Priority for national security then and now ….
Ø Foreign forces oppose nationalism and patriotism ….
Ø We made our farmers rich instead of foreign farmers…
Ø Secured sovereignty by withdrawing external agreements detrimental to the country….
President says at the “Discussion with the Village” programme
Opposition has the freedom to make various allegations. But these allegations should be based on facts. However, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa stated that the campaign to mislead the people by making absurd allegations cannot be allowed and must be countered.
‘Recently, a statement made by an Opposition MP regarding the Easter Sunday attack was circulated in the media. It is a statement that directly concerns national security. Therefore, the CID investigated the matter. The MP who made the allegation gave conflicting answers to the CID such as ‘I forgot, lost memory, I don’t know’. The people should never be misled by making such baseless allegations,’ the President pointed out.
The previous government co-sponsored the resolution brought against us by the UN Human Rights Council. Rejecting that position, the present government withdrew from co-sponsorship. Promises made to the people are being systematically fulfilled. We have withdrawn from the agreements that were detrimental to the country, including the MCC Compact. Earlier, protestors were treated with tear gas and baton charges, now we have allotted a separate site for demonstrations. Steps were taken to protect our farmers by building an agro-based economy while giving priority to national and local interests. The economic policy that has enriched the foreign farming community so far has been changed and the environment has been created to uplift our farmers by cultivating what can be grown in the country. It is in this context, the President stated that this is the first time that he has seen the Human Rights Council submitting a report with the highest number of allegations of human rights violations against the government.
The President made these remarks yesterday (13) participating at the 14th “Discussion with the Village” programme held at the Janapada Junior School premises in Galagoda East Grama Niladhari Division in the Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretariat Division of the Galle District.
The “Discussion with the Village” programme commenced on September 25, 2020 from Badulla District. Thereafter programmes were organized covering Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Moneragala, Kegalle, Kandy, Puttalam, Trincomalee and Kurunegala districts. The ultimate goal of this programme is to meet the people in the remote villages, who have not been given due attention so far, inquire into their problems and immediately bring them to the notice of the officials and provide solutions.
The other issues which take time to deal with are noted down to find solutions later. Most issues identified during the “Discussion with the Village” programme are immediately addressed giving consideration to the suggestions and recommendations of the villagers with the assistance of the state officials.
Galagoda East Grama Niladhari Division is located 7 km away from the town of Ambalangoda. It is bordered on the south and east by Madampawila Sanctuary and to the Kuligoda village in Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretariat Division on the west. Galagodawatta Tsunami Village, Galagoda Colony and Galagoda New Colony belong to the Grama Niladhari Division. It has a population of 3711 comprising 1072 families. Fishing industry, Agriculture, Cinnamon and Coir rope industry are the main livelihoods of the villagers.
The President who arrived at the Galagoda Maga Neguma Ground to participate in the “Discussion with the Village” programme engaged in cordial discussions with the people who were gathered on both sides of the road leading to the Janapada Kanishta Vidyalaya and inquired about their existing issues and well-being.
President Rajapaksa declared the smart classroom open facilitated with a high speed internet connection donated by the SLT Mobitel at Janapada Kanishta Vidyalaya and presented laptops with internet connections to the principals of the Kuligoda Sumana Vidyalaya and Kumara Kashyapa Vidyalaya in addition to the television and the internet connection provided by Dialog Axiata.
Starting the “Discussion with the Village” program, the President inquired from the Maha Sangha about the shortcomings prevailing in the temples of the area.
President advised the officials to elevate Madampagama Maha Vidyalaya to the level of a National School and to develop the infrastructure facilities and the playgrounds of Ambalangoda Kularatne Maha Vidyalaya, Paraliya Sri Jinaratana Vidyalaya, Janapada Kanishta Vidyalaya, Weragoda Vijayaba Secondary School, Akurala Kanishta Vidyalaya, Kuligoda Sumana Vidyalayas.
President Rajapaksa paid special attention to the issues affecting the fishing industry, one of the main livelihoods of the people of Galaboda and the surrounding villages, and held lengthy discussions with the villagers and officials.
