16 October, 2019

Blog

The One And Only Family

By Kath Noble

Kath Noble

The rise of Basil Rajapaksa has been rapid to say the least. Having spent years out of the country pursuing other interests, his return to support his brother’s presidential campaign was unexpected. Even more surprising was the popular backing he managed to acquire within a very short period in an unfamiliar district – he recorded the highest number of preferences in Gampaha in the 2010 parliamentary election, about as many as the next three candidates combined.

He is projected as a man who gets things done. The idea is that he will do for the economy what Gotabhaya did in terms of security, with Mahinda Rajapaksa being the figurehead who holds it all together.

The family brand is now so strong that people either love them or hate them.

It is perhaps understandable that Mahinda Rajapaksa is so obsessed with his family. Politicians adore power and want to hang onto it for as long as possible, and in this region in particular one means of extending their period of influence is to promote their relatives, lining them up for eventual succession.

Some months ago, Namal Rajapaksa gave a most amusing speech in Delhi at a forum on ‘political dynasties’ in which he claimed that the only real advantage of being the President’s son was that it had been slightly easier to get a nomination to contest elections. He argued that it was then up to the public to decide. This must be one of the most ridiculous statements of 2012. Yes, they have to collect votes, but even if they do so honestly on the basis of their image and not through the abuse of state resources that we all know is rampant in Sri Lanka, their image is only partly reflective of their capabilities. It is far more dependent on the opportunities they are given.

And both Namal and Basil have had a lot of help.

Why does Sri Lanka even have a Ministry of Economic Development? Because after the 2010 parliamentary election, Basil wanted a portfolio that would enable him to get involved in everything that might help to increase the family vote bank while making him responsible for nothing that could jeopardise it.

The Economic Development Ministry undertakes programmes that involve distributing freebies, money and jobs, especially focusing on young people in rural areas. Divi Neguma is an excellent example. Launched in 2011, its first phase involved the creation of one million home gardens. A lot of people were recruited to go around handing out seeds and equipment, or the money to buy them, and the whole exercise was given a lot of publicity. Never mind the impact of an increase in household production on farmers, since their marketing problems are the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture.

Or is it the Minister of Agrarian Services and Wildlife? Livestock and Rural Community Development? Rural Affairs? Could Divi Neguma be run by the Minister of Food Security?

Does anybody actually remember who is responsible for these subjects?

Mahinda Rajapaksa believes in the centralisation of all useful power in the hands of his family, and the distribution of all useless responsibilities among as many other people as possible, so as to reduce the likelihood of any challenges to his authority from both inside and outside his governing coalition. He is constantly on the lookout for Parliamentarians he can induce to join the Government. Crossovers weaken the Opposition, but they also dilute the influence of each Cabinet Minister – instead of being one of about 20, they are now one of 60.

The resulting confusion obviously creates tremendous wastage and inefficiencies, which people ‘tut tut’ about from time to time.

But wastage and inefficiencies are only really actively opposed in Sri Lanka when they are sins committed by provincial councils. People are ever ready to find reasons to get rid of provincial councils, and their consumption of resources without producing much in the way of improvements to well-being is the issue cited most often as justification.

However, this problem too is created by the Government. Provincial councils don’t get a lot done because the Government doesn’t want them to do a lot.

The Government implements whatever projects it likes, wherever it likes, never mind whether their subjects fall within its purview or within that of the provincial councils. Cabinet Ministers may be given a chance to get involved to stop them feeling too bad about their increasingly powerless situation, but the really important stuff is bound to be given to a member of the Rajapaksa family. Why else would Basil have been put in charge of reawakening the East and bringing spring to the North – as far away from his constituency as one can get while remaining within Sri Lanka’s borders?

It is obviously nonsense to suggest that there are no capable people in the Northern and Eastern Provinces, or that the Chief Ministers couldn’t have done the job with appropriate support from Parliamentarians representing those areas.

There is not even the explanation generally put forward as regards Gotabhaya, that Mahinda Rajapaksa really needed somebody he could trust due to the sensitivity and urgency of the situation during the war.

There was no justification for giving the responsibility to Basil.

I have made the same argument about the recent expansion of the Ministry of Defence to include street cleaning and landscape gardening as surely the world’s only Ministry of Defence and Urban Development (‘The Army’s No-War Games’, The Island, June 20th). Gotabhaya is apparently now spearheading the Rajapaksa family’s popularity drive among the middle class in Colombo.

Mahinda Rajapaksa doesn’t want devolution on anything other than a highly selective basis to people who won’t be in a position to use the power they are given meaningfully.

