People suffer due to endless tug o’ war with public officials - President
President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has directed that officials with decision-making powers must attend District and Regional Development Committee meetings to implement people-centric projects.
The President stated that from the outset of the ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme, he realised that the lack of proper involvement of responsible officials was the main reason for the delay in implementing useful projects and the loss of benefits to the people.
The people are suffering due to the endless tug-of- war between officials, respective institutions and the people's representatives. The President reiterated the need for responsible officials of all key institutions including wildlife, forest conservation, environment and road development to take collective decisions to implement projects.
The absence of proper planning in land use was not the fault of the people, President Rajapaksa said while adding that it is important that officials go to the grassroots to see the real situation, when providing long-term solutions to many rural problems, including land issues. Some people misinterpret policy decisions that are taken for the benefit of the people. President Rajapaksa said he will never allow the real issues faced by the people to be swept under the carpet by misinterpreting instructions, as an excuse.
The President was speaking at the 11th ‘Discussion with the Village’ programme on Saturday (20) at the Nelumwewa Community Hall premises in the Paligama Grama Niladhari Division in the Puttalam District.
“The poorest and most difficult villages in the island are selected as venues for the programme. People living in these villages were suffering with numerous unresolved issues for a long time. These problems cannot be solved from an official’s or party perspective. Officials and villagers can make the right decisions by meeting one another,” the President told the gathering at the Nelumwewa Community Hall.
The programme commenced on 25 September 2020 from Badulla District. Programmes were organised covering Matale, Ratnapura, Anuradhapura, Ampara, Polonnaruwa, Kalutara, Moneragala, Kegalle and Kandy Districts. The idea being for the President to directly talk to rural communities in remote areas without intermediaries about their long-standing problems and to present them to officials to find solutions. Problems that can be solved on the spot are instantly addressed. Those for which immediate solutions could not be found are noted and will be dealt with later. The objective is to reach out to the people, understand their problems and find solutions, giving due consideration to their suggestions.
Paligama village is located 23km away from Puttalam town, bordering Nawagattegama and Anamaduwa Divisional Secretariat areas. This village is mentioned in folklore as the village where the shield of King Dutugemunu fell. It later came to be known as ‘Paligama’. Neliwewa, Siyambalawewa, Nelumwewa, Rajavigama and Heenatikalma fall under the limits of the Paligama Grama Niladhari Division. 78 families from Wariyapola, Yapahuwa, Nikaweratiya and Hiriyala areas who had to be evicted due to the Deduru Oya Project have been resettled in the village under the first phase. Currently, the total population of Paligama is 1,533 consisting of 447 families. Of them 171 families are Samurdhi beneficiaries. Paddy and chena cultivation are the main livelihood of the people of the village.
Damage to crops and loss of human lives caused by the wild elephant intrusions is a serious and long-standing issue faced by the people in the area. President Rajapaksa said the need for well-planned, sustainable and lasting solutions to these problems should be found without resorting to ad-hoc remedies. The President pointed out that for the success of a long-term solution, measures should be taken to construct tanks inside the forest area, plant trees that provide food for wild elephants, activate electric fences and digging of trenches should be carried out expeditiously.
President Rajapaksa dealing with shortcomings that he saw on his way to Paligama said, canals were neglected and tanks were covered with weeds. He said no attention has been paid to uplift the lives of the people. He added that steps should be taken to increase the yield as well.
The President assessed the educational needs of the area and instructed officials to develop the buildings, playgrounds and other infrastructure facilities and address the teacher shortage in Rajavigama Junior School, Muriyakulama Junior School, Aluthgama Dutugemunu School, Anamaduwa U.B. Jayasuriya Vidyalaya, Inginimitiya Maha Vidyalaya and Galawewa Maha Vidyalaya.
He directed officials to come up with a strategy to fulfil human resource requirements of every school in the country within five years and to design a simple and cost-effective plan to construct buildings covering the larger part of schools in remote areas.
Salination of drinking water sources was another major problem faced by these people. Ways and means of meeting drinking water requirements of a number of villages in the Puttalam District were discussed at length.
President Rajapaksa inquired from officials about the delays in implementing irrigation development projects in the area.
The President stressed the need to expedite development of tanks and dams in Heenatikalma Wewa, Nelum Wewa, Moragaha Wewa, Inginimitiya, Tabbowa, Puliamkulama and Kahatapiliyawa areas. It was also decided to implement the water diversion project from Rajangana reservoir to Karuwalagaswewa under a new plan.
The President said steps should be taken to develop infrastructure facilities in Anamaduwa, Chilaw, Nawagattegama, Tabbowa and Aluthwewa hospitals and to resolve the shortage of medical, nursing and other staff.
The President handed over two laptops donated by SLT Mobitel, a TV and internet connection donated by Dialog Axiata were handed over to principals of the Rajavigama and Muriyakulama Junior schools.
N.K. Wijeratne, a farmer residing in Wanathawilluwa area handed over Rs 50,000 to the President as a donation to the COVID-19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund.
North Western Province Governor Raja Collure, State Ministers Sanath Nishantha, Piyankara Jayaratne, Arundika Fernando, MPs Chinthaka Amal Mayadunne, Ashoka Priyantha, Ali Sabri Raheem, Former MP Dayasritha Tissera, Principal Advisor to the President Lalith Weeratunga, People’s Representatives of the District, Secretaries to Ministries, Heads of Government Institutions, Security Forces officials and a large number of people were present at the 11th programme in Paligama.