Written by Zulfick Farzan

31 Dec, 2020 | 2:29 pm

Colombo (The Hindu); Former President Maithripala Sirisena had said if the ruling party allocates a fair share of seats due to the Sri Lanka Freedom Party there will be no problem in going to polls together with the government.

In an interview with The Hindu, former President Sirisena said if there is no fair treatment, the SLFP will decide on a solo journey and it is ready for both options.

He said the ruling party organised political attacks on Sri Lanka Freedom Party candidates who had been nominated for the General Election in August 2020.

“We are bound to a platform of democracy and we want to strengthen it. Whenever we come into a coalition, we insist that democracy and human rights be respected. The Buddhist doctrine offers ample guidance on how to run a State,” said Sirisena.

Commenting on the provincial councils in the country, Sirisena said the provincial council system has been in existence for over 30 years and Sri Lanka hasn’t seriously evaluated if they have been successful in serving the purpose they were supposed to.

“One of the main problems is that of the total allocations to the provincial councils annually, only 25 % or so goes into the actual development of the provinces. Nearly 75 % goes towards salaries, vehicles, telephone and electricity bills. There is an excessive number of employees in the provincial councils,” he remarked.

“When the central government pumps in money into the provincial councils, it is done as an investment for the development of the country. However, the return on such investment has been less. So we need to reduce wasteful expenditure, perhaps by reducing the number of councillors and employees, in order to increase the return on investment, he added”

Former President Sirisena said the 30 year-experience of running provincial councils has not yielded the desired results in terms of developing all parts of the country.

Adding the creation of the provincial councils was an investment, Sirisena said Sri Lanka has been keeping them going for 30 years, and when they don’t yield the benefits that were expected in terms of development, people and the government should take a fair decision.

“The 13th Amendment is a product of the Indo-Lanka Accord of 1987. The Provincial Councils Act is a product of the 13th Amendment. So, I know it is not that easy to abolish provincial councils. India could get a little upset with us if we completely do away with the 13th Amendment,” he said.

Former President Sirisena said in the region, the friendship with India is very important to Sri Lanka adding the friendship between the two countries is of utmost importance and should be strengthened by all governments.

Abolishing provincial councils is like playing with fire, said Sirisena.

Commenting on the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, the Former Head of State said he did not like the fact that the 19th Amendment has been abolished.

“Had I been the President, I would have made changes to the 19th Amendment to strengthen it. There were some drawbacks in it, I would have addressed those,” he said.

Speaking further to The Hindu, Sirisena said it is a fact that in Sri Lanka the Sinhalese are the majority and Sri Lanka must ensure Tamils, Muslims, and Burghers have equal rights as minorities.

“For example, take the issue of mandatory cremation of victims of Covid-19. Muslims must be given the right to bury their relatives who succumbed to it. The WHO [World Health Organization] says it is possible to bury. As a former Minister of Health, I stand by the opinion of the WHO,” he stressed.

He said one cannot develop the country when the sentiments of minority communities are hurt and stressed one has to ensure that democracy and economic development are shared equally by all ethnic groups in this country.

“I am happy with everything I did. I did everything with good intentions. My time in office is historic for the fact that no government-owned rifle ever shot at a citizen,” said the former President.

“During my time, there were protests every day on the streets, by students, by workers. I had ordered the police and army not to ever resort to shooting. I told them they could take legal action later, but should never fire a single shot, even though the protests gave me a lot of mental agony. That is one of my greatest achievements as a leader,” he noted.

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