This is a problem of the people I AM READY TO HELP IF ASKED ­— Gotabaya Rajapaksa
Posted on April 23rd, 2017

By Tissa Ravindra Perera Courtesy The Nation

Former defence secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa lspoke to our sister paper Sunday Rivira about the macro plans launched by him during the previous regime to tackle Colombo’s garbage managemment issues and the interventions readied to tackle the problem scientifically.

Q: Politicians allege that you and the previous government are responsible for the tragedy involving the deadly Meetotamulla garbage mountain. What do you have to say about this?

Two years after forming a government, we ended the war completely. Yet these people even after two and a half years in governance are not able to solve even the issue pertaining to garbage and are still blaming us. Unlike these people we did not blame President Chandrika Bandaranaike Kumaratunga of the previous government. We did the job properly.

Q: You were the Defence Secretary of the previous government. Why are these people making allegations against you?

The main aspect is that the garbage issue wasn’t my responsibility. I was neither the Minister of Environment nor the Secretary – Ministry of Environment. Yet, when I was getting the Urban Development Authority (UDA) to do the programme involving the beautification of Colombo, I understood the seriousness of the garbage issue in Colombo. At a time when the Colombo Municipal Council (CMC) was unable to handle this, I took this on. In the end, to beautify Colombo it was like me heaping some garbage from somewhere else upon myself.

Q: How did you implement this?

We didn’t just start the project of removing Colombo’s garbage. We had a macro-plan. We started it with the World Bank. The World Bank studied the  issues and spent money on it. That is how we planned to take the garbage mountain in Colombo to Puttalam. We cannot just go and dump the garbage mountain in Puttalam. After conducting several rounds of discussions with the Department of Railways, it was decided that a rail track should be constructed in Meetotamulla.

Q: What happened afterwards?

It was in 2013 that we started this project along with the World Bank. It took about one and a half years to completely plan this. This is not like just dumping garbage into a pit. It is according to a proper system that we must dispose of garbage at the chosen landfill in Puttalam. Subsequently, we put the entire plan to the Cabinet and obtained approval. From the 2014 Budget, money was allocated for this. It was in 2015 when the garbage disposal project was to be started that the change of government took place.

Q: What you are saying is that it was when  everything had been planned that this  process came to a halt?

Yes. It was when we were to launch the complete project that the government was toppled. Yet, even the honest officers I had appointed for the project too were suddenly transferred. In the end, the project stopped halfway.

Q:How did the World Bank project come to a halt?

I appointed Rohan Seneviratne, who was then a Deputy General Manager at the Ceylon Electricity Board as an Additional Secretary – Ministry of Defence, solely for the purpose of the Colombo development project. He was to be the person in charge of the Metro Colombo development project. It was because he was a talented and honest officer that this project was entrusted to him. The Colombo development project was to be implemented under a five year plan done with the World Bank. We studied the taskfor three years. It was under that project we studied the project of managing Colombo’s waste and transporting it to Puttalam. In the end, with the change of government, the programme of developing Colombo too came to a halt midway. Even though the World Bank project wasn’t completed, we discussed and provided solutions to problems faced by the people in the surrounding areas. We collected the garbage from the dump in a proper manner. We deployed the army and cut drains around it and made sure that water flowed freely. Because we did everything in a planned manner, there was no risk to the people in the adjacent areas.

Q: What you are saying is that officials of the current government ignored this?

These people have not done any management. They just brought and dumped the garbage. If the disposal of garbage was properly managed, none of these issues would have arisen. When I was the Defence Secretary I went to the garbage mountain and checked whether things were taking place properly. Garbage was temporarily dumped here prior to taking it to Puttalam.

Q: During that period, didn’t you realize that there was a risk to those around?

After studying all of this we relocated people nearest to the garbage mountain and gave them houses. I provided 300 houses of the UDA to the CMC. Out of these, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa himself went to Kolonnawa and officially handed over 150. You have to ask the Colombo Municipal Council what happened to the balance houses.

