A proposal made to the Cabinet on Monday by Transport Minister Kumara Welgama to set up a National Railway Museum, brought to the surface the silent enmity between Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake and Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage.
And in a more or less similar vein, another spat of views on a different matter occurred between Education Minister Bandula Gunawardene and Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera. Meanwhile, Minister Arumugam Thondaman sought Cabinet approval to enhance pig-farming in the country to the level of self-sufficiency by 2020. Last but not least, at the Commonwealth Youth Forum, MP Harin Fernando was the only UNP parliamentarian who attended the event.
The Cabinet meeting, which is usually scheduled for Thursday morning, was advanced to Monday this week, apparently due to the busy schedule of work in view of the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting (CHOGM) and related events. At the meeting, there was a Cabinet paper submitted by Transport Minister Kumara Welgama seeking approval to establish a ‘National Railway Museum’ in Kadugannawa in the Kandy district.
The construction of the country’s first railway line started in 1861 under the British administration. The first train operation took place between Colombo and Ambepussa on December 27, 1864. The train service was later extended up to Kandy in 1867. Therefore, Sri Lanka is going to commemorate the 150th anniversary of train service on December 27, 2014.
The railway museum is proposed to be set up, in commemoration of this event, to preserve old and important machinery used in railway during its initial period. The Ministry expects to use the proposed museum for educational purposes of students. Also, it will be used to boost tourism. The premises of Sri Lanka Railway in Kadugannawa will be the site proposed for the construction of the museum.
SB ‘jumps the gun’
Once the paper was presented, Higher Education Minister S.B. Dissanayake suggested that it should be set up in Penideniya in his electorate of the Kandy district. He took great pains to justify his point. However, his suggestion got a rebuff by Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage, who is also from the same district. It brought back the memories of the frenzied competition they had in canvassing for votes under the betel symbol of the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) at the 2010 general election. Apparently, they are still resenting each other over the preferential-votes-race. Such bitterness in political circles results in one politician trying to outsmart or outshine the other.
Mahindananda no second fiddle
While trying to quash Mr. Dissanayake’s viewpoints in this regard, Minister Aluthgamage suggested Nawalapitiya, which is his electorate, as the best location for the proposed museum. He had a valid point for his selection of Nawalapitiya as the ideal location for it.
" President Mahinda Rajapaksa who chaired the meeting listened to both of them, but did not endorse any of their suggestions "
“Railway’s upcountry line control room is in Nawalapitiya. Therefore, it should be set up in Nawalapitiya,” he said.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa who chaired the meeting listened to both of them, but did not endorse any of their suggestions. He only asked the subject minister to go ahead with the project at the placed deemed appropriate in practical terms.
Thondaman wants more pigs
In addition to this Cabinet paper, there was another interesting Cabinet memorandum submitted by Livestock and Rural Community Development Minister Arumugam Thondaman. He sought approval to strengthen the pig farming industry in Sri Lanka to the level of self-sufficiency by 2020. In the paper, pigs are cited as the most prolific producers of meat. Yet the country’s swine population is only 85,000, and a bulk of them have not been genetically modified.
The current production level is hardly sufficient to meet the country’s requirement. Against this backdrop, the ministry has planned to increase the pork production to meet 40 percent of the annual requirement locally, and to reach self-sufficiency by 2020.
In addition to increasing public complaints, pig farmers are grappling with environmental issues.
The Cabinet approval is sought by the Ministry to keep the nucleus swine herds at Horakele Farm of the National Livestock Development Board by importing a stock of sows and boars.
Maithri talks tough on pharmaceuticals
Besides, the Cabinet took more time this week to discuss hurdles in the procurement of pharmaceuticals. While clearing several tender documents, the President said it was not advisable to change tenders on and off after they were offered a particular authority. Health Minister Maithripala Sirisena brought to the attention of the Cabinet that some officials with vested interests were trying to block the government’s move to import pharmaceuticals from Bangladesh through the State Pharmaceutical Corporation. In Bangladesh, there is a well-advanced pharmaceutical industry.
