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Move To Privatise State Institutions

– Wasantha Samarasinghe

The Voice Against Corruption movement says the government has no plan to rebuild the economy.Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) member and Voice Against Corruption convener Wasantha Samarasinghe says the government is only interested in filling their pockets and privatising all state institutions. He says now is the time for change in the country and the country needs an alternative. “All intellectuals and honest politicians should now join hands and work together to bring this country out of the terrible situation we are in today. We should not be selling the country to other countries but we should come together to strengthen our country. There is no point in holding up numerous placards and claiming to be doing much for the country. Even the YahaPalanaya promises have proved to be nothing but sketches in the sand,” he added.

Following are excerpts of the interview:

by Thushari Nathaniel

Q.Representatives of the Voice Against Corruption movement last week visited the Bribery commission with regard to complaints lodged by them. What is the current progress of these investigations?

 A. On Thursday as well we handed three complaints to the Anti Corruption unit for investigation. One was in the Airport and Aviation first project second stage an illegal transaction of 119 million has taken place over VAT exemptions. Even the Auditor General has pointed out that this is illegal but it had been done and we have complained about it.

Secondly the Lanka Transformers three  directors have deposited Rs. 3.8 million monthly into their private accounts which is illegal and also it is a misappropriation of state funds. we have highlighted this issue as well. This money had been taken from other companies within Lanka Transformers.

Thirdly, soon after the Central bank bond scam, deputy governors and directors at the Central Bank, increased their salaries by about 110 percent. We believe this is to bribe them without letting the bond issue secrets come to light. For some the salary increase is around Rs. 200,000 to 300,000 increases for eight officials.

These were the complaints we made and what we wanted to highlight was that this daylight robbery is taking place blatantly and the government is turning a blind eye. We stated in our complaint that the huge Central Bank bond scam took place in broad daylight and by failing to take action against these rogues, the government has proved that they are part of this scam and are committed to protecting these rogues. Hence we called upon the Bribery commission to take immediate action to bring those responsible and involved in this scam to book.

 

Q. The JVP was among those who worked to get rid of the previous regime. However, this regime is no different. What next?

A. Even the 2017 Budget clearly amplifies that this government too is incapable of doing anything progressive for the country. This government too has proved that they have no economic vision for the country other than taxing the people and increasing fines and prices of commodities. Hence the only alternative is to establish a mechanism that could take the country beyond this self centered and useless politics. We don’t need a government in order to auction the state institutions. This can be done by mere auctioneers. Hence if that is what needs to be done we can spare the country of all the trouble in appointing politicians and simply hand over the state institutions to auction houses who can very easily do the job. We don’t have to appoint a government and spend on elections and maintaining ministers and vehicles etc. It is far more cheaper to hand it over to these auctioneers who will auction off the state assets and institutions and the job is done easily.

This government has no plan to rebuild our economy. This government too is only interested in filling their pockets and privatising all state institutions. Now its time there is a change in the country and the country needs an alternative. Hence all intellectuals and honest politicians should now join hands and work together to bring this country out of the terrible situation we are in today. We should not be selling the country to other countries but we should come together to strengthen our country. There is no point in holding up numerous placards and claiming to be doing much for the country. Even the YahaPalanaya promises have proved to be nothing but sketches in the sand.

 

Q. With regard to the SAITM issue, the UNP is now of the view that it cannot simply be closed down. Yet the JVP is of the view that it should. Why?

A. Education should not be a commodity that can be sold. It is the right of all in this country irrespective of what class or social standing. Hence it should not be privatised. This is the basic right of all and should not be allowed to be bought by those who have the money and those who do not should not be deprived of their education.

SAITM is not upto par and it is wrong. The parents who put their children to this institution are also wrong. What we want is for the government to stop privatising education. They should close down SAITM not legalise it. But what they have brought in the budget is ways to legalise SAITM. They want this liberal economics for that purpose. They should now stop privatising education and make it available to all irrespective of where they come from, rich or poor.

