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Now We Have An Independent Judiciary and Impartial Media – Harshana Rajakaruna

By Camelia Nathaniel

Parliamentarian and Chairman of the Young Professionals’ Organisation of the UNP, Harshana Rajakaruna says Sri Lankan people rejected the nepotism based governance of the previous regime on January eighth. He pointed out that vast majority of the people in the country had to face discrimination during the previous regime, and even the media was not independent and were under constant pressure.  However he said that in spite of a few hiccups along the way, the present government has given a complete array of relief to the public and people are no longer forced to live under fear. There is minimum corruption and he said that wages of the public sector employees have also been raised under the present administration. Speaking to The Sunday Leader Rajakaruna explained his involvement with the young professionals organisation, adding that the organisation where the young professionals are brought together is good for the party as they help in bringing in new ideas that can shape the policies of the party.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

Q: As a young politician of the UNP how do you perceive the past year in terms of change?

A: I think January eighth was a day that was significant for change in the country, not just politically but as a whole. After the presidential election we have seen most of the other areas, be it internationally or culturally, media, judiciary and most other aspects have changed for the better. I think that January eighth was a significant day that paved the way for all these changes.

Also at the August 17, election, we managed to re-confirm it. So far we have been able to have an independent judiciary and also the private media is quite impartial and even the government media organisations are now very independent. In the past I know that most of the private media organisations were trying to maintain independence but they were under a lot of pressure. Most of the state media was entirely manipulated according to the whims of the government. Now in this area too there are positive changes.

 

Q: With the next UNHRC sessions coming up in March next year, what is Sri Lanka’s situation in relation to how far we have progressed?

A: The international pressure is one of the biggest issues we had to handle and the manner in which the previous regime handled the UN was quite unfortunate. Most of the Sri Lankan missions overseas were manned by relatives of the then regime and they were not doing what they were expected and instead were using these missions for their own personal agendas.

However after January eighth one of the biggest hurdles that we have crossed is winning the trust of the international community. Not just the US but we have even won the trust of the other European countries and also China and India. Once again we have entered into the non-aligned relationship that existed prior to the Rajapaksa regime. With the UNHCR matter they have faith in the current regime and they have identified that we have done a lot to secure democracy and human rights and they are looking at us favourably. Not just the last stages of the war it was how the five years after 2009 was handled as well. Now by looking at how things have changed we are in a better position and with the report that was out you can see that the UN has done a lot by way of relaxing their stance toward Sri Lanka, to the point of agreeing to a domestic investigation instead of the international investigation. The report as a result has been quite favourable to Sri Lanka.

 

Q: Although the UNP and the Maithripala Sirisena government made big noise about the corruption and malpractices of the previous regime, after almost a year, so far nothing has been proven and no one has been brought to book. Why?

A: That is a bit of an issue and question that I ask myself as well. But the fact is that there has to be progress and the decisions have to be made faster. However initially there were issues within the bribery commission as well where the investigations were hampered, but now I believe that all these issues have been sorted out and the investigations are going on smoothly.  The process was taking a long time but only now the resources have been made available and the process is running smoothly.

However I must also add that when things are done in the right way it takes longer, but I too hope that they will make the decisions faster and deliver on what they promised the people. The people too are waiting to see what these investigations will uncover.

 

Q: The President visited Jaffna recently and promised speedy resettlement around the next six months. Do you think that the government will be able to deliver on these promises made by the president?

A: I don’t think that we had to face a number of issues and we have been solving them one by one. Hence definitely without a doubt resettlement is a big issue and the Tamil people have the right to be resettled in their own lands. But unlike the previous regime, we have a genuine desire to do this for the displaced people. Even in the case of lands being used for the high security zones, we have assured the Tamil people that we are willing to come to a mutually beneficial agreement that will certainly not be unfair to the people who were displaced.

 

Q: There is speculation that there is a lot of disagreements within the good governance regime and that these have threatened the stability of the government. In your view how stable is this government?

