Why is the EP Governor not taking action against the Chief Minister? Your sister paper Daily Mirror (on 24.05.2016) has quoted the Defence Ministry Secretary Karunasena Hettiarchchi as having stated, that he had not received any complaints about an incident where Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed is alleged to have rebuked a naval officer [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka



Why is the EP Governor not taking action against the Chief Minister?

Your sister paper Daily Mirror (on 24.05.2016) has quoted the Defence Ministry Secretary Karunasena Hettiarchchi as having stated, that he had not received any complaints about an incident where Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed is alleged to have rebuked a naval officer at an event at the Sampur Maha Vidyalaya on Friday. However, the Defence Ministry Secretary had admitted that he had viewed the video showing the Chief Minister allegedly scolding a naval officer at the opening ceremony of the Science Lab and Computer Unit of the Sampur Maha Vidyalaya over a ‘protocol’ issue. As to why he is awaiting a formal complaint to inquire into this issue which is evident on video itself is perplexing, but what is further confusing is whether indeed the said Defence Ministry Secretary has the power to look into such an issue concerning the misconduct of the Chief Minister.

The said video reveals that not only has the Chief Minister abused a respected naval officer, he has also abused the Governor of the Eastern Province. On video the Chief Minister broke out in a tirade saying, “Get out from here idiot. If you don’t know what protocol is, just get out. Who the hell are you to stop me? Even you, Governor don’t know what the protocol is. I respect the Excellency the Ambassador much more. You should know Governor, you should know the protocol” . So this is an instance where the Chief Minister not only abused the high ranking Navy Officer, he also abused his own superior, the Governor.

As far as we are aware, the power to appoint a Chief Minister is conferred on the Governor of the Province. (Article 154F of the Constitution). As per the Interpretation Ordinance, Clause 14(f) “for the purpose of conferring power to dismiss, suspend or re-instate any officer, it shall be deemed to have been and to be sufficient to confer power to appoint him.” Therefore, the Governor who had the power to appoint the Chief Minister under the Constitution, is the proper authority to take action against the Chief Minister. He has the power to dismiss him, suspend him and reinstate him. In short, it is the Governor who has disciplinary control over the Chief Minister. In this case, the incident occurred in the presence of the Governor. Why is the Governor not taking immediate steps to discipline the Chief Minister who misbehaved in his very presence?

And why is it that the Defence Ministry Secretary (who as far as we are aware, has no power to take action against the Chief Minister) is making statements and awaiting a complaint from any party to take action against the Chief Minister? After all, to our simple minds it is the duty of the Governor and not the Secretary of the Defence Ministry to take action. As far as we are aware the Defence Secretary has no power over the Chief Minister of the Province.

Is this yet another attempt by the Government officials to confuse the issue and “pass the buck”, resulting in no action being taken at all? This was a famous tactic of the previous regime. Is the same old ruse being used by the present regime to avoid taking action against their unruly loyalists? Or is it just a case of both the Governor and the Defence Ministry Secretary being clueless about the  scope of their respective powers and functions? After all, this is not the first instance, this present government had confused themselves regarding powers and duties and protocols of their ministers and officers.

The previous incumbent of the Eastern Province Governor’s Post Major General Mohan Wijewickrama, did a yeoman’s service in safeguarding the honour and prestige of the position and maintaining peace and stability in the Province. The Eastern Province consists of all three communities in almost equal proportions and to maintain peace, stability and discipline in the Province requires strong leadership within the Province. The previous incumbent fitted the bill perfectly and the Eastern Province was one of the best run provinces of the Country. The present Governor’s inaction and his conduct during the said incident as appearing in the video, does little to boost the confidence of the people, that this record will be maintained in the future.

We hope this situation will be rectified soon and the Governor will act responsibly in maintaining discipline in the Province. The Governor may have studied at Richmond College Galle, but it would serve him well to know the motto of the present Prime Minister’s old school  Disce aut discede (learn or depart).

