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29th October 2000
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The mother of a missing soldier pleads
with Major General Janaka Perera to 
help her find her son. The moving scene was 
captured at Panagoda Sri Bodhirajaramaya 
where an alms- giving to mark the 
51st anniversary of the Army was held 
yesterday. Pix By J.Weerasekara 

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Policy problems in portfolio clash 

The Government's decision to expand the cabinet to 44 Ministers has caused problems in allocation of subjects to respective ministries with some of the functions over-lapping and bound to result in difficulties in policy implementation.

The overlapping of the functions has been caused by the expanded cabinet and demands put forward by individual ministers and coalition parties which helped the PA form the government.

The Gazette notification on subjects and functions of Ministries was released by the Government on Friday.

In one of the surprising moves, only the National Housing Development Authority (NHDA) has been assigned to Ferial Ashraff, the Minister of Rural Housing, while all other housing related institutions have been assigned to Construction Minister Mangala Samaraweera.

Institutions such as Department of Buildings, Institute of Construction, Urban Development and Lower Income Housing Project, Housing Development Finance Corporation and Building Materials Corporation have been brought under Minister Samaraweera.

Several institutions related to ports and shipping have been split between Ports Minister Ronnie de Mel and Shipping Minister Rauf Hakeem.

The Ceylon Shipping Corporation, Ceylon Port services, Central Freight Bureau and Director of Merchant Shipping are among the institutions assigned to Mr. Hakeem while the Colombo Dockyards, Ports Authority and Colombo Dry Docks have been assigned to Mr. de Mel.

In another significant conflict of portfolios, Samurdhi, Rural Development, Parliamentary Affairs and Up-Country Development Minister S.B. Dissanayake has been assigned the subject of Agricultural Extension, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, while the Department of Agriculture has been assigned to the Agriculture Minister D. M. Jayaratna.

The portfolio of Housing Development for the Fishing Community has been assigned to Milroy Fernando, overlapping with the functions of the Minister of Fisheries Mahinda Rajapaksa who is also entrusted with improving the welfare of the fishing community. 

In another move, the National Film Corporation has been brought under Irrigation and Water Resources Management Minister Sarath Amunugama.

Following a demand made by Food and Marketing Development Minister Reggie Ranatunga, Co-operative Wholesale Establishment (CWE) and Salusala have been brought under his Ministry. The subjects were earlier under the Trade Ministry.

Provincial development is another area that has been split among three ministers. Mr. de Mel has been assigned the subject of the development of the South, Minister S. B. Dissanayake the deveopment of Up-country and Ms. Ashraff the east.

EPDP leader Douglas Devananda, who has been given the Northern Rehabilitation, has also been assigned the subject of 'formulation and implementation of special programmes in the fields of information and media for the restoration of normalcy in the country'. 

President directs Bindunuwewa investigations

As local and foreign criticism mounted President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga personally took upon herself directing investigations on the gory massacre last Wednesday at the Bindunuwewa rehabilitation centre, interdicting more than 60 Police personnel including Inspectors.

The Police Department was also due to serve charge sheets on some senior gazetted officers for alleged negligence of duties and thus paving the way for this massacre.

President Kumaratunga who has assigned two teams to carry out the probe on the massacre which left 27 dead and 13 injured has called for reports on the ongoing investigations.

The orders came as contrary to reports that she had left for Britain.

In a related development UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called on Sri Lanka on Friday to conduct an impartial inquiry leading to the prosecution of those responsible for the massacre at Bindunuwewa.

A statement issued through a U.N. spokesman said Annan was "profoundly distressed" by the reported killings on Wednesday.

"He trusts that the authorities will make every effort by conducting an impartial inquiry with a view to bringing to justice those responsible," the statement said.

"He also appealed to all parties in Sri Lanka to refrain from any further escalation of violence, especially terrorist acts which he condemns in the strongest possible terms," the statement added.

Other international organisations, such as the Amnesty International, and local groups have also condemned the attack and called on the government to launch impartial probes.

Acting Police Chief T. Anandarajah said yesterday.investigations into the incident were continuing, but no arrests had been made.