Q: Today, no one talks about the work done in managing waste properly and planning to take it to Puttalam and providing the people of Meetotamulla residences.

According to the proper plan, we organized projects. Before we could finish the rest, the change of government occurred. If that didn’t happen, the garbage problem would have been solved by now. Without continuing the projects that we started, they (present government) are blaming us. There is no talk about the work we did. When they came to know of an emergency situation, they could have relocated the dwellers nearby to safe places. During my time work on some of the UDA’s housing projects in those areas was being completed and is still being completed now. The people could at least have been settled in those houses.

Q: If they request for your help in solving this issue, will you give it?

I will definitely. This is because it is a challenge we must overcome. This is a problem of the people. Each day tons of garbage gets accumulated in Colombo. At least now, attention must be paid to managing waste properly and solving the garbage problem.



7 Responses to “This is a problem of the people I AM READY TO HELP IF ASKED ­— Gotabaya Rajapaksa”

  1. Hiranthe Says:

    You are a great care taker and a visionary for Mother Lanka Sir!!

    Ungrateful people can not see the value of people like you.

  2. Dilrook Says:

    Gotabhaya summed up very well.

    [Quote] In the end, to beautify Colombo it was like me heaping some garbage from somewhere else upon myself. [Unquote]

    This is the problem because his solution only transferred the problem from Colombo to Meethotamulla (then to Puttlam) without resolving it. It would have been much better if CMC was allowed to fix their garbage problem within the CMC area. That would force them to look at recycling. They have the funds for it as CMC is very rich.

    The Puttlam proposal makes no sense at all. A young man has invented a machine to recycle garbage in large quantities. This is a good start.

  3. Ratanapala Says:

    There is no point in trying to reinvent the wheel. Elsewhere in the world people have found solutions to garbage disposal. There are high tech measures and low tech measures. There are high cost measures and low cost measures. There are low volume and high volume measures. There are ways in which garbage can be made to produce heat and thereby useful electrical energy.

    Sri Lanka must go into something that is practical and if possible low tech according to our capabilities. There is no point in talking very high tech measures of combusting garbage to produce gas and then electricity, when we are still incompetent in producing power from a comparatively highly concentrated form of energy such as coal. The problems at Norochcholai is not so much the problem of the power station, but so much to do with the inability and inexperience of the people who handle it. In the best of times coal power plants are messy, prone to fires and frequent breakdowns. Now you can imagine trying to do the same with Garbage. For example Fluid Bed Technology is available for such purposes but it should be handled by very competent engineers and technicians.

    Ceylon Steel Corporation at Aturugiriya tried to implement a project in late 70s with the Continuous Steel Casting technology, which was quite new, even to advanced countries at the time. The result was utter and complete failure. The plant did not even run for one day successfully. Fluid Bed Technology for producing steam out of garbage and then power would be similar.

    Then I have just heard that a young engineer has turned out a machine for recycling garbage in large quantities. Best thing is to get him to make a pilot scale project, prove it and then see how this machine can be successfully upscaled to take on larger volumes in the scale of Meethotamulla.

    On the other hand there is the practical aspect and the reasonable way of following up how others handle this problem in other countries. This is what our war hero Gotabhaya Rajapakse proposed to carryout, but unfortunately due to sheer jealousy and contempt the current Jadapalana government has abandoned now with disastrous results. Similar to the Port City Project, Hambantota Port and Mattala Airport, the current Jadapalanaya did not have the courage to follow up on project on the proposal to take Colombo garbage to abandoned lime stone quarries in Putnam!

  4. Fran Diaz Says:

    We agree with Ratanapala. Thank you, Ratanapala.


    It was part of the Grand Plan by Yahap to ditch ALL the big and potentially successful projects coming from the MR Govt. The Meethotamulla tragedy became a part of it when Yahap ditched the moving of the garbage to a safe area.

