Public Administration Secretary:
By Shamindra Ferdinando
New Public Administration Ministry Secretary Priyantha Mayadunne has warned political parties represented in Parliament, state and private sector trade unions and the civil society that they will soon be categorised as traitors unless they agreed to a far reaching economic reforms agenda.
Attorney-at-Law Mayadunne issued the warning over the last weekend at a meeting of public administration officers held at the Postal Auditorium, near Lotus Tower.
One-time Justice Ministry Secretary Mayadunne replaced J. J. Ratnasiri as Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration, following the appointment of the new Cabinet.
The normally soft-spoken Mayadunne declared that the country was in such a precarious situation, especially in the absence of a tangible recovery plan yet. Therefore, the government and other stakeholders didn’t need IMF’s intervention to undertake a wide ranging reform agenda on their own without delay.
The declaration was made close on the heels of the revelation at the recent sittings of parliamentary watchdog committee how the then Presidential Secretary Dr. P.B.J. Jayasundera rejected IMF’s intervention in March-April 2020.
During the COPE
(The Committee on Public Enterprises) proceedings on May 25, Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Nandalal Weerasinghe revealed how the then government callously dismissed IMF recommendations for immediate debt restructuring programme and advice not to implement large scale tax cuts.
Asked whether he had earned the wrath of the political authority for being critical of successive governments and the current dispensation for Sri Lanka’s predicament, Mayadunne said that he solidly stood by what he said at the forum. “There is absolutely no point
in suppressing the truth or making foolish efforts to deceive the masses. The public must be taken into confidence and told how to face the growing crisis. But, the crisis cannot be addressed unless the political parties, both in and outside Parliament, trade unions and civil society groups recognize and accept their responsibilities,” Mayadunne said.
Acknowledging his own shortcomings, Mayadunne told a public servants’ meet over the last weekend, those who served the public service for 30 years were responsible for varying degrees.
Mayadunne asserted that successive governments bear the responsibility for creating an oversized public service that was a very heavy burden on the taxpayer. Pointing out that the public service comprised staggering 1.5 mn members, Mayadunne declared that the country could have afforded 500,000. Sri Lanka could have managed 500,000 to 800,000 but today there were nearly double the amount of public servants the country could afford, Mayadunne said.
Mayadunne recalled how he requested the then Secretary to the President in 2004 not to expand the public service by accommodating a large group of graduates as it could cause a catastrophe one day. As a result of following dangerous politically motivated policies, those now retiring from the public service faced the risk of not being able to receive a monthly pension. The situation was so bad the retirees couldn’t expect to receive gratuity, Mayadunne said, warning that all would have to forgo perks and privileges for a period of ten years.
The top official urged trade union leadership regardless of the sectors they represented not to make utterly irresponsible demands under any circumstances. The government lacked the wherewithal to meet basic requirements, such as salaries let alone addressing other demands.
Acknowledging the extreme difficulties experienced by a large section of public servants, Mayadunne strongly advised against a salary increase as it could create an extremely volatile situation. Mayadunne warned that salary increases to public servants at a time others didn’t have relief at all could result in violence being directed at the decision makers. Perhaps an appropriate transport allowance could be considered due to high cost of public and private transport.
Mayadunne said that the country was on the verge of a famine. Whatever various people said that the Yala season couldn’t meet the country’s requirement, he said, adding that crisis-hit countries in the region weren’t in a position to meet the shortfall. June would be far worse than May and the country couldn’t anticipate foreign food assistance either, Mayadunne said.
Recalling the hardships experienced by the people of the North during the conflict, Mayadunne warned that the way the financial crisis developed and the overall situation deteriorated, credit cards issued here would soon be useless.
The Ministry Secretary warned that the Western Province where about 90 percent of its paddy requirement had to be brought from outside would be the worst affected region.
Declaring that the vast majority of people found it extremely difficult to make ends meet, Mayadunne said that even having a glass of milk was a luxury.
The top Public Administration official said that there was nothing that the population here could do now to rectify waste, corruption, irregularities and mismanagement, if the country ended up in an unprecedented crisis.
Revealing that public servants were owed a staggering Rs 17 bn in gratuity payments, Mayadunne said the duty free car permit issued to them couldn’t be utilized now for obvious reasons.
Underscoring the responsibility on the part of the executive, the legislature and the judiciary to address the issues at hand, Mayadunne said that regardless of public standing all should be subjected to a common agenda. Water, electricity and other essential services shouldn’t be provided free of charge as the country struggled to cope up with extremely daunting challenges.
Mayadunne said that trade unions would have to align with the overall national plan meant to save and revive the economy.
Alleging that national policies developed at taxpayers’ expenses ended up in the dustbin, Mayadunne explained how irresponsible governance over a period of time ruined the country. He slammed successive governments over public sector recruitment, extravagant state-projects, and perks and privileges granted to lawmakers.
