A colony of leeches sucking the blood of the taxpayers

Of that farce

Island Editorial

The Yahapalana Mountain, having been in labour for several months, delivered a tiny mouse yesterday. The country saw a mini Cabinet reshuffle. Those who had naively expected a radical Cabinet shake-up were disappointed. The government has sought to pull the wool over the eyes of the irate people who are demanding some economic relief immediately. The task of improving the performance of a government is not something that could be accomplished through a Cabinet reshuffle.

There is reason to believe that differences between the SLFP and the UNP over sharing ministerial posts compelled the government to scale down yesterday’s Cabinet ‘reshuffle’. Some UNP backbenchers representing the UNP’s ginger group made their ministerial ambitions known to their leaders, but in vain; they must be disillusioned and incensed.

Mangala Samaraweera has lost the foreign affairs portfolio and got finance instead. Ravi Karunanayake has been stripped of the finance portfolio and made the Foreign Minister. This is the only significant change in the Cabinet, we reckon. Now, we have a former finance minister with an economist as his deputy handling the country’s foreign affairs and a former foreign minister running the Finance Ministry!

Yesterday’s minor Cabinet reshuffle must have caused some embarrassment to the prestigious Banker magazine, which adjudged Karunanayake the best finance minister of Asia-Pacific. The yahapalana leaders have apparently considered Samaraweera without such credentials better than the Banker’s choice!

The government is mistaken if it thinks it can lay the blame for its failure on the economic front at Karunanayake’s doorstep, and dupe the public into believing that everything will be rosy after his removal from the Finance Ministry. That particular change may have gone down well with the public, but there is no way an individual minister can succeed when the overall performance of the government remains abysmally low. It is doubtful whether Samaraweera will succeed where Karunanayake failed. For, all vital decisions on the national economy are taken by a cabal.

The government has craftily used yesterday’s Cabinet ‘reshuffle’ to increase the number of ministers with Tilak Marapana, who resigned as Minister of Law and Orders over a conflict of interest as regards the Avant Garde issue being appointed Special Development Assignment minister. One wonders why there should be a minister in charge of something that is conspicuous by its absence under the present regime—development.

Arjuna Ranatunga has lost Ports and got Petroleum. He will now have to bite the bullet and do as his leaders say in respect of the government move to hand over the Trincomalee oil tanks to India or face trouble. Earlier, he had to contend with trade union unrest over the Hambantota port and land deal. He won’t have any peace of mind, given the oil workers’ campaign against the Trinco deal.

Cartoon from Divayna

Curiously, Samaraweera has been given the media portfolio as well. He is a former media minister. Is it that the government wants a person to carry out its propaganda campaign aggressively and does not consider Gayantha Karunathilake equal to the task?

The government cannot shore up its crumbling image through Cabinet reshuffles. President Maithripala Sirisena ought to explain why no action has so far been taken against any minister over the Treasury bond rackets. A fish, as they say, rots from the head down, and the President is making a vain attempt to sanitize its tail!

This country has too many ministers. They are a colony of leeches thriving at the expense of the public. If Japan, an economic powerhouse, can manage its affairs with a 20-member Cabinet, Sri Lanka, dependent on economic aid from that country must not have more than 12 Cabinet ministers. Increasing the number of ministries to please greedy politicians, especially defeated candidates, is tantamount to a gross abuse of public funds. Realpolitik cannot be cited in justification of violating the principle of good governance.