30 September, 2020

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A Multiplicity Of Ministers

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Political Machinations: A multiplicity of Ministers

In getting ready material for the consultations I have been having with the young people concerned about constitutional reform, I finally counted up the number of Ministers we have. In fact the figure comes to less than 100, far fewer than the number of Ministers President Jayewardene had in his heyday, with far fewer Members of Parliament, on his side and taken as a whole.

His record included District Ministers too, so that 2/3  of Members of Parliament were Ministers in the eighties, and ¾ of the Government Parliamentary Group. Contrary to the hype of those critics of the current government who have forgotten completely the excesses of the past, things are better now.

But this still does not make them good. It is quite preposterous that Sri Lanka should have 65 Cabinet Ministers (along with 2 Project Ministers) plus 27 Deputy Ministers. In addition there are 4 Monitoring Ministers, as far as I know. This is fewer than I thought, but I realize now that the claim that Members of Parliament were asked to apply for these positions was not correct. I was under the impression, when I was told that I had failed to ask when applications were called, that National List MPs had not been included in the notice, but I find that others were left out too.

In fact I think the whole exercise was mainly to place Sajin Vas Goonewardene in the Ministry of External Affairs, which seemed essential at the time, given that the administration there had collapsed. The President has highlighted the fact that, after his appointment, letters were being answered, and for that he should be given credit. But the situation was unusual there, in that the Minister is particularly dysfunctional, and the Secretary, who had a sterling reputation for dedication and hard work, happened to be very sick. Certainly I have no doubt that Romesh Jayasinghe’s illness and premature death had a lot to do with the hijacking of our foreign policy, in the first years of the present government, by forces that thought our victory over terrorism a terrible mistake.

The only other two Monitoring MPs appointed at the time, as far as I know, were Duminda Silva and Uditha Lokubandara, to the Ministry of Defence, which is one of the few Ministries that does not need monitoring at all. That is why the whole exercise, the title as well as the hype about such monitoring, seems to me a huge joke, though it served a practical purpose a little later when Mohanlal Grero was appointed Monitoring MP of the Ministry of Education.

He certainly is a distinguished and knowledgeable professional in the field, and he tried to do much. I think it was because of him that the effort to introduce a new Education Act was revived, when it had become moribund. But recently it seems that he has acknowledged defeat, which I fear hardly anyone could have avoided, given the hidebound nature of the Ministry. The place saw three secretaries in as many years, and I do not know if even an Edward Wijemanne or a Tara de Mel would be able, in the present situation, to improve the situation.

Including Monitoring MPs then, we have close upon a hundred Members of Parliament with executive responsibilities. This is clearly unnecessary, as the plethora of titles they have make clear. Sugar and coconut have their own Ministers, as has Botanical Gardens. We have Ministers for productivity and administrative reforms, both areas in which there has been little improvement, and no signs of plans that are taken seriously by other Ministries. We have 10 Senior Ministers, one of whom is also a Junior Minister – and does more for the Executive inside Parliament than almost any other Minister.

Indeed, looking at the manner in which Ministries have been established, the concept of Monitoring MPs, the recent creation of two Project Ministers with identical titles, 10 Senior Ministers sharing a Secretariat, one gets the impression that someone in charge of policy has a superb sense of humour. I am sure therefore that soon Sarath Amunugama, perhaps the saddest victim of the delay in finalizing the election results in 2010, will soon be made a Minister too, so that he can be the first Minister in the world to score a simultaneous hat trick, in being three types of Minister as the same time.

When I say saddest, I do not mean sad for him, but rather for the country, given that he is the most able and articulate Minister we have. It is arguable that one or two others may be more able, and one or two others more articulate (though not in both languages), but for both qualities together, he is incomparable. He also has a sense of humour, which is one reason he comes out so well in the cut and thrust of Parliamentary debate, even when the brief he is handling is a difficult one.

Why then is he not a Minister? The short answer, based also on the fact that he is supposed to have volunteered to be a Junior Minister when, way back in 2010 the President wanted to restrict the Cabinet to 40, is that he does not need the perks that, for many Ministers, is the main point of holding executive office. These are massive, beginning with the opportunity to bestow jobs on vast numbers, some of them even officially in the sole gift of the Minister, such as the 17 positions I think in each media unit.

These are important given the ground Ministers have to cover for electoral purposes. That is why, though I believe the country suffers badly from this excess of Ministers, I do not blame the Ministers themselves, since naturally they see their main task as ensuring that they are re-elected. This is the fundamental problem with a constitution which fails to separate powers, made worse here by our appalling electoral system.

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Latest comments

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    It is quite preposterous that Sri Lanka should have 65 Cabinet Ministers (along with 2 Project Ministers) plus 27 Deputy Ministers. In addition there are 4 Monitoring Ministers, as far as I know.
    this mean you believe still there are kidden ministers in the MR’s cabin.
    on top of these number if anyone jump the side theu also get minister post

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      I vote Rajiva for Minister of Education – he would do a very good job!

