23 September, 2019

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Where Responsibility Lies For The President Being Let Down

By Rajiva Wijesinha –

Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha

I was quite saddened by some of the responses to my article entitled ‘Letting down the President’, which recorded instances in which I thought the President’s instructions had been completely ignored, to the detriment of the country. I had been prepared for those who believe this government is appalling to claim either that I was being hypocritical, or else that I was naïve to have thought that progress towards pluralism was possible. But what upset me was the view of someone who I believe appreciates what this government has done, who suggested that the body tasked to work out an Action Plan for implementation of the LLRC Report had perhaps ‘been warned not to go ahead with the meetings’. The response went on to claim that ‘the LLRC was an opportunist ploy so as to meet the widespread criticisms’.

When I asked for evidence for this view however I got none, except for the suggestion that I did not really understand politics, and in particular what was described as Palace Politics. That is possible, though sometimes I feel the study of literature is a better preparation for politics than more obviously relevant subjects, because it is personalities that govern politics and particularly so in Sri Lanka (which, in this respect as in others I studied for my doctorate, is more like Victorian England than most Western societies are now). Indeed recent events concerning the abduction of the mysterious Mr Mudalige make me wonder whether my comments on the dysfunctionality of government did not err on the side of caution.

But, to get back to the President’s instructions and expectations, I believe the evidence suggests that he is the victim, rather than the fountainhead, of a wholly impractical system. In a Presidential system, and increasingly so now even in Westminster style systems, the Head of Government must have functionaries who ensure by working behind the scenes that the policies he has spelled out are implemented. That used to be the function of the President’s Secretary, but unfortunately the present incumbent has been snowed under with an excess of work that has prevented him from carrying out his primary function. As can be seen from his presence on political platforms as well as television chat shows, he is expected to do much more than his predecessors, and in the field of politics as well as administration.

Of course it would not be fair to compare Lalith Weeratunge to Presidential Secretaries such as Mr Manikdiwela and Mr Balapatabendi who were personal assistants elevated to what should be one of the most important functional positions in the land. But the most distinguished of his predecessors, Mr Wijeyedasa, also a skilled Civil Servant, never appeared in public, and performed his duties to the entire satisfaction of the President.

But there are other reasons too for the slowness with which the Presidential Secretariat operates, and its incapacity to ensure fulfillment of the special mandates the President has given out, as with the various committees I mentioned, ie to report on the first American report on possible War Crimes, to implement the interim recommendations of the LLRC, and to prepare a road map for the final LLRC recommendations. One is that timelines are not taken seriously, and the President is not made aware by those who should advise him of expectations that must be fulfilled if further problems are not to arise. Second is the assumption of some of those appointed to such committees that their primary allegiance is not to the President, but rather to what are perceived as other power centres in the government. This is where the Secretariat must make clear the primacy of the President’s authority in decision making but, if the Secretariat too has got involved in politics, then such absolute commitment to the Presidency is difficult to sustain.

Finally, there is the continuing assumption that all decisions must be made at the top, which when combined with the excess of responsibilities that have accrued to the President means that nothing moves for ages. I did wonder whether this was in part because the caliber of younger officials is not as high as it should be, but I was told that the tendency to hold onto everything is endemic now – and indeed this perhaps explains why youngsters cannot develop quickly, as they used to do in the good old days of the Civil Service, when relative autonomy led to the swift emergence of capable decision makers.

These factors have led to at least 12 examples where I have been concerned where clear Presidential directives were delayed or ignored. In some cases, after a few reminders, the desired action was taken, but obviously I cannot go and stand in the Secretariat for hours to achieve this, as I have been advised to do. The result is continuing delays with regard to Reconciliation initiatives and implementation of the Human Rights Action Plan, which will of course lead to continuing problems for Sri Lanka.

But even more serious are the delays I am aware of in areas with which I have not been directly concerned. The most obvious in the current context is the failure to develop a Road Map for the LLRC, a task given out by the President many months ago. There has been no sense of urgency about this, but I believe the President was not informed, for he himself suggested using the material that was ready in Geneva. He was dissuaded, entirely because there is nothing worth talking about ready as yet, but this has not actually been told him, and even I found some sleight of hand about what was going on when I inquired.

Earlier there was the appalling delay in responding to the initial American report. In that case I know that one of the younger lawyers who had been appointed to the Committee was himself upset that it had not met – I remember the date on which he told me this, since it was at the Carol Party at Temple Trees in 2009 – but why the matter was not pursued I cannot understand. It could be argued that our culture does not permit of haste, and that perhaps is why I was described as a bloody nuisance when I was appointed to convene the Task Force on the Human Rights Action Plan, but surely those who are directly responsible to the President must realize the gravity of any delays with regard to their mandates.

I continue then to believe that the President is the victim of these delays, rather than the cause. But I suppose I must grant to my critic that, if there is no effort even now to ensure structural changes, then one will have to grant, as Harry Truman noted, that the buck stops at the top.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    How did an educated person like you get yourself mixed up as a sycophant of a family dictatorship?

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      Simple. To go places. He renewed his distant relationship with the Rajapakse’s after MR got elected. Before that, the Wijesinghes did not care two hoots for the Rajapakses. Now he has achieved something that Liberal Party founder Chanaka Amaratunga could not – become an MP, all courtesy MR. So, he has to now drink sereppu (slipper) soup.

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      sycophant is now at youtube as PRABAKARAN WITH BIG EYES,never hurt this prof.

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      Presidunce Bean:
      The fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree! Check on the performance of this guy’s father and his “cultivation” of the powerful to his benefit and that of his sons. It will be educational. This is the second generation of parasite, really!

