By P. Soma Palan –
The Daily Mirror of May 2nd reported that 18 Ministers were sworn in by the President, following a revision of the Cabinet. The Government or more specifically the President declared that the new revision of the Cabinet, “this time, will be on a scientific method.”
Firstly, President’s statement that it will be “this time on a scientific method”, is an admission that the past allocation of Ministerial Portfolios was not on a scientific method. That is, it was not on rational criteria based on sound Management principles, but on caprice, political whim and fancy, which is admittedly true. Incidentally, there was another report in the same newspaper, where the MP Udaya Gammanpilla (UG) has said “there is nothing scientific in new Cabinet and that Cabinet portfolios should be assigned not in a scientific manner but in a logical manner”. He is toying with words without giving any explanation. It appears that, to UG there is a difference between, what is scientific and what is logical. According to him, what is scientific is not logical, and therefore, it follows that, what is logical, cannot be scientific.This is innovative thinking of Pundit Gammanpila. But my perception is that anything scientific has to be logical and anything logical has to be scientific. These two ways of thinking are compatible and not antagonistic to each other. Moving away from the digression to Gammanpila punditry, let me consider the substantive matter of the Ministerial appointments and Portfolios.
How scientific are the new Ministerial Portfolios?
It would be vain to search for any scientific, logical and rational thinking from our legislators. Most of whom, do not have secondary educational qualification. The scientific methodology belongs to the educated, trained minds in any discipline of study, at a minimum graduate level. Politics is the only profession which requires no educational qualification. What is, needed for politics is only mob appeal and the propensity for vernacular oratory in the idiom of the Mob.
If it is claimed to be scientific, it requires adherence to basic scientific, logical and rational management principles, which are:
c) Conflict of authority
d) Unity or whole
f) Strengths, intellect and aptitude of the Appointee.
From the standpoints of above principles, the some ministerial Portfolios, if not all, show evidence of not a deviation from the past, but a repetition of the same capricious, whimsical and the personal, rather than the application of the impersonal principles.
The breach of the scientific method
1. Ministry of Public Enterprise and Kandy Development
The subject of Kandy Development allocated to Minister Lakshman Kiriella and the Southern Development allocated to Minister Sagala Ratnayaka and Wayamba Development allocated to Minister S.B. Nawinna and Northern Development allocated to Minister D.M. Swaminathan conflicts with the Regional Development Portfolioallocated to Minister Sarath Fonseka. It is duplicitous, as it is unqualified ,and implies an all-island Portfolio, not restrictive to any region. This means, the latter is the Minister for development of all the Regions of the Country, unless the Regions are specified. The people have a right to know the regions assigned to him. One cannot expect the people to deductively know that Sarth Fonseka is the Minister for regions other than the regions specifically given to others. Besides, Minister Sarath Fonseka himself will be confused and not certain for which regions, he is the Minster for Development. There is lack of clarity and specificity. Further, one has to assume that Minister Kiriella is responsible for Kandy development only. That is the city only and not the Kandy Region. Can one call this a scientific method?
2. Minister of Social Empowerment, P. Harrison and Minister of Social Welfare, Daya Gamage
On the principle of affinity and unity, these two subjects of Social Empowerment and Social Services, is one integrated whole. This has been bifurcated into two, against all logic and rationality, in an unscientific manner. It is one, substantive function. Ideally Minister Harrison should have been given Social Empowerment, Social Welfare and even including Social Development. Minister Daya Gamage should have been given only Primary Industries, which I assume covers all Industries, including secondary Industries, notably Apparel Industry.
3. Minister Sarath Amunugama allocated, inter alia, Hill Country Heritage
Firstly, Hill Country Heritage is vague and ambiguous. Hill country embraces the entirety of the Central Province. It is not a substantive subject, and has no affinity to the subjects, Science, Technology and Research, skills development and Vocational Training, assigned to him. Besides, Heritage is an integral part of Cultural Affairs. On the principle of unity or whole, Heritage rightly belongs to the Portfolio of Cultural Affairs and Higher education, assigned to Minister Wijedasa Rajapaksa.
These are few observations relating to the 18 Ministerial appointments reported in the newspaper, as a result of the Cabinet reshuffle. These comments apply to the Deputy Ministers as well, who are given the corresponding portfolios. As pointed out above, it cannot be concluded that these Cabinet Ministerial portfolios were assigned on a scientific method, based on impersonal principles of Management, as claimed by the President. It is apparent that, it was not done on a rational manner, but to balance subjects to appease personal interests of individuals. This is evidently clear, more so, in the appointment of Sarath Fonseka with vague and dubious subjects like Sustainable Development, and Regional Development, which is more nominal than real, except the only substantive subject being, Wild Life. I am intrigued by the subject Sustainable Development, because all Development ought to be Sustainable. There is nothing called Unsustainable Development. Further, whilst assigning him the general and all-inclusive portfolio of “Regional Development” and at the same time, giving other Ministers, Portfolios with defined boundaries for Regional Development, I wonder what residual regions are left for him. This particular case exemplifies clearly, it is not impersonal principles, but the adverse personal factor, was the basis for the Portfolio given to Minister Sarath Fonseka. He is left only with the non-substantive and insignificant Portfolio of Wild Life. This further demonstrates that strengths, ability, capacity not considered, compared to some persons of mediocre talent, being given substantive Portfolios. It is not out of admiration for Sarath Fonseka, as a military man, I make this comment. But, he has the capacity and tenacity to get a job done. In this respect, he deserves the more substantive portfolio of Law and Order. We desperately need a man like Sarath Fonseka to bring the big swindlers and criminals, expeditiously, under the arm of the Law. The President and the Prime Minister are fully conscious that Sarath Fonseka will accomplish the task given.That is the very reason, he is denied the deserving Portfolio of Law and Order, with the hidden intention to protect the big wrong doers.