‘No nominations for relations, on principle’
The UPFA will definitely win all three
Provincial Councils (PCs). A massive development has already taken place
in all three provinces due to numerous development programmes launched
by the government. The Opposition is in a very weak position while the
government is strong and receives the support of other political
parties, Petroleum Industries Minister Susil Premajayantha said during
an interview with the Daily News.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: How sure are you (UPFA government) about winning the
upcoming Provincial Councils Elections and what is the government's
strategy to face it?
A: We are confident of victory at the forthcoming PC
elections. We won the Eastern PC by a narrow margin four years ago. We
have ended the conflict in the Eastern Province. After winning the PC
election in 2008, we have done a lot of work under the leadership of
President Mahinda Rajapaksa and under the guidance of Economic
Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa. Many development projects have
been implemented in the Eastern Province to improve the living standards
of the people, irrespective of their ethnicity. A lot of infrastructure
facilities have been developed. Health, education, transport and all
other sectors have been developed.
Over 90 percent of the people living in the Eastern Province are
engaged in either farming or fishing. After ending terrorism, these
people are going about their day-to-day work, and can travel and live
without any fear or obstacle. There are no army barricades or
checkpoints in the area. The main towns, such as, Trincomalee,
Batticaloa and Ampara are given a facelift. Though the chief minister is
a Tamil, he never discriminated against the Sinhalese and Muslims.
Therefore, the UPFA managed the Eastern PC during the last four years
without any problem. The PC administration won the hearts of the
majority of the people in the Province. The next Deyata Kirula
exhibition will be held at Dehiaththakandiya, Ampara and over Rs. 16,000
million is to be spent on development programmes in the area.
Petroleum Industries Minister
The SLMC joining with the UPFA to contest the Eastern PC will become
an added advantage. The majority of the population in the province are
Muslims and the rest are Tamils and Sinhalese. The TMVP is also
contesting with the UPFA. The UPFA will be able to secure over 65
percent of the votes in the Eastern PC according to our calculations.
This time all ethnicities will be united under the UPFA banner to
contest in the Eastern PC. We have completed the reorganization process
of the SLFP and planned special strategies for predominantly Tamil
populated areas. Politically, the UPFA is stable in all three PCs.
In the North Central PC, we completed the Deyata Kirula programme
last time in Anuradhapura. Notwithstanding the drought which is a
natural problem, all other problems in the province have already been
solved and infrastructure facilities provided. We spent more than Rs.
15,000 million last year on developing the area including the
Anuradhapura sacred city. The NCP Council has also done a lot of work in
the province. Therefore, we, the UPFA is confident on winning the NCPC.
In the Sabaragamuwa PC, farmers who cultivate tea and rubber on a
small scale now get a good price for their products. Most of the people
in the area are engaged in agriculture and getting good prices for their
agricultural products. There are no political issues in the PC.
The Sabaragamuwa PC and the central government has done a significant
service to the province and developed infrastructure facilities.
Therefore, the UPFA is confident on winning the election.
Q: The PCs are always being accused for not carrying out any
development work. Comment.
A: Yes, some persons make that accusation. But anybody can
visit PCs and see for themselves how much development work had been done
by the PCs in those areas.
Large scale development has taken place with the assistance of the
PCs and the central government.
This can be noticed if only a person visits these PCs and sees it.
Q: The PCs always accuse the central government for not
allocating adequate funds for them. What do you think about this?
A: The PCs are given funds by the central government under the
recommendations of the Finance Commission. Apart from that, there are
other funds available for PCs. All the Provincial Councillors have been
offered Rs. five million each for development work.
The Economic Development Ministry also offers money for them. In
addition, all line ministries such as Power and Energy, Water Supply and
Drainage, Irrigation and Water Resources Management etc allocate funds
to carry out development projects in the PCs. Developing PCs is a
collective effort of all. It is not a task that only belongs to the
Q: What do you say about not giving nominations for persons
related to politicians and electing chief ministers for the three PCs?
A: The SLFP Central Committee has taken a decision that unless
there is a special case, close relations of SLFP politicians will not be
given nominations. All nomination boards of the SLFP have already been
informed about this decision. They will take this fact into
consideration when selecting candidates. We have not finalizing anything
so far in connection with appointing chief ministers for the three PCs.
All former chief ministers are there at the moment and they will be the
group leaders of their respective districts.
