15 December, 2017

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A Presidency Under Threat – Insecurity And Incompetence

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha MP

The last few weeks have seen much agitation about Non-Governmental Organizations, with threats to introduce new legislation to control them more effectively. The whole exercise seemed to me absurd, since existing legislation is quite enough to prevent abuse. If it is not working, it is because the personnel involved are incompetent, and even much stronger legislation or regulation will serve no purpose unless more capable people are deployed.

Unfortunately the President has been pushed into a position where he can only employ the second rate for this purpose, as he has realized was the case with Lakshman Hulugalle. The only qualification for the job seems to be total subservience to the powers that be, what Dayan Jayatilleka described as the Mafia lawyer syndrome when he first identified the breed, six years ago. He actually demonstrated the posture, hands held crossed behind the back, head nodding in acquiescence, claiming that the model derived from ‘The Godfather’.

How sad the situation of the present incumbent of the position is became clear when I attended the launch of the Roadmap prepared by the Association of Women Affected by War. I sat behind so did not recognize the attractive young lady who was in the centre of the front row along with a couple of envoys. It was only at the end that I realized she was Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, whom I had met a few weeks earlier at the Oslo Forum where I had been invited to debate against Mr Sumanthiran on the propriety of talking to extremists.

By then I knew that she had been instrumental in developing Security Council Resolution 1325 about the need to involve women in peace initiatives – and also that, though invited for the launch, she had been forbidden to speak. The press had also been barred from attending the event.

The ban was graphically and emotively referred to by President Chandrika Kumaratunge, who was the Chief Guest. She apologized on behalf of not just those present, but the nation, which was a much harsher critique than anything the lady herself could have delivered. Indeed I have no doubt that the latter would not have said anything negative, but would have concentrated on the very laudable objectives of the Roadmap.

The ban had not been in writing, but delivered verbally, and no reason had been given. The rationale it seemed was that the Director General of the NGO Secretariat feared what the Secretary of Defence would have said had there been newspaper reports about the event.

This seemed preposterous because, while the Secretary does tend to explode on occasion, he is not entirely unreasonable, and a speech by a foreigner would not necessarily have drawn his wrath. By preventing the lady from speaking, the NGO Secretariat had simply confirmed the impression that we are heading towards anarchy, with no clarity about what is permissible. In sharp contrast to this excessive caution was the reaction when I suggested that the Bodhu Bala Sena should be banned. I was told that I would accuse the government of being a dictatorship if that occurred. Evidently rhetoric that provokes violence is acceptable, whereas a figure of international repute has to be prevented from addressing a gathering designed to promote the Rights of Women.

All this neurosis is self destructive. But I fear such absurdities have now been going on for years. And the most absurd fact is that the very few NGOs that are opposed to the government have continued to function effectively, and obtain all the funds they need, whereas the blocks that are arbitrarily put in place serve only to stymie the vast majority who are simply anxious to help our people.

When I was Secretary to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Human Rights, which had a mandate during the conflict period to coordinate humanitarian assistance, I tried to put in place some principles of management, and succeeded to a limited extent. But that mechanism was dispensed with when Basil Rajapaksa decided to become the arbiter of all such activity, and unfortunately he had no idea about how to assess the inputs of any agency. Those who wanted to get round him found it quite easy, and then proceeded to do what they wanted, as occurred with IOM – until a problem occurred, and then what had been flavor of the month was put in the doghouse.

The main instrument of restricting activity was the Presidential Task Force, which blocked many positive initiatives. I hasten to add that its chief executive, Mr Divaratne, was not generally negative, and achieved much, in line with his efficient and effective performance previously as Commissioner General of Essential Services. But the rest of his executive staff seemed to think blocking was their main role, and it was often only through Mr Divaratne’s personal intervention that things moved forward. But getting through to him was not easy for many of those keen to work, and so many positive initiatives fell by the wayside.

The PTF also was not able to monitor the work it had permitted. Twice I was asked to assess reports, and I sent detailed analyses to Mr Divaratne, which indicated who was working coherently and effectively (Save the Children, for instance, for whom my respect increased in going through their detailed accounts of work) and who was, as it were, fudging. But I refused to go through a third lot, since I thought a system needed to be put in place. But that did not happen, perhaps because those nervous of excessive competence did not want me to be part of such a system.

The President however, who does not suffer from such insecurities, included monitoring such activities in my list of duties as Adviser on Reconciliation, and I received full cooperation from General Chandrasiri, who first drew my attention to the incoherent manner in which projects were recorded, in giving me the schedule prepared by OCHA, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance. But when I contacted them, I found that they had simply put together the data, and were waiting for instructions as to how this should be ordered and employed.

Given that I did not want to tread on any toes, I then contacted Lakshman Hulugalle, who headed the NGO Secretariat. He proved extremely helpful, and in fact admitted that he did not really know how to do the job, and even suggested that I have a room in his office. But just as we were putting a system in place, I failed to vote for the impeachment of the Chief Justice, and he panicked. He stopped taking my calls, and was simple enough, when I did meet him somewhere, to say that I must have thought he was avoiding me because of that episode. That was obvious, I said, and inevitably, despite reassurances, I never heard from him again.

