The Nation Sunday Print Edition - page 6

6
Sunday, March 8, 2015
spotlight
Interviewed by
Deepal Warnakulasuriya
Here are some excerpts of the interview.
Q
: - Minister, Will you explain a bit
about the new project which you
have planned to support the younger
generation?
We were monitoring what was being
done by the previous government and most
of the facilities were limited to a section
of the youth in the society. The main
difference is we are to serve all youths in
the society without having any divisions.
The second point is we identified the
failures or the areas that were neglected by
the authorities of last government.
Our target group was school-children
from the Grade 10 upwards. What we noted
was they were not guided properly about
the opportunities which are available for
them. We focused our attention on school-
children, university students and youths
who are attending vocational training
centres and National Youth Services
Council. They are provided a good training
and we give them an opportunity to decide
for themselves what kind of course should
be selected.
Q
: - Does it have a difference from the
system under which the previous
governments conducted courses?
Yes. The system was the same. But, the
youth were not correctly guided on how
to select a career path. They go to schools
for the sake of going. After the school, they
go behind politicians and ask for ‘any job.’
When we ask what can you do or on which
field you are experienced, they have no
idea. We are to change this. We give them a
chance to take a self-assessment test. Then,
we direct them for training.
Q
: - Is that all?
No. We have also focused our
attention on the creation of one million job
opportunities for youth. We are planning
to have employment opportunities in
the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)
field. For the time being India has a big
demand for the BPO sector. Not because of
the quality but because of the large pools
they have. Sri Lankans are more talented
and we can provide qualitative teams than
other countries. We have already begun the
training of master trainers.
Not only that we have also plans for
enabling young three wheeler drivers and
youth who engage in the agriculture sector
to expand their knowledge and talents. We
are also planning to have a Youth Policy
which ensures a satisfactory, healthy and
wealthy future for the younger generation.
Q
: - Your team gave a lot of promises
before coming into power. What
people expected was punishing the
ones who played with public money and
resources. But after so many publicized
investigations, not a single has been
punished. Why is this?
We formed this regime only for a period
of 100 days. We will be keeping each and
every promise given to the general public
during the campaign. We know that we
have another election just after that ‘100
days’. Therefore, we cannot lose face
before them. As the young MPs of this
government we will be pressurizing the
Cabinet of Ministers to attend to all the
promises given.
And, we have kept so many promises
already. We reduced the prices of essential
commodities. Also reduced the fuel price
as well as LP gas price. I know, people
are eying several major investigations
doubtfully. But, I think those should be
proved. I assure you that not a single
wrongdoer will be allowed to hide.
Q
: - What about the Executive
powers of President and proposed
electoral reforms? Does the UNP, as a
party take decisions on above?
I know. Both promises should be met.
We didn’t have any recent meetings to
discuss about them. But, the party has
an idea to study the electoral reforms
further.
Q
: - Most talk about forming a
national government. What’s
the purpose of forming a national
government? Is it to safeguard several
politicians who are ill-famed with a
number of allegations?
We; the UNP have decided to form a
national government, if we receive the
majority at the next general election.
We do it. We are ready to invite all other
parties and go for a national government.
I think that is what the country needs.
Q
: - Will the Government be dissolved
on April 23 as said and is the plan
of the UNP to contest alone or go for an
alliance?
Yes, the government will be dissolved as
promised. Anyhow, we have not yet decided
the way of contesting the general elections.
It will be decided later.
Q
: - Sri Lanka Freedom party of the
United People’s Freedom Alliance
(UPFA) will be sometimes supported
by three Presidents. They are the
present President as well as two former
Presidents. How do you take this
challenge?
No. I don’t think that President
Maithripala will go against the UNP. He
has promised not to forget the assistance
which the UNP gave him to come to the
present position. Whatever it is, UNP is
ready to take it as another election. We
have served the people. We have been with
the people. We are to prove that we can run
the government within this 100 days. Then,
people will be with us.
Q
: - The UNP failed to win the
Puttalam district at the 2010
General election. While the UPFA was
voted with 167,769 votes, the UNP was
voted with 81,152. That is just half of
the opponent vote. How can you change
this situation at the next election?
