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Unity Govt’s foundation in jeopardy?

29 December 2016 08:46 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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But Senior Cabinet Minister assures stability, invites Chinese investors

 

  •     Only China has enough financial resources to cooperate with us
  •     Sri Lanka is important for the world because of its strategic location
  •     Kilinochchi DCC accepts proposal to declare LTTE war cemeteries as honoured sites 
  •     PAFFREL urges PC polls conducted soon without dragging
  •     Is UNP biding time till PC polls?
  •     Special Provisions Bill now unlikely to be taken in Parliament  

 

Acrimony between the members of United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) sometimes raises doubts as to whether the foundation of the unity government is shaken. Despite taking on each other creating confusion in the minds of people on the government’s future, a Minister representing SLFP tried to dispel such doubts in China recently. 


Labour and Labour Relations Minister John Seneviratne, who led a parliamentary delegation to China, said the government was stable in enough, and therefore China should not worry about investment in Sri Lanka. 


Upon a request by Speaker Karu Jayasuriya, the Chinese government has offered to sponsor familiarization visits to all 225 MPs. already, four batches have gone there this year. The latest delegation of 16 MPs across the divide undertook a tour of China this month and returned to the country recently.


Minister John Seneviratne led the team that travelled in three main provinces of China and interacted with the top officials of both the Communist Party of China and the government. 


During the meeting, the Chinese authorities are reported to have questioned about the perceived fragility of the government. The question was directed at a time when China had embarked on investing heavily in the country. 


The Minister in his address, as the leader of the delegation, tried to allay Chinese fears in investing in Sri Lanka, and said one should not be bothered about the government’s stability.  To convince the Chinese authorities further, he referred to how the government managed to pass the annual budget in Parliament with a two-thirds majority.  


The Minister seemed to have been inspired by the Chinese hospitality.  “China is nice towards Sri Lanka all the time. We witnessed how it has developed so fast,” he said.


Let alone the SLFP, even UNP MP State Minister of Vocational Training and Skills Development Palitha Range Bandara said Sri Lanka could turn only to China for financial cooperation. 


“There are countries that keep boasting. They do not extend any financial support to us. Only China has enough financial resources to cooperate with us. Sri Lanka is important for the world because of its strategic location. China appears to have understood it,” he said. 


Work is now underway for the identification of 15,000 acres of land, mainly from the Hambantota district and to a lesser extent from the nearby districts such as Moneragala and Ratnapura for Chinese investment projects earmarked at the moment. The project is however met with resistance from area residents who fear dislocation and deprivation of their agricultural land.  At the moment, the surveying of land has been suspended following public demonstration.  Be that as it may, no one seems to be opposed to investment zones and port development activities in Hambantota. The opposition is for the plan to demarcate such a large swathe of land for the purpose at once.

 Alongside, all the parties - either directly or indirectly - have now realized the economic logic of the Hambantota port project. 


It became apparent when JVP MP for the Hambantota district Nihal Galappatti said he, along with some others, such as business tycoon Ariyaseela Wickramanayake, spoke of the need to have a port in Hambantota way back prior to 1994.  Next, former Minister Ananda Kularatne also tried to initiate the project during the 2002/2004 period of the UNP government. Hambantota is an area with a lot of environmentally sensitive lands, particularly due to elephant corridors and bird migratory routes.  The second international airport, which was initially proposed to be constructed in Weerawila, was shifted to Mattala due to the same reason.  Even the land earmarked for the port is occasionally roamed into by wild elephants as evident in damages caused to the fence at several points. 


Of course, industrial development is accepted by all for Hambantota. But, a proper balance has to be struck as otherwise public protest may snowball beyond control making it impossible to do anything at the end.  


Kilinochchi DCC accepts proposal to declare LTTE war cemeteries as honoured sites 
An interesting suggestion was made by a member of civil society at the District Development Coordinating Committee meeting of Kilinochchi recently. The member proposed to declare the war cemeteries of the LTTE in the area as honoured sites for the benefit of relatives to pay homage. 
Northern Province Chief Minister C.V.Wigneswaran, as the co-chairman of the committee, readily accepted the idea and decided to proceed.  The LTTE maintained these cemeteries at that time for the burial of their cadres who perished in fighting. With this decision, they are to be renovated for the relatives of those cadres to pay homage. 

 


Delimitation Report delayed further 
Despite prior announcement, the committee headed by Asoka Peiris, could not hand over the report on delimitation of electoral wards on December 27. This has led to consternation among the election monitoring bodies. 


In a hard-hitting statement, People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL) said the failure to deliver in time had sullied the image of Mr. Peiris as a renowned public servant. PAFFREL also faulted Subject Minister Faiser Mustapha in this regard.  It urged the government to take steps to conduct the local government election as early as possible without dragging its feet on the matter any further. 


It said this had deprived people of their right to elect their representatives to 335 local authorities for two years as of now.


For the election to be conducted, the report has to be handed over to the Minister. Depending on its recommendations, the Minister has to announce the electoral wards in a gazette notification. Alongside, the number of members to be elected should also be gazetted.  

 


Is UNP biding time till PC polls?
The Joint Opposition (JO) is the political force that agitated most for early elections to the local bodies. It is to have an urgent meeting very soon to discuss novel strategies to prevail upon the government to declare the elections. It believes the UNP, as the main party of the government, is keen to have the provincial elections due in August next year.  The terms of the Eastern, North Central and Sabaragumwa Provincial Councils will be over by the middle of next year, and as such the election should be conducted to those bodies before August next year. 


The JO believes that the UNP, as a governing party, would be more keen to go for the polls, and until such time, it would bide time without any firm action to hold elections to the local authorities.


Development (Special Provisions) Bill now unlikely to be taken in Parliament  
The Development (Special Provisions) Bill, which intends to create two powerful ministers for decision making related to investments, has been rejected forthwith by five Provincial Councils. It is widely anticipated that the remaining four PCs will also follow suit in this regard. Against this backdrop, the government is now unlikely to move forward with the new legislation any time soon. 


First, it was rejected by the Uva Provincial Council. Then, the trend continued with the Northern, North Central, Sabaragamuwa, Southern , Central  and North Western Provincial Councils. It was a piece of legislation introduced by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Management headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.  SLFP, an ally of the government, is opposed to the contents of the Bill. All the PCs, barring the Northern and Eastern PCs, are administered by the Chief Ministers of SLFP. 

 

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