20th August 2000
Lucky are the graduates who were sent by ministers
By Nilika de Silva
New jobs, increased allowances for Samurdhi workers and pension schemes costing billions of rupees were hurriedly introduced by the government as parliament was dissolved and the general election fixed for October 10.
The Cabinet on Wednesday granted approval to recruit 4,000 more Samurdhi workers, increase their allowance by Rs. 1,100 and make the Reserve Police service a pensionable service among other benefits and schemes.
An estimated 30,000 personnel in the Reserve Police service are to benefit from the pension scheme.
Parliament during its last four days approved supplementary estimates amounting to Rs. 42,000 million.
The allocations of Rs. 14,000 million are for urban development, fisheries, health, agriculture, local government, Samurdhi, education and foreign affairs while Rs. 28,000 million is for additional defence expenditure.
On Friday graduates were also being recruited to the Samurdhi movement as management officers.
From all over the island, hundreds of graduates some carrying letters from PA MPs and others with letters from Ministers queued up at the Samurdhi Authority at Sethsiripaya on Friday, hoping to gain those coveted jobs of Samurdhi management officers.
These jobs which carry a relatively high starting salary of Rs. 7,000, were being filled in a hurry, and the corridors, lifts and canteens of Sethsiripaya were all abuzz with the noise of applicants awaiting their turn.
Telegrams had been sent out summoning the applicants for interviews at Sethsiripaya last Friday. In the case of those coming in on a Minister's word, this telegram had been replaced by a messenger visiting the house, carrying the glad tidings.
Samurdhi Ministry Secretary R. M. K. Ratnayake said 300 graduates were being recruited to the management post while 4,000 Samurdhi officers were being recruited to the North East.
As a further benefit, from August 1, the value of coupons given to Samurdhi beneficiaries has been increased by Rs. 200, the Secretary said.
Following the news that paddy farmers were faced with an excessive crop this season, Rs. 400 worth of paddy is to be issued to Samurdhi recipients a month, and a stock for three months could be obtained at once, the government announced.
Rs. 12 billion is spent annually on Samurdhi beneficiaries around the country.
Political observers noted that before the presidential elections last year, similar increases were given to Samurdhi workers.
In related development, the Ports Authority is hurriedly filling up vacancies for clerical staff while the Insurance Corporation is due to hold interviews tomorrow to recruit more than 700 clerks.
In another move, the Cabinet also decided to provide duty-free facilities or interest-free loans for agricultural officers to buy motorcycles.
In the education sphere, Principals appeared to be coming in for treats, along with the absorption of Performing Principals into the Principal Grade.
Cabinet approval has also been granted to set up a pension fund for journalists.
For northern development, government after a prolonged delay has released Rs. 750 million for various projects.
Hours before the dissolution of parliament, all MPs got a huge farewell bonanza — permits for the duty-free import of luxury vehicles.
This plan had been first mooted in March this year, but it was put off by President Kumaratunga when the government put the country on a full war -footing and called for austerity. According to trade sources, a duty-free vehicle permit is sold at Rs. 3 million in the open market.
MOSCOW, Saturday- The Russian navy sounded the death knell on Saturday for the 118 crew of a nuclear-powered submarine lying crippled on the floor of the Arctic Barents Sea.
Following are the main quotes from a television statement by the head of the navy's general staff, Mikhail Motsak, on the accident which crippled the Kursk on August 12. The translation is by Reuters.
"It is the gravest disaster that I, as a sailor, have known in the history of the submarine fleet. Most likely the whole of the front section of the submarine has been flooded and the staff in those sections died in the first minutes of the accident. - Reuters
Over 22,000 metric tons of maize believed to have been imported from Argentina have been held back by the Customs Department following a health scare in that country.
The decision was taken after it was discovered that cattle in Argentine pastures tested positive for the antibody that causes foot-and-mouth disease.
The Sunday Times learns that the maize was imported by a private company in Colombo.
Customs director K. Gunadasa said a full probe would be conducted on a request by the Agriculture Department.
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
The estranged wife of a minister has lashed out at her husband accusing him of running a virtual harem at the ministry.
This came after she visited the ministry offices on August 12 for some official work only to find her husband allegedly with another woman in the VIP room.
The angry wife has complained to Police Chief Lucky Kodituwakku that officers of the Ministerial Security Division connived with the minister .
The wife in her complaint said that when she came to the ministry, the minister had informed her that he had to rush for an appointment outside Colombo after meeting some journalists from a television station.
She complained that MSD personnel had prevented her from going upstairs to the minister's office, but reportedly opened the VIP room where special guests are entertained.
But all hell broke loose when they discovered the minister and the woman allegedly in a compromising position.
It is reported that the angry wife had taken a chair and flung it at the minister and his alleged mistress.
The MSD personnel had then taken the wife out of the VIP room and allegedly restrained her in the adjacent room till the minister and the alleged mistress got away under a tight security blanket.
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