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People of Uva Wellassa grateful, politically mature and cannot be fooled :

UPFA victory assured - Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva

Leader of the House and Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva said the people of Uva Wellassa were grateful, politically mature and cannot be fooled by fabricated stories and media gimmicks.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that the UNP was no threat whatsoever to the UPFA at the upcoming Uva Provincial Council Elections, because the people have no faith or confidence in the UNP. There is no vibrant leadership in the UNP and the party is in disarray. People are not blind to go behind a party such as the UNP which will never come into power. People want performance and want to ensure that the party they vote into power will serve the people.

The Minister said it was a forgone conclusion that it is the UPFA that will give development and other needs to the people. The people will not vote for the UNP or any opposition group knowing that the UPFA will come into power. When the UNP was in power, they didnít address the needs of the people.

But the UPFA Government in the Provincial Councils as well as in the Central Government has addressed the grievances of the people and provided necessary remedies to various shortcomings. The UPFA during its tenure was faithful to the people who voted us in.

Q: The Opposition UNP has launched one of its staunchest campaigns to capture power at the Uva Provincial Council Election. What are the UPFAís prospects for victory?

A: It is true that the UNP has launched some form of a campaign. But they will not capture power at all. They launched such campaigns at previous Provincial Council elections as well but were unsuccessful. The UNP is no threat whatsoever to the UPFA. People have no faith or confidence in the UNP. It has no vibrant leadership and the party is in disarray. When they were in power, they didnít address the needs of the people. But in our case, the UPFA Government in the Provincial Councils as well as in the Central Government has addressed grievances of the people. We have provided the remedies to various shortcomings. We have expanded the public service which was shut by the UNP. People remember that and we have done massive development projects, infrastructure development and enhanced the earning capacity of the people. I am confident that the people of Uva Wellassa are grateful and politically mature and they cannot be bluffed with fabricated stories and media gimmicks.

Q: The UNPís choice for the Chief Ministerial candidate is a promising, young politician Harin Fernando who could perhaps muster more support from the electorate. Will he be a challenge to the UPFA?

A: No, not at all. At the last Provincial Council Election, he obtained only 39,000 preferential votes. He got only 59,000 preferential votes at the last Parliamentary Election whereas I got 143,000 preferential votes and Minister Dilan Perera obtained nearly 70,000 preferential votes at the last Parliamentary Election.

He is no match to any of the politicians in the UPFA. He has no wide vote base. Because his party has lost the vote base in that area. In Badulla, there are Sinhala, Tamil, Muslim and Malay voters. Specially in the estate areas, the UNP has lost their vote base.

They have lost their vote base in the villages as well. There is no reason for the people of Uva Wellassa to rally round the UNP because they cannot provide any relief, develop infrastructure or provide jobs. The people are well aware that this party will never come into power.

People are not blind to just go behind a party such as the UNP which will never come into power. People want performance and they want to ensure that the party they vote will come into power and serve the people. It is a forgone conclusion that it is the UPFA that will provide development and other necessary needs to the people.

People will not vote for the UNP or any opposition group knowing full well that the UPFA will come into power. The other thing is that the UPFA during our tenure of office had been very faithful to the people who voted us into power.

Q: Uva is said to be a backward and less developed area compared to the other provinces. Are there any major development projects launched by the UPFA Government?

A: The UNP says Badulla is a poor district which is not true. If you take the poverty indicators, in 1996, there were 43 percent Samurdhi recipients in Badulla district. Now we have reduced it to 25 percent. In 2007 in the Badulla District, there were only 731 private buses, 191 commercial buses, 3005 motor cars, 6045 motor lorries, 3845 dual-purpose vehicles, 18714 motorcycles, 9687 motortricycles, 2068 land vehicles and 107 other vehicles.