Divi Neguma is his ideal model. The key actors in the programme are community-based organisations, which operate in just one Grama Niladhari division or indeed in only part of one Grama Niladhari division. This is supposed to be empowering. Indeed it might be if there was a mechanism to enable these community-based organisations to have a say on policy – if the process were actually democratic, in other words. However, this is clearly not what is intended. They are given every opportunity to discuss amongst themselves, in a whole range of different forums at the local and even national level, no doubt involving plenty of wastage and inefficiencies that people won’t mind in the slightest, but all important decisions are taken by somebody else – Basil and officials under the control of Basil.

Provincial councils, which could reasonably expect to be in charge of work to promote home gardens, and more importantly to decide whether promoting home gardens is really the best option to make people in their areas better off, aren’t given the chance. They are not the ones with the money.

Why discuss this now? Because the Government is in the process of further extending and formalising this way of operating by means of a bill that transforms what was once merely a programme into a permanent structure of the Government – the Department of Divi Neguma Development, to be established within the Economic Development Ministry – which will also take over the work of regionally-focused development bodies such as the Udarata Development Authority and the Southern Development Authority, plus the work of the Samurdhi Authority.

The move is being challenged in the Supreme Court this week by a range of different groups, including the JVP.

A particular concern is that money deposited in Samurdhi Banks could be used by the Ministry of Economic Development without oversight, while the bill says that officials will be required to maintain absolute secrecy about their work, which is rather unusual.

However, it is the implications for the coordination of the development process that are most disturbing. Is Sri Lanka really best served by a system in which everything is decided by one, two or at best three people in Colombo?

Even if passage of the bill is blocked as a result of this legal action, it is clear that the real work will still remain to be done – the growth of Basil’s empire will be only slightly affected.

Mahinda Rajapaksa will pay no attention, certainly. He will continue to promote his relatives, in the expectation that being the President’s father will bring plenty of benefits in his dotage, and the space for others to contribute will continue to be closed down.

People may not feel very inclined to care about the fate of politicians, such is the frustration that has built up. The fact that internal democracy is as much of a problem in the SLFP as it is in the UNP doesn’t seem very important. However, it is through political parties that change has to come. The impact of their internal problems is being amply demonstrated by Ranil Wickremasinghe, who is preventing the Opposition from mounting a serious challenge to the Government by refusing to give up the UNP leadership. What Mahinda Rajapaksa is doing to the SLFP should be equally obvious.

Reforms are needed, and soon.

Basil Rajapaksa’s admirers shouldn’t get agitated by this suggestion – if he is as competent as they believe, he can manage without so much assistance from his brother.

*Kath Noble is a British journalist .She may be contacted at kathnoble99@gmail.com.

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Latest comments

  • 0
    0

    Kath Noble the politcal guru for SL has done it again. What is a name whether it is maga naguma , divi naguma or what ever, if the country is self sufficient in agriculture. She is attacking Basil for promoting home gardens as, according to her it is the resposibility of the Agriculture dept that has to oversee this project . It does not matter who is responsible or not if anyone helps the ordinary people to encourage farming and help with these projects . Better get another topic for criticism .

    • 0
      0

      Great Stuff Kath Noble! Many thanks and keep in coming! As you know most Lankan journalists are scared to raise the issues about the absolutely rotten governance set up in the country under the Rajapassa regime.
      It also needs to be said is the the so called Minister of Economic Dev aka. Mr 20 percent is a high school drop out who worked as a petrol station attended in LA and has not got a clue about what development rally is. He got lucky when MR won the election in Lanka. Basil has zero qualifications technical or otherwise for a job which requires a PhD or MA at least in todays complex financial and economic system, but is simply mad about making money and reckons tourism and white elephant infrastructre is development! That the “real wealth of nations” is in: human resources, enviromnental assets, and job creation in industrial and manufacturing sector rather than in service sectors like tourism is beyond his comprehension.

      • 0
        0

        Ha Ha. We do not need guys with PHDs and MAs in political office but those with real commitment, a clear vision, common sense and an understanding of the needs of the ‘ man in the street’ to lead and porovide direction. Technocrats can then ensure the implementation part. You have got it the wrong way around !!

    • 0
      0

      Excellent! keep up the good work Kath! And your diagnosis about the proliferation of useless ministries is spot on; For example, the disaster Management Ministry has bought 8 nuclear disaster early warning systems for tiny Lajka, but did nothing about the sinking ship and oil spill and is NOT DOING ANYTHING even though it was known for months before that the ship with oil was sinking of the coast of Panadura and would cause an ENVIRONMENTAL DISASTER and affect fisheries livelihoods. Wonder who in that useless ministry of Disaster Managment which has a massive new building and zero brain power and technical expertise to deal with a real disaster but spends billions on imaginary nuclear disasters got the cut backs for so may nuclear disaster warning devices!
      The regime also gets cronies into institutions like the NARA to lies about the sinking ship which resulted in a huge oil slick off Colombo and there a lots of dead fish, but the Head of NARA said that there was no relationship between the oil in the sea and the fish dying!
      Clearly regime change and sending Rajapassa Bros to Hague for a war crimes trial is the only solution to Lanka’s problems and hopefully the people will realise this soon!