So that initiative too fell by the wayside. Ironically, some years previously, at the request of a bright member of our diplomatic service, I had written a paper on ‘Post Conflict Reconstruction in Sri Lanka and the International Community’ in which I had suggested guidelines for working productively with NGOs. This was for a book which he hoped to have published to suggest policy initiatives after the conflict. But, needless to say, the Minister managed to kill that initiative dead, and the papers have lain dormant, sent I believe to the distinguished academics who run the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute for International Relations and Security Studies to assess (though having dug out the paper in writing on this subject, I will now put it up on my blog, www.rajivawijesinha.wordpress.com).

That the Ministry, which should take the lead, given that our Ministry was abolished, in developing relations with the international community, will do nothing is however obvious from the manner in which it has signally ignored the recommendation of the LLRC that we should develop better relations with the diaspora. Instead it had allowed the term diaspora to become a dirty word. How thorough now is the perception that the diaspora is dangerous – even though our security agencies confirm that only about 7% of the diaspora still hankers after separatism – became clear to me when I was told that Diaspora Sri Lanka needed to change its name.

This is an agency based in Australia which has been doing excellent work in Mannar, in cooperation with the authorities, the GA and the Security Forces as well as the Urban Council. They have excellent ideas, including coherent town planning, for which they worked together with the Urban Development Authority and the National Physical Planning Department. But despite all this they were told that the name made them sound suspicious, and they should change it.

I would not have been surprised if, given such pernickety behavior, the organization upped and left. Fortunately its principal agent is made of sterner stuff, and will do his best to continue, not least because of the appreciation of the people and officials in Mannar. But given the present state of panic, I suspect things will become harder, and government will succeed in driving everyone away – except for those whose agendas will o benefit from such crassness.

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Latest comments

  • 8
    1

    So what does it mean when all the smaller parties of the coalition are critizing almost every aspect of governance in the very coalition(that too just before a key election) they are in but yet do not want to leave or sit in opposition?

    It is clear that Rajiva has had enough of inter family spats and people with agenda running things, and senior ministers being kept on a leash, etc etc it all so awful.

    Yet here he sits in the treasury benches. Folling himself that he is making a difference and thinking he has flloed us into thinking that he, Rajiva, tried to make difference.

    • 1
      2

      Not only incompetence but also incontinence. This man has ruined our nation and country. One of his henchman close supporters that have no edcuation but making every efforts to behave like parrots say – Santha Bandara says, that the regime has achieved almost over 70% progress in people s lives.. though US educated Dr. Harsha Silva humbly points out the facts and figures. CBKS terms were not fine but it was at war was its height, but cost of living were not high as it is today.. why was that `? Today, ballige puthas of all grade have lamboginis for the sake of Jarapakshes avenues for revenues for his men.

  • 2
    1

    Witch Doctor Hulugalla now banished down under, being a paid servant of the regime and having to sing for his supper. However he is still partially in favour as the Deputy High Commisioner of Oz.

    Dr Rajiva is tolerated because he is an internationally reputed liberal intellectual whose presence lends some credence and respectabilty to a mostly uneducated regime of thugs and goons. MR needs to be surrounded by such persons even though he does not follow their advise.

    Whatever happened to Dr Dayan to fall out of favour? Almost like a personal vendetta.

  • 3
    2

    Give the country to rajiva and dayan everything will be solved. They know everything. Sad, Rajapaksa does not understand this. They dont even have janitorial jobs to keep the place clean. Sorry Guys.

  • 4
    1

    Another story of derring-do and what-might=have-beens. Our Rajiva doesn’t give up trying. Those of us who dutifully read every printed word are feeling the pressure. I have promised myself just one thing for when I am able to, allowed to, see the King. I will go on bended knee, if necessary. Please Sir, give Rajiva a job, any job, just in order to stop him writing articles that masquerade as thinly disguised job applications. O Lord, grant me this wish.

  • 3
    1

    I wish if Rajiva could explain why he wanted to ban BBS. As an Anglican or as a black-white in Sri Lanka he should know that BBS operates on the Buddhist principle of “Come and examine,” and not come and believe. Surely, he can talk with BBS, before he decides. For example he praised Tara de Mel as a good education secretary whereas she was just a London medical doctor, who did know what is Subhashitaya.

    wije

  • 8
    2

    Oh God, when is this person going to learn. All he says is me, me, me, me and I, I, I, I and Dayan and I, Dayan and I……., its boring. Oh by the way he also sucks up to the President! Shame on you Rajiva, you are another “spent force” like Dayan.

  • 5
    2

    Oh God, when is this person going to learn. All he says is me, me, me, me and I, I, I, I and Dayan and I, Dayan and I……., its boring. Oh by the way he also sucks up to the President! Shame on you Rajiva, you are another “spent force” like Dayan. Lean from Ms Dharisha Bastians how to write a balanced article.

