SLFPers can’t have the cake and eat it - D.V. Chanaka | Sunday Observer

SLFPers can’t have the cake and eat it - D.V. Chanaka

16 January, 2022

State Minister of Aviation and Export Zones Development D.V. Chanaka said whoever doesn’t want to work together, it is a good time for them to quit the Government and let others act in unison for the betterment of the country. 

The State Minister in an interview with the Sunday Observer said Government ministers should work together as a team because all the ministries are connected and none of the Ministry can fulfill its task alone. Therefore, every development work has to be done as a team with collective responsibility and that is what even President Gotabaya Rajapaksa emphasised recently.

He said, “If our coalition partner SLFP is willing to work with us, we are ready to do so. Otherwise, it is up to them to take a decision rather than criticising us while being in the Government. They can’t be in the middle by playing the role of both Government and Opposition members.”


Q:President Gotabaya Rajapaksa speaking at the launch of the national program to upgrade 1,000 schools into National Schools at Siyambalanduwa emphasised the need for all Ministers and Members of Parliament to work together as a team for the progress of the country, adding that it is a collective responsibility to manage setbacks as a team. Your views?

A: Actually, it has to be done. It is not only the Ministers but also the officials who have to work together. Once a Government is formed, the whole country has to support it. The Government formulates policies and handles the functions of the ministries. Depending on its outcome, the good or bad will come to the people. 

Therefore, the whole country should get together and work with the Government, Ministers and officials. When everyone works together, we can get good results and move forward towards development. We have been facing the Covid-19 pandemic for two years and an economic crisis as a result of it. I think we are on the right track right now. At least within another year, we will be back to normal.

We are continuing infrastructure development activities and getting ready for the future. Hopefully, everything will get back to normal within another year. It has to be a team work and no one can go alone. When we are in the Government, it is your responsibility to work together as a team because all the ministries are connected and none of the Ministry can fulfill its task alone. If it is related to development, at least six, seven ministries have to get together and work together.

Work has to be done as a team with collective responsibility. That is what even the President emphasised recently. Whoever doesn’t want to work together, it is a good time for them to quit the Government and let others act in unison for the betterment of the country. 

Q: The SLFP has hinted that it would be leaving the SLPP-led coalition and will contest upcoming elections as a new political alliance. If the SLFP quits the Government, will it pose any challenge to the stability of the Government?

A: The SLFP contested the Local Government and Municipal Council elections alone. However, we could secure the majority and consolidate the power of the Local Government bodies without having our President or a Government. The SLFP contested the Parliamentary Election alone for Kalutara and Nuwara Eliya districts but they couldn’t get even 10,000 votes or one Member of Parliament. That is the real picture of the SLFP.

Contesting together with us, they got a certain number of MPs. If they want to go alone, it is a matter entirely up to them and not for us. We have a system being placed from top to bottom and full control of the Local Government institutions. Therefore, at the next election whether the SLFP is contesting with us or not, it won’t make any impact on us. 

Q: There is media speculation that SLPP backbenchers have reportedly urged the party leadership to take a decision regarding the present conduct of the SLFP. Your views?

A:  As I said earlier, it should be a team effort. If they are in the Government, they have to support the Government. If they are not doing so and playing the Opposition role, it is better for them to be in the Opposition rather than in the Government. That’s what happened to the former Government as well if they called it Good Governance Government.

The same thing is happening when they are in our Government. They have got all the benefits, ministries and everything but they are criticising the Government. They are taking the credit for all the good things done by the Government but if something bad happens, they always criticise.

This is the way they are going ahead without having any teamwork.  If the team work is not there, it is good for them to take a decision. If they are willing to work with us, we are ready to do so. We have given them some ministerial portfolios and we are working together. But if they don’t want to work with us, it is up to them to take a decision rather than criticising while being in the Government. They have to be either Government members or Opposition members. They can’t be in the middle.

Q: Former President Maithripala Sirisena has said that mere removal of one dissenting SLPP MP will fail to prevent eruptions within the Government. Would you like to respond?

A: Some Government MPs don’t know what team work is?  At the same time, we have many opportunities to talk. If you want to express your views, you have the Government Parliamentary group meeting, Cabinet meeting and State Ministers meeting but none of them are raising their issues at those meetings. However, when the media give a microphone to them outside, they resort to criticise the Government just to entertain some people.

They could have raised those issues at the group meetings and pointed out the changes to be done so that everyone could have listened. We were also surprised to see how some MPs react at the Government meetings and come out and say something else. Much criticism about the Government has come as we have aligned with the SLFP. We are being criticised for not taking action against former President Sirisena.

