Internal clashes of opinion from within the Government appear to be emerging as is evident from the conduct of MPs including Ministers of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) and the United National Party (UNP).
Given below are excerpts of an interview with Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne on current topics.
Q: Certain people are saying that at the rate the Government is continuing at present it will not last or stay together for long.
A: What madness? This Government will continue on till 2020. It will even continue on afterwards.
Q: Do you really think that taking into account the shaky situation in the Government at present, it can continue on till 2020?
A: The question however is that even though things may be shaky it doesn’t fall. Certain people follow such things, all the while claiming that it will fall now. This Government will not fall.
Q: You accept that the Government is experiencing a shaky or unstable situation?
A: Yes! There is no Government that doesn’t experience instability. The Government under former President Mahinda Rajapaksa too experienced it. At one time, 17 of us had to go in order to save it.
Q: Today certain members of the Yahapalanaya (good governance) Government are talking of establishing a Government separately. Where now is the reconciliation and cooperation that was there at the start?
A: I am speaking in general. This Government that we formed was formed with an objective. This doesn’t belong to one party or group. We risked our lives and came to form this government. If that was how General Sarath Fonseka, who won the war, was treated, what wouldn’t be done to us. It was with this knowledge that we came out of the then Government. It was with much difficulty that we formed this Government.
All this time, all political parties prepared their election manifestos thinking about their respective parties. Yet, the election manifesto of this Government was made with everyone’s participation. Therefore, we must remember that this Government was not formed with the intention of toppling one party and replacing it with another or changing one head and replacing it with another. We wanted to break free from the shackles of this unequal political system and be rid of it. The pulse of the people is ours too. Today, the Joint Opposition may be labouring under the delusion that they can say anything that will result in the change of a Government.
Q: The Government’s Development (Special Provisions) Bill has been defeated in several Provincial Councils (PCs). What is happening?
A: What has actually happened is that we have arranged for the person who wants to cry to be jabbed in the eye. On the other hand this is a stupid system. In actuality, if such an Act is proposed to be brought and if the implementation of it requires the PCs, then we must initially discuss it with the Chief Ministers. When a new proposal is being brought it must first be put to a debate. It takes about two to three months to do this. Even though there is a slight delay, the awareness raising is of value. Even in this case, if the matter had first been discussed with the Chief Ministers and then arrived at an agreement, things would not have turned out this way. Today, despite it being defeated over and over again, it is being presented further. This will result in the Government becoming a joke.
There is another aspect. That is that if the so -called super Minister is acting in good faith, he will be afforded impunity. Truthfully speaking, I am vehemently opposed to this. Speaking in the same vein, the persons who incorporated such a situation into a draft of a Bill are blithering idiots. Today, immunity afforded to the President has ended. In such a context, how can the judiciary of the country grant Ministers impunity? Is there anyone else to whom the powers removed from the President are to be given to? If so, then he should be someone who is more powerful than the President. There is no such person in this Government. Therefore, we must look into these aspects thoroughly before bringing in such a Bill. Therefore, in my opinion, this Bill should be brought following a broader social dialogue in this regard.
Q: What is your honest opinion about the airport in Mattala and the port in Hambantota?
A: There is no need to say lies. Even today I say that we require an airport in Mattala and a port in Hambantota. Back then, a UNP Government planned to construct an airport and a port in Hambantota. The plans were formulated along with a Canadian company. When the Government fell, all this went to waste. Constructing them is not a mistake. It is correct. However, we must do the right thing only after having prepared the boundaries. Yet, all that these people wanted was to put up boards and open these projects on Rajapaksa’s birthday. How can one operate these? How can one pay back the loans obtained? None of this was looked into. This was the mistake. Apart from this, no interest was taken with regard to establishing a free trade zone around these.
Q: Isn’t this Government trying to resuscitate the port in Hambantota through China by giving them more lands than the previous Government did?
A: No matter who opposes it, the economic zone will have to be constructed now. We can’t wait thinking that these are our ancestral lands. In what country can one do projects without obtaining lands? When the highways were being made, lands were taken. Therefore, for these projects we have to give lands. If we don’t do so, these will forever remain dried up.
Also, these projects are being constructed by Chinese investors. We don’t have to spend money. They are the ones who have to bear the profit or loss, depending on whether it is a success or a failure.