Yes. You are right. But, that was just after
the defeat of the LTTE war. The country
was celebrating the end of the war. Then,
we have to expect that result. On the other
hand, the Puttalam district is a multi-ethnic
and multi-cultural district. We have to serve
them very carefully. We have already won
the confidence of the people there.
Q
: - Well, The candidate which
your party supported at the last
Presidential Election won the district.
But, the difference was 1.07 percent.
Do you think that that is satisfactory,
after almost five years of the end of
the war? And the last General Election
only 56 percent of registered voters
came to the polling station. How do you
face this situation?
People have become fed up with politics.
Thuggerism was there. Politicians were
not keeping their words. Bribery and
corruption were everywhere. Then, it is
fair for them to leave the politicians and
politics. My plan is to begin with the young
generation and they will make a change.
Q
:- Present younger generation is
closer to the technology. They are
expecting your government to keep
another promise of providing free Wi-
Fi. Is there such a project?
Yes. We are studying these days how
to attend to that matter. We are not yet
identified the areas where to make the Wi-
Fi zones. We are also discussing whether
to have several large zones or a higher
number of small zones.
By Ashani Jayasundara and
Sahla Ilham
W
orld Wildlife Day fell on March
3. The day is meant to focus
attention towards wildlife crime and
illegal wildlife trafficking, a topic
that has often been spoken of in
Sri Lanka, since environmentalists
claim there is an unprecedented
spike in the illegal wildlife trade,
threatening
the
existence
of
numerous species.
According to Sajeewa Chamikara,
the Director of Environment
Conservation Trust (ECT), Sri
Lanka is among the 34 ‘Biodiversity
Hotspots’ in theworld,wherewildlife
trade is particularly threatening
species. He defined Sri Lanka as a
‘Hotspot’ for being a bio-geographic
region under the threat of humans,
“Among those 34 countries, eight
countries are known as the ‘hottest
hot- spots’ in theworld and Sri Lanka
is one of those eight countries.”
Chamikara added that illegal
wildlife trade is driven by high
profit margins, “There are so many
circumstances that hinder the
process of implementing necessary
laws
against
illegal
wildlife
trading in the country. The Wildlife
Conservation
Department
also
fails to take legal action against
this kind of trading due to political
interference.”
He also remarked that the
Biodiversity unit at the Airport
custom office is responsible for
monitoring the biological resources
that are being smuggled from the
country though smuggling of rare
species has been encouraged by
the officials in the Airport custom
in the recent times, “Smuggling of
Wallapatta
was a trade for a long
time. Star tortoises and horned-
lizards have also been illegally
transported from Sri Lanka. Mattala
Airport was used in the illegal
wildlife trafficking for a long period
of time.”
Chamikara further commented
that the Department of Wildlife had
given much priority to tourism and
has failed to control the incidents
related towildlife trafficking. He also
affirmed the point that in Sri Lanka
there is an increase in the elephant
trading since 2007 stressing that
the government should be mainly
responsible for the issue.
Deputy Minister of Sports and
Tourism, Vasantha Senanayake
spoke to
The Nation
regarding
the issues and affirmed that there
are absolute facts that cause
threats to the wildlife including
the unplanned constructions that
affect the traditional wildlife, “Most
of these unplanned developments
have affected the loss of the habitats
for the wildlife. Encroaching of
wildlife territories has resulted in
the displacement of the cattle in
Sri Lanka, which is a major current
issue.”
Since human-elephant conflict has
been a continual issue in the country,
he added, “The illegal settlements,
encroaching on wild parks and
unplanned constructions have also
displaced these elephants. There is
not enough food for these animals
due to human habitats. As a result
they roam around human dwelling
areas in search of food and disturb
the residents becoming a threat to
the people.”
Hefurthercommentedthatsomeof
the environmental projects like Uma
Oya affect the wildlife in the vicinity.
Since there have been a lot of efforts
taken for wild-life conservation, he
said that the government tries to
minimize the rising circumstances,
“Government’s concern is there
for both parties, to make least
disturbance to both elephants and
humans. Loss of environment for
these animals is the main issue. So
as result of these constructions, the
grasslands are decreased and the
animals like cattle lose habitats to
dwell. Anyway, wildlife trafficking
is banned. There are great penalties
for traffickers in Sri Lanka. People
buy these rare species and there is
a good demand. So we have to stop
marketing.”