Those are the main criticisms levelled against the Government by the people and the religious leaders. Being with the SLFP, we are being criticised but at the same time they are also criticising us. I think it is better for them to take a decision rather than playing the role of both Government and Opposition members.

Q: One of the key allegations against the Government is not to expedite the ongoing investigations on Easter Sunday attacks. However, some Government lawmakers say the allegations have been levelled against the Government as former President Maithripala Sirisena acts as a stakeholder of it. Would you like to elaborate your views?

A: Investigations are continuing into this incident. Even after the Easter Sunday terror attacks, the former Yahapalana Government was in power more than eight months. Those who were accused were also there in that Government. Some data of the investigations have gone missing. At present the investigations into Easter Sunday attacks are conducted in an accurate manner. Some court proceedings have already started and some accused are being taken to courts.

Another 50 more suspects have also been identified in connection to the incident. The investigations are going on smoothly and the people will see the results very soon. We really don’t know what is happening as very independent investigations are going on. We are confident that they will deliver the results and bring all those who are held responsible to the Easter Sunday attacks to book regardless of whether they are in the Government or the Opposition.   

Q: Some Government members have raised serious concern whether the SLPP can further continue with the SLFP in this manner.

A: When you are working with any party, it is not an easy task. What we thought was SLPP and SLFP are sharing the same thoughts and views. What we are feeling right now is that collective responsibility is not there anymore. As I said earlier either the SLFP should be with us or leave us. They can’t be in the middle by playing the role of both Government and the Opposition.

Q: However, Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has said that it is their responsibility to point out the mistakes of the Government and if the Government is ready to correct them, they can go together with the Government. Your views?

A: What happens is the SLFP gets every good credit, but if the Government is subjected to any criticism, they have nothing to say. During the past one year, the main concerns raised by the people were mainly related to the ministries handled by some SLFP Ministers. When looking at the area of environment, various issues have been raised and the Environment Minister is also an SLFPer. The issues raised on gas, the Minister in charge is an SLFPer. Still they are criticising the Government rather than criticising their own members.

Q: The SLFP has said that they are against the postponing of Provincial Council polls while the JVP has urged the Government to tell the people why it had postponed the Local Government elections by one year.

A: Do the SLFP and the JVP have a right to ask for the elections? They postponed the Provincial Council elections up to now. When the Supreme Court gave a ruling not to postpone the PC elections, the former Government brought a new act to Parliament and the SLFP and the JVP also supported it. In addition, they postponed the Local Government elections for two years. 

Now they are demanding to hold elections. Even though we had consolidated the power of Local Government bodies from 2018, we couldn’t do any work as the former Government didn’t support. After we came to power, we had to face the Covid-19 pandemic so that the Local Government bodies could do very little for the people.

That is why we don’t want to have any elections this year. This year has been allocated to develop the country and its economy. We don’t want to spend a single rupee on anything else other than economic development. That is the only reason to postpone the LG elections, but all other elections will be held on time.

Q:Are there any special plans drawn up to attract Foreign Direct Investments to the country?

A: There are many investors who are willing to come to Sri Lanka. The country is open now. Compared to all other countries, the world has focused attention on Sri Lanka as a safe destination to travel due to the successful implementation of our vaccination drive, expansion of harbour and airports. The confidence of worldwide countries on Sri Lanka is increasing day by day. 

With the Port City and building of 11 new Export Processing Zones, many investors will come to Sri Lanka due to the space, concessions and ease of work ensured for them. We are making a single window facility for the investors. From Tuesday, I have also been given the responsibility to look after the BOI. I will be sitting with the whole team every month. 

If the investors are facing any issue, I will discuss with them and sort it out with immediate effect. Every week a team of officials will sit with the investors so that there won’t be any delays to address their issues. That would pave the way to attract foreign direct investments. Hopefully this year will be the ideal year for the investors to come to Sri Lanka.

Q: What are the promotional campaigns launched to bring more tourists to Sri Lanka via the Bandaranaike International Airport and the Mattala International Airport?

A: We are developing the Mattala airport as a tourist destination. We have already been able to attract new airlines. We have given concessions to attract budget airlines. There are 10 new airlines that have come to the Mattala airport, which have never come to Sri Lanka before. At the same time, we are giving so much attraction to the BIA.

The world sees Sri Lanka as one of the best destinations to visit. CNN Travel has recommended us as one of the 20 countries in to be visited. With that we are also giving concessions, good packages and doing global marketing to bring more tourists to Sri Lanka. We are also working together with the private sector.

The Government and the private sector are working together to first get back the situation that the tourism sector experienced in 2018 and go beyond that later.

For that we are developing infrastructure, constructing terminal two. Cargo development is also at a high rate. We have doubled cargo areas. Our potential will increase and many tourists will come to Sri Lanka.