Local farmer earnings going to foreign farmers
By Ranjith Kumara Samarakone
Anuradhapura District UPFA MP Shehan Semasinghe says, the Government is stating with pride that they are importing 500,000 metric tonnes of rice. "Whose money are they spending? The money that should have gone to our farmers, is now going to farmers abroad," Semasinghe said.
Excerpts of the interview:
For the first time in the history of Sri Lanka the two main parties in the country have got together and established a Government. Some people commend it while others criticize it. Why is this?
A: As I see it, these are two parties who have got together for the first time in history, to take the country towards destruction. Only those who hold positions in this country say it is good and not the general public. People are disgusted as their aspirations are not being met. Therefore, I define this as two parties getting together and acting on their own will taking the country towards ruination.
Your party is the Sri Lanka Freedom Party?
The SLFP is a main Party in this and what you are saying is that the SLFP is also to be blamed?
A: For the first time in Sri Lanka the SLFP has joined a front to destroy the country. The other fact is that those who voted for the Betel Leaf did not give us a mandate to join a Unity Government or a Coalition Government. What was given to us was to establish a Government with Mahinda Rajapaksa as the Prime Minister and take the country forward and not to make Ranil Wickremesinghe, the Prime Minister. We did not receive a mandate for that. Hence, the 40 ministers of the SLFP who joined this Government should know this. What they are doing is going beyond the mandate, and engaging in this task.
With the change of President on 8 January, the Government that existed until then, also changed. Even though there was no majority at the subsequent election, the Party which won said, 'we will get together and establish a Government of Good Governance.' Your statement is contradictory to this.
A: At that election the people expected to give a victory to the United People's Freedom Alliance and to see Mahinda Rajapaksa becoming the Prime Minister of the country. However, the present President used his executive powers and as the Chairman of the Party he said for the first time, 'Even if Mahinda Rajapaksa wins he will not be made the Premier'. Then a few days before the election, approximately 72 hours before, he changed the Secretary of the Alliance. Through this the present President created a strong sense of uncertainty among the people. Therefore, it is a lie that this power was not received by anyone; it was our group that should have got the power. However, the President brought the United National Party to power. It was the promise and the gratitude that he owed to the UNP that President Maithripala Sirisena showed at the General Election. We have no issue with his victory on 8 January, however, we have a problem regarding establishing a UNP Government on 17th August.
Generally speaking, do you believe that the two Parties getting together was a good idea or was it a bad idea?
A: These two parties joining and what they are doing is not correct and it is very bad for the country too.
It is often heard, that from the moment this Government was established, the Joint Opposition was focussed on going against the work of the Government. What is your view about this criticism?
A: We voted in favour of Budget proposals that were brought by a Prime Minister who had just 44 members in Parliament. Then the 19th Amendment was brought. We were requested to vote in favour of it, which we did. However, if this Government is not on a correct path, we cannot vote for every action of the Government, when they are wrong. If the Government thinks, that when Bills and Amendments to postpone elections are being presented that we will vote, we will definitely not do so, and will not vote.
We will not vote in favour of things such as an increase in prices of goods and privatizations. If there is a good Bill being presented, we will not hesitate to vote in favour of those. But if they bring in a Constitution that the majority of the country is against and expects our vote, especially while the Maha Sangha and Chief Prelates of Asigirya and Malwatte Chapters as well as other factions say that there is no necessity for such a Constitution, we cannot vote in favour of it. We cannot agree to it, if it is being brought by force to fulfil LTTE Diaspora requirements. Hence, there is no possibility of voting in favour of this dictatorial Government.
What these two or three parties said from way back in history was that this was a nonsensical Constitution and that it should be changed. Why is there a sudden change in the SLFP thinking?
A: What we should find out is whether this Constitution is to fulfil a need of the Sri Lankan people or not. What is being launched here is the agreement this Government had with the LTTE Diaspora and the international Community. Hence, these are not things that have fallen from the sky. Why can't they listen to the Maha Sangha? Today, without religious, race, caste or any other differences the people in this country are opposed to this Constitution. Also another excuse of the Government is 'We have not yet brought in a Constitution. Why are you getting excited?'
