|thoroughly misled her. We being seniors in
the party did not have a say in the party. Also the PA could not perform well to meet the
challenges and the needs of the country. This worried all of us. It is not that we wanted
to betray the party or even the president. But we had to get out of the party because we
wanted to serve the country," Ekanayake said. Ekanayake joined the SLFP in 1981 and
rose to the position of vice president of the party at the time he quit the party.
By Wilson Gnanadass
Q: What are the reasons for joining the UNP and leaving the SLFP?
A: There are two major reasons. One is of course concerning the
national interest. The other is somewhat personal. Talking of the national interest, I
think I am also going to tell you what all others who have crossed over have told you.
Firstly, I must say that most of the members from the Peoples Alliance (PA) are fed up
with President Chandrika Kumaratunga's way of handling the PA. This is the problem. Now
more than the politicians the people at the grassroots level have got sick of the PA
leadership and what happens is that when we closely associate with her, the people go
against us. We therefore become very unpopular. People are angry because the PA has not
fulfilled anything, especially what was mentioned in the PA manifesto in 1994.
On the other hand, we are also unable to do anything substantial for our supporters.
What affects all of us is the president's attitude. She is never punctual. She always gets
late for anything. Even for cabinet meetings, either she walks in very late or doesn't
come at all. What happens then is that it affects the major decisions that need to be
taken by the cabinet. She was never a good listener. She never wanted to confide in us
either. She always suspected everybody. More than anything she was acting on gossip. This
is what nobody liked.
For the past seven years, President Kumaratunga never changed her style of governance.
It was the same. A good leader does not believe in one set of ideas and styles. She/he
must be able to change according to the need of the hour. But with President Kumaratunga
we never saw this. This is why governance virtually came to a halt. It was not moving.
The other reason for my quitting the SLFP is this. Recently my wife fell seriously ill
and she had to be taken to a foreign country. I took her to Canada on September 5 this
year. At this time, though I planned to go with her I could not due to the political
crisis in the country. But I managed to go on the third of this month. I did not just walk
out of the country but did so with prior approval from Prime Minister Ratnasiri
Wickramanayake. He granted me leave and I informed the president also of my visit. At this
time I did not have much knowledge about the no-confidence motion. Then on the 8th of this
month, the president called me and wanted me to come back to the country soon which I
could not do, because my wife was serious. In fact she is still undergoing treatment in
When President Kumaratunga called me, I asked her when the election was going to be
held. She told me there was no proper decision on it. Then she also told me the vote of
no-confidence may be taken up on 24th of this month. So I was waiting to get the
confirmation. But my party people thought I stayed back on purpose, in order to avoid the
motion. This is not true. The other thing is that some politicians in my electorate,
Matale, wanted to somehow put me out because they knew that I was a very strong member
I rose to this position in politics alone. In the south we have politicians who have a
strong family background. They come from highly influential and educated families. But I
am not like this. So when I was away from the country, these politicians thought of
engineering a conspiracy against me. Also these people started to carry out a mud slinging
campaign against me and I thought I must quit the party and join the UNP especially to
serve the country along with others who had already crossed over.
Q: All those who crossed over say similar things. But why could you not help
mend your party while you were a member of that party? Also, having said that there were
so many lapses on the part of the PA leadership, how did you manage to survive in the
party for seven years?
A: Just like the others, I too managed to survive. We all tried to do
something but failed miserably. We could never approach the president to say what we
really wanted to say. This is where we failed. You see, as I mentioned earlier she was
never a good listener. She had a few people who functioned as official advisors and they,
in my view, misled the president and she believed them more than us. Before coming to
power we had a good rapport with the president. After she became president, the
relationship became strained. We could not see eye to eye.
Q: Why do you think this happened?
A: May be because we came from ordinary families and were not
influential. What the president looked for was English and family background which we
didn't possess. On the other hand, those who had the influence were able to get closer to
her fast. For instance, being the president she should have thought that it was her
responsibility to look into the interests of the entire nation. But she was more concerned
about her own electorate. She is worried about Attanagalla and the Gampaha district. This
should not be the way. Not only the president; there are some other ministers and MPs who
only serve their electorates. Mangala Samaraweera is more interested in Matara district. I
think this is bad.
Q: The PA has won most of the elections after 1994 and we learn that the party
managed to do so fraudulently. But now with the PA members themselves crossing over to the
opposition, do you think the PA could still win elections by rigging?
