We Are Against ETCA Agreement – Dr. Nalinda Jayatissa
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview;
Q: Recently the Prime Minister had criticised the media on several occasions and quite recently even a senior minister had verbally abused a journalist. Do you condone with this stance by the government?
A.: The government must keep in mind the mandate given by the people. Ranil Wickremesinghe became prime minister, not because of a power similar to the 5/6th majority obtained by J.R. in 1977 nor Chandrika Bandaranayakes 1997 victory. In January 2015 and August the sole reason the people voted for this government was because they expected democratic restoration from the new regime, and wanted to defeat Mahinda Rajapaksa. A major factor that influenced the defeat of the Rajapaksas was the huge media oppression experienced during their time, such as the killing of Lasantha Wickrematunge, Prageeths disappearance and many more. Not only the Rajapaksa family the media also condemned the behaviour of ministers such as Mervyn Silva, and the media campaigned heavily for a government that would respect the freedom of the press.
The UNP must remember that they came into power simply because the people wanted the Rajapaksa’s defeated and they did not win each electorate and gain power through their own merit. This is something that the president and the Prime Minister should primarily bear in mind. However what we see now is that especially the Prime Minister is behaving in a swollen headed manner and displaying his arrogance in parliament and outside. On several occasions he threatened the journalists in parliament, who questioned him or opposed his views. He even threatened to cancel the licenses of these media institutions as well and now even the other ministers are following in the same footsteps as the PM and threatening the media. This was clearly displayed recently by the manner in which minister Kiriella threatened a journalist who called him to clarify a news report. All these incidents show that the government has not understood that the media that defeated the Rajapaksa’s could easily do the same to them. They should understand this and act in a more acceptable manner.
Q: Secretary to the Special Presidential Commission of Inquiry to investigate and inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, Lacille de Silva was removed from his position recently. Is the current regime now replacing their allies to these positions gradually?
A: I am not aware of the reason as to why he was removed from his position, but even we cannot be content with the manner in which the Presidential commission was conducting investigations in many instances. We expected more transparency, efficiency and effective investigations regarding the complaints that were received by the commission, but it did not happen that way. There is talk within the parliament that during the past Basil and Lasile were best buddies. However we have no clear knowledge of how or why he was appointed to this post. However although there have been large scale fraud and corruption that had taken place in the country, this presidential commission has only focused on petty fraud and corruption, such as a packet of food that was distributed during a musical show or about a letter that was issued by the first lady requesting a house for someone. Therefore even we had concerns regarding the efficiency and pace of the investigations conducted by the presidential commission.
Q: What is the view of the JVP with regard to the ETCA agreement?
A: We are totally against the ETCA agreement. We are not opposed to trade with India, China, Europe or the United States, but through the CEPA or ETCA agreement with India, our countrys economy risks being completely engulfed by India. Further, India will play a huge role and influence our politics and that is what we are against. We have entered several bilateral agreements with India since 1998, but during the past 18 years the trade deficit between the two countries has increased. The Indian imports to Sri Lanka even after 18 years stands at $ 7000 million worth goods, while Sri Lanka has only exported a mere $ 600 million worth of goods to India. If we open up the goods and services market without first uplifting our production capacity, it will have a detrimental effect on the local industry.
On the other hand even employment opportunities for locals will be affected. Even at present India has taken up a considerable portion of our market, such as the garment industry, vehicle, pharmaceuticals, machinery etc. India has even taken over our small scale cottage industry such as the joss stick industry. Therefore without first uplifting the local industry, signing such agreements and opening up the market will only spell doom for the local industry and further ruin Sri Lanka’s economy. Further the country will face a huge problem where qualified labour is concerned as Indians who can obtain qualifications for money will come here and take over our jobs for lesser pay, while our graduates will face grave unemployment issues.
The government promised a million jobs to our youth not to the Indians and this agreement will only be detrimental not just in an economic sense but also politically. Hence we are vehemently opposed to this move and we are ready to join hands with the people and fight against it.
Q: The government made many promises to the people, but today the farmers, unions and everyone are disgruntled with the government. Why in your view has the government failed to address these issues and keep to the promises they made to the people?
A: Even during the elections what the people expected the most was to defeat the corrupt Rajapaksa regime and expected this new government to punish those guilty and restore democracy. However there are no signs of democracy being restored, neither have the real perpetrators been brought to book. Similarly after the 1977 economic policies, today even the economy of the country is almost bankrupt. Since that era, we have gradually killed the production potential of the country and our economy now solely depends on the taxations and foreign loans. All the leaders who ruled from 1977 have adopted this same stance. All our leaders have been following an unrealistic dream.
Even this government cannot deliver on the promise of uplifting the country’s economy. Those promises are nothing but empty pledges. When they cannot deliver on the promises made, to cover their inefficiency, this regime too is now engaged in slashing on the privileges of the farmers, students and government servants in order to cover their failures. This government too is unable to improve the country’s economy and they have failed in their task.
Q: Recently the Foreign Minister had said in Geneva that the government plans to repeal the PTA. What is the JVP’s stance on this?
A: This government promised to repeal it as they came to power. It’s been 6 years since the war ended and the PTA must be removed. However they will need to bring in other laws that will strengthen the country’s security once it is removed, if required. If people are being penalised or suffering due to these out-dated laws, then we agree that they must be changed.
Q: There were reports that some persons had come forward and told the missing persons commission that they were witnesses to the white flag incident and air force bombings of civilians. Are you satisfied with these investigations?
A: The government should have addressed the issue of missing persons as soon as the war ended. The grave mistake that the Rajapaksa regime made was their failure to provide relief to those affected by the war. This government too came into power with the promise of addressing their issues, but so far we don’t see them taking any action to help these people. What is happening now is a mere display to hoodwink the international community and win them over.
Q: The President has visited many countries after assuming power and claims that these countries are ready to help the country. Do you think there will be anything fruitful from these visits?
A: It is a good thing if international investors do come in and bring in technological knowhow to the country. However I feel that the government is exaggerating and creating a media circus to show that great success have been achieved, but I don’t think the success is as big as they are trying to show. I presume this government may be able to get more loans than the previous regime, but I don’t think that much has been done for the Tamil people, neither do I think they have any intention of helping these people.