No One Is Scared Of Rajapaksa Now – Akila Viraj Kariyawasam
The government wants to standardise the education system in the country. Education Minister Akila Viraj Kariyawasam said that it is better to set up high quality private universities in Sri Lanka as that would save foreign exchange for the country and will also generate new opportunities. Kariyawasam said the government has plans to implement several projects to develop the education system in the country.
Excerpts of the Interview:-
by Ashanthi Warunasuriya
- It is not a good policy to shut down all the educational institutions that are coming into
- Sri Lanka. If there are problems then we must take steps to rectify them
- We have faith in the President. He left the party as he was unable to bear the atrocities committed by Rajapaks.
- The government is planning to cut unnecessary costs by holding the election for all local councils at once. Next year, we would be able to hold an island-wide election for all local government bodies
A: If education is to be privatised then we would not be carrying out projects such as distributing free computers and allocating 4.5 Million Rupees for a health insurance. We are not going to privatise education. But while developing state educational institutions, we have a responsibility to take care of the students who are unable to enter government universities. How many students are going abroad each year for further education? That means a lot of money is being taken out of the country annually. But if the government could implement a scholarship system to allow private educational institutions to operate in the country while initiating a system of allowing the students to pay back their student loans during their time of employment, then it is much more effective. This is not only going to save a lot of foreign revenue, it is also going to bring in a lot of employment opportunities for the youth. So we must try to get rid of this island mentality.
Q: What should the government do on the SAITM issue?
A: It is not a good policy to shut down all the educational institutions that are coming into Sri Lanka. If there are problems then we must take steps to rectify them. Many Sri Lankan students have gone to universities in surrounding countries that offer relatively low quality education than Sri Lanka and have become doctors back home. If we take medicine for example we must allow the students who graduate from private universities to sit for the exams that are conducted in government universities. So if they do not possess enough knowledge then they cannot pass those exams. So we must implement a procedure that can be accepted by all. Just because of government backing, we cannot always favour a single sector of the society. We must create new opportunities for our people.
Q: There are rumors about the President planning to set on his own political voyage. Is that true?
A: We have faith in the President. He left the party as he was unable to bear the atrocities committed by Rajapaksa. He has no need to join with those culprits. He is matured politician. All the time he reminds us that we should all work together to implement good governance in the country. So we have made our minds to take on a single journey.
Q: Does this government have a further life span of two years?
A: Not at all. Not only up to 2020, we will still be able to form a government even after that as well.
Q: Is it true that the government is planning to offer a Cabinet portfolio to MP Chamal Rajapaksa?
A: As far as I know these are all rumours made up by the media. But we will be able to see in the future whether that is true or not.
Q: Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has said that they would be stepping out from the government after the second anniversary?
A: The second anniversary has passed long ago. But they were the people who were insisting on continuing with the national government even further. That is why this government is still going on. There could be individual opinions of various politicians. But what matters is the decision taken by the two parties.
Q: People had an illusion that the UNP would be able to salvage the economy. But why have you failed to deliver that hope?
A: We inherited a bankrupted economy. But at the moment we have increased the salaries of government employees by Rs.10, 000 and have given out concessions for various commodities including fuel and consumer goods. We also have started various development projects. The duration of this government is for five years. So we will not be able to show results with in two years. Our plans have been made for five years. We have now created the back ground to transform the Hambantota harbour, which was a white elephant under the previous government, into a global economic center in the future. Due to the economic vision of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe we have been able to perform well. The Mattala Airport is another example for that. Even the Chinese companies have agreed to work with us since we have a proper plan and a vision. With the creation of new jobs, the South is going to develop in a massive scale. With the tax revenue that comes from vehicles, the government has to pay back the loans. We are planning to finish the Colombo, Kurunegala and Dambulla urban development within two years. Already we have started building many factories. Even with the problems we have, our economic agenda is moving forward. Unlike the previous governments, we have the support of many countries including China, India, Europe, the US and Japan. The formal recognition of our president and the prime minister is a good sign of the international support. Our education system would soon undergo revolutionary changes. All these achievements would soon take the country towards our future goals. So the truth is far from what these bankrupted politicians say.
Q: But don’t you think UNP supporters are now disappointed?
A: Soon a large number of employment opportunities will be created. There are problems inside the national government. So we must form a strong government in the next election. For that we must make certain sacrifices. We can no longer place extra burden on the already fragile economy without the backing of revenues.
Q: Why is the government delaying the local government elections?
A: There are problems inside political parties. There are discussions about new legislation. But we must do everything with one voice. There is still a lot of disagreement among minority parties. So we must hold the election after reaching a point where we have the agreement of all the stakeholders. Other than that the government does not have any need to postpone the election. We have had two elections during the past two years. So I think the rest of the elections will be held within one year. The government is planning to cut unnecessary costs by holding the election for all local councils at once. Next year, we would be able to hold an island-wide election for all local government bodies.
Q: But the opposition has alleged that the government is not holding the election out of fear the Rajapaksas might use it to grab power. Is that true?
A: If we were scared of Rajapaksa then we could not have won the Presidential election. Not only his government. We were also able to defeat Rajapaksa in the Kurunegala district as well. There were times when everyone feared them. At that time the white vans were a common sight. The people were oppressed under various ways. But today no one is upholding such politics.
Q: What can you say about the progress of the education service?
A: In 2015 allocations, more has been given for the development of physical resources in educational institutions. Under the ‘The nearby school the best school’ project we have already taken steps to carry out projects in 7000 schools. These projects include constructing new buildings, laboratories, toilets and also improving infrastructure such as electricity and water. Already 18500 of such projects have been carried out to develop the physical resources in schools. We have also allocated a large sum for human resource development. These include, teacher training, computer training, student insurance and many other projects. We have given away over 5000 computers to these schools. We have allocated funds to create scholarships for students with exceptional talents. If we succeed, we can extend these projects into more fields next year. What matters most is to establish a proper procedure. It takes a year or two for these projects to be completed. So after observing the results we could decide what to do next. There are many more policies. But our final goal is to achieve a higher socioeconomic development.