A: I do not think so. How much can one cheat? Certainly the PA cannot
do this in Matale district. People thought that I was a meraya, a thug. They thought I was
the only person who could stand against the UNP's Alick Aluwihara. True enough. Though I
never exercised thuggery, I did face the UNPers those days. But now we are together. We
will fight the PA together.
Q: All those who have crossed over so far, seem to have some grudge against
President Kumaratunga. What do you think her weaknesses are?
A: She is never focused. For instance, when one topic is taken for
debate or discussion, she jumps from this to another within seconds. Most of all she
wastes time. Not hers but ours.
Q: What are her strengths?
A: She can attract anybody with her charm. She as a political leader
could convince anybody. I think that is a quality that a leader should possess. She has a
good personality. She also likes to help others. For instance when I told her that my wife
fell sick and that she needed treatment abroad, she immediately organised air tickets for
four of us. So in that way she is very understanding.
Q: The PA, understandably has not fulfilled any pledge made in its manifesto in
1994. Do you agree with it?
A: Yes I do.
Q: Don't you think you too must be held responsible for it?
A: Yes, I am also responsible for it. In fact all cabinet ministers
and members of the PA must shoulder that responsibility. Nobody can escape it. We
genuinely tried to solve the ethnic crisis but failed. This is at the very beginning. But
later on some people only tried to pocket money out of the war. This is what happened.
Q: Are you of the opinion Deputy Defence Minister Anuruddha Ratwatte attempted
to earn money out of the war?
A: I do not have evidence. Therefore I cannot answer this question.
Q: Do you think he (the deputy minister) mismanaged the war?
A: There again I am unable to tell you correctly. But of course there
were so many reports published in the newspapers indicating corruption and malpractices in
the defence circles. But I am of course not too sure about all these.
Q: Are you of the opinion that the government took a keen interest in trying to
solve the north-east crisis?
A: At the beginning. But after some time there was a decline of this
interest. Now the people do not believe that the PA government can solve this crisis.
Q: Are you planning to contest the forthcoming election in the Matale district?
If so how are you going to stand against SLFP strongmen like Janaka Tennakoon and Monty
A: It is very simple. They may be powerful but they do not have people
support. The people are with me. These members are not trusted and thereby isolated from
the people. Even when I contested under the PA, the people gave me more support than them.
The only intention of these people was to push me out from the leadership. I have been the
group leader for a long time. Janaka Tennakoon comes from a highly influential family.
Monty Gopallawa is also like this. But he is shrewd. He has pride and he always wants to
be the leader. Now the people of the area know about the characters of these people and
mine. After the presidential election in 1982, Monty being the district leader, ran away
from the area. I was left alone to fight the strong UNPers at that time. Yet I could work
with everybody. Then I reorganised the area with my supporters and other members. Once
this was done, Monty came back in 1983 after winning the municipal council election. Again
in 1988, after the presidential election, he ran away from the area. Then again he came
back. You see, nobody could take up the leadership in this area and do a good job. It was
I who organised the party in this area. Since the PA took over governance, this area was
won in all ten elections under my leadership. The PA could win all twelve wards of the
municipal council in 1997 only in the Matale district and this is a record for your
information. These things happened under my leadership.
Q: The economy under the PA administration has suffered a severe blow. Why do
A: The UNP, when it introduced the open economy to Sri Lanka, had an
idea of what it should do. The UNP had a clear knowledge of the open market system and it
worked well. The PA on the contrary did not have a clear cut policy on any kind of
economy. The PA thought it could manage the economy but failed. We have to admit that the
PA economic policies have not been upto standard. In the PA manifesto we did mention that
there will be transparency and the shortcomings of the open market system would be looked
into and rectified. But nothing of this sort happened. The PA said it would do away with
corruption that came up from the open market system. But I see more corruption now.
Q: How do you see the Sri Lanka Freedom Party being always led by the
A: Let me tell you this first. When the UNP was formed, it was led by
D. S. Senanayake. He was succeeded by Dudley Senanayake. After him the party was led by
Sir John Kotalawela. After him it was Dudley who led the party. After him J. R.
Jayewardene took over. After JR, Ranasinghe Premadasa. After him D.B.Wijetunge and after
him the party was led for a short time by Gamini Dissanayake and now we have Ranil
Wickremesinghe. So within a period of fifty years or so the UNP has had seven leaders. Now
this is a clear indication that there is democracy in the UNP. That means even a small man
can rise up to the position of being the leader. Then take the SLFP. It was
S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike who led in 1951. And after him it was led by Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike in the 1960s. Then the leadership was taken over by Chandrika Kumaratunga in
1994. So within this period we have had only three leaders and all from the same family.
My view is that an ordinary person cannot lead the SLFP.
