26 October, 2020

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Clearing Or Laying Land Mines With Friends & Family?

By Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

Rajeewa Jayaweera

A recent full page advertisement, carried out and paid for by the Ministry of National Policy & Economic Affairs headed by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe was indeed thought provoking. Its headline was “The Landmines that have Wrecked the Economy”. The text stated “State-owned enterprises are heavily in debt to domestic and foreign banks to the tune of 1,042.8 billion rupees. The SriLankan Airlines share alone is approximately Rs 212 billion. Keep in mind that these are only the liabilities that have surfaced so far. Handing over these institutions to friends and family members of politicians as well as gross mismanagement facilitated corruption, waste and the illegal use of budgeted funds. With better policies and management, we have managed to repay 100 billion rupees of the outstanding debts these institutions have accumulated. And this is only 10% of what we owe! These debt-ridden institutions constitute a minefield that stands in the way of progress. We cannot and will not pass on this burden to our children and future generations.” The advertisement ended with “Instead of seeking short-term political benefits we will take prudent and decisive steps to resolve this unprecedented debt crisis.”

The legality and ethics of ministries carrying paid advertisements in state owned and private publications, especially with messages carrying political content is best left for another day.

The most curious part of the advertisement was “Handing over these institutions to friends and family members of politicians.” We are all aware of the promises made by both the President and Prime Minister prior to Presidential and Parliamentary elections of eradicating nepotism and family bandyism, turned into a fine art by the Rajapaksa administration. That said, the past fifteen months has seen members of the Yahapalanaya administration indulging in similar acts of nepotism and family bandyism. An entire newspaper will not suffice to list out the various acts of nepotism and family bandyism of this administration. Two glaring examples will suffice for the purpose, one of which was raised by Trade Unions immediately prior to the Sinhala New Year break. The silence thereafter suggests unions may have been silenced.

Chairman Sri Lanka Telecom

Having informed the initial 27 member interim cabinet appointed to oversee the 100 Day Program to “earn back the respect of the people”, one of the first appointments made by the President was that of his sibling Kumarasinghe Sirisena as Chairman of state owned Sri Lanka Telecom.

A holder of dual degrees in Public Admin Management and Management and a Post Graduate Diploma in Accountancy and Financial Management, sibling Sirisena had previously worked as Coordinating Secretary to his brother, in the capacity of Director in several state organizations and CEO / General Manager of State Timber Corporation till he was sacked once his brother announced his candidature for the presidential elections.

Whether sibling Sirisena holds requisite experience to be appointed as Chairman of one of Sri Lanka’s biggest state owned enterprises is debatable. Nevertheless, the primary reason is that of an accident of birth being, born to the same parents as the President.

The Sri Lanka Telecom Trade Union Alliance has been demanding sibling Sirisena’s removal for alleged financial extortions of SLT assets and unethical practices. Some of the other allegations by the Trade Union Alliance include obtaining employment for his son in SLT owned Mobitel who has undertaken several overseas trips during his probation period, appointment of a close friend to the SLT Board and appointment of a favoured Advertising Agency to handle the Mobitel account.

Sirisena is also accused by the unions of making the SLT Board approve a Housing Allowance of Rs 750,000 a month. The subject minister has found fault with the SLT Board for not keeping him apprised of Board decisions and developments at SLT.

These are all signs of gross abuse of power by a presidential sibling similar to abuses of the Rajapaksa clan.

National Carrier SriLankan Airlines

It is no secret the Board of the national carrier is packed mostly with close friends and associates of the Prime Minister. Professional back ground of most of them including the Chairman indicates little they could contribute to the development of the airline. Nevertheless, they have been appointed as Board members. It is rumoured the board for some time has been divided into two camps.

The CEO’s appointment saw the board divided for the first time some time in mid 2015. The CEO is the brother of Charitha Ratwatte, a very close confidant of the Prime Minister. The CEO became the finalist under dubious circumstances and a tie ensued in a board vote. The Chairman using his casting vote ensured the appointment was approved.

