Tree story causes stir at cabinet meeting

President Mahinda Rajapaksa demonstrated to his cabinet ministers last Wednesday that he has his own mechanisms to keep himself informed of various developments in electorates.

As he sat on his chair to begin last Wednesday night’s cabinet meeting that continued until 10.30 p.m, his phone on the table rang. Ministers saw his facial expressions change into one of anger as he continued to speak. The President was chairing the cabinet meeting after a two-week-long absence. He was in New York to take part in UN sessions.

When he finished the conversation, he told the operator at Temple Trees to put him through to Police Chief Mahinda Balasuriya. While he awaited the call, he admonished C.B. Ratnayake, Minister of Sports. He said though he was from the Nuwara Eliya District, he did not know what was going on. The Police were cutting down trees. Even five people holding hands around it could not have covered the girth of one such tree.

Soon the Police Chief was on line. He was told to take immediate action to arrest the police officers who were felling trees for timber in broad daylight.

Dr. Balasuriya hurriedly contacted senior Police officers in Nuwara Eliya. It turned out that the story was a little different. The Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council had given a contract to a private party to fell those trees. The Police were on duty to prevent traffic snarls.

However, environmentalists in Nuwara Eliya were angry that some old trees, which were symbols of history, were being cut down. They said it would have been wiser to prune the branches and let the tree grow.

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