He instructed the officials to expedite the development of Peraliya, Dodanduwa, Ambalangoda, Hikkaduwa and Balapitiya fishing harbors. Special attention was paid to solve the problems of fishermen engaged in the seine(Ma dhal) fishing industry.
President Rajapaksa directed the government to renovate the tsunami fishing houses and expedite the resolution of long-standing land issues.
The President inquired into the difficulties faced by self-employed people in handicraft industries including Coir rope, mats, Coir and Coconut palm broom industries and directed the officials to provide them with the necessary facilities and a market for their products.
It was decided to carpet 21 roads and 49 short-distance roads in the area including the construction of Balapitiya, Maduwa Bridge and Rattagama Devithigoda Bridge.
Approval was granted to develop freshwater fisheries by converting abandoned paddy lands in Boossa, Pitiwella and Kadurupe areas into reservoirs. The President instructed 700 acres of fallow paddy lands identified in Ambalangoda to be distributed among 700 youths for Coconut plantation.
The President paid attention to a number of issues pertaining to tourism, health, drinking water, electricity and dairy farming.
The provision of grants to families who had been in possession of government lands without clear ownership started recently. President Rajapaksa presented grants for 5 lands under the Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretariat symbolically yesterday(13).
Another objective of President Rajapaksa is to promote school library facilities in all areas where the “Discussion with the Village” program is held. The President presented sets of books to schools under the theme “A generation empowered with knowledge”. Each school receives 500 books covering a number of disciplines to assist students in their further education.
Minister Ramesh Pathirana, Governor of the Southern Province Dr. Willie Gamage, State Minister Mohan P. De Silva, MPs Sampath Athukorala, Chandima Weerakkody, Isuru Dodangoda, Shan Wijayalal De Silva, Principal Adviser to the President Lalith Weeratunga, People’s Representatives of the District, Secretaries to Ministries, Heads of Government Institutions and Defense Forces and several others were present at the “Discussion with the Village” program in Janapada Kanishta Vidyala premises.
Full text of the views expressed by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa participating at the 14th “Discussion with the Village” programme held at the Janapada Junior School premises in Galagoda East Grama Niladhari Division in the Hikkaduwa Divisional Secretariat Division of the Galle District (2021-03-13).
We, as a government, hope to go among the people to witness the difficulties suffered by fellow citizens firsthand and to give swift solutions to their grievances. It has been one year and four months since I became the President. Nine months after I came into power, the parliamentary election was held. We were able to secure a great victory. You have given us a 2 / 3rd majority in Parliament because you have approved the measures that I have taken during those 09 months.
It has been about 8 months since the Parliament was elected. During that time various allegations were leveled against us as well as our government. The Opposition has launched a campaign to mislead the people by making absurd allegations. One of the most talked about topics in recent days is the Easter Sunday attack. An Opposition MP had accused me, Basil Rajapaksa and Nissanka Senadhipathi of being behind this incident. I directed the CID to investigate into this statement. That MP had been summoned to the CID to obtain the information he knew. Concealment of information is a criminal offence. So when they asked him to reveal the information he possessed, that MP gave conflicting answers to the CID saying, ‘I forgot, lost memory, I don’t know’. They had tried to misled people by making such baseless allegations. If we did not take actions to investigate into this matter, that statement would have gone among the public as a truth. This is a national issue and not something that can be used to achieve narrow political agendas. If the Opposition raises such absurd allegations even using such a national issue, you can imagine how they make various allegations on other issues. Opposition has the freedom to make various allegations. But these allegations should be based on facts. Information that misleads people should not be used. That is what is expected from politicians.
I’ve seen these days they often say that we are destroying the environment. I was sent a poster depicting a decayed tree trunk and stating ‘thank you’. At least put a picture of a freshly cut tree, as merely one year has passed after assuming the Presidency and how does that trunk rot in such a short time? As the Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development, I have undertaken various projects to protect the environment in Colombo and its suburbs as well as in the outstations. The environment is not just about trees, I am someone who has worked hard to protect lowlands and reservoirs.