Q: Do you also feel that the governance of the Bandaranaikes might come to an
end with this election?
A: No I have my doubts. I got to know that there is a move to appoint
Anura Bandaranaike as the deputy leader of the party. And I feel Anura would be made the
opposition leader if the PA is defeated in the election. And he may even be nominated as
the prime ministerial candidate at a future parliamentary election. Who knows?
Q: There is a move by the opposition to bring a no-faith motion against
President Kumaratunga if it comes to power. And the party says the president would be
ousted within three months after they assume power. Would you support this move?
A: It is very difficult to run a government with the executive
president being from one party and the parliament in another. So the best thing is to send
the president home. In any case it would be difficult to work with the president because
she never comes on time.
is normal - BattyJustice Minister and
General Secretary of Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP) Batty Weerakoon, does not believe the
defection of senior Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) members would have a significant impact
on the Peoples' Alliance (PA) at the forthcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for
December 5. He says he sees no major swing to either the PA or the UNP and points out, the
defection of S.B.
Dissanayake may bring an impact only to the SLFP but not to
the PA in general. "Our chances are now good. We now have people with true
commitment. The departure of the dissidents, I must say will not cause any harm to the PA.
Defection is normal. But in this case defections have taken place with monetary
transactions. In whose interest have such things taken place? This is the wrong thing in
politics," Weerakone who was seen clad casually at his ministry told The Sunday
By Wilson Gnanadass
Q: How do you see the PA's chances at the
forthcoming general election?
A: I do not see a swing either way. The opposition may be expecting to
have the normal opposition swing after all the propaganda barrage the UNP has led against
the PA. But I do not see such a major swing even to the opposition. So in that situation I
see that the PA's chances are good. There may not be a major swing to the PA, but the PA
has now stabilised itself.
Q: Would you say the defection of a formidable group from the SLFP will have an
impact on the PA campaign?
A: I do not think so. Certainly, three of the dissidents were key
ministers. Specially one minister had a lot of clout in the inner chambers of the
government. But the other two were not that significant. In fact Prof. G. L. Peiris was
sort of marginalised long before he even realised he was marginalised. And Mahinda
Wijesekara really had no pull from the government the way S. B. Dissanayake or Mangala
Samaraweera had. So really it is not a group that we are looking at. We are looking at one
man who in the last stages of his career in the PA was able to get himself appointed as
the secretary to the SLFP. But of course he got himself appointed solely due to the effort
of President Kumaratunga. In any case, those who went away were not certainly going to
earn any place in the PA in the future because the president had information that
everything that was discussed here within the party was going to the Opposition Leader
Ranil Wickremesinghe. And she also knew that this was going out through G. L. Peiris. This
is why she did not bring him in, into the constitutional matters. So he was disenchanted
for sometime. Then when SB, a man with clout, decided to move out, GL clung on to him. If
at all there is an impact, it would be only to the SLFP as SB has a clout only in the
SLFP. This may in my view not have a major impact on the PA.
Q: What is your personal view about defection?
A: You see, I don't think there was anything wrong in GL, SB or even
Mahinda going on to the opposition side. Because upto now I don't believe any financial
transaction took place. But when the JVP came in and the ministers and the deputy
ministers lost their positions because of the pruning down of the cabinet, then there was
a large pool from which people could fish MPs. And the bait used for this was money. Not
in thousands but in millions of rupees. It is reported that Sumathipala has given all the
money. But I do not believe so. Sumathipalas don't have that much of money. But it is up
to the people to guess. If I look at the politics of the situation I may ask in whose
interest was this done. Or in whose interest did those people cross over?
Q: Various allegations of corruption have been made against the PA dissidents
after their defection, including S.B.Dissanayake's house. Was the government and President
Kumaratunga unaware of these details prior to their defection?
A: You see, corruption is not something that started with S. B.
