South Asia

Sri Lankan minister who tied up official is sacked

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

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa has sacked a minister who tied a government official to a tree last week in the capital, Colombo.

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

Officials say the president sacked Mr Silva after he was suspended from the Sri Lanka Freedom Party.

They say that he is currently undergoing disciplinary action.

Officials say that the dismissed minister has been "involved in a number of controversial incidents" and had "failed to discipline himself despite multiple warnings".

'Colourful' reputation

Mr Silva - who organised and attended a series of meetings to discuss the outbreak of dengue fever - was angry that the official he tied up did not attend any of them.

Correspondents say he has a reputation as colourful politician.

Mr Silva told the BBC last week that he tied the official up to warn him 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.

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

Humiliation punishment

The incident was widely criticised across the island, with Sri Lanka Administrative Services Association Secretary DP Wickremasinghe describing it as "totally unacceptable".

A controversial minister, Mr Silva has been accused by rights groups of constantly threatening the media.

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 Rajapaksa, but 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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