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        Yeah, you would. No wonder you and your kind are extinct !

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          Don Quixote:
          Bull’s eye!

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        He could be the Minister to keep a count of the Ministers

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    Well, well that a the monitoring minister for Defense is Dumninda Silva who is accused of murdering a fellow minister tells it all – does it not Rajiva? The state of Law and order in Gota’s Debacle of Asia run by the uneducated Rajapassa brother hood!
    Sarath Amunugama is I am afraid glib clown and bafoon second only to the Minister of Economic development who has not got a degree and thinks that Casinos and low end Tourist services sector is Development..

    I guess you wrote this piece because you what to be Dep. Minister of Foreign Ministry with Dayan as Minister.. That does not matter really..It makes me SAD!

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    I am surprised that an educated person can be so relaxed about this giant cabinet and the accompanying humongous corruption. Then again, he was part of the crony capital system himself isn’t he?!

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    Ho ho ho, Rajiva has just noticed what everybody else has marvelled at over the years; a bloated stink of ministries. But know ye this, wise one: ministry = perks = gratitude = loyalty = parliamentary majority = President Forever. In short, make you enemies friends and keep all of them close to your bosom at all times. Nowhere does this work best than in our beautiful island of Sri Lanka. From high up in my perch above the Angunukolapellessa littoral I see the magical vista throughout the land of Audis and Lambhorginis, Benz’s and Limo’s,Hummers and Bummers. What a wonderful sight as ministers scamper hither and thither with their bodyguards keeping good order in this miracle of asia. And there is little Namal, heir-apparent(ly) doing his bit for the young with car races and rugger festivals. The young of our thrice-blessed land don’t know it (yet) but the future is going to be great for them. And you Rajiva, return to the ministry before it’s too late – all is forgiven!

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    More Ministers mean more prayers in public seeking divine intervention for prolonging the life of the government and the life of the head of the government and more manpower for Ad-Ministering injections to public at times of widespread public unrest resulting from drinking contaminated water, eating contaminated food and deaths in the hands of custodians of law.

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    It is said more UNPers are coming and, because of that, there will be more new ministerial positions.

    what a joke.

    Even with this many politicians people had to protest hard way to ask for clean water.

    How many politicians for the Weliweriya area alone ?

    Every time, the govt is president’s private property.

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    Is it not possible to clearly put down the cost of each of them, since
    inception, to gauge the Regimes Political Game.

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    Dr. R.W.
    I believe you are not 100% correct to say “In fact the figure comes to less than 100, far fewer than the number of Ministers President Jayewardene had in his heyday.” What you have not taken into account that this would have been before Provincial Council era when he appointed District Minister for 25 districts. Their role was a combined one of what Provincial Council Ministers are doing. If you count those, then you should count the present PC ministers too. So if you leave the PC ministers, then you should not count the District ministers. We know that you have an axe to grind with your uncle JRJ, so be honest in comparing the number of Ministers. If you still want to count the District Ministers (quite equivalent Chief Ministers) then add another 40 for the number ministers we have (This is without NPC)

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    What is he talking about?
    Sri Lanka is the only country where there are various ‘grades’ of ministers.
    But all are really puppets of the First Family and dare not tell the truth about any area of governance – but only tell what the Family likes to hear.
    Selection is made on the basis of grovelling and bootlicking – not on any other criteria.
    All of them have dozens of thugs to guard their bodies – against whom, is not known.
    Successful bootlickers get foreign trips and are allowed to bring what they like from abroad.
    [The most successful was Bogollagama who stayed with family in all most expensive hotels abroad,and had the most expensive ‘holidays’ abroad.]
    RV avoids mentioning him completely!
    All have amassed wealth sufficient for many generations,and all children are abroad in studying or enjoying what cannot be enjoyed openly in sri lanka.
    All of them have not declared assets.If they did,many will go to jail,if the judiciary did its job correctly.
    Now the Boss has the judiciary in one pocket,police and army in another,and the nation’s finances in the third.
    All wealth will be hidden during CHOGM.

  • 0
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    Dear Prof. and readers of CT,

    Watch the video in the link and listen to Eric Lee for different thoughts.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ebXA1lRqDfM

    Thilina Kiringoda

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    Prof

    I have seen your interviews and you should be named:

    Rajiva Confused.Com

    Wijeyasingha deceptive.Com

    So your audience can have easy access.
    I saw one of your interviews more than a year ago in which you tried to patronise the interviewer who questioned you about the Trinco Killings.
    You repeatedly said that you spoke to MR about this and by the way was that you who finally pulled it off and managed to get MR to initiate an inquiry.
    What an achievement well done mate.

    You should be made a “Minister without Portfolio”

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