Development Work Slow But Streamlined – Champika Ranawaka

Minister of Megapolis and Western Development Patali Champika Ranawaka admits that development activities of this government are slow. He, however, stresses that they are carrying out development projects in a streamlined and meaningful manner. In an interview with The Sunday Leader, he said that the previous regime carried out development projects in haste without a long term vision resulting in these projects being nothing more than white elephants. Even though he approves the government’s development projects, he is not very pleased with the pace and disparity that the authorities are conducting the investigations, especially into frauds and corruptions.

Following are excerpts of the interview:  
 
Q: The country’s development boom seems to be somewhat slow now. Why?

A: During the past regime, the country witnessed a construction boom, but it was not a result of a master plan. They spent on without any proper financial planning and did not focus how the country would generate revenue from them. They gave these projects to their friends and family members in a totally unsolicited manner. They carried out their plans totally disregarding the people’s concerns. The present government is executing things in a slow and steady manner under a broader plan. Many will see that we are slow, but we are doing things in a more streamlined manner. Haphazard constructions that the previous government initiated dearly cost the country. The Defence Headquarters, Mattala, Hambantota Ports and so on bear witness to the sheer waste of the previous government.We have planned a highway to Kandy, an elevated road over Colombo Fort, light rail network, 40,000 houses in Colombo and many such projects. We planned these projects very well and will complete them properly on time.
 
Q: Do you agree that the country now faces a major crime wave once again?

A: Many speculate so because the media elevate crimes. One should not speculate without proper statistics. However, everyone likes to live without fear, and I feel that crime busting should be carried out unabated.
 
Q: It is alleged that only small fish are taken into custody and charged, while the bigger ones roam free. What is your view on this allegation?

A: This is a big concern for us too. Take the Avant Garde issue; there has not been a criminal charge against the relevant parties but only a corruption case even though they held in their possession over 4,000 weapons. Even a trap gun holder who keeps the weapon to protect his crops from wild animals is charged. This is not the case in the Avant Garde issue. It puzzles me too. During the past presidential election, it was alleged that Mahinda Rajapaksa had received Rs. 1,300 million for his election campaign from contract companies through banks. We see a delay in justice in several huge cases involving powerful political figures. This clearly indicates that a huge political influence is preventing the proper justice mechanism from its course. We too are very disgruntled about this situation. Even Mahinda Rajapaksa lost power since he tried to take the law of the country into his hands, and this government too will face a disastrous end if they follow the same path.
 
Q: The good governance regime came into power pledging that they will eliminate corruption. However, still we witness corrupt activities taking place in the country. How do you see this situation?

A: We see some progress in tackling fraud and corruption, but not to our full satisfaction. Setting up of a special judiciary mechanism to handle cases of fraud is a dire need. The government will never be able to fulfill their promise in this way. They will never be able to attract investors to the country as well. Countries such as Singapore and Hong Kong excelled economically through their zero corruption policies. If we are to get to that status, we must address this issue properly. We did set up a commission to investigate corruption, but it has to be set up in motion.
 
Q: What about the development projects under the Megapolis Ministry now?

A: Our basic plan is done and we are now finalising the ancillary projects. The basic work on the financial city will commence in about two months. We commenced the road development projects and the work on the tech city will commence this month. In addition, the work around the Beira Lake will commence shortly together with the housing construction project. We believe that by 2020, not just Colombo but Galle, Kandy and other cities will also experience development via a streamlined plan.
 
Q: With the incident in Malaysia, many fear that LTTE is still active in other countries and it will threaten Sri Lanka in the near future. What is your take on this issue?

A: Yes, the LTTE is based on Tamil extremism. This has been the case since the 1960s and LTTE sympathisers and activists still operate in foreign countries. However, they must bear in mind that the first to suffer would be the Tamil people if they try to fuel racism and extremism. So I don’t believe that the ordinary Tamil people ever want to go through the bitter experiences of the past again. Although the West supported these terrorists at one time, today they also experience terrorism in their countries. They can now understand the practicality in what we did to snuff out terrorism.
 
Q: Many think that our country is facing a lot of international interference now. What is your view on this issue?

A: The very parties that ask us to withdraw troops from the North and try to accuse our troops of human rights violations, are asking us to send our troops to Mali and defeat Al Qaida there and to go to Somalia and help defeat Boko Haram. They try to manipulate us simply because we are a small country. But we do not have to cry over how they treat us. Instead, we need to make ourselves a powerful nation like Singapore where no one can interfere in its affairs.

By Thushari Nathaniel
courtesy - The Sunday Leader

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