President asks media heads:
Is Sanath better known as a politician or a cricketer?
The much anticipated Cabinet reshuffle took place last Monday. Though
many expected some major changes that kept some ministers guessing, it
ultimately turned out to be a minor reshuffle.
Five new Cabinet Ministers were sworn-in before President Mahinda
Rajapaksa while five incumbent Cabinet Ministers were reallocated
subjects. Two new Project Ministers and six Deputy Ministers were also
In significant changes made to the Cabinet, the Petroleum Industries
Ministry formerly held by Minister Susil Premajayantha was given to
Minister Anura Priyadarshana Yapa. Meanwhile, Premajayantha was
appointed Environment and Renewable Energy Minister.
President Rajapaksa at the meeting with representatives of the
Bodu Bala Sena
Pavithra Wanniarachchi who was Technology and Research Minister, is
the new Power and Energy Minister while Minister Patali Champika
Ranawaka who held the portfolio earlier, assumed duties as Technology,
Research and Atomic Energy Minister.
While former Economic Development Deputy Minister Lakshman Yapa
Abeywardena has been elevated to the rank of a Cabinet Minister
entrusted with the portfolio of Investment Promotion; Productivity
Promotion, Industry and Commerce, Deputy Minister Jayaratne Herath was
appointed Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation Minister. Youth
Affairs and Skills Development Deputy Minister Duminda Dissanayake was
appointed Educational Service Minister while Education Deputy Minister
Gamini Vijith Vijayamuni Soysa was appointed Wildlife Conservation
Lakshman Seneviratne who held the post of Productivity Promotion
Deputy Minister is the new Sugar Industries Minister, a new portfolio
created with the Cabinet shuffle. Basir Segudawood was appointed the
Productivity Promotion Minister, Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne,
Secretary to the President Lalith Weeratunga and Chief of Presidential
Staff Gamini Senarath were present during the ceremony held at
D M Jayaratne
The President's monthly breakfast meeting with Chief Editors of
national newspapers and electronic media heads, which was originally
scheduled for Monday morning, was put off for the same night due to the
swearing-in ceremony of new ministers.
Minister of Mass Media and Information, Keheliya Rambukwella welcomed
the media heads at the first meeting of the year before the President
greeted all for the new year and opened the floor for questions as
Replying to a question from an editor, the President said that former
Attorney General, Mohan Peiris was the best person to be appointed Chief
Justice. "Otherwise I would not have appointed him," he said. "There may
have been others as well, but he was certainly among the best for the
appointment," he said.
"The fact that Peiris was an advisor to the Cabinet previously, was
no bar to such an appointment, he said. The President recalled that
former Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon was a very upright Chief
Justice, but he had been the personal lawyer for former president J. R.
As for the new Chief Justice Mohan Peiris being a former cabinet
advisor, the President said that as advisor he advised the Cabinet - but
that role was not one of endorsing everything that the government did.
"When we did wrong, he pointed out what was wrong, and when we did
right he said it was right - that's what is meant by advice, it does not
mean being a 'yes man' of the government by any means." He said that the
impeachment was good for the country, though those nations that have
always had an agenda against Sri Lanka will try to use it against us.
Asked about Supreme Court judgments on the impeachment, he said if you
take the rules of court, they are not found in the constitution -
likewise this was a different matter, as their judgment impinged on
matters constitutionally within the purview of Parliament.
Asked about the high-level US delegation that is in the country, he
said that 'People come and go' and that "they may be working to an
agenda - they don't come to say hi, hello and go." Views that theirs is
a routine visit and or that they are working to a pre-planned agenda are
both probably right, the President said.
The Chief Editor of a leading English newspaper then asked about the
new Rs. 5,000 marriage registration fee. "Is there any move to reduce
the marriage registration fee?" he queried. "Why? Are you going to get
married again?" he asked. "No sir, but the people in remote villages
find it too much," the editor explained.
"The Veddha community will be exempted from this charge. Some people
spend millions of rupees on lavish weddings in five-star hotels. We
thought that it will not be fitting to charge a negligible registration
free from those people. But we will consider it," the President said.
Then came a question on the appointment of former Sri Lanka cricket
captain turned UPFA Matara district parliamentarian Sanath Jayasuriya as
chairman of the national selection committee of Sri Lanka Cricket.
"Don't you think that cricket has been politicised with that
appointment," a head of a television channel asked.
"If I take that post, it would be wrong because I don't know much
about cricket. If we had appointed Mervyn, you could level that
allegation but not as far as Sanath is concerned. He has a proven track
record and has been more successful as a cricketer than a politician.