The total number of vehicles in the district in 2007 was 44,393. As at 2013, within six years, we can see the increasing number. At present there are 1530 private buses, 599 commercial buses, 8504 motor cars, 12902 motor lorries, 9835 dual purpose vehicles, 48356 motorcycles, 34884 motor tricycles, 4004 land vehicles and 161 other vehicles.

The number of vehicles here is 120,775. The district which had a total number of 44,000 vehicles in 2007 has nearly 121,000 vehicles now. How can the UNP says that the district is poor? People are buying more motorcycles, three wheelers and private buses which shows that the earning capacity of the people has increased and they are economically emancipated.

Every family has at least two mobile phones. Another indicator is that we have provided electricity to 93 percent of households in the Badulla District. Of 100 houses, 93 houses has electricity. They use cookers, refrigerators, washing machines and other electrical items.

The quality of life of the people in the area has seen a significant improvement. Children now study with the help of electric lights. These are practical indicators which show that the district has improved.

Earlier there were 29,000 hectares of paddy land in the Badulla District, now it is 30,000 hectares. The amount of rice we produce is sufficient to feed the people in the district. A kilo of tealeaves is Rs.68.Earlier it was Rs.15 or Rs.20. Earlier a kilogram of pepper was Rs.80, now it is Rs.1200. The Government has given many incentives to potato farmers as well. The Government has ensured a minimum guaranteed price of Rs.80 per kilogram of potato enabling potato farmers in Welimada, Uva Paranagama, Bandarawela, Hali Ela and Haputale to get a good price. The earning capacity has increased due to the vibrant policies adopted by the Government.

The Opposition always says that people have no money and they are poor, but if you go to the villages and farmers, they have money. Many of them even have fixed deposits. People who work hard are well-off in those districts. The propaganda of the UNP will not hold voters.

Q: The age-old problems affecting Moneragala is the scarcity of water for irrigation purposes. Can't the Government consult water experts such as those in Israel to solve this problem?

A: We have already taken measures. In the Badulla district, we have the Uma Oya project. There is excess water during the rainy season and President Mahinda Rajapaksa formulated the Uma Oya project to ensure that excess water in the Badulla District be taken to the Moneragala District.

We are constructing a large bund in Puhulpola in the Welimada electorate through Uma Oya and two reservoirs - Puhulpola reservoir and Dayarabah reservoir which will halt the excess water that flowing from the Uma Oya will be diverted to Alikota Ara in the Moneragala district through a 20 Km underground tunnel. When the water falls to Alikota Ara, there is a high gradient and an underground power station is being built there. We get hydro power and that water is being distributed to the dry zone of the Moneragala district. That will feed several tanks in the Moneragala district which we are renovating. We have addressed that issue. When the Uma Oya project is completed in another two years, about 75 to 80 percent of the irrigation water and drinking water problem in the Moneragala District will be solved.

Q: In this era of expressways, has an expressway connecting Badulla to Colombo being considered?

A: The Government has considered that. The Southern expressway will extend to Pelmadulla. That is already in the process of construction.

Q: Instances of openly violating election laws by candidates have been reported. The deployment of the STF indicates this. Could the people expect a free and fair election in this situation?

A: Of course. Under this preferential voting system, people have inter-party disputes as well as disputes with other parties. There were incidents in all elections which were held earlier as well. But they were minimal. In the Uva PC election, there was only one incident.

It is not correct to say that there wonít be a free and fair election. We will ensure that there will be a free and fair election. We have warned supporters that they must abide by election rules and regulations. But I must say the rules and regulations imposed by the Election Commissioner are too harsh.

Q: Politicians attribute the misery of the drought-hit people to the absence of a water management system by your Ministry. Is there any truth in this? What is the role that your Ministry could play in alleviating their misery?

A: To manage water, there must be water available. Climatic change is taking place the world over, glaciers are melting and temperature levels have gone up. It is not only confined to Sri Lanka. This phenomenon is experienced in the developed countries, less developed and middle income countries as well.

