Ferial Ashroff Interview

“Minorities in this country have a feeling that there has been discriminationA?a??A?”– Ferial Ashroff
Interviewed by Manjari Peiris Cost of fluoxetine without insurance

Q. Can you explain the political style of your party?

A. The name of my party, by itself speaks a lot. It is called the National Unity Alliance, because this was a party that came into being during my late husbandA?a??a??s time when the need of the hour was the unity of the people of Sri Lanka. We have been separated because of the war. Even if we go by the constitution of Sri Lanka, there was a time when we were considered Ceylonese. But that is all in fragments now. There was a need for uniting the people of Sri Lanka. That was the whole idea in the formation of the National Unity Alliance. We are still a party in our infancy. We are not a regional party, but a party wanting to propagate unity in Sri Lanka. We are not asking people to give up their identities. We want them to maintain their identities, but also try to develop a Sri Lankan identity.

Q. Were you engaged in politics when Mr. Ashroff was living?

A. I have always been a student of politics and I have always worked with my husband, behind the scenes. I have not been campaigning with him or addressing meetings or meeting people etc. But of course from his office and his home, I have been very much involved in politics. In fact I have been involved in politics long before I became Mrs. Ashroff, even as a student.

Q. What does your party do to improve the lot of the Muslim people?

A. My party is basically for national unity. I, as a Member of Parliament representing the Ampara district, try to help people from all communities in every way possible whenever there is a need. But of course as we all know, minorities in this country have a feeling that there has been discrimination and therefore there is something called a A?a??E?minority interestA?a??a??. If you take the district that I represent, Ampara, it was a district that had been neglected where development was concerned. We have a large number of Sinhalese living in the area, nearly 40%. Still for all, it was a neglected district. The only development that had taken place in that district was during my late husbandA?a??a??s time. He had seen to it that the area at least started developing, but we still have a lot of work to do, especially in the Sinhala areas. The Divisional Secretariat areas of Dehiattakandiya, Padiyathalawa, Maha Oya, Damana and Lahugala are far from developed. It is not a question of me working only for the Muslim areas. I am very much involved in the development of my district where all the three communities live almost in equal proportions. I work with all the people.

Q. What does your ministry do?

A. We are very happy with the kind of work that we do through this Ministry. We work with extremely poor people, who have given hope of ever finding a permanent roof over their heads. They are people who donA?a??a??t have permanent home to call their own. They are living in shacks. They live in very pathetic conditions all over the country. So our Ministry gets involved in helping the people to help themselves. We do not have contractors or private organizations building houses. We get the community involved and mobilize them and get the community to help themselves. We get them the technical know-how and provide the necessary material for them to build the houses and we are also making use of material available in those areas. We are able to annually build about 1000 houses which is a very small figure when you compare the needs in Sri Lanka. But we manage to build about 10,000 houses in terms of building new homes and also in renovating and rehabilitating existing homes. We do both. We are very happy about what we have done. We can be very proud of the fact that we have been able to divert all the funds right down to the grassroots level.

Q. Do you think that the Muslim community also needs a separate state?

Elimite cream over the counter A. I donA?a??a??t believe in any separate state for anybody in Sri Lanka. The whole idea of national unity goes for a six if I believe so. As Sri Lankans, we should make Sri Lanka a place for all to live peacefully with each other. We are all first class citizens of Sri Lanka. This is what we are trying to achieve A?a??a?? not to divide this little country.

Q. Do you think that the prosecution of the war has been effective?

A. We find that the government has been able to reduce the strength of the LTTE to a certain degree. Whenever the governments of Sri Lanka tried to negotiate with the LTTE, it always ended up in failure. The LTTE has also shown no interest in wanting to solve this problem through negotiations. So we are going ahead with the war, But I also believe that while going ahead with the war, that we should have a politically negotiated settlement. That we believe in. We donA?a??a??t believe that you can solve the problem merely by war.

Q. What kind of a solution do you envisage for the ethnic problem?

A. We believe in a negotiated political settlement. People in this country have a lot of issues. The minorities feel that their problems have never been dealt with, especially in terms of land, language, etc. We believe that it has to be a negotiated settlement and we should be able to listen to the other personA?a??a??s point of view. That is what is required in Sri Lanka. It is a basic question of understanding the other personA?a??a??s problems and aspirations.

Q. What do you have to say about the high cost of living?

A. This is definitely a huge problem. We canA?a??a??t deny the fact that life is becoming more and more difficult. It is so even for me personally, especially with the price of electricity and so on. I assume that the government is also taking it into account and trying to sort it out and manage it in a better manner. But when you read the news overseas also, there is talk of the escalation of prices. Cost of living is high all over the world. The price of fuel and most commodities have increased. We have to find ways and means of solving the problem. The government is very much interested in new agricultural methods. We have not had a long term plan for our country.

Q. Do you expect to be elected to Parliament at the next general election?

A. ThatA?a??a??s for the people to decide and I would be very happy with the decision of the people. If they think I am worthy enough to be in parliament, then they will elect me.

Q. Do you think that the President will be able to solve the ethnic problem?

A. He should be able to; there is no question about it. He is making all attempts – even trying to develop the country. Also he wants to tell the people of the Eastern Province that he is prepared to treat all the people equally. He is definitely going forward and we are confident that the President will be able to solve this issue.


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