Media freedom is not the freedom of media owners. Although some media owners want to rule the country, they cannot do so, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said on Saturday, March 20, stressing that he has not exerted any influence on the media as President.
The President also said that he would not hesitate to take legal action against media groups if they tried to drag the country and the people back into the abyss by misusing the media for the benefit of various groups and individuals.
The President also pointed out that a group of media persons, who had worked against the country during the war, had infiltrated media institutions and were attacking nationalism and national programs.
The President expressed these views while participating in the 15th ‘Discussion with the Village’ program held in the Yombuweltenna area in the Walapane Divisional Secretariat Division in the Nuwara Eliya District on March 20 morning.
“The majority of the people of this country came together to elect me as the President to build the country. Only 16 months have passed of the 60-month term. There is still considerable time ahead. Some are worried about the next president. No one should worry about it and it is up to the people to decide,” the President said.
The President said during the remainder of his tenure he will fulfill the aspirations of the people by playing a vital role in uplifting the national economy as well as the rural masses.
The responsibility of the officials is to keep the people living without harassing them, he said, adding that he does not expect any wrongdoing from public officials that would disrupt the lives of the people.
“I have never destroyed the environment. From the time I was the Secretary to the Ministry of Urban Development, I did a lot of work for environmental conservation. Even Independence Square was littered with garbage. That situation was eliminated and the city of Colombo was turned into a green garden. It is unfortunate that those who have done nothing for the environment are pointing fingers at me,” the President said.
“A senior minister in the previous government has gifted a 30 acre land in Hanthana to his daughter. If they had protected the environment, they would not have had to come to the media and cry today,” the President said.
During the period 2015-2019, 77 acres of forest in the Kurunegala District, 258 acres in Puttalam, 100 acres in Moneragala, 224 acres in Anuradhapura and many other districts including Milewa, Matale, Laggala, Rideegama and Welikanna have been destroyed. The President said that it was ridiculous for such people to point fingers at the government today.
Poverty alleviation and economic upliftment of the rural population is a major policy of the Government. 75% of the rural population and 35% are directly involved in agriculture. President Rajapaksa also said that he would fulfill the responsibility of liberating the rural masses from poverty by implementing all necessary programs for the betterment of agriculture.
The program to provide employment to one lakh selected families belonging to the lowest income strata of the society was launched. Of these, 35,000 jobs have already been awarded. President Rajapaksa stated that another 100,000 jobs will be created after the completion of the first program.
The President also said that it was the responsibility of the rural government officials as well as the people’s representatives to identify the right persons in selecting the suitable candidates. The President also pointed out that the loss of skilled workers has contributed to the delay in development projects in the country.
The ‘Discussion with the Village’ program was launched on September 25, 2020 in the Badulla District. Past programs were organized covering Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Moneragala, Kegalle, Kandy, Puttalam, Trincomalee, Kurunegala and Galle districts. The President’s aim is to meet the people of the remote villages outside the city who have not been given due attention so far, to inquire into their problems and immediately bring them to the attention of the officials and provide solutions.
Problems that take time to resolve will be noted to be addressed later. The aim of the ‘Discussion with the Village’ program is to reach out to the people of the village, ask their questions and find solutions through their own suggestions.
Yombuweltenna Grama Niladhari Division is located at a distance of 13 km from Walapane town. It is one of the most rural Grama Niladhari Divisions in the Walapane Divisional Secretariat Division.
Legend has it that Keppetipola Nilame rejoined the Sinhala army at Yombuweltenna, an ancient area inhabited by people who contributed to the battle of Uva Wellassa. It is said that the name of the village was created due to the abundance of Yombuval, a medicinal plant.
Yombuweltenna village with 139 families now has a population of 397. Paddy and vegetable cultivation are the main livelihoods of the people.
The President was warmly welcomed by the people gathered on both sides of the road from the Nildandahinna Public Stadium to Yombuweltenna to participate in the ‘Discussion with the Village’ program.
People gathered on both sides of the road also called on the President to repair the damage caused to their crops by wild animals for a long time.