Hence, as a former Sri Lanka cricket captain, he deserves it. I think
even Arjuna Ranatunga too is qualified to hold such office," the
President Rajapaksa has been greatly disturbed by various religious
waves by extremists to gain political advantage as it could ultimately
lead to a conflict between people belonging to different faiths. He told
the media heads' meeting that the Government would leave no room for
people who spread extremist religious ideology to gain political
On Sunday, the eve of the Cabinet reshuffle, the President met
representatives from Bodu Bala Sena Organisation at Temple Trees.
President Rajapaksa said no force should be allowed to damage the
close amity between religions and communities in the country following
the end of terrorism which ruined the country for over three decades.
He said the government is totally dedicated to promoting religious
and ethnic harmony in the country. The President said all should extend
their fullest cooperation to further this endeavour. Bodu Bala Sena
Organisation representatives made the President aware of its activities.
Ven Kirama Vimalajothi Thera, Ven Vitharandeniye Nanda Thera, Ven
Galagodaaththe Gnanasara Thera, Ministers Dinesh Gunawardena, Susil
Premajayantha and Basil Rajapaksa, Deputy Minister M.K.D.S. Gunawardena,
Provincial Minister Udaya Gammanpila, Secretary to the President Lalith
Weeratunga and Chief of Presidential Staff Gamini Senerath were present.
Politicians visit victimised law undergrad
The law faculty female undergraduate who was a victim of medical
negligence had many politicians among the large number of visitors she
had. Among them were several Ministers and Opposition politicians,
including UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe.
Health Services Director General Dr. Palitha Mahipala ordered Matara
Hospital Director Dr. Samindi Samarakoon to take the Bed Head Ticket
(BHT) of the female patient whose hand was amputated, into her custody
to conduct an impartial investigation into the incident.
A Health Ministry spokesman said the BHT is the key document that
helps in investigations of this nature. It reveals important details on
the condition, and treatment given to the patient. It is alleged that
the arm was amputated due to medical negligence. A space is usually kept
between the body and the plaster cast.
The cast should be removed if the area above the plaster cast becomes
reddish or swollen, he said. The spokesman said the special committee
appointed by Health Ministry Secretary Dr. Nihal Jayatilleke was
inquiring into the amputation of the left hand of the final year Law
Faculty female student. It was earlier reported that the patient had
complained continuously that the plaster was too tight but the Matara
Hospital medical staff had given her strong pain killers without
loosening the plaster.
Doctors at the Colombo National Hospital decided to amputate her hand
after coming to the conclusion that all nerves in her hand were dead.
The undergraduate is left handed and will sit for the law examination in
June, the spokesman said.
GL expresses Lanka's strong reservation
External Affairs Minister Prof G.L. Peiris last week expressed Sri
Lanka's strong reservation regarding attempts in some quarters to
politicise the Commonwealth and use its structures and mechanisms as
instruments for intervening in the domestic issues of member states.
At bilateral discussions with a trio of Australian Shadow Ministers
led by Deputy Leader of the Opposition Julie Bishop, Minister Peiris
asserted Sri Lanka's view of the Commonwealth as a voluntary association
of sovereign states with the diversity of cultures as a prominent
feature of the organisation.
He countered that any attempt to distort this essential character of
the Commonwealth, reinforced by its history and traditions, spells
danger for its future. At the discussions Prof Peiris also referred to
the initiative, during the recent visit of Australia's Foreign Minister,
to set up a joint mechanism between Sri Lanka and Australia to
co-ordinate pre-emptive activity to control human smuggling. Both
countries recognise that success in this endeavour is crucial, because,
apart from danger to life and limb, illicit migration also has
connections with other forms of criminal activity including narcotics,
gun-running and even terrorism.
Australia's Shadow Ministers described the recent steps taken by
Australia to deter illegal migration by making it clear that persons who
attempt to enter Australia illegally will not be able to work in the
country and send their savings overseas, nor will they have access to
welfare benefits such as housing, health and education.
The Shadow Ministers said that they are committed to further
strengthening these initiatives. Prof. Peiris said that Sri Lanka
greatly appreciates the assistance being given by Australia with regard
to the arrangements by the government of Sri Lanka to host the
Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Colombo in November this
year. Australia, having organised the last CHOGM in Perth, Western
Australia, in 2011 has considerable hands-on experience, and their
sharing of expertise is of value, Minister Peiris said.
The Shadow Ministers re-affirmed Australia's commitment, across party
lines, to work with Sri Lanka in this regard. They said that they regard
as high priority, the strengthening of bonds of friendship with Sri
Sajith ordered to give up personal agenda
Former UNP Deputy Leader Sajith Premadasa was summoned before a
high-powered committee of party seniors for the second time last Monday.
The meeting was organised under the direction of the Opposition Leader
Ranil, along with his party seniors, met Sajith the previous week and
severely reprimanded the Hambantota district parliamentarian for not
adhering to party decisions, criticising the party leadership and not
respecting decisions of the Working Committee of the party.
