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Sunday, 3 February 2013

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Government Gazette

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 appointed.

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 Minister.

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 President's House.


D M Jayaratne


Basil Rajapaksa

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 usual.

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. Jayewardene.

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.


Ranil Wickremesinghe

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.


Douglas Devananda

"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 explained.

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 advantage.

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


Sajith Premadasa

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 Lanka.

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 Wickremesinghe.

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 Tissa Attanayake.

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 rapidly.

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 country's economy.

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 Trincomalee district.

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 finalised yet.

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 Northern Province.

He said the financial provisions to the TNA-controlled local government bodies were not invested properly in development projects and other activities.

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