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Vasudeva says whatever differences within the govt. will be finally managed through progress than discontent



Welcomes scrapping ECT deal with India

by Suresh Perera

Whatever differences coalition partners have within the government of the alliance will be managed through discussion. They will all be finally managed on the basis of progress rather than discontent, says Minister of Water Supply, Vasudeva Nanayakkara.

“I think seeing eye to eye is not an easy expectation even in personal relationships. So in complex politics, it should be more than that. The difficulties of managing different points of view, what we do is to bring all dissension within a framework. We are working within a larger framework of a people-centered development program, a national development program, a national economy and further to keep the welfare state going within the democratic framework”, he said in an email interview with The Sunday Island.

“So within this larger framework there can be hundreds of points on which we can have different positions and different points of view”, the veteran left-wing politician and firebrand trade unionist said in response to a question on coalition partners within the SLPP fold not seeing eye to eye on certain issues, which has led to discontent.

On the Port City project, which critics have labeled as a “Chinese colony”, and whether he agrees or dismiss fears that over-dependence on the Chinese could spell disastrous consequences in the long term, the Minister said: Firstly, the description that the Port City is a ‘Chinese Colony’ is a canard, to say the minimum. Secondly, the people who have money to invest have invested in order that we may develop an area which will be a zone where restrictions don’t apply and free investments and investors can prevail to develop our country’s foreign investment situation.

“It is mainly a financial and banking District. The others are servicing financial and banking activities. I believe the Port City will help us in many ways in resolving our employment for the literate, digitally literate and middle level management employment and also mainly junior level workers. I don’t think there are no problems, there will be problems which we will all bring within the sovereignty of our country. The President will be able to do it on behalf of our people and in their best interest. That’s how I see the Port City”, he continued.

Q: The proposed handing over of the East Container Terminal (ECT) of the Colombo Port to an Indian company as an “investment project” (the term used by the government) was scrapped following heavy resistance by port workers. Do you think Sri Lanka should have pushed ahead with the move, as planned, to develop the ECT with Indian involvement?

The workers in the port, the trade unions, the left leaning members of the cabinet, the Parliamentary Group of the SLPP and National Political Forces came together in opposing to the east container terminal, which has been nearly completed, being given away to an Indian company. Therefore, the matter of it becoming a source of major revenue to the port was not very far and therefore the alienation of east container terminal on the basis of a lease was not acceptable because it was inimical to our interest and the interest of the port revenue. I believe that we, as a nation, was right in standing up to support the scrapping of the ECT proposal with the Indian Company.

Q: What are your views on selling or leasing national assets to foreign interests in the name of “investments”? Do you think that, as a country, we have overstepped the mark, though it’s a fact that foreign direct investments that generate a foreign exchange inflow are important for economic progress?

The policy of our Government is not to alienate any of our assets, that policy stands intact. I don’t know why this question should have been raised; it has always been the policy to rent out or lease our lands for different projects; which ends up finally with the lands returned to the fold of the country. This is not a new practice. FDIs come on the basis of their equality that they bring into the country instead of having to depend on loans that does not have tradeoff between our national assets and foreign direct investments.

Q: As a coalition partner of the SLPP, are you happy with the performance of the government at a time people are complaining of the soaring cost of living?

The cost of living was checked during the festival season very reasonably by measures taken by the Minister of Trade, Dr. Bandula Gunawardena, and this we want to extend. We decided in the cabinet to extend the period to the post-festive in the coming days and thus keep the cost of living at bay. I personally think, and am optimistic about the future performance of the Government.

Q: As a veteran firebrand politician, you have always championed the just cause of the workers in Sri Lanka. In this context, are you happy with the contribution made so far by the government towards the welfare of the workers?

I see a very positive approach on the part of the Government regarding the working people. In fact, the development program is known as the people-centered development program. There have been a number of decisions made to alleviate the difficulties of the working class and the working people. Therefore, I feel confident more than any other regime, this Government is going forward towards welfare of the workers and consolidation of their rights.

