South Asia

'Errant' Sri Lankan official tied up by minister

Mervyn Silva (left) and the tied-up official
Image caption Mr Silva (left) allowed himself to be filmed alongside the bound official

One of Sri Lanka's top civil service unions has condemned an incident in which an official was tied to a tree by a government minister in Colombo.

Deputy Highways Minister Mervyn Silva tied the official up after accusing him of not attending meetings to discuss a dengue fever outbreak.

Mr Silva - who organised and attended the meetings - was angry that the official was not there.

Correspondents say he has a reputation as colourful politician.

Mr Silva told the BBC that he tied up the official as a warning to the official of the seriousness of not tackling dengue fever.

"I did not do it to demean the public services or humiliate him," he said.

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease that causes severe head, muscle and joint pains. In severe cases it can be fatal.

It has caused 100 deaths in Sri Lanka so far this year, prompting the government to declare this week National Dengue Prevention Week.

'Disheartening'

Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association Secretary DP Wickremasinghe said of the incident: "This is unacceptable and we thoroughly condemn it.

"There are approved procedures to discipline government officials and this is inappropriate," he told the BBC.

"In a time when the president is inviting [Sri Lankans living] abroad to come [home] and join the public sector, this is disheartening and will have a negative effect.

"The entire public service will be disappointed."

The controversial minister, who is accused by rights groups of constantly threatening the media, was reported to have verbally abused female civil servants who criticised his actions.

Correspondents say that tying people to trees is a punishment that is traditionally used in Sri Lanka to humiliate people - especially errant children.

Mr Silva was appointed deputy media minister by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, but he later resigned and was reappointed as highways minister.

The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) group described his ministerial appointments as akin to employing "an arsonist to put out fires".

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