Priority for country’s burning issues, not office space- Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena | Sunday Observer

Priority for country’s burning issues, not office space- Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena

State Minister of Public Enterprise Development Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena is optimistic that his Ministry Secretary will intervene to sort out the controversial problem of allocating office space to him, as early as possible. Minister Abeywardena in an interview with the Sunday Observer said, the major problem is to resolve the country’s burning issues, and not providing room accommodation, and therefore, he doesn’t take this issue seriously.

The Minister said, the important thing is, that an opportunity should be provided to him to assume duties in a respectable manner. He said, at present, he is fully involved in the task of providing relief to the flood affected people in the Matara district and denied media reports that he is delaying assuming duties of his new Ministry, due to the space issue.

Q. What is this big issue of finding accommodation for your Ministry?

A. It has not been settled yet, and I hope the Public Enterprise Development Ministry Secretary would sort out the matter as early as possible. The Ministry Secretary who spoke to me on Tuesday (June 6) pledged he would resolve the matter.

As a matter of policy, I do not take this kind of minor issues to the President or the Prime Minister. Therefore, I am waiting until the Ministry Secretary provides a solution.

Q. The newspaper reports say, you got only 3 rooms out of the 9 reserved for you. Could you explain.

A. Even Public Enterprise Development Minister Kabir Hashim is not aware about this. Of the nine rooms reserved for my office, his personal staff has acquired six rooms.

When my former State Finance Ministerial portfolio was changed, I handed over the office reserved for me to the newly appointed State Finance Minister, Eran Wickramaratne within two hours.

Similarly, the former Public Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Wickremaratne’s personal staff also handed over this office to us.

However, the same night a partition had been made by Minister Kabir Hashim’s staff. This has led to some difficulty to perform the functions of my Ministry.

“I have not asked for additional space or any other requirement. What I ask is to provide me the nine rooms reserved for my Ministry.

I have already informed this to Minister Kabir Hashim and he too assured me that the Ministry Secretary will intervene to sort out the issue.”

Q. As reported by the media, you have postponed assuming duties in the new office on two occasions due to this issue. Is this not a bad reflection on the Yahapalana Government?

A. No. There is no truth in the media reports that I have postponed assuming duties. I am still fully engaged in providing relief assistance to the flood affected people of Matara.

I have not even fixed a date yet, to assume duties. Actually, my private staff had discussed the room accommodation issue. I didn’t have the time even to look into the issue. Even in the coming week, I would have to spend yet another two or three days in Matara to assist the needy people. I cannot neglect my duty by them, to address the burning issues in my electorate after the recent floods.

Q. Do you regret having to leave the State Finance Ministry portfolio to accept the Public Enterprise Development Ministry’s new portfolio?

A. Not at all. The Public Enterprise Development Ministry has more institutions than the Finance Ministry. Therefore, I hope I would be able to accomplish my task as State Minister of the new Ministry.

Q. The Opposition may question how you could sort out big issues affecting the whole country when you can’t resolve minor issues, as these?

A. I think we should not consider this as an issue. The media too should not blow things out of proportion. Our major problem is to resolve the country’s burning issues, not petty issues such as, room accommodation. Therefore, I don’t take this seriously. The main thing is, I should be given the opportunity to assume duties in a respectable manner.

Q. Cannot such issues be resolved through discussions and consensus, without giving them publicity?

A. Actually, this is an unnecessary matter, there was nothing even to discuss. As soon as former Public Enterprise Development Deputy Minister Eran Wickremaratne handed over the office, it should have been given to me. When one person makes a mistake, we have to face the problem. If there was any issue pertaining to room accommodation, it should have been discussed with me and resolved once and for all.

Q. If the issue is resolved, are you willing to work with Minister Kabir Hashim cooperatively to develop the public enterprise sector?

A. Definitely. I have no issues, and can work cooperatively with any Cabinet Minister.

Q. Various clashes between Ministers and their Deputy or State Ministers have become a somewhat common phenomenon. Will not this make people lose confidence in the Yahapalana Government?

A. This is not good for the Yahapalana concept and would have an impact. This kind of petty issues might cause damage to the core ideals of the Yahapalana Government.

The rationale behind forming the National Unity Government was to ensure good governance and sort out burning issues in the country, such as, the constitutional reforms and promote fundamentals that are necessary to ensure good governance in the country.

If there are confrontations within the same Ministry, it would be a hindrance to good governance.

Therefore, we should act in a more respectable and intelligent manner to rectify any issues. On my part, I have acted in a responsible manner, I didn’t make any comment to the media regarding the matter, nor have I made any irresponsible or damaging statement. Minister Kabir Hashim too followed suit and didn’t make any comment.

Therefore, those in the Ministries should not attempt to create unnecessary issues. The officials should always safeguard their Ministers. The personal staff of a Minister should know how to conduct themselves in an intelligent manner. Actually, this issue was a result mainly due to the personal staff of the Minister acting unwisely. Of course, the Ministry officials didn’t put up the partition.

Q. Aren’t these insignificant matters fodder for the Joint Opposition to exploit the situation?

A. Yes. These trivial matters would be fodder for the Joint Opposition. A certain section of the media also attempts to blow such incidents out of proportion.

Q. What is the delay in gazetting new ministries and departments?

A. I think it has to be discussed with the Prime Minister. At present, the Premier is out of the country. Once, the Premier returns to the country, steps will be take to gazette the new Ministries and the departments coming under their purview. 

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