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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

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ĎNot at all possible to replace Presidentí


Mass Media and Information Minister
Keheliya Rambukwella

Mass Media and Information Minister Keheliya Rambukwella said the government would resolve the issues that some political segments, including pro-LTTE remnants, are eyeing, to tarnish the image of the country and that of President Mahinda Rajapaksa as well.

ďWhen we concluded resettling displaced people and are doing well in rehabilitating ex-LTTE cadres, they ran out of slogans, on which they survivedĒ, he said.

In an interview with the Daily News, minister, who is also the Cabinet Spokesman said the President has directed the Police Chief to take tough action to bring the culprits of the alleged attack on the Judiciary Services Commission Secretary (JSC) to book.

Explaining the governmentís stance on independence of the Judiciary and media, he said those who clamour for those two were influenced by some forces which try to make the government unpopular.

ďThose who are frustrated totally to see that people are strongly with the government, try to change the government, but they will find it hard to replace the President who is the peopleís leaderĒ, he said.

Excerpts of the interview:


Q: It seems the governmentís approach to the Judiciary is creating clashes. Is it really so or not?

A: No. It is simple that the constitution that we know of provides for the Executive, Legislature and the Judiciary, which, work in coordination and understanding, without infringing each oneís territories. There can be some misunderstanding from time to time because we are dealing with humans. In such situations, one canít say that you have deliberately taken powers or walked into each others territories.

I have listened to the Speakerís speech, which was made in Parliament. That was very clear. He never accused anyone and what he said was, whatever happened, take steps to make sure that issues was amicably and respectfully settled, in keeping with each oneís dignity in place.

When refer to the story on the allege attack on the JSC Secretary and when you look at the entire Judiciary system and the Executive, who is the JSC Secretary, for the Executive to clash with. He is just another officer of the Judiciary. It is understandable, if the Executive clashes with the Speaker or the Chief Justice.

The Judiciary, the little that I know of it, must be free of any interferences. At the same time Judiciary should be independent and also fair.

In this case, when Manjula Thilakaratne was appointed JSC Secretary, there was a serious question of seniority. I suppose it is the right thing for the Executive just to point that out in good faith, to say that there are few petitions to say this position should be basically held by a senior High Court judge and there can be certain issues, like when you have a Junior officer, especially to make sure the smooth operation and the administration of the judicial system. In a situation of that nature, even the CJ and Supreme Court or the members of the Commission can be a little embarrassed. To avoid this situation one can make comments in good faith and it's nothing wrong and not an infringement of rights.

Q: What are the steps taken to bring the culprits of the alleged attack of the JSC Secretary to book?

A: Attacking a public servant is of serious concern to the government and we would not tolerate such attacks. There are petitions from the people sent to the Executive complaining about this appointment. It appeared to be some sort of misunderstanding that has been developed into a bit of a clash with the Judiciary and the Executive. My question is, are we that naive or kind of lying in situations. There would be a possibility to tarnish the government and the Executive but that does not mean that we renounce our responsibility of finding the culprits.

The investigations are going on and President Rajapaksa himself has given very clear orders to the IGP and assigned a highly a capable team to look into the matters and directly report to the IGP. Every possible step has been taken to bring the perpetrators to book.

I think it is very important that the government brings them to book so the government clears this doubt, haunting like a shadow, over the whole thing. There is a dark cloud over it and that has to be cleared.

Q: Meanwhile, the JSC Secretary has made some comments at a press conference. How do you look at him coming before the media?

A: I really donít know why he decided to hold a press briefing but I have my own doubts whether he should behave in this manner, while holding such a supreme post. However, he has overstepped the boundaries of his authority by issuing a statement alleging interference in the independence of the Judiciary.

One of the Secretaries had earlier issued a circular saying that you canít bring people before or come before the media and make comments. That is something Judiciary should not do unless it is a grave situation and I am not ruling out totally.

The interpretation and the press conference were highly unwarranted and they should communicate through the Presidentís office. What is the idea in going before the media and creating a huge rift. Therefore, that has to be looked into and that has to be probed into to make sure that this kind of thing doesnít happen in future. I am not accusing him, but a junior officer, who lacks experience and wisdom, would run into this kind of issue. It is upto the government or the Judiciary to make sure he is corrected at one point or the other.

