Play it right - Part II:
Foreign Ministry taking-up issues proactively
Q: Do you think the entire machinery of the Ministry of
External Affairs is efficient?
A: Well, I would say that we are very efficient from what we
were sometime back. Our entire machinery is working towards achieving a
common objective of what the Minister G L Pieris has made out as policy.
We may have short comings. One thing is that the Ministry of External
Affairs does not have many good people and numbers in staff. All the
seniors have retired, there has been no proper succession for sometime
and even the people who are there to succeed are very young.
Of course they have now been given opportunities and more
responsibilities at the level of director generals and directors. You
can see that people are performing well, because there is a very clear
policy agenda that we have to achieve and most importantly team work is
at play. Personally as the Monitoring Member of Parliament assigned to
the Ministry of External Affairs, I can say that there is tremendous
Q: In June 2011 of Business Today too we asked this question,
shouldn't Sri Lanka be more proactive as opposed to being only reactive?
A: We certainly are not only reactive but proactive as well,
but the problem is that the media does not recognise that. If you look
at the media, they have some grouse against the Ministry of External
Affairs. I do not understand why. Perhaps it is the personality.
Therefore, what I would request is that these people who write
critically to write the positive as well.
Ministers come and go. Each government has different ministers of
external affairs or in any other ministry. I feel it is not right to
compare one minster to the other. Personalities differ. But at the end
of the day, if the objectives are fulfilled and if the people of the
country, the President and the government are satisfied then due credit
should be given.
Minister G L Pieirs does a tremendous amount of work. He has
travelled all over the world on behalf of the country. He may now be
physically tired but, he manages, supervises, convinces our friends, our
allies and our enemies at the same time in recognising the actual
position that Sri Lanka is faced with.
This criticism on the part of the media on the Ministry of External
Affairs is not helping Sri Lanka. We are being proactive. In fact it is
because of the fact that we are being proactive that we have come so
far. I saw some articles criticising the President's travelling. People
might think that we are going on joy rides, but we are not. If you look
at the amount of work that the President has undertaken in the
international forum for the last three months, its tremendous.
Where is our problem today? Our problem is with the international
community in terms of the reconciliation and accountability. How are we
going to address that situation? By going and meeting people, by going
to forums, by meeting leaders of other countries, explaining to them
what Sri Lanka has done and showing them the factuality of our post war
In that area we have been very proactive and we have generated the
results that we desire. You can see that the pressure that has been
mounted on Sri Lanka is reducing drastically. But at the same time we
have to be reactive also. We should have a good equilibrium between
Q: Strained relations with countries especially our trading
partners affect the economy as well. It seems like a vicious cycle. How
can we proceed?
A: There has been no adverse affect on our trade relationships
as a result of the human rights accusations or because of the resolution
passed at the UN Human Rights Council. Our relationship with each
country consists of different components, that is the case with every
The GSP petition that was taken up against Sri Lanka was discontinued
and normalcy restored in terms of the US GSP. That is a great
achievement that Sri Lanka has had and at the same time it is a great
recognition on the part of the US in terms of progress that Sri Lanka
We have our free trade agreements with India, Pakistan and other
countries. These relationships work in different ways and it has not
been affected. Of course the global economic situation is such that
there is a retraction of the quantum of trade. But in the Sri Lankan
context, our trade deficit has increased drastically. People are
importing more items like never before.
There has been a 34 percent increase in the credit market. Therefore,
you see an overall progress in the Sri Lankan context. I do not feel
that the international trade and investment relationships that we have
with countries have taken any setback just because of these other
Q: If we look at the country, do you think there are too many
players involved in all areas?
A: I will give you a very personal reply irrespective of any
political relativity. The problem in Sri Lanka as I see, especially the
Opposition parties look at every single matter in a political
perspective and on an electoral basis. This is where we go wrong. If you
take the economy, if you take politically, if you take socially, if you
take any other issue, every single thing is equated to politics.
Through our government's approach, we have brought about long lasting
peace, we have brought about economic prosperity and we have brought
about rural infrastructure development, we have done all of this
regardless of party colours.
We have not differentiated people. But when you look at the
Opposition, when you look at the things that are happening within the
Opposition and those who are opposed to the government for the sake of
being opposed to it, everything is looked at from a political
perspective and criticised from that perspective. We should get out of
Having civil society and business entities in this country, the
personalities of this country should rise up and tell, “whatever it is
right or wrong we have permanent peace now. We don't have terrorism in
this country and economic opportunities are there for people to develop.
Let us recognise that and let us work in that context without
politicalising every single issue.”
If you ask me whether too many people are involved in too many
things, that is a democracy. If we try to curtail that then they will
turn around and ask me, “why is this is a dictatorship, why are you not
permitting these people to get involved and have a more expanded
Therefore, we have proved the fact that we have democracy in
practice. But whether we have to listen to all of those people is
another matter. We have received the peoples’ mandate to govern this
Q: But we end up listening to everyone?
A: You have to listen to people. You have to take on board
what they have to say. But the decision that we make as a government -
people talk in compartments, people talk which is beneficial to
individuals, communities or religious factors - but as a responsible
government we have to look at it across the board so that it will
benefit the whole country at large.
Therefore, democracy remains in Sri Lanka, it is because of the
democratic process that we listen to people. And that is our strength.
Sometimes too many players are good. But you should know when to stop so
that it doesn’t spoil the soup. That is the decision of the government.
Q: What can you tell us about the progress with the TNA?
A: Once again this is a very personal view having been
involved in the process. The fundamental reason that I attribute to the
attitude of the TNA today, and their reluctance to sit down and sort
this issue out, is because we have made critical progress during the one
year that we have had discussions with the TNA.
We have made massive progress in terms of the issues that we
discussed. For over one year we did not just sit and wait, we spoke
about all issues and it is at this last stage where they had to come and
commit to the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC), which has a time
frame of six months, within which time we can conclude all of this, that
the TNA is prolonging the process.
The TNA had to deliver in terms of reaching a final solution and that
is why they are behaving in this manner.
I must say in fairness to certain senior members of the TNA, I have a
feeling that they are also keen to finalise this and to put an end to
this matter. But there is fraction in the TNA that wants to go back to
the ideology of the LTTE and make this process a failure. The failure of
this process will be the starting point for their next struggle.
We have committed ourselves and said we will settle this within six
months. There are 21 different political parties represented in
Parliament. And for us to bring a lasting solution it has to be
inclusive. It is a time bound process and the UNP has also come on
Opposition Leader Ranil Wickremesinghe has met with the President and
took the responsibility to bring the TNA into the process.
The UNP has recognised the genuineness of the government.
To be continued
Courtesy: Business Today