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‘‘It’s a shame that Sri Lanka imports even the national flag’’ State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara

22 December 2020 12:01 am - 8     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • The SLFP plays a huge role in taking the Government in the right direction as the major constituent partner of the SLPP led coalition Government.
  • We don’t extend our support to the Government blindly, in a slavish or submissive manner, but offer constructive criticism and advice when necessary.
  • To be frank we are not happy with the allocation of ministerial portfolios to our party.
  • Voting for the 20th Amendment to the Constitution was a bit problematic for the SLFP. But we cannot forget the fact that this Government got a mandate at the Presidential and Parliamentary polls from the people to replace the much castigated 19th with the 20th A.
  • Ignoring our first choice of Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa for the National List slot and appointing someone else even without consulting us was an insult to the SLFP.
  • Before long the SLFP will return to its former glory as we have in place a robust reorganization programme to revive the party from the grassroots level to the top leadership.

 

The Daily Mirror Spoke to SLFP General Secretary and the State Minister for Batik, Handloom, Fabric and Local Apparel products Dayasiri Jayasekara on the current political situation in the country, SLFP’s future and the responsibilities he has been entrusted with the by the SLPP 
led Government. 

EXCERPTS: 


QAre you satisfied that the SLFP plays a major part in decision making in the Government? 


Yes indeed, because it is the SLFP with its 14 member strong Parliamentary group, that a two thirds majority has been ensured for the SLPP led Government in Parliament. Without the support of the SLFP, the Government would not have been in a position to pass the 20th Amendment to the Constitution. The Government must maintain a two thirds majority in the House unhindered in the days to come because the Government expects to introduce tax reforms, judicial reforms and other legislative and constitutional measures including a new Constitution. Therefore, the SLFP’s continuous support is extremely vital for the smooth run of the government. We also play a huge role to take the Government in the right direction as the major constituent partner of the Government. We don’t extend our support to the government blindly or in a slavish or submissive manner, but offer constructive criticism and advice when necessary. 

 

The plus factor however is that the SLFP was instrumental in incorporating positive and democratic pieces the legislations contained in the 19th A in the 20th A.


QIt is no secret that there were leg pulling, vituperative politics and slandering campaigns against the SLFP during the Parliamentary polls. Do you think winning 14 seats is a major achievement for the SLFP given these drawbacks?


Absolutely! The SLFP fielded 26 candidates at the August General Election and 14 out of them were returned, a phenomena which I rate as quite an achievement. If you calculate the victory ratio against the number of candidates fielded, the SLFP takes the first place easily among all other parties. Also, the SLFP candidates have lost marginally in about six other constituencies. If there was a slight change in the pattern of voting, our candidates would have won easily. You may recall that there was a virulent campaign against the SLFP during the election campaign. Certain SLPP candidates openly told voters not to vote for the SLFP candidates. There was another canard aimed at weakening the SLFP where it was said that the SLFP was in cahoots with the Samagi Jana Balawegaya (SJB). These developments show that the SLFP is still a major political party and a major political force in Sri Lanka. But we are also not happy with the allocation of Ministerial portfolios for our party. 

QAre you happy with the treatment meted out to the SLFP by the SLPP led Government? 


There is no gainsaying that we are happy or satisfied. But we continue to support the Government as we have to accomplish much during the tenure of this regime for the people because we have a mandate from the people. We try our best to content with what we have. People who voted for us have high expectation that we would deliver. But sadly, at the grassroots level, or district, electoral and village level our organizers are extremely disappointed. 

QYou and the SLFP voted for 20th Amendment to the Constitution. Don’t you have any guilty feeling after the SLFP wholeheartedly supported to pass the 19th A on March 28, 2015?


Yes, it was a dilemma for the SLFP. But don’t forget that this Government received a mandate at the Presidential and Parliamentary polls from the people to replace the 19th Amendment to the Constitution with the 20th A. The 19th Amendment failed to achieve intended objectives, but created a kind of anarchy in the country by establishing three power bases under the Executive President, Prime Minister and the Speaker. It was a crisis at its peak and public officials were at a loss as to under whose command they ought to carry out their day-to-day duties. The rule of law was in shatters. There was no political stability in the country and the economy was stagnant. Ultimately, the destructive outcome of this rivalry was the Easter Sunday carnage that killed nearly 260 innocent people, wounded another hundreds and reversed the progress of the country for several years. The plus factor however is that the SLFP was instrumental in incorporating positive and democratic pieces the legislations contained in the 19th A in the 20th A. 