Mayadunne said that the establishment of Commissions wouldn’t change the public service overnight. As long as the politicians exercised power over officials, the current situation would continue, Mayadunne declared, insisting that key appointments should be handled by the Constitutional Council. Comparing a Secretary to a Ministry with a peon, Mayadunne said that since 2015, he had held 17 appointments and by the time he retired he would get an opportunity to serve in three other places.
Report on child protection delivered to President
The Committee appointed to Study and Make Recommendations for the Protection of Children handed over their comprehensive report to President Ranil Wickremesinghe on Tuesday (03) evening.
This committee was established on April 19, 2023, to study and provide recommendations for the protection, care and overall welfare of children who have been subjected to various forms of violence within Sri Lanka.
Over the course of nearly five months, the committee conducted 21 meetings to gain an in-depth understanding of the existing issues and to formulate practical recommendations. The committee comprised a diverse group of members, including representatives from institutions such as Children Homes, Remand Homes, Certified Homes, Child Development Centres, Bar Association of Sri Lanka (BASL), Chambers of Commerce, Trade Unions & Associations, Principals of Schools, Civil Society Organizations, Telecommunication and Digital Service Providers, Telecommunication Regulators, Digital Crime Security Experts, Lions Club, Rotaract Club, representatives from the U.S. Embassy, Colleges of Medicine, Solicitors General from the Attorney General’s Department, National Child Protection Authority, National Dangerous Drugs Control Board, National Authority on Tobacco and Alcohol, Family Health Bureau, Foreign Employment Bureau, Sri Lanka Women’s’ Bureau and officials from the Ministries in charge of Women & Children and Education.
The report, which was completed and submitted to the President yesterday, addresses a wide range of issues concerning child protection, including issues related to institutionalized environments, lack of parental care, family separation, digital media exposure, child labour and more. The committee also evaluated the adequacy of existing institutional, administrative and legal safeguards for child protection, aiming to meet the demands of modern society.
Furthermore, the report explores strategies to enhance the physical and mental health of children who have experienced various forms of violence, abuse and neglect. It also delves into the concerning trend of children engaging in violent acts and seeks innovative approaches for community participation in child care initiatives
Landslide Early Warnings Issued to Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts extended
The landslide early warnings issued by the landslide early warning center of the National Building Research Organisation to the districts of Colombo, Galle, Hambantota, Kalutara, Kandy, Kegalle, Matara and Ratnapura Districts have been extended untill 1630 hrs today.
Level II landslid early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Neluwa in the Galle district, Ingiriya in the Kalutara district, Pasbage Korale in the Kandy district, Kotapola and Pitabeddara in the Matara district, Ayagama, Kuruwita, Pelmadulla, Nivithigala, Kiriella, Ratnapura, Elapatha, Eheliyagoda and Kalawana in the Ratnapura district.
Level I landslide early warnings have been issued to the Divisional Secretaries Divisions and surrounding areas of Seethawaka in the Colombo district, Elpitiya in the Galle district, Walasmulla in the Hambanthota district, Mathugama, Buathsinhala, Aggalawaththa and Walallawita in the Kalutara district, Yatiyanthota, Kegalle and Dehiowita in the Kegalle district, Athureliya and Mulatiyana in the Matara district and Imbulpe and Kolonna in the Ratnapura district
Opposition: Judge’s resignation has tarnished Lanka’s image
He should have taken action against those who threatened him – govt.
By Saman Indrajith
Opposition and SJB leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that there were serious questions and concerns about the independence of the judiciary following the resignation of Mullaitivu District Judge T. Saravanarajah, citing threats and harassment.
“This is a serious issue and the government should conduct an independent inquiry into this matter immediately,” Premadasa said.
Chief Opposition Whip Lakshman Kiriella said the judge’s resignation, citing threats and harassment following his ruling on the Kurundimalai temple, had led to concerns about the independence of the judiciary. He said that the Mullaitivu Magistrate had been pressured to change his judgment.
Justice Minister,Wijeyadasa Rajapakshe said Sri Lankan judges had power to issue summons and take appropriate action against individuals who attempted to exert influence over them. He asked why the judge concerned had not used his powers.
Minister Rajapakshe said that the Opposition could file a contempt of court case if anyone had pressured the Mullaitivu Magistrate to reverse his judgment as claimed, without levelling allegations against the government.
The Minister said the government had no powers to investigate the matter involving the Magistrate and that the JSC was the relevant body to handle the matter and requested if anyone had any issue, they could complain to the Judicial Service Commission.
TNA MP Sumanthiran said that the whole world knew that there was pressure on the Judge. “The Minister cannot claim that there was no pressure on the judge.”
Minister Rajapakshe said that if there was anyone in the House who had exerted pressure on the judiciary it was MP Sumanthiran. He said MP Sumanthiran had on 20 October, 2022 told Parliament that the judges of the Supreme Court should be sent home. “You said in this House that people had no faith in the Supreme Court.”
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