We Must Get Access To The Huge Market In India – Harin Fernando
By Camelia Nathaniel
Following are excerpts of the interview:-
Q: The Prime Minister has said that no matter who opposes it, the government will sign the ETCA agreement. Is this the stand of the whole government?
A: The government stand is based on the benefit and development for the country. Some are trying to emphasise on the petty stance that the PM is adamant to do it, no matter who opposes.
All this time when things were done in the country, no one asked the people or consulted them on any of the decisions that were taken such as engaging the Chinese and constructing roads etc. During the past regime they did not follow proper tender procedures and keep parliament informed of all decisions and carry out development programmes in keeping with the laws of the country. They did not get approval of parliament and even in the instances where loans were obtained they did not inform parliament in these decisions and everything was done on the sole consent of the then leaders.
But today the Prime Minister is not taking decisions on his own, nor is he signing these deals secretly. India plays a key role in Sri Lanka’s trade balance and equally important to its import export sector. It contributes 4.5 million to Sri Lanka’s income. India has so much potential and we can easily engage them for the development of this country and make use of this opportunity. India has such a large population and we are at the tip of it, and if we cannot make use of this opportunity to bring in economic development for this country, then I feel it is a very unfortunate situation. The leaders of this country have the best interest of the country at heart and they will do what is best for us and no one need to worry about it.
Q: But those who oppose it claim that this agreement will not create more employment opportunities for the country, but it will probably make Sri Lanka a colony of India. Do you agree?
A: Who are these people who are opposing it and where were they when things were done in the past? They have petty political agendas in their minds. They don’t have the interest of the country, when they criticise us and try to sabotage out efforts. All they want is to be a spoke in the wheel and dismantle the development process for their petty political gains.
The Prime Minister clearly stated that if these people who are opposing it are real patriots, instead of protesting on an agreement which has not even been drafted, they should engage in constructive discussions on the matter, but that is not what’s happening here, instead they are spreading baseless lies, and rumours about an agreement that is not even in existence. There is a huge potential in India and it will be foolish of us not to take advantage of this opportunity, being so close. Some of them who are opposing this are idiots who are doing it out of utter jealousy and for no other good reason.
Q: Has this agreement been drafted yet?
A: No, the Prime Minister has instructed the relevant minister to do a draft based on what has been discussed so far and commence discussions with various groups, including political parties represented in Parliament on the proposed agreement.
What we need to do initially is to get access to this huge market in India and then there is a lot that can be done. There is a high level of creativeness among our people and they can really make good use of this huge market. This will be a golden opportunity for the people of this country and not for anyone else.
Q: The joint opposition charges that the arrest of Yoshitha Rajapaksa and other actions of the current regime are nothing but political revenge. Is this true?
A: I believe that the people should judge if this is a politically motivated revenge or what they did during their time. If this was politically motivated, then we would have arrested them all right after winning the election. But that was not the case and this investigation was conducted very methodically by the police and it took them almost a year to gather the evidence. Further evidence and findings of the investigations were presented to court on over 20 instances and it was after that the arrests were done based on the results of the investigations. Hence this certainly was not a politically motivated revengeful arrest. For the things they have done during their time, these are things they have to face. They are the ones who took political revenge from people like Sarath Fonseka that is why they think on those lines.
Q: Do you think the joint opposition is a challenge to the government?
A: Certainly not. No one in the National Government is affected by them. Like they say, empty vessels make the loudest noise, they are enjoying their moment in the spotlight of the media for the moment.
Q: There are allegations that although the government has been promising many things, so far no development has taken place. Do you agree?
A: I believe that by April-May a huge development drive that will kick off in the country. There are a few areas that need to be streamlined and we are in the process of doing that. We will formulate a winning policy for this country and the benefits of our efforts will be witnessed by mid this year. Some are trying to pull us down by making such statements, but the people will be able to see and reap the fruits of what we have done so far. We are not haphazardly rushing into anything but are in the process of doing things in a proper manner that will benefit the people of this country.
Q: Recently the secretary to the presidential commission was removed. Why was he removed?
A: In fact I don’t have much knowledge about this whole issue and therefore I don’t think I am in a position or the best person to provide an answer or comment on this issue.
Q: The foreign minister has said that the PTA is to be repealed, how soon do you expect it to be done?
A: With regard to the PTA there is no real concern at the moment that it is alarming to the country as such. But the MOD will take the necessary measures in carefully executing what needs to be done. At the moment I don’t think there is any serious threat to the country such as terrorism acts etc. But I don’t think that a country like Sri Lanka which is very strategically located should ever compromise on our security. Therefore we will take our security concerns as paramount and keep a close watch. The MOD will take measures with regard to the PTA.
Q: The President has visited many countries so far and has said that these countries are willing to support Sri Lanka. What sort of support are we expecting?
A: The pledges have been made and it’s a matter of following it up. We need to give the correct proposals and take it further, to which these countries are willing to assist us in these projects. This is what we are doing right now and I believe that by about April/May these things will all fall into place and the money will start coming into the country. It will have a bearing on the economy as well.
Q: There were reports that some persons had come forward and told the missing persons commission that they were witnesses to some of the atrocities carried out against the Tamil civilians. How far have these investigations progressed, and will the government seriously investigate these allegations?
A: With regard to the war crimes, what was said at the meeting was that they will do an impartial inquiry. What the world and the country as well needs is an impartial inquiry. I think conducting an inquiry does not mean that we will be gunning for anyone in particular, but if anyone has gone above their jurisdiction and acted in an unjust manner, that is wrong and they will have to face the consequences. That is the civilised way that any government should work. In any war having an inquiry into allegations is the normal procedure and this is not going to be a witch hunt. If an inquiry is necessary it will be a home-grown solution and will be done impartially.