Dissanayake. Corruption set in to the country after 1977. There was privatisation and in
this setup there was a lot of corruption. That is why it came to be known as crony
privatisation and crony capitalism. So it prevailed in a big way during the UNP regime,
and very few people saw it. But in the SLFP, I do not say there is no corruption but it is
done in a small way and it becomes noticeable. I could say the only government against
which corruption was never a charge was from 1970 to 1975 under Mrs. Sirimavo
Bandaranaike. Talking of SB's corruption, I did not know. I knew that other ministers and
some officials were corrupt but believe me I did not know that SB was corrupt. I did not
even know about his house. But I was not happy about the way he was handling the Samurdhi
scheme. He was handling it like his personal property. I myself was not happy in
politicising this. When he planned to take in thousands of Samurdhi Niyamakes from the PA
through the MPs, I objected to it. I said this was like the UNP time where MPs were given
the task of getting jobs for their supporters. But SB asked for permission only to
politicise this particular thing. He said if this is not allowed, it is the UNPers who
will be benefiting through the Samurdhi scheme. Of course Samurdhi Niyamakes did a good
job. But I don't understand why the Samurdhi recipients were forced to save. You see, it
is those savings that were handled in an autocratic way.
Q: There are counter allegations by the dissidents including on the style of
governance and management style of President Kumaratunga where it is alleged even cabinet
meetings are not conducted properly with the president either being absent or arriving
late. Are these unjustifiable allegations?
A: They say the president is late. But can they say she was sleeping?
She like any other person starts work at 9.00 or 9.30 in the morning. And thereafter she
goes on. We often see her lunch in her office not eaten. About three days ago we had an
appointment at 10.00 in the night. But she came late and the meeting went on till 3.00 AM
the other day. The same day we had the cabinet meeting. And when I went for the cabinet
meeting thinking that I could walk out early, I saw her also there. That means she has
also slept for a few hours like us. The cabinet meeting went on till 12.00 noon. So you
see, these are habits of people. She likes to talk. She is by nature very friendly and she
talks to people unlike other leaders. The other day Mr. Ronnie de Mel was saying how J.R.
Jayewardene used to come about 15 minutes before the Cabinet meeting started. Now in my
view that is dictatorial. But Mrs. Kumaratunga was not like this. She spent more time with
people. Now the person who got the appointment at 9.00 am, may have got a chance to meet
her on time. But the person who got a time at 10.00 am, may not have met the president
sharp at 10.00 am. This is the story. Also I think these are baseless allegations. In
fact, GL, has come to this office (Justice Ministry) in his capacity as the minister of
justice only for seven days. If you want you can ask my officials. He has been operating
from Visumpaya and appointed coordinating officers to function here. Now who are these
coordinating officers? He has also been spending time on the constitution. Now what
happened? What came out of that? Nothing. Have we solved the problems? His contribution I
must say has been virtually nil. Only thing is he brought out a book during his term here
with us. It was good. It was a collection of his speeches. The speeches were collected by
the Ombudsman. Nothing was done in the ethnic affairs matters. Nothing was done in the
national integration matters. But he was a good man and a good scholar. All that I could
tell is that his inaptitude was monumental.
Q: How many candidates does the LSSP hope to field at the election?
A: We do not want to field candidates for the sake of having
candidates. The SLFP is the one that could pull the larger percentage of votes. So we have
asked the SLFP to have the major portion of the nominations. And the SLFP does not think
that we are good candidates. Also nowadays where there is a culture of violence, all
parties want to have men who could counter such violence. So looking at it from that way,
we are seen as a disadvantage as far as electoral pull is concerned. So we have put in
people only where they were very very essential for getting to the PA vote element that
they could get.
Q: Is there a possibility of the PA linking with the JVP before or after the
election to form the government?
A: I can't say that now. I don't think the JVP will come into
government but I hope they won't make the mistake they made last time by joining the UNP
and start whacking the government.
Q: In hindsight do you think the PA benefited from the MOU signed with the JVP?
A: I don't think it was beneficial. But the PA was able to get back to
its original position. We were reminded that we had certain specific commitments. Today
some people even within the PA are talking of a grand alliance and so on. What is this?
This is rubbish. You send parties to parliament not to make grand alliances.
Q: Did you personally support the marriage between the PA and the JVP?
A: There was no such marriage. When Rauf Hakeem walked out of the PA
we were a minority government. A minority government has to work with the opposition.
There were moves to work with the UNP. I myself proposed that the JVP should be brought in
and that is what happened.
Q: What is the PA's campaign theme for the election and what do you hope to
offer the electorates?
A: Firstly it is to end the war. Then reducing the cost of living. How
the real wage could be maintained. And reducing the inflation. We are focussing on these
above mentioned matters. We will tell the people the kind of plan we have to arrest these
situations and bring out a better economy.
Q: What would be the PA's position with regard to the LTTE. Are you for a
negotiated settlement or for a military solution?
