Ministers must be tied to trees says Ranil

By Shamindra Ferdinando

UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe says ministers, top officials and members of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s cabinet should be given the ``Mervyn Silva treatment’’ and tied to tress for their failures.

Addressing a gathering at Sirikotha on Friday (Aug.6) after welcoming ex-SLFP heavyweight Mangala Samaraweera, MP to the UNP, a smiling Wickremesinghe asserted Deputy Highways Minister Mervyn Silva’s way of punishing those who had failed in their duty was right, though the man tied to a tree should have been the minister in charge of the health portfolio.

Opposition leader Wickremesinghe said that members of the cabinet should be punished for their failures. He pointed out the absurdity in punishing a lowly Samurdhi officer, while those responsible for pathetic failure of the government’s dengue eradication programme went scot-free.

Deputy Minister Silva ordered a member of his staff to tie the official for keeping away from a dengue prevention program without a valid reason.

Dengue has claimed about 180 lives so far this year. They were among about 24,000 men, women and children hospitalized this year.

While appreciating Samaraweera’s move, the Opposition leader reminded the SLFPer’s role in propaganda campaign directed at him. "Mangala Samaraweera put up posters all over the country calling me Mr. Bean during election campaigns" MP Wickremesinghe said, adding that all those who valued democratic rights should join the UNP to defeat the Rajapaksas. The SLFP (Mahajana Wing) leader Samaraweera contested the April 8 parliamentary election on the UNF ticket.

New UNPer Mangala Samaraweera, Matara district MP, depicted the SLFP as a lorry used by cattle thieves in the night.

Commenting on the bullying nature of Deputy Highways Minister Silva, Samaraweera said that there was no point blaming the dog when the master was at fault.

"In England, if a dog dirties the environment, it is the master who is fined. Unfortunately, in Sri Lanka we criticize the dog, while letting the master go scot-free," he said.

Shortly before the meeting at Sirikotha, Deputy Highways Minister Mervyn Silva said as the electoral organizer for Kelaniya he would continue to take action against anyone failing to do his duty.

Responding to growing criticism of a Samurdhi officer being tied to a tree last Tuesday, Silva accused the Opposition and media of shedding crocodile tears for a man, who deserved to be punished for failing in his duty. The Gampaha District MP said that some people had conveniently forgotten that the Samurdhi officer neglected his duty.

Addressing the media at his ministry, he ridiculed the Opposition and the media for being concerned about the incident even more than the victim.

A spokesman for Samurdhi officers told The Sunday Island that President Rajapaksa, his ministers and the police should be ashamed for the way they had turned a blind eye to Deputy Minister Silva’s antics.

Responding to a query, the official said nothing could have been as bad as s section of the state media, particularly Rupavahini to justify the MP’s action. Rupavahini bosses had conveniently forgotten what the Deputy Minister and his associates did to Rupavahini employees two years ago following a clash at the premises. 

Samurdhi officers said the Gampaha District politician could not have acted the way he did without the blessings of the Rajapaksas. Minister Basil Rajapaksa, who had promised to make Gampaha the best district in the country in the run-up to last parliamentary election, should explain his protege’s conduct. Referring to Deputy Minister’s antics in parliament, they alleged that the Deputy Minister seemed to have a strange hold of the Rajapaksas.

 They alleged that the government had forced the humiliated Samurdhi officer to claim that he was tied to a tree voluntarily, while Minister Keheliya Rambukwella promised action if the victim lodged a complaint with the police. They said Rambukwella should be tied to a tree for this remark.

"He is even worse than Silva," a protesting Samurdhi officer said. "Those who take on the UN and the international community, too, are silent, he said, adding that no one wanted to antagonize Silva for fear of offending the President. This is the truth", he said.

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