Subsequently, in the appointment of the Chief Commercial Officer, the board had been split 3 for and 5 against. The board decision was overturned by a Prime Ministerial directive.

The CEO’s employment contract specified a six month probation period which was nearing completion. In view of the current volatile situation of the airline, it was decided by a majority of board members to extend the CEO’s probation period. Meanwhile, the Airline Pilots Guild of Sri Lanka had written to the Chairman on 26 April informing of the “loss of confidence in the current CEO” by its membership. During the board meeting held on Thursday, 28 April instructions had been received from both the Prime Minister and the subject Minister to confirm the CEO to his post.

Should the airline be made a public private enterprise as announced recently by the Prime Minister, the first person to be replaced by the new management will be the CEO. No new company retains a former CEO. If that be the case, the present CEO who is now confirmed to his post will have to be compensated by paying millions of rupees.

These are but two of the examples of ‘Helping Friends & Family’ policy of the present dispensation. Similar cases are taking place starting with the Colombo Port and in almost all Ministries, Boards, Corporations and state owned enterprises. The President and Prime Minister, who themselves practice ‘Helping Friends & Family’ are not in a position to prevent Ministers from employing friends and family in establishments under their purview. It is a far cry from the pre-election promise of eradicating nepotism and family bandyism.

Such perfidious acts have been common practice since 1970. It is a case of ‘old wine with a new label’. However, using public funds for advertisements stating the previous regime “handed over state institutions to friend and family members of politicians as well as gross mismanagement facilitated corruption, wastage and the illegal use of budgeted funds” while indulging in the same practices is deceitful.

It would be appropriate to conclude by quoting Abraham Lincoln’s famous epigram ‘You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time’.

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Latest comments

  • 20
    3

    Ranil is a humbug but the argument is MR is worse so let us keep silent ! What a stupid country !

    RW messed up the handing of the LTTE right along. He gave them weapons, status ,raided the safe houses of intelligence operatives, generally weakened the army yet the LTTE had only contempt for the collaborator and voted against Ranil in 2005.

    This allowed MR to fight them and be a national hero. RW is very jealous of this.

    MR messed it up with his corruption and nepotism.MR treated the job as an opportunity to strengthen his corrupt family.

    But Rw is so unpopular in the country that the UNP cannot contest the presidential elections without a Sarath Fonseka or Maithripala Sirisena. That is how much the once mighty UNP has fallen under Ranil leadership.

    But Ranil very cunningly has a iron grip on the UNP because the idiots there think the leader has to be a royalists or must have the blood of DS Senanayake or JR. That is how stupid they are.The UNP is not a democratic organization. If it was how can a man who lost 26 elections still be the leader of that party ?

    The same corruption is back and the economy is going from bad to utter chaos.Even the streets are not being swept now.

    Now RW has ordered 400 million worth bullet proof vehicles for himself ! What a great leader ! Will a man who is against corruption appoint Ravi as the Minister for Finance ?

    No leader can do well unless he is acceptable to the people. RW is not. It is a matter of time before he is thrown out again.

  • 6
    0

    Nothing to worry. God is Great. Greece had EU to pay for its follies and we have China and India to give us the last breath.

    • 1
      0

      M
      EU only saved the bankers.
      The Greek population is paying with wage cuts, pension cuts, curtailment of social welfare and much more.

      Why China & India alone? Even the IMF is willing to lend us to pay back loans with interest and gratitude.
      Here too the public will pay.

      • 4
        1

        SJ/sekara

        “The Greek population is paying with wage cuts, pension cuts, curtailment of social welfare and much more.”

        Greeks lied through their teeth before joining the euro.

        How ‘magic’ made Greek debt disappear before it joined the euro.

        http://www.bbc.co.uk/
        news/world-europe-16834815

        “Why China & India alone?”

        Let us merge with China as its new addition of autonomous region. The problems will be solved once and for all.

        We don’t want to merge with India for it practices a form of democracy a limited federalism. We don’t like democracy nor Federalism. Do we?

        “Here too the public will pay.”

