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Sunday, 20 July 2014

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Development drive in Uva goes on apace - Minister W.D.J. Senewiratne

Public Administration and Home Affairs Minister W.D.J. Senewiratne said whoever is fielded by the UNP will not become the Chief Minister of the Uva Provincial Council, as the UPFA has a formidable team of candidates. The Minister told the Sunday Observer that the Government is certain of victory at the upcoming Uva Provincial Council polls due to the infrastructure facilities provided and the enormous economic development in the province. Education and health services in the area have improved significantly. People are aware of these significant developments and the Government is thus sure of victory.

Minister Senewiratne said that as far as the incumbent President is concerned, the powers vested in him as the Executive President have been utilised for the betterment of the country such as to defeat terrorism and to expand development work. At present a massive development drive is being implemented throughout the country. Next to China, we are the second fastest developing country in Asia. This prosperity has come in the wake of the proper use of powers vested in him by President Mahinda Rrajapaksa in his capacity as Executive President. “Therefore I believe that it is a redeeming factor against abolishing the Executive Presidency”, he said.

Q: What made the Government to streamline the operation of NGOs? There were allegations that some of the NGOs had exceeded their mandate and also had supplied arms to LTTE terrorists. Could you explain?

A: Exactly. Because there are some NGOs which are not acting with a sense of responsibility particularly at the time when there was turmoil in the country . There were NGOs which were capitalising the situation. We know that NGOs are funded by foreign sources.

The money that they get was not used for the benefit of the public but to enhance the conflict that existed in the country. It is certain that NGOs provided various resources to the LTTE. This turned out to be a source of encouragement to the civil conflict that existed in the country. Therefore certain steps have to be taken to curtail their activities and peruse the work being done and to monitor the financial resources in their command. The Government had to take steps to see that these people didn't interfere with internal matters, the social set up and law and order situation and the safety of the country. The Government had to take these steps.

Q: There is controversy over the recent visit and mission of South African Deputy President Ramaphosa. Could you enlighten us on this?

A: The South African delegation which came for the Commonwealth Heads Of Government Meeting (CHOGM) showed interest on the settlement of the Sri Lanka's post conflict situation by streamlining it. South Africa faced a similar situation at a certain stage. Because there were conflicts among communities in South Africa. After a long period of conflict ,they settled it.

The situation that existed in South Africa was similar to Sri Lanka for the reason that there was conflict between two main communities, the British and South Africans. That situation reached a settlement and there seems to be some ethnic rehabilitation. In view of that situation when the South Africa offered some assistance for the settlement of a country, we were keen to study it and bring communal harmony. It is true they came to Sri Lanka, but the Government policy of not allowing foreign countries or institutions to interfere into internal matters of Sri Lanka remains unchanged. In the light of this situation, any country or any representative can come and study the situation that existed in the country. If they have any advise, they can offer it.

Then it is up to the Sri Lankan Government to either accept or refuse that advise. Likewise Ramaphosa came and returned in 48 hours. His visit did not have any tangible effect. In keeping with the policy of our country, we don't permit any foreign representative to interfere into our internal matters. But we are prepared to accept advise from anybody. If the advise is acceptable, we will go ahead with it.

Q: Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has said that India won't support the UNHRC investigation on Sri Lanka. What is the impact on Sri Lanka and its future?

A: She has said that India will not support any external interference into Sri Lankan matters. This is a good stance taken by the Indian Government. Although India abstained from voting at the UNHRC under the former Prime Minister, the present External Affairs Minister is enlightened about the situation. This is how they preserve the sovereignty of a country. Nobody knows that India might also face a similar situation in the future. She has indicated that India is not in favour of foreign interference into the internal matters of Sri Lanka. We salute her for that statement.

Q: Do you think the UNHRC's ex parte investigation will have any repercussion on Sri Lanka? Shouldn't the Non-Aligned countries protest against such arbitrary action by a world body?

A: Exactly, Non Aligned countries must protest because a similar fate can befall them. Now we have witnessed the influence of America on some of these Arabian and Middle East countries. The aftermath of it, Libya, Iraq and Syria are now in turmoil. That is because of the interference of the West and America. Now it is high time for everybody to realise the consequences of these interferences by these Western giants which will lead to the ruin of countries. The Non Aligned countries must realise that this type of interference will not be for the betterment of those countries but for their destruction.

