President’s leadership in combating Covid–19 wins international praise – Minister Dinesh Gunawardena | Sunday Observer

President’s leadership in combating Covid–19 wins international praise – Minister Dinesh Gunawardena

Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, Dinesh Gunawardena, said the international community has commended and appreciated the leadership given by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to the program launched to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. They have also extended their support in all forms including financial assistance and medical equipment that Sri Lanka needs at this moment. In an interview with the Sunday Observer, Minister Gunawardena said this is mainly because the international community has understood the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka and the initiatives taken by the Government to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Minister said that amid the Covid-19 outbreak, we see today, the relaxation that is taking place guided by the health authorities.

Therefore, the resumption of economic activities, production and other sectors has begun. Sri Lanka is moving to a timetable. This is why our society and the international community have realised that and come forward to support us to emerge from this crisis.

Q: Do you see the Opposition’s continuous call to reconvene Parliament as a move to sabotage the Government’s anti-coronavirus campaign?

A: Since its inception, the Government’s campaign to combat the Covid-19 pandemic led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has been able to save hundreds and thousands of lives in the country. It paved the way to prevent a serious catastrophe that could have engulfed the country.

The program was not only supported by political groups in the Government but also officially supported by the Opposition at the initial stage and all sections of the society in each part of the country. Later, the attempt of the Opposition which failed in February by not supporting the Supplementary Estimate before the dissolution, tried to sabotage the whole process of not only the Government but also of society and the country in general, asking for a dissolved Parliament to be reconvened.

Q: The Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB), the Centre for Policy Alternatives and journalist Victor Ivan have filed fundamental rights petitions at the Supreme Court challenging the Gazette notification issued by the Election Commission to conduct elections on June 20 and the Gazette notification issued to dissolve Parliament. What are your comments on these issues?

A: The matter is before the Supreme Court and it is up to them to decide and they have already begun proceedings. I don’t wish to comment on what the Supreme Court could decide on the matter. But anyone could seek an interpretation and file petitions in different courts in the country on different matters. However, all of us including the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) and our Alliance, opposition political parties including the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB) have already signed nominations to face an election. The election will be conducted by the Election Commission. Our position is that the Election Commission must proceed to hold all elections on the date they could decide on.

Q: Some Government lawmakers say that there is a deliberate move on the part of the Opposition to postpone the elections. Does it mean they are not in a position to face the election due to their internal clashes?

A: It is very clear that the Opposition is split, especially, the main Opposition party, the UNP. Their defeat is imminent not only as the UNP but also as an Alliance. After the defeat they faced on November 16 last year, they have not been able to make any headway or have a new political trend up to now. They are well aware of the defeat they would face at the upcoming General Election. However, democratic Sri Lanka and its people expect all to go to polls and elect a new Parliament on Election Day.

Q: President Gotabaya Rajapaksa in his address at the National War Heroes’ Monument, Battaramulla, on May 19 said that he will not allow anyone to exert undue pressure on the country’s war heroes or harass them and also assured he will not hesitate to withdraw Sri Lanka from any international body or organization which continuously targets the country and its war heroes using baseless allegations. Could you explain?

A: The President has made a very clear statement regarding his stand. The country has given him a mandate to defend our sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and our war heroes. We defeated the world’s most barbaric terrorist organisation which was proscribed by the international community.

The defeat of the LTTE was welcomed by all democratic crusaders. Therefore, democracy has to be protected by all for the pursuance of such a policy and to maintain respect for the security forces that defended the country and her people.

Q: Even though we commemorated 11 years of war victory against the LTTE terrorists, we could still see that pro-LTTE elements in the North have not given up their separatist ideology and they also commemorated those who died in the terrorist war. How do you look at this situation?

A: At present, the people in the North are enjoying vast development progress and democratic rights. The Local Government Elections that were held showed that they want their elected representatives at local level to participate in the national process of development. Their leaders betrayed them when they voted for the Provincial Council Amendment which has up to now scuttled their right to elect the Provincial Council. As for the northern people, they could have extremists but they are very small in number. Every country has such extremists. Even the most advanced countries that have a high level of democratic rights have also faced similar situations. Even Paris, Brussels and Europe have faced this situation over the last 18 months. Therefore, we will also have some extremists but the majority doesn’t approve of this extremism taking place to disrupt our life.

Q: The international community has commended the moves taken by the Government under the leadership of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to contain the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Would you like to comment on this?

A: Very clearly, the international community has commended and appreciated the leadership given by the President towards the program launched to combat the Covid-19 pandemic in the country. Not only that, they have also extended support in all forms including financial assistance and medical equipment that Sri Lanka needs at this moment.

This is mainly because they have understood the prevailing situation in Sri Lanka and the initiatives taken by the Government to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Those countries have also understood the situation across the world and they have witnessed the significant progress achieved by Sri Lanka in combating the Covid-19 pandemic.

Q: The Government is gradually easing Covid-19 counter measures to resume work in state and private sector institutions and other business enterprises, in keeping with the guidelines issued by the health authorities. How long would it take to turn the situation in the country to normalcy?

A: We have come a long way by restarting our production process. Sri Lanka showed that the agriculture sector was able to function independently in agricultural areas, villages as well as the plantation areas. The fishery activities have also resumed.

Therefore, the economic activity has to be brought into operation step by step. Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, we see today the relaxation that is taking place guided by the health authorities. Therefore, economic activities, production and other sectors have also begun. Sri Lanka is moving to a timetable. This is why our society and the international community have realized and come forward to support us to emerge from this crisis.

Q: At present, the Presidential Commission to probe the Easter Sunday attacks is conducting investigations. Do you think it would be able to bring the culprits to book early?

A: The Commission is conducting hearings to bring the culprits of the Easter Sunday massacre to book. We all want to take action against those who are responsible and kept silent, thereby paving the way for the terrible massacre. The Archbishop of Colombo, Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith, reminded the country that those who are found guilty for directly or indirectly contributing to this tragedy should be brought before the law.

Q: Recently, some Government lawmakers complained to the Bribery Commission for not taking adequate measures to expedite their investigations regarding the complaints made against 19 Ministers of the former Yahapalana Government on bribery and corruption charges. Could you explain?

A: According to the powers vested in the Bribery Commission, they should act on any complaints that they receive. Whether it is a complaint made today or yesterday, the Commission has a legitimate role to play and this is what the country expects.

Q: Once again, former UNP Parliamentarian Mangala Samaraweera has resorted to serious criticism against the Maha Sangha by saying that there is a ’Sanghakalliya’(clan of Bhikkus) in the country. Would you comment on this?

A: This is nothing new. Mangala Samaraweera’s utterances have never been approved by society because his utterances have no followers.

 

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