By Rajiva Wijesinha –
I have received via Facebook an article in Colombo Telegraph by Mr Nishtar Idroos suggesting that Mr Faizer Musthapha and I are what he describes as ‘thotta babas’. He claims that he wants ‘our legislators to grow up and not just come of age’ and that ‘there is a huge difference between the two’, but does not explain what he means by this erudite distinction.
He has a simple solution for what he sees as my problem, namely ‘The good professor had to say just one thing to Minister Kabir Hashim and the whole issue would have been resolved, “Kabir please make sure this does not happen again”.’
Perhaps he would have done better, before going public with his words of wisdom, to have checked whether or not it had happened previously.
On Friday January 30th Kabir Hashim had given orders to the Secretary to my Ministry, without keeping me informed. I wrote to him as follows on the following Monday
I was told by my Secretary that you had requested him last Friday to provide information on the filling of vacancies in the higher education sector since last October. You had also wanted details of vehicle allocations of the Ministry.
I have no objection to your collecting such information, but I am surprised that you did not discuss the matter with me. It also seems to me profoundly unethical that you should have issued instructions to the Secretary to my Ministry direct.
You had told me the previous week that you would leave me to handle matters in my Ministry, and indeed that you would be far too busy with working towards the election to spare time for most areas in the Ministry. I have no idea whether the information you want is for the election, but were it for the purpose of introducing the systemic reforms to which this government is pledged, working together with me would have been more productive.
Please let me know what is going on. Also, last week you had told me that you wanted me to look after Technical and Vocational Training, but later you mentioned that the Prime Minister seemed to think otherwise. You were going to tell me the decision after you met him on Sunday January 25th, but I did not hear from you all week. Given the urgency of problems in that sector to which I have drawn your attention, a swift decision is needed. Simple action such as combining the VTA and NAITA, which you said the Prime Minister had suggested, will not be enough. Some deeper understanding of the situation will be required for productive action.
I look forward to hearing from you. Yours sincerely’
I did not get a reply to this letter, instead a couple of days later he had written to the Chairman of the UGC as follows – ‘I have been directed by His Excellency the President to inform you to tender your resignation from the chairmanship of the UGC with immediate effect’. He wrote in similar vein to other members of the UGC, and also told the Chairman ‘I write to inform you to request all members of the Governing Authorities appointed by the University Grants Commission to tender their resignations with immediate effect in order to reconstitute all the Governing Authorities of Higher Educational Institutions and lnstitutes.’ None of these letters was copied to me.
Earlier, on January 27th, as I later found out, Mr Hashim had written to the President as follows – ‘We,therefore,request permission of Your Excellency for the following: a. To request the chair person and members of the university Grants commission to tender their resignations forthwith’ b. To request the council members of all state universities to tender their resignations with immediate effect’’. This had I believe followed on a meeting with FUTA which in its notes on the meeting declared that
‘”Prime Minister stated that all UGC Commission members including the Chair will be requested to resign. Request letters will come through the Secretary to the President
Minister Kabeer Hashim stated that he requests all Council members of universities to resign.”
The President told me that he had not been consulted about the dismissal of the UGC. Mr Hashim had previously wanted me to appoint UNP dons to vacancies in the UGC, and later he told me that I could choose from lists in the Prime Minister’s office.
The University Grants Commission comes direct under the President. Unfortunately, though the Prime Minister seems to have acknowledged this in the second part of the first note, when he did not get any response from the President’s office, Mr Hashim took it upon himself to act. He used the President’s name without authorization.
Mr Hashim recognized that the situation he had created was impossible and said he would recommend I be made a Cabinet Minister. He has said this three times and promised to get back to me after speaking to those responsible, but never did so. The Prime Minister promised to get back to me the day after speaking to former President Kumaratunga but has not as yet called me back.
In a magnificient peroration, Mr Idroos declares that ‘Good governance is accountability, Good governance is transparency, Good governance follows rule of law, Good governance is responsive, Good governance is equitable and inclusive, Good governance is effective and efficient, Good governance is participatory, Good governance works solely for the people amidst constraints and hardship.’
Does Mr Idroos think Mr Hashim has assumed responsibility for his actions, which is part of accountability? Has he acted openly? Has he followed the rule of law? Had he even looked at the Act before making decisions and implementing them? Has he been responsive? Has he acted equitably, when claiming that he dimissed the Chair because of pressure for FUTA? Even FUTA now says that an inquiry would have been welcome. Has he been inclusive?
He told me clearly that he could not do the work himself. Last week he was attending a seminar on election strategy and said he would not be going to the Ministry, and the next day he went to Deraniyagala. Has he been effective and efficient? Has he acted participatorily? And has he, in not ensuring that the crisis was solved after promising to do this, worked ‘solely for the people’?
In my letter of resignation I told His Excellency that ‘I have long realized that it is not possible to work effectively if one has lost the confidence of those in authority.’ So much being done behind my back indicates that there was another agenda than that on which we worked together for the election.
I think Mr Idroos would do better to apply his concern and understanding of what good governance means to Mr Hashim and the Prime Minister. Perhaps he should also ask Mr Hashim why his personal staff descended like vultures on the Ministry this week and tried to take away its vehicles. I have tried to call Mr Hashim to suggest he control them, but his phone is permanently switched off. I have a different vision of what the Right to Information means, and I hope Mr Idroos will also be a bit more scientific in holding those with responsibilities accountable.