  • 3
    3

    This is what all left-wing socialist do isn’t it?

    When one guy cannot remove a bulb, instead of training him to do it correctly, they send 10 more untrained people.

    They are into quantity not quality.

    • 1
      3

      Rajiva Wijesinghe is a left -wing socialist ?

      Who said my opinions are democratic and my actions are aristocratic ?

      I suppose not This guy ?

  • 3
    1

    Ane Rajiva..don’t do this to yourself. It’s one thing when you embarrass yourself with all these ‘critical’ writings because you remain within this circus of clowns..never contemplating on leaving and losing the perks..but it’s a whole other thing thing since you are also a Thomian and a descendant of a distinguished family..it’s alright for you to be a buffoon but please remember you are also reflecting on your school and your family..which truly is a great disservice to these institutions.. please for their sake get laid, let these grudges go, come to terms with no one really gives a rat’s backside about what you think or do- in government or opposition, and do something actually worthwhile with your pathetic life.

  • 4
    0

    somebody put this guy out of his misery

    he makes no sense at all

    he is like a guy describing an ugly picture but saying the artist is a genius

  • 3
    4

    NGOs brought Raiappu’s flock all the way from Mannar to Maradana.

    No mention whether is was a special Mass in the Catholic Church or a wake in our traditional Muslim Turf which is well known for Buhari’s Biryani…

    And invited the full team of Pillai Police supporters with Diplomatic Passports to watch the proceedings.

    These must be the good NGOs whom Dr Wijesinghe calls efficient ones.

    Wonder what the inefficient ones do?.

    Kaduwela Battramulla Expressway is the next big project to make the Colombo elite comfortable and avoid them tail gating belching CTB buses which transport our proletariat workers to Fort.

    They will have to wait for the Mono Rail to have the same comfortable rides as their Elite cousins.

    That if Rajapaksa doesn’t get rolled over by the Rainbow Riders after the UVA Election.

    But Rajpaksa will be around at least to welcome the Holy See and get out Sinhala Catholic devotes a blessing.

    These are not so important for these luminaries who only want to restore Human Rights to Elite , and the TNA, who live in Cinnamon Gardens and Vellala Gardens.

  • 1
    2

    Rajiv is telling the truth. Mahinda Rajapaksa is very badly cornered by his Defence Secratry brother and Basil runs on his own way. But what I can’t understand is why he have to hang on to Dayan Jayatilake for his servival. As a man from Beliaththa, he knows Mahinda well and, as he is very closely related to Ranil, nothing should go wrong for him if he know what to say and how to say that.

    Once he spoke about Projects belong to LTTE and planning to do an inquiry. As I worked as a Construction Expert for a World Agency I offered my services on a Voluntary basis, he send an email to me saying soon he is going to contact me. Now it is 7 years Istill not heard from him. In the same token I did help AG’s department lawyers to prepare a Arbitration Reply for a project where the Contractor was demanding Rs.5 billion as additional cost as President and the AG requested me. To do so. I paid from my own Air Fare and Hotel Expenses, but as I objected to the arrest go General Fonseka on trump-up charges my name was removed from the panel to represent the GOSL.

    If any one says the wrong. Thing or do the wrong thing for Rajapaksa’s. Then he or she is gone. But Laxman Hulugalla as D/HC in Canberra has become a joke along with the other self appointed “Ambassodor”.

    This country once called Lanka, now go as Sri Lanka is belong to Rajapaksa regime, so don’worry, next will be HE Gotabaya Rajapaksa as the President.

    • 2
      3

      President Rajapakse is now a rubber stamp of the “silent military coup” lead by Gotha.

  • 3
    4

    How many people voted for him?

    Zero.

    So does it matter what he says?

    • 1
      1

      Sister what rubbish are you talking about. He is an elected MP so secured the majority votes.

  • 1
    1

    Prof:

    Let me deal with the following the order.

    A Presidency Under Threat:

    Certainly NOT. Sinhala Lanka is country full of ( 99.9% ) born racist just as Mahintha so it is Mahintha Country.

    Insecurity: Again a BIG NO. He is surrounded by THUGS just like him who will give their life for the Gang Leader.

    And Incompetence : A BIG YES through a combination of inadequacies and hard core Corruption.

  • 0
    0

    Is the President under threat or under a planned threat? All activity of
    MR appears to be ostensibly to loose his position in a Presidential Election so that he can effect his Plan B – to face an “arranged Army Coup” so that
    a Chief Justice will rule that in view of the external threat posed on our
    elected National Leaders,by the UN, the incumbent President will be guided by its Army to continue the democratic rule here! With this arrangement all henchmen and the Dynasty will continue to settle down for the next 10 yrs.

    My imagination is derived from MR visit to Burma at the end of the war.
    So MR has no perceived threat at all, even Astrologically?

    Over to Mangala S.

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