Citizen Jane
Via email

Chairman RDA, step out of your chauffeur-driven car and walk the roads

It was a rainy Sunday morning, and my wife and I were wearing light coloured clothing and walking on the road, on our way to a special church service. A passenger bus whizzed past, drove into a puddle of water collected on Galle Road and showered us, especially my wife with dirty water ruining her clothes. We had to be at the church on time and because my shirt was ok  and the muddy water splashed onto my trousers was not visible, it was decided that I would go ahead and my wife would take a three wheeler, go back home and change and come to the church afterwards and I would try and explain why she was late.

This incident forces me to relate a real happening in life and ask the RDA chairman a few questions.

My friend became the Headmaster of a prestigious boarding school at Gurutalawa. The food served to the boarders was horrible (I know I have had them for two years) because the provisions were stolen every day by the kitchen staff and taken to their homes. My friend changed all that; sent the workers packing, got new staff and then ate all three meals from the school kitchen – the same meals that were served to the students. Any visitors for him, they would get the same food. You can imagine the quality of the food that was served to the students after this change!!

This is what leadership means. To walk in the other man’s shoes and feel what s/he is feeling and then because you are called to serve them, to do it with commitment and dedication; not to be chauffeur driven or to sit in an overstuffed chair and just concentrate on how to get rich quick.

So the questions would be for the Chairman of the RDA;

Have you ever been late for a function because mud covered your best saree/suit?

Have you thought about why you have been appointed the Chairman/woman, and given a role to play in the fabric of society?

Are you chauffeur driven to your office? Have you ever walked on the  roads that you are responsible to maintain, to experience firsthand  the real situation and attend to them?

I hope you will remember that with knowledge comes responsibility to your conscience, the deities that you believe in and to the people who are taxed and thus pay your salary and the perks that come with the job.

Rohan Wickramaratne
Via email

Deaf to the world with hands-free ear phones plugged

I am a regular at the Mount Lavinia beach for my daily morning walks. Today I had a freak accident and the blame goes to my hands-free earphones I had plugged on.

As I sit at my desk top now writing this I have tied around my waist a towel holding a hot water bag at my right hip. It hurts even while I sit. A speeding boat coming to land on the beach hit me in full force right on my hip. I got thrown on to a side. Mind you I am 63 years old. Thank God I was away from the boat’s path thereafter. I could not get up. The whole fishing community seemed to gather round me. They knew the gravity of the accident if it had hit the spine. People were yelling ‘Lift him lift him, bring a chair for him’ to sit etc. Women folk also filtered out of their beachside little homes. They concluded I was seriously injured. I was in pain but I knew nothing bad had happened.

These fisher folk are generally nice people, united in a crisis etc. These are all known faces to me as they inquired and gathered. I just said ‘help me stand’. So some young guys helped me up. I said ‘don’t worry I am ok’ and tried to go home. They said ‘no, sit here for some time’, in a chair they brought from a home, and then to go. They have wisdom; I could faint on the way.

I sat for some time. One guy yelled to someone bring some balm. I did not want them to make a fuss but the balm came. They asked me for the exact location where it hit. I showed just above the hip joint not directly on it. I guess that was God’s will that it should hit in a place where serious damage could not happen. The guy applied the balm and rubbed well till I said enough.  In a little while I wanted to leave.

By now we had conversations how it happened, how someone shouted at me to move away. My hands-free stopped me from hearing, etc etc. The owner of the boat, a man my age showed me his three sons and said they are my sons. One son says he has seen me as I said I am a regular.

I wanted to move on but they dusted my clothes of the sand. The owner said no, have some water before you go, insisting. Then I waited and drank the water. Then walked on; I know the real pain will show up more when I go home. But it pains as I walk.

It was the left hip that hurt all these days but today not so. Secretly I hope the bang on the right hip also fixed my other side hip pain. See I am positive about everything. That is the faith!

On my way to the beach I had crossed the railway lines very diligently looking both sides for oncoming trains. My hands-free ear phone was on listening to the radio.

