Defence Ministry Tentacles Keep Spreading
By Raisa Wickrematunge
The Ministry of Defence has been taking over many authorities of late. The Urban Development Authority and the Land Reclamation and Development Corporation are just two of them. However, it appears that plans are afoot to add one more — the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC).
The CMC found itself struggling in the throes of a severe crisis with the dengue epidemic. Although campaigns were launched to clean potential breeding sites, the number of people infected-and killed- by the deadly virus continued to climb. In the end a Presidential Task Force (not to mention the army and police force) was brought in, in an attempt to stop the spread of the disease.
Locally produced BTI was recently tested in selected sites in Peliyagoda, and the police and army went out in droves to clean up Colombo. Colombo was, in fact, the worst area affected. The unspoken implication is that the CMC is so riddled with red tape and inefficiency that it is unable to deal with the crisis dengue fever has presented — unable to keep Colombo clean by itself.
It is in this light that moves are underway to bring the CMC under the Ministry of Defence.
Former Deputy Mayor of Colombo Azath Salley said that no such plans were being spoken of thus far. However, he added that if the CMC were to come under the Defence Ministry, efficiency could be improved, but only with the help of a key figure.
“As long as Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa is at the Defence Ministry, such a move would be good,” he said. He too pointed to the prompt action Rajapaksa had taken with regards to dengue. He added that many of the CMC officials were mere puppets who could not handle such a heavy workload. In this sense, Ministry of Defence involvement could increase efficiency, he said. He said that much of the action was carried out following instructions from the Defence Secretary. Without his involvement, the CMC could wind up as inactive as before.
Salley further highlighted the Horton Place hoarding post which a man climbed earlier this week. “It has been more than three months since an assurance was given that unauthorised hoardings will be removed. Yesterday, it was only after Rajapaksa’s instructions that the hoarding was completely removed,” Salley said.
CMC Commissioner Badrani Jayawardena said she had received no information on the issue and as such could not comment. Meanwhile, Special Administrator Omar Kamil’s phone remained switched off. Will the rumour materialise and will another local authority fall under the Defence Ministry? That remains to be seen.