While thousands of people in several districts in the country were flooded out of their homes due to the heavy rains that fell last week, parliamentarians too suffered a similar fate when they were forced to adjourn sittings early on Tuesday with several sections of the road leading to the Legislature going under water with the Diyawanana Oya reaching spill level.
Inside the Chamber too, discussions on the fate of the flood-affected people raised temperatures with several opposition legislatures accusing the government of doing little to prevent the flooding of urban areas particularly the city of Colombo and demanded a separate debate on the flood situation.
However, the debate could not be held due to time constraints and as the rains are likely to have eased by the time Parliament meets again in June, the flood debate is likely to go underwater, at least till the next deluge hits.
The new Minister of Disaster Management A.H.M.Fowzie took the opportunity to make a special statement to the House. He explained the steps taken by the government to provide relief to flood victims and the expedition of long term plans to clean out the blocked canals in the city of Colombo.
Some MPs such as DNA Colombo district MP Sunil Handunnetti saw the heavy rains as nature’s wrath against the government. He cited the disruption of the Victory Day celebrations scheduled for last week as an example that even nature was angered by the government actions. “ Even nature is not on the side of this government as it is seeking to celebrate the Victory day while the man who is the real hero of the war, General (retd) Sarath Fonseka remains under detention,” MP Handunnetti charged.
Bad weather aside, the issue of drugs shortages that have hit government hospitals too came up for discussion after DNA MP Anura Dissanayaka made a special statement asking for reasons as to why such a situation had not been anticipated by the authorities and what action has been taken to prevent the repetition of such a crisis .
Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena sought to distance himself from his predecessor Nimal Siripala de Silva, by saying in his tenure he will ensure transparency in the procurement of drugs as well as other activities in the health sector. “I will not go behind others and see if they are carrying out responsibilities but first of all I will ensure that I fulfil my responsibilities properly,” he said.
He also said that he would distance himself from the drug mafia that controls much of the trade in the world, and future drug procurements would be done in a “clean and transparent” manner.
It looks like the mafia has not been confined to the drug trade because according to the new Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Dr.Rajitha Senaratna, the fisheries sector too is in the grip of a mafia that manipulates prices and hence the reason for the high price of the commodity in the market.
“I will end the control of this mafia and bring down the price of fish,” Minister Senaratna vowed in Parliament while answering a question raised by UNP Colombo district MP Ravi Karunanayaka.
At least some of the new ministers had a kind word for their predecessors namely Education Minister Bandula Gunawardena who spoke in support of the former Minister Susil Premajayantha during an adjournment debate on the education sector. That was indeed magnanimous of him given the mess ups in the education sector that took place during the tenure of Minister Premajayantha, ranging from school admission to examination papers to teacher salaries.
The new Minister of Higher Education S.B.Dissanayaka had his own plans to revive the ailing sector saying the government would invite foreign universities to conduct their degree programmers in Sri Lanka.
They say new brooms sweep well and newly appointed ministers seem to be falling over one another to do exactly that but for how long they can sustain the same level of enthusiasm for their work can only be seen in the months and years to come.