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Unprecedented development, Sri Lanka now a middle income country:

Let's get together and re-elect President Rajapaksa - Minister Lakshman Senewiratne


Sugar Industry Development Minister Lakshman Senewiratne said President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a strong candidate and the most suitable leader for a country such as Sri Lanka today. We need that leadership even more.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said that those who were clamouring to abolish the Executive Presidency are definitely funded by some outside forces and there was no doubt about that. The only thing that they want to do is to destabilise this country, nothing else.

The Minister said at present the pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora was trying to achieve through peaceful means what the LTTE could not achieve through military means.

They are finding ways and means of destabilising this country and get rid of the strong leadership and bring a puppet leader who will dance according to their whims and fancies.

That is what they have done in some countries. But that would never happen in Sri Lanka as long as President Rajapaksa is in power. No candidate matches the President at all.

The people are aware of the work fulfilled by the President for the people during his nine year tenure. The majority of the people are with the President and they endorse the work done by him.

Q: Now the JHU has resigned from the portfolios held by them. How will it affect the forward march of the UPFA Government?

A: I am telling you a situation when the UNP Government was in power in 1994. At that time Anura Bandaranaike and 10 or 15 SLFP MPs crossed over to the UNP. But the UNP didn't win. This scenario is now the other way around.

President Mahinda Rajapaksa is a strong candidate. If we go to village level, a majority of the people are definitely with the President. When the final results are counted, the vote base of the JHU can be seen.

Another example is the then Secretary General of the UNP Sirisena Cooray who quit the UNP and contested the Colombo district as an independent team under a Bus symbol. But he couldn't get more than 4000 votes from the whole district.

Another example was Srimani Athulathmudali who was a powerful Minister of the then SLFP Government who left the SLFP- led coalition and contested alone with a team of candidates for the Colombo District. But they got only 3000 votes from the Colombo district. These are classic examples.

This is the mistake in this country. If you don't move with the main framework, you are nowhere. You will see the results at the end of the day. The Government is not bothered about the JHU decision. If there are issues they should be clarified within the framework of the system and reach a conclusion.

Q: Do you think there is an urgent need to abolish the Executive Presidency at this juncture as claimed by certain political parties and other groups or is there any hidden hand behind their campaign?

A: Definitely there is a hidden hand. The President is a strong candidate and the most suitable Leader for Sri Lanka today. We need that leadership furthermore.

Those clamouring to abolish the Executive Presidency are definitely funded by some outside forces. There is no doubt about that.

The only thing that they want is to destabilise this country, nothing else.

They brought some proposals three or four weeks ago to abolish the Executive Presidency,and pressurised the Government to do it immediately. Things cannot be done like that.

There should be extensive discussion and then come to some sort of conclusion. They were waiting to bring their proposals and then quit their portfolios. If you take the sequence of events, it shows what happened. It was preplanned.

Q: Don't you think some constituent parties of the UPFA making contradictory statements is a threat to the collective responsibility of the Government?

A: Yes it is. In a coalition these things happen. But all these small parties in the coalition are respected and looked after very well. But from the moment they get away from the mainstream, they are nobodies.

Q: When the Supreme Court had expressed its opinion that the President can contest a third term, what is the rationale behind the campaign launched by the JVP and certain other sections that the President cannot be re-elected for the third time?

A: It shows their stupidity. When the Supreme Court has given an interpretation, that is the supreme legal body of the country. When it gives a ruling, they must abide by that. Some idiots may disagree but the majority and the whole world stands by this decision. This shows their ignorance.

Q: Can the common candidate match the incumbent President. Could you elaborate?

A: Take any of the candidates in the country today. Are they a match to President Rajapaksa? They don't match at all. I don't want to mention names. The country knows who they are. No matter who they bring, it will not work.

Q: Supposing the election is held on January 8, there is only a short time for propaganda activities. What are the Government's plans?

A: The Government will carry out its usual campaign. Most of the Government campaigns have already commenced. The people are aware about the amount of work fulfilled by the President for the people during his nine- year tenure.

The majority of the people are with the President and they endorse the work done by him.

Q: The UPFA's massive development drive itself is evidence of President Rajapaksa's stewardship in making Sri Lanka a middle income country. Could you explain?

A: At present, income levels of the people have gone up. Massive infrastructure development has taken place in the country.

I represent a remote area in the Badulla district. In my electorate, electricity is given to 97 percent of the households. The road network and bridges have been done. There are more things to be done. There is no doubt about that. But the Government has addressed the basic facilities of the people at village level. There is vast improvement in education, health and transport sectors. In addition, the 'Divi Neguma' program plays a vital role at village level to uplift the living conditions of the people.