      • 0
        0

        The Disaster Management Ministry is a disaster and a massive waste of funds and should be shut down and the funds and building transferred to education sector. It is a white elephant ministry full of corrupt and ignorant regime stooges.

        • 0
          0

          Kath Noble good try, but this piece needs improvement!
          1. Due to Rajapakse family’s corruption and NAKED BLOND AMBITION – i.e. infatuation with tourists and tourism to the exclusion of all other development priorities important to the people like education for instance, the southern honeymoon with Rajapakse regime for closing the war with the LTTE is over for good. The marriage is DEAD and people fed up! Witness the protest of students, teachers and professionals and their tear gassing on the streets of Colombo today. People have seem through the development rhetoric and are disgusted by Rajapakse’s moneymad looting, corruption and indebting of Lanka.
          2. The change will come through PEOPLES POWER – not through the UNP or any of the political parties which are part of the problem of democracy deficit in Lanka, nor will it come form the usual suspects the Colombo NGOs and follow donor scripts, but from FUTA and other trade union action, labour, professionals etc. 00 the Pancha maha bala vega who speak about ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL RIGHTS that are ignored by western donors.. It will indeed be a home grown solution and Lankan spring.. that sees people being educated for democratic citizenship in the process of the transformation.. thus will there be a synthesis a la the old Marxist analysis of thesis, antithesis and synthesis..

        • 0
          0

          Kalamas says:

          “The Disaster Management Ministry is a disaster and a massive waste of funds and should be shut down”

          What about the rest of the ministries?

          My understanding is the whole of the country is a disaster.

    • 0
      0

      Well said, the Carrot eaters

  • 0
    0

    Quoting from her text-

    “There was no justification for giving the responsibility to Basil”

    May well be this time this writer seems to be attacking BR for some personal reasons,

    but not studying how it has been sofar –

    Was there justification
    a) when appointing lanken ambassadors to the US and other embassies ?

    b) After all when appointing minister of high education

    as one of the commentators had described somewhere, today GOSL has reached to a stage where what left is doing is NOT known to the right hand.

  • 0
    0

    Who is this ‘British journalist’ who believes that she is competent to write on Sri Lanka? She was one of the most determined hurrah-girls for Mahinda at one time. Now like Laksiri F. et al, she seems to have changed her tune!

    Oh the times, oh the morals!

    • 0
      0

      Yes obviously a payee of Bell Pottinger & Co. I am sure she is annoyed as Basil must have asked for 10% from her also or he must have paid her 10% less for her services. Hence her ire at Basil.

      • 0
        0

        gamini:

        Overall the article suggests that Sri Lanka is ruled by Medieval rulers. Kingship takes precedent over democracy.

        The rulers of the island have one or two things to teach the Middle East kingdoms which are governed by medieval system and democracy is completely banished.

        Here in Sri Lanka we have both. For all intents and purposes democracy is very useful while retaining (reintroducing) Kingship to take control of complete functions of the state, in other words the state belongs to the Chakravartti and not to the demos.

        Democracy comes handy in order to legitimise their rule and maintain continuity of the rulers.

        You can have the cake and eat it.

        MR, CR, GR, BR and NR should be sent on lecture tours to Middle east where they can educate the Arab kings in statecraft. Arab Kingdom can have a combined system of Aristocracy, Theocracy and democracy, strictly no kleptocracy.

        They too can have the cake and eat it.

    • 0
      0

      she seems to have personal grudge against BR.

      Me too was bit curious to find out who she is. .. and below is what I found on the web about her.

      ————————–

      Kath Noble (as she herself explained who she is)

      I am a British journalist working in South Asia.

      Born and brought up in England, I studied at the University of Oxford before leaving for various pursuits elsewhere.

      Colombo was my first home in the region. After a number of years spent working as a researcher for an NGO, focusing on the relationship between the givers and receivers of ‘aid’ and the ways in which ‘free trade’ is anything but, I started to write. Politics has always been a passion of mine, and there was plenty to debate in Sri Lanka. The generation long conflict with the Tamil Tigers was moving towards its bloody end, and an administration that had been on the verge of collapse saw its fortunes change dramatically. President Mahinda Rajapaksa suddenly started to look invincible, winning election after election.

      I contributed some 200 pieces to national newspapers and magazines between 2007 and 2010.

      My work also led to a rather curious interlude in which I served as the media advisor to what the Government described as its ‘Peace Secretariat’.