It canít allow such people to go on a gallivanting like this and ruin the image of Judiciary, initially and then also create a rift between the Judiciary and the Executive and the Judiciary and the Legislature. Why does the government run into all those things purely because of one individual, perhaps immature, perhaps junior, perhaps who canít understand the practice properly. The best way is to see whether he is the right person for that particular post.

Q: However, some critics claim that the non-availability of national policies for most of the important sectors like health, education and security, which were changed periodically by the governments, is one cause for such crises that props up from time to time. Do you agree with this?

A: No, I really donít agree. Introducing policies is a good thing but policies can be changed according to the constitution and especially constitutions like Indiaís, how many times they bring policy changes.

Policies canít have indefinite time frames and from time to time they do change according to requirements.

Such issues take place not because of a lack of policies or stands but mainly due to attitudes of some of the people, who are involved in creating such. It is also due to insecurity when somebody is not the right person and when he creates doubts around him, he is trying to create things beyond his purview.

Q: The entire world is waiting for the implementation of the LLRC recommendations, but there seems to be a delay. Why?

A: It is absolutely unfair to say this. The government has taken steps to implement over 50 percent of the LLLRC recommendations. We appointed a committee headed by Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunge to look into the aspects and the manner which this should be implemented. We have identified short and mid term issues. Almost all the short term issues have been implemented and the mid term issues, of course, we are working on now and we are in the process of planning the long term issues. After 30 years of war, we are just passing the third year. We canít rush over things and make another mistake. We also keep the sovereignty of the people, who have the final right, to decide according to the constitution. That is again the will of the people and it is in a plain democratic system, which is a 50 plus one.

We are devolving power to certain areas. Look at the economic freedom that we have now. The smallest unit of sovereignty is represented by the Pradeshiya Sabha, which had mere Rs. five million a year from the budget, but today it has increased to Rs. 500 million. This shows the economic freedom, which has disseminated from the Centre. It has to be appreciated. Similarly the Provincial Councils, which some said are white elephants because they are given so much of money for implementing projects. It may not be the idealistic thing but they were given a grand stand to that concept.

We agree there is much more room to improve. We are not shaking our responsibilities and also going back. One might say we are moving very slowly, in certain areas, yes it is as we donít want to have mistakes.

Q: You said the government does not want to rush into things but there is an allegation by some political segments that the last batch of displaced people were resettled in a rush against their wish. What is your comment?

A: As far as the resettlement was concerned it was just about two to three percent of the total displaced population that remained in the welfare centres.

We canít be hanging on until the so-called political circles create another issue, saying the government is still keeping displaced people in camps. They are always on the look out for material like displaced people for them to have slogans. We have now realized this trend and the government targets to resolve such issues which they try to capitalize on for their mere survival.

Over 98 percent of the displaced people were resettled according to their wish and perhaps the balance two percent we have to rush through to complete the resettlement process as we want them to be in their own environs. There are may be problems and we are now looking into them. What is important as a responsible government, is that we are not going to shut it down completely.

The hidden motive is that there should be some issues for the so-called segments to dance the devil on them. The government is quiet aware of these trends. They want slogans to survive and what we feel is now they are running out of such serious slogans as we have taken serious measures to address all of their slogans making their slogans obsolete.

Q: A feeling is brewing among political circles that the government is leading to militarization, due to certain actions, like appointing some school Principals Brevet Colonels. What is your comment?

A: I suppose these feelings are very good and these criticisms will give more light to the reality. I mean we should consider these criticisms but at the same time government has its own line of thinking. We donít want to create a military atmosphere as there is no need for it. As I explained before, these may be one or two slogans left and the government and the people of this country are aware where we are heading. Our aim is to crate a prosperous and peaceful Sri Lanka.

The President is very much concerned about the discipline of schools and perhaps he must be thinking to create discipline through training. In many developed countries every body has to undergo military training and also serve in their military for a year or two as they want their people to be disciplined.

