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Sunday, 6 April 2014





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Development drive goes on apace - Minister Rajitha Senaratne

Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne said the outcome of the recently concluded Western and Southern Provincial Council Elections has given a strong message to the UN and the world that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the most popular leader in Sri Lanka. This is also a clear testimony to the world that the majority of the people are with the President and the Government. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the Opposition cannot be happy about election results. Even after nine years in power, if the ruling party under the leadership of President Rajapaksa can win in this manner, the Opposition has no hope whatsoever to return. However, there are certain issues that we have to address. We have to rethink how to win over sectors that have not supported the Government at the PC polls.

Dr. Senaratne said we have to take responsible decisions on how to safeguard our motherland from foreign forces and that it is not by castigating them or shouting at them or having Sathyagrahas against them that this issue can be overcome. This is an intellectual battle. We used our intelligence and got votes to win the war against terrorism. Only intelligence can safeguard our country. President Mahinda Rajapaksa should get the assistance of qualified individuals who can meet this challenge.

Q: Many people surmise that the landslide victory for the Government at the recent Provincial Council elections is a strong message to the international community, specially in the context of the UNHRC resolution passed against Sri Lanka. Would you agree with this proposition and if so could you elaborate?

A: Excepting in places where minorities are prominent, the Government got a landslide victory in all the other areas at the Western and Southern Provincial Council polls. The Government should win back the minorities - the Tamils and Muslims. Otherwise it would have been a thumping majority. The Opposition cannot be happy about this election result. Even after nine years in power, if the ruling party under the leadership of President Mahinda Rajapaksa can win in this manner, there is no hope for the Opposition at all.

We have to rethink how to win over other sectors who have not supported the Government at the recently concluded PC elections. The outcome of the PC elections has given a strong message to the UN and the world that President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the most popular leader in Sri Lanka and that the majority of the people are with the President and the Government. We have to lay special emphasis on the minorities specially the Tamils in the North and other minorities in the South. In the past, when the people rose up in arms the West and the UN never considered these issues. As a responsible Minister and a citizen of this country, I don't think this electoral victory will help to handle the international situation. The thinking pattern of the UN and the international community is far different from ours. We have to take immediate measures to overcome the challenges that we have to face in the near future due to the actions taken by the UN.

Q: Do you believe that an organisation such as the UNHRC has been politicised to the extent of bludgeoning small nations into their dictates? Could you explain?

A: Definitely. There is one policy for America about Israel. When the entire UN is voting against Israel, they just used their veto power to defend Israel ignoring all their human rights violations. So these powerful nations don't have a policy. Their policy is to bring all countries under their orbit. But if these powerful countries pass a resolution at the UNHRC and if they implement it and impose sanctions, how we are going to face that? That is the reality. You can't say that a giant came and assaulted you. Then we will have to understand how to deal with the giant and not to get assaulted by the giant. That is where I am. Because what I say today may be valid even next year. That is what I say the Government should take immediate measures to overcome the scenario which can be adverse. We have to be prepared for the worse. If it is less than what we are expecting then it is a bonus.

Q: When there is a direct threat to the country and specially to its sovereignty, how is it that the main Opposition walks on a political tight rope, preaching political bana to the country, having ignored its obligations ?

A: There is no purpose talking about this Opposition. Really there is no Opposition in this country. Those leaders in the Opposition are not leaders of the people. They are not recognised by the people. I don't want to waste my time talking about this Opposition. The best thing is to look after the country, people and the Government. This is the Government which liberated the country and its people from the clutches of terrorism. Defeating terrorism was the most difficult task we faced.

We had so many leaders, none of them could defeat terrorism over the past 30 years. President Rajapaksa is the only leader who eradicated terrorism and developed this country. We have never seen mega development in the country never seen before. I have been a member of Parliament for the past 20 years and I have been a Cabinet Minister from 2001. I know how difficult it is to get even a little money from earlier Governments to develop our electorates. At present, we have got large sums of money to develop our electorates. We have also improved the living standards of the people. I am keen to continue the development drive of this Government in a stable manner so that we have more and more development in the future. That is why I am concerned about the UNHRC resolution.

Q: How do you analyse India's last minute change of mind to abstain from voting at the US resolution. Has it done any good to Sri Lanka now that the UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay could launch her investigation?

A: That is a diplomatic decision taken by the Indian Government. In the same manner, a group of South African Ministers who always talk about reconciliation and the minority issue consulted me as well. We pleaded of them that the best scenario is to abstain from voting and to be between the UN and the Government. The decision taken by the India is not to be a party to an international inquiry. But India can play a big role in the future for our benefit to be in between the UN and us. Therefore, its a historical decision taken by India.

Q: There is speculation that the JVP and Democratic Party have shown signs of a political recovery. Will it have any bearing on the political fabric of the country? What will be their prospects for a brighter tomorrow?