Then, what we have to ask is, what did they present in Parliament, as the Interim Report? What was brought in, was the system that will be implemented in the future and the new Constitution that will come into being. The other thing is that, this Government has set a completely wrong precedent. They introduce one Act and give the duration of that Act to the people to go to Court and obtain a verdict. Then, in the worst manner possible, they change that Act completely through Amendments. At the last Provincial Council Election we saw something like that being done. They brought in one Act but what was adopted was another Act. Then we have to question why the Government acted in this manner.
This Constitution does not suit the country and there are many reasons for it. The first is that the United Nations is paying salaries to nine persons who are drafting this Constitution. That is a reason for concern, why foreign groups are interfering in the Constitution of this country.
This news that the United Nations gave money to those who are preparing the Constitution, is it merely a notion?
A: This was something that appeared in all newspapers and not a private notion of mine. When such a thing is published in a national newspaper, if that is wrong, what is the responsibility of the Government?
It is the JO which is often quoted in newspapers. What if I propose that it is a notion of JO party leaders?
A: Even then the Government has a responsibility to issue a statement that there is no such thing. This Government is always looking for short and quick ways. Today the country is faced with many crises. When an answer is not possible, the Government is asking what the problem is, and then everything today has become problems. The aim of the Government is not to hold elections or to implement good governance. The aim of this Government is to safeguard their own power; attack our group including Mahinda Rajapaksa who is providing leadership to the people who expect a change of Government.
If I may ask, personally did you not receive an invitation to join the Government of Good Governance?
A: I am proud to say that from 8 January up to now, no one has asked me to join the Government of Good Governance.
Does that mean you are not suitable?
A: It is possible that I am not suitable, as I am not suitable policy-wise. It is the opportunists who are more suitable for that. The group that is more suitable for that is those who like money and are greedy for posts and from time to time go from here to there and express their opinions. Those who stand for policies are not suitable for this Government.
What if someone said that if your father had lived, he would have joined President Maithripala by now?
A: He got a private invitation. When Maithripala Sirisena became President, he was asked to become the Governor of the North Central Province. But his reply was if you want, you can give my ministerial post to someone else. He said he will work as a back-bencher. The reason was because we are with the people.
The present President is from Rajarata just as much as you. So you should be proud?
A: Neither the present President or the Government has done anything significant and good worth mentioning or to be proud of, on behalf of the country. Rajarata is the area which supplied rice to the entire country. What has happened to Rajarata today?
The Government removed the fertilizer subsidy. However, during the time of our Government, whatever crisis existed, the fertilizer subsidy was provided, continuously for 18 seasons. It was by providing such subsidies that the country was made self-sufficient in rice, then. Today the Government is saying with pride that they are importing 500, 000 metric tons of rice from abroad. Whose money is being spent thus? The money that should have been received by our farmers is going to farmers abroad.
It is true that after this Government was the target of strong allegations. However, some say that the JO should try to make an impact on the Government on this decisive occasion, which they fail to do. As in incidents such as the Treasury Bonds Fraud.
A: It was the JO which initially revealed the Treasury Bonds scam in Parliament. However, the SLFP and UNP Ministers in Government, today, are attempting to say that they are the ones who revealed the theft. They are the ones who engaged in theft.
The people did not expect that. Accordingly, this fraud which took place at the Central Bank and the irregularities had a very severe impact on our economy. The State Minister of Finance has said that the loss due to the Central Bank fraud is a trillion rupees. What other evidence do we need? Next, everyone in this country expected that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe would be brought before the Commission and that he would make a statement. However, on the eve of the Commission closing its findings, the Prime Minister's office issues a statement saying that the Prime Minister will present himself at the Commission and give a statement.
Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe is already guilty regarding the Treasury Bonds fraud in the presence of the 'people's court', even though he has not been found guilty by the Judiciary of this country.
There is no way the Government can escape from these accusations you are making. By implementing the Commission properly some public opinion has been created that can have some impact on the Government.
A: It is good that the Commission was implemented. However, there were several problems in that too. At the final moment Arjun Aloysius said that he cannot give evidence to the Commission. Then Arjuna Mahendran said that he was not a citizen of this country, therefore, he is not obliged to give evidence. Just see the situation our country has fallen into!
A person not responsible to this country and was not even a citizen handled the most important economic centre, the Central Bank, and carried out the largest fraud in Asia and then says he is not a citizen of this country. See the accusation against the Chairman of Litro Gas, it is he who has robbed a bank in Taiwan.
So, it is bank robbers that this Government generated.
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