      India

      Since then, I have moved to New Delhi to study for a Masters degree at Jawaharlal Nehru University, returning to my roots in Economics.

      • 0
        0

        Simion:

        Kath Noble wrote according Simion

        “Since then, I have moved to New Delhi to study for a Masters degree at Jawaharlal Nehru University, returning to my roots in Economics.”

        She is all over the place, is she in the second oldest profession to earn a decent living?

        • 0
          0

          Views could be either discussed, debated, argued, agreed upon or disagreed. That is being good morality and being civilized. But tarnish ones character due to inability to confront the views is a wicked, low minded and uncivilized cowardliness which is worse than practicing the second old profession.

        • 0
          0

          Vedda,
          not according to my comment, as far as web info is concerned

          http://kathnoble.wordpress.com/about/

          so unlikely be a a payee of Bell Pottinger & Co.

    • 0
      0

      Pandukhabaya:
      How very true!
      I wonder what provoked this “conversion.”

      • 0
        0

        You folks are a bunch of pathetic perverts who cannot tolerate am intelligent educated smart woman – especially if she’s blond.
        You male chauvinists should get a life and stop mastubating each other online!

        • 0
          0

          China Doll

          August 29, 2012
          6:15 pm

          Did you aim your above comment at me?

    • 0
      0

      It should be plaudits to one or many who realize faults and take the right path without being blind to truth and reality.

  • 0
    0

    THE DEVIL DANCERS FROM RUHUNU ARE DOING WELL IN THE PARLIAMENT, MAKING THE POOR SRI LANKANS GET POSSESSED WITH HATRED, INSTEAD OF EXORCICING SUCH HATTRED.
    PLEASE LORD BUDDHA BRING SOME ENLIGHTENMENT TO THESE DEVIL DANCERS FROM RUHUNU, AND MAKE THEM ATTAIN NIBBANA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

    • 0
      0

      Desilva

      advises:

      “MAKE THEM ATTAIN NIBBANA AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.”

      How do you propose to do it over their earned Karma?

      • 0
        0

        Native, Karma happened then, but today one can create Karma the American way, like how MR has copied with American help. Simple send the White Van.

        • 0
          0

          gamini

          Did National Defence Minister of China General Liang Guanglie shake MR’s hand or did he squeeze it while reminding Alakeshwara of Kotte?

          MR looks very uneasy but bravely smarting a smile while General Guanglie express no feelings at all. However his aid behind those two is smiling with glee.

          Could you check FT.lk and interpret the photograph for me.

        • 0
          0

          Native, the photo depicts diamond cutting diamond. The skin on General Liang Guanglie’s hand is all shriveled due to MR’s compressing grip, while the General is holding it losely. These foreign visits of Heads of State and other VIPs appear to be arranged to mislead the masses of covert operations carried out by the International Masterminds.

  • 0
    0

    I believe that readers of this forum should really focus on the points raised by authors and see for themselves whether they have merit, rather than attempt to analyse who the writer is or what their credentials might be.

    What tends to happen when people deviate into bashing others verbally or finding personality differences is that that whoever is guilty of the crimes in the first place gets away to laugh another day…!

  • 0
    0

    RAJAPAKSES HAVE SOWN THE WIND AND WILL REAP THE WHIRLWIND.

  • 0
    0

    I never miss Kath Noble’s writing. She is an intelligent writer and writes articles both critical and supporting MR regime. This is something the Sri Lanka press does not have the nerve to do. If they do, either the place will be burnt down or the writer will be taken in a white van.

  • 0
    0

    Praiseworthy article, in Srilnka the journalists are scared to write after lasanthas incident and many others.They lack the backbon.

    • 0
      0

      Dont you read the articles that are being published by few lanken journalists to CT these days – though not many ?

      Many of Noble´s article contents are biased to ruling coalition in SL an I have no idea about other articles that she keep writing about SA as a whole.

      As it realized me lately, there are also sinhala pvt radio senders (NethFM), that openly criticises the various issues that the GOSL is obviously neglecting to solve for long. Eg. Actions of police, Fradulent F job agencies, Disguised monks, Murder of UK citzen etc. I wonder how these announcers continue their genuine efforts without threats to their lives.

  • 0
    0

    This is intresting noteworthy. War is over and credit should go to MR et all. Now, for Sri Lanka should have a good and strong opposition to iron-out these concerns as what I beleive is ‘absolute power can corrupt absolutly’
    If we don’t have check & balances in place, any country can go eitherway. But, due to nature of human beings, history shown us more negative results than posotives.

Leave A Comment

Comments should not exceed 300 words. Embedding external links and writing in capital letters are discouraged. Commenting is automatically shut off on articles after 10 days and approval may take up to 24 hours. Please read our Comments Policy for further details. Your email address will not be published.