        No need for that as long as you put some effort to recover the money stolen by the rulers in the past 46 years.

        Of course it was Federal Party’s fault. Lets blame Federal party for all that had happened in the past 68 years, including unemployment, foreign exchange crisis, terrorism in 1971 and between 1987-1990, corruption, rape, child abuse, incest, drug smuggling, human rights violations, ………..

        • 0
          0

          Dear Native Vedda,

          Once I get to realise that your comment is dripping with sarcasm, I begin to realise that I share your views.

          However, the danger with sarcasm is that with many readers sarcasm backfires. They take it literally – not because they lack intelligence, but because there is too much to read.

          So, before readers start giving this comment a “Red Thumbs Down”, consider carefully the import of the words!

          • 3
            0

            Sinhala_Man

            Thanks

            SJ/sekera believes Federal Party has been the root cause of all misfortunes of this island, and soft peddling on SLFP’s role that had brought the country to its knees. He loves China so much so he would rather live under it as part of it autonomous region.

            He has affection for the female dictator Siri Mao. He does not find any fault forgetting how together with her minions ruined this country.

            The point I have been consistently making in this forum is that if the family is not treated well, strangers and neighbours take advantage of the situation, grope the female folks, eventually women begin to enjoy their new relationship with outsiders, …..

            • 0
              0

              Native says
              The point I have been consistently making in this forum is that if the family is not treated well, strangers and neighbours take advantage of the situation, grope the female folks, eventually women begin to enjoy their new relationship with outsiders, …..

              Most sinhala mad Buddhist say otherwise, Adopted kid must learned to live with the family….he or she should know his limits…

              • 1
                0

                JAMIS MUTHU BANDA the Tamil speaking Sinhalam

                I don’t care what the Sinhalams and Demelas think or do..

                On the other hand please treat your family well else they will seek solace from neighbours and strangers.

    • 0
      0

      The difference is that the EU charged Greece below market interest rates, the way a club might help a member in need. I doubt Sri Lanka’s Chinese paymasters will be so kind. They are more likely to foreclose on the airport, the port or the new highway, and even annex them as part of the PRC. Joking aside (I know – it’s not funny), while the Americans clean forgot something that history should taught them, it is that Sri Lanka’s location makes it too important to ignore. Specifically, no rival to the empire in question — the Portuguese, the Dutch, or the British could be allowed to control it. Only if it effectively owned Ceylon, could the British control the sea lanes just to the south.

      Washington seems to have forgotten all that, despite the enormously increased importance of those sea lanes, which connect China to the Indian sub-continent, Arabia, and Europe. Perhaps being a non-aligned nation, which to successive administrationsin D.C. meant “Commie sympathizers,” be be at the root of the American attitude. It is their loss, but Sri Lanka’s as well.

  • 3
    0

    True sentiments. This reminds me of the film ‘Gods Must be crazy’. Two individuals tied back to back running away from a threat. One runs for a while carrying the other on his back and the other one swings and carry this one on his back for a while. Now SL is facing a situation like that. What I cant understand is whether a coke bottle fell on their head and on whose head.

  • 2
    1

    The people voted this Govt. to power to eradicate nepotism, corruption
    and political thuggery and within a week’s time of formation of the
    ‘yahapalanaya’ Govt,they hurriedly filled the No.one positions of money
    making organizations like SLT,Insurance corp.Sri Lankan airlines (Made thumping profits during Capt.Wickremanayake’s period as Chairman),Mihin
    air, shipping ministry with a profit making Colombo port operation and many other profit making organizations like pharmaceutical corp, Rail
    ways etc were handed to their siblings, relatives and close friends,to
    manage, as a slap on the faces of those voters who wanted a clean Govt.
    The media quoted a case where a motor mechanic was appointed as GM of a Govt.corp.

    These organizations, except Sri Lankan airlines,were making profits before elections but they started losing after these ‘chieftains’took command of these organizations.The reason is that, they being ruling party’s side kicks,they made themselves not available for discussions
    with trade unions, advisors and the media to find ways and means to make these organizations, profitable, due to pride that kept them away and losses continued, not realising that they were letting down their party leaders, who chose them and now an embarrasment to them.

