Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 29 May 2016





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Palpitations over Pelpita appointment :

Govt calms tempers over EP Chief Minister’s outburst

Anusha Pelpita, the controversial public servant who functioned as the Director General of the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission under the Rajapaksa administration, plunged the government into fresh trouble last week when he assumed duties as the Assistant Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry.

He was indicted by the Attorney General (AG) in connection with the misappropriation of Rs 600 million from the SLTRC, between the period October 30, 2014 and January 5, 2015.

According to the indictment filed by the AG, the accused were charged under Section 21 Public Property Act of 1982 and the SLTRC Act No 25 of 1991.

Another accused in the case was former Secretary to the President, Lalith Weeratunga, one of the most influential public officials under the previous administration. The Sil redi controversy is one of the most talked-about anti-corruption cases in the recent past and Palpita’s involvement in the case was widely known.

Palpita also found himself in hot water over a court case involving a 14-year old child who appeared in a news item shortly before the last Presidential election.

In the news item aired on State-run ITN at the time, the child claimed that Maithripala Sirisena, who was the Common Candidate of the Opposition at the time, was detaining his mother.

 Chief Minister Ahamad lashes out at the Naval officer. (

This incident led to legal action involving eight suspects including some high profile officials such as former diplomat Sepala Ratnayake, former Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Director-General Palpita, former Deputy General Manager of ITN Sudharman Radaliyagoda and ASP Sarachchandra Gunathilaka.


The Police reported that the suspects had allegedly used the child for a news item during the last Presidential election without his guardian’s consent.

It was also revealed during the case that Palpita was heavily involved in the election campaign of the former President, deviating from the standard practices and the Establishment Code followed by government servants.

Palpita’s appointment, quite obviously, perturbed the civil society groups who vociferously campaigned for President Sirisena at the last Presidential election. They categorically claimed that Palpita’s appointment turned the whole concept of good governance topsy-turvy.

Senior lawyer J.C. Weliamuna, a stalwart of the Lawyers’ Collective and a well-known anti-corruption activist, told the Sunday Observer that Palpita’s appointment was not only unethical, but also illegal. “This cannot be justified under any circumstances,” he added.

“According to the law of the country, an accused in a criminal case cannot hold a position in the government. On the other hand, there were various allegations levelled against him, when he was a senior official under the previous administration,” he said.

“This appointment sends a wrong message to investigators and prosecutors. It shows certain individuals, who are currently under investigation, show strong links with the present government. It indicates they have ‘muscle’ to overpower or to circumvent the law enforcement mechanism of the country.

This, needless to say, hampers the ongoing anti-corruption investigations,” Weliamuna said.

Commenting on the appointment, National Movement for Social Justice Convener, Saman Ratnapriya called on the government to suspend his services from the public service till the conclusion of his case.

“This government has callously disregarded all norms and practices of good governance my making Palpita an Additional Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry,” he said while adding that the civil society was against this appointment and would raise objections with the government.

Gamini Viyangoda, another supporter of President Sirisena at the Presidential election, stated that the appointment of Anusha Palpita threw the government’s ‘good governance’ into the dustbin.

He said Palpita’s appointment came not only as a shock, but also as an embarrassment, to the civil society who backed President Sirisena, in January, last year.

He stated that the intelligent people in this country took an intelligent decision on January 8 but this appointment was a betrayal of the people’s collective faith in the government.

Many expressed surprise as to how Palpita got the appointment without going through the Public Services Commission, established under the provisions of the 19th Amendment.


After this development was reported, the Public Services Commission, using a statement, said it was unaware of any appointment involving Palpita.

However, highly placed ministry sources told the Sunday Observer that the ministry had initiated the appointment without informing the Public Services Commission.

“Although the Public Services Commission is vested with the power of making such appointments, the ministries too can initiate certain senior level appointment and obtain the PSC’s approval later.

Although such practices are not in line with the basic tenets of good governance, some ministries still resort to this method when it comes to urgent appointments,” a senior government source told the Sunday Observer. It was not clear as to why Palpita’s appointment was so ‘urgent’, at this juncture.

Interestingly, Minister Vajira Abeywardena, speaking to a prominent news website, on Tuesday, tried to justify Palpita’s appointment.