It is a well-known fact that there is a coterie of companies thriving on the unfair pricing of pharmaceuticals, at unaffordable levels even for the middle class people. The mafia has seemingly overridden political power probably at the disposal of money to the greedy bureaucrats who have placed their self-interests above national interests.
Minister Sirisena has unsuccessfully tried to enact a bill in Parliament to regulate pharmaceutical prices in conformity with the much celebrated Senaka Bibile drug policy. Patients are at the receiving end in the absence of such a legal mechanism.
Against this backdrop, the Cabinet approval was given for the direct supply of generic pharmaceuticals manufactured by the State Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Corporation to the Medical Supplies Division. Accordingly, 20 items of pharmaceuticals will be submitted under their generic names at pre-decided prices. Among these items are Paracetamol tablets BP 500mg, Metformin HCI Tablets BP 500mg, Amoxicillin Capsules BP 250mb, and Salbutamol Tablets BP 4 mg.
Amaraweera sounds dejected
Meanwhile, the Cabinet meeting witnessed another major confrontation over the alleged irregularities in the recruitment of teachers who passed the final examination of Daham Schools known as Dharmacharya. Disaster Management Minister Mahinda Amaraweera raised the issue in the Cabinet and drew the attention of the ministers to remarks made by United National Party (UNP) MP Sajith Premadasa criticising the process in Parliament.
“MP Sajith Premadasa made a scathing attack on the alleged irregularities in the recruitment process. Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne tried to reply. MP Premadasa did not allow it. He continued to tirade the government,” Minister Amaraweera remarked and demanded a clarification from Education Minister Bandula Gunawardane.
Presidential advice to Bandula
Minister Gunawardane responded saying that recruitments were made under a marking system following interviews.
“We actually called a certain number of applicants for the interviews aiming to select one third of them,” he said.
However, the President said it was not advisable to interview three times as many applicants planning to select just one-thirds of them in the end.
“When you interview such a number, two-thirds will be left out. It means there will be more disappointed applicants. It is better to interview twice the number to be recruited. Then, there will less disappointed applicants,” the President said.
Minister Gunawardane agreed to make a detailed statement in Parliament next time outlining the procedure he followed as the recruitment criteria.
Harin’s ‘one young man’ show
" Yet, he said development alone would not suffice to win the hearts and minds of people for genuine reconciliation."
The Commonwealth Youth Forum was conducted on Sunday in Hambantota. On behalf of the United National Party (UNP), party’s Badulla district MP Harin Fernando received an invitation. He attended the meeting.
Government MP Namal Rajapaksa, the eldest son of President Mahinda Rajapaksa, thanked Mr. Fernando for attending the event as the only member representing the UNP.
Mr. Fernando explained to MP Rajapaksa that the UNP leadership had allowed him to accept the individual invitation.
Addressing the Forum, Mr. Fernando recognised the development work done by the government in the country. Yet, he said development alone would not suffice to win the hearts and minds of people for genuine reconciliation.
The UNP undertook a major reform process by appointing a leadership council to make decisions.
Now, MP Karu Jayasuriya who chairs the leadership council will assume work in his position today at the party headquarters ‘Sirikotha’. Party’s General Secretary Tissa Attanayake has invited all the Working Committee members in writing to attend this event.
NPC likely on a collision course
" Besides, the TNA controlled NPC is going to be on a collision course with the UPFA controlled Jaffna Municipal Council as it passed a resolution putting some conditions on the recruitment of employees. "
The Tamil National Alliance (TNA) controlled Northern Provincial Council (NPC) had its second session on Monday, and passed four resolutions.
Northern Governor G. A. Chandrasiri addressed the session, and at that time, three members walked out of the chamber as a mark of protest against the governor.
They were M.K. Sivajilingam, Ananthi Sasikaran who is the widow of LTTE political leader of Trincomalee Elilan and S.Sugirthan.
However, their action, without any notification to the council, was disliked by others in the party.
Besides, the TNA controlled NPC is going to be on a collision course with the UPFA controlled Jaffna Municipal Council as it passed a resolution putting some conditions on the recruitment of employees.
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