President Ranil Wickremesinghe said that the necessary steps will be taken to pass the best anti-Corruption Act in South Asia in Parliament soon.
The President revealed that the cabinet approval for the Bill has already been granted and said that he will discuss it with the Opposition representatives in the future and present it to the Parliament.
President Ranil Wickremesinghe said this during a discussion held at the Presidential Secretariat yesterday (23) with the heads of media organizations.
Expressing his views further, President Wickremesinghe said,
"As you know I have requested all of you to be present here to tell you about the IMF agreement.
We became a bankrupt country a year ago. This is the first time we have had to restructure our debt with the support of the IMF and our creditors.
And this is the first occasion we’ve had to restructure our debt with the support of IMF and our creditors. This is only the beginning. Once we’ve got the support, the financial assurances, it means that we are no longer considered a bankrupt state.
We have to go to the next stage, which is to negotiate with all our creditors with the multilateral creditors, with the bilateral creditors and the most difficult of all, the private creditors.
Now that stage only once we concluded it that we will be in a position to go ahead without having to look back and with confidence. So this is not the end. This is, in a sense, only the beginning.
Next is the negotiations with the creditors. And just as much as you are negotiating the creditors, we also have a four year programme.
This is why I’ve asked Parliament to give me approval to approve this agreement. I don’t require it by law, but to have parliament voting for us for this agreement will strengthen us. The country has already voted for it. I think that from the reactions I have and, I would like to get the assistance of parliament.
It’s also necessary to show the creditors that the country has accepted the principle which is included in this IMF agreement.
So firstly, it’s a restructuring of the debt but is not limited to restructuring of the debt it’s restructuring of our economy.
Firstly, we have financial stability. Once we go through this process, we are increasing our revenues.
This is the most difficult era and we will stabilise government spending as they will explain the character of government spending and the income we have. But this will ensure that we have a surplus in the primary budget and increase revenues.
We are aiming at much better control of the government budget. And it’s not only that goal we are going to achieve, if we put our finances in a better condition.
But also we have to remember that the structural reforms we do will enable us to have a growth enhancing economy. We will liberalise further. There are those who think liberalisation is not a good word, and we will open it out for foreign investments. We are also looking at different areas of investment additional foreign investment in manufacturing. But it means we have to go up to the higher end.
Responding to a question raised by a media person about how long it will take to pay off this debt for the country to move to a middle-income country in 10 years, the President stated that the first task is to approve this agreement and then proceed to restructuring the debt and the method of paying off the debt will be known only then.
Secondly, modernising agriculture and fisheries. Thirdly, making Sri Lanka a Regional Logistic Centre, certainly upgrading and expanding, tourist, digitalized economy, the green economy. So we are moving towards the new Sri Lanka.
My aim is, though most of us won’t be there by then, when we are in 2048 when 25 years have passed that we will be a high middle income country.
We can’t go on with economic stagnation, we can’t go on with low growth. We must remember that all the upheavals we had in the country relates back to this issue. We have had one in 1971, which related to unemployment and 1983 was not merely one of language but that the Tamil youth had no employment. The same in 1989. So we have had too much the, economic situation. The absence of growth has resulted in instability and bloodshed.
Now we have the opportunity of starting out a new, so it’s a historic process. What I’d like you is to, support us in this venture, the officials will be available to speak to any media personnel at any time to discuss what’s happening. But the future of Sri Lanka rests on whether we go ahead with this agreement or not, whether we implement this agreement or not.
If we don’t do it, we will be cursed by the future generations.
Let us first approve this agreement as the first task and then move on to restructuring the debt. Only then will we know how to repay the debts. We have not completed out programmes. Why have we not completed it? Because it came under political influence. If not, it came under public influence. It was the media that created public opinion. This time I urge the media to assist us in making this programme a success.
Not just that, when the MCC was presented they alleged that the country was to be divided. When the IMF was introduced, they said we were going to be dominated by the West. So it is difficult for us to do all this. That is why the media organizations were asked to join in making the 17th International Monetary Fund program a success.
This process is very difficult. We all feel it. This is a four-year process. It will end in 2026. Those who were with me over a long period and supported these policies are now speaking against me. So is it a big thing for those who were against me to support me? We must remember one thing. We are in a difficult place now. We can’t play the old games again. If we do that, we will fall again. Let’s forget the old games and the past and move forward.
We all made mistakes. At least now agree with this and support us. This money we received will be used to pay the salaries this month. It’s not stealing. These were lost because of the allegations of theft. Don’t spread such stories. These people who point fingers steal more than this. My salary is lower than those of you here. We need to change attitudes.
They accused me of coming to protect thieves. But we are bringing the best anti-corruption bill in South Asia in consultation with the IMF.
The opposition’s shouting did not bring anything. The Minister of Justice is also discussing this with the opposition.
We presented this to Parliament to get the support of all parties. No one can oppose this. Some new laws have also been introduced. We have taken several new steps.
We do not want to suppress the media. I hear the most criticism from the media. I also lost the media. I am the one who removed the criminal law imposed on the media. I was the one who gave the right to know the information. Independent commissions were brought to Parliament three times. So how do I suppress the media?
They ask to solve the Tamil problem. But while I was doing those things, they said that I was trying to get rid of the other problems together with Mr. Sumanthiran. No one in the media said that the accusation was not good. I have said before that we are working to solve the national problem. No media objected to it.
Everyone agreed to that in the parliament. Don’t create racism under the guise of it. One media organization is running a racist programme. The same thing was aired for four days. What would happen if someone attacked one Tamil person during that time?
It is okay to show protests against the government, but the protests should be shown as protests. And it should be shown that there is another side to it.
Not all people got onto the streets for the protest. There are instances where the same team went around the country. That is why I say, report both sides in a protest. I didn’t say don’t report on protests or post only those that praise me.
Why is the government in business? It is not the government’s job. During Mr. D.S. Senanayake’s time, nothing of this sort happened. But the country had money. Back then, the country had money to lend to England and build the Galoya project.
Now we are asking for money from China to build Moragahakanda. Which country has a law saying that government institutions should engage in business? We are aiming to develop rapidly as a normal country. Only we as a country say that the state should engage in business.
The government exists to maintain law and order and solve the problems of the people. Today, do we have a good education system? We have paid more to the petroleum corporation than for education last year. The electricity board has been paid more than for education. During Mr. D.S. Senanayake’s Premiership, none of these happened. When the private sector does business, the government collects taxes. Who owns the telecom in England? The private sector. It is the same in France and America. We should develop in the same way, or we could fall like North Korea. You tell me which one you prefer.
Minister of State for Finance Ranjith Siyambalapitiya, Minister of State Dilum Amunugama, Senior Adviser to the President on National Security and Chief of Presidential Staff Sagala Ratnayaka, Secretary to the President Saman Ekanayake, Secretary to the Ministry of Finance Mahinda Siriwardena, Secretary of the Ministry of Media Anusha Palpita, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe and heads of media organizations were present on this occasion.