I am Ready for Anything – President
I am a person who is ready for anything. Some of our Buddhist Monks say they want Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was the Defence Secretary and not the Gotabaya who is President. They tell me I have to be stern. I can do that as well,” President Rajapaksa said.
He was speaking at the ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme in Lathugala, Uhana in the Ampara District on Saturday (9). This marks the fifth in the series of ‘Discussion with the Village’ attended by the President.
“When I was Defence Secretary,Prabhakaran kicked it off by carrying out a suicide attack on me at the Pittala Junction and I finished what he started,at the Nandikadal Lagoon, which ended his life. I am a person who is prepared to face any challenge.
“Of course, I am Nandasena Gotabaya. It is a good name. However, Nandasena Gotabaya has both these characters in him. I need to engage in politics. The Opposition should engage in politics too. But what we have to engage in is fair politics which the people expect. We came into power to solve people’s problems and to engage in good governance,” the President said.
President Rajapaksa said the political culture of ignoring the village after victory has now changed.
The problems identified while in Opposition will be addressed and sustainable development will be achieved in every village, the President added.
“Punishing offenders is a function of the law. I am not ready to intervene in this process. The previous administration pursued a policy of political witch hunt. I do not condone this practice. I call on the Opposition to engage in civilised politics without misleading the public,” President Rajapaksa stated.
The ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme commenced on 25 September 2020 at Welanwita in the Haldummulla Divisional Secretariat Division in the Badulla District. The second in the series was held in Himbiliyakada in the Wilgamuwa Divisional Secretariat Division in the Matale District while the third was held in Rawanakanda, Imbulpe in Balangoda. The fourth was held in Kanugahawewa in Kebithigollewa last week.
The Lathugala village in the Uhana Divisional Secretariat, located 24km away from Ampara city was selected for Saturday’s (9) discussion. The public gathering took place at the Lathugala Primary School playground in Varanketagoda. Villagers from several surrounding hamlets including Uhana, Damana, Galapitagala, Gonagolla, Padiyathalawa, Dehiaththakandiya, Mahiyanganaya, Bandaraduwa, Mahakandiya and Bokkabedda gathered to present their grievances to the President seeking redress.
Lathugala is nine square kilometres in extent. Villagers say 15 families who survived the Uwa Wellassa rebellion started the settlement. Now the village has 231 families with a population of 783.
Chena cultivation utilising rainwater is the main source of livelihood of the people in Lathugala and surrounding villages. They cultivate maize, cowpea, sorghum and vegetables and are now severely affected by the Fall Armyworm.
A major issue in Lathugala was that these villagers were being thrown out of their traditional farmlands due to these areas being demarcated as reserves in Wildlife and Forest Conservation surveys. Meanwhile, the President said a policy decision was taken to permit farmers to engage in traditional cultivation in villages without Wildlife or Forest Conservation or any other institute imposing strictures on them. Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries were requested to act accordingly and assist the public.
“People living in villages view their problems from a different perspective while those in Colombo see it in a totally different way. Meanwhile, officials too look at issues in a differently,” he said and urged officials not to confine themselves to offices but go to the villages and identify problems faced by the people and provide solutions.
People are compelled to go to the Uhana Dispensary, 16 km away, or to the Ampara Hospital, 24 km away for treatment due to lack of facilities in the vicinity. To rectify the situation, President Rajapaksa instructed a Primary Healthcare Centre to be set up in Bokkabedda Village to serve the people of surrounding villages.
Meanwhile, a decision was taken to construct a building and a playground at the Lathugala Primary School and to find a solution to the prevailing teacher shortage issue. The President also instructed officials to expedite the teacher shortage issue in Uhana Vidyaloka Vidyalaya, Walagampura Vidyalaya, Uhana Waranketagoda Maha Vidyalaya, Negethenna and Uhana Thissa Ampara National Schools.
Instructions were also issued to expedite construction of roads in Ampara, the Lathugala road, the Lathugala – Bokkabedda – Athuloya road, Bakmitiyawa – Pannalgama and Mahaoya – Krunduwinna roads. Plans are underway to develop 1,150 kilometres of roadway in the Ampara District under the programme to develop 100,000 kilometres of road. He stressed that contracts should be given to contractors who would fulfil their obligations.
The President directed the reconstruction of the Kotapathdamana tank to be expedited to overcome the water shortage which stifled agricultural activities. President Rajapaksa paid special attention to the drinking water problem and instructed pipe borne water to be supplied to villagers in the Lathugala village.
It was agreed to supply water to Padiyathalawa from Rambakan Oya and provide water to several villages including Tampitiya, Poonawali and Malliyathivu. Several tanks including Yodakandiya, Kotapathdamana, Lathugala, Hulannuge and Handapadagama will be renovated soon, he said.
A fertiliser storage facility in Lathugala was also mooted.
The President handed over three computers donated by Mobitel to Principals of Lathugala and Vidyaloka Vidyalayas.
State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath, Members of Parliament W. D. Weerasinghe, Thilak Rajapaksha, A, L. M. Athaullah, Chief Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, political representatives in the area, Ministry Secretaries and heads of several government institutions were present during ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme.