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Sunday, 9 August 2015

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State media is unbiased

It is not the puppet of the government, says Gayantha Karunathilaka:

Media Minister and United National Front (UNF) for Good Governance candidate for the Galle District Gayantha Karunathilaka believes an increasing number of people are choosing a democratic and genuine political culture, which is a positive sign for establishing good governance. Here, he talks about the January 8 turning point in the country's political history and ensuring media freedom

Excerpts:

Q: The United National Front for Good Governance is campaigning under the United National Party. How was the election campaign in the Galle District?

A: The campaign continues very well in the entire district. We secured victory at the January polls and the same will happen at the General Elections. The decision will be made by the people and we will respect that.

Q: How do you see the public response to your campaigning?

A: I see a very high response. Even at the village level, people were keen on establishing good governance where they will be able to lead a peaceful life. Many people of my electorate who were supporting other mainstream parties joined with us this time. It is very satisfying to see people keen on selecting true democracy and rejecting the corrupt elements in politics.

Q: You campaigned in your area during the Presidential Election as well as in support of President Maithripala Sirisena. After several months, you are campaigning again in the same area for the Parliamentary Elections. Do you see a change in the people's attitudes and demands?

A: Definitely. People made a significant change on January 8. It was a turning point for the country's political history. This time the response is far greater. People who have never voted for us, like supporters of leftist parties and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party have joined hands with us. They were die-hard SLFP supporters previously. That is the major change I experienced during this election.

Q: Civil society and the media are more alert during this election, especially in selecting credible, genuine people and promoting a free and fair election. What is your response to this change, which could be challenging to certain politicians who were used to a certain culture?

A: I feel very content with the change taking place. This is a positive step in establishing good governance in the country. Many media institutions are reporting in a very balanced way. The State media is unbiased and is not the puppet of the government as it was during the previous regime.

Q: You as the Media Minister always emphasised on maintaining a free environment for the media to operate. Do you think the government mechanism will maintain the same free and fair atmosphere over a long period of time?

A: As long as Maithripala Sirisena is the President, Ranil Wikcremesinghe is the Prime Minister and I am the Media Minister, we can promise that media freedom will be maintained.

Q: What will happen to the Right To Information Act?

A: We tried to implement the Right To Information Act even while in the opposition. We hope to expedite the process in transparency in order to eradicate corruption and to steer the country in the right direction.

Q: Discussions were ongoing for a period of time to establish a media policy that will be immune to political changes of the government. Do you think the government will be in favour of this?

A: We as a government will continue to support media freedom. Parallel to our efforts, media personnel must also use it with responsibility and discipline for the betterment of the people and good governance.

The government will never cripple media freedom. Our only request from media personnel is that they also must maintain discipline and professional ethics. It will be supportive towards establishing good governance.

Q: It was reported that you were taking the first steps to settle the payments due for using three official vehicles during the election. Do you think all Cabinet Ministers contesting under the UNF will follow the protocol?

A: For the first time, the Cabinet of Ministers took a decision to implement this protocol to pay if they use their Ministry vehicles. I paid Rs.300, 000 for three vehicles to the Ministry Secretary. I sincerely believe that all our fellow candidates will follow the protocol as it is compulsory. This is a decision of the Cabinet Ministers. There will be no question as to whether to pay or not to settle the due payment for using vehicles since it is compulsory.

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