He said the bodies of the victims were being sent to north and east to be handed over to their family members.

Thirteen bodies of the victims were transported by air to their native places in the North - East on Friday evening.

Identification of the remaining bodies are delayed as they were reportedly either mutilated or charred beyond recognition by the fire.

Meanwhile police clamped a night curfew in the Thalawakele, Lindula, Dimbulla and Agarapathan areas yesterday as plans were underway to organise a Harthal in the Agarapathana area today to protest against the incident.

Black flags had been put up in the area yesterday.

Police said that the curfew was clamped from 8.30 p.m. until 4.00 p.m. today as a precaution. 

Expanded Cabinet triggers space hunt

By Faraza Farook and Tania Fernando
With the cabinet expanding to 44 ministers, problems in locating their offices in parliament and finding new premises to house their ministries in the city have cropped up.

Parliamentary sources said arrangements were being made to clear unutilized rooms in the ground floor of the parliamentary complex and some of the big rooms were likely to be partitioned to accommodate offices of ministers.

They said there were only 20 chambers to be divided among 44 ministers.

However, Parliament's Secretary General Dhammika Kitulgoda said they were still studying the office accommodation problem and would come out with a solution soon. 

Meanwhile, the government is looking for office space to locate several new ministries.

Transport and Highways portfolios which came under one roof in the earlier cabinet have now been given to two ministers. Thus Minister A.H.M. Fowzie in charge of Highways had to leave his D. R. Wijewardene Mawatha office, allowing Transport Minister Dinesh Gunewardene to move in.

The government has also extended its search for office space to residential areas.

Real estate broker R. Perera said the government was looking for office space even in residential areas, but most people were reluctant to rent or lease their houses due to security reasons.

Another problem is finding official residences for all ministers. Some ministers who reside in outstations have been promised official residences in Colombo. "The Government has promised to give me an official residence but I don't know how long it will take," Indigenous Medicine Minister Tissa Karaliyadda said. 

Anura off to see Sai Baba 

Speaker Anura Bandaranaike has left for Putrapati, India to receive the blessings of Sai Baba.

Since his uncontested election as Speaker of the 11th parliament on October 18, Mr. Bandaranaike has met religious prelates, including the Mahanayakes of the Malwatte and Asgiriya Chapters and the Archbishop of Colombo.

Meanwhile, Lajpat Wickrama-sinha has been appointed as private secretary to the Speaker.

Mr. Wickramasinha, a Barister-at-law of the Middle Temple was SLFP UK and Europe Branch Secretary for seven years, and served as co-ordinating secretary when Mr. Bandaranaike was minister of Higher Education during the D. B. Wijetunga administration.

Former secretary general of parliament Nihal Seneviratne is tipped to be appointed an advisor to the Speaker.

I'm only asking for what was promised to me Hakeem

By Nilika de Silva
While political sources say the delay in appointing deputy ministers is due to the NUA's demand for five slots, the leader of this Muslim-dominated party says he is only asking for what has been agreed to by President Kumaratunga.

"It is very unfair. I am being made out as a character from Merchant of Venice. Our demands are being made to look unreasonable," NUA leader Rauf Hakeem told The Sunday Times.

Mr. Hakeem and the NUA, which was given two ministerial posts, have been blamed for making unreasonable demands, which the Government is finding difficult to meet. But Mr. Hakeem said his demands were part of a deal worked out with President Kumaratunga after some persuasion.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake last Thursday was driven to say that Mr. Hakeem, the newly appointed Minister of Trade, Shipping and Muslim Affairs, was behaving like Shylock.

Explaining with the aid of mathematics, Mr. Hakeem said if 44 deputy posts were added to 44 minister posts, there would be 88 posts for 115 MPs.

"Since the NUA had 11 MPs, it should get eight and a half percent of these posts," he quipped.

Though he declined to name the five deputy minister posts the NUA had asked for, Mr. Hakeem said the posts should be of use to people of the North and East.

Mr. Hakeem, however, said the NUA would drop its demands if a National Government was to be formed to achieve peace in the country. 


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