There are floods and droughts from time to time. We canít control drought and floods with water management. But we are building more reservoirs. We have already built the Deduru Oya reservoir. We have a good water supply system for agriculture and drinking water for the Kurunegala district. Now we are building the Moragahakanda and Kalu Ganga reservoirs. When that is done, there will be more water in Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in another two years. The Kalugal Oya in Ampara is being built.

The Yan Oya reservoir is constructed for the people of Medawachchiya and Vavuniya. We canít build reservoirs everywhere, because a large amount of land is used to build a reservoir. There will be displacement of people, animals and forest cover. We have to strike a balance. What is practically viable has been done by this Government.

Q: Droughts are a recurrent tragedy affecting the East, lower Uva and North Central Province. Should not there be a contingency plan to avert such disasters in time?

A: I think the Government has done the preparations to address the drought situation. We should have a stronger contingency plan. The Disaster Management Ministry should look into this issue and ensure that there are sufficient water bowsers and other needs of distributing water during a drought.

Q: Relief measures have not reached the beneficiaries due to inaction and lethargy on the part of bureaucracy. Donít you think our priorities should be to streamline and provide relief to the people?

A: No I donít think so. There was a slight delay to send money to the people affected by the cyclone in Haldummulla in my district. But now we have sent all the money and given dry rations, housing benefits and grants. There are circulars because there are checks and balances when spending state money. Bureaucracy works only within those limits. They canít take decisions disregarding circulars and regulations, as a result there will be delays. But that is inherent to the system.

Q: How do you look at the Oppositionís attempt of fielding a Common Candidate at the next Presidential Election?

A: That is a flop. The concept of a common candidate does not exist. This shows that the Opposition has not mobilized all its forces together. This is another plus point for the Government. I must say that as far as the Uva PC election is concerned, the UNP is bankrupt. They are spreading false rumours. One is that the Provincial Council which is set up in Badulla will be taken to Moneragala. We have no idea of taking the Provincial Council headquarters to Moneragala.

The other thing the UNP says is that the three seats in the Badulla district have been reduced as a result of the Governmentís influence. But the Supreme Court has given a clear ruling on this issue. That is a legal concept which brought down the number of seats in the Badulla district. That happened even in the Western and Uva Provinces previously. But they are suppressing facts and hoodwinking the people that the Government is responsible for reducing three seats in Badulla and taken them to Moneragala. This shows the political bankruptcy of the UNP. The UNP has brought my friend Harin Fernando as their Chief Ministerial candidate. Now I refer to him as 'poor' Harin Fernando. Because he said that he was going to be the Chief Ministerial candidate. But he is not even number one in the UNPís Badulla District list. Number one in the list is Ravindra Samaraweera. He has not been given the due position. Having resigned from Parliament and contesting as the Chief Ministerial candidate, Harin Fernandoís name should be put right on top. This shows the duplicity of the UNP. How can the people believe them?

Q: There is a serious allegation by the Opposition that our foreign service is on the brink of collapse due to political favourites being appointed to diplomatic missions. Your comments?

A: In the foreign service, from time immemorial, some people were appointed outside the foreign service to strengthen it. Specially when the country was facing a situation where the Tamil diaspora and international conspirators were trying to destabilise our Government, we needed people who were faithful to the Government and to the President. That is the need of the hour. I donít think it is correct to say that our foreign service is politicised. There are very good Ambassadors who are outside of the foreign service. T.B. Subasinghe was not a member of the foreign service and he was our Ambassador to the Soviet Union. Malalasekera and C.D.S. Siriwardene were appointed as Ambassadors.

There are instances where people who are outside the foreign service have been appointed. All these appointments are scrutinised by the High Post Committee of Parliament where the Government the Opposition sit together before a decision is taken. There was no criticism from that committee because I am also a member. The committee endorsed these names. Now how can they say that they are not suitable ? The public has a right to submit petitions but there were not many petitions. The High Post Committee is represented by all political parties including the UNP and the JVP. They could have objected to these appointments. They have not done so.

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