    If the World Bank did a scientific study on the problem and decided that it is feasible to move the garbage to the Putlam limestone quarry, then it ought to have been done. By then, the parts of the garbage at the bottom of the vast heap might have disintegrated into some kind of manure which may have been used in the Meethotamulla area itself, and the rest movable part could have been taken to Putlam in a safe way. Secured Plastic covers could have been used in the train trollies carrying the garbage to ensure safety of transport without spillage. All this is common sense ……
    The limestone quarry is garbage going down into the earth, not heaped on top of earth as in the Dump now. As such, the quarry, once filled with garbage could be buried under some earth too, ensuring further safety.

    It is not too late to carry out Gota’s project. Thank you, Gota, for your caring concern, done even though out of your sphere of work.

    It appears that certain powers who do NOT want places such as Lanka to succeed, will down successful leaders, for one reason or the other ?

    O tempora !

  5. Fran Diaz Says:

    I ought to say ” …. will down successful leaders, for one false reason or the other ?”

  6. Cerberus Says:

    I do not understand why some people are criticizing Gota. He acted in a rational and responsible way to solve the problem. He contacted the World Bank who are experts in doing feasibility studies on projects, and together they came up with the plan to ship the garbage to the disused quarry in Puttalam. At the time he did it we have to remember the country was just recovering from a 30-year war which had decimated the country. Everything was in shambles including the roads, the railways, the general infrastructure. Yet Gota was able to beautify the city and make it sparkle. Now those corrupt fellows in Yahapalanaya have done nothing for two years for Colombo. Not sure how they spend their time.

    This present Govt came into power with a small margin mainly from the minorities and immediately broke all the constitutional laws. My3 appointed Ranil when there was a PM already in place. He then broke the Election laws by speaking against MR two days before the election saying he will not appoint him as the PM even if he won. He removed the people gazetted in the National list and appointed a whole bunch of losers as members of Parliament from his own National list. Ranil then did what I think is a criminal act against the country by importing a Singaporean Arjun Mahendran as the head of the Central Bank who did a massive bond scam which was a clear case of insider trading. After two years they are still investigating. My guess will all the players will get off scot free leaving the taxpayer to bear the burden.

    The Yahapalanaya Govt had no plans to develop the country. The plans that MR govt had were all stopped and Ranil set about his plan to crash the country and sell it off. He used the money from the bond scam to save the UNP from bankruptcy since they were Rs. 3 billion in debt and had enough money left over to probably buy up all the politicians he needed to buy for August 2015 election. When we compare what MR Govt did in a short time after the war ended in 2009 May to 2015 January the achievements of MR Govt are tremendous. They did the roads, developed the Hambantota harbor, built hospitals, schools, science laboratories all over the place. He renovated and built many temples. They spent a lot of the development money in the north and east since the LTTE had completely destroyed all the infrastructure including even the railway tracks. The only thing this bunch of Yahapalanaya did was to keep investigating MR to find the $18 billion which Rajitha and Mangala claimed MR had stolen. Even if Yahapalanaya tells lies they must tell believable lies! If MR had stolen so much how did he do all the work he did? The current Govt has borrowed as much as he did in the 9 years within the two years they have been in power and there is nothing to show for it.

    From my limited experience about waste management in the USA I can tell you the following:
    1. Recycling in the USA was introduced around 2012. Many cities mandated recycling of packaging waste.
    2. Many landfills for the organic matter have facilities to extract the Methane that is produced and use it for energy generation. This has two effects. It creates wealth and also saves the environment from the Methane escaping into the atmosphere. As we all know Methane is 23 times worse than CO2 in respect of Global warming.
    3. The sorting depots employ people at minimum wage to sort garbage. The metal (steel cans) are picked up by magnets from the belt, the glass and plastic are sorted by hand while the Aluminium which has a high value is sorted separately.
    3. There are many recyclers who pay people for these materials since there is a deposit charged on cans and bottles when they are packaged. These companies make a profit because of the deposit. I have seen poor people sometimes collecting these cans and bottles to make a few bucks.

  7. Lorenzo Says:

    I have SHORTLISTED 3 sites for garbage disposal.


    They are ALREADY filled with garbage. More wouldn’t harm.

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