A: First of all there must be a political solution. I don't think that
the LTTE is willing to negotiate. At least not with this government, because this
government is not willing to accept their terms. We are willing to negotiate but not on
the terms of the LTTE. The LTTE feels that if the UNP comes to power, there could be some
concessions. But what we have to do is to bring the people into discussions on the
solutions. The moderate Tamils will come in. And Sinhalese who are interested will come
in. You can't have a political solution without the amendment to the constitution. You
can't have constitutional amendments without national consensus. So for that you have to
have a much open method and not the way adopted by G.L. Peiris. He took the draft
constitution to the select committee. This is a closed area; even newspapers cannot report
the proceedings of the meeting. GL took the draft there and kept it for two years.
Ultimately what happened?
Q: How important would the JVP factor be at the election. In your view would it
increase the PA's vote bank?
A: The JVP would not significantly make an effect in the PA. The
dissident votes will go to the UNP. JVP is not a class based party. It is a radical party.
The party is only moving away from us and not looking at us. But the JVP factor is good.
It highlights certain things and it is good.
Samurdhi and Janasaviya - poles apart
"Janasaviya was time bound - Samurdhi open ended - in theory, lasting forever.
Janasaviya had more funds per household - Samurdhi less. Janasaviya - through the
Janasaviya Trust Fund had a complementary develop-ment program implemented through partner
organisations in the NGO and CBO sector, implementing infrastructure, credit, nutrition,
social mobilisation through a participatory process, and a capacity development program
for the partner organisations. Samurdhi tried to do all these things through a vast number
of government servants recruited through a political process," said Development
Consultant and UNP Chairman, Charitha Ratwatte in an interview with Dinesh
Q: What is the current status with regard to the poverty situation in Sri
A: Poverty in Sri Lanka is currently increasing. The number of people
- the percentage of the population living on less than 1 US$ a day is unacceptable for a
country which was only recently classified as a middle income country. The most serious
result of this is the nutritional condition of the nation's children. Infants and pregnant
and lactating mothers are the worst affected by poverty, due to the fact that the long
term effect of malnutrition on children is virtually irreversible.
This is further compounded by the fact that the present Samurdhi program is an
untargeted program and many non poor have been included in the program on political
criteria. Further, a recent survey commissioned by the World Bank also showed that large
numbers of poor families do not have access to the program at all. Overall the position is
Q: Why has this situation gone from bad to worse?
A: Inflation and the increase in the cost of living putting the cost
of basic food stuffs beyond the reach of poor families, the inadequacies of the Samurdhi
program, compounded by the very high administrative costs of managing the Samurdhi
program, and politicisation of the poverty alleviation program are the main reasons for
the situation going from bad to worse.
Q: Are the funding agencies also responsible for the deterioration of the
living standards of the rural poor?
A: We Sri Lankans cannot blame the funding agencies for our local
incompetence and inefficiency. IMF conditionalities are imposed with the consent of the
GOSL to achieve an economic reform process. Getting the process right is a Sri Lankan
Q: Handouts have been a popular method to uplift the living standards of the
poor in South Asian countries, but lately, countries like India have been focusing on high
growth to eliminate poverty. Which strategy should Sri Lanka adopt?
A: Handouts create a dependency and in our system - a political
dependency - which is anti poor, high growth is the way to go, combined with a targeted
support system with a dynamic developmental component to deal with the proven inadequacies
and slowness of the trickle down process.
Q: Elimination of poverty through growth is generally considered as a long term
strategy and the poor cannot wait so long, specially if they are dying of hunger.
Therefore, how should a government address this issue?
A: A targeted intervention aimed at the real poor for the provision of
funds or a supplement of food resources, with a dynamic development component which will
be managed in a devolved manner by local authorities, jointly with local community
organi-sations. Such a program must have a special nutritional component targeted at
mothers of children under three years and pregnant and lactating mothers. This sub program
should use the mother as the entry point.
Q: How different was the Janasaviya programme from the Samurdhi programme?
A: Janasaviya was time bound - Samurdhi open ended - in theory,
lasting forever. Janasaviya had more funds per household - Samurdhi less. Janasaviya -
through the Janasaviya Trust Fund had a complementary development program implemented
through partner organisations in the NGO and CBO sector, implementing infrastructure,
credit, nutrition, social mobilisation through a participatory process, and a capacity
development program for the partner organisations. Samurdhi tried to do all these things
through a vast number of government servants recruited through a political process.
Q: Both these programmes have done very little to eliminate poverty from Sri
Lanka. What type of programme do you recommend for Sri Lanka in the future?