    What baffles the people is that the President and the PM are two exp
    -erienced, sincere and humble statesmen and they have a good understand
    -ing between them and why should they give into nepotism and earn a bad
    name, not only for themselves but also get their vote bank reduced as voters feel that they are cheated against what they preached on the election platform. Both of them will do well if they can control their itch for interfering in selections of administrators and hand over the full responsibility to the CC with their recommendations. They both should set an example and see that CC,NPC & Judiciary do their duties well and independently without fear or interference and they will reap the benefits of getting the next govt.to their hands if they do not unnecessarily over rule decisions made by public bodies without dis-
    cussions.

  • 1
    0

    This miserable situation was well explained by one Head of a Civil Society who relentlessly toiled to bring down the MR Regime in January 2015 at a recent TV presentation. The host of the programme asked him why he was looking like having a “heart pain” now a days with the Government. This “Head” of the “Civil Society” gave a very “illuminating” reply and said, but in brief: ” Not a heart pain” but my “HEART IS BROKEN”. That explained what a “ROTTEN” state of affairs that exists with this Government. Not only him, all those who got involved in bringing down the MR Regime suffers with this state of “HEART BROKEN”; but it does not in any way denote a sign of REGRET. The person to whom I referred to in the TV presentation is the successor to Rev. Late Sobith; Prof: Sarath Wijesooriya. In the same way there was another Political Party that contributed in no less than the civil societies and that is JVP. The Leader of this party, of course, did that campaign with one goal of bringing down a “Despotic Regime” ; but at the same time not ASSURING a “Better” situation to be expected from the present Government. The leader of JVP very well made the present situation clear in the House participating in a debate over the proposed Supplementary Vote. But the so called “Joint Opposition” did not have anything to say in Parliament exposing the activities of the RW & MS “Combined” Government, excepting to voice on security matters of the deposed Leader. Their only goal is to REINSTATE the DEPOSED. Let it be a “DREAM”. So what and with whom are we left with looking for “HELP”? Now is the time to ORGANIZE the PEOPLE with correct INFORMATION and KNOWLEDGE to take matters into their hands and control, without allowing these TESTED Politicians to FOOL us. That, I believe is the immediate task of the Civil Societies and the Leaders involved in those activities. KICK OUT ALL THESE BASTARDS WHO HAVE LET US DOWN and BRING IN A NEW CULTURE WITH NEW FACES TO REGAIN A LOST PARADISE.

  • 2
    2

    In a trice blessed Sinhala Buddhist Nation one would expect there to be no corruption, no nepotism, no torture, no murder, no mayhem, no plunder, no cruelty to animals and Buddhist monks preaching non-violence etc. Basically nothing but good. But what do we have here. The exact opposite to all that is good.

    So wherein lies the lie. Sinhala Buddhist Nation???

  • 0
    3

    Aiyooo maybe you can be CEO in the new company ? Or is a share of the compensatory millions that you want ?

  • 2
    1

    RW was the second in command of assasinated president premadasa. Sirisena was with defeated president Mahinda for almost 3 decades.both of them got the initial training under two of the most currupt presidents of our country. Hence do not expect any thing better from RW and Sirisena

  • 1
    2

    if what this writer telling is the truth we can only say :Poor srilankan Airlines, Ranil joker is worse than the previous jokers and UL has become RW mothers property.

  • 0
    0

    The writer is quite right.

    The problems are deep rooted and it is very very difficult to eradicate the issues of nepotism, cronyism and corruption in state businesses because they are so widespread.

    Tax payers bear the ultimate burden but the Government justifies running these “businesses” (often little more than vehicles for corruption) by playing the same nationalistic/patriotic card that the previous regime did (“buy Sri lankan”, “self sufficiency”, etc etc)

    The only solution is to take these businesses out of state hands and stop wasting citizens money. If they cannot be sold they should be shut down.

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