Cabinet Minister of National Co-existence, Dialogue and Official Languages Mano Ganesan spoke to the Nation regarding the state of the proposed merger of the Northern and Eastern Provinces, the Uma Oya crisis, President Maithripala Sirisena’s comments about the Financial Crimes Investigation Division (FCID) and whether any changes can be expected in this regard, the future of the Government beyond September, the garbage problem, the dengue epidemic, the South Asian Institute of Technology and Medicine (SAITM) issue, and the maligned Local Government elections.
Q : What is the view of the Government with regard to the proposed merger of the North and the East?
The stance, or more accurately the mood within the Steering Committee responsible for drawing up a New Constitution, which has received responses from the Mahanayakes and many other sections, is not for the merger. On the other hand however, a merger as per the 1987 Indo-Lanka agreement and follow up constitutional amendments, demands a referendum in the Eastern Province to check the mood of the people, which was however never held.
Anyone propagating for a merger needs to get the best support out of the people of the Eastern Province. As it is today, there is no merger and in particular, noting is happening that is in favour of and for it.
Q : Apart from temporarily halting drilling in the Uma Oya Multipurpose Development Project and seeking to appoint a special Presidential commission of inquiry in this regard, what is going to done on behalf of the people affected by the construction of this ill-advised Project?
Now it has come to the attention of the highest person in and of the Governmental hierarchy. The first citizen has taken it into his own hands and has already expressed his views. The official stance of the Government will be announced in a couple of days. The President is already acting in this regard.
Q : Will the FCID be brought directly under the purview of President Maithripala Sirisena?
The Department of Police has many branches within it such as the FCID, the Terrorism Investigation Division and many other such branches, departments and divisions. Generally speaking, we are satisfied about the activities of the Police and Inspector General of Police Pujith Jayasundara. With respect to the FCID, the performance of the FCID has come up as a centre point in many discussions. This started with the comment by President Sirisena to the Cabinet. We do not speak about what occurs in the Cabinet, however Co-Cabinet Spokesman, Minister of Health Dr. Rajitha Senaratne spoke about the matter and therefore I have nothing to hide. The President expressed his dissatisfaction not only about the activities of the FCID but also about the Attorney General’s (AG’s) Department. He expressed his wish to have both the FCID and the AG’s Department brought directly under him. As the President, he distributes portfolios and subjects to Ministers including to me.
Why is the President saying so much now if what he wants is to take the FCID and AG’s Department under him? To be fair to him, this is a national unity Government and these two portfolios are with the United National Party (UNP), Minister of Law and Order Sagala Ratnayaka and Minister of Justice President’s Counsel (PC) Dr. Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe. Preisdent Sirisena has not used his Executive powers to grab these portfolios. As this is a national unity Government, President Sirisena has publicly made his opinion known. It is therefore the moral responsibility of the UNP to handover the said portfolios to the President, and on his part, should the said portfolios come under him, a move to which the UNP should agree, The President as the President, as he himself has said and promised, is to be expected to deliver the results within three months, by end October.
Q : Are there serious discussions in order to make this happen?
The President’s opinion was made at a Cabinet meeting. A Cabinet meeting is not a political platform. It is the most serious, most Executive and most authoritative entity in the Government and you and I cannot take such lightly.
Q : Certain Members of the Government express that they intend to leave the Government and sit independently come September when the term of the agreement between the UNP and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) expires.
The agreement is between the major Parties, the UNP and the SLFP. The agreement will go ahead. Not being a member of either Party, I wish they do not forget that within the national unity Government there are many minor Parties such as the Tamil Progressive Alliance, the Sri Lanka Muslim Congress and the All Ceylon Makkal Congress, and therefore anybody wanting to form or go ahead with a Government, even for any constitutional arrangement or amendment, definitely needs the support of these 18 MPs to obtain the two thirds majority for the latter. These three Parties are very much united. The major Parties should act with responsibility to ensure that we are part of any future arrangement as any wrong move on their part would have repercussions as far as the said 18 Parliamentarians are concerned.
Q : Dengue too continues to be on the rise. Is the Government committed to saving the lives of the people?
Dengue and garbage are interconnected. It is like the left hand and the right hand. One contributes to the other. As long as the garbage problem remains unresolved, one cannot say that one can be genuine about the campaign on dengue.
Q : What is the united stand of the Government on the question of the SAITM?
The issue of the SAITM was passed onto our Government by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. We are paying the price for this criminal activity. We made a terrible mistake by grabbing hold of the responsibility regarding this. Now, Kurunegala District MP Rajapaksa’s own people are on anti-SAITM stages. I welcome private participation in education and especially university education. Foreign exchange revenue that goes out of the country when local students go abroad for their education can be saved if university education is given here. Sri Lanka can be made as an education hub. In Australia, next to coal, education is their biggest revenue earning export. Large numbers of private universities must therefore be set up. However, medicine is a sensitive matter that deals with life and death issues. Therefore, it is not wise for this to be placed with the private sector. Therefore, other than medicine which must be under the State, within the supervision of the State, all other subjects can be with the private sector.
Q : What is the situation of the Local Government elections?
On the evening of July 6, a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was held with the participation of the Chairman of the Election Commission Mahinda Deshapriya, the Attorney General Jayantha Jayasuriya PC and the leaders of political Parties. At the meeting, tentative amendments to the Local Authorities elections Act were agreed upon and the Attorney General was given the responsibility of coming out with a draft at the next meeting where things can be finally agreed upon and then submitted to the Cabinet and subsequently passed in the Parliament and the elections be held afterwards.