Unannounced power cuts have become the norm of the day rather than the exception now. Even events attended by President Maithripala Sirisena are not spared. The power went off while the President was addressing an awards ceremony in Kurunegala on Tuesday. This was not his first personal experience with power cuts. Despite being the Head of State, he was forced to stop his work halfway and leave for home during the March 6 blackout. The generators, installed at his office to be operated in the event of a power failure, did not function during the blackout leaving him with no option other than to stop work for the day. He told the Cabinet later that it would be a major embarrassment had any foreign dignitary been present.
The Cabinet of Ministers again focused much of their attention to discuss the present electricity crisis, also exacerbated by the receding water levels of the reservoirs used for hydro-electricity generation. The Ministers, who served in the committees appointed to look into it, submitted their reports. There were some ministers who were of the view that this was an artificially-created issue.
Finally, the Cabinet decided to make emergency purchases of 100 MW of electricity from the private sector thermal power plants if the need be.
Rajitha attends Cabinet
Health Minister Dr. Rajitha Senaratne attended the Cabinet meeting for the first time after his heart surgery in Singapore. All of his Cabinet colleagues came to inquire about his health condition and other nitty-gritties. The Minister is reported to have said that he has improved much after the surgery.
Yal Devi (Jaffna Queen), the Colombo-Jaffna rail link, lived up to its historic role when it transported a team of journalists from the South to the North as part of the government’s initiative to develop media interactions, a component for reconciliation.
In its heyday the Yal Devi, not only served as the mode for transportation of people and goods but also served as a cultural and social link between the North and the South. But the link was severed during the war, and was restored and resumed its journey as it did several years ago.
When the Media Ministry organized a guided tour of South-based journalists to the North for interaction with their counterparts, Yal Devi served well its purpose in the social context. Minister Gayantha Karunatilake opined that he, along with others, took the initiative in this exercise to foster media interaction between the North and the South, as an essential component reconciliation.
In making logistics for the visits, the Ministry tried to reserve seats in a train with Air- Conditioned compartments first, but found all of them were unavailable on the day chosen for the commute. Later, two compartments in the Second Class category of Yal Devi were reserved to accommodate all the journalists enlisted for the tour. The journalists outnumbered the seats available and most had to remain standing, at least in rotation, during the travel duration up to Anuradhapura. In fact, some ordinary Anuradhapura-bound pilgrims occupied some seats in the compartments said to have been reserved for the journalists by the Ministry.
On the way, media personnel, from different provinces, boarded the train at designated railway stations along with the government politicians representing the respective areas.
In Kurunegala, Deputy Transport Minister Asoka Abeysinghe boarded together with media men and Woman Affairs Minister Chandrani Bandara in Anuradhapura.
In Vavuniya, a delegation of Wanni-based journalists joined the Jaffna-bound entourage, and a few of them protested with the Minister for not inviting them formally and Minister Kanunatilake pacified them saying he would arrange yet another tour of the Wanni area on a later date. Upon arrival in Jaffna the team was accorded a warm welcome according to Hindu cultural traditions. After calling over the religious dignitaries in Jaffna, the Minister and media personnel called on the family members of media workers who went missing or were killed during the war time.
Disappeared journalist’s father only seeks death certificate
The Minister rolled off the welfare activities to be undertaken for the benefit of such war affected journalist. But, the father of one media worker, who disappeared at that time, had a solitary and humble request. Let alone material aid in whatever form, he only sought the death certificate of his son as he perceived him dead after disappearance.
“Let me have the death certificate of my son! That is all I want,” he told the Minister.
President hit by power cut again; Cabinet decides on emergency power purchase
Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Mavai Senathirrajah and Northern Provincial Council Member M.K. Sivajilingam also participated in these interactions with the families of missing journalists. In addition, a session had been arranged with Northern Province Chief Minister C.V. Wigneswaran.
The CM displayed social niceties in receiving the Minister. His main concern was justice on behalf of missing or killed journalists.
After the tour, Minister Karunatilake briefed Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe on the progress made. The Prime Minister hailed the steps in this direction, and encouraged the Minister to do follow up action.
