‘Govt. going from strength-to- strength’
By Anuradha Herath
Minister of Public Administration Ranjith Madduma Bandara says that there are no clashes between the President and Prime Minister. "Some people are trying to create problems. These two are carrying out their tasks with great understanding".
Will the good governance marriage end by 31 December?
A: This government is continuing from strength-to-strength with President, Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe. There is no question about that. Ministers have said so. Whatever anyone says it will not come to an end. Do not be afraid!
The government is together and Cabinet meets together. However, the election is being contested separately. Is this cheating the people?
A: This is a new political culture. Both sides are working together on behalf of a stable government. People are not familiar with this concept. People were in the habit of seeing a government that took sides and fought with each other. This new culture is something that is difficult for us as well. But the UNP had contested under the elephant symbol and obtained 106 seats.
Nevertheless there are rumours that there are internal clashes between the President and Prime Minister?
A: There are no clashes between the President and Prime Minister at all. Some people are trying to create problems. These two are carrying out their tasks with great understanding. We, of the UNP brought the President into power. Not the members of the SLFP.
So, the President is grateful to the UNP. We know that he is a leader who has gratitude.
Do you say that if the UNP was not there Maithripala Sirisena would not have become either the President or Chairman of the Party?
A: Yes, definitely. It was not the members of the SLFP who voted for him. It was the members of the UNP. It was the independent conservatives who voted for him. There is no problem at all, he and the rest of us work together in co-existence and harmony. Our gratitude to him has not reduced in any way either.
Good governance was established to get rid of fraud and corruption and to regain stolen property. But then all of that has failed hasn't it?
A: No. We have filed 15 cases.
Q: However, 85 complaints that the FCID investigated are not moving, isn't it?
A: Yes, investigations are being carried out. The delay of the Attorney General's Department and the Judiciary had an impact on these investigations. A general case also takes about five years. That is why we are making arrangements to set up special Courts.
At the same time we are working to fulfil the requirements of Judges and the Attorney General's Department and to solve problems that exist. Overall, every Court case in Sri Lanka experiences these delays. My personal opinion is that a Special Court should engage in catching and punishing fraudsters and corrupt persons. Requests are being made by the President to appoint Special Commissions such as he did for the Treasury Bond fraud case of the Central Bank. I think that after this election, the President will do so.
Will the people believe the UNP at the Local Government Elections?
A: Most definitely. We are in a government led by the UNP every day. People know that there is no use of giving local government institutions to anyone other than the government in power. The 'Flower Bud' will be in the Opposition for another three years anyhow. Even after that they will be in the Opposition. The SLFP and Flower Bud are on two sides at present. The UNP trust was seen on the day that nominations were handed over. Supporters of the Flower Bud and the Alliance are nowhere to be seen now.
What are the plans for the elections?
A: The UNP faced elections at all times, very well. After the Local Government Elections on 10 February, the UNP will definitely win 80% of Local Government Institutions. The UNP will win all 10 seats in the Moneragala Pradeshiya Sabha.
The JVP alleges that although there is division, there is no way that this Government can succeed again?
A: The JVP is broken up into four parts today. One is the JVP. The other is Wimal Weerawansa's Party and the other one is the Front Line Party. The JVP is divided into four or five sections although they are on talking terms now. I have nothing else to say about these people.
However, subsequent to the Government coming into power, the cost of living has increased by about Rs 3,000?
A: I think that the increase in the cost of living is the impact of climatic conditions during the past which affected the country. With the dry weather, harvests of paddy and coconut have dropped drastically. The Government has made every effort to provide relief for the people where these items are concerned. We have made arrangements to import rice and coconuts.
Have you talked about importing vegetables?
