Mahinda Chinthana: Path to build family, village and country
Nation Building and Estate Infrastructure Development Minister
Rohitha Abeygunawardena asserts that the Government has a clear majority
in Parliament with 116 votes and therefore has no intention to go for a
Minister Rohitha Abeygunawardena
Minister Abeygunawardene in an interview with the Daily News stressed
the Government through the Nation Building Ministry has successfully
brought the development confined to the urban areas to village level
under the Gama Neguma project.
Categorically denying certain allegations made against the Nation
Building Ministry the Minister said President Mahinda Rajapaksa has
appointed six Ministers to this Ministry considering the importance and
vastness of the subject of Nation Building with nearly 40 per cent of
Treasury funds spent through this Ministry.
Q: What is the development work undertaken by the Nation
Building Ministry to cater to the needs of the people in accordance with
its objectives and targets?
A: Even though the subject of the nation building was not
specifically mentioned in Mahinda Chinthana, the present tasks covering
this important Ministry were included in Mahinda Chinthana.
The uplift of the socio-economic conditions of families and the
development of the infrastructure facilities of villages under Gama
Neguma were enunciated in Mahinda Chinthana.
People endorse these new concepts introduced by Mahinda Chinthana. In
order to fulfil their aspirations, the majority of the people elected
Mahinda Rajapaksa as the country’s President. Therefore President
established a separate Ministry for the subject of Nation Building by
fulfilling people’s requirement.
According to our past experiences, a majority of the politicians
brought development only to certain areas that were advantageous to
them. There was no systematic programme to rebuild the entire country.
For the first time, the Nation Building Ministry launched the Gama
Neguma programme last year by earmarking 4,000 villages for development.
The entire Gama Neguma programme is being implemented based on the ideas
and proposals put forward by the people.
The President has streamlined Gama Neguma programme to cover 14,000
villages this year. This means each village in the country will be
developed under Gama Neguma. Our sole intention is to improve the
infrastructure facilities and economic conditions of the village
community by creating a society with discipline and high moral values.
Earlier attempts were made to build the country first and build the
village later. Every political leader who followed this concept could
not fulfil his objective. But the President’s intention is to first
build the family and next the village. Then the country will be built
automatically. This is our concept.
Q: What is the progress achieved by the Maga Neguma project
implemented by the Highways Ministry under the supervision of the Nation
A: Maga Neguma project has undertaken the task of the
construction and the renovation of the rural network which most of the
Local Government institutions were unable to do due to lack of funds.
Maga Neguma has made a huge contribution to the country’s
development. This project has created an immense impact with the public.
Today they are well aware that most of their roads are constructed and
renovated under Gama Neguma. The people have realised that this concept
has brought them dividends.
Q: Can you outline the development activities carried out by
the Nation Building Ministry in the North and East?
A: Our Ministry has given leadership to the Nagenahira
Novodhaya (Eastern reawakening programme). But we have to appreciate the
inter ministerial support extended by various ministries towards this
We have to rebuild the areas such as Vakarai, Mavilaru and Thoppigala
which were destroyed by the LTTE. Today most of the war affected
countries think about the development after they completely put an end
to the war. But President Rajapaksa has completely changed this
The Government while engaging in military operations to eradicate
LTTE terrorism has also engaged in the task of fulfilling the
requirements of the people in those respective areas.
For example, the Government has already started a large scale power
supply projects in the Eastern Province. The President has also
restarted construction work on Norochcholai coal power plant which had
been stopped over the past several years.
The Eastern province contributes 40 per cent of the country’s
economic output. The Eastern Province is well sustained through
fisheries, agriculture, livestock and tourism sectors.
The development of the East will create a great impact on the
country’s development process. The trade relationship created between
the South and the East has collapsed due to the war. Our intention is to
rebuild this trade relationship. The fisheries industry in the East has
shown great progress.
Q: What is the responsibility entrusted in you as the Minister
in charge of development activities in the Jaffna peninsula?
A: I should first mention the people in Jaffna are a very
hospitable people with great feeling and human qualities. Prabhakaran
has committed a great crime by using these innocent people as a human
shield. Today these people openly express their views regarding this.
The people of Jaffna possess great strength and courage and are
willing to take maximum advantage from their soil that will put them
back on their feet.
During my visit to Jaffna, I understood, the people in Jaffna only
requested the Government to provide resources in order to pursue with
their livelihood. The people in Jaffna will stand on their own feet once
they are completely free from the grip of LTTE terrorism.
Q: The agriculture sector in Jaffna peninsula has faced a
severe setback due to the conflict. What are the moves taken by the
Government to rectify this situation?
A: Agriculture is the livelihood of a majority of the people
in Jaffna. They have to face threats from the LTTE and therefore are
unable to engage in their cultivation.
The farmers have been subjected to ransom demands. The Government has
ensured more security to the areas where chena cultivation is being
largely conducted in the Jaffna peninsula.
