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Agriculture Secretary sacked, bringing fourth change to post this year 

23 Dec 2021

  • Removal follows organic agriculture policy criticism
BY Buddhika Samaraweera President Gotabaya Rajapaksa has decided to remove Prof. Udith K. Jayasinghe-Mudalige from the post of Ministry of Agriculture Secretary and appoint D.M.L.D. Bandaranayake to the said post with immediate effect, according to the President’s Media Division (PMD), making the latter the fourth such appointee to occupy the said office during the course of this year. Following the resignation of former Ministry of Agriculture Secretary Rohana Pushpakumara, then University of Wayamba Vice Chancellor Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige was appointed to the post in June 2021. Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige had been removed from the post following some controversial remarks made by him regarding the Government’s programme towards green agriculture on Tuesday (21). Speaking to the media, he has stated that the switch from chemical to organic fertiliser was not rushed, but was instead wrong. He also said that there were certain parties who had advised the political authorities incorrectly with regard to the organic fertiliser programme. “There are some people who I would not like to mention, but have advised the political authorities incorrectly. Management comes after science. I am not stressed, but that does not mean that I am not disappointed. I am disappointed. I have regrets as well,” he concluded. Speaking to the media, he had also stated that there is a possibility of a food shortage due to the crisis situation in the country. He said that if there would be any such shortage of food, it would be necessary to resort to a food exchange system. “If we have a surplus of maize, we can ask another country for some other food,” he said. He further said that if there is a shortage of food, it would be necessary to reduce food for groups like youngsters, thereby giving priority in the food supply to pregnant and lactating mothers, children, and the sick. Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige and the Ministry of Agriculture were not available for comment. However, when contacted by The Morning, President’s Spokesman Kingsly Rathnayaka said that the President had appointed Bandaranayake as the Ministry of Agriculture Secretary, following discussions with Minister of Agriculture Mahindananda Aluthgamage. Since the current Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Government came into power, the Ministry of Agriculture has seen a significant number of terminations and resignations. Former Ministry of Agriculture Secretary, Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Sumedha Perera resigned last February citing personal reasons, following which Pushpakumara was appointed to the said post on 1 March. Accordingly, Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige was the third person to be appointed as the Ministry of Agriculture Secretary for the year, with Bandaranayake now being the fourth. Former Paddy Marketing Board (PMB) – an institution which comes under the Ministry of Agriculture – Chairman Dr. Jatal Mannapperuma also tendered his resignation from the said post on 15 September, 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. Furthermore, Aluthgamage had instructed Prof. Jayasinghe-Mudalige to remove former Ministry of Agriculture Advisor Prof. Buddhi Marambe from all posts held by him in the Ministry in October. Prof. Marambe, who was the Chairman of the Policy Planning Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, was removed from the position for reportedly criticising the 100% organic fertiliser programme of the Government. Meanwhile, Aluthgamage last month removed the former Registrar of Pesticides Dr. J.A. Sumith, who issued an Extraordinary Gazette notification on 22 November, lifting the ban on five types of agrochemicals including the herbicide glyphosate.

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