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Opinion


Tapping the pulse of a nation

Interviews by Vindya Amaranayake,
Anurangi Singh, Santhush Fernando,
Chamindra Wickremesinghe and
Jayashika Pathmasiri

We are living in a time of uncertainty. Be it the political situation or the plight of the economy or the dire state of the peace process, our little island home seems to be cruising along ‘blissfully’ in a vessel of ambiguity. But there are questions the people ask. - Is the government stable or not? Is the country on the path of development or not? Are we at war or, are we still committed to peace? These seem to be the questions paramount in the minds of the people of the country. The Nation posed three vital questions to a cross section of society.

n What do you think of the present political situation in the country?
n What are you for, war or peace? Why?
n What do you think of the country’s economy and the Central Bank report for the first quarter of the year indicating an eight percent economic growth?

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Threat to sovereignty
Government Spokesman - Keheliya Rambukwella
• The commendable thing about the current situation with regard to the North and the East is that the President is trying his best to go in for a negotiated settlement but the LTTE does not want to cooperate. We must also think that this struggle for peace is conducted amidst increasing fuel prices which is eating into the economy and there are other persistent issues as well. The constructive support of the main opposition is very important at this juncture.
• Obviously we are for peace. Any sensible person will say that they are for peace. But, if the situation becomes inevitable and if there is a threat to the sovereignty of the country, as the government and as a responsible body we will be compelled to take necessary precautions.
• There is a growth, and this achievement should be commended. One might point out that there is no obvious growth in the economy, but this development took place during the first three months of the year. If you look at the economic patterns of past years a considerable reduction of the economic growth is pointed out in the months of June and July.

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The country and the economy in a mess
United National Party - Ravi Karunanayake

• The country is in chaos. Even we are not aware where it is heading to. The country is in such turmoil that we have deteriorated in every aspect. Peace has gone into pieces. The economy is in a mess.
• We are obviously for peace. The United National Party was always of the view that peace is the only way of resolving the ethnic problem. We are not like other political parties who are thirsty for blood. Throughout the conflict we believed in a peaceful solution.
• Well in the report by the Auditor General it says that the government has not recovered revenue amounting to 389 billion rupees. In the same report it was stated that the reports that are produced by the government institutions does not reveal the proper development.

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Peace should be through negotiations
Upcountry Peoples Front - P. Chandrasekeran
• The prevailing political situation in the country is very sad, especially with the stalled peace talks. Our party placed its trust in the government by joining it, and by taking up the portfolio of community development. We believe we can aid the government in reaching a lasting solution for the problem. All this time negotiations took place outside Sri Lanka. My party believes that we have a responsibility to support the peace initiatives of President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
• My party believes that the only way to resolve the national issue is by negotiating. Peace should be brought forth politically and the problem can never be solved militarily.
• With the soaring cost-of-living the general public of this country are unable to meet their day to day requirements. Without putting an end to the fighting it is useless to talk about economic development.

***

The country and the economy in a mess
United National Party - Ravi Karunanayake
• The country is in chaos. Even we are not aware where it is heading to. The country is in such turmoil that we have deteriorated in every aspect. Peace has gone into pieces. The economy is in a mess.
• We are obviously for peace. The United National Party was always of the view that peace is the only way of resolving the ethnic problem. We are not like other political parties who are thirsty for blood. Throughout the conflict we believed in a peaceful solution.
• Well in the report by the Auditor General it says that the government has not recovered revenue amounting to 389 billion rupees. In the same report it was stated that the reports that are produced by the government institutions does not reveal the proper development.

***

Govt. has no option, but to engage the LTTE
Jathika Hela Urumaya - Venerable Athuraliye Rathana Thera
• The political situation in the country at the moment is mainly related to the problems in the North and the East. At the moment the government has no other option than to engage the Tigers in the North and the East. Although the troops have secured many victories the government to a large extent had failed in its propaganda war. The UNP too has become the Tiger propaganda tool in the South at the moment.
• We are for peace. It is the LTTE that is asking for war. At the moment the government has taken correct decisions but there have been shortcomings in carrying out these decisions. These should be corrected and the government should also wage a proper propaganda war against the LTTE internationally.
• There are economic difficulties. People are burdened with the high cost-of-living. But they are ready to undergo difficulties at the moment as long as the government moves in the correct direction concerning the North-East problem.

***

Economic growth a gimmick
Sri Lanka Muslim Congress - Rauff Hakeem
• Anybody can see what the political situation in the country is like. It is apparent. Certain parties in the government are taking a strong nationalist stand. What is needed is cohabitation. But then with the polarised policies of the parties this would be impossible. Even the question of the economy is the same. If the two major parties put the nation before their personal motives, things would be different. War has reached a crisis.
• I am for peace. People talk about the need to have a plural democracy in the North and East. It’s good if you could address the genuine grievances of the people. Then the LTTE won’t be this active.
• The eight percent economic growth is a joke. The regional economic power India, has reached that percentage but not we. I do not think this is true because it is not reflected in the real. This statement of the year is unrealistic. India has reached 8 percent and China 10 percent. Placing Sri Lanka on par with India is a joke. This is purely a political gimmic.

