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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 snap election.


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 Building Ministry?

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 task.

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 practice.

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 Jaffna.

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 people.

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 Parliament.

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 Parliament.

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 East?

A: Activities related to the Provincial Council election are going on smoothly. Most political parties have already started their political campaign.

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 Provincial Council.

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 keep weapons.

 

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