Govt promises development in 2017
The government is beset with economic issues. Money is not available sufficiently to execute development projects in tangible manner so that people feel the effects. The global economic situation does not bode well, and it is highly unlikely that the government could deliver something to people this year as a result.
That appears to be the reason for the government ministers to say repeatedly at press conferences and other public events, a massive development drive would take off next year. Why is the stress on the phrase ‘next year’? It means the ministers have come to terms with reality that the present internal and external surroundings are not supportive enough for the government to access finance for development and other social benefits. During the period of election, the governing side raised the expectations of people to high levels at the election for political ends, despite the emerging signs of worsening situations in the local and international arenas. Now, people look to the government for succour, but it is in a dire predicament to live up to public expectations.
Paddy cultivators vented their anger over the shortage of fertilizer through protest rallies in their areas. Professional groups took to the streets against the proposed Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India perceived to be detrimental to the country’s service sector.
Amid unrest, joint opposition pushes for LG Polls
In the midst of public unrest, the Joint Opposition pushes for the local authorities’ election, already overdue, to be conducted as early as possible. Elections are normally considered safety valves for people to vent their anger and frustration. A parliamentary election, the option for electing a new government to re-electing the existing one, is constitutionally impossible for the next four years at least. So, the Joint Opposition seems to be contemplating that the local election would prove to be the least opportunity for the assessment of public views on the current situation.
First, it petitioned the Supreme Court. The case will be taken up for hearing tomorrow. Besides, Mahajana Eksath Peramuna (MEP), aligned with the Joint Opposition made representations to People’s Action for Free and Fair Election (PAFFREL), a local election monitoring watch asking for it to pressure the authorities concerned to go for the election. In another move, the Joint Opposition would collect 100,000 signatures for a public petition in this regard. It maybe the thinking of the Joint Opposition that the local election would be advantageous to them.
However, it is riddled with the worst form of internal squabble. The Joint Opposition is, in fact, the Mahinda Rajapaksa faction of the UPFA. The other group is with President Maithripala Sirisena who is its present leader. As long as the two groups cannot see eye-to- eye, they would find it difficult to make headway in politics.
UPFA Secretary, Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera says he would leave no stone unturned in his pursuit of efforts to unite the party, and more, to broaden it with the inclusion of new allies.
SLFP in worst ever political dilemma
Be that as it may, Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), the largest UPFA ally, has been compelled to admit that it is undergoing one of the worst forms of international feuds. It became all the more visible after Minister Amaraweera, a close confidant of President Sirisena, was booed at the Baddegama meeting. The President has instructed the party activists to revamp the electoral organizations of the party. Accordingly, the Baddegama meeting was organized by Deputy Minister Nisantha
Mutuhettigama. But, it is alleged that a flock of MR’s loyalists had been unleashed in advance to make raucous sounds when the meeting was in progress. Mr. Amaraweera could not pursue with his speech as there was booing coupled with catcalls. Amidst the melee, he was escorted out by his security officers . The Minister later said rabble -rousers had been made to booze and protest his presence. He did not say openly who was behind it. Yet, by all accounts, the finger was pointed at the Rajapaksa group.
Alongside, Science and Technology Minister Susil Premajayantha was subjected to the same humiliation when he was about to address meetings in Mawanella and Aranayake in the Kegalle district, and former Deputy Minister Nandimitra Ekanayake in Wennappuwa.
As a result, the revitalization of SLFP-led UPFA looks to be an arduous task as a force against the United National Party (UNP) politically at this hour.
Elderly lady gets nostalgic with CBK
Former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga went for a public meeting in Habaraduwa, Galle recently where she met an interesting old lady.
The elderly lady was the only living member of the group of women who bowed down in a line and spread their hair to serve as a doormat for late Prime Minister Sirimavo Bandaranaike to walk over way back in 1970s.
These women did it out as their great devotion to Mrs. Bandaranaike who held the SLFP leadership. The only living lady approached CBK, the daughter of Sirimavo and had a cordial chat in a setting filled with emotion.