All this is no match for the Opposition. Budget 2015 is a significant Budget and it has addressed all segments of society. The majority of the issues have been addressed in the Budget. I would like to thank the President and Finance Ministry Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundara for presenting this Budget. The only problem is that the Opposition cannot admit this at all due to their political hypocrisy.

Q: There is a strong NGO- inspired and Tamil diaspora activated anti-Sri Lanka campaign targeting a regime change. Don't you think a change of power at this juncture would dislodge the country?

A: This is what the diaspora and the LTTE want. Today the pro-LTTe Tamil diaspora is attempting to realise by peaceful means what the LTTE could not achieve through military means. They want to destabilise this country and get rid of his strong leadership and bring in a puppet leader who will dance according to their whims and fancies.

This is what they have done in some of the countries. But that would never happen in Sri Lanka as long as President Mahinda Rajapaksa is in power. We saw the huge amount of money spent by some Opposition candidates at the Uva Provincial Election campaign. Where did they get that money from? There are a lot of forces behind them such as NGOs and pro-LTTE Tamil diaspora. There is no doubt about that.

Q: The EU's sense of justice in favour of the LTTE has also given oxygen to anti-Sri Lanka lobbies abroad. Don't you think this is the initial step in a chain of action against Sri Lanka?

A: Of course. We all should get together as Sri Lankans. This is the need of the hour. Every Sri Lankan should get together to protect their motherland. Unite irrespective of petty differences is the only way to protect the interests of the country.

This is the biggest issue that we face right now. We have to do that. No matter what certain people, diaspora and other organisations say, we should get together as Sri Lankans.

Q: The Opposition has asked the President to stay on in power without holding an election for the next two years. Do you think the Opposition is reluctant to face an election?

A: The Opposition can have their say and the Government can have their way. The President has options according to the law and the Constitution.

According to the Constitution of Sri Lanka, he has been given powers to go for a Presidential Election after four years.

That is what he is going to do. The Opposition should be happy about it. Normally Oppositions in other countries love to face elections.

But our Opposition does not want elections. This is the difference and the pathetic situation faced by our Opposition.

Q: After the Uva Provincial Council election results, the main Opposition UNP attempted to portray that the Government's vote base has declined. Is there any truth in this allegation levelled by the Opposition?

A: This is an absurd remark made by the Opposition. We have to accept the fact that there was a slight decrease of our votes at Badulla.

But the Government won the Badulla district. Just because we lost three electorates, it does not mean that the Government has suffered defeat. That is not so. If somebody wants to really see the present situation, I would call him to come to our area. I will show how many UNPers have joined the Government during the last three weeks after the budget. Strong UNPers were joined the Government.

Q: How do you see the lukewarm conduct shown by the Opposition right throughout the Budget debate?

A: It is a sorry situation. The Budget debate is for the Opposition. They don't have to put the blame on the Government. It is their debate. This is the problem with my old UNP friends.

Their problem is that they are not organised. What they are trying to do is that one MP makes a statement on the floor of the House and then calls a press conference.

Then they think that it's organised. That is not so. They don't have anybody at village level to organise the party. This is a pathetic situation.

When I was speaking during the Budget debate on Tuesday, at one time, there was nobody in the Opposition. The Opposition should shown their strength in Parliament. But most of the Opposition members are not even available in the Chamber during the Budget debate.

Q: How do you look at the nine- year tenure of President Mahinda Rajapaksa and its landmark achievements?

A: Some Opposition members in their speeches during the Budget debate criticised Expressways. But we use these expressways. The late Prime Minister Dudley Senanayake laid the foundation for the Colombo-Katunayake highway in 1968 or 1969.

But we couldn't construct it till today and President Mahinda Rajapaksa did it. The UNP couldn't think of even a Galle and Matara expressway.

The President successfully completed that as well. When the UNP was in power in 2003, the then Defence Minister Thilak Marapana and the rest went there and laid the foundation to build the Wellawaya Airport.

They then introduced a bus service from Embilipitiya to the Wellawaya Airport. Buses were also organised from Moneragala to the Wellawaya Airport. I can remember the Opposition at that time the SLFP and JVP put up some boards saying 'Pilots needed'. But the President constructed the Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport.

The Hambantota harbour was a UNP dream. It was the President who made that dream a reality. It is going to be a hub in time to come. We should look at the things that have been done. We need them. A few days ago, the President also laid the foundation stone for the Colombo-Kandy and Colombo-Jaffna expressways.

Where will we be in another five years time? We have to appreciate these things. The entire country has to endorse the initiatives taken by the President. It will happen at the forthcoming Presidential Election.

Q: What is your message to voters at the forthcoming Presidential election?

A: Everybody should get together. If there are any differences, ignore it. Everybody should rally round under a strong leader. President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the only leader we have. Everybody should support him to stabilise the country.

He has stabilised this country.We should not allow anybody to destabilise this country. As Sri Lankans, we should get together and re-elect the President.

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