A proper training will give a person the feeling of discipline, patriotism and mannerism. What we expect is a combination of all through training. I hope perhaps this was introduced as some of the schools need little more vigilance or attention to make sure that they are directed in the proper way. It is not only the economic development of the country that is important but also the mental development of its population. In our march towards development we need people of stature. I think some try to turn it into a political issue and make a little bit of noise.

Another thing which I canít understand is why people talk about a dictatorship. We have had elections, which is the best measuring yard of democracy. It is very surprising to note that the Opposition, which is the one and only Opposition in the world which went to courts does not want to have elections.

The hidden motive is that they donít want to test the popularity of the government and the President through polls. They are fully aware that people of this country are with President Rajapaksa and at each election this was proved and the victory will harm their slogans, which give a completely negative image locally and internationally. Through polls the world knows that people are with the government and this affects them badly.

Q: The government boasts of improved social and economic indicators but why do hundreds of people risk their lives to flee to Australia, claiming a poor economic situation in the country?

A: The point is our per capita income is Rs. 2,500 and we are trying to double it by Rs. 2,000 soon. But in Australia it is round Rs. 30,000 to 40,000. This is the obvious reason why people flee and they seek better pastures there. But what they have failed to understand was the weather conditions, types of work, law and other difficulties involved in their lives there. However, they still think it is good to find asylum in Australia.

The main issue is the human smugglers are still active in the business, which the LTTE was engaged in earlier. Although Prabhakaran and his military arm were completely destroyed, still some of the lucrative businesses that he carried on are moving around. We try to educate people. It is only through education we can stop this tragic phenomena. These victims pay millions of rupees to get entry into Australia but if they want to get legal passage to Australia they can utilize that money to train themselves to make themselves qualify to get the legal entry.

Unfortunately, those who are trying to seek greener pastures are not aware that most of the Sri Lankan diaspora is returning to the country as they have realized Sri Lanka is one of the best places to live and invest in. On the other hand, the human smuggling took an upward trend as there is some sort of encouragement from the other sources which give sympathy to their tell tales about the bad situation in the country. But it is a good sign that these authorities are not ready to welcome the illegal immigrants, now. They have deported two batches of illegal asylum seekers home as a first step towards discouraging them.

The Sri Lankan government has strengthened its relationship internationally and also with the respective countries to discourage human smuggling.

Q: Media freedom - according to you, it may be another slogan, but how do you define media freedom at present where some of the websites are blocked?

A: Yes, it is a mere slogan as there are many incidents to prove the extent of media freedom the people enjoy. Take newspapers or websites for an example. How many ministers have been criticized and how many politicians are behind bars. If they say there is no media freedom or independence of judiciary, how can they report against the wrong doers and also how can the Judiciary put the politicians behind bars?

If the government really wants such to be happened, it can tell not to take action against them or mellow down their charges. This government has not fallen to such a low level and we always believe in Judiciary to take its own course. Do you know 15 to 20 of government politicians are behind bars and if the government is interfering with the Judiciary, we could easily direct the Police not to proceed with those cases. But as a peopleís government we always want to do justice for the people of this country.

At the same time go through the papers, or websites or Face Book and see the level of criticism there about the government and sometimes it is a thrill to read them. But many decent people would say that there is a need to control them. I canít understand what do people expect in media freedom more than this?

What I can see is all of these issues are created by one group which is frustrated totally to see that people are strongly with the government. Those who ruled this country for over 17 years are aspiring a change in power but the sad thing is people are not supporting them to bring that change.

Especially, the President is a peopleís leader and no one can replace him. He, who understands the pulse of the people, has been working towards developing the four corners of the country in a massive way.

Some politicians in certain alliances and joint oppositions are accusing President Rajapaksa while trying to tarnish the image of the government. His popularity is so high and when he moves around people want to have glimpses of him.

They find this leader is so steady and they canít shake him politically and democratically, so they are now trying their level best to influence the world forces to go against him.

But people are with him and he is fulfilling their dreams which he promised. President Rajapaksa is quite contented in what he does and also very confident as he delivered all that he pledged.

All allegations leveled by those so called political forces will sizzle off in a shorter period of time, as people are with him and the government.

Q: Mr. Minster how is your health?

A: I am getting better. I am always a positive thinker and I am back on track.

 

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