(Island Opinion Page)
I am sure readers would have been at their wits end trying to figure out the basis on which the assignment of subjects and functions had been determined, following the recent reshuffle of Ministerial portfolios. Such an exercise should necessarily entail the allocation of subjects and functions in a logical and feasible manner, enabling their accommodation within an integral framework falling within the defined end objectives of a Ministerial assignment. One is therefore baffled by the arbitrary manner in which some subjects and functions have been shoved into some Ministries where they stand out as unique incongruities! One wonders what rationale or the reverse of it, made the concerned authorities decide on these peculiar juxtapositions which, to many of us, would defy logical comprehension!
One could perhaps charitably attribute these unique arrangements to the sad hiatus in ability and competence seen in Parliamentarians, some of whom are literally ‘unlettered’ and hence woefully ill-equipped to handle serious national level programs with the required competence. Left with little alternative, the concerned authorities may have had recourse to these ad hoc measures, trying to make do with whatever is available! In this context, it is indeed heartening to see a person of the calibre of Tilak Marapana being brought into the Cabinet and given certain important assignments.
When this writer functioned as an Addl. Secy. to the President, even a strong willed person like President Premadasa, left this exercise of the allocation of subjects and functions among Ministries, entirely in the hands of the Secretary/President and the three Additional Secretaries.
President Premadasa perhaps knew how to get things done in the best possible manner, by the people he believed, had the knowledge and the competence to carry out particular assignments. I still vividly recall how, while the 1989 General Election results were still coming in, the four of us worked right through the night, allocating subjects and functions among the different Ministries in a rational and practical manner. Although President Premadasa dropped in a few times just to see how we were progressing with our work, he never interfered with our work. He, however, thoughtfully ensured that we were provided with dinner and snacks throughout the night from Hotel Intercontinental which was just across the road. I must add here that this procedure was followed by both Presidents Wijetunge and Kumaratunga during their terms as President.
The current predicament the authorities find themselves in is appreciated, as the scenarios obtaining in the earlier periods referred to, were different from the socio –political scenario that obtains today. However, the totally irrational assignment of certain subjects and functions coming in the wake of the recent Cabinet re- shuffle cannot be justified on any account.
So many times have we seen and heard in the media that the defeat of Mahinda Rajapaksa is called a “Foreign engineered” one. The latest one was by Dr Upul Wijayawardhana (I presume an expatriate) in “May-hem” in “The Island”of June 12. This is an insult to the 62 lakhs of locals, including me, who did vote against him (I prefer to say against him – not for MS). And, also this 62l lakhs of locals fortunately had an opportunity to prevent a “Foreign engineered” ousting as happened in Iraq and Libya.
Deshapriya Rajapaksha, Battaramulla
Importance of ethnic and religious harmony
Sri Lanka is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious country. We have Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Muslims living in here.
All these communities have been living peacefully for centuries. After independence, we sometimes try to divide according to ethnic identities. Sometimes, there is suspicion and distrust towards each other. Selfish Politicians are responsible for this situation.
In Sri Lanka, we have a culture of non-violence, respect, peace, love, understanding and affection among communities. We must protect these values.
If we are to develop as a country, it is very important that we have ethnic and religious harmony. Very often our politicians have failed to settle some issues related to religious and ethnic matters. If we look at the world, we can see that the countries that have developed have religious and ethnic harmony among their communities. It is, therefore, extremely important that both the rulers and the subjects cultivate the desire and objective to form a society where we as a nation would experience co-existence.
We must have mutual trust, love, kindness, humane qualities and affection. These are the teachings of our religions. We have to make necessary changes in our systems for the benefit of the country and people, and carry out the necessary changes so that all citizens can easily carry out their work and have freedom to practice their religion of choice.
D. Weeratunga, Nugegoda
SATHOSA – doing different to saying
Apropos news item in The Island of June 12, the Minister in charge has claimed that the turnover of SATHOSA has reached Rs. 30 Billion, quite a creditable performance. I am proud to be an ex-employee of SATHOSA about this performance. However, during my days the Chief Accountant prepares his report and the government Audit Department scrutinized the report before submitting it to the COPE with his comments. The profits or losses are indicated in the report.
Talking about turnover only does not highlight the current situation of the institution. Is the institution being subsidized by the state? If so, the statement of the Minister becomes a hollow pomposity.
The minister further states that plans are afoot to appoint 8000 franchise holders. This kind of franchise scheme was tested during Minister Kingsly Wickramaratne’s time, resulting in greater losses to SATHOSA. The Franchisees will purchase goods, especially provisions, such as Dhal, Rice, Dried Chillies etc and sell at black market prices. There is no system to check this black marketing. A repetition of the same mistake is being done at the expense of government funds.
It is also reported that recruitment of personnel has been handed over to KPMG to ensure that only qualified persons would be taken in. Well and good. Minister Bathiuddin will then be the only Minister who does not recruit supporters to the institutes under him.
“Kiyanakota ehemai, Karanakota Mehemai
“Say something and do something else” The jaggery supplier to the King’s court claimed that he used gold implements, wearing clean white clothes and masks. The King made a surprise visit to the jaggery maker and found that the latter was preparing jaggery with rusted metal implements wearing a loin cloth, and his sweat dropping into the pot.
Upali Cooray, Former General Manager (SATHOSA)
Don’t sell national assets
It was only a few weeks ago that I wrote to congratulate a Fellow Member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, the former Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake, for being awarded the “Banker Award” “recognising him as the best Finance Minister of Asia Pacific Region”. But what happened during the Cabinet Reshuffle can be described somewhat like “musical chairs’ to find ‘round holes for square pegs’!
During the last two years of this government, their development policy seems to be trying to find buyers for our National Assets. An offer to buy any asset is only because the buyer can make a profit on their investment, and not out of charity. If these foreigners could operate our valuable assets to earn a profit, surely we have in our country administrators of proven ability who are capable of successfully and profitably operating these projects. No good administrator will allow his politics to interfere in the discharge of his responsibilities.
In the UK, during Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Labour government, when he found the British Railways was operating at a loss, he appointed, if my memory serves me right, the deputy chairman of a well known private conglomerate and within two years he turned it around! I mentioned this only to get our government to consider a policy rethink and to use our own capable men and women to operate these assets profitably without opting for divestiture.
P. S. Mahawatte, Colombo 5