The Ministry in collaboration with the World Food Programme has
assessed each family unit in Jaffna and provided them food items and
medicines. No complaint has been made about any shortage of food items
or medicines in Jaffna.
An innocent child whom I met in Jaffna told me he saw an electric
bulb in Jaffna only after this Government came to power. This shows
people were in darkness over several years due to LTTE terror. The
Government has taken every possible measure to develop agriculture in
Q: Are you confident that peace will return to the North and
East in the near future?
A: The Government has already liberated the entire Eastern
province from the LTTE. Prabhakaran is wielding power only within one
and half districts in the North. The Government has only to re-capture
this area from the LTTE.
The people have already started to protest against Prabhakaran and
are clamouring to be freed from the LTTE threat. We should salute our
three Armed Forces and the Police conducting their military operations
without causing any harm to the civilians.
We have not declared war on the Tamil community. We have only a
problem with the LTTE. The Government has to conduct military operations
to eradicate LTTE terrorism.
Q: criticism is heard on the appointment of six Ministers to
the subject of Nation Building. What are your comments?
A: Some politicians talk without knowing the functions of this
Ministry. They say this Ministry has half of a dozen Ministers. But the
President decided to appoint six Ministers due to the large area covered
by this Ministry.
Nearly 48 institutions and key subjects such as Samurdhi, fisheries
infrastructure, Estate infrastructure, Upcountry Development and the one
thousand tank project are come under this Ministry purview.
How can a single Minister handle the functions of all these key
subjects? even 12 Ministers are not sufficient to carry out the
functions of this Ministry.
I would like to ask the UNP and other politicians who criticise this
Ministry to show even a single project implemented during the regime of
the former UNP Government. Those days there was no war in the country.
So the UNP did not have any expenditure on the war.
Q: Can you outline the programmes formulated by the Ministry
for this year?
A: The people see our Ministry as a Ministry which spends
funds on a large scale. This is somewhat true.
Because this Ministry spends nearly 40 per cent of the funds of the
Treasury. But the objective of the Ministry is to implement a systematic
programme to recover these funds spent by the Ministry. In this context,
the Ministry has given priority to the livelihood development of the
In order to fulfill this task, the Ministry through the Sri Lanka
Samurdhi Authority intends to increase production within the village.
But we do not categorise the people only as Samurdhi beneficiaries. Any
low income family can join hands with our programmes.
The Ministry will provide assistance to low income people to commence
income generation projects. We hope to introduce products to be marketed
under the Samurdhi label this year.
Q: Will the Government be able to provide a political solution
to the ethnic problem through the APRC?
A: The Government’s sole intention is to bring a political
solution to this problem as soon as possible. That is why President
Mahinda Rajapaksa appointed the APRC to obtain the views of all
political parties and reach a common consensus on this issue.
However, the UNP has a hidden political agenda. As a responsible
Government, we will have a continuous dialogue with other political
parties to bring about a lasting solution to this issue. But the whole
country accepts that power should be devolved.
The 13th amendment of the constitution has also clearly mentioned
devolution of power. That is why the President is seeking the assistance
of all political parties to implement the 13th amendment.
But the UNP keeps telling that they introduced the 13th amendment.
The need of the hour is to implement this without considering the
background of this. I am confident the APRC will finally reach a
conclusion regarding this issue.
Q: Can you comment on the stability of the Government and
present political developments?
A: The PA Government which came to power in 1994 continued in
office until year 2001 with a majority of only one vote. But the present
Government is able to maintain a clear majority in Parliament. At
present we have 116 votes. The UNP at the final vote of the Budget
attempted to seek the support of the JVP and show 114 votes in
In a situation where all the opposition was on one side, the
Government in collaboration with its constituent parties could show a
majority of 114 votes in Parliament. Now this number has increased to
116. Therefore as a stable Government, we have a clear majority in
The Government has no intention whatsoever to go for a snap election
at this juncture. The President will hold the General Election in 2010
as scheduled. When the Government puts an end to the LTTE problem, and
if the people request the Government to go for an election, the
Government will have to consider it.
At present a more healthy environment has been created for the
Government which can easily win the next General Election. The small
collection of the people in Colombo is not the voice of the country’s
people. The genuine voice of the country is represented by the majority
of the people in rural areas.
Q: Finally can you outline the initiatives taken by the
Government to conduct a free and fair Provincial Council Election in the
A: Activities related to the Provincial Council election are
going on smoothly. Most political parties have already started their
The candidates who obtain the majority of the votes will be elected
as representatives of those respective areas. The Chief Ministership
will be offered to the political party which will obtain power of the
The Government’s intention is to safeguard the supremacy of the
people. But the UNP is telling that Pilliyan should be disarmed before
the Provincial Council Election.
But the UNP secretly signed a MoU with Prabhakaran who has been
sentenced to 200 years RI. The Pilliyan group should retain arms until
the Government puts a complete end to the LTTE problem. we would like to
say that when LTTE terrorism is completely eradicated, Pilliyan or any
other group should completely lay down their weapons.
After that it is only the Three Armed Forces and Police which can