Piyasena Gamage, the latest State Minister appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena, made news straightaway – only for the wrong reasons. He got rebuffed by the Police when he asked for crack STF commandos for his son, and then went on to face allegations that he berated a policeman in a rural station for apprehending one [...]

Talk at the Cafe Spectator

New Law and Order State Minister begins journey on wrong foot


Piyasena Gamage, the latest State Minister appointed by President Maithripala Sirisena, made news straightaway – only for the wrong reasons.

He got rebuffed by the Police when he asked for crack STF commandos for his son, and then went on to face allegations that he berated a policeman in a rural station for apprehending one of his supporters who broke the law. The State Minister was given, of all ministries that of Law and Order.

The newly appointed State Minister who was waiting in the wings since August 2015 until a court order removed the sitting MP and one-time actress Geetha Kumarasinghe, has probably still to realise he is part of a government whose motto is Yahapalanaya.
The drama was played out on New Year’s Day, barely days after Mr. Gamage was sworn in as the Minister of State for Law and Order and Southern Development on December 28.

Naturally, his supporters, who had remained politically dormant, became jubilant. They organised a ‘reception’ for their hero at Nagoda in the Galle District. For a moment they forgot the law, perhaps in the knowledge it could now be broken and mended if the need arose, by their new boss. So all of them rode on motorcycles, escorting the State Minister without wearing protective helmets. According to traffic laws, it is a punishable offence.

An alert traffic policemen booked one of them and imposed a spot fine. He was asked to pay the amount at a post office before he returned to the Police station to collect his driving licence.

The next thing the Police officer saw was State Minister Gamage storming the station. An officer, who spoke on grounds of anonymity for fear of reprisals said, “The State Minister used harsh and abusive language and demanded that the charge be withdrawn. We were shocked that he was not helping the Police to enforce law and order and encouraging his supporters to break the law.” The Police stood their ground and insisted that the offender should pay the fine. With political power not producing results, he agreed to pay up to have his licence back.

Mr Gamage denied the accusation. He told the Sunday Times “It is true I went to the Police station. The person involved (in committing the offence) was one of my escorts and was stopped for riding without a helmet. I asked the Police why they were acting in an inhuman way on a Poya Day (January 1). I did not use any abusive language or threaten anyone. I did make a request for the man’s release.”
In making those remarks, the State Minister for Law and Order confirms two important facts – that he went to the Police station and sought the release of one of his men. He also believes that laws are suspended on Poya Day.

That is not all. Just before this episode, days earlier, the newly appointed State Minister telephoned Senior DIG M.R. Latiff, Commandant of the Police Special Task Force (STF). He asked that an STF contingent provide personal security for his son, Randima Gamage, a member of the Southern Provincial Council. All this time, the son was quite safe and sound. Suddenly, he too needed protection from the police commandos.

A senior STF source said that “the State Minister was politely advised by the Commandant to make his request through proper channels. That was to make a request to the Ministry of Defence after which a ‘threat assessment’ could be made.” If such an assessment confirmed the Provincial Councillor faced any threats, and a request was made by the Ministry to the STF, through the Law and Order Ministry, security could be provided, the source added.

One Party group enlarged to All Party group
It seems some things are foreign to some officials in the Foreign Ministry in Colombo.
This week, its website – the official portal of the Ministry – made Sri Lankans believe there was an All Party Group from Britain visiting the country. This is what it said:

“A four member delegation of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Sri Lanka (APPG-SL) in the House of Commons of the UK Parliament, is currently visiting Sri Lanka at the invitation of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. The visit commenced on 3rd January 2018 and will conclude on Monday 8th January.

“The delegation is led by the Rt. Hon. Ranil Jayawardena, MP, Chairman of the APPG-SL and includes the Rt. Hon. Michelle Donelan, MP, the Rt. Hon. Chris Green, MP and the Rt. Hon. John Lamont, MP….” The ministry release has made every British MP a Right Honourable (Rt.Hon.) It is not only that. This group of four MPs is being touted as representatives of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Sri Lanka.

By Gad Sir, to use diplomatic parlance it is a terminological inexactitude or as Pukka Sahib might say, “It’s just balderdash, what”. All four are members of the Conservative Party whereas the APPG on Sri Lanka has as Vice Chairs the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, Ulster Unionists and Democratic Unionist Party (of Northern Ireland)
So to describe this as a delegation of the APPG is surely to mislead.

SriLankan CEO plays Trump on alleged  fake news
Like US President Donald Trump, SriLankan Airlines Chief Executive Officer Suren Ratwatte, has chosen to dub a “number of articles in the mainstream print media” as ‘fake news.’ No wonder many see a similarity between the two. Accusing sections of the media of carrying “inaccurate information about the airline, its performance and speculating” on its future, he cites “some relevant examples:”

n The article in one of the daily newspapers that claimed the SLA Board and/or Management decided to close the runway at VCBI during daytime for resurfacing, when in fact we strenuously objected to a daytime closure.

n The headline in another popular English language daily, that a major international financial institution was extending a USD 200M loan to the Company. We have confirmation from the bank in question that no such credit facility has been requested or extended to the airline.

n The same daily last week stated that there is a “USD 200M Bailout” for the airline. Neither the management nor the Official’s Committee has been informed of any such development.

The former Emirate Airlines pilot’s expert views on the media are contained in a “message” he sent to the Airline Pilots’ Guild of Sri Lanka (APGSL). Speaking on behalf of the management (where the resignation of five members of the Board of Directors has been accepted this week), Mr Ratwatte claims, “The management is of the view that some of these articles are deliberate plants, with malicious intent to cause distress and alarm or conversely, false hope, among our staff.”

An APGSL member, who did not wish to be identified, declared “the whole country knows the deepening crisis faced by our national carrier. Hence, no amount of passing judgements on news reports that do not suit them would help. The ploy is too transparent.”

The reason for sending out the “message,” the CEO points out, is “to warn our team members about this worldwide trend of deliberately incorrect information (fake news) and the damage it can do.” He goes on to say; “Our company is about to embark on what is going to be a very challenging period of restructuring. An “interim” Board of Directors will be appointed soon, to drive the restructuring process expeditiously.” This media feeding frenzy, which is the real fake news, has been going on for the past two and half years, he says.

Rs. 43 million for former presidents and their widows
Former Presidents and some of their spouses will have their cash allocations for 2018 renewed. About Rs 43 million has been allocated in this year’s budget for provision of various facilities. Those entitled are former Presidents Mahinda Rajapaksa, Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga and the widows of former Presidents Ranasinghe Premadasa and D.B. Wijetunge.

Around Rs 25 million from the allocated funds will go towards retirement benefits and the provision of building and vehicle facilities.
About Rs 16 million has been allocated to former President Kumaratunga as retirement benefits whilst Mrs Hema Premadasa will receive Rs 1.5 million. The funds are being disbursed from the Office of the President.

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