Economy has no culture or religion: Eran

Thursday, 11 April 2013 01:09 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

By Dharisha Bastians

Over investment, poor investment management and apathy in the face of the break down in the rule of law and escalating ethno-religious tensions was costing the Sri Lankan state revenue, an Opposition Parliamentarian warned while President Mahinda Rajapaksa was attending Parliamentary sessions briefly last afternoon.

United National Party National List MP Eran Wickremaratne who addressed Parliament last afternoon said in the face of controversies like the recent Halal issue, the Government was failing to play the role of the impartial spectator as prescribed by Political Economist Adam Smith.  

“Economy has no culture or religion. A Government needs to make investments and economic policy irrespective of whether it benefits the north or the south, Sinhalese or Muslims,” Wickremaratne said.

Allowing controversies like the Halal issue to spiral out of control ultimately costs the state revenue, the Opposition lawmaker charged. Wickremaratne said he strongly disagreed with sentiments expressed by Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne on Tuesday, who said that the incidents against Muslim enterprises, including the hits to their businesses were personal disputes. The UNP MP said that the trouble was that when these violence against one community took place, the police arrive on the scene and allow them to happen and try to mediate the peace between the two parties in the aftermath.

“What is necessary is for an economy to grow, is for the law to be implemented and the police must do that,” he charged.

Wickremaratne rreminded the House that the UNP’s position was that the Police force should not be under the Ministry of Defence but report to a civilian department. “This is the practice all over the world – all over Asia,” he said.

The Opposition Legislator called on the Government to make strong statements condemning the violence and ensure the police enforce the law.

Hitting back at Government claims that the Opposition was criticizing development projects out of jealousy, Wickremaratne said his problem was with over-investment and the poor management of investments. “For example I see the economic logic of the Hambantota Port from a Bunkering perspective. But this Government is over-investing and this kills your returns and ultimately affects your cashflow when you have to pay back debts,” he said.

He contended however that there was no logic to the recently opened Mattala International Airport and said the Government was getting its domestic and international aviation policy mixed up. He said that on 7 April, a SriLankan Airlines flight enroute to Riyadh through MRIA was delayed for 5.5 hours in Mattala after reports that a bird was sucked into the engine, although the reason had not been corroborated. “When that problem was fixed, they discovered that the pilots had exceeded their flying time limits. So instead of proceeding to Riyadh, the pilots had to take the aircraft back to Colombo,” he explained.

Wickremaratne said it made no economic sense to route flights through Mattala when they were taking off from Colombo.

“No one flies to Europe from Heathrow via Gatwick. If both BIA and MRIA are international airports, SriLankan Airlines must fly out of Katunayake or Mattala. There is no economic sense in flying through both airports,” he said.