No political witch hunts; Only strict adherence to law

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President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said that the Government will not interfere or intervene in judicial processes, unlike the previous regime which pursued a policy of political witch hunts.

“Punishment for offences committed is a function of the law. I am not ready to intervene in this process. I urge the Opposition to engage in civilised politics without misleading the public,” President Rajapaksa stated.

The President made these comments participating in the “Discussion with the Village” programme in Lathugala, Uhana in Ampara district on Saturday. This marks the fifth in the series of “Discussion with the Village” (Gama Samaga Pilisandarak) attended by the President.

“The political culture of forgetting the village after winning power has been changed. The problems identified while in the Opposition will be addressed and sustainable development will be achieved in every village,” the President said.

Addressing the gathering President remarked: “People and the Maha Sangha expect from me the role played by me as the Defence Secretary before I assumed Presidency. The LTTE terrorists carried out a suicide bomb attack at the Piththala junction targeting me. People are aware of the fate of the terrorist leader who led this attack. Although I am ready to act either as Nandasena Gotabaya Rajapaksa or Gotabaya Rajapaksa I will not entertain lumpen politics as the Opposition does”.

The village of Lathugala in the Uhana Divisional Secretariat located 24 Km away from Ampara was chosen for the discussion. The public gathering took place at the playground of Lathugala Primary school in Varanketagoda. Villagers from several surrounding hamlets including Uhana, Damana, Galapitagala, Gonagolla, Padiyathalawa, Dehiaththakandiya, Mahiyanganaya, Bandaraduwa, Mahakandiya and Bokkabadda gathered there to air their grievances to the President seeking redress.

The area of Lathugala is of nine square kilometers. Villagers say the settlement was started by 15 families who survived the Uva Wellassa rebellion. Now the village has 231 families with a population of 783.

Chena cultivation utilizing rainwater is the main source of livelihood of the people in Lathugala and surrounding villages. They cultivate maize, cowpea, sorghum and vegetables and are severely affected by the menace of Armyworm (Sena) caterpillars.

Among the other major issues faced by the people of Lathugala is their expulsion away from traditional farming lands due to marking them as reserves during Wildlife and Forest Conservation surveys. The President informed the people that a policy decision has been taken to allow farmers to engage in traditional cultivation activities in all villages of the country without undue restrictions imposed by Wildlife or Forest Conservation or any other institute. The Government Agents and Divisional Secretaries were requested by the President to act accordingly and assist the public.

“People living in villages see the problems faced by them from one angle.The way officials look at the issue is different from that.The Opinion of people living in Colombo is even more contradictory”. Therefore the President emphasized the need for officials not to confine themselves to their offices but to go to the villages and identify genuine problems faced by the

people and provide solutions.

People are compelled to trek 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 this situation, the President instructed to set up a Primary Healthcare Centre in Bokkabedda Village to serve the people of many surrounding villages.

It was decided to construct a new building and a playground at the Lathugala Primary School and to provide a solution to the prevailing teacher shortage issue. The President advised officials to address the problem of shortage of teachers at Uhana Vidyaloka Vidyalaya, Walagampura Vidyalaya, Uhana Waranketagoda Maha Vidyalaya, Negethenna and Uhana Tissa Ampara National Schools expeditiously.

Instructions were also issued to complete the construction of Ampara, Lathugala road speedily. The work of Lathugala – Bokkabedda -Athuloya road, Bakmitiyawa-Pannalgama, Mahaoya – Krunduwinna roads was also ordered to be completed soon. Plans are underway to develop 1,150 kilometers of roads in Ampara district under the programme to develop 100,000 kilometers of roads.The President also instructed that the road development work be handed over only to contractors who can carry it out responsibly.

The President directed officials to expedite the reconstruction of Kotapathdamana tank as a remedy to the shortage of water which is a major obstacle to agricultural activities.

President Rajapaksa paid special attention to the drinking water problem. Issuing instructions to lay pipe lines along the by roads in Lathugala village President called for an immediate solution to the drinking water problem.

It was agreed to supply water to Padiyathalawa from Rambakan Oya reservoir and to provide water to several villages including Tampitiya, Poonawali and Malliyathivu. Several tanks including Yodakandiya, Kotapathdamana, Lathugala, Hulannuge and Handapadagama will be renovated soon.

It was also advised to construct a fertilizer storage facility in Lathugala. The President handed over three computers to the Principals of Lathugala and Vidyaloka Vidyalayas provided by SLTMobitel.

State Minister Wimalaweera Dissanayake, Eastern Province Governor Anuradha Yahampath, MPs W.D.Weerasinghe, Thilak Rajapaksha, A.L.M.Athaullah, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, political representatives in the area, Ministry Secretaries and heads of several government institutes were present during “Discussion with the Village” programme.