Q: For the third consecutive year, May Day celebrations have been called off due to the prevailing pandemic situation. Under the circumstances, what’s your message to the workers?

The workers must respect and understand the health regulations that prevail in the country which is in the interest in the whole country. Anybody who violates it, knowingly or unintentionally will be acting anti-socially. But as a worker of this country, we look up to the media and internet to extend our solidarity and greetings among our workers and their leaders. Therefore, it’s not only the May Day that we have not had. For three consecutive years, even our New Year and Vesak celebrations were curbed on that account. But May Day, being an internationally significant day for workers all over the world, the restraints on this celebration has to be undertaken and will be acceptable to all workers. As soon as the constrains are removed, the worker solidarity, unionization and the alliances will spring back into activity.



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Information Dept. media release: EC Chief asks public not to be misled



by Priyan de Silva

Chairman of the Election Commission of Sri Lanka, Nimal Punchihewa, asked to comment on a special news release, purportedly issued by the Director General of the Department of Government Information, on Sunday (29), told  The Island  that preparations for the 09 March local government elections were going ahead, as planned, and that the media statement at issue was misleading.

The media statement says: “The gazette notice with signatures of the Chairman and other members of the Election Commission required for the commencement of the Local Government election process has not been sent to the Government Press for printing.”

Punchihewa requested the public not to be misled by any misinformation being spread in an attempt to create doubts in their minds.He also  reiterated that the EC would not be deterred by any acts of intimidation.

Three of the EC members have been threatened with death by an unidentified caller to resign from their posts. They are S. B. Divaratne, M. M. Mohamed and K. P. P. Pathirana. The Opposition has accused the government of trying to sabotage the LG polls.

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Cardinal urges Catholics to fight for justice



 By Norman Palihawadane

Today’s Church does not need ‘sacristy Catholics’ but a laity who fight for justice, says Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith.

Addressing a gathering at a ceremony to mark the 40th Anniversary of the Deva Dharma Nikethanaya, at Archbishop’s House auditorium, at Borella, last week, the Cardinal said that turning every layperson into a mature Christian, fit for leadership, should be the foremost duty of the Catholic Church. “Once the Catholic Church functioned as a Bishop-priest centered church and did only what the Bishop of the priest would say. We have to change the outlook of the Church. Today, we no longer need such sacristy Catholics. We need a laity who are ready to get down to the streets and fight for justice and do what is right for society,” the Cardinal said.

“The Church needs Christians who will commit themselves for Christ and follow his example. We do not need spoon-fed babies,” he said.

He said that the Bishops and Priests should not be afraid of handing over the responsibilities to the laity. “We should share our responsibilities with joy. The Church cannot continue otherwise. Understanding this situation, Pope Francis wants to change the priest-centres position that has become a theoretical doctrine in the church and to study how the church should change in a way that suits the present world.”

Apostolic Nuncio to Sri Lanka Rev Dr Brian Udaigwe and President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference President Rt Rev Dr Harold Anthony Perera also addressed the gathering.

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Protests against 13A used to arouse communal feelings – SJB



Protests against the implementation of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution are being used to arouse communal feelings among people ahead of an election, says the main Opposition SJB.

Addressing the media on Saturday, at the Opposition Leader’s Office in Colombo, Chief Opposition Whip, SJB Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said:

“This country has witnessed many instances in the past. This time, too, the same old slogan of the country being divided is heard again.

“The 13th Amendment is part of the Constitution. All parties have contested elections under the 13th Amendment. The UNP, SLFP, SLPP and JVP have contested provincial council elections. It shows that they have accepted the 13th Amendment. Those in such parties now opposing the 13th Amendment must first explain how they oppose it directly while accepting the same indirectly by sending their members to the provincial councils set up under the 13th Amendment,” Kiriella said.

“The claim of the country being divided by the 13th amendment is made to arouse the communal feelings.

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