Basil intervenes, angry Mervyn up the gum tree

By Damith Wickremasekara

Economic Development Minister and Presidential troubleshooter Basil Rajapaksa has intervened to settle a crisis with Samurdhi officers who have launched a countrywide protest against last Monday’s tree punishment given to a Samurdhi officer by Deputy Minister Mervyn Silva.

Mr. Rajapaksa has appealed to the Samurdhi officers to end the protest, claiming Mr. Silva has been warned by President Mahinda Rajapaksa that he should not resort to such acts.

Jagath Gunawardena, Samurdhi officers’ association secretary told the Sunday Times that Minister Rajapaksa who is also in charge of Samurdhi had said that he would ensure the safety of the officers.
Mr. Gunawardena said that Minister Rajapaksa had expressed his sympathy with the officer who was tied to a tree on the direction of Mr. Silva for allegedly failing to take part in a dengue-prevention programme. The Secretary said the minister condemned the incident.

Deputy Minister Silva when contacted by the Sunday Times declined to comment on whether he had been warned by the President, but said he had forgotten about the matter.

“I was only trying to correct the situation. In future if there is a death caused by the dengue I will not get involved in the matter. If there is a dengue-related death I will ignore it,” he said in an apparent reaction to the agitation by Samurdhi officers.

Samurdhi union leaders had warned they would withdraw from their services if the government did not take action against Mr. Silva. “We will continue our agitation campaign. We will call it off only when Mr. Silva relents,” Mr. Gunawardena said.

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