A: No, vegetables will not be imported. It was the previous government that imported vegetables. Even though the prices of coconuts and rice have increased, the prices of 15 other items have fallen. Dhal which cost Rs 180 is now sold at Rs 130. Tinned fish which was Rs 225 is now Rs 125. A packet of milk powder which was Rs 380 is now Rs 310. The prices of petrol and kerosene have been reduced. A cylinder of gas which was Rs 2,600 is now being sold for Rs 1,400 rupees. People talk only about items where the prices have increased. They don't talk about price reductions. The government has spent a large sum of money to provide these concessions. This is a government that provides relief.
The Report on the Treasury Bond Fraud will be issued on 30 December. Is this a ploy the President adopted to corner the UNP?
A: No. What we are saying is that investigations into this are being carried out publicly. This proves the democracy exists in the country. It is not a problem.What we are saying is if some robbery or fraud has taken place, whoever the corrupt persons are, they should be punished. That is not the problem we have. Now those Commissions have to be appointed on behalf of those who committed massive frauds in the previous regime as well and then action has to be taken.
However, while the possibility to file legal action using the COPE report existed, this Commission was also appointed? Is this to drag on this issue?
A: The COPE report showed that there were many who were guilty. Investigations should be conducted based on this report in the future and the country should be shown who is guilty.
Give me a short answer as to whether a fraud has occurred here or not?
A: We have to inquire into what has happened. It is not suitable to make statements based only on the report of the Commission. That is my opinion. Work at the Commission is being carried out quite independently. We accept what will be presented by the Commission.
Is it because the leader of the UNP Ranil Wickremesinghe has been directly accused in this fraud that you are unable to give me an answer?
A: There is no problem regarding our leader. He is a clean leader. He has not been corrupt during his entire political career. I say that he is not involved in this transaction.
There is an opinion that this accusation in the Treasury Bond case will have a direct impact on the UNP at the upcoming elections?
A: We can see that on 10 February. The UNP will win with an excellent majority.
The people's displeasure is directly targeting the UNP due to its policy of selling off national assets?
A: There are certain institutions that make losses continuously. They have to be maintained using the taxpayers' money. The reason is because millions of rupees have been stolen. There are institutions that the State and private sector have got together to carry on. For example the Hambantota Port. Such things have happened in the world too. We are not selling these off. We have a right which we retain and only then are we carrying out these tasks. It is by doing these things that development will have to be carried out.
Even though you say that, there is a view in society that there is a deal between your leaders and the leaders of the Joint Opposition?
A: I can tell you clearly that our people will come forward and face these criticisms and show that we are not guilty. Now, Mahinda Rajapaksa, his family members and those of the previous government are saying that we are taking political revenge from them.
There is no need to say such things. Everyone knows of the thefts that took place during the past. They have been reported on. The previous government stole 40% of the country's money. There was no development that took place during the past. Industries and agriculture collapsed. The government service was destroyed. This country was transformed into a country that is in debt to the world. Even former leaders of the UNP have not had such accusations levelled against them. It is not so with the SLFP. There were accusations against the SLFP about grabbing lands and everything else made against them. The accusation against us was regarding the Central Bank Treasury Bond issue. Investigations are being carried out very well into it. Just because we were accused we did not remain silent without doing anything. Three of our ministers resigned from their posts. Who were the Ministers of the SLFP who resigned in that manner? Even when they were caught for stealing millions and billions of rupees, they did not resign. When some of them were summoned to the Commission, some were bitten by snakes. Some fled the country. We are not like that. We voluntarily gave up our ministerial posts and faced the problems.
There are charges against the UNP that while keeping individuals such as Ravi Karunanayake in the party, who has powerful accusations against him, the UNP is saying that they are appointing clean leaders to the villages which is a joke?
A: With accusations levelled against him, Ravi Karunanayake resigned from his ministerial post. He sits in the back benches as a general Member of Parliament. Isn't that a characteristic of democracy? The reason is because he has not been found guilty as yet.
We will see in the future how he is charged. Then we will decide what to do. The reason is because there is no country that punishes anyone just because one has been allegedly accused of a crime.
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