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UNP no more a force to be reckoned with - Minister Lakshman Senewiratne

Sugar Industry Development Minister Lakshman Senewiratne said that the US being the super power has failed to muster a majority on the resolution moved against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC as evidenced by the voting pattern. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the US wants to be the 'World Policeman'. Today, even small nations have begun to challenge US dictates. These powerful countries hide so many things. We can see what is really happening in Libya, Crimea, Europe and in many other countries. All these incidents happen due to vested interest by the super powers.

The Minister said merely because the Democratic Party and the JVP have secured third and fourth positions at the recently concluded PC elections, we can't call them the third or fourth force. Only four main parties contest elections. Even the main Opposition UNP is not a force to be reckoned with. The media refers to the Democratic Party or the JVP as political forces but none of them can match the political stability of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Q: The UNP which is bogged down in the Opposition for the last number of years, has shown a marginal increase in their vote base in some electorates at the recently concluded Western and Southern Provincial Council polls. Is it a sign of recovery at future elections?

A: Certainly not. In some Provincial elections, if you go through the records, sometimes the people don't go to cast their vote. Unlike national elections, Government supporters don't have much interest in the provincial polls. Because they are aware that the Government is in a position to achieve an easy victory in those elections.

This is the normal situation. In certain areas, there is a marginal increase of UNP votes. But it is absurd to assume that the UNP vote base has increased. I was also engaged in the election campaign. Then I witnessed the number of UNPers who joined the Government's bandwagon. It is pointless talking about the UNP.

Q: Nearly 37 UPFA and 12 UNP sitting members have lost their seats at the recent PC elections. Does it mean the people have lost confidence in the performance of both major parties and are seeking refuge in the minor parties?

A: Not really. In this kind of provincial election, sometimes the people want to change. But when it comes to the Presidential and General Elections, this pattern changes and the majority vote for the government. It is a different scenario at Provincial and Local Government elections.

In a Local Government Election, the voting pattern and percentage is increased as many of the village candidates from those areas contest these elections. Everybody wants to vote because the candidate is from their own area. All these patters keep changing at the national elections. My opinion is that we don't have to take certain things seriously. Again having said that as a Government, we have to take certain things into consideration.

Q: Based on the recent PC election results, the Democratic Party is touted as the third force. How do you visualize prospects for such a political turn around?

A: Merely because the Democratic Party and the JVP came into third and fourth positions at the recently concluded PC elections, we can't call them the third or the fourth force. Only four main parties contest elections. If you ask my personnel opinion, the Democratic Party or the JVP are not forces to be considered at all. Even the UNP is not a force to be reckoned with any longer in this country. If the media refers to the Democratic Party or the JVP as a political force, none of them could be compared to President Mahinda Rajapaksa. This is how I look at this scenario.

Q: The population of the countries that votes against the US sponsored resolution far exceeds that of supporting countries. Does this mean that the US has failed to muster world opinion against Sri Lanka despite being the world super power?

A: In reality that is the truth. The US wants to be the 'World Policeman', but not a genuine Policeman. All other small nations have begun to challenge the US dictates. Because they can't take everything into their hands. That is what is happening today. These powerful countries hide so many things. We can see what is happening in Libya, Crimea, Europe and so many other countries. All these incidents take place due to vested interest. But nobody talks about what is happening in Diego Garcia. When we really look at the voting pattern, the US has failed to muster a majority at the UNHRC. I personally visited some of the countries and I saw how the Leaders of those countries reacted to this US sponsored resolution. They were against the move taken by the US against Sri Lanka.

Q: The Government has banned a total of 16 LTTE front organisations presumably suspecting subversive activity. Would this have anti-Sri Lankan repercussions?

A:The Government should have done this a long time ago. I would say our Government is too democratic. Will India ever allow Channel 4 to come to India? We even permitted Channel 4 to see for themselves and report the exact situation in the country. The Government did the right thing. I think Sri Lankans living abroad have to do a better job. They can't expect the Government to fulfill this task single handedly. They have an important role to play on behalf of their motherland.

Q: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay plays the role of prosecutor, investigator and judge . Could anybody justice and fair play from her?

A: We have said that from the inception but nobody gave a hearing. There is a saying “ there is one law for Appuhamy and another for Ralahamy”. Similarly the truth is there is one law for the Americans and another for the others. This is what is happening today.

Q: The US sponsored resolution has its dire implications on the country as its country-specific, ill-intentioned and intrusive. Can't Sri Lanka go before the world court for a ruling?

A: Perhaps yes. I think the Government should pursue it.

Q: Although the UNP calls itself hydra-headed ,yet it remains cut off from political recovery as borne out by the recent PC election results. What has really gone wrong with your old stronghold?

A: Don't you think that we are wasting our time talking about my good old party and its Leader. Its an absolute waste of time. UNP Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has gone abroad for higher studies.

Hasn't he learnt anything from Sri Lanka up to now? Look at his age. When he can learn so many lessons from Sri Lanka, he has gone to America for higher studies. He might get a couple of PhDs and come back to teach Sri Lankans specially the UNPers. I think Ranil Wickremesinghe is the best UNP leader because UNPers can learn many lessons from him. He will get a double doctorate and come back to Sri Lanka. Not only Sri Lankans but also Sri Lanka will learn many things from him!

Q: The UNP charges that development projects are funded with foreign loans obtained at high interest rates. The stark truth is that almost all countries depend on loans for capital development. Could you elaborate?

A:They can talk when they are in the Opposition. I know it because I was also in the Opposition. They should have come to the Government and seen how to do the things. President Mahinda Rajapaksa's Government delivers the goods. On the directive of the President, massive infrastructure development has been undertaken. We have to take loans at the end of the day. As long as we can service the loans that is what matters. How many trillions of Dollars has America obtained from China? The so-called biggest super power has obtained trillions of Dollars as loans from China. That is how the world works.

Q: Is there any rationale ehind the attempt made by the UNP to move a no-confidence motion against the Government which has mustered a two third majority in Parliament?

A: It is absurd. That is what I have to say. What can the UNP do to the Government by bringing a no-confidence motion. They should bring a no-confidence motion against themselves. That is what they should really do.

Q: Annually billions are spent for sugar imports. What are the prospects for us to be self-sufficient or what is the maximum target we could achieve?

A: We can be self-sufficient in sugar. But its a long process. We can reach up to 50 percent self-sufficiency in sugar during the next seven to ten years. We have already drawn up plans to reach that target. When I took over this Ministry, only four percent of the sugar requirement was produced locally. At present we are producing 10 percent of country's sugar requirement locally. Sevanagala and Pelwatte Sugar factories have earned a net profit of Rs.1.34 billion within a span of two years. We have decided to disburse Rs.297 million which is 20 percent of the total profit among the workers and farmers of these two factories. President Mahinda Rajapaksa distributed the profit among workers and farmers at a ceremony held at the Sevanagala sugar factory premises on April 9.

This is the first time that workers and farmers engaged in sugar-based farming industry were financially benefited. When I took over the Ministry in 2011, both these factories were running at a loss. But we revamped both factories and earned Rs.1.34 billion net profit in two years. This was the brainchild of the President Mahinda Rajapaksa. What the President instructed me was to do some innovation to develop the industry and safeguard the interest of farmers and workers. We have fulfilled the target set out by the President. I have a good Ministry Secretary, Chairman, CEO, Chief Operating Officers and workers. I have also top class officers from top to bottom including engineers, mechanics and labourers. Everybody supported me towards this endeavour. The farmers also extended their fullest support. Politicians of the area also supported us.

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