Govt committed to improving people’s living standard - C. B. Ratnayake | Sunday Observer
Quarantine laws vital to control pandemic

Govt committed to improving people’s living standard - C. B. Ratnayake

18 July, 2021

Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation C.B. Ratnayake said that there is no crisis within the Government and no room will be provided for that to happen as well. All issues within the Government will be sorted out amicably through discussions.

The Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said the prime objective of the Government is to uplift the standards of the entire people of the country socially, economically and politically. He said “We all act like children of one family. It is obvious there are different views among the family members as well. Therefore, our coalition parties may also have different views and ideologies. It means Democracy is fully restored within our party. However, we will not provide any room to destroy or topple this Government.”

Q: The Opposition alleges that the Government under the pretext of quarantine laws attempts to suppress the people’s right to engage in peaceful demonstrations. Your comments?

A: This can be seen from different perspectives. As we are aware, we never thought of emerging this kind of Covid-19 pandemic throughout the entire world. When the Covid-19 emerged in Sri Lanka, the President directed the health authorities to educate the people and how to conduct themselves in accordance with the health guidelines.

The three-Armed forces and the Police also gave their assistance to convince the people about the nature of the pandemic and set up quarantine centres countrywide to treat the Covid-19 patients. Steps were also taken to prevent unnecessarily gathering people during the pandemic. For example, we could see how many vehicles entered the Colombo city when the travel restrictions were relaxed. Therefore, these quarantine laws are necessary to control the spread of the pandemic.

However, these quarantine laws are introduced not to suppress the demonstrations conducted by the Opposition. Similar laws have been introduced in other countries also to protect their people from this pandemic. We could see how many doctors and nurses died due to Covid-19 in our neighbouring country India. They had to sacrifice their lives on behalf of their patients. However, those who are in the health sector in Sri Lanka talk about their perks and privileges by putting the lives of innocent patients at great risk. In order to take revenge from innocent students, teachers have also stopped their online classes.

There are certain groups such as the Opposition, JVP, Front line Socialist Party and Inter University Students Federation which always resort to street protests. They unnecessarily attempt to drag the people towards their acts. If they don’t adhere to the health guidelines, necessary steps will have to be taken against them but this is not a suppression launched against them.

Q: Some Government Ministers also raised concern on the manner in which the Police acted to arrest those who were engaged in recent demonstrations. Would you like to elaborate your views?

A: The Police always attempts to act in a legal and justifiable manner. If the protestors violate the health guidelines and don’t listen to what the Police says, what they will have to do rather than arresting them? If the people don’t adhere to law, there is no use of a Police. The politicians, public servants or any others are not hundred percent perfect and there may be shortcomings on their part.

If the accepted law in the country is violated, the Police will have to take action. Discipline should be maintained in the country and all should conduct themselves in a disciplined manner. During the tenure of the former Yahapalana Government, they formed the FCID to witch-hunt the public servants and realise their narrow political objectives. Now the public servants are scared to perform their duties.

Earlier, Divisional Secretaries had the authority to take decisions at the appropriate time. Today such decisions have to be channelled through several people in the administrative sector. Therefore, it will take some time to implement the decisions. When a disaster occurs, we should allocate money with immediate effect. Therefore, such issues are there in the administrative sector.

Q: Divergent views are expressed by the Government Ministers on the recent fuel price hike. However, Energy Minister Udaya Gammanpila says that was a collective decision taken by the Cabinet. Could you explain?

A: At that time, it was drawn to the President’s attention that there is a need to go for a fuel price hike due to increased oil prices in the world market. Then it was decided to take necessary action regarding that. However, we didn’t hope that the fuel prices would increase within such a short period. Actually, those who have faced hardships know the impact of the recent fuel price hike.

Q: SLPP General Secretary MP Sagara Kariyawasam told the media that his party’s stance on the recent fuel price hike remains unchanged and Minister Udaya Gammanpila should step down. In this backdrop, do you think all Government MPs would extend their support to defeat the SJB sponsored ‘No Confidence Motion’ against Minister Gammanpila in Parliament?

A: So far, we have not reached a final decision on the NCM. The Government MPs may have different ideas. Those who think about consumers in a sensitive manner may have the view that it is unfair to increase fuel prices at this juncture. However, we have to think deeply and act on this issue in a realistic manner. Our Party Leaders will instruct us as to how we should act with regard to this NCM.

Q: There is an allegation by certain sections that step-motherly treatment has been given to some coalition parties such as National Freedom Front and Pivithuru Hela Urumaya which were at the forefront to bring this Government and the President to power. Your views?

A: We all act like children of one family. It is obvious there are different views among the family members as well. Therefore, our coalition parties may also have different views and ideologies. It means Democracy is restored within our party. However, we will not provide any room to destroy or topple this Government. Anybody who wishes can join hands with us. Similarly, if anybody doesn’t agree with our policies, he can quit the Government as well.