When I went to the villages, one of the concerns people often raised was the non-availability of title deeds to their lands. We have now commenced a programme to grant deeds under the Ministry of Lands. Recently, we granted 20,000 deeds. We will continue that programme in the future as well. In addition, another issue pointed out was that lands that have been cultivated and inhabited for many years by the villagers, now have been demarcated by erecting border stones, using the Google Map facility. As a result of that the lands used by those people at present belong to the forest conservation department.
So we made a policy decision that we should look into this issue in a practical manner in order to provide an unprejudiced solution. But that does not mean you can use it as an excuse to clear forests. If deforestation takes place in Somawathiya or Kuchchiveli, it cannot be considered as their traditional lands. Licenses were not granted for the purpose of deforestation. In case of such activities, forest conservation and wildlife officials should take stern action against those illegal activities.
Recently, I went to Gomarankadawala village in the Trincomalee district for a programme similar to this. During that meeting, our own MP said that a forest was being cut down in a certain area. I immediately sent the army. I told them to go and see and if that news is true immediately halt that activity. There has been a tendency for cutting down forests in the Eastern Province as a result of various officials issuing permits in this regard. These are not things that happened in our time. Those things had started during the previous government. We told them to stop those kind of activities. Officers need to be proactive. We need to look at the problems of the helpless people in a more practical manner. And we need to catch those who do these things as a business. They are top businessmen with money. Sometimes I see in the newspapers that 1000, 5000 acres of forests are being cleared. What were the officers doing when so much destruction had taken place? We need to catch the culprits when the first tree is cut down. Most of the time legal actions are constituted against innocent people. We have taken policy decisions to look at these issues in a practical manner.
Many of the promises I have made to the people have being systematically fulfilled. However, correct information regarding those policy decisions has not gone to the people. There was so much controversy about the MCC agreement before we came to power. It was talked about everywhere. We, as a government, explained to that foreign government regarding the actual situation and withdrew from the proposed agreement. Now no one talks about it. The previous government co-sponsored the resolution brought against us by the UN Human Rights Council. Rejecting that position, the present government withdrew from that co-sponsorship. This is the first time that I have seen the Human Rights Council submitting a report with the highest number of allegations of human rights violations against the government. I do not know what human rights violations we have committed in the last one and a half years. It says that human rights violations have increased after this government came to power.
Earlier, protestors were treated with teargas and baton charges, now we have allotted a separate site for demonstrations. But the Human Rights Council sees it as a violation of human rights. We have been able to fulfill our respective duties, particularly with reference to nationalism, for religion, for the country, especially for the agricultural sector. When such a government comes to power all foreign forces as well as all local forces come together against the government.
You are well aware that then President Mahinda Rajapaksa united this country ending the 30 year war and carried out a massive development programme. It was at that time that a great deal of development and economic growth took place in our country.
But what happened in the year 2015, all these forces came together and leveled baseless allegations, and defeated him. All of you know what happened in the next five years. Our war heroes were imprisoned and were ill-treated. They were taken to courts and prepared grounds to be taken them to international courts. Local institutions were destroyed. All this happened in those five years. All our achievements vanished. That’s what they are trying to do again, you have to understand them.
During this period we have provided employment opportunities to 100,000 persons and recruited 60,000 unemployed graduates irrespective of what subjects they have studied. I have promised to employ 100,000 low-income earners by providing a job for every low-income family. 35,000 jobs were given under the first phase. The second phase will begin when their training is over. Unskilled individuals without any formal education or of lower level of education will be selected under the programme in order to raise the income level of the low-income families.
In addition, as promised, we have withdrawn ourselves from the agreements which were detrimental for our country. When two governments come to an agreement, we cannot withdraw from the terms on a whim. But after close scrutiny, and discussions with the relevant countries we drew ourselves out of them. Despite that, absurd allegations are made against us. People should be aware of these. One of the weaknesses of us as a government is inability to spread true information to the people. We have to acquaint the public with these absurd allegations leveled against us. Do not be misled by these allegations. I know during parliamentary elections, people requested me to ensure national security and even prior to that, because the people were frightened. We were losing control in national security. We were overpowered by foreign hostile forces. We changed all that. Especially in relation to national security.
