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UNP heads for mission ‘Niyam Charika’

13 August 2014 06:39 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


As a group of United National Party (UNP) MPs undertook a fact finding mission this week, another set of MPs are now planning a similar mission to the drought hit areas. It is to be dubbed ‘Niyam Charika.’ The party’s MP for the Anuradhapura district P. Harrison will head this mission, and a few other members are expected to join him in the task to be undertaken next week.


As many as 1.6 million people have been affected by the drought in the Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kurunegala, Moneragala and Hambantota districts. Drinking water is scarce, and the number of individuals suffering from food insecurity    has increased to 768,000, double the caseload reported during the 2012 drought, as assessed by the World Food Programme (WFP).

"  Anura Kumara Dissanayake made a statement in the House last week, outlining the severity of the natural disaster  that has affected both human and animals alike in the dry zone. He said the improper release of water from major irrigation tanks, fed by rivers originating from the hill country, had exacerbated this situation"

The opposition raises this issue both in Parliament and outside. First, the Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) leader    Anura Kumara Dissanayake made a statement in the House last week, outlining the severity of the natural disaster  that has affected both human and animals alike in the dry zone. He said the improper release of water from major irrigation tanks, fed by rivers originating from the hill country, had exacerbated this situation.

Match box relief for the drought hit

Besides, the UNP has started talking about it at public gatherings being conducted in view of its reorganisation ahead of the main elections.  The monthly food ration issued for an affected family is hardly sufficient, and the UNP is critical of it.

For a family of four, Mr. Harrison said, dry rations worth Rs.700 had been issued through the Divisional Secretariats in  the affected districts. It includes three-and-a-half kilos of rice (Ponni Samba variety), 1.5 kilos of sugar, a tin of canned fish (medium size) and a box of matches.  But for a family of two, rations that include 1.5 kilos of rice, a tin of canned fish (small size) , 800 grams of sugar and four boxes of matches, is issued per month.

Initially, it was puzzling for the UNP member as to why    four boxes of matches were given for a family of two while only one was given to a family of four.
Later, it was found to be a balancing exercise. Rice, sugar, canned fish and boxes of matchers are the items approved for drought hit families. A ration worth Rs.470 is approved for a two-member family.  Once the commodities are issued in approved quantities, there is a balance of money.  The Divisional Secretariats are unauthorized to release anything to settle the balance, other than these items approved.  So, they opt for the best thing;- to give four boxes of matches.  On the UNP stage, it was a funny state of affairs.

“They give four boxes of matchers for a family of two. Is it for them to commit self immolation and die?” MP Harrison asked.
Meanwhile, a group of UNP’ers concluded yet another fact finding mission on the rail service the other day, despite some railway employees, later found to be casual labourers recruited from the Kalutara district, staging a protest against the visit.  
The UNP MPs, boarded a crowded train from Panadura that arrived at the Fort Railway Station. They informed railway officials that they wanted to meet with the General Manager of Railway (GMR). One Assistant General Manager informed that the GMR G.A.P. Ariyaratne had a fall when descending steps and was rushed to the hospital for medical treatment.

The UNP legislators regretted the incident, and opted to have the meeting with the three Assistant General Managers.
The inefficiency of the train service and the inadequacy of the number of trains in operation were among key matters discussed. The three officials noted, among other things, the lack of annual budgetary allocations to address some pressing issues. Therefore, they sought the help of UNP MPs to get adequate funds allocated through Parliament.

"Initially, it was puzzling for the UNP member as to why    four boxes of matches were given for a family of two while only one was given to a family of four."

During talks, one Assistant General Manager received a mobile phone call from Transport Ministry Secretary Dammika Perera. During the call, it was found later that Mr. Perera alerted the officials on the presence of the GMR with him at his Ministry, and they were expecting the UNP MPs there for a meeting.
It baffled the UNP MPs who thought that the GMR was receiving treatment for injuries suffered in the fall.
“What is the reason for this mess up?” a UNP MP asked.

The officials said the meeting had been arranged at the Ministry, and there was a misunderstanding of the request letter sent by the MPs on the mission, leading to the arrangement of the meeting to be held elsewhere, instead of the Fort Railway Station.
However, one MP remarked that the misunderstanding had been caused probably due to the letter being written in English.  Finally the meeting did not take place with the Secretary and the GMR.

After the event, UNP MP Dr. Harsha de Silva, who was in the mission issued the statement saying that  the group  finished its meeting  at the station  and proceeded to the Control Room at Maradana where they were confronted by protestors.
“We avoided any confrontation with the rented mob by going through a side entrance. We then had a productive discussion with the staff there and ended our ‘Gaveshana Chaarika 6: Sri Lanka Railway’.

