Opposition’s attempt to topple Government, a day dream - Anuradha Jayaratne | Sunday Observer
President has farsighted vision until 2025:

Opposition’s attempt to topple Government, a day dream - Anuradha Jayaratne

4 April, 2021

State Minister of Tanks, Reservoirs and Irrigation Development related to Rural Paddy Fields Anuradha Jayaratne said the Opposition’s attempt to topple the Government would only be a daydream as the Government led by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has a farsighted vision and plan for each and every Ministry and Department until 2025.

When the people see the results, the Opposition won’t be able to manipulate issues like this and further carry out their false propaganda campaign against the Government.

The State Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said they followed the same strategy in 2015 and tried to build up a wrong image on the Rajapaksas by misleading the people. However, the people realised the truth within two years after the Yahapalana Government assumed office and wanted the Rajapaksa regime to come back to power. He said unfortunately unlike in other countries, we don’t have a vibrant Opposition which extends their support for the benefit of the country and its people.


Q:The Opposition has taken deforestation and other environmental issues as their key propaganda campaign against the Government. Has the Government launched enough awareness campaigns to counter this disinformation campaign?

A: Each main Ministry or a State Ministry has been given a specific task to be achieved by 2025 and we have publicly explained our task to the people as well. When we are working on a particular task, we don’t have enough time to go through social media. All ministers, departments and everyone have to work at least 16 to 17 hours each day to fulfill their targets.

For example, at present the Opposition is making a big fuss on the Sinharaja Forest but that particular land they talk about is a private property. When it is a private property, we have to act in accordance with the Constitution and the legal system in the country. If that land is needed for the construction of a reservoir then there is a way of taking it back. There are accepted laws such as the Forest Conservation Act and Wildlife Act to take over private properties.

I am not saying that we shouldn’t give this to Sinharaja. If the Central Environment Authority (CEA) and the Forest Department specifically say this is needed for the Sinharaja, then of course we can take it. Right now, this land belongs to a private person. When it is owned by a private person, we as a Government can’t go and say it is needed for the Sinharaja and we cannot take it the next day. These are the issues that the Opposition is making without a proper understanding.

However, these kinds of incidents are manipulated and blown up out of proportion. At present, protests are held in Vavuniya and Mullativu saying that Sinharaja forest is being destroyed.

This whole scenario is funded by certain foreign NGOs as these protesters don’t even know where the Sinharaja is located. They are making a huge fuss as they will get some money. That is what the Opposition always does to realise their petty political gains. However, we have a task and a target to be achieved by 2025 so that we need to take the country towards that direction. Therefore, all Ministers, State Ministers and the Departments are trying their level best to meet those targets. Therefore, we don’t have time to respond to these false propaganda campaigns carried out by the Opposition.

Q: The UNP has raised concern on a proposed water project to be set up within the Sinharaja rainforest and says they would initiate a dialogue with international and local bodies including UNESCO to safeguard it. Your comments?

A: That proposal had been brought up in 1936 and the environmental assessment was done in 1967. Basically, this project was proposed in the 1930s. The issue to be raised by the people is if the proposal came up in the 1930s what were all the former Governments doing regarding this issue over the past few decades. That should be the question. If you take the people in Moneragala and Hambantota areas, they still don’t have enough drinking water and the percentage of the drinking water requirement is less than 30 percent. So, the real question should be why we aren’t giving drinking water to the people in these two districts.

In the Sinharaja issue, what Minister Chamal Rajapaksa did was he took the proposal out. Sinharaja is a preserved forest. Therefore, we have referred the matter to the UNESCO asking guidelines whether there is any possibility of building up this tank. If they reject the proposal, we won’t continue with that proposed project and we will go for other options. If the UNESCO grants us permission with certain guidelines, then there won’t be an issue and we will continue with the project.

If we proceed with the project, we will be able to give drinking water to the people in the Moneragala and Hambantota districts. That was the whole idea of the project. The President’s vision is to provide drinking water to 90 per cent of the people by 2025.

The Irrigation Department has a task to fulfill in this regard. That is why we are planning to build up these massive reservoirs so that we could supply drinking water to the people. I am hundred percent sure all these people who are making a big fuss on this project have not even visited that area. Actually, this is a village and it is not in the centre of Sinharaja.

There are a lot of people who are based there and their families have been living there for over a hundred years. We are constructing this reservoir in that village and not in the middle of the Sinharaja. These Opposition politicians are talking without knowing the facts. If we don’t get the consent from UNESCO, it is guaranteed that we will not proceed with this project and we will go for another alternative.

