A spate of preliminary appointments to the public administration sector under President Maithripala Sirisena has raised serious questions about the new administration’s promises about good governance, transparency and a merit based public sector.
The appointment of P.B. Abeykoon a senior SLAS officer as Secretary to the President came as a rude shock followed closely by Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe‘s own choice of secretary.
Abeykoon who was at one time the Controller General of Immigration was later Secretary to the Ministry of Public Administration. He is believed to be a close confidant of Gamini Senarath, one of the key power brokers of the Rajapaksa administration.
Senarath who also controversially served as chairman of several companies owned by proxy by the Rajapaksas, is believed to have worked closely with Abeykoon – President Sirisena’s choice for his most senior official.
“Gamini Senarat is No 1 on the list to be investigated for fraud and all kinds of dealings during Mahinda’s reign,” said an enraged UNP member to Colombo Telegraph. “This is an unbelievable appointment because everyone knows Abeykoon’s links to Senarat,” the UNP member said.
Other Sirisena aides insisted that the new President had no idea of Abeykoon’s dealings with Senarat and the possible implication of the civil servant in nefarious activities under the previous regime. “The appointment is temporary. Maybe he knew this man and was comfortable with him. After all this is the officer that is always around you, in your home in your office – people want familiarity,” the aide said.
However President Sirisena has insisted that if there are sufficient grounds and the facts are placed before him in a credible way, he will ensure Abeykoon’s removal.
Meanwhile in a surprise move Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe has appointed a mediocre civil servant as his Secretary.
Saman Ekanayake is a relatively junior officer of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) and is not known particularly for dynamism or efficiency. He served at the Ministry of External Affairs during the tenure of Minister Rohitha Bogollagama and secured a diplomatic posting to London for his loyal service.
On his return to Sri Lanka, Ekanayake was attached to the Ministry of Finance. Wickremesinghe in his previous avatars as PM had Bradman Weerakoon, the highly respect senior civil servant, as his Secretary.
The appointment of Ekanayake comes in the wake of several disappointing appointments to key administrative positions by the incoming regime. P.B Abeykoon and B.M.U.D Basnayake appointed as Secretary to the President and Secretary Defence respectively have somewhat chequered records under the recent Rajapaksa administration.
The newly appointed Secretary to the Ministry of mass Media, Karunarathna Paranavitharana also received lucrative positions within the previous administration due to his political maneuvering. Paranavitharana was a member of Prof. GL Peiris’ staff during the Chandrika Kumaratunga administration. When Kumaratunga took over ministries from the UNF Government in 2003 Paranavitharana was sent to Lake House as Editorial Director. He was then appointed as SLBC Director General and went on to hold the same position at Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation.