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Sunday, 26 October 2014





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Government Gazette

People in the North should vote for the President - Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya

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 people.

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 elaborate ?

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 alleged claims?

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 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 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 claim?

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 such action?

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 train.

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 them.

Such trivial incidents are turned into huge political news by the media. Parliamentarians have a responsibility to look into public property.

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 proper manner.

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