Q: The issue of substandard coconut oil imports has become a major topic in the political and social media. Would you like to comment on this?

A: Actually, the credit should go to the Government because this must not be the first time such oil was imported to the country. It is only under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s Government that we identified and captured this. Nothing had happened before that. I am hundred percent sure this has happened before as well. The Director General of Sri Lanka Standards Institute is closely monitoring this. They are vigilant and know what is happening inside the Customs. That is why they were able to trace this substandard coconut oil imports.

If someone imports oil that contains Aflatoxin, that is not the Government’s fault. Once we traced it, we sent it for testing. Soon after the inquiry, that matter will be presented before courts. So, as a Government, we have done our duty. Some people are manipulating it and say the Government should be held responsible for this. The Government doesn’t import oil and that is a business done by the private sector. If someone in the private sector has done something wrong, we have taken steps to take them before courts.

Q: How do you view the passing of the Resolution against Sri Lanka moved by the Core Group at the UNHRC?

A: There were 14 countries which abstained from voting including India and Japan. When they are silent it means they are not against us. I am not saying they are hundred percent happy with what we do. There could be certain issues that they are worried about but they are not hundred per cent for the Resolution brought before the UNHRC. On the other hand, we have about 25 countries that are willing to support us.

What we personally believe is this has nothing to do with the Sri Lankan Government or whatever activities that have happened in the country. We as a Government and our armed forces fought with terrorists and not with innocent Tamil people. Basically, that was a real fight against terrorism. That is the only thing that has happened in Sri Lanka.

If we take the countries who have favoured the resolution, the Diaspora is so strong in some of those countries. Basically, they are not saying anything against Sri Lanka but they are trying to fulfill their needs inside the country. Whatever we have asked or the agreements which included Government to Government projects are continuing well. We get the support of the European Union and Canada as well.

At present everyone has accepted President Gotabaya Rajapaksa’s vision. Actually, what all these countries have done is to fulfill their internal requirements in the country. So, we shouldn’t be worried about that. I believe things will sort out in the near future.

Q: Is the Government ready to face the ‘Geneva challenge’ without any fear as stated by the President at the ‘Discussion with the village’ program last week?

A: Definitely. What the previous Yahapalana Government did was they agreed 100 percent to anything imposed by the UNHRC, World Bank or IMF. Whatever the loans they had taken from the IMF in 2016 and 2017 were taken as commercial loans. Even the lending, they had agreed hundred per cent for everything. This is not a Government which will agree with what others say. We will only look at the interests of the people in the country and that is our main focus. If we try to fulfill the needs of other countries, of course we can get hundred percent support. However, our strategy is totally different.

We always look at our people and to fulfill their interests. So, when we try to fulfill that task, these issues are normal. When the country’s interest is safeguarded, others might not be happy. However, we are ready to face this challenge. That is why the vast majority of the people voted and appointed Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the country’s President and also gave 150 MPs in Parliament, the highest ever majority that a political party secured at an election.

Q: The Opposition and certain sections attempt to portray that the Government has failed to meet the expectations of the people. Your comments?

A: The President’s first Budget was presented last December. Just three months have been passed after the presentation of the Budget. If you take the past three months, a tremendous amount of work has been made within the country. If you take the road sector, we are developing about 100,000 kilometers of roads.

The Rural Irrigation and Tank Development Ministry has started to develop 5000 irrigation tanks. Ninety per cent of the people will be provided with drinking water by 2025. We are looking at specific targets.

Actually, the implementation of the President’s ‘ Vistas of Prosperity and Splendour’ manifesto was started in January this year. Only three months have been completed so far.

At present, the implementation of the President’s manifesto is really happening. The economy and tourism sector faced a severe setback due to the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Now the Government has come on to the track and working towards the people. So, they will be able to see results by June or July. With all these projects, the villages and the people will be provided with some employment and they will get some additional income as well. The income generation mechanism will start within the country. Things will be settled when the people see these results by June, July and August.

Q: The Opposition has raised concern on the high cost of living and in the increase in prices of essential food commodities. Would you like to comment on this?

A: The Government through the Sathosa will provide food commodities to the people at concessionary rates for the New Year. That started from Wednesday (March 31). The consumers will get the benefit from the Sathosa. When the Sathosa starts doing that, automatically other private sector companies will have to align with that.

We are sure when it comes closer to the New Year, the people will get the benefit. In the meantime, our policy is to protect consumers in the country.

We want to promote whatever products made within the country and that is the overall vision of the Government. For that, we need to be patient. At present, the farmers and all the manufacturers are benefiting in the country. It will take some time for them to come to a certain level and cater to the entire market. We are at that crucial period right now