Bungalow bungling: Abuse of power by Sabaragamuwa PC’s former members

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When it comes to abusing or using State resources for personal or their cronies’ use against the regulations, there seems to be no party differences or any conflict at all among politicians since those State properties are maintained at the expense of public taxpayers’ funds contributed to by the citizens.

It was evident when an audit carried out at the now-defunct Sabaragamuwa provincial council revealed recently that former council members continued to use holiday bungalows that were allocated for official use even five years after the council was dissolved.  

According to the government audit carried out for the financial year of 2021, it was revealed that Rs 4.7 million was spent to pay the tariff usage of both electricity and water as members continued to use the bungalows.

The audit also noted that official bungalows allocated for the use of PC members consisted of 11 air-conditioned rooms with furniture worth Rs 29 million. It also recommended considering the bungalows to make it a revenue-earning process in the near future.

Soon after the audit report was sent to the higher-ups and raised eyebrows as local government institutions find it difficult to finance urgent work these days, instructions were given not to allow the bungalows to be rented out for the politicos or their cronies.

Currently, the bungalows are locked and two labourers are deployed for maintenance purposes until further notice.

Mega hotel concert runs into controversy, two singers drop out

A mega concert organised at a leading hotel in Colombo has run into controversy after two popular singers dropped out from the show allegedly owing to the presence of another singer infamous for courting controversy.

The singer in question, who was a vocal supporter of former President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, campaigned extensively for him at the last Presidential election and released songs and music videos that lampooned the Yahapalana government. He was accused of mocking the transgender community through the content of some of his music videos, and critics alleged that some of his social media posts were racist.

Two of Sri Lanka’s most well-known young singers have released statements on their social media pages in recent days announcing they would no longer take part in the upcoming concert as the event’s organisers were attempting to conduct the concert in a manner contrary to the original agreement they had entered into. While neither had mentioned they were dropping out due to the presence of the controversial singer, it had been reported that they were unhappy as they had not been told he too would be performing on the same stage.

Fans who had been waiting eagerly to see the two singers had mostly been supportive of the decision on social media, but some had noted that they had run into issues while attempting to obtain refunds from the event organisers.

War of letters between Eastern Governor’s Office and GSMB

A new bureaucratic ‘war’ of letters between the Eastern Governor’s Office and the Geological Survey and Mines Bureau (GSMB) over devolved powers under the 13th Amendment has taken a different turn. The Governor’s office wrote back to the latter this week alleging he had received several complaints from the people that lands that were released for mine, mineral, industrial and fisheries purposes in the past are not being properly used.

“A number of civil societies, NGOs, politicians and people in the region questioned why those lands reserved for project purposes are not being properly used. It created a huge public agitation over the matter,” Governor’s Secretary L.P. Madanayake, wrote to the Director General of GSMB.

Earlier, the Governor informed District and Divisional Secretariats in the province to halt the processing of mineral sands, and industrial mineral proposals and not to release any lands which have deposits of valuable minerals in their respective areas, until the project is evaluated by the Provincial Minerals Evaluations Committee at the Governor’s Office.

The letter also noted that sand mining sites located in Chenkaladi and Batticaloa which were abandoned after the completion of the project without the rehabilitation of those lands. As a result, the letter noted it “impacted a huge environmental degradation and spreading of dengue fever in the region in the recent past.”

Reiterating that the earlier letter issued did not intend “any sort of interference into the subject matter of mine and mineral categorised under the reserved list of 13th Amendment to the Constitution,” the Governor’s Secretary noted that “it is a responsible and bonafide attempt as an executive hand of the province to mitigate the waste of public finance resources and attempts to use resources in a sustainable manner for the betterment of the people of the province and not to violate the procedures laid down in the mother law of the country.”

The letter with the annexe consisting of poor maintenance of sand mining sites was copied to the secretaries of the President, Prime Minister, the Environment Ministry and the Public Administration, Home Affairs, provincial Councils and Local Government Ministry in addition to the Attorney General and District Secretaries and Divisional Secretaries in the province.


Heated clashes at meeting between President and Tamil politicians

Ahead of his official visit as Head of the State to New Delhi one year after he assumed duties as the Executive President last July, President Ranil Wickremesinghe met Parliamentarians of Tamil political parties on Tuesday at the Secretariat.

The meeting came days after those parties–some collectively and individually–wrote to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to pressure the government for full implementation of the 13th Amendment.

President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s recent meeting with Tamil Parliamentarians at the Secretariat

At the meeting, the Tamil National Alliance led by Ilankai Thamil Arasu Katchi (ITAK) out rightly rejected President Wickremesinghe’s proposal of implementing the law without Police powers. The meeting saw some heated arguments–particularly when TNA leader R. Sampanthan expressed his disappointment with the government which, he alleged, came up with several assurances and deadlines to resolve the ethnic conflict but no solid steps were taken with genuine political

On his part, President Wickremesinghe recalled the past when his previous government came up with a devolution package which was opposed by both Tamil parties and hardline Southern outfits.

“Remember what I offered you in 2005 and you rejected, do not make the mistake again. That is all I can say to you,” he said.

When TNA Spokesperson M.A. Sumanthiran intervened to put the context of past successive governments’ assurances to both India and the international community–particularly by former President Mahinda Rajapaksa to “implement the 13th Amendment and plus”, the President responded by saying he is Ranil Wickremesinghe, not “Ranil Rajapaksa”–a term coined by Opposition parties to criticise dependency on the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) for his political survival.

MP says arrack price hike will boost kasippu sales

On Friday, Primary Industries State Minister Chamara Sampath Dassanayake made an appeal in Parliament to the Finance Ministry to reduce the price of arrack and beer. He said the price of a bottle of arrack was now out of reach for many consumers given that prices have risen exponentially owing to the high taxes the ministry has imposed on local liquor.

This in turn is driving people to unsafe illicit liquor or ‘kasippu.’ As such, he argued the Government was actually missing its tax revenue target for liquor as people were buying illicit liquor rather than the pricier legitimate brand.

“We are from the villages. People in the villages tell us this Government has taxed their bottle of liquor as well. Since both State Ministers of Finance are in this House, I urge them to ensure a fair price for local liquor if they want to make sure tax revenue increases and the revenue targets are met,” he said.

“I am also a man from the village and would like to clarify this issue as those who drink arrack will attack us,” State Finance Minister Ranjith Siyambalapitiya said in response.

He acknowledged that tax revenue for liquor had fallen since the price increase owing to the tax hike. Nevertheless, he said the Government was also bound by both morals and rules of the World Health Organisation (WHO). The WHO rules dictate that at a time when inflation is high, the price of cigarettes and alcohol too should be increased in line with it, he said.

“Since you do not drink arrack you do not know its value,” quipped Mr Dassanayake to the State Finance Minister.

Minister’s guard of honour stunt brings dishonour

A guard of honour is normally conducted by the military or Police for a visiting dignitary. As the name suggests, it is a display of the utmost respect for an important person. Not many are entitled to a guard of honour, no matter how much they may wish for it.

There are some in authority, however, who try to find ways to accord themselves such honours in any way they can, no matter how ridiculous it may seem.

Primary Industries State Minister Chamara Sampath Dassanayake paid an inspection visit this week to state owned Lanka Phosphate Ltd. While there, he was given a guard of honour by the company’s security officers.

A video of the State minister inspecting the guard of honour given by the seven-man security contingent of Lanka Phosphate Ltd. and walking around gingerly in the confined space where the guards stood to attention soon went viral on social media and later on mainstream television news. If the State minister intended to convey a sense of power and prestige through the stunt, it clearly did not end that way.

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