“At this rate, all ministry secretaries must be guilty then. Even everyone who worked for Basil Rajapaksa has been produced in courts, but that doesn’t mean they are guilty. Yes, there are charges against him (Palpita), but nothing has been proven, and he has not been convicted, plus work wise he has never been suspended,” the minister said, speaking to the website.

Abeywardena, in the same report, said the appointment was not a personal decision, but a decision made by the Public Service Commission and the Sri Lanka Administrative Service Division after he requested that steps be taken to fill in several existing vacancies at his ministry.

“After the floods, it became critical that the shortage of 30 officials at the ministry be filled urgently. It was they who sent me the names and filled them. I have not done any personal favours to anyone,” Abeywardena claimed.

His remark on the PSC’s approval, however, was flatly denied by Gamini Seneviratne, Secretary of the Commission.


However, in a press conference in Colombo two days later, Abeywardena deviated from his original stance and came up with a different ‘excuse’ with regard to Palpita’s appointment.

“I am unaware of this appointment and it is an appointment given by the media to create a media bubble. During the time of disaster, when we strongly urged the service of government servants, he extended his co-operation as he too was a government servant,” Abeywardena said.

The minister’s excuses and wavering positions made it clear that the entire process involving Palpita’s appointment was murky.

Palpita himself too gave an interesting explanation with regard to his appointment. Speaking to our sister paper, the Daily News, the official said he never asked to be appointed as the Additional Secretary of the Home Affairs Ministry.

“Some cannot help seeking revenge to feel better. This is ugly. I have been transferred to the Home Affairs Ministry. Should the Public Service Commission want, they could interdict me. I think the truth will manifest in due course for everyone to see,” Palpita said, in a brief telephone interview.

It was clear that this lousy approach adopted by the Ministry irked many top-brass members of the government.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, responding to criticism directed against the government, ordered a special inquiry into the appointment of the controversial public servant.

The Prime Minister also ordered the removal of Palpita from the Assistant Secretary’s position, if he was proven unsuitable to hold the post, following the inquiry.

The Palpita saga, however, made it clear that the government should take drastic action to clean up the stables in the public sector.

“A sizable number of senior officials in the public sector are loyalists of the previous administration. They were the ones who received numerous benefits from the previous government.

Even today, important decisions made by the government reach the Rajapaksa camp within a matter of a few minutes,” a senior government politician told the Sunday Observer.

“They do not want to facilitate and fast track anti-corruption investigations as they think it will boomerang on them, at some point. On the other hand, they create a fear psychosis in the public sector saying implementing decisions made by the new government will plunge officials into ‘corruption troubles’ after a regime change. By creating this fear psychosis, they hamper the functioning of the public sector. This is a mafia of some sort” he added.

This mafia, according to the government politician, has already infiltrated important sectors including the Treasury, Public Administration and even Defence Ministries.

“Without addressing this problem, the government can’t move forward,” he said, adding that the Palpita controversy was a manifestation of the same problem.

Chief Minister saga

Eastern Province Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed ran into a storm last week when he abused a senior Navy officer at a prize giving held at the Sampur Maha Vidyalaya in Trincomalee.

The Chief Minister lashed out at the Navy officer as he was blocked from reaching the stage of the event. His main allegation was that the Navy officer breached ‘protocol’ when he blocked the Chief Minister’s entry. The officer, however, responded patiently and tried to apologise to the politician. But, the Chief Minister was not ready for ‘reconciliation’ of any sort.

Eastern Province Governor Governor Austin Fernando and the US Ambassador in Colombo were also present at the venue and the Chief Minister had no qualms about raising his voice in the presence of schoolchildren. In the heat of the moment, Chief Minister’s hand accidentally hit a girl who was standing near him to receive a prize.

The video footage of the incident went viral on social media and it earned the ire of many right-thinking citizens.

They were of the view that the Eastern Province Chief Minister, a senior political authority, should have acted with more self-restraint. Although many responded to the Chief Minister’s sudden outburst, they did not seem keen to examine into the circumstances leading to the incident.

It was crystal clear that certain pro-Rajapaksa elements cashed in on this incident to stir up racist among the Sinhala-Buddhist electorate in the South.

They unnecessarily dragged the Chief Minister’s ethnicity to bring the ‘racist element’ into the picture. Former President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in an attempt to fish in troubled waters, issued a statement over the incident, stressing the need for ‘protecting’ war heroes.

