Lankan minister ties government servant to tree

COLOMBO: Sri Lankan Deputy Minister for Highways Mervyn Silva on Tuesday tied an official of the Samurdhi Poverty Alleviation Department to a tree in full public view for not participating in the department’s dengue control campaign in Keleniya near Colombo.

Incensed by government servants’ “indifference” in controlling dengue that has claimed more than 180 lives in the island in recent weeks, the ebullient minister decided to take the law into his own hands and invited the media to record his “action” against errant officials. The victim’s plea that he was absent as his child was ill, fell on deaf ears. He was freed only after the media recorded the event.

A lady colleague who tried to save the official from public humiliation was sternly warned that she too would meet the same fate if she persisted with her protest.

Later, the official’s family members told Daily Mirror Online that the government servant had gone into hiding and they too feared for their lives. “We are all affected. We do not know what will happen to us,” a family member said.

When the matter came up in Parliament on Wednesday, Minister Silva flatly denied that he had tied the man to the tree. “I never tied anyone to a tree. I only untied a person who was tied to a tree,” he asserted, and waved a letter purportedly written by the official concerned, which said he had tied himself to a tree as a penance for neglecting his duties.

Earlier, Leader of the Opposition Ranil Wickremasinghe said the Minister was bringing disrepute to Sri Lanka internationally. Silva’s behaviour clearly contravened the Constitution of Sri Lanka, he said. Silva had on an earlier occasion clashed with the media and had also been beaten up by the employees of a state-owned TV station.

Meanwhile, the ruling United Peoples’ Freedom Alliance (UPFA) distanced itself from the conduct of Silva. “This was purely his (Silva’s) conduct and had nothing to do with the party. Therefore, I do not want to comment,” Daily Mirror Online quoted UPFA general secretary Susil Premajayanth as saying.

Stung by the Minister’s conduct, Samurdhi department officers have decided to suspend participation in dengue eradication programmes island-wide until disciplinary action was taken against him.

Source: Express News Service