Under the 19th A the so-called independent commissions had a free hand and worked on their own with a few members taking decisions. The Constitutional Council did not listen to the President. The Executive President did not have power to even appoint the IGP though he was the Defence Minister. The 20th Amendment corrected these shortcomings.

QThe Government hierarchy ignored SLFP’s first choice, Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa for the party’s national list slot, but appointed Dr. Raghawan even without consulting the SLFP or informing it. How do you take this insult? 


It was an insult to the SLFP. We sent four names to the SLPP to be considered for the two national list slots in keeping with SLFP’s expectations. Our first choice was Prof. Rohana Lakshman Piyadasa, second preference was former Minister Faizer Muthapha, third was Dr. Suren Raghavan and the fourth nominee was senior lawyer Bandula Wellalage. We were unaware until Dr. Raghavan was appointed. The SLFP was not consulted regarding his nomination as a national list MP. 


QDoes the SLFP expect to remain as a constituent partner of the SLPP dominated Government forever or reorganise itself as a leading force in national politics that ruled the country for more than 30 years after Independence?


The founding father of the SLFP, the late Prime Minister S.W.R.D.Bandaranaike once said ‘Galana Gangak Apasu Nogalai’, (loosely translated - A moving river cannot be turned back). Right throughout since its birth, the SLFP has confronted many a setback beginning with the assassination of Mr. Bandaranaike in less than ten years of existence in national politics. After Sirimavo Bandaranaike took over the party leadership and brought the party to victory in 1960, there was a coup d’etat in 1962 in addition to a flood of trade union actions against her government around the year. Again on December 3, 1964, a group of 14 members, including top SLFPers like Minister and Leader of the House C.P.De Silva, crossed over to the opposition and paved the way for the UNP to return to power in 1965. But the SLFP came to power in 1970 under Mrs. B. And during the 17-year-rule of

J.R.Jayewardene, she lost her civic rights and the party was weakened with a number of SLFP stalwarts like Anura Bandaranaike, Mithripala Sirisena deserting the party. But as a mythical sphinx, the SLFP one again returned to power in 1994. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then and the SLFP remains as the third force in national politics in the country. Before long, the SLFP will return to its former glory as we have in place a robust reorganization programme to revive the party from the grassroots level to the top leadership. 


As the General Secretary of the party, I maintain a constant dialogue with our organizers at the provincial, district and constituent level and through them to the grassroots level supporters of the party with the forthcoming Provincial Councils election in mind. 


QThe Batik and Handloom industry once remained as a money spinner in the national economy providing employment to thousands of families. How are you going to revive this vital domestic industry?


It is sad to witness the fate befallen the Handloom and Batik industry in the country after the open economy was introduced in 1977. As you may be aware the batik and handloom industry was one of the top domestic industries providing a livelihood to thousands of families and a vast number of people. Dozens of industrialists opened Batik factories and made quality batik and handloom products for export while batik shops were opened in many parts of the country that catered to tourists. One of the major casualties in the domestic industrial sector was batik and handloom after 1977 as the market was inundated with cheap batik and handloom products imported from East Asian countries. 


I expect to establish a training academy in 2021 to train 10,000 youth – young women in particular- in batik and handloom using high technology and new designs. Only high quality and value added batik and handloom products with attractive designs can penetrate the global market. I am confident that with the right kind of approach to this industry, Sri Lanka will get an opportunity to create our own brand name for batik and handloom products in the foreign market. 


I also have in mind to open 200 batik and handloom villages next year and import high quality dye and yarn and market them through ‘Salusala’. We must give up on printing only the elephant, tiger, Sigiriya or Dalada Maligawa on our Batik and handloom products and explore on the avenues to create new designs. 


The Batik, Handloom, Fabric and Local Apparel Products State Ministry expects to make an appeal to public servants to wear Batik clothing once a week from January 1st, 2021, produce the entire stock of fabric needed for school uniforms, uniforms of armed forces and Police, linen and fabric required for the tourist hotels and saffron robes. 


Sri Lanka imports 40,000 saffron robes annually, but we have decided to produce these items locally. Also we have had a discussion with Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith to get catholic priests to wear locally manufactured cassocks. We have also decided to set up franchised shops abroad to sell Sri Lankan handlooms and 
other items. 


It’s a shame that Sri Lanka imports even the national and Buddhist flags and saffron robes. My ministry will provide raw materials, incentives and facilities to produce robes and flags domestically and there will be imporation of these material hereafter. There is a good market in the country for these products. 

 

We try our best to content with what we have. People who voted for us have high expectation that we would deliver. But sadly, at the grassroots level, or district, electoral and village level our organizers are extremely disappointed


QWhat is the SLFP’s position on the PC polls?