I had my ear phones in my ears as the boat came. So this is the cause. I must be thankful to God that it ended this way.

Lawrence Fernando

Delivering top class service to our deserving senior citizens

Senior citizen Ananda M. N. Perera from Australia in the Sunday Times of April 10,2016  suggests a senior citizen card for those over 60 years of age in Sri Lanka excluding elders like him and perhaps me! I know for sure there is a special government circular to give priority service to senior citizens visiting places such as banks, hospitals, offices etc.

We too issued similar instructions based on this government circular when I worked in a top bank in Sri Lanka. Recently one of my senior citizen friends, to whom I told about this service arrangement, went to a crowded private bank branch and spoke to the manager and said he was a senior citizen. The lady manager knowingly or unaware of  this priority service system for senior citizens, gave him VIP treatment attending to all his banking needs inside her cubicle! It reminds us of the Sinhala proverb “andanda onelu kiri erenda” This is the problem of unawareness!

It is good to issue a senior citizen a card but all seniors should know their rights and demand them where/when necessary! All should be issued such a card and Ananda and I can refrain from using the benefit! Over to state and private sector service providers to deliver a top class service to our deserving senior citizens!


Bigger containers, less content

Have you noticed  how we consumers are all duped into believing that we are getting our money’s worth?

The other day I bought a baby cream of a famous name, and when I opened the sealed tube and squeezed …. and squeezed and squeezed ….. well it took half the tube to be squeezed to get the cream to come out. Yes it is filled with  half the capacity but the price is even more than what it was for a full tube. Same with some antiseptic creams too.

The boxes of the milk packets look large. So do the packs of nuts, chips and other bites. When you shake them half of the packet is empty. See the yoghurt cups? The top looks same as those old days but the bottom part  which actually consist of the yoghurt is so small!

My favourite mosquito coil said to last 12 hours – which it did sometime back – hardly lasts 8 hours. Calling them and complaining fell on deaf ears. I remember those days when I called about the coil being  stuck together the marketing manager promptly sent an officer who  apologised for the defunct pack and replaced it too. Nowadays they have no explanation for the short changing so they pretend to be deaf.

Some products have stayed the same and the prices have gone up. That is understandable. But when the company  tries to hoodwink people to make them think they are getting more for the price they are paying,   it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

I avoid such cheats.

Dr. Mareena Thaha Reffai

True leadership qualities of  Sirimavo Bandaranaike

We first met Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike on September 7, 1972. It was an informal meeting at her Rosmead Place residence to negotiate a settlement of the on-going strike of the Joint Front of Technical Officer Trade Unions (JFTOTU) in the Ministry of Irrigation, Power and Highways (MIPH).

The JFTOTU consisted of eight trade unions of middle-level Technical Officers in the Departments of Irrigation, Highways, Agrarian Services, Local Government Works, Services and Water Supply & Drainage.

The strike had commenced on August, 1, 1972 (after due notice in June of that year) with the participation of about 1,700 members of the aforesaid Unions led by the Irrigation Technical Assistants’ Union (ITAU). The Essential Services Order (ESO) under the Emergency Regulations had been invoked by the Government after 21 days. It was successfully resisted by the JFTOTU and the strike continued. The effect of the ESO was that those who did not return to work were considered to have vacated their posts in the first instance. Other legal consequences would follow.

The meeting with the Prime Minister was notified by a Member of Parliament from the Moneragala District. Continuation of the strike for over a month, especially the absence of Technical Assistants and Works Supervisors of the Irrigation Department and Cultivation Officers of the Agrarian services seriously affected the distribution of water for Cultivation islandwide. The JFTOTU was represented by Comrade Shanmugasamy on behalf of the Work Supervisor category and myself on behalf of the Technical Officers.

The dispute arose by the failure of the Government to approve and implement two Service Minutes for Technical Officers and Work Supervisors respectively in the newly formed Territorial Civil Engineering Organisation (TCEO ) of the MIPH.