After Sajith tendered an apology and agreed to conduct himself in
accordance with the party's stance on all matters, Ranil ordered Sajith
to have another meeting with party seniors, led by General Secretary
When Sajith was summoned for the second time in two weeks, he was
ordered to give up all his personal programs, including Sasunata Aruna
under which he donates Rs. 50,000 to temples and other religious
institutions. He was told that there cannot be any personal programs and
that he will have to give up private ventures and incorporate all such
ventures into party activities. It was said that Sajith had agreed to
give up his habit of conducting solo meetings after donating money to
temples and do all public and political activities through the party.
It seems that Ranil's theory of isolating Sajith and taming him has
paid rich dividends. Sajith who appears to be a hero when surrounded by
the Reformist group had reportedly gone down to zero when defending
himself alone before the party seniors, which included National
Organiser Daya Gamage, Assistant Leader Joseph Michael Perera and the
Chief Opposition Whip John Amaratunga.
North gets lion's share of foreign funds
Economic Development Minister Basil Rajapaksa said last week that
over 80 percent of foreign funds were channelled for development
projects in the North and the East though the UPFA was defeated in a
number of elections in those areas.
He said that the Government provides assistance to all segments of
society without any discrimination. He said massive development was
taking place in the area adjacent to the Galle Face Green.
The Minister added that two of the leading hotel chains in the world
Shangri-La and ITC have invested in two hotels overseeing the Galle Face
promenade while development of the Colombo South harbour was progressing
The Minister was speaking at the distribution of 108 vehicles among
Local Government institutions in the Western Province at the Galle Face
Green on Tuesday. The Western Provincial Council has spent Rs. 307
million on the project. Over 30 trucks and tractors were distributed
among the Local Government bodies for waste management activities.
Over 78 cabs and vans were also distributed among the Local
Government bodies and the institutions coming under the Western
Provincial Council. Minister Rajapaska said that all parts of the
Western province would enjoy the dividends of development in the city.
He said that the Western Province contributes to more than half of the
Minister Rajapaksa was of the view that the Western Provincial
Council and the local Government bodies in the province should strive to
make more contributions towards the country's economic development.
The Minister said that the Western Provincial Council also played a
decisive role to uplift the living standards of the rural community by
passing the Divi Neguma Bill in the Council with a majority vote.
He said that the Western Provincial Council has taken steps to
provide high quality vehicles to local government institutions with the
aim of providing a better service to the public. Minister Rajapaksa said
that the Western provincial council has allocated Rs. 3.2 million per a
vehicle while the Government had exempted the vehicles from import tax.
He said that the local government bodies where the UPFA lost were also
provided assistance without any discrimination.
President to tour Trinco and Batti
President Rajapaksa yesterday began his five-day tour of the East
when he arrived in Trincomalee, the provincial capital which has been
given a new look for tomorrow's 65th Independence Day celebrations.
He is expected to grace tomorrow morning's main national Independence
Day ceremony and will also inspect several development projects in the
On the following day, he will travel to Batticaloa to take part in
several public functions and also to inspect development projects
launched in the area.
Prime Minister D.M. Jayaratne too is expected to travel to
Trincomalee today to attend Monday's Independence Day celebrations under
the patronage of the President.
The Prime Minister, who hosted media heads to dinner on Thursday,
said that he would fly back to the United States later next week for
further medical treatment.
Talking to the Premier at the dinner table, editors recalled an
instance in the past where a Hansard reporter had complained that he
could not take down Jayaratne's speech as it was so fast, though it had
been in clear Sinhala.
A dinner party hosted by Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake
was held the same night and there were several media heads who proceeded
to a hotel in Kirulapone for SB's party after the Prime Minister's
dinner at Viusumpaya.
Devananda eyes Northern CM post
Though the Government had already declared that the elections to the
Northern Provincial Council will be held this year, no dates have been
But EPDP leader and Minister Douglas Devananda is rearing to give up
his Cabinet portfolio to contest the provincial elections, seeking the
post of Chief Minister.
Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister
Douglas Devananda said last week that he hopes to contest the Northern
Provincial Council Election to be held this year. Responding to a
question by a journalist at a press conference at the Information
Department on Wednesday, the minister said he would be contesting for
the post of Chief Minister of the Northern Provincial Council.
The minister said that the returning un-utilised funds of the local
government authorities to the Treasury is a usual procedure adding that
the un-utilised money of the TNA-controlled local government
institutions in the Northern Province for last year has also been
channelled back to the Treasury.
Devananda said money would once again be allocated for 2013 for these
local government authorities for new and ongoing projects in the
He said the financial provisions to the TNA-controlled local
government bodies were not invested properly in development projects and