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
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
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
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.