Colombo Telegraph

Some Thoughts About Sirisena’s First Appointment Of Ministers

By Emil van der Poorten

Emil van der Poorten

I expect that every man and his dog is going to take a run at conducting a (premature, one hopes!) post-mortem on the new cabinet appointed post-Rajapaksa Take-Over Attempt.

While politics might be the art of the possible as the man who first expressed that sentiment is (mis)-quoted as saying, some of the choices that have been made give one pause for, either, philosophical reasons or judged on the basis of just plain horse sense.

That John Amaratunga, despite his documented sycophancy to Mahinda Rajapaksa had to be accommodated for reasons of simple “seniority,” I suppose, was inevitable. However, the sooner this bootlicker of Mahinda Rajapaksa in pursuit of free plane tickets is put out to pasture the better for this country and any government that aspires to perform its duties consonant with the wishes of the people who elected it.

If those responsible for these choices had anything resembling political intelligence, they would NOT have stuck Rauff Hakeem up the national nose at this time. The only reason that he and several of the other “political leaders” of the Muslim community deserted Rajapaksa was because their followers had already deserted them in droves. I have little doubt that the defection of this man and the other “Muslim leaders” to the Sirisena camp added very few votes to its “bank,” for that reason. By the time Rauff Hakeem and co. put a saliva-wet finger up in the air to see which way the political wind was blowing the vast mass of Sri Lanka’s Muslims had marched across the political Great Divide.

To have given Ravi Karunanayake the Ministry of Finance when this was precisely the area of his activity over which the darkest of clouds had hung could well come back to haunt this political configuration. Even granted his loyalty to the traditional UNP was never in question, the fact that he was reported to have needed a special dispensation from Mahinda Rajapaksa, as President, every time he needed a passport to leave Sri Lanka, with the implications thereof, should have prompted the king-makers to hand him a portfolio of a different type.

The appointment of Arjuna Ranatunga to the Posts and Shipping Ministry is a curious one. It was felt by many that he had the background and experience to handle the Sports Ministry, but such does not exist in the new set-up and, therefore another slot would have been required for him. In any event, going on his political track record, political loyalty, “grinning-and-bearing” in pursuit of the overall good of the nation does not appear high in this man’s list of “things that matter.” Also, wasn’t he one of General Fonseka’s lieutenants when that worthy established his own political party and doesn’t he serve in the legislature by virtue of that affiliation which he has since abandoned? Ah, but then, it seems that the Ranatunga clan has the ability to be on three sides of every issue/keeping a foot in every political camp and this appears to simply represent success in that endeavour.

The appointment of Rosy Senanayake to a seemingly unimportant, innocuous second-tier Ministry smacks of revenge for her being the dissenting voice in the UNP at various times. However, her unwavering loyalty to the party, her public persona and experience as a successful diplomat should have counted for something, one would have thought, particularly since this list contains only ONE woman, in the person of Thalatha Athukorala, in the first rank of Ministers.

The fact that Faiszer Mustapha has been made a Minister of State seems simply to reward an unprincipled politician who has been distinguished by his ability to be just that – unprincipled – and willing to swing from limb to political limb like the macaques that are the bane of life of those of us living in the hinterland.

The appointment of the totally unprincipled Rajiva Wijesinha to any position of importance or prominence says more about those appointing him than about a man who is best left undescribed in a publication that might be read by those of some sensitivity. He epitomizes a total and absolute lack of principle and has displayed the ability to act like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth while indulging in the most outrageous obfuscations and prevarications in defence of Mahinda Rajapaksa in the matter of war crimes and crimes against humanity. One can but hope that this is not what qualified him for this particular appointment! The other theory I have heard bandied about is that this is a return to the days of the old Uncle-Nephew-Party because he is related by marriage or blood to Ranil Wickremesinghe. I certainly hope there isn’t any truth to that suggestion but it is hard to find any reason for having given this man who represents a party of one this kind of prominence when there were principled men of ability left to languish in relative obscurity.

Some of the names in the “also ran” category make interesting reading. Certainly, Dr. Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickramaratne seem deserving of better, given their consistently intelligent and hard-hitting exposes of the government’s malfeasance, both individual and collective. While packing in the sardines of intelligence, couldn’t room be found at the Cabinet table for the financial expertise that they projected so well to the general public?

The present is a time for bold, courageous and decisive action and what has gone into the selection of the first Sirisena/Wickremesinghe Cabinet appears deficient in those commodities, ending up like the proverbial curate’s egg, “good in parts.”

What needs to change in the status quo? An immediate course-correction in keeping with the need of the hour and the promises made, nothing less.

This country does NOT have the luxury of time at its disposal. The people expect and deserve radical change NOT the “same old same old.” Act now, President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe, to ensure that we don’t have recycled Rajapaksa behavior carried on by re-cycled Rajapaksa cronies only to be followed –inevitably – by a return of that lot, in recycled form or not!

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