A: I do not accept the position that the Janasaviya Program and the
Janasaviya Trust programs "did very little to eliminate poverty in Sri Lanka."
Poverty elimination is a long term process requiring sustained planned intervention over a
long period of time in positive and supportive policy framework.
The Janasaviya interventions did not have the required time frame, but in the short
term the Janasaviya interventions came up with some superb replicable models which were
crudely copied by Samurdhi and inefficiently implemented in a highly politicised
environment. The vast majority of the partner organisations of the Janasaviya Trust Fund,
such as the Women's Development Federation of Hambantota, through its Janashakthi Bank
network, the Wilpotha Kantha Parshadaya, Arthacharya, Sewalanka, Sarvodaya SEEDS, Mithuru
Mithuro Sansadaya, Sandun Vihara Sanwardhana Padanama, Kundasale Praja Sanva- rdhana
Padanama, Nation Builders Association, Sinhala Demala Gami Kantha Sammenalaya, Manawa
Sampath Sanwardhana Madystahnaya, P.I.D.A. Tharuna Swayan Rakiya Thorathutu Madyastanaya,
Gami Jana Pubuduwa, Sirilak Sahana Sewa Padanama, Samadeepa Samaja Kendraya, Sabaragamu
Janatha Kendraya, Shanthi Nikethanaya, Jaiwa Vivi dhathwa Puhunu Thora thuru Madysthanaya,
Uva Govi Jana Kendraya, Ana gathaya Ape Athe, Saviya Sanwardhana Padanama, Samastha Lanka
Praja Isuru Sanwardhana Man dalaya, Sri Bodhi Raja Padanama, Galigamu Janatha Padanama,
Manawa Parisarika Sanwardana Padanama, Lanka Praja Isuru Sanwardhana Padanama, etc., to
name only a few, are still carrying out their poverty alleviation work.
Even the Credit Fund of the Janasaviya Trust Fund is still disbursing funds to partners
under its new guise of the National Development Trust Fund. So, clearly, from the aspect
of sustainability the Janasa-viya interventions were a success.
For the future, a national government should distance itself from the day to day
implementation of the program - only provide the funds and set down policy -
de-politicised implementation should be the responsibility of local governments working in
tandem with community organisations in the NGO and CBO sector.
The entry point should be through the mother in the family. The resources should be
provided through the mother, by using a smart card, which can be used at a cash dispensing
electronic teller at a commercial bank branch using a personalised PIN number (this is
presupposing that the bank network will have a wide branch outreach which is sufficiently
wired up before this is implemented - and thereby making it possible to eliminate the
current corruption at the disbursement point).
The program will be a development one. Income generating schemes, self employment
schemes, small enterprise in both agriculture, fishery and industry, skills development
programs, through a targeted voucher program, which will enable the poor to access
training programs from providers in the private sector, especially in the field of
computers and information technology, should be the primary thrust. As Mark Mallock-Brown,
the UNDP's administrator has famously said, "Poverty is due to ignorance and the
internet is the answer."
The ILO's 'Start Your Business Program,' the German GTZ's 'CEFE' should be lead players
in this process of enterprise promotion. The disabled, the disadvantage and the sick, who
cannot benefit from the developmental aspect of the program, should be placed on a
separate poor relief program, so that they do not dilute the development thrust of the
program aimed at making the poor self reliant and empowered participants in a globalised
Q: Lastly, what role can the private sector take on to reduce our poverty
levels and support the government of the day, in their efforts?
A: An effective poverty alleviation program is a great opportunity for
business and enterprise. Backward and forward linkages in supplying raw material,
technology, extension services, know how and machinery and equipment for entrepreneurs in
the families emerging out of poverty and the marketing, the further processing, value
adding and export of their products are all possible market opportunities for the business
Private business and enterprise will have to reengineer their business processes to
cater to the demand of the investments being made by the government in the poor. Business
will have to disaggregate their operations and take them out of the south west quarter of
the island where they are traditionally concentrated. They will have to diversify their
dealer and distribution network to meet the new demand for goods and services which the
investments in the poor being made through public fund will generate. Skills development
programs are a very special opportunity, as employable skills will have to be provided to
the poor to make them upwardly mobile in the economy.
The voucher scheme for skills development will be a great opportunity for service
providers in the private sector, especially in the field of computers and information
technology. The government in turn should give fiscal and other incentives of the type
given to disperse the garment factories to remote areas to private sector service
providers in the field of skills development. Infrastructure development will also provide
an opportunity for private enterprise. The program will create a demand and a market for
which the business community must respond.