Q: The Opposition accuses the government for various things
including not holding the election in the Northern Provincial Council,
increased crime rate, CoL etc. Comment.
A: The Northern Provincial Council elections will probably be
held next year once de-mining of some lands are completed. At the same
time, all infrastructure facilities such as health, education, housing
etc are being improved now. There is no hesitation whatsoever to hold
this election. President Mahinda Rajapaksa mentioned about this during a
recent interview with a foreign media. When the PC system was introduced
in 1988 all the PC elections were not held at the same time. It was held
only in seven provinces except in the North and East. After that there
were so many lapses in holding PC elections. When I was the Chief
Minister of the Western Province in 1998, the Governor ruled the
Province for eight months without any reason after dissolving the PC and
holding the PC election in April, 2000 (that was after eight months from
the day of dissolving the PC).
The Eastern Province PC election was held after liberating the East.
Many, especially those in the Opposition had already forgotten about
this fact. Holding the election was a real challenge for the government
just after liberating the East. We won it and we developed the province.
On the other hand, the Opposition should praise the government for
holding elections from time to time. Usually, if you do not conduct
elections for four years, you cannot check the pulse of the people. More
than the government, any Opposition in any country in the world will be
happy to face elections before the end of terms. Only then can they tell
everything to the people and win their hearts. Then they can prepare for
the next main election. But unfortunately, the Opposition political
parties in Sri Lanka do not like to face elections. After introducing
the PR system in 1977, there is no room to conduct by elections.
Therefore, this PC election is the only way of testing people’s
reactions from time to time in between major elections.
When it comes to this so called crime wave, one incident hit the
headlines of all newspapers. This shows that at present, the media is
desperately looking for hot news to lead because there is no news like
in the past where daily massive bomb explosions, assassinations of
public figures, killing of hundreds of armed forces members etc, were
reported. Today nothing happens like in the past apart from an isolated
crime. Because of this, such crimes get newspaper headlines. In the
past, no court case hit the headline of a local newspaper.
On the other hand, the government removed all army barricades and
Police checkpoints after ending the war. Human rights activists, groups
and political parties shouted and protested against keeping those safety
measures. But today they can see for themselves how freely all types of
illicit drugs are being transported by roads by criminals without any
trouble and how crimes take place on roads in broad daylight. Now the
Police can detect illicit drugs only if they receive a tip.
Sri Lankan media outlets belong to politicians or to their close
relations. Therefore, local media are biased. Therefore, the public has
no way of finding the truth. The people have the right to know. We
cannot blame journalists for this. No foreign media reports about crimes
or violence like some sections of the local media does.
When the 9/11 incident took place, no media showed blood or broken
body parts. But here is Sri Lanka we can see them freely. It is the same
situation when it comes to websites. Fabricated photographs and stories
appear in them. You can compare the level of journalism in Sri Lanka and
abroad by comparing these journalistic ethics. The mentality of our
younger generation and the mentality of the people who do not have any
connection to any crime can be affected by this unhealthy practice of
the local media. When comparing the statistics on crimes in 2011 and
2012, a decline shows during the past six months this year.
Therefore, the crime rate cannot be measured by newspaper headlines.
There is no doubt about the need to reduce crimes.
The cost of living is not a problem that only affects the Sri Lankan
public. It is a global problem that affects all countries including
developed countries such as UK, USA, etc. Climate change, economic
sanction on Iran, etc are the problems that affect this. Certain factors
are beyond our control. All countries and populations in the world face
this type of seasonal issues.
Q: Do you think that the Opposition is strong enough to win
the upcoming PC elections?
A: The people have full confidence on President Mahinda
Rajapaksa. With all the challenges, still the people can see the
development that has been taken place. Investors are coming. Tourism is
growing. Infrastructure facilities are being developed countrywide.
Roads, expressways, harbours, airports, etc are being constructed. These
are the direct result of the leadership and the policies of the
government. It takes some time to shape up the country’s economy after
30 years of war. Now people are looking forward for the quality of life.
The Opposition is weak. What the Opposition does is taking up a
slogan from time to time. Once it was the price of oil. Everybody knows
that a government cannot adjust the price of oil on a daily basis. The
Opposition has a very limited number of slogans. Drought, crime rate and
z-score were some of them. The Opposition does not have a concrete
argument and especially the leadership to challenge the government. So
what can be expected from such an Opposition?