious diseases have been successfully implemented with the follow-up work to be undertaken in the future. Family-control is also part of the program that has undertaken by the PC Ministry.

As leader of the UPFA team, I am confident that we will secure an overwhelming number of seats in the Kalutara district in the upcoming polls.

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