Those who don’t belong should leave
By Charminda Rodrigo
United National Party MP Harshana Rajakaruna speaking to Ceylon Today said that Rajapaksa gang members should leave the government at the earliest if they think that they do not belong in the Unity Government.
Excerpts of the interview:
?: How do you see the present political developments in the country?
A: Politically our government is very stable. There is no argument about it. There could be ups and downs when two major political parties get together and form a Unity Government. We are still getting used to it. We know there is a very good understanding between the two leaders, President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. One or two people from both sides are making unnecessary comments, but overall the government is very stable and we are anticipating progress in the year 2017. Many would understand what we've been doing during the first two years in government.
?: UNP backbenchers had met President Maithripala Sirisena, recently. What were the main points of discussion during the meeting?
A: It was a very cordial meeting with the President. We expressed our concerns to the President, also that we want this Unity Government to get stronger and to resolve the burning issues of the country. There was nothing specific that we stressed to the President, but we discussed on political developments in general to strengthen the government. We thought that we should have regular meetings with the President to maintain constant communication with the President.
?: Yesterday the foundation stone was laid to construct a new vehicle assembly line in Kuliyapitiya. The government, at the inception, had promised the people that there would be many investments. However, we do not see many ventures taking shape. What is holding back investors? Is it the government red tape?
A: What we have done during the last one and half years is laying the right and appropriate infrastructure for investors to come and invest capital. Infrastructure doesn't mean road or electricity. It is making the country attractive for investors. After so long we were able to put Sri Lanka back on the investors map. Whether it is foreign or local we need to create enthusiasm or the genuine interest in the hearts and minds of investors. That we achieved during the first one and a half years. We have taken off the many barriers that existed for the investors. Now the people are looking at investing in the country which practices refined politics and principles. This is something that cannot be done in a day or two. Now we have, strong law and order in the country, an impartial judiciary, due diligence in human rights, established media freedom, and have left no room for bribery and corruption. These are some of the important aspects when making investment decisions. We would be able to see the fruits of our labour, for the last one and half years, in the months to come. Yesterday's function at Kuliyapitiya was a good example. There was another opening of a textile manufacturing factory. We are planning to undertake the Southern Development Economic Zone. This is just the start. People would get to see many investments taking shape in the near future. There will be tremendous amount of investments pouring into the country.
?: When talking about the Southern Development Zone the government on 25 November, last year, introduced the Development Special Provision Act. This Act is said to provide for legislative immunity to certain ministers, giving them what are called 'super powers'. What is the real story behind this?
A: Personally I feel that there is no 'super minister' in the making, by the Act. We need an Act to facilitate investors to by-pass much of the red tape or hurdles that exist at present when making a solid investment in the country. Also to have a national policy in many subjects relating to investments and special strategic investment zones. The relevant minister should be empowered to initiate prompt decisions without causing delays in the process. Unfortunately this was not properly communicated to the public as well as the political peers. I admit that we lagged in that department. That paved the way for the Joint Opposition to distort the facts and mislead the people to gain cheap political advantage. Had we communicated properly the situation would have been different. I hope they would understand the real essence of this Act and come to some sort of an agreement after understanding fully the contents of the Act, without seeing it through their politically coloured lenses. This is a repetition of the same provision we practiced when the Mahaweli Project was launched. We have proven, in the past that we are determined to develop the country in the right way.
?: There are rumours, that splits within the UNP are coming to the surface and that there is discontent over the manner in which the Prime Minister operates. Is there validity in the rumours?
A: I am stating this with much confidence, as I am a part of the part, there is no such thing like that. We work as a team. We have a good understanding of what is going on. So do not get carried away by these fascinations.
?: State Minister Palitha Range Bandara had stated that he will give up his position if the Cabinet Minister does not entrust him with responsibilities or powers to work in his capacity. How do you see this?
A: There is genuine validity in the statement of the State Minister. Some Cabinet ministers hold on to the ministries without devolving some of the powers or responsibilities to the relevant State minister. But I also have to say that some of the Cabinet ministers have been generous enough to share their powers. This is not any fault of the government but of individuals.
?: There is another camp, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna under the leadership of Prof G.L. Peiris, to bring back Mahinda Rajapaksa, the former President, to power. Also the former President has vouched to topple the government in the year 2017. So does the UNP feel the heat?
A: Absolutely not. Do you think we should? They would topple their own party which is the SLFP. The UNP is not at any risk. I personally feel that it is an exaggerated day dreaming kind of a thought. If the Joint Opposition thinks that they can topple the government they should first understand the government has a 2/3 majority in Parliament and also that the people of this country do not want to give the country back to a bunch of rouges whom they got rid of, not once but twice, in 2015. People are eagerly waiting to see the performance of the government. That of course we would show to the people in the coming year.
?: State Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils Piyankara Jayaratne resigned just last week. Also there is speculation of other ministers too opting to tender their resignations in the days to come. What is their reason to leave the government just after one and a half years?
A: Yes it's true that one State minister has resigned from his position. These are the same members of the Rajapaksa Government and probably still working as proxies for him. What I personally feel is that they should leave at the earliest if they think that they do not belong to the Unity Government.
?: You are a politician working closely with the grass roots levels in your district and in the electorate. What is the people's perception of the government?
A: Well, people still believe in the government. Of course they are worried about the delay in probing frauds and corruptions of the previous government. We are discussing in depth on the manner to speed up these investigations. It is true that they tend to become suspicious over falsified manipulated reporting against the government, until we tell them what is right from wrong. Other than that they still believe in us and the party.
?: The Joint Opposition claims that they have the majority following of the people at the grass roots level. Is it true?
A: As I said earlier, they are still day dreaming and not ready to admit the reality. There will be no chance for the Joint Opposition at the grass root level. We will see that when it comes to the next election.
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