UPFA pledges support to private sector 
[February 19, 2004
- 7.00 GMT

Information and Telecommunication minister Lakshman Kadirgamar said the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) was committed to private sector participation to the fullest extent and will sponsor and promote it in every possible way in order to achieve rapid economic growth for the country.

The minister, who on Tuesday, February 17, was briefing business leaders and diplomats at the BMICH Colombo, said the Alliance stood for an open, mixed economy. “International and national investment would be welcomed and wooed”, he said.

[Full text of the speech]

Members of the Business Community
Colleagues in the United People’s Freedom Alliance
Members of the Press Corps
Ladies and Gentlemen

          It is not without significance that the first public event being held by the Freedom Alliance is this interactive discussion today with the business community in the presence of the press corps.  It is an indication of the important place which in view of the Alliance the business community holds in the life of our country.  We have come to this meeting to meet you, to discuss with you your ideas, your hopes, your aspirations for the future of our country and the role that you, as the business community, wish to play in shaping our common destiny.  We have come to listen to what you have to say, to give you the assurance that we will give close attention to your ideas and your suggestions, and having heard you we will, in formulating the election manifesto of the Alliance, take into account what you have said about the future of our country.  On business matters you may have better ideas than we have.  We ask you to share those ideas with us.  This meeting is the first important step that the new Alliance is taking towards forging a partnership with the business community.  The Alliance believes that the private sector has a vital, even decisive, role to play not only in the economic development of the country but also in other spheres of our national life.  

The Memorandum of Understanding which was signed by the two major parties that constitute the Alliance on the 20th of January and later adopted by four other parties sets out five objectives of governance.  Again, it is not without significance that the economy is placed first among those five objectives.  We will lay emphasis on increasing productivity in both public and private sectors.  Both will be afforded significant roles in economic development.  We will promote an economy which will emphasize local production in both the agricultural and industrial sectors, encourage local farmers, entrepreneurs and industrialists and rejuvenate local companies and industries.  We will emphasize the significant role in development of efficiency and modern management, including all necessary measures to promote transparency and good governance.  We are committed to receiving and adapting global advances in modern technology with a view to opening our country to global economic progress. 

This is a modern alliance in tune with the world around us.  Young people are flocking to the banner of the Alliance.  The future belongs to them.  We are a party of the future.  We will speak for them.  We will work for them.  They are clever.  They are eager to learn.  They want to improve the quality of their lives.  I request all of you to help them too.  The wealth of our country lies not in its land, not in its crops, not in its metals and minerals.  It lies in our young people – our greatest treasure, our most valuable renewable asset.  We are deeply and sincerely committed to solving the crushing economic problems of the vast majority of our people by granting them a variety of relief measures.  If we forget them, ignore them or marginalize them, unwittingly or by design, through ignorance, lassitude or arrogance, we will condemn our country to permanent deprivation, a desert devoid of hope.

All this means, ladies and gentlemen, that the Alliance stands for an open, mixed economy.  National and international investment will certainly be welcomed, nay wooed.  We will encourage tourism.  We stand for a strong, accountable and clean public sector and an honest and accountable private sector.  We will sponsor and promote the private sector in every possible way because it is very important to achieve rapid economic growth for our country.  Growth is not possible without private sector participation to the fullest extent.  That is the policy of the Alliance, that is the policy that we have agreed to implement.  

What we do not stand for and will not tolerate is corruption, unfairness and manipulation.  These evils have become the curse of our economy; they have earned us a bad reputation internationally.  They have drained our creative energy. We do not stand for waste, plunder and inefficiency.  We will try, indeed we will try hard, to restore within the public and private sector a sense of the need to work harmoniously to promote the national welfare.  Help us to root at corruption.  If as a party we fail to do so collectively then hound us out of office at the earliest opportunity.  Those individuals who wallow in corruption should be drummed out of politics.  Let us be partners in that campaign.  The business community will no doubt bear in mind that it takes two to make a corrupt transaction.  Be not one of them.

The second objective of the Alliance relates to the restoration of ethnic harmony.  The Alliance believes strongly that none of the people who have made Sri Lanka their home, none of our communities, no group or individual should suffer any discrimination on grounds of race, religion, language and culture.  We are committed to remove totally all manifestations of differential treatment.  You have our assurance on that.  On the basis of equality we will guarantee fundamental human and democratic rights to all our people.  

We have already made it clear, and I take this opportunity to repeat the assurances we have already given, that all the parties to this Alliance have agreed to enter into a process of political dialogue with the LTTE and all other relevant groups and communities with a view to accommodating their rights, eliminating inequality and mistrust among them and consolidating democracy.  The Alliance further agrees to go forward to a final solution and abide by the results of the negotiation process and the wish of the majority of the people who will ultimately have to be consulted if a just and durable solution is to become the foundation for the Sri Lanka of tomorrow.  

On the question of the ceasefire, I would urge you not to become ensnared in semantic quibbles – whether the ceasefire is a document or a state of no war.  I wish to take this opportunity of re-affirming what the President has said more than once – the ceasefire stands.  This is the definitive position of the Alliance.  The people do not want war.  The Alliance reflects the will of the people.  The ceasefire is a state of affairs.  In that state of affairs there is no armed conflict, at the moment, between the forces of the government and the forces of the LTTE.  We are strongly committed to maintaining that state of affairs.  Similarly, I urge you not to get embroiled in another philosophical conundrum – whether we will continue the process interrupted last April or start a new one. It matters not – the crux of the matter is that there will be a dialogue with the LTTE and others in order to achieve a political settlement.  

The third objective is the strengthening of democracy.  We will place before the people our wish that a new constitution be formulated and adopted which will contain a number of features on which there is already a great deal of agreement across our political spectrum.  

The fourth objective deals with our cultural policy.  We believe that the cultural heritage of all sections of our society should be preserved and protected and promoted.  While we are fully cognizant of the pervasive influence of other cultural traditions in the borderless modern world we will accept and welcome those influences which suit our own traditions and values.  We deplore the culture of greed and exploitation that is rapidly overtaking our national life.  We will seek to strengthen the belief in community, mutual responsibility and political decency which alas has been replaced by a winner takes all philosophy which has no place for the poor, the underprivileged and the handicapped.  

The fifth objective is to restore a foreign policy which we believe served our country well in the past but is now in danger of being refashioned to our detriment.  Our foreign policy will not be aligned or subservient to the interests of any other country or group of countries.  We will seek to safeguard our sovereignty and independence while maintaining and promoting the friendship and goodwill of all States and international organizations.  We will do nothing to endanger the security and sovereignty of our neighbouring States.  We will expand the existing goodwill with our neighbours in the spheres of political, economic and cultural relations. 

In closing let me say, ladies and gentlemen, that the Alliance does not seek confrontation; we seek cooperation.  We wish to see hostility replaced by understanding.  If you have a vision share it with us.  There is one vision – a peaceful, prosperous, fair and just society in Sri Lanka  - which has no prospect of achievement unless we work together.  Whatever the outcome of the election may be the Alliance will poll millions of votes.  We would reflect the hopes of those millions of our compatriots.  We believe we understand the needs and aspirations of our people.  We believe that you, the business community, have the means, the experience to help to meet those needs and fulfill those aspirations.  Then, let us work together, let us share what we have, let us pool our resources.  Our common goal must surely be a better Sri Lanka for all our people.








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Last Updated Date: February 19, 2004  - 7.00 GMT.


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