We will submit our finding soon but some of the main issues we found are:
Poor service quality: not sufficient trains during rush hours resulting in severe overcrowding, terribly kept train stations, no proper schedules and lack of proper safety measures in getting in and out of trains.
Lack of priority for rail transport. Policy seems to favour roads over rail. As a percentage share of rail of all commuters is under 10 per cent and share of goods is less than 1%, this however is unsustainable, and unless focus is geared towards public transport, both rail and bus, this country will face a transport crisis.
The officials kept saying they didn’t have railway lines, locomotives and passenger compartments. They said they couldn’t charge cost reflective tariffs, thus making large losses.

There are some serious safety issues with even at the main control room trains are not visible beyond Aluthgama. Apparently the system has broken down due to some issues during connecting a disaster management system and they have not been able to fix it.
The amazingly high cost of new railway track from Matara to Beliatte, according to them costing over USD l0m per kilometre based on negotiations, but without any competitive tender procedure while nowhere near required funds allocated for suburban track expansion (additional track) and new locos and compartments.
After the event, the party’s Kalutara district MP Ajith P.Perera happened to meet a few protestors.

“We are casual labourers.  We are from the Kalutara district. We participated in the demonstration because we were promised to be absorbed into the permanent cadre,” a labourer said.
Mr. Perera remarked, “It is good if anyone from my district gets permanent employment because of this mission.”

President warns Ministers

Some Cabinet Ministers have started hurling abuses at each other publicly. This public diatribe has put the government in bad light, especially at a time when its popularity is on the wane.  The latest verbal battle has started between Irrigation and Water Management Minister Nimal Siripala de Silva and Foreign Employment Promotion Minister Dilan Perera, both elected from the Badulla electoral district.

At a recent public meeting, Minister de Silva made an indirect attack on Mr. Perera.
“I was a good sportsman during my school days. But, I am a politician today. Therefore, I do not mix up politics with sports now,” he said.
It was an indirect swipe at Minister Perera who holds the chairmanship of the Sri Lanka Volleyball Federation.
Angered by this remark, Minister Perera retorted in the similar fashion at yet another public rally.

“I too do not mix up certain things. Actually, I do not mix up my bedroom with my office room,” he said. It was a reference, through innuendo, on a certain incident of scandalous behaviour of Minister de Silva.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa was annoyed by such public allegations by these two Ministers against each other.  At the last Cabinet meeting, he wanted to reprimand Minister Perera.

“Where is Dilan? I want to ask him to stop this public accusation. The Ministers should not resort to such acts. It brings not only them but also the government into disrepute. The collective responsibility is very important,” he said. But, Minister Perera was absent.
Rivalry between these two Ministers has been there for some time now. Amid personal animosities against each other, it is apparent that the ruling party is trying to promote new leaders in the Badulla district.

Among them is Anura Vidanagamage, the brother of MP Thenuka  Vidanagamage. Anura Vidanagamage a candidate for the Uva Provincial Council Election, has already undertaken a heavily financed election campaign .
In fact, he is projecting himself as the chief minister in the event of Sashindra Rajapaksa, already nominated for the post, contesting the next parliamentary election to be conducted within the next couple of years.

If the United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) wins, it will be Sashindra Rajapaksa, the son of Speaker Chamal Rajapaksa, to be appointed to the post once again. But, it is learnt that he is intending to contest the next parliamentary election. In such an eventually, the chief minister post will fall vacant. Anura Vidanagamage is propagating that he will get the post with the blessings of the top brass of the government    when Mr. Rajapaksa relinquishes his duties as the chief minister.

UNP- TNA informal talks on Presidential Election 

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe had talks with Tamil National Alliance (TNA) leader R. Sampanthan last Thursday. UNP Leadership Council Chairman Karu Jayasuriya and TNA National List MP M.A. Sumanthiran attended this meeting.  They discussed the political situation for the next Presidential Election.

Sources close to the TNA said Mr. Samapanthan favours former President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga for a possible common candidate.  

Minority politicians meet Japanese envoy

The politicians, representing the minority parties, had a meeting with the Japanese Ambassador at his residence recently.  Traditional Industries and Small Enterprise Development Minister Douglas Devananda, Industry and Commerce Minister Rishad Bathiudeen, Democratic People’s Party leader Mano Ganeshan, PLOTE leader Dharmalingam Siddarthan and UNP MP R. Yogarajan attended this meeting.

"The Ambassador reportedly noted how Japan abstained from voting on the resolution on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March this year, despite pressure from various quarters."

They discussed the progress of the implementation of the recommendations by the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC) and Japan-Sri Lanka relations.  The Ambassador reportedly noted how Japan abstained from voting on the resolution on Sri Lanka at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March this year, despite pressure from various quarters.

PSC session suspended due to CWC absence

The Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on Constitutional Reforms had to call off its meeting scheduled for the last week due to the absence of the representatives of the Ceylon Workers’ Congress (CWC), an ally of the government. CWC was to submit its proposals.

However, the party informed its inability to attend this meeting, and therefore, the PSC had to cancel it.
The PSC was constituted in June last year. Its mandate has been extended till the end of this year. It consists of 31 members - 19 for the government and the rest for the opposition. So far the opposition has boycotted the PSC session.

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