Testimony by Secretary to Ministry of Public Administration, J J Rathnasiri before the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) probing Easter Sunday bombings today, was a shameful display of racial bias in the Sri Lanka Administrative Service.
Rathnasiri was questioned by PSC members on the circular he issued a few weeks ago that imposed regulations regarding government employees’ dress code, which discriminated against Muslim women and the Abaya.
Responding to queries he said the circular was issued following a discussion at a Secretaries’ meeting and the subject Minister Ranjith Madduma Bandara was made aware of it.
When questioned whether Cabinet approval was sought before issuing the circular he said it is not the usual practice.
Rathnasiri went on to say the circular serves as ‘a reminder’ in keeping with previous circulars issued on public sector employees’ dress code and that religious, ethnic or communal identities are not considered when making such decisions.
“No matter what religion or community, the dress code must be adhered to and that includes uniforms issued for various sectors. . . After Easter attacks it was pointed out there was a need to issue a reminder about the regulations on dress codes for government employees; previous circulars were issued but they were not adhered to,” he added.
Rathnasiri seems to take after Sirisena when it comes to being aware of repercussions of his actions. He says he has not been made aware of any cases where employees have faced inconveniences due to the regulations imposed by his circular.
“We are ready to take action upon discussing with the Minister, if we are made aware of any injustice or inconvenience…The instructions so far is to revise the circular and not suspend it,” he added.
He also went on to criticize those who sought assistance of the Human Rights Commission with regard to the matter.
“If a state sector official was subjected to injustice, they should be seeking help from the Public Service Commission – not the Human Rights Commission,” he remarked.
PSC Member M A Sumanthiran inquired him of the direct link between the dress code and security, noting since the bombers wore trousers and shirts, they should be banned from being worn as well as per the logic displayed in Rathnasiri’s circular.
To that he said his circular simply refers to ‘what is appropriate’ in terms of a dress code as employees of state sector workers.