As a country, we have been struggling with many challenges for a very long time and there is no simple solution for an issue like this. As a responsible representative of the people of this country, a Minister pledged to serve the public, the day I cannot feel their pain I am not fit to serve this country. At the same time, I am duty bound to honour and respect the Constitution of this country and the laws that ultimately sets that balance between the larger needs of developing a country whilst safeguarding the rights, and by that I mean livelihood, security and happiness, of the people who we ultimately serve. As a lawyer, I have spent many hours in the Court room trying to grapple with that exact dilemma and realize that there are no readymade solutions and that no social issue is as simple as it appears in the legal texts.
The issue here is clearly one that goes to the heart of the poor people. It is undeniably one that is clearly spelt out in law as we all know that “unauthorized constructions” cannot stand and are detrimental to government planning and broader policies. In this instance, it is conservation of our beaches that are at stake. As a government, we are undoubtedly responsible to ensure that our environment is preserved. However, in that endeavour we cannot forget the humane aspect. The broader objectives of why we are in government in the first place. To look after the rights of the people, especially those who are vulnerable – even if that vulnerability is created due to the operation of the law. When I said that I will step in to ensure that the poor people of Mirissa are not suddenly left without their livelihood, that is not to say that I will in any way subvert the Constitution and laws of this country, but I will do my best to ensure that the laws are applied in a decent, reasonable and sensitive way by balancing the contextual realities of the poor people who are affected by those laws. That is why, the first step is to temporarily put a stop to any immediate action to demolish the buildings and to start discussions to find a solution to reach a middle ground.
Minister of Provincial Councils and Local Government and Sports