28 October, 2020

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Bequeathing Their Patrimony?

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Several newspapers reported a recent Gazette notification of the reversion of Development Lotteries Board (DLB) and National Lotteries Board (NLB) to the Finance Ministry.

These two cash rich institutions, since inception, have been vested under the Finance Ministry. In a surprise move, both were vested under the Foreign Ministry three months ago in May, when one-time Finance Minister moved to the Foreign Ministry.

Both DLB and NLB have now reverted to the Finance Ministry after the recent resignation of the Foreign Minister.

In the 100 days Good Governance cabinet, a minister was appointed designated Minister for Foreign Affairs, Telecommunications and IT on January 12, 2015, which included the cash rich Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT). Due to the minister’s very busy travel schedule, he could not visit SLT for six weeks till March 23. 

In some countries, subject of Foreign Trade is known to be combined with Foreign Affairs. However, vesting institutions with subjects not having even the remotest connection to Foreign Affairs such as telecom, IT and lotteries is unique to our Paradis Isle.

In terms of prestige and status, so important to our worthy politicians, Foreign Affairs take precedence way over Telecom, IT and Lotteries. That being the case, what was the thinking behind our good governance leaders, the President and Prime Minister, in vesting cash rich institutions under the Foreign Ministry headed by senior party loyalists? Was it to enable them to make some money on the side as Foreign Affairs is devoid of opportunities such as tenders, development projects etc.? Was it to enable them to provide employment for unemployed supporters who hung flags and pasted posters in their electorates prior to elections? Or was it some other grand plan? 

For a short period prior to and after 2015 Presidential elections, the public were told, ministries would be allocated ‘scientifically’. All that went awry after the constitutionally mandated 30 ministries had to be exceeded to form a ‘National Government’ since the electorate did not give either of the two leading political parties, a clear mandate to govern. It resulted in the bizarre combination of subjects under portfolios such as Policy Planning, Economic Affairs, Child, Youth & Cultural Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Telecommunications & IT, Highways, Higher Education & Investment Promotions, University Education & Highways, to name a few.

The current Prime Minister has been a regular visitor to western democracies over the last several decades. He is also an avowed liberal democrat. Our politicians, both in government and opposition, avail themselves of every opportunity, besides creating numerous opportunities to travel abroad at state expense, even on flimsy pretexts. Many undertake study tours to observe democracy at work in western countries.

Nevertheless, none of these worthies, despite all their study tours abroad have even suggested a system of a shadow cabinet for the opposition.

The benefits of such a system are many. Key among them would be of having one opposition member to monitor workings of each ministry and raise issues related to assigned ministry in an educated and intelligent manner in parliament. Another benefit would be the gradual availability of a group of members of parliament familiar with workings of ministerial portfolios assigned to them. They would be the obvious choice for cabinet appointment if and when the opposition party is voted into office in the future. They would be able to make a far better contribution to governance than a majority of square pegs in round holes, currently holding office.

Needless to say, for such a system to prevail, the opposition need be elected by the people and not selected by the government in office, as is the case at present 

Presidents, Prime Ministers and governments are elected by the people. They are but temporary custodians of the nation, mandated to govern for a fixed period, after which they need to revert to the people for a fresh mandate.

Allocation of ministerial portfolios and state institutions need be carried out responsibly. The state’s best interest and not those of their political and personal loyalists must essentially determine such allocations.

Ministries and state institutions is not the patrimony of leaders to be bequeathed upon political loyalists, friends and relations.

Footnote

In the years gone by, the Foreign Ministry was headed by a politician, now no longer among the living. He devised an ingenious plan by having a sibling, a former Price Control Inspector, appointed as the country’s ambassador to an oil rich middle eastern state. Another sibling owned and operated a recruitment agency in Colombo. It was a perfect axis. Over the years, several thousand from Harisspattuwa area secured employment in the middle eastern state. Since many of them lived in a particular area, the area became known as Hameedpattuwa among Sri Lankans in that country.      

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Latest comments

  • 3
    1

    Mr. Rajeeva Jayaweera: It has amply discussed that Sri lankan politicians are highly corrupt. Generally, in the private secotr any employee is given some months to show that he/she can do it. Now, these politicians boasts about 40, 50 year experience. Yet, when they get power they only scold the previous govt. they never change it. So, what do you think about this govt. Ranil wickramsinghe and those politicians who wrote the foot Notes in the COPE report did not like one minister being removed actually what should have happened as right away areesting him and prosecuting him. Now he is boasting that he works against the no-confidence motion for another VVIP thief. they postpone the election because of possible repercussions. but, it will come.

  • 3
    0

    It is common knowledge that not much money can be made being foreign minister. Hence there is a need to add on a few cash cows.

    Generally senior party guys are appointed as FM and hence the need to give institutions like SLT and Lotteries.

    We all know the status of our politicians and this is short change compared to what is hapenning today and what has taken place over the last 20 years.

    Unfortunately cannot see another Kadirgamar in the horizon who could become FM without any cash cows being demanded.

  • 3
    0

    RK moving into Foreign Ministry taking Lottery Board control with him, and then on his departure reverting the control back to Finance Ministry is highly suspicious and was reeking in the smell of corruption. Now that we know what RK has been up to with illegal moneys, one wonders what was his master plan for the peoples lottery money and his access to all sorts of foreign banks, legal or illegal, had he remained as the foreign minister. Even worse, we should question if the President and Prime Minister were stupid enough not to see some strangeness in this move that they had approved, or if not were they part of the corruption master plan. No one is above board in this rotten administrations in our country, past and present.

  • 0
    0

    Party jumpers demand certain department to be under their control – everyone knows why!!
    For example: Unholy alliances like (hypothetical) Lottery, horse racing under (say) Buddha Sasana will be plain silly. Buddhism forbids gambling.

  • 0
    0

    A smooth talker with the ability to lie without batting an eye lid, even when against staked up facts, & no scruples is the only qualification to become a successful politician in SL, & of course, the right connections help. Most of them not even having a basic education, it’s no wonder they have to go abroad on study tours to see how it’s done but even then, they don’t seem to learn anything.

    In UK, the opposition has a ‘shadow’ Minister monitoring & scrutinizing every move of the assigned Minister in Govt. Accordingly, the shadow minister is responsible for asking the right questions in Parliament but we have a pack of wolfs in Parliament, howling & throwing verbal abuses at each other, instead of a healthy debate. The President & PM particularly, despite their numerous ‘study tours’ abroad during their political career, also seem to be unaware that in the developed world, only the senior Ministers in Govt. are provided with vehicles, which have to be handed back when no longer in Parliament. In UK, MPs can only claim the cost of a first class train ticket & overnight stay in a hotel if necessary when they attend Parliament in London. Just before Brexit, a young MP, Jo Cox, was murdered by a fanatic when she arrived at her constituency office, driven there by her Secretary as she had no vehicle. Yet there was no demand for body guards or official vehicles by the serving politicians. In SL, even without the threat of terrorism, it’s not only the politician but even their families are provided with bodyguards & back up vehicles, all at tax payers’ expense. I am sure if some of these perks are taken off, we will see real & honest politicians coming forward instead of uneducated yobs.

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