A pilot project to have staggered working hours for state sector employees in Battaramulla and adjoining areas is to be tried out for three months. The move is prompted by heavy traffic congestion – the result of many Government institutions drawing even greater traffic there. Last May, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to a [...]


Staggered working hours in Battaramulla: Pilot project for three months


A pilot project to have staggered working hours for state sector employees in Battaramulla and adjoining areas is to be tried out for three months.
The move is prompted by heavy traffic congestion – the result of many Government institutions drawing even greater traffic there.

Last May, the Cabinet of Ministers granted approval to a recommendation by two Ministers — Megapolis and Western Development Minister Champika Ranawaka and Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva — to introduce “flexible and Staggered Working Hours.”

However, the decision remained in limbo until there was a steep rise in traffic in the Battaramulla administrative areas. This prompted a study of the traffic patterns and the need to introduce new measures.

Consultations with heads of institutions and others and a questionnaire answered by relevant stakeholders revealed that during the three months from November 2016 to January 2017, 57.7 percent of the officials travelling to work by their own vehicles or office vehicles opted to change their time of starting work.
The start of work time is to be varied between 7 a.m. and 9.30 p.m. while switch off time is to vary from 3 p.m. to 5.30 p.m. Government officials believe the proposed pilot project is to determine by how much it would ease traffic congestion during morning and evening hours on routes around the Battaramulla area.
Already the Megapolis and Western Development Ministry has had consultations with Public Administration Ministry. Short leave, an entitlement of state officers in terms of Administrative Regulations, may not be given to those opting for the new scheme.

Each individual’s time of starting work is to be decided upon in consultation with the heads of department to ensure there is no disruption of work.
The Public Administration Ministry is to issue an administrative circular covering the “flexi” working hour’s pilot project.

Rs. 20.75 million for Modi meeting in hill country
The official expenditure for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the hill country led to the Hill Country, New Villages Infrastructure and Community Development Ministry receiving Rs. 20.75 million.

This “maximum amount” was authorised by the Treasury from the Ministry votes for 2017.
The Minister in charge is Palani Digambaram.

Perahera elephants only from zoo and Pinnawela
Elephants for Peraheras and other religious events will only be released from the Zoological Gardens and the Elephant Orphanage in Pinnawala, the Cabinet of Ministers has decided.

The move follows the alleged abuse of elephants by private parties, some of whom have obtained elephants, without official approval or a permit.
A Cabinet subcommittee that studied the issue had made the recommendation.

Dramatic events behind Modi-Rajapaksa night meeting
The sudden previously unannounced meeting of former President Mahinda Rajapaksa with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the latter’s whistle-stop visit to Sri Lanka last week was the subject of widespread discussion in political and diplomatic circles.

In the backdrop of a May Day threat from the Rajapaksa platform at Galle Face Green to hoist black flags to greet the visiting dignitary, the protest was not merely on the basis that Modi was coming to sign some controversial agreements but that his Government was also instrumental in the downfall of the former Administration for its overt and covert cosiness with China.

And then, things happened at the speed of summer lightning. While ‘feelers’ were sent to the Rajapaksa camp to check if the May Day threat was for real, a call came from one time External Affairs Minister G.L. Peiris, the puppet head of a new party backing the Rajapaksas, seeking an appointment for his Master with the visiting dignitary.

It must have been ‘Manna from Heaven’ so to say, for the Indians who were keen the VVIP visit went without a hitch. President Maithripala Sirisena was informed that a request had already been conveyed to New Delhi for a Modi-Rajapaksa summit. After all, it was only a fortnight earlier that Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe at his request had met Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, Opposition leaders in India.

The green light was given from Delhi as Modi was leaving for the airport to enplane for Katunayake. Frantic arrangements were made in Colombo outside the prepared schedule to fit in the meeting in between an already tight programme. A police escort was requested for Modi to be driven from the banquet with Sirisena in Colombo Fort straight to ‘India House’, the imposing official residence of the High Commissioner in Cinnamon Gardens — once a vast coconut estate where toddy was tapped.

Mahinda Rajapaksa arrived for the late night tete-a-tete with his brother Gotabaya and Dr. Peiris. Seated with Modi was his National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar and High Commissioner Taranjit Singh Sandhu. Both sides remain tight-lipped over what was discussed but an invitation for Rajapaksa to visit Delhi appears to be a bee in the bonnet of the current Administration in Colombo.

Political observers believe it was not for nothing that an invitation was extended. “The Indians wanted to send a message that they haven’t totally abandoned the Rajapaksas,” said one. That Modi had a one-on-one with the former President, even though unscheduled, but not the incumbent, might not be reading too much to it, said another.

As for the man who fired the first salvo calling for a black-flag welcome for Mr. Modi, the staunch Rajapaksa loyalist and firebrand MP Wimal Weerawansa, this newspaper published (Don Manu column) a photograph last week of his house sans any such black flag. Never lost for a face-saving comment, he later said; “Well, yes. Mahinda Rajapaksa did meet the Indian Prime Minister (despite the call for a black flag protest). And that is because the Indian Government knows Mahinda Rajapaksa is going to be the next leader of Sri Lanka very soon”.

Rajapaksa gives Ravi a sympathy call
Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake was at the Bradby Shield rugby encounter in Kandy when his mobile phone rang yesterday afternoon.
The caller was former President Mahinda Rajapaksa. He asked him what was going to happen to his Finance Portfolio and declared, “A lot of foolish things were being done.”

An emotion charged Karunanayake told Mr. Rajapaksa that he appreciated the concern at a time when those in his own camp were quiet.
Mr. Rajapaksa’s phone call, a source close to him said, was made after reports he received that the Finance portfolio would be changed from Mr. Karunanayake.

France to set up development agency here
Sri Lanka has agreed to the French Government setting up a French Agency for Development (Agence Francaise de Development – AFD) in Colombo.
The move follows a recommendation by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his capacity as National Policies and Economic Affairs Minister.
French assistance for development is to be channelled through the AFD.

Code of ethics for PC members
Hard on the heels of proposed Provincial Council (PC) elections, at least for three whose term will expire in September, comes the news that there will soon be a Code of Ethics for PC members.

The Government has decided that the Provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry should take action on this matter. PC members will be called upon to execute their responsibilities “objectively” and also “declare any or relevant personal interests.” They are also expected to “represent the expectations of the voters and the area under their purview and “maintain commitment towards the common good of the people through honesty and integrity.”

The Sabaragamuwa, North Central and Eastern Provincial Councils are due to go to polls in September. Late last year, the Government decided on a Code of Conduct for Parliamentarians. However, it now awaits concurrent amendments to the Standing Orders of Parliament. An official said these amendments are to be moved in early next month.

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