Politicians and politically appointed authorities berating government servants is not an alien experience to many Sri Lankans. For instance, during a pro-government protest held in front of the UN office in Colombo, in 2012, the former Defence Secretary berated a senior DIG over the phone.

It was evident that the then Defence Secretary backed the protesters and buoyed by his support, the protestors physically harassed the senior police officer and made him look like a mere puppet in the hands of certain political authorities.

Under the Rajapaksa administration, former Minister Mervyn Silva stormed the State-run TV station and assaulted its News Director. In a separate incident, he tied a Samurdhi official to a free for failing to attend a Dengue prevention program.

The same minister’s son allegedly assaulted a ‘war hero’ and injured him during a might club brawl in Colombo.

But, such incidents did not trigger controversies of this magnitude as the ‘culprits’ belonged to the ethnic majority!

Adding more fuel to the controversy, various media reports said that the military had taken a decision to distance itself from the Chief Minister.

When contacted by reporters, Defence Ministry Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi said the military had a fair right to make certain decisions to avoid ‘potential problems’.

The Navy, on Wednesday, presented a report to Defence Secretary Karunasena Hettiarachchi over the incident.

It was reported that the Defence Secretary met the President to brief him about the incident, before the latter left for Japan to attend the G7 conference.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister too intervened to resolve the issue and called for reports from the Chief Minister and the Navy.

The Prime Minister also instructed both parties to refrain from making any media comments over this incident.

The Prime Minister said the President would take an appropriate decision over the matter, after his return from Japan.

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe went on to inquire into this incident from Navy Commander Vice Admiral Ravindra Wijegunaratne. On Friday afternoon, the Prime Minister summoned heads of all security forces for a special meeting at the Temple Trees.

At the meeting, the Prime Minister stressed that certain parties were attempting to use the incident to arouse ‘racist sentiments’ among the people in the South. Defence Ministry Secretary Hettiarachchi was also present at the meeting chaired by the Prime Minister.

Meamwhile, the Navy headquarters, on Friday night, announced that Commanding Officer of the Eastern province, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Navy Rear Admiral Neil Rosayro had been transferred to Colombo, as the Deputy Chief of Staff of Sri Lanka Navy and Commandant Volunteer Naval Force. Rear Admiral Travis Sinniah has been appointed as Commanding Officer of the Eastern province.

Speaking to the Sunday Observer, Defence Ministry sources said the transfer had nothing to do with the issue surrounding the Chief Minister.

They said it was a ‘routine transfer’ planned several weeks ago.

Chief Min. Ahamed writes to President, PM:

‘I felt insulted’

The Private Secretary to the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, Samantha Abeywickrama has released to the media the letter sent to President Maithripala and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe by Chief Minister Nazeer Ahamed on the Sampur Maha Vidyalaya incident.

The full text of the letter:

“Sampur Maha Vidyalaya is a school under the Eastern Provincial Council. It is not a National School.

A well-known business organisation in Colombo had volunteered through the Sri Lanka Navy to donate computers and other items to the school. In appreciation of this good gesture, in my capacity as the Chief Minister of the Eastern Province, I attended the function held at the school. The Hon. Minister of Education of the Eastern Province Hon. Thandayuthapani also attended the function. The function was organised by the school.

As a I arrived at the function, the Hon. Governor’s name and the name of HE Atul Keshap, the Ambassador of the USA in Sri Lanka were announced by the compere who was the English teacher of the school. My name or the name of the Minister of Education of the Province was not announced, though both of us had arrived. The Hon. Governor perhaps, noticing the lapse, signalled me to come up to the stage.

When I came up on stage, a naval officer who was acting as the ‘master of ceremonies’, physically obstructed me from proceeding to take my place on the stage. It may be due to the fact that he was trying to stop the media personnel getting on to the stage.

His grossly offensive conduct, an offence under the Penal Code, shocked me. I censured him, questioning him as to who he was to stop me. I also blamed the Hon. Governor for not directing the officials to follow proper protocol. I felt insulted in the presence of a foreign dignitary and a large public gathering.”


eMobile Adz

| News | Editorial | Business | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | World | Obituaries | Junior |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2016 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor