President Ranil Wickremesinghe today assured the Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Samantha Power, that he will go through with the proposed electoral reforms.
Ms. Power assured assistance of $60 million in new assistance. “But compared to the challenges you face, that is very, very small and very modest.
She said But we want to use our convening power to be catalytic as best we can, at the international financial institutions, with the private sector, with other countries that themselves are looking anew at Sri Lanka and thinking where to go.”
The government is also bringing in the new anti-terrorist legislation calling the Parliament to say once and for all that they must agree on electoral reform with in six months.
The political parties can’t be putting this off forever. They have to bite the bullet at some stage. So, if they are not willing I will go for a referendum on the major reforms,” he said adding that there will be 14,000 people’s councils in the 14,000 basic units.
He also said that discussions have been held with Tamils regarding detentions under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA).
President Ranil Wickremesinghe also said that he is focusing on an export oriented, competitive market economy for Sri Lanka as the country has the opportunity of supplying South Asia, Southeast and east Asia.
“President Wickremesinghe said that the wheels have been set in motion to make Sri Lanka a prosperous nation by 2048 as the country looks to celebrate the centenary of its independence.
He also noted that as far as democracy is concerned, the 22nd Amendment is before Parliament.
“The ruling party is waiting for Parliament to pass it. In administrations, it has brought out the first Cabinet manual in Sri Lanka.
Hence, that will have to go before the Cabinet and we’ll establish procedures for the whole of the Cabinet. The oversight committees are back again and we’ll be looking forward to support from the USA, he added.
He thanked Ms Power for the $40 million US assistance for the farmers, which will certainly be a big help as the country is about to launch a food security and nutrition initiative.
Meanwhile, Samantha Power highlighted Sri Lanka’s vibrant private sector and said measures should be taken to unleash the potential of the private sector.
“You have such an incredible private sector, such entrepreneurship. But the government, over so many years has largely stood in the way of unlocking that potential instead of fuelling it.
Quoting Former Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera she said that the late minister as saying that government has no business running business.
And you know what he has done in the telecom sector? If that could be done in other sectors in an expeditious and transparent way, to unlock the potential of your people, it would be incredible, she added.
She said that the political reform agenda and the economic agenda go hand in hand which they have already seen this in the United States in trying to engage the business community to look at Sri Lanka now and to see the opportunities that exist here.