Time to opt for war or peace — PM

by Cyril Wimalasurendre

KANDY — At this crucial moment we have to decide whether we are going back to the nasty war again sacrificing lives of the youth of this country or whether we are going to save the lives of the youth and develop the country through the path of peace, observed observed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe addressing a largely attended meeting at the Kandy Central Market premises on Wednesday (12).

Wickremesinghe described several benefits the country experienced since the peace process commenced over an year ago after the MoU between his Government and the LTTE.

However, the Premier said there were some shortcomings in the MoU and violations on some counts in the MoU which had to be discussed between the two parties for which remedial measures must be taken.

Wickremesinghe noted that there was bloodshed in the country and many thousands of youth lost their lives in the bloody war while the country’s economy got retarded during the rule of President Kumaratunga.

The Prime Minister giving a handshake to Minister S. B. Dissanayake, Prof. G. L. Peiris and Mahinda Wijesekera who obtained membership of the United National Party said that they left the PA as they found that the PA administration failed to deliver the goods during their period in office as it had no policy, principle or solutions to the burning issues of the day.

Their contributions to the peace process and various development programmes initiated by the UNF government would be an asset, the PM noted.

He said the path towards the goal was not that easy. There are obstacles and controversies on the way. Some shortcomings are found in the implementation of the MoU. They should be overcome by talks and negotiations. An LTTE ship without a flag was attacked by the Navy recently. Discussions are now being held over the incident. The observation committee is also investigating into the incident. Both parties can present their case.

We have to discuss the presence of landmines in the North. There are about two million landmines still in the region. There are issues that should be taken up with the Muslims.

Apart from all these issues we have to take measures to regain our lost economy owing to the 20-year-old war. We look forward to the talks with the aid-giving groups in Japan in June. We can be happy that we could create a positive understanding among the aid-granting countries and global agencies since the peace process started. However, we are compelled to find solutions to the present situation of the rising cost of essential items imported such as oil. A barrel of oil is going up by 40 US dollars. But the rise in oil should not be made a burden on the people. The government will take steps to bear the burden.

Steps will be taken to improve the life standard of the rural community by developing their economy. New laws will be introduced to safegurd the people. Measures will be taken to find employment for the youth. Recruitment to the "Yowun Senanka" will begin shortly. Thirty to 40 thousand youths will be benefited by this scheme. This scheme will begin after the Sinhala New Year.

Recruitment of youth for employment will take place during the year and a large number of industries will be introduced before the end of the year.

The government will initially move for a framework of national development instead of giving promises of development by political parties.

Power and Energy Minister Karu Jayasuriya, Constitutional Affairs Minister Prof. G. L. Peiris, Agriculture and Livestock Minister S. B. Dissanayake, Fisheries Minister Mahinda Wijesekera, Housing and Infrastructure Minister Arumugam Thondaman, Ports and Rehabilitation Minister Rauf Hakeem, Cooperative Minister Abdul Cader, Central Region Development Minister Tissa Attanayake, Central PC Chief Minister W. P. B. Dissanayake, Kandy Mayor and Kandy UNP Chief Organiser Kesera D. Senanayake and several others also spoke.