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Opposing MPs in amicable discussions

Two government ministers, three UNP parliamentarians and one JVP MP engaged in out-of-character discussions yesterday at the Sri Lanka Economic Summit, amicably sharing their views on their hopes for Sri Lanka’s future.

From darkness to light...

Minister of Justice Milinda Moragoda said politicians should put aside partisan politics and come together to address national issues.

"Most of us entered parliament with a great deal of idealism but sooner or later the system trapped us. In the past, partisan politics destroyed the country and the existing parliamentary system promotes this kind of politics," he said.

He said that politicians over the years thrived on creating divisions along the lines of ethnicity, religiosity, caste and class.

"We need some thing in the system that would force parliamentarians to come together on national issues without being deeply divided. Unless this is done we will not be able to move forward," he said.

Moragoda said everybody was still dazed after the war with no clear direction on how to proceed from here, with everybody suggesting various courses of action.

A secular state...

Minister of Tourism Development Faizer Mustapha said that the country should move in to secularism and build a Sri Lankan identity.

"Our politics is divided on ethnic lines. We have Tamil, Sinhala and Muslim political parties. This political structure must change. We should move towards secularisation," he said.

Mustapha said the root cause of the war was ethnic tensions.

"We now need to make all people feel as if they are a part of the country. The only way forward is to economically empower the people which we have not been able to do. If we move towards secularism then development will come," he said.

Agree to disagree...

UNP Parliamentarian Kabir Hashim said that the first thing that needed to be established was parliamentarians should agree to disagree.

"We should have the right to express our views. Transparency is also important in governance," he said.

Speaking on the deficiencies of the education system, Hashim said that Sri Lanka should reform and improve its education system, as education led to empowerment.

"In 2008, 51 percent of the capital expenditure on education had been cut and about 30 percent of the capital expenditure on higher education had been cut. The pass rate for the Ordinary Level English language paper was 35 percent in urban area and 7 percent in rural areas," he said.

"Discontent led to racial issues and this led to terrorism. Now terrorism has been defeated but the problems are yet to be addressed," Hashim said.

Rationality...

UNP parliamentarian Sajith Premadasa said that Sri Lanka needed a good decision making structure where the priority is to make rational decision on national issues rather than making ad-hoc decisions, characteristic of every government since independence.

He also said people should pay more attention of the substance in policy documents.

"People have a negative regard towards all politicians. We must change this by ensuring there is no divergence between declarative politics and active politics," Premadasa said.

He made this comment in regard to opposition ministers promise to create an environment conducive for diverse views to be expressed.

"No sooner they come into power they forget they made these laudable claims," Premadasa said.

He went on to say that ruling parties should be courageous enough to let go some of the tools in power to allow opposing views to be freely expressed.

Language issue...

JVP Parliamentarian Sunil Hadunetti said although Prabakharan had been sorted out the core problem still remained.

"We say we have to give the Tamil people their rights. This is not the right thing to say because it implies their rights must be given to them. What needs to be done now is to create equal opportunities to all the people of the country," he said.

The Tamil speaking people still have a problem.

"If a Tamil received an identification document where it accidently states he is a Sinhalese, he or she would not mind that. But if a Sinhalese happened to get a document where his or her race is stated to be Tamil, then it will be rejected outright.

"Why is this? It clearly demonstrates there is a problem that needs to be addressed," Hadunetti said.

Hadunetti said Tamils do not want a separate country.

"All they want is equal rights and opportunities. This is the only way to go forward," he said.

Hadunetti quoted from the constitution where it says: Sinhalese shall be the national language. And later, another paragraph says, and Tamil will also be a national language.

"What is this ‘also’? Why could not the two languages be mentioned together? It is precisely this kind of attitude that gave ammunition to Prabakharan," Hadunetti said.


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