President Maithripala Sirisena in a lengthy interview with BBC (Sinhala Service), said that he has not been guilty of nepotism during his first year in office.
The President, who came in for a lot of criticism over the appointment of his brother as Telecom Chairman and over his children using presidential clout to order around public servants and use public assets, brushed aside BBC’s Azzam Ameen’s questions over nepotism saying that he has not given party nomination for any relation to contest elections.
When asked about including his son Daham Sirisena in the country’s official delegation to the UN General Assembly last year, he said ‘that’s about humanity and about a father’s love for a son which only fathers who have children can understand’. He said people who don’t have children attack me. It is not clear if this was a veiled attack on the Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who does not have children. Although Sirisena said he took his son ‘because there was enough room’, the truth is that only six seats were reserved for the Sri Lankan delegation. Therefore the President deliberately removed Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Dr. Rohan Perera, to make room for his son. ( see the photo below)
Daham Sirisena holds no official post in the public service but as recently as yesterday took it upon himself to inspect a special complex managed by the Ministry of Defence with senior military officers forced to be in attendance.
Instead of addressing the problem of nepotism which has become an embarrassment to the government the President chose to attack his critics.
President Sirisena appears to have equated nepotism to family rule. It is no secret however that most of his brothers became wealthy only after Sirisena was first appointed as a minister in the Chandrika Kumaratunga government.
Whilst President Sirisena is also the Minister of Defence, his son-in-law Wewelpanawa Gamage Thilina Suranjith is the Public Relations Officer of the Defence Ministry, whilst Chathurika, Sirisena’s daughter, has been invited frequently as a chief guest at other known Defence Ministry functions.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines nepotism as “the unfair practice by a powerful person of giving jobs and other favors to relatives”. The Cambridge Dictionary defines nepotism as ” the act of using your power or influence to get good jobs or unfair advantages for members of your own family”
To watch the President’s interview, click here