Presidential Secretariat of Sri Lanka

Start from the simplest point: You can make a big difference later. President tells State Ministers

  • Cabinet Minister formulates policy; State Minister for implementation
  • Will change the current political culture…
  • Having plans in files is useless; Need to be taken to the ground

‘A simple start can make a big difference over time. Therefore, initiate the process with the simplest step. When we came to power in the year 2005, we even could not get out; there were garbage everywhere. There were 03 garbage mounds within 100 yards from my official residence at that time. Proper waste removal is an easy process. Every Ministry can render a great service with simple tasks’, said President Gotabaya Rajapaksa addressing State Ministers at the Presidential Secretariat, today (10).

All State Ministers were present at the meeting. “The review of scope and role of the recently established State Ministries could be completed in the next three weeks,” the President said adding that the structure of the State Ministries was formulated to address the issues identified within last few years.

‘I think that you have a clear understanding as to how much work can be done by these Ministries. You have been entrusted with the responsibility of working in agreement with the Minister on a common policy. It is our duty to meet the expectations of the people. Fulfill your responsibilities with the assistance of the officials,’ the President urged the State Ministers.

President Rajapaksa emphasized that future works should be done according to a plan and asked to evaluate the amount of work that can be done from year to year and prepare a Five Year plan.

“Officials may say that everything has been done  and in order. But strategies and plans are useless if they are confined only to their files and folders. You have to take them to the ground and make them a reality. It’s the key role of a State Minister.” President emphasized.

President Rajapaksa reminded everyone of his promise of a “true change” he made during the Presidential election and reaffirmed that he would change the current political culture in the country. “I am bound by that responsibility and you as well. Also make the maximum out of this opportunity to shape your political life.” President added.

During his discussion with the State Ministers, the President touched upon number of areas including, Agriculture, Technological innovations, Housing Development, Water supply, Urban Development and Cost of living. As an example, the President cited that he had established three State Ministries to ensure development of agriculture.

“Some paddy lands are abandoned; they are no longer suitable for cultivating paddy. We granted permission for the Agrarian Services Centers to cultivate other crops in them. Likewise you can use such lands to plant coconut trees as well.” President highlighted.

President Rajapaksa said that he expects to meet the State Ministers every month to exchange ideas and it will assist them in resolving issues they encounter when they move forward with their actions.

Views expressed by the President during the meeting with State Ministers

10.09.2020

We had discussions about State Ministries during the last few weeks. We will meet the other State Ministries during this week and the coming week. We will be able to review activities of all State Ministries in another two or three week.

We have structured State Ministries by paying attention to the issues persisted in the past. The State Ministries have been designed to use the abilities of State Ministers in a proper way.

Although State Ministers do not sit at the Cabinet they have been given all the required authority. Their scope of subject is clear. Every State Ministry has a designated Secretary. Funds will be allocated from the budget for each Ministry. Some Ministries may encounter issues. My Secretary is analyzing them to find solutions.

You may aware the amount of work these Ministries can carry out. These Ministries have the legal authority. You have been entrusted with the responsibility to work in unison with the relevant Cabinet Minister. Perform your duties using the powers given to you with the assistance of officials. During reviews of this nature we realized that the scope of the Ministries is vast. These Ministries can bear enormous responsibilities. Everything has been planned from the grassroots level. It is our utmost duty to fulfill the aspirations of the people.

Some of you who have gathered here are newcomers. Some are well experienced. There are a considerable number of young Ministers. These young Ministers are the ones who can benefit more from the way we plan to work in the coming 5 years.

As the President I pledged to bring a change. We promised to transform the existing political culture. That responsibility is upon me. In addition, think you have the opportunity to change the course of your political life.

Some were of the view that they are unbeatable under the current preferential vote system. But the recently concluded election proved otherwise. How we can bring about a change?

Not like in the past, today there is a significant transformation in the political structure. People are more vigilant regarding any incident. The stability of a government depends on how effectively it addresses the needs of the people.

I think we should pay more attention to moving ahead as a whole rather than giving priority for the skills of each person. Our government is successful in making many decisions. That is why we have divided the subjects in a simple manner instead of giving them broad subject areas.  We had given subjects areas that should pay more responsiveness to the State Ministers.

Each one has a huge responsibility regarding their relevant subject areas. It is very important to submit a Five Year plan or else an annual plan specifying the tasks that they can fulfill. Similarly, the relevant authorities should understand what the areas are that priority should be given.