A: Definitely, even among husband and wife living in the same house there are disputes and difference of opinions. So you can imagine the difficulties that will arise when two political parties are working together. But I feel that this has brought out better decisions for the country. When you have two political parties working together you invariably make decisions that are good for the country. The best part is that even though there are some issues between individuals within the two parties the two leaders of both parties are both very mature leaders and they have a very good understanding that is the strength of this government.

 

Q: With regard to the budget, many parties have criticised it claiming that there was no indication of how the government was planning to bring in revenue. Do you see this as a problem?

A: We will have to balance it out. I think that it is a good thing on the part of the people because as the government was willing to hear everyone’s side and we were quite sensible. That is the whole point in presenting the budget and having a debate. It would serve no purpose if we were to present the budget and not listen to anyone’s views on it. We have made quite a number of important changes that will reduce the burden on the people.

However yes we will have to find that extra money and as an immediate measure we will have to cut down on some of the government expenses.

 

Q: Although the government has invited the Diaspora to come here and set up business ventures etc, the red tape has been a deterrent to them.  Do you agree with this allegation?

A: I agree and the whole point in forming a board of investment under Minister Malik Samarawickrema is mainly to make the process a lot easier. We also have a very good chairman as well, Upul Jayasuriya and we are trying to reduce the red tape and bureaucracy. I am also happy to announce that even in my electorate, Gampaha we are going to start a free trade zone. We are having discussions and the process is in motion.

Q: Under this regime, what do you think 2016 holds for the country?

A: I think that 2016 will bring out the results of what we have been exercising and it will be the foundation year for development for the future. We will see a positive improvement next year as some might feel that this year was a slow moving year.

 

Q: With the Local Government Elections coming up in March, do you think that the UNP has done enough to win the trust and the votes of the people?

A: I am positive that we will win the majority of the votes. In 2002 when we had the LG elections we won most of the seats. It is not a matter of who is good or bad but the ones who have the majority in parliament is bound to win. The changes that people have experienced in this period would also encourage them to vote for the UNP.

4 Comments for “Now We Have An Independent Judiciary and Impartial Media – Harshana Rajakaruna”

  1. Upali Jayatilaka

    What an ignerormous, how can you have an independent judiciary in 8 months 0r 4 months. All that you did in January was to remove the chief justice. That did not restore confidence in the mechanism. You followed a mechanism very similar to what Rajapakhse did. 4 months ago what was done for restoration? The golden principles of nepotism were followed by the incumbents in appointing kith and kin and people who have assisted supported, powers that be to get into power. For restoration there has to be transparency and appointments on application and selection on an objective basis from candidates who has both capacity and time on their plates to assist. Not to have a feather in their cap and just attend to collect a sub for attendance without any contribution or participation.

    Restoration has to be objective and mechanisms should be put in place for a systematic clean up like the vetting commission in Kenya. `it should not be a political foot ball game.

    There were positives in all 3 chief justices that received the froth of the executive and who tried to make a positive contribution to the legal system. Neville Samarakoon, Sarath Silva and Mohan Peeris. However, if one does a balance sheet one could say that some actions may have done more harm than good. It takes a decade for a competent committed person to be appointed. Hence there needs to be a system change. Appointment solely on seniority by default does not work. The relevant bodies should be restructured with delegation to others, decentralising and making people accountable and moreover engaging all stakeholders.

  2. NAK

    Like hell we have!!! if so how come Sujeewa Senasinghe is not issued a warrant for absconding for four consecutive court summons? Why is Hirunika not arrested even after she admitted it was she that tried to settle a family dispute which in other words is an admission that she instigted the kidnap.
    If there was an election tomorrow,these jahapalana goondas will have no place to hide!

  3. gabriella

    This Clown is a not only a glaring example of the quality of leadership in Sri Lanka, but the intellectually bankrupt morons that are attracted to politics in Sri Lanka.

    Let us hope, with maturity, he develops a far greater “world-vision” than he currently displays. Sri Lanka already has enough “vacuous” visionaries in parliament. We don’t need another !

  4. Isiirangeen Udarath Wanigasekara

    A good interview

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