Q: Some economists argue that the expansion of the Public Service is economically and financially unproductive in the context of a developing economy such as Sri Lanka. What have you got to say about this?

A: There was a time when the Public Service was curtailed. What is the benefit that we derived? Was there any improvement in the economy? Actually there was no improvement. What is necessary is to provide an efficient service to the public so that public necessities are met. We will have to recruit a sufficient number of public servants for that purpose. This has become necessary because there was no recruitment to the public service for a long time. There was a lethargic attitude towards the expansion of the Public Service. But now we find that public officers and public institutions are manned properly and human resources are also provided. As a result, people are getting a better service. It does not call for limitless expansion. But it must commensurate with the requirements of the public.

Q: Northern Province Chief Minister declining President Mahinda Rajapaksa's request to attend a special Cabinet meeting in which all other Chief Ministers participated, is evidence of TNA's non-participatory democracy which will augur well for democracy. Your comments?

A: That is true. I don't think we can approve that for the reason as the President had invited all Chief Ministers to participate in that Cabinet meeting. Once a month, there is a joint Cabinet meeting so that there will be interaction between the Ministers and Chief Ministers. It is unfortunate that the Northern Province Chief Minister didn't participate perhaps he is under pressure from his political party. It is obvious the TNA is not ready for compromise.

Q: When the LTTE atrocities, instability, near-anarchy and lawlessness in the country are still fresh in the minds of the people, will Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe's call for a broad front to topple the Government succeed? Could you explain?

A: This is very unlikely. People can still recall the situation that arose as a result of Ranil Wickremesinghe signing an agreement with LTTE Leader Prabhakaran paving the way for the LTTE to possess certain areas under their domination. That situation is well known. I have no doubt that the people will reject that proposal or conception by Ranil Wickremesinghe to form a common front to topple the Government.

Q: The Uva Provincial Council Election will be a test case for the UNP to fight a future Presidential or General Election and as such they have decided to field a young stalwart as Chief Ministerial candidate. What are the Government's prospects for victory?

A: The Government is quite certain of victory. Because the Government has developed the area. It has provided infrastructure and economic development that has been effected is enormous. Education and health services that have been provided to the area is also significant.

The people are aware of these developments. We are quite sure of victory. Whoever is fielded by the UNP will not be able to become the Chief Minister because we have a formidable team of candidates.

Q: The SLMC, a constituent partner of the UPFA has decided to contest the Uva Provincial Council polls alone. Will there be any adverse effect on UPFA's vote base?

A: We also won the last time without much support from the SLMC and we obtained nearly 20 percent of Muslim votes. We have won five Presidential Elections without any support from the SLMC. The SLMC does not mean that all the Muslims are in it. Apart from the SLMC, there are Muslims who will vote for the UPFA.

Q: There is an allegation that the recent clashes at Aluthgama and Beruwala had been blown out of proportion and given a communal outlook by certain parties fishing in trouble waters. Is there any truth in this?

A: That was an unfortunate incident in Aluthgama and Beruwala. It was instigated by certain extremist elements. That should be stopped whether it is Buddhists or Muslim. Th situation was brought to the notice of the people and everybody was alarmed. Because we have enough experience of such turbulent situations and conflicts in the country. People don't expect such a situation again. Everybody turns against such incidents and criticised whoever who was behind that incident.

Q: The CP, LSSP and DLF want the Executive Presidency to be abolished or to dilute its powers through a constitutional amendment. Is there any justification for such a move at this juncture?

A: Many people are of the view that the Executive Presidency is not suitable for the country. But it depends on how that power is exercised by the person who holds that position. My view is also that the Executive Presidency must be abolished because we cannot anticipate who the next person who wields power will handle it.

As far as the incumbent President is concerned, the powers vested in him have been utilised for the betterment of the country. At present a massive development drive is being implemented throughout the country. We are next to China, we are the second fastest developing country in Asia. Prosperity has come in the wake of proper use of powers vested in President Mahinda Rajapaksa. I believe that this is a redeeming factor and is in favour of the Executive Presidency.

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