A: Their main allegation against our Government is not about the liberation of the country, development or the economy. It is based on other secondary matters which erupted from the main policies such as corruption, dictatorial powers in certain sectors of the Government, democracy, human rights, media freedom etc. Actually those things can be rectified easily. At present the UNP has become so weak and Fonseka's party and the JVP have become powerful. But if the UNP can again become the next alternative force under a new leader with a new program, the votes that Fonseka's party and the JVP have got will go back to the UNP once again and they will be kept in their proper place. We should not be unduly bothered about Fonseka's party or the JVP's small growth in some electorates. This temporary until the UNP takes its role as the main Opposition party.

Q:“An independent credible investigation by the UNHRC boss Navi Pillay will not mete out justice as she is prejudiced due presumably to her South Indian ethnic origin and influenced by the global Tamil lobby”. How do you look at this scenario?

A: Firstly, we don't need any international inquiry. We should have our credible internal inquiry. After the 1971 insurrection, the then Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike allowed such a process to continue. Many military personnel were punished by the courts for those cases. the Government should conduct a credible process so that we don't need to go for any international inquiry. The international community can never hold an impartial inquiry in this soil other than an internal inquiry conducted by us. We can do that.

Q: The smaller the country, the bigger the problems. Could you substantiate this statement with special reference to Sri Lanka and similar countries world over?

A: There has been always domination by powerful countries. That is why the Third world countries formed the Non Alligned Movement in the 1970s against the two big super powers, the US and Russia. Now there is no such organisation. At that time, the Soviet Block always supported the Non Alligned Movement though they were not members. There is no Soviet Block today. During the Soviet Union, days they funded countries like us. They funded various industries in so many ways. At present there is no such system. Globally now we are in an open economy system. Russia, China and all the socialist countries have gone back to the market economy. There is very little support for us to defend ourselves against the US. Other countries can only give us limited support. We have to stand on our own feet. We have to take responsible decisions on how to safeguard our motherland from foreign forces. It is not by castigating them or shouting at them or having Sathyagrahas against them here. This is only an intellectual battle. We used intelligence and get votes in favor for us to win the war against terrorists. Here there is nothing to be forced and it is only the intelligence which can safeguard our country. The President should get the assistance of all those intellectually qualified people who are capable to meet this challenge. It is difficult for the External Affairs Ministry to handle it on its own. It is a Lilliput compared to these Gullivers that we are facing. The President should form a group of intellectuals to safeguard the interests of our country.

Q: What is the present stage of the Indo-Lanka talks on the fishing dispute. It looks that prospects for a solution appears to be elusive. What is the progress made?

A: Indo-Lanka talks are Government to Government talks between Delhi and Sri Lanka. The Governments must agree to that. Otherwise the fisheries organisations have no authority to decide on anything. They can only propose to the Government. The talks are between the governments of India and Sri Lanka. We held the first round of talks in Delhi. So the Indian fisheries officials should come to Sri Lanka for second round of talks. I have requested them to come but they have never been to Sri Lanka. I am interested on those talks rather than fishermen's talks. That is the talks where we can sort out this matter. So the Indian Government must fulfil their duty by coming to Sri Lanka for second round of talks.

Q: The Opposition attempts to portray that country's rule of law has been declined. Is there any truth in this allegation?

A: The rule of law is there. That may be not hundred percent impartial or it may not favourable to them. Actually it is now only that there is rule of law in the country. Earlier there was no rule in the country. Because in the past, we didn't know at what time a bomb will be exploded or whether we will live or not. Now there is no such threat. Then how anybody says that there is no rule of law.

They are talking about well to do people's rule of law and media. There was worst scenario in the country earlier. Today there is a vast improvement on the rule of law in the country. We should move forward that I agree. We must move more and more for a better society. But we can never say that there is no rule of law. Foreigners may say that as there was no comparison for them. But our people have a comparison. That is why they vote for this Government. They know that there is a better law and living for them today than earlier.

Q: Do you believe that political dynasties are in the interest of the country as we find the progeny of political bigwigs line- up to enter the legislature?

A: This dynasty was there from the beginning. The Rajapaksa's and their families and even the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike fought against imperialism. .

There is no harm in children of political leaders getting into politics. But they should be political-oriented. That is my argument. Today some Ministers and MPs are not seasoned politicians. A politician is a unique person. They must be politically oriented. D.M. Rajapaksa's brother D. A. Rajapaksa replaced him only after his death. He became a matured politician later. Then the next generation also came into politics.

All the Rajapaksas were politically oriented and they had a political ideology. Even President Mahinda Rajapaksa was politically interested and mature from a young age. Namal Rajapaksa is equally politically oriented. Even before he entered politics, he was involved in the Tharunyata Hetak movement.

There are sons of other politicians who are politically oriented. They have the interest, political ideology and political thinking but there are others who lack any political knowledge but have entered politics because their parents want to continue the dynasty. I am against this trend. That is why there are many family members in politics today. Some of them are politically oriented.

It is spreading like a virus today and that is why I didn't want to make my sons a part of it. My sons also have political understanding but they will be categorised in the same manner. There should be a limit and others should be allowed to enter politics.

The SLFP is a party that permits the common man to enter Parliament. Because of the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike, M.S.Themis who was a postal employee entered Parliament. H.S. Jothipala who was a beedi worker also became the MP for Balangoda.



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