Housing, Construction and Cultural Affairs Minister and presidential hopeful Sajith Premadasa says he is for ‘maximum devolution within a unitary state’ to resolve the ethnic issue and feels that the current decision-making structure in the country is ‘ad-hoc, disjointed and personality driven’ that has led to the ‘system favouring one segment’ of society over others.
The UNP deputy leader was speaking yesterday at an interactive forum on new media held at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute, Colombo.
“Imperative for the prosperity of a country is a sound decision making structure that results in a positive policy – a process which identifies national policies, fast tracks implementation and has a thorough monitoring process,” he said. “But in our country this structure is ad-hoc, personality and culture driven, disjointed through which these policies favor one segment over all others, that is detrimental to the national interest of the country.”
He said he supports the “maximum devolution within a unitary country, which was our policy stance in the 2015 manifesto.
But to do so we need to eradicate racism from our society, fight discrimination, prejudice, there cannot be zelophobia.”
In reference to new media he said that it can ensure a ‘development paradigm if used for constructive purpose and would play a pivotal and indispensable role in the ensuring the prosperity of the country.”
“Today we are talking of new media, innovation, artificial intelligence, modern technological approaches for solving problems, a gamut of ides that need to be translated into action. We are all too familiar with the sizable gap that exists between the declaratory policy and action policy. We have seen grandiose programs given media publicity, but the implementation of the ideas is very much stagnant.”
He said that the new media has a role in exposing “various indiscretions, corrupt activities, transgression but it is important to ensure that such exposures are based on substance, fact, evidence rather than speculation and character assassination.”
When asked about regulation of social media, he said that the sector is better self-regulated. “If we go to legislate and enact acts through parliament, we will be on a slippery slope. I believe that some mechanism if it can be formulated within the industry through societies with guidelines would be useful,” he said. “Self regulation is the policy that I would encourage, rather than the government proactively intervening and taking restrictions onto their own hands, setting a dangerous precedent.”
He added that while recognizing the beneficial aspect of new media one has to recognize possible detrimental impacts including propagation of false and defamatory, prevent hate speech as a national priority, accounting national security imperatives. “I do not believe on the policy of collective punishment meted out to all for the actions of a few, we need to have a rapid take down approach and appropriate proportionate punishment.”
In making his statement for a ‘new media for a new Sri Lanka’ he said that there would be a surgical approach to governance and will be impactful in ways that can be seen, heard and felt by every citizen.
Referring to the debt trap he said that many are quick to point to our per capita income levels, ‘but if one examines the per capita in debt-ness, it amounts to around Rs. 575000 per head. So as a country we are embroiled in a death trap. In addition we are also faced with the challenges of a middle income trap. One has to design and devise, modern policies that are relevant, applicable and would cater to resolving plethora of problems.”