I have served 30 years in the public sector. 20 years in the military service. 10 years served as the Defence Secretary. I have achieved success in my public service career as I have worked in a well-planned manner in the field of urban development. All my strategies included long-term benefits for the people. Also, there are short- term benefits. Those are the benefits that people could visibly feel. We made a huge transformation in the process of structural development of the Colombo City within four years following the end of the war. It was acclaimed not only within Sri Lanka but also at the international level too.

We know it takes time to construct housing schemes. The advantage of several projects that I have initiated was taken by the previous government. During our regime too we constructed housing schemes and handed over those housing units to the people living in slums.  But the process took time. If you look outside from this place, all these investments including Shangrilla we brought into the country during our regime.

Nevertheless, there are some investments we can evidently show the people a gigantic change. For example removal of paraphet walls. We build paraphet walls with the use of barbed wire rolls as a result of the years continued war. When we removed those things it had a huge impact on the society. When we ended the putting of banners and posters it too had a massive impact on the society. Those are things that we could do in a single day.   Some of you may remember that when we came into power in the year 2005 garbage dumps were everywhere in the country. Waste management is a process that could be done without difficulty. We did that.

We can make a change with these simple things. The tasks such as building of walking paths, planting trees can heal the minds of the people.   Every single Ministry can do these kinds of tasks. We have been told to cultivate barren Paddy Fields.

There are some paddy lands which had been left to barren, but now it’s sorted. We have granted permission to use them for farming.

Govi Jana Seva is capable of farming other crops. They can prepare lands easily to plant Coconuts like this.

There are a number of barren lands along the Southern Express Way. If we are to plant Coconuts in these lands people will immediately realize that the respective Minister is dutiful. There are tasks in the Ministry that should be continued constantly and then there are plenty of duties that could be completed in a short time.

Prices of vegetables reflect a large issue on the cost of living today. But the middleman earns a hefty profit in this transaction. If we can implement a digital platform for distribution purposes we can make a considerable impact on this matter. There are long term plans and short term plans with regard to this issue.

We made separate state ministries for the Brass, clay and Batik industries. Through these ministries, you can comfort people engaged in these industries within a short period of time. These industries were abandoned for a long time, nobody wanted to back them up. With these industries, you can conveniently develop these village areas. You can construct outlets to sell their products. You can intervene and make a difference in finding their raw materials and other necessities.

You have to retain, a majority of those who supported us are at this level. We have been discussing solar power for quite some time now, but to what end? But we can aid these industries to have productive outcomes in a short time.

When we take education into account, we discussed about the school uniform for years, we even had discussions within “Viyathmaga” and they have devised plans for this.

We offered job opportunities for nearly 60,000 degree holders. 30,000 out of them were external degree holders. There were only a very few with Science degrees, the majority are Arts degree holders. We advised both the Vice-Chancellors and UGC to update the Arts degree curriculum in line with the current job market. Arts students can learn a technical subject. Do not take long and add them to the university curriculum immediately. There are degree holders with external degrees and from open universities as well. They have read Geography, History and other courses for their degrees. You can read Information Technology in open universities. They can make a difference in the economy. Remodeling of education can be done in a short time. Everything has been studied in brief.

One of the main topics circulated among us is innovation. We had discussed collaborating technology into agriculture. But we have failed to walk the talk. How do we increase productivity? How would we implement technology? These can be carried out immediately. But their results will be long term. Therefore we have to implement plans with short term results as well. I am talking out of my personal experience during my appointment as a Secretary in the government.

We have arranged the structure where the policies will be formulated by the Cabinet Minister while the State Minister will have to carry them out. Therefore we expect a lot from the State Ministers. You can fulfill a number of duties in each and every one of them. A specific procedure and a proper scope have been dictated by us. You can prioritize and strategize the tasks you have been entitled to and it is important to take them to the public. The officials must keep in their minds, strategies and plans are useless if they are confined only to their files and folders.

During my stay as the Secretary to the Urban Development Authority, once when I asked, “What have you done?” They responded that everything has been done in their files. It’s not enough you have to fulfill these strategies at the ground level to make a difference. That is the key role of the State Ministers. Several State Ministers are young and capable, I request them to use their potential responsibly to reach a favourable outcome.

I expect to meet State Ministers at least once a month. You will be given the opportunity to review the progress of your Ministries and to resolve any issues prevailing at your institutes