The President handed over the laptops with internet connection donated by SLT Mobitel to Vidyadeepa Secondary School and Sidhuhath Maha Vidyalaya and the television sets and the connection provided by Dialog to Tennabodhi Primary School to the principals.
Another objective of President Rajapaksa is to promote school library facilities in all areas where the ‘Discussion with the Village’ program is held. The President presented books to schools on the theme ‘A generation of intelligent children’. One school receives 500 books in various subjects.
Granting of grants to families who have been enjoying government lands without ownership was commenced recently. President Rajapaksa symbolically handed over grants to five families in the Walapane Divisional Secretariat Division.
The main problem facing the people of the area is the difficulty of roads and by-roads. It was discussed at length. The President instructed to expedite the development of Galwatta – Yombuweltenna road, Theripehe – Molandewa, Galaha – Deltota to Rikillagaskada road, Yatiwella – Mathurata road, Theripehe, Nildandahinna main and by road.
It was also decided to construct 15 bridges on the main and by-roads of the area. It was also decided to complete all community water projects in the area including Yombuweltenna, Lavellagolla, Makunagahapitiya, Hapugahapitiya, Kalaganwatta according to the needs of the people.
It was decided to improve the Walapane water treatment plant. He also instructed to expedite the repair of several other tanks in the area including Dadakele, Welithuduwa, Paragahalanda, Kiriwadunna, Mukalan and Udakanda.
The shortage of teachers in the schools in the area should be filled. It was also decided to develop the infrastructure of several schools in the area including Kalaganwatta Navodya Secondary School, Arunodaya Hindu Vidyalaya, Rankelambuwa Maha Vidyalaya, Udamadura Sri Vidya Pradeepa Secondary College.
It was decided to upgrade Madulla Secondary School to a national school.
Under the Rural Playground Development Program, instructions were also given for the development of one playground for each Divisional Secretariat Division.
Financial allocations were also made for the infrastructure development of 12 Sunday schools run in temples. The President agreed to the request made by the monks to fulfill the physical needs of the Pirivenas in the Central Province.
Land issues in 13 Grama Niladhari Divisions were identified during the ‘Discussion with the Village’ program. The President instructed to take immediate action to resolve all these issues and issue deeds.
It was also decided to repair all the elephant fences constructed in the area as a solution to the problem of wild elephants.
People pointed out that the pines and turpentine in the district are harmful to the environment. The President instructed the environmental authorities to remove these plantations and popularize local forest plantations.
Officials point out that the Copperia Arabica Lakparakum variety is the fourth most delicious coffee in the world. The Nuwara Eliya District has the most suitable environmental and climatic potential for this. The President also instructed to pay more attention to the promotion of coffee cultivation throughout the district.
It was also decided to develop the infrastructure facilities of Walapane, Bogawantalawa, Nildandahinna, Maturata, Theripehe Regional and Rural Hospitals.
Authorities were also instructed to take steps to address the shortage of doctors, nurses and minor staff in the district. It was also decided to establish two wards for monks at Rikillagaskada and Walapane hospitals. The President also instructed to look into the shortcomings of all estate hospitals in the area and to rectify the situation.
It was decided to set up an army camp in the Walapane area to deal with security and emergencies in the area.
People pointed out the need for a fertilizer center in the Walapane area. The people criticized the previous government for neglecting the crop collection centers in the district. The President instructed the authorities to set up crop collection centers at suitable places in the district.
It was also proposed to popularize aloe vera and aloe cultivation in barren paddy lands which could not be cultivated.
Decisions were also taken for the full development of Walapane and Pudaluoya towns which have been a demand of the people for a long time.
Minister – C. B. Ratnayake, Central Province Governor – Lalith U. Gamage, State Minister – Jeevan Thondaman, Members of Parliament – S. B. Dissanayake, Nimal Piyatissa, Rameshwara Marudapandi, Chief Adviser to the President – Lalith Weeratunga, and representatives of the people of the district, Secretaries to Ministries, Heads of Government Institutions and the Security Forces were present at the ‘Discussion with the Village’ program held at Yombuweltenna Village.