Coordinator
Operations
at
Federation
of
Environmental
Organizations
(FEO)
Vinod
Malwatte pointed to the case of
369 tusks which are considered
to be blood ivory still held at the
Colombo port after their detection
in 2012. He said they wanted to see
the ivory being burnt. Using land
for agricultural purposes, such as
banana cultivation in lands such as
Tindukulum, should be stopped, he
added.
“It also a contributing factor to
the human-elephant conflict. Some
300 elephants die every day due to
this issue. According to migration
patterns elephants seasonally take
routes to drink water. If the land
used for this is encroached then
there is a higher chance for conflict
to increase.”
Environmentalist
Rukshan
Jayawardene said there has been
an increase in illegal international
animal trade in Sri Lanka.
When it comes to human-
elephant conflict the situation is
mainly created by humans. People
have been invading the lands of
elephants for agriculture. Therefore
elephants do not have food. Badly
placed settlements and politicians
aggravate the situation, he alleged.
When it comes to illegal land
encroachment,thesituationisalsothe
same, because of illegal settlements,
violations of the protection the
National parks and sanctuaries, and
lower level politics. Especially illegal
settlements should not be close to
fauna and flora in parks such as
Wilpattu. It illegal and it is breaking
laws. Human habitation makes the
land porous and even something like
picking firewood can be damaging.
Jurisdictions are violated and
one would expect change. After
all this land also belongs to future
generations, and we cannot let one
government destroy it, Jayawardene
stressed.
Environment
lawyer,
Jagath
Gunawardena said that for the
past five years there has been an
increase in the incidents related to
wildlife crime and wildlife trading.
He added, “The laws are there but
the implementation mechanism is
really weak in Sri Lanka. Although
law is there the necessary legal steps
are not being taken by the relevant
authorities.”
He further explained, “The
problem is that the humans are
destroying the habitats and these
animals are displaced and perish as
a result. There are anyway negative
impacts on the people too. It is not
problem of only the animals, but the
humans too.”
Gunawardena also affirmed that
the enforcement of the laws have
been hindered by the corruption of
officials due to political interference
and
demoralization
of
the
Department of Wildlife and other
problems, “Impact is frequently
madeworse by habitat loss and other
pressures.”
Director,
Environmental
Foundation
Ltd.,
Eric
Wickramanayake stated there are
not many tuskers in Sri Lanka, and
most of the illegal ivory trade in Sri
Lanka is fromshipments fromAfrica
which are on transit to China and
the Middle East. The government
should protect the elephants as they
are assets to the country. Sri Lanka
has a lot of wildlife, when it comes
to the Asian Elephant the country is
only second to India, he noted.
Ithasbecomeevident,thatourown
iconic elephant seems to be center
of most issues surrounding today’s
wildlife problems. It should be noted
that Sri Lanka seems to be taking the
Elephant as a tourism icon, but the
government should be giving more
consideration for its protection.
Former Minister Festus Perera is a known and
respected politician who has served the country in
many ways. He is still being remembered everywhere
in the country not only the fisheries sector. His political
legacy was later taken up by his wife and several years
ago, their son Niroshan Perera committed himself to
shoulder it. Today in the present government, young
Perera who is an electronic engineer by profession
is the State Minister of Youth Affairs. State Minister
Perera in an interviewwith
The Nation
said that
while the government is working on the 100 day
program, the Youth Affairs Ministry is also working on
a special programdesigned for a period of 100 days.
The programwhich has been named as “a guide to
respectful youth” has already commenced as a pilot
project in several schools.
Dangerously trading on our wildlife
Previous government
didn’t guide youth
State Minister Niroshan Perera
Sri Lanka is a hottest hotspot in the world where illegal wildlife trade is
particularly threatening species.
Pic courtesy-
We are planning to have employment opportunities in
the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) field. For the
time being India has a big demand for the BPO sector.
Not because of the quality but because of the large pools
they have. Sri Lankans are more talented and we can
provide qualitative teams than other countries
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