***

Return to peace process now
Tamil National Alliance – R. Sampanthan
• At this point the peace process is facing severe set backs. Consequently, the armed conflict has escalated. The unstable situation in the North and the East is adversely affecting the country’s economy. Already we can see that investments are becoming low. We even experience the woes of the Lebanon crisis. However, the government is saying that it is going ahead with the peace process and not war. We all hope they are able to get the peace process back on track again. The situation in the Jaffna peninsula is not very positive. Restrictions placed on the movement of the people are greatly affecting their day to day lives.
• I am definitely for peace. We want the peace process to be successful and we will support the government to make the peace process successful.
• About the Central Bank report, I cannot say anything as I have not seen it. But I must add the status of the economy is fast deteriorating and the general public finds it difficult to continue their way of life.

***

Adequate attention to North and East
Democratic Left Front - Vasudeva Nanayakkara
• I think the present situation is complex and complicated I say this because the country’s political direction is contradicting. This hampers the economic progress of the country. The question of the North and East should be given adequate attention and compulsory truce is important to bring stability to the country.
• I think the main issue here is that what we can do to achieve peace and not to divide our selves saying that we are for peace or for war. This is what the mass of the country wants, and that is what the government of this country should strive for. At the same time I must say that we must achieve this with the blessings of the President.
• Well if the Central Bank report says that we have achieved an eco nomical growth within the first quarter of the year I am really pleased. At the same time I am really disappointed in that 70 percent of the population haven’t felt this growth. These 70 percent of the population are under heavy pressure as the cost-of-living and inflation is rising.

***

No more temporary solutions
New Left Front - Wickremabahu Karunarathne

• The situation the country is facing currently is very bad. The cause for this is the conflict in the North and the East. The government needs to take some vital decisions. If the present situation continues it will be detrimental. I also think the current position is more like a dictatorship. The President and the people around him are taken more seriously than the country.
• As for the past years starting in the 1970s we have struggled for peace and for the rights of the Tamil people, and we will continue to fight for the rights of the Tamil people. A lasting peace should take place rather than a temporary solution. If a clear lasting solution is not taken there will be another uprising which will result in a new conflict.
• Well there was a high growth rate in the economy in seventies when the United National Party was in power. Whatever the growth rate might be it only affects the urban population not the rural population. Mega projects as high ways, shopping malls and tourist resorts are the indications of these so called developments shown by the government which cannot be shared with the villages

***

Voice of the people
Raja Kulatunga (Mason)
The political situation in the country is better than what it was before President Mahinda Rajapaksa came to power last year. There seems to be more stability in the government and the way they are handling problems. Even when it comes to the problem in the North, the government seems to be handling it the proper way.
I am for peace. We want the Tigers to be completely eliminated and peace to be brought to the country.
The economic situation in the country is rather bad. But I think the country is working towards development. Prices of some essential items have gone up, but it is not the fault of the government. When we want the country to develop we need to make certain sacrifices. If we do not use many luxury food items and start consuming local products, the cost of living will not become a problem.

T.B Balasuriya (Owner of a Pharmacy in Colombo)
As a businessman I cannot talk about the present political situation in the country. There is nothing to talk about.
The economic situation in the country is under a lot of strain. When you compare it with the country’s political situation you can see that there is no development in the country.
Though the Central Bank report says that there is a growth in the country’s economy, the present environment does not speak much for it.

Saman Munasinghe (Driver)

I have nothing to say about the political situation. I don’t want to comment on it because it is just useless. The country is in a utter mess. Nobody wants to take responsibility for it.
If by war this problem could be solved then I am for war.
The economic situation is not palatable. The cost of essential items is sky high. We cannot afford most of the food items. It is becoming difficult to live by the day.

S R Jacob/ Driver
The political situation is very dangerous. It seems that war has resumed in the North and Colombo also is not safe. From now on we will have to prepare ourselves for anything. Anything can happen, it is better to be prepared.
I think peace is the only solution for the conflict. Going for war at this is time will be costly in terms of human lives and property loss.
The state of the economy is worsening by the day. I do not know what is in these reports, but all I know is when we go marketing it is we who have to pay bills, not those who write reports.

Kelum Buddika Herath /Clerk
I think the political situation in the country is not very good. But we have a very stable government after a long time. I trust the President is very capable of handling whatever problems there are in the country.

If by war we can gain peace then I am for war.

The cost of living is rather high these days. The prices of most of the essential goods have increased. But I suppose it is what happens when a country prepares to battle terrorists.

Wasantha Munasingha/ Security guard
The political situation is not good.
I am for peace. War can never resolve any problems.
I do not want to make any comments about the status of economy or the cost of living.

Dharmawathi Bogoda /68 years old / Mother of a soldier
The political situation is dangerous and we must save our country. We can see that the terrorists have started violent activities in the North as well as in Colombo.
There are no peace talks. It is only a lie. Anybody can see that the country is at war with the Tigers.
The cost of living is going up but it cannot be helped.