The Coalition Government established in 1970 with Mrs. Sirimavo Bandaranaike as Prime Minister, decided as a policy to amalgamate the territorial units of the Departments of Irrigation, Highways, Agrarian Services, Local Government Works within the TCEO with effect from 01.02.1971. The TOO Service Minutes created one service for Technical Assistants, Inspectors, Village Cultivation Officers, Works Superintendents etc. absorbed from the Departments of Irrigation, Highways, Agrarian Services, Local Government Works etc., while the Works Supervisors Service Minute created another service for overseer categories absorbed from the said Departments.

The Service Minutes were drawn up after discussion during several months between the JFTOTU and the Ministry in 1971. They were submitted to the Cabinet for approval in January 1972 and referred to the Salaries Commission. The recommendations of the Commission were not acceptable to both the MIPH and the JFTOTU. The issue was then referred to a Committee of Secretaries of three Ministries. The final Cabinet Paper was turned down by the Cabinet of Ministers on July 31 .

We were informed of the said decision, by Minister Maithripala Senanayaka who was acting head of state as the Prime Minister was away in Japan on a state visit. It was understood the Minister of Finance had raised objections.  At our request the minister gave us a letter to meet the Minister of Finance who unfortunately didn’t wish to meet us. Hence the strike commenced  the next day.

The meeting with the Prime Minister took place at about 10.30 a.m. Comrade Shanmugasamy and I were met by the PM herself. She was standing on the verandah; while we were on the car porch  four steps below .

Welcoming us she said in Sinhala that:“The late Prime Minister (referring to the late Mr Bandaranaike) did not have discussions with strikers”.

I replied:  “Hon. Prime Minister, we are not strikers, we are unemployed as your Government has dismissed us under the ESO”.

We were invited into a small sitting room for the discussion, which took about an hour. Two or three times during the discussion the PM excused herself and went into the main sitting room where a poruwa was being erected for her daughter Sunethra’s wedding.

The PM was briefed of the issues involved in absorbing officers from different departments into a single service and the need to safeguard seniorities, prospects of promotion etc. The nature of the services that would be provided to the public by the TCEO was also explained. The PM asked several questions and was quick to grasp the important aspects.

After the discussion, the PM spoke on the telephone to the Minister Maithripala Senanayake who was in Parliament and told him that she considered we had a reasonable cause, to meet us immediately and settle the strike. Accordingly, we were invited to a meeting at 6p.m. that day at the Parliament building. It was further agreed that the PM would grant us a formal discussion on a future date.

Before leaving Rosmead Place the PM was informed that the issues discussed would be set out in a letter to her. We returned to Rosmead Place in about two hours and handed over the said letter personally to the PM.

A deputation of the JFTOTU led by me attended the meeting at Parliament building as arranged. A Ministerial Committee comprising, Dr N.M. Perera, Minister of Finance, Maithripala Senanayake, Minister of Irrigation, Power & Highways and Lakshman Jayakody, Deputy Minister met us. A copy of the letter to the PM was handed over. We were requested to call off the strike immediately before further action could be taken. The Ministers were informed that it would take a minimum of three days to call off the strike as members were spread out all over the island. We were told to make an announcement over Radio Ceylon to the members. It was explained that members had been directed not to act on any such broadcasts.

The only way to get members to resume duty was a written directive signed by me and carried by an accredited representative to each area.  Hence, it was agreed to grant up to three days leave where necessary. The strike ended on September 10, 1972 after 42 days.

The formal meeting with the PM took place on 27.10.1972 at Temple Trees. The JFTOTU deputation was received by the PM who was alone. There were no aides or even a stenographer to take notes. The PM herself made her own notes. It was decided to appoint a Technical Committee to hear all concerned and issue its report in a short time. The Government and the Unions accepted the recommendations of the Technical Committee. Their implementation solved the problems of promotion in the TOO and WSS services for a few years in the future.

During the entire period of negotiations we were impressed by the Prime Minister’s sagacity, her desire to resolve our problems, her understanding, consideration and kindness.

She was a true leader.

Nissanka de Silva
Via email

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