by Nadira Gunatilleke
The UPFA has done a lot for the people during the last eight years. There are landmarks such as ending the war. The people will take into account the macro picture in forming their opinions.
I expect the people to vote for the UPFA in large numbers, said National Languages and Social Integration Minister Vasudeva Nanayakkara during an interview with the Daily News.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: How sure are you of the UPFA winning the upcoming PC elections?
A: The UPFA has done a lot for the people during the last eight years. There are landmarks such as ending the war. The people will take into account the macro picture in forming their opinions.
At the same time, I will not deny that there are hardships for low income earners regarding the cost of living for which I had proposed to the government to provide a ration of essential food items at a low price similar to India.
The President announced in his last budget speech that such a package would be given to low income earners. I hope this will work out in the future.
Q: Why do you think the people will vote for the UPFA?
A: As far as my area is concerned, which is the tea and rubber smallholder area, they get reasonable prices for their products. Therefore, they are getting a reasonable income but they also feel the pinch of the cost of living but they have an income.
Their income is reasonably good at present. Cinnamon peelers too get a good income.
Paddy farmers are not well off because particularly they could not sell their paddy to the Paddy Marketing Board in sufficient quantity.
Therefore, they have to sell their large stocks of paddy at a lower price. But paddy farmers are provided the fertilizer subsidy and all other growers of food crops and even commercial crops such as tea are given subsidies which is a remarkable thing. This has reduced the input cost in a big way which brings a better profit. Therefore, I expect the people to vote for the UPFA in large numbers.
As far as the democratic space is concerned, all of us are certainly concerned that we are continuing to be within J. R. Jayewardene’s constitution and the electoral system which we need to change and we brought a resolution to Parliament to change it with the consensus of the Cabinet.
At least, the Local Government Election Law should be changed. It has not yet been passed. Perhaps some of those who want a large electorate in which they can dominate with their money and muscle power, think it is an advantage for them which is true and to that extent a disadvantage to those who cannot throw money like that and for those who do not have vehicles to move around like that.
Therefore, this proposed law should come into effect and delaying it, is a very bad mark on the government in the state of democratic space.
It seems Mahinda Chinthanaya is overrun by other things which should not happen. Now it is time to refer to the Mahinda Chinthanaya -Vision for the Future. The government brought down taxes on food items which is admirable.
We need to free ourselves from the clutches of certain international institutions and freely exercise our policies. By developing our own independent economy we can get away from the shackles of imperialism. We need to promote agricultural crops which can be grown here. Then we can become self sufficient in food.
The government should extend its fullest support towards this. Marketing should be undertaken by the government and it should also undertake direct import of food items through the CWE. We have done well and we have to do more.
Q: The PCs are accused of not carrying out development work and they blame the government for not granting adequate funds. Comment.
A: It is true that the PCs do not have enough money to carry out development work. The government should provide adequate funds to the PCs. The government directly spends funds from the centre but these funds should be channeled through the PCs.
The PCs should be allowed to decide priorities but this is not happening. The LGs get very small amount of funds. There are no other sources of income. Therefore, the government should grant more funds for the LGs and not for the PCs. They should be given powers so that they can develop their areas.
The Divisional Secretary must be asked to coordinate with the LG body, the elected representative in carrying out the administrative work of the area and the LG body should be empowered to monitor all institutions which comes under the PCs and keep reporting to the PCs. LG bodies and PCs are the bodies which know what is best for them. They are the closest to the people.
If the PCs try to waste funds, we should have control over it. The central government must immediately step in and stop. Without interfering, the government should enable the PCs and LGs to be instruments to carry out development work and funds should be granted to them. PCs and LG bodies should be free to exercise their powers. Projects such as constructing bridges can be given to LG bodies.
The central government needs to intervene when selecting a contractor out of the contractors selected by the LG body. The PCs and LG bodies can make mistakes or even intentionally misuse funds. This needs to be controlled from the central government. The authority should be kept with the Auditor General.
Q: Do you think the Opposition is strong enough to win the election or that a common Opposition (coalition) can be formed with the contribution of your brother to topple the UPFA government?
A: I doubt that the Opposition has the capability of winning the upcoming PC elections. I do not think that the Opposition is capable of forming a common Opposition or a coalition. My younger brother is only involved in a movement that acts to correct certain things in connection with the agricultural sector because he believes that certain things in the sector are being neglected. I do not think that he is connected with any politically motivated persons, parties or groups.
Q: It seems that new strategies, such as human smuggling, are used by anti-Sri Lankan elements to create problems for the country. Comment.
A: Those who oppose the government will try to take advantage of everything and anything available. Some things will be exaggerated by them. They will build connections with certain issues which do not have a connection whatsoever to the relevant issues and make allegations against the government.
Q: What is the role of Sri Lankan political parties regarding national reconciliation?
A: That depends on the ideology of each political party. Some political parties want (in respect of the ethnic issue), Sinhala- Buddhist domination. This is unacceptable for the Christians, Hindus and Muslims.
Some political parties want the isolationism of Tamil speaking people in the North and East rather than a unifying ideology. Other political parties like ours, want a unifying ideology and at the same time, the ideology of devolution of power. But collectively, we will never be able to come to an opinion because I do not know where the UNP stands. The majority in the SLFP are for devolution of power. We have to move forward with the Sri Lankan identity and a unifying ideology. courtesy: Daily News