 

Q. Recently MP Dinesh Gunawardena mentioned in parliament that the democracy of opposition parliamentarians is being suppressed and demands of the joint opposition Parliamentary group are not met. Do you feel the same?

A. As for us we have not had such an issue as we have always managed to raise our voice against what we feel is not done correctly by the government. I don’t know why he said such a thing and why he feels that way. If their democratic rights are being infringed upon then there is a method to address it. They can make a note to the speaker and raise their concerns. Instead of doing that there is no point in just crying about it. However, we have not felt that our democracy has been infringed upon within parliament, But if anyone feels that way, then there is a way to take action against it.

 

Q. He has also said that if things continue in this manner there could be a military coup in the country. What is your thoughts?

A. Well they tried a coup even during the Presidential election but failed. They are masters at it. However, the people defeated them and foiled their attempt. But at the same time this government too is responsible for not punishing those who took part and planned that coup at the time.

They have let them go scot free when they should have been punished. If such a coup happens again and people’s lives are in danger, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe should also be held accountable. They are well aware of the whole plan but have stayed mum about it.

 

Q. What is your opinion regarding the delaying of the LG elections?

A. It is very wrong of the government to keep delaying the Local Government elections. They are depriving the people of the right to elect their representatives without a valid reason. They are claiming that the new system is taking time. Then they should have held the election according to the old system and leisurely formulated the new system later. For the past two years these institutions are inactive as the elections are being postponed indefinitely. This is against the democratic rights and this government too is following in the same footsteps as the previous one.

 

Q. Although the government members boast of pruning down the of powers of the executive presidency, do you think this has happened?

A. This is a game that is being played to hoodwink the people. This is why we said right from the start that this executive presidency should be abolished. Just like establishing mechanisms to ensure the rights of the people of this country, the government needs to bring about proper mechanisms and abolish the executive presidency.

At the same time a proper system should be implemented where parliament has the powers not a single person. This government must take on that responsibility to formulate these mechanisms as this is what they promised the people. But, in the process of trying to implement these changes there are objections and obstacles based on certain individual political agendas. A country’s democracy is manifested through mechanisms that are brought about to create systems that ensures the rights of the people. But, in our country this is a shortcoming, but we need to push in order to correct these shortcomings.

 

Q. The Elections Commission was set up in order to give more powers to the Elections Commissioner and thereby expecting him to be more independent. Has it happened that way?

A. All these independent commissions were set up with that promise. But, there is serious public debate on whether these so called independent commissions in reality do function independently without any political interference. In most of these independent commissions the officials who are appointed are most often put there by political figures in order to safeguard their own interests. What should happen is that these independent commissions should be allowed to function independently. The elections Commissioner too should be allowed to take an independent decision and hold the election even under the older system.

 

Q. The government claims that the country is in a debt trap because of the lavish spending and borrowing of the previous regime. Yet it has been 1 ½ years since the change and is this insufficient time for the government to have made certain changes?

A. There is no point in making excuses. When these politicians take over the country they are well aware of the problems and as such they know the measures that need to be taken to rectify these areas. However, while the country’s debts are skyrocketing and the people are suffering the first thing they did was purchase vehicles for the 58 Ministers at a cost of 7 lakhs per month and at the end of the 7 years the vehicle will belong to the company. Not just that state resources and state funds are being misappropriated. The forests are being cut down using political might.Hence, there is no point in blaming anyone and hiding behind the previous regime’s faults. This government should accept that they have failed and they are not capable of running this country and leave. The government is incapable.

 

Q. The government has through the budget allocated funds for education and to provide TABS and insurance schemes for school children. Is this a good move?

A. There is no protection for the children of this country and there is no point in having insurance schemes without providing their basic rights. The schools have no toilet facilities and no chairs and desks and drinking water. When this is the case what’s the point in giving children TABS when even their basic facilities are still not been given to them? Therefore, it is nothing but another gimmick. This is another joke by Rani lWickremesinghe who once promised the farmers bracelets. This time its TABS. This is all a big joke.

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