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‘I can’t sell Sri Lanka to India’ – Minister Harin hits back at Wimal and Gammanpila

Delivering a statement in Parliament today (21 Feb.), Tourism Minister Harin Fernando hit out at opposition MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila over their criticism of his recent speech in India.

Weerawansa and Gammanpila had yesterday (20 Feb.) accused Minister Fernando of attempting to sell the country to India, in reference to certain comments made by the Tourism Minister during a recent event held in Mumbai, India.
Responding to the allegations against him, Fernando stated that he had only thanked India for extending their support at a time when Sri Lanka was facing its worst economic crisis, and that his statement was gravely misconstrued by the MPs in question.

“I humbly thanked India for saving Sri Lanka for the last 13 – 14 months, with giving us the maximum amount of tourists”, he said.

The Minister further stated that during his speech, he had elaborated on the similarities and connections shared between the two countries, in several aspects including history, language, cinema and food.

“I was explaining that we were both very similar, so Sri Lanka is a part of India”, he said, emphasising that he was, in no way, attempting to ‘sell Sri Lanka to India’.

“Whenever we are at a bad point, India has always supported us, India always backed us,” the Minister Fernando said, emphasising that India was deemed an ally to Sri Lanka during one of its most crucial times, but now that he is inviting India to invest in Sri Lanka, they are being portrayed as the enemy.

“But when I ask Indians to come and invest in Sri Lanka, that’s bad. If you ask how countries such as Dubai, Singapore and Malaysia have developed thus far, it is through investments. The ITC hotel that is being built in front of Galle Face is the first Indian hotel that is being built out of India. That’s an investment. How would a country develop without investments?”, the Tourism Minister questioned.

Fernando further accused MPs Wimal Weerawansa and Udaya Gammanpila of being responsible for creating a certain notion in Sri Lanka, which ultimately led to the country falling apart.

“They are responsible, and today, they are saying the same things when you appreciate India”, the Minster charged, levelling accusations that the two MPs were once again attempting to create a ruckus based on the misconstrued truth.

The Minister reiterated that Sri Lanka remains indebted to India for its aid, emphasising that inviting India to invest in Sri Lanka and selling the country are two different things.

“We were not selling the country. We would invite any country to invest in Sri Lanka at this moment”, he said, charging that he is ready to defend himself in the event any party goes to court accusing him of violating the Constitution of Sri Lanka.

“We will continue to work with a country who helps us, who we only call as a brother when we need, but then when we want to do our politics, put them down, I am not that politician, I am grateful and I am proud of what we have reached so far”, the Minister said.