The Sunday Leader

We Stick To Our Pledges Despite Obstacles – Mahinda Amaraweera

by Ashanthi Warunasuriya

The two-year agreement between the UNP and the SLFP on the national government shall be extended to five years as the country has to move forward, says Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says. According to the minister, several major development projects are scheduled to commence during 2017/18. He says that it would bring further economic stability to the country.

In an interview with The Sunday Leader, Minister Amaraweera also elaborates on the current developments of the political arena at the first year anniversary of the Yahapalana government.

Following are the excerpts of the interview:

Q:  Oncoming August 08 marks the first year anniversary of the National government. But has your coalition been able to meet the expectations of the people?

A: A year has passed since we had formed the government. Within this year a considerable change has taken place in the society. I cannot say that all the expectations of the people have been met. But amidst thousands of obstacles we have been able to deliver several key promises we had given to the public.


Q: What are these promises?

A: We had a serious problem about the Geneva war crimes probe. During the former government we spoke a lot about this issue. That was one of the major reasons for holding the election earlier than expected. The other fact is that we went to the election at a time the global economy had collapsed. Although the former government was defeated, under the new management, we have been able to get things back under control to some extent.

With regard to my ministry, we were able to get the EU ban on fish lifted. It is something that affects the whole world in general. At the end of the year we expect that the GSP plus ban would also be lifted. So we have achieved a lot of goals. We can be happy about it.


Q: The initial plan of the coalition was for two years. Why have you now decided to extend it to five years?

A: Our initial agreement was dated for two years. But there were so many objections about the smaller time limit of the agreement. Many investors had feared that the government would collapse after two years. That fear had affected a lot of potential FDIs. In addition, many international financial aid organizations had suspected that the government would be split after two years. So they were not confident of our policy. These issues were widely discussed within diplomatic circles. Therefore we decided to lay all the doubts to rest by extending the agreement for five years.


Q:  But why hasn’t there been any sign of development that is genuinely initiated by the Yahapalana government?

A: There was a lapse in the development sector. That is why I mentioned earlier that we are not 100 % successful. But we can be happy that some development projects have started. For example we have started renovating the Hambantota Port, Mattala Airport, the expressways and the railroads. Next year we hope to initiate some new projects.

We have made plans to set up the biggest industrial zone in the country in Hambantota. Proposals have been made to set up a new oil refinery and a cement factory. This is going to create a lot of new jobs. The year 2017/ 18 is going to be a busy year. Most of these projects are being carried out under concessionary loans.


Q: Does it mean that soon the economic hardships faced by the public would be gone?

A:  Definitely. When we go ahead with this development drive it is going to be good for the economy as well. The Dollar rate would soon come down with the financial aid. I expect it to come down to Rs. 130s.

Q: But at present we see a lot of protests conducted by university students and civil society organizations. Aren’t these signs that the government is not going on the right track?

A: No, that shows the level of democracy in the country. At present anyone could raise their voice without fear. We could stop them easily by deploying the military and the police. But that is not our government’s policy.


Q: Even though you claim that democracy has been established why has the government not been able to hold the local government elections?

A: Since the election is going to be held under the new system, the delimitation is still going on. But it will be over by the end of this year. So we will be able to hold the election in the beginning of next year.


Q: The FCID was established in this year. But some have accused that it has only probed charges levelled against the opponents of the government. Is this true?

A: Despite whatever government is in power, if there are any culprits, they must be brought to justice. The authorities are taking all the complaints into consideration. If politicians become corrupted then the whole country will be destroyed. We must put an end to this.


Q: What is your opinion about the shadow cabinet that has been set up by the Joint Opposition?

A: It is a joke. Many have left that cabinet already. Even its leader has left it now. Even little children do things like that.


Q: But they have claimed that they would follow every move of the respected ministers like a shadow to reveal the corrupted deals.

A: Let them expose everything. That is good. Even if there are corrupt persons in the government, they must be brought to justice. We support them in that venture.

Q: Is there any truth behind the rumours that Gotabhaya Rajapaksa is intending to come to politics from the SLFP?

A: So far we have not been presented with such a proposition. Apart from some newspaper reports there are no solid proposals.


Q: Why is the Prime Minister continuously attacking the media these days?

A: I don’t know about that. I saw some reports in some newspapers. I will not uphold any form of media suppression. But there is a need for the media to act in an unbiased manner. Some newspapers are full of fake news and propaganda. They should not be so.

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