By Marianne David
In waging the economic war, people who oppose economic policies cannot be eliminated and nor can calls be made for their elimination, asserted UNP Chief Economist and MP Dr. Harsha de Silva.
Addressing the media yesterday, he pointed out that Sri Lanka was still a democracy and it was important to protect the rights of people to dissent: “The objective is to ensure that people have the right to be critical of the Government’s economic policies without being threatened.”
Drawing attention to a report by Capital Trust Research on Monday, which calls for the immediate elimination of disruptive elements, he said: “I am telling these people who are asking for the elimination of saboteurs, traitors and subversive elements who they say are disrupting the noble goal of this country’s Government to make Sri Lanka the financial capital of South Asia not to do this. There is no place for such nonsense to be written and transmitted as official documentation, in this particular case by a company called Capital Trust."
Calling on such parties to be professional when doing their duty without labelling those who are in opposition, Dr. de Silva called on the media to be supportive in the exercise to nip in the bud any person, organisation or group wanting to become violent.
“There is no place for violence anymore in this country. Nobody should be allowed to spread hatred and make such calls,” he added.
Noting that this was all he would do at this point, the MP said that if the people in question were unable to comprehend this, there would be consequences: “We will have to opt for other avenues; there are legal means and various other avenues.”
Emphasising that he had the right to criticise the Government’s economic policy and be constructively critical, he noted that it was the job of the Opposition: “The job of the Opposition is not to join with the Government and strengthen then hands of X or Y.”
“I have the right to be critical, being a citizen of this country, a Member of Parliament, a professional economist and development economist for almost 20 years and being in the visiting faculty of two of this country’s universities, an economist in a bank, an entrepreneur and having worked in many countries in this region.”
Alluding to his recent discussion with the President, he said: “As a matter of fact, I had a discussion with the President on the fact that I will continue to be critical of the Government’s economic policy and he was perfectly okay with it. Other people don’t need to get too excited and forget that this is still a democracy, to whatever extent. To use words like traitor, subversive elements, saboteurs and eliminate will not be tolerated.”
According to him, the UNP believes that the call for elimination is a reaction to what the party has been highlighting about “the end of the ‘Mahinda Chinthana’ and the ‘Mahinda Vindana’ and ‘Mahinda Hinsana’ story”.
De Silva also revealed that while he had not received any personal threats, he was speaking “on behalf of the rights of everyone, that there should be space for criticism and dissension, particularly in economic policies, without being threatened”.
Stock market surveillance
UNP Chief Economist and MP Dr. Harsha de Silva called on the Government to act on the installation of surveillance software in the Colombo stock market to prevent manipulation.
“Two months ago the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that it would install surveillance software in the Colombo stock market within one month. One month has passed but there is no discussion about it. I am asking the Government: ‘Where is it? Why are you not doing it?’” he said.
Pointing out that “99.5% of the people in the market are decent, honest, small time and medium scale investors,” he said however that there were “certain rogues”.
“To catch these rogues we need to have sophisticated software because these people are also sophisticated. I urge the Government to immediately act in this regard,” Dr. De Silva added. ~ courtesy: The Financial Times ~