The report of the PCoI on Easter Sunday attack repeatedly states that the previous government did not pay any attention to national security and it was the reason for this attack. True, we told the same thing back then. Not only did we win the war but we also placed required security measures to prevent a war from happening again, especially in the Northern and Eastern Provinces. However, during the previous government everything was neglected. Intelligence officers were imprisoned, and complaints were leveled against them. The security arrangements in those areas were completely dismantled. Even if a simple poster had been pasted, we would catch them. If you can remember, anyone who were even involved in minor incidents were apprehended. That is how we ensured national security. However, the Report clearly concludes that the previous government did not pay any attention to it and national security was ignored.
We have re-activated the program we carried out by deploying competent personnel to ensure national security. But when something like this collapses, it is difficult to rebuild. It will take some time. The existing intelligence services need to be re-launched. Officers need to be reinstated in those areas. The Special Forces, especially the police. There were about 50 camps in the Eastern Province. They have been removed from those areas and only a handful of camps remain.
I advised these camps to be placed once again, because separatist terrorism or Islamic extremism will not be allowed under our government. That is our national security. I’m well versed in national security and gravely concerned about it too. Under President Mahinda Rajapaksa I was entrusted with this responsibility as the Secretary of Defense. We worked as a team to end the 30-year war. I know how hard and how dedicated they were in executing it. So I will never allow this victory to be spoiled.
Those who neglected national security as a government are now trying to pin Sunday Easter attacks on former President alone. The Report of the commission has clearly shown that the previous government did not give due importance to national security. All those who were part of the former government are responsible for this heinous attack.
His Eminence Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has made a statement claiming that some politicians are involved in the attack and they were not mentioned in the report. We will investigate them as well. Those politicians are not with us. They did not help bring me or the government into power. They are with the opposition. We don’t want to protect anyone. We are not up for negotiation. We have 2/3rd power. We came to power without any help from them. So we don’t need to protect them. If they have done anything wrong, they will be exposed. After we came to power, in addition to those who were arrested by the CID, the police, the Terrorism Investigation Division, we have arrested others that had ties with foreign countries and several others who were engaged in them were also apprehended. Investigations are being carried out and they will continue until all the culprits are caught by the law.
Now there is no point in blaming our government for this tragedy. This did not happen during the time of our government. We did not even appoint this commission. In its Report, this Commission clearly states that we did not exert any influence on them. There was no need to do so. I saw another place where it states that some parts were not handed over. But this Report was handed over to me on February 1st. By February 28, it was submitted to the Cabinet, Parliament and then to the Attorney General. But it clearly states that the required part of the report is the first volume. Evidence from various sources, some of that evidence has been provided by intelligence officils is included in the report. As the evidence provided by the intelligence services is important for national security, it clearly states, “Volume 3 of the report contains documents marked C. Volume 4 contains documents marked X. Volume 5 contains documents submitted by the witnesses or by lawyers on behalf of their witnesses. We would like to draw Your Excellency’s attention to the fact that the documents marked as X have classified the information obtained by the Intelligence Divisions. In addition, the evidence taken from witnesses and Intelligence Units concerning national security were recorded in utmost secrecy. We respectfully recommend considering these matters before deciding to publish them to the general public.”
They are matters concerning national security. They are not necessary for the courts. I clearly stated not to publicize them. Use them only if they are necessary for prosecution. We have handed them over to the Attorney General. We have delivered them to those who require them. Despite that, I have seen false accusations regarding this as well.
So we request you not to be deceived by baseless absurd allegations. If you do, our program will be in jeopardy once again. Why do these foreign forces rise against our government so much? As a policy, they are against the policies we follow. They don’t want to see nationalism in a country. They oppose the emergence of national leaders as well as local identity. There are some in our country that are financed by them and depends on it. These kinds of people are there in any country. They have united for this reason. I assure you we will always stand up for you. That is why I am coming to your village, to you.