The Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) has urged the public to come forward against the current Government and its Ministers for politically influencing the independence of the institutions that regulate essential commodities at a time when the people are suffering from the prevailing Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at a media briefing yesterday (22), the JVP Politburo Member Sunil Handunnetti stated that the recent resignations of top government officials from a number of state institutions is entirely due to the political pressure exerted on those institutions. “When the present Government came to power, it stated that officials would be given the opportunity to carry out their duties sans political interference, but at present, a number of state institutions are being subjected to political interference,” he claimed.
Commenting on the recent resignation of Consumer Affairs Authority (CAA) Executive Director Thushan Gunawardena from the said position, Handunnetti said: “A number of top-level government officials have resigned in the recent past, while some others have been terminated by the Government for no apparent reason. Now, Gunawardena has resigned. The CAA is an institution which was largely involved in issues such as frauds and the rising prices of essential commodities.”
He further claimed that Gunawardena had had to submit his resignation as a result of his opposition to exposing the much talked about garlic fraud at Sathosa and speaking about the proposed signing of agreements with import companies to increase the prices of milk powder, wheat flour, and cement.
Speaking further, Handunnetti alleged that the CAA is now attempting to represent the companies instead of consumers and claimed that the CAA was trying to deprive itself of the powers vested in it by attempting to sign agreements with certain companies, in the backdrop of the trade mafia restricting stocks, creating a shortage of goods by hoarding, and pointing out the foreign exchange crisis in the country and thereby using such to raise prices. “Officials have protested against this situation. Who decided these agreements? The Government should tell the country as to who among them was involved in these,” he added.
Gunawardena recently resigned from the said post, claiming that he was under pressure from certain politicians in carrying out the activities of the CAA independently. Speaking to the media recently, he claimed that he had even received death threats for carrying out his duties properly and said that the Criminal Investigations Department (CID) had, on a number of occasions, been informed of the matter in writing. However, he said that no proper investigation has been carried out in that regard.
Gunawardena’s resignation was the latest of a series of recent resignations of top-level government officials.
On 15 September, the Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) Chairman Dr. Jatal Mannapperuma tendered his resignation from the post citing “several reasons” for his decision, but refused to specify any reasons to the media. “No one would resign without a reason. There were several reasons for my resignation. I don’t like to talk about them to the media though,” he explained when The Morning contacted him. However, sources indicated that Dr. Mannapperuma was unhappy about several decisions taken by those above him with regard to the agricultural sector and the current trajectory of the sector.
Meanwhile, two other high ranking officials in the Agriculture Ministry have, in the recent past, resigned within a short period of about seven months. The former Agriculture Ministry Secretary, Major General (Retd.) Sumedha Perera resigned last February citing personal reasons and subsequently, Rohana Pushpakumara was appointed to the post left vacant due to Perera’s resignation. However, after serving in the post for a short period of about four months, Pushpakumara also resigned from the post on 5 June 2021, after which Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige was appointed to the said position.
In addition, several other top-level government officials of other sectors recently resigned from their posts.
Recently, National Zoological Gardens Department Director General Ishini Wickremesinghe resigned from the said post and Senior Consultant Anaesthetist, Dr. Asoka Gunaratne, who is also an Executive Committee Member of the Association of Medical Specialists of Sri Lanka (AMS) resigned from the Health Ministry’s Covid-19 Technical Committee, which is tasked with making recommendations with regard to Covid-19 pandemic control measures. This came in the wake of the resignation of Senior Consultant Physician at the National Institute of Infectious Diseases Hospital (IDH), Dr. Ananda Wijewickrama from the same Committee.