People in the North should vote for the President - Minister Ranjith
Telecommunication and Information Technology Minister Ranjith
Siyambalapitiya said all the Budgets presented by President Mahinda
Rajapaksa in his capacity as Finance Minister reflected three main
aspects- development, security and welfare. These Budgets must not be
referred to as development- oriented budgets but as people-oriented
Budgets. The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said it
was not only the Budget but all Government programs had welfare measures
and the Government could go before the people without any difficulty.
There is no need for panic or to make a big hue and cry over the Budget.
Minister Siyambalapitiya said the Government was ready to fulfill its
financial responsibility. There was no need for public attention as far
as the Budget was concerned.This is a popular Government that has been
in power for two decades, from 1994. It has not lost a single election
during this period.
The Government secured a clear victory at the recently concluded Uva
Provincial Council Election as well. There is no need to resort to any
gimmics to draw public attention. The Minister categorically said
welfare measures given under the 'Mahinda Chinthana' were accepted by
The Minister said President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the only common
candidate in this country. Because all the political parties such as the
SLMC, CWC, LSSP, CP and DLF are with the President. Who else is not with
the President? This dynamic leader could rally all these political
parties under the UPFA banner. The President brought these victories
because of the Executive Presidency. We have a responsibility to
safeguard these victories for the next decade. Under the prevailing
environment, the need to reduce the power of the Executive Presidency
does not arise.
Q: The Government claims Budget 2015 would be basically a
development-oriented budget since the country has achieved over seven
percent growth in the economy during the last few years. Can you
A: The Budgets presented by President Mahinda Rajapaksa in his
capacity as Finance Minister have laid emphasis on all sectors.The
President never wanted the Budgets to be seen as development oriented
Budgets. We have to look into three main responsibilities which are
security, development and welfare. The President in all these Budgets
safeguarded these aspects. This is a difficult task, but the President
has successfully done it.
A classic example is when the President assumed office in 2005,
former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga's government had
presented a Budget. But there were some differences in that Budget
according to the pledges given in the Mahinda Chinthana.
If the President wanted, he could have continued with the same Budget
for one year. But this visionary Leader didn't do that. He entrusted
upon us a huge challenge of formulating another Budget within a month
reflecting the pledges that he gave the people.
I was the Deputy Finance Minister at that time. Because the President
realised the Budget was the road-map which clearly sets out what the
Government is going to do for the people. All the Budgets presented by
the President during his tenure reflected the three main aspects-
development, security and welfare. Instead of introducing the
President's Budgets as development oriented budgets, it is appropriate
to refer to them as people-oriented Budgets.
Q: The Opposition claim that the Budget is aimed at the snap
Presidential Election and that is why the Government has provided a
number of relief measures to the people. Is there any validity in these
A: There is no hurry for the Government. It is the
responsibility of the Government to get it approved in Parliament on the
proposed Government's income and expenditure for the year 2015. It
should be done before 12 midnight of December 31, 2014. Without
approving that, only two expenditures that can be done by the Government
is to pay pensions and foreign loans.
Otherwise, no expenditure can be done by the Government after
December 31, 2014. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the Government
present the Budget as planned. If the Government wants it can be
presented in October or November. That is the Government's
responsibility and the Government always want to fulfill it.
Every year, whatever election is held in this country. Anybody should
not panic and mix priorities that the Budget has been presented because
of the forthcoming election. It is not only the Budget but also all
other Government programs which contain welfare measures so that the
Government can go before the people without any difficulty. There is
nothing to panic or make a big hue and cry.
The Government is ready to fulfill its financial responsibility. The
Government does not want to get public attention through the Budget.
Because this is an attractive Government. When look at from 1994, this
is a two decades old Government. It has not lost even a single election
during this period. The Government secured a clear victory at the
recently concluded Uva Provincial Council Election as well.Why do we
want to resort to gimmicks to get public attention? I would
categorically say that all the welfare measures given under the 'Mahinda
Chinthana' are attractive to the people.
Q: Do you think the abolition of the Executive Presidency
would assist to solve the current problems of the country without going
for overall constitutional amendments?
A: Certainly not. We can't analyse the Constitution by just
taking a clause. Because it would create another complex situation. If
the Executive Presidency is changed, there are many interconnected
things also to be changed.The second important factor is don't we need
the Executive Presidency now?
I think this is the appropriate time for the need of the Executive
Presidency. Because We ended the 30 year terrorist war by making immense
sacrifices. Over 30,000 lives were lost while 15,000 are disabled.
Nearly Rs.2000 billion was spent to defeat the terrorists over the
past three decades.We defeated terrorism within our country and it is
obvious there are various external forces which attempt to re-introduce
LTTE terror into our country.
According to democracy in our country, there are many political
parties and some of those parties are based on ethnicity. To rally round
all these parties under one banner, there should be a strong leader in
this country. We were fortunate to elect that leader in 2005.
The country gained so many significant victories with the blessings
of that leader. At present the people are talking about a common
candidate. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the only common candidate in
Because all the political parties such as the SLMC, CWC, LSSP, CP and
DLF are with the President.
Who else is not with the President? This dynamic leader could rally
round all these political parties under the UPFA banner.
The President could bring most of these victories to the country with
the help of the Executive Presidency. We have the responsibility to
safeguard the victories gained by us within the next decade. In the
prevailing environment, the necessity to reduce the powers of the
Executive Presidency does not arise.
Q: It is the belief that the sudden lifting of the ban imposed
on the LTTE by the EU would lead to the re-union of disintegrated
factions of the LTTE which would be a threat to national security of the
country. How do you view this situation?