The SLFP is for Provincial Councils. We want the Government to conduct the much delayed PC polls as early as possible and begin the necessary legislative process soon after the Budget 2021 debate is concluded to remove the existing legal impediments that have delayed PC polls. 


The SLFP is obliged to contest the PC polls with the SLPP as we are a coalition. However, a final decision will be taken after the election for the Provincial Councils to be gazetted. 


If we are to abolish the 13th Amendment or to do away with the Provincial Councils, we must do it with the cooperation and consent of India because the Provincial Council system was introduced to Sri Lanka in a bilateral agreement - The Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Accord - signed on July 29, 1987. 


QHow is the reorganization process of the party? 


I have conducted a several rounds of talks with out district and constituent level organizers to rebuild the party after the recent setbacks. We still have a strong vote base and hundreds of thousand SLFP supporters who are keen on making the SLFP one of the robust political forces in the mainstream politics of Sri Lanka. Don’t forget the fact that the SLFP is the strongest political party in Parliament after the SLPP and SJB. I am confident that the SLFP will not fall to the level of UNP. 


QDo you have any difficulty in retaining the 14 MPs within the party as political maneuvering and scheming is the order of the day at present? 


Not at all. We all stick together both in and outside Parliament and take decisions on consensus and dialogue. However my job as the General Secretary of the party to keep them together is not an easy task. We have different perceptions and ideologies, but final decisions are taken collectively.

 

The 19th Amendment failed to achieve intended objectives, but created a kind of anarchy in the country by establishing three power bases under the Executive President, Prime Minister and the Speaker. It was a crisis at its peak and public officials were at a loss as to under whose command they ought to carry out duties

 


Jayasekara to halt import of robes from Thiland, China 

Batik, Handloom, Fabric and Local Apparel Products State Minister Dayasiri Jayasekara has stopped a move by the private sector to import 6.5 million national flags from China in view of the forthcoming National Day celebrations in February and has instructed local handloom and power loom weavers to supply the demand in full using domestic resources and expertise, a spokesman of the Ministry said yesterday. This is what Jayasekara had to say regarding this move. 


“The state owned Salusala will provide fabrics, dye and other raw materials necessary to make national or lion flags for local weavers who have been registered under ‘Salusala’ and also market them to an affordable price; lower than the imported ones. It is shame if we can’t produce a national flag by ourselves. Plans would be made to provide facilities to the local handloom and power loom industry to produce robes required for bhikkus and to stop importing yellow robes in the numbers ranging between 40,000- 60,000 from Thailand and China annually. 
“We have successfully conducted a ‘National Robes Dyeing Festival’ (Siuru Pandu Peweeme Jathika Uthswaya) for the first time last November at Somawathi Chetiya premises in Anuradhapura with the participation of Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. 


We also have plans to produce 75,000 saris for Daham Pasal teachers and one million Batik cloths for public servants. 


The Batik, Handloom and Power loom, Fabric and Apparel Products Ministry also expects to make an appeal to the 1.8 million public servants to come to office wearing an outfit made of Batik once a week from January 1st, 2021 to give a boost to the local Batik industry. In Batticaloa alone, about 35,000 families that engaged in the batik and handloom industry lost their livelihood after 1977. 

 

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  Comments - 8

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  • VJ Tuesday, 22 December 2020 08:05 PM

    You can say it differently, Sri Lanka can’t even produce a flag.

    BuffaloaCitizen Wednesday, 23 December 2020 02:32 PM

    Worse, the flag itself is not a depiction of this countries people and originalities. Lion doesn't belong to SL, the sword is not a peaceful weapon perhaps that is why we are always in turmoil and representing minorities like stripes of a zebra is ridiculous and disrespectful initself.

    Bandula Wednesday, 23 December 2020 07:47 AM

    Its a shame that sri lanka is on the world map.

    Lasith Sunday, 27 December 2020 02:14 AM

    Then do something about it to improve things!

    Jeeves Sunday, 27 December 2020 12:14 AM

    Buffaloa citizen,- are minorities represented in any European flags? No; only the majority community! So, appreciate the fact that many communities are represented in the Sri Lankan flag!

    Dee Tuesday, 29 December 2020 08:58 AM

    For a country which everything is imported from culture to history, what's wrong in the flag being imported?

    Era Saturday, 02 January 2021 10:52 AM

    And your party was in power for 21 years since 1994 and you were a cabinet minister since 1994. Ain't you ashamed to say this. ?

    Lanka putha Monday, 04 January 2021 03:23 PM

    Shock to read the news that coconuts are coming in. Shame on Sri Lanka government. In the west they loved buying sri lanka coconuts What is next


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