Focus/Spotlight

Investing in the real future

  • Committee follows stringent criteria to prevent any political influence

By Sarah Hannan

Setting in motion one of the activities President Gotabaya Rajapaksa envisaged in his election manifesto “Vision for Progress”, the recruitment of 100,000 unskilled youths to the Multi-Purpose Development Task Force commenced during late January this year.

With Parliament dissolved and the dates for the election announced, this activity had to be put on hold as officials of the Department of Multi-Purpose Development Task Force (DMPDTF) received information that politicians were misusing this to offer job opportunities to their supporters.

The Department, headed by Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Nanda Mallawaarachchi, had appointed a committee to investigate any foul play, only to find out that there had been some applications that belonged to persons that did not meet the criteria and were above the social category of what was defined as low-income families.

The Sunday Morning contacted Presidential Media Division (PMD) Director General Mohan Samaranayake to seek clarification as to the status of the activity and whether the recruitment was halted following the finding.

Responding, Samaranayake revealed: “President Rajapaksa never wanted to politicise his election manifesto, especially the 100,000 jobs that were on offer for unskilled persons that were allowed to apply for the opportunity. However, when the DMPDTF, which was overseeing the recruitment process, was informed of the activity being politicised, it had to be halted.”

Samaranayake further explained that since it is the pre-election campaigning period at present, the activity will be halted, and will be revisited after the election is completed.

“Applications for the mass recruitment process were called on 20 January 2020 and were widely publicised through print, electronic, and online media outlets. Applications were also made available for download through the Ministry of Home Affairs site, and also with the local government authorities and grama niladharis of the respective grama niladhari division.

“The scheme was designed to recruit youths belonging to poverty-stricken families, and the jobs were to provide them an income and raise the living standards of those families.”

Once recruited, they would be provided with skills training and would be deployed to different public sector institutions for employment. The deployments would be to institutions closer to their residences. Unemployed graduates would also be considered as recruits that would be able to manage the recruitment process, and would also be provided training and a job to match their skillsets.

The youths would be employed in hospitals and government offices as unskilled workers, and in other departments such as Fisheries and Wildlife after training them in the required skills. They would also be trained in skills such as carpentry, mason, and other such vocations and be deployed to the government service where such workers are required.

President’s Secretary Dr. P.B. Jayasundera, during the initiation of the scheme, said: “This would help to reduce the annual expenditure of Rs. 2 billion spent on importing agriproducts to a minimum level. Under another phase, it is also expected to provide foreign employment opportunities based on their capabilities and skills. It has been planned to link them to a pension scheme upon completion of 10 years of service.”

Vision

Just last month, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between the Government and the National Apprentice and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA) to train a workforce of 100,000 people from low-income families to be employed as permanent government employees.

NAITA, DMPDTF, and the Tertiary and Vocational Education Commission (TVEC) entered into the MoU to provide “industrial-based apprenticeship training” for males and females recruited under the scheme aged between 18 to 45 years.

Prior to giving appointments, the beneficiaries would be given six-month trainings in the fields of health, environment, industry, agriculture, and security, and would undergo two weeks of personality development under the MoU, which envisioned the attainment of “sustainable and exclusive strategy goals”, steered by the DMPDTF to create a Sri Lanka free of poverty.

They will be awarded Level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certificates at the end of the training. The project will benefit the segment of regular wage earners in society, and the country would benefit from their labour and practical expertise, according to the strategy envisaged.

During the first phase, 100,000 jobs will be provided covering the entire island. Around 30,000 more indirect employment opportunities will also be generated. More than 10,000 graduates will be recruited for the positions of management and monitoring at the field level.

300-350 persons from each divisional secretariat were to be recruited under the scheme and the prospective youths were to be called in for interviews by their respective divisional secretariats. The recruitment was conducted under the supervision of Buddhist monks and other heads of religious places, government agents, and public officials.