A: Definitely, it would be threat to national security. We
have not yet announced a Presidential Election. When there is talk about
a snap Presidential Election, all Sri Lankans should take into serious
consideration the decision taken by the EU to lift the ban imposed on
the LTTE. I request all Government and Opposition members and the public
to focus their attention on this strong signal that has been given.
Q: There is speculation expressed by the JVP and some other
political elements about the eligibility of the incumbent President to
run for the presidency for the third time. Is there any validity in this
A: There is a poster titled “Mahindata ochchara baya aei” (why
are you so scared of Mahinda). I don't know who has pasted it. But that
is right. Because the constitutional amendment where the President can
contest for the third term was made several years ago.
Nobody opposed the amendment then. During the past, the Opposition
made a huge hue and cry demanding for a national election.
Now the Government is going to give them a national election. Now
they attempt to create a mental delusion by challenging the powers given
in the Constitution. Actually these are childish political arguments.
Anybody has a right to go before the Supreme Court and get an
interpretation on this.
There is no need to paste posters about it. If the Opposition does
not want President Mahinda Rajapaksa, they should give that message to
the people and defeat him at the election. We can see the plight faced
by the Opposition.
They are well aware that there is no Opposition candidate who can
even get close to the President at the next Presidential Election. I see
even right now, they are finding reasons for their future defeat.
Q: A talk about a common candidate and a joint opposition is
still simmering under the carpet. If that comes right even at the
eleventh hour, will it be a threat to the incumbent President?
A: Not at all. As I mentioned earlier except President Mahinda
Rajapaksa, is there any other common candidate in this country? There is
no other leader of the stature of the President who can rally round all
the political parties under a single banner.
Bringing so many political parties which represents different
political ideologies under the UPFA banner is a difficult task but it
has been achieved by the country's leader. Yet another significant
gesture is that all these constituent parties of the UPFA are allowed to
air their views freely and sometimes they are permitted even to bring
their views to international level.
Other than the President, there is no other leader who has the
ability to rally round all these political parties under one banner.
This is the most difficult and challenging task fulfilled by the
President. Except President Mahinda Rajapaksa no other common candidate
will be found in this country. Sometimes the Opposition will find a
nominal common candidate.
Q: After a lengthy period of nearly two and a half decades,
the Yal Devi resumed operations to the Northern most corner of the
island with the infrastructural development activities of the
Government. Will it have a bearing in wooing the support for President
Mahinda Rajapaksa at a future election?
A: I think the Northern people should vote for the President
more than the people in the South. Because they were the people who
faced severe hardship due to the war on terrorism. They were deprived of
everything such as lives, children and property. They lost their freedom
and could not go wherever they wanted to go. They were always under a
veil of suspicion.
At present, the North is getting all the facilities and massive
development is taken place in the North. The Yal Devi is of huge benefit
to them. As the President said Yal Devi is not just another train, it is
significant move to connect the North and South.
The people in the North have a greater responsibility to make the
President victorious rather than the people in the South as they are
getting all what they lost, under the leadership of the President.
Q: President Mahinda Rajapaksa has clearly stated that he is
prepared to abolish the Executive Presidency provided the TNA and pro-LTTE
diaspora drop the dream of forming an Eelam in the Northern province.
Will the TNA and diaspora respond positively to this offer?
A: Certainly not. As we gained freedom after the end of three
decades of terrorism, the Executive Presidency is needed to safeguard
the freedom that we gained. I don't believe the TNA and pro-LTTE
diaspora will ever give up their separatist sentiments. Because even
today these pro-LTTE elements depend on this illogical and destructive
concept of separatism. Such a group will never ready to peaceful
coexistence with the communities. Those who love this country stress the
importance of the Executive Presidency. We could gain all the recent
victories as the Executive Presidency was given to a distinguished
leader of the calibre of President Rajapaksa.
Q: The media had reported that the main Opposition UNP is
planning to present an alternative Budget after the President presents
his Budget. Would you like to elaborate your views on this?
A: These are very childish statements. The UNP as the
Opposition has no right to present Budgets. Otherwise, there should be a
logic behind the argument put forward by the UNP. It is obvious that the
Opposition is in panic over an election.
The UNP was also in power from 2001 to 2004. They attempted to send
public servants home. In the 2004 Budget, the UNP allocated Rs.2 billion
for the voluntary retirement of public servants. They attempted to bring
down the number of public servants to 600,000. The UNP which attempted
to curtail the public sector is today talking of increasing salaries of
1.4 million public servants by Rs.10,000 each. People should realise
that these are just election gimmicks.
Q: The latest strategy adopted by the UNP is to send their
fact-finding missions to public institutions without obtaining any prior
permission. According to you what is the purpose of the UNP to resort to
A: This is a clear testimony on the childish politics
practised by the UNP. This kind of action resorted to by the UNP would
undermine the dignity of Parliamentarians.
A few days ago also, the UNP's fact-finding mission had entered into
a trade union office by force. Finally it led to a clash between the UNP
and the trade unionists.
The UNP during their tenure had planned to sell most of these public
institutions which are visited by them right now. Now they travel by
But if the UNP was in power, Railways would have been privatised. It
is natural various clashes occur when those who introduced a bill to
form a Railway Authority, today shed crocodile tears by travelling in
Such trivial incidents are turned into huge political news by the
media. Parliamentarians have a responsibility to look into public
It should be done in a more systematic manner by following proper
procedure, but then the Opposition will not be in the news. The
Opposition resort to such moves just to be in the news.
Such action undermines the position of Parliamentarians. What is more
important is to exercise the powers given to Parliamentarians in a