Patch up differences with CM, Governor, President tells EP councillors

By Franklin R. Satyapalan

President Mahinda Rajapaksa has disappointed the majority of members of the UPFA administered Eastern Provincial Council (EPC), including the Board of Ministers, by asking them to sort out their differences with the Chief Minister and the Governor without troubling the government.

EPC sources said yesterday that the President had held a meeting with the members of the EPC last weekend in Kandy, where he asked them to sort out their own problems.

The President summoned all members of the EPC to the President’s House in Kandy last Saturday, promising to look into their grievances that had led a boycott of the sessions of the Eastern Provincial Council (EPC), over the past two months, in protest against the CM and the Governor who they claimed were an impediment to development.

The former Chief Minister of the EPC and the Leader of the TMVP Sivanesathurai Chandrakanthan was the first member called upon to speak on their grievances by the President, followed by member Arif Samsudeen, Ministers M. S. Mansoor, Nazeer Ahamed, Wimalaweera Dissanayake and former Provincial Minister of Health and present Deputy Chairman M. S. Subair.

Sources, however, said that Governor, retired Rear Admiral Mohan Wijewickreme, had been keeping a check on wasteful expenditure in the East.

Deputy Chairman M. S. Subair raised three matters on the conduct of the CM, which , he said, were of grave concern to the members. He said that the CM did not heed the problems of the people of the Eastern Province. When the floods devastated the province the CM had left the country without anyone to act for him.

At that juncture President Rajapaksa asked who the senior most councillor was and the members replied that it was Provincial Minister M. S. Uthuma Lebbe. The President said Uthuma Lebbe should be allowed to act for the CM whenever the latter was absent.

Subair said that since the CM had assumed office almost a year before but he had not held a single group meeting of the members of the council and or summoned a meeting of all officials of all ministries so that they could plan their development activities.

The Provincial Minister of Education Wimalaweera Dissanayake raised the non-payment of fuel allowances amounting to Rs. 40,000 to Monitoring Provincial Ministers and the non-issuance of car permits, when the President called upon him to articulate his grievances.

The President said that the Treasury could not afford to provide such allowances to the members. The members asked how the members of some other provincial councils had been given those benefits.

The EP councillors arrived in Kandy by 5.00 p.m. but they were told that the President would be late for the meeting due to other official functions in the hill capital. However all facilities including a prayer room were provided to the Muslim members to break fast.

SLFP General Secretary, Minister Maithripala Sirisena and UPFA General Secretary, Minister Susil Premajayanth were present. Leader of the SLMC Minister Rauff Hakeem, ACMC Leader Minister Riahard Bathuideen and MNC Leader Minister A. L. M. Athaullah, who were present from the commencement until conclusion of the meeting at 9.00 p.m did not express views.

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