Q: Some SLPP frontliners say if not the SLPP was formed by Finance Minister Basil Rajapaksa, anybody in the Government would have not been able to represent Parliament. Would you like to comment on this?

A: That is correct. Earlier, as members of the SLFP, we were always in one camp. But when the SLFP decided to join hands with the Yahapalana Government, we didn’t agree to that decision so we were removed from our party positions. Then we didn’t have an alternative. Therefore, we decided to form a new political party named Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP). It was Minister Basil Rajapaksa who gave leadership to the new party and strengthened the party mechanism countrywide.

Within a short tenure, the SLPP could secure a landslide victory at the local Government elections and also won the Presidential and General Elections by an overwhelming majority. At the last General Election, we could secure a two-thirds majority in Parliament thanks to the SLPP. Therefore, we can’t underestimate the significant role played by the SLPP in Sri Lankan politics. We would successfully move forward by safeguarding the identity of our party.

Q: Is there any conflict of ideas among the coalition parties of the Government as speculated by the media?

A: There is no crisis within the Government and no room will be provided to make that happen as well. All issues within the Government will be sorted out amicably through discussions. Our sole intention is the welfare of the country’s people and we would take the lead for it. Our prime objective is to uplift the standards of the entire people socially, economically and politically.

Q: At present there is a wave of protests and strikes launched against the Government during its short tenure in office. Do you think this a deliberate attempt to embarrass the Government?

A: The role of the Opposition is to somehow grab power whatever hardships are faced by the country. During the past five years in office, the Yahapalana Government couldn’t do anything on behalf of the people. They didn’t even construct a road or even a school building. Now they attempt to mislead the people and use them for their protests. However, we should not forget the fact that when 6.9 million people voted for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, 5.5 million people voted for the New Democratic Front Presidential Candidate Sajith Premadasa. If some disgruntled elements are in the Government, sometimes they may attempt to join hands with the Opposition.

Q: Do you think the appointment of SLPP founder Basil Rajapaksa as the new Finance Minister to handle the economy would pave the way to take the country towards a new direction?

A: Definitely. Minister Basil Rajapaksa is a talented politician and a very good administrator as well. Due to his ability and management skills, during the tenure of the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa, we were able to launch programs such as Divi Neguma” and Maga Neguma to uplift the living conditions of the people and develop the countrywide road network.

He was also behind the programs such as Uthuru Wasanthaya and Negenahira Navodaya launched to develop the infrastructure facilities in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. We are confident Minister Rajapaksa will try his level best to rebuild the collapsed economy as to how he successfully implemented mega development programs. We are hundred percent sure about it.

Q: Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has sent a letter to the President requesting to provide a credible answer to all the questions that the church has raised with regard to 2019 Easter Sunday attacks and take action against all those who were involved in it within a month. Your comments?

A: The report on the Easter Sunday attacks was handed over to the President on Tuesday (July 13). Therefore, the President will take immediate measures regarding that. We can’t take politically motivated decisions as to how the former Yahapalana Government did through the FCID which operated at Temple Trees. In a Democratic country, we can’t violate the existing laws and move forward as we want. The law should be equally implemented to all irrespective of any differences.

The Government will formulate the necessary mechanism required for that. However, we can’t have any undue influence on the ongoing investigations into Easter Sunday attacks. On the directive of the President, the Government has taken all possible measures to expedite the ongoing investigations into Easter Sunday attacks. Therefore, the Government has no intention whatsoever to sweep the ongoing investigations under the carpet.

Q: Is there any fertiliser shortage in the country as highlighted by the farmers during their protests?

A: Instead of a fertiliser shortage, attempts are being made to store fertiliser hoping that there will be a fertiliser shortage for the next season. Otherwise, there are sufficient fertiliser stocks for this cultivation season. Actually, this issue will come at the next cultivation season. Therefore, the Government has already a sustainable program to produce organic fertiliser. A decision has also been taken to pay an incentive of Rs.12,500 per hectare to encourage the farmers who produce and use organic fertiliser for cultivation. The huge amount of money spent to import chemical fertiliser will be utilised for this purpose.

Q: Have the investigations determined the exact cause of death of marine creatures including sea turtles due to chemical leak from the X-Press Pearl vessel?

A: So far, we have not received the report. Once it is handed over, we would be able to say the exact amount of death of the marine creatures.

Q: There are media reports on deforestation taking place in certain areas. Is there any truth in it?

A: It has been proved that most of such news was fabricated by the media. It is obvious certain media have acted to realise their narrow objectives. Sometimes, they have used youth to fabricate those news stories. After such news is published, I have visited many of those areas to ascertain the true situation. However, 90 percent of such news are fabricated and only 10 percent are true. We have already made arrangements to increase the forest cover.