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    The war was won because the right people were appointed to the right positions. The diplomatic war is more important and the President is not following the same principle on this occasion. People who are ignorant and who have a track record of incompetence and ignorance and who have squandered billlions of public money are kept as advis0ors on foreign affairs. When the goal is not peace and harmony but continuation of family rule at any cost, the learned Professor is wasting his efforts. We the Sri Lankan people will eventaully pay a high price for this.

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      The poor handling at Geneva has highlighted the inadequacy of President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s leadership qualities. If anything this gives more credence to Gen. Sarath Fonseka’s claim that the victory over the LTTE was due to his vision and planning. Seems like Rajapaksa’s arrogance helped the situation a lot but the war victory was actually a fluke that they have managed to milk till it bleeds.

      Rajapaksa’s handling of the economy is more like a rodeo ride than navigation of a ship into calm waters. He has neither demonstrated an understanding of economic principles nor the ability to find suitable people to handle it for him. And the same goes for his handling of human rights, foreign policy and law & order.

      If he was such a brilliant leader during the war what has happened to him since then? Where are his leadership qualities now?

  • 0
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    When there are so many examples of double-speak by HE, insturctions
    are continuously been put on “hold” with another Agenda – in the style
    of “governance” in silly Lanka, is a known fact. Where does Rajiva
    stand here?

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      Rajiva stands on every side of every question. Hasn’t anyone listened to his lisping responses to interviewers, particularly the one by BBC when he swore up and down that Fonseka would be charged under civil law and not charged before a court martial?
      This man fits the old American Indian accusation of having a forked tongue except that his has a multiplicity of forks.
      He must not spend as much time briefing his “dirty tricks squad” to have the time to indulge in this rubbish he keeps spouting on this and other websites!

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    “president’s instructions been ignored” That’s a joke. If anyone ignores anything or everything is none other than the Rajapakshe brothers and their goons like people like you Wijesinghe. Your boss’s only instructions are to wipe out Tamils and get rid of any Sinhalese who oppose them. You have the nerve to call this “instructions”.What are you now, a comedian?

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      Gowrie, Are you sick or something? Where did you find this instructions book? Ranil has never complained about any threat to the opposition and TNA are not crying now either about any threat toTamil peoples’ lives. Ranil only wnats to topple the government because he is fed up of being in the opposition for too long and the TNA, well they as usual are only trying to fish in troubled waters, but the waters getting clearer and they are the losers in the end.

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        The problem with Gowrie is that he still cant get over the unfortunate incident at Nandikadal where his beloved leader Velu went the last journey with eyes the size of Kurumbatti staring in disbelief.No point sobbing anymore my boy,dead men never talk.

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          Max Silva:
          The trouble with you is that you have access to the internet so that you can bore the rest of us to tears with your monumental inanities. Ah, well your masters must pay you well, though.

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          Hello Anti,
          What type of Anti you are?Hot Anti,Boring Anti,Gossiping Anti,Frustrated Anti,jealous Anti,Agony Anti,useless Anti,Shit Anti?Don’t you get a break on your traveling circus?We expect your participation on 19th May at Galle face green to colour the military parade.Bring as many clowns as possible.

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          Anti,
          If i am boring you close your bloody eyes without wasting my time!

        • 0
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          Nice one Anti-B.S. I knew you darted right above Max Silva’s head. He’s going dah dah …

  • 0
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    Brother responsible directly, himself indirectly, what happens when a family affair!

  • 0
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    MR is not a victim. He is the culprit. He chooses advisors who tells him what he likes to hear.

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      From a bunch of guys who tried to sell a “zero casualty” story, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that their plan was to portray the President as a victim when things start going wrong.

      This is a good indication that at least some of the fan-boys have realized their gravy train has started to detail.

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    What nonsense is this man writing who has the face-cut of a premature born baby? What are these f…..g instructions you are referring to? Have those instructions something to do with ending white van saga, eradication of impunity culture, instructing k9 judges to be independent and arrive at judgement impartially and without stooping to political pressure, do they instruct the police to perform their duty without swallowing slipper soup of politicians especially the Rajapakshas including the main culprit the President himself, do those instructions carry the requirement of removing all corrupt, inefficient and stupid stooges of the regime from key state institutions, foreign missions, the law endorsement, legislative, administrative and economy management bodies? Doesn’t the President issue clear instructions to his team of security dogs to refrain from ancient treasure hunting and museum robbing? This list can go on endlessly if one were to itemize all the omissions and commissions of the failed President.

    Assume for a moment that as this joker says this despot has really issued these instructions so that the law and order of the land is upheld. Then the question arises as to whether current President is really suitable to hold Presidency because no one cares the “clear instructions” if the “Executive President” and therefore he should resign and leave it to someone else who can make the “clear instructions” work!

    Finally as for white van disappearances and plundering of the wealth of the country and corruptions wise the “clear instructions” seem to work very well!!!!!

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      Rohitha

      Think Nandikadal!

      • 0
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        You Rajapaksa fan-boys can’t seem to present an intelligent argument even if your life depended on it. Pathetic!

  • 0
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    It has not yet dawned on this guy that the president has no intention whatsoever of implementing the LLRC report. Road Map ! ! what Road Map?
    Action Plan – joke.
    Will the president actually demilitarise the north & east? Will he disarm Devananda’s goons? Will he implement the two official languges?
    Will he allow the national anthem to be sung in the two official lnguages? Never. He is in the grip of extremists without whom he cannot survive.
    Will he implement the Rule of Law? Will he abolish the PTA? Will he reign in his brother Gotabaya – whose multibillion ‘security company’ has been exposed today? Never.
    Rajiva earlier said that there are ministers with and without “clout”.He is in the latter category.Nobody takes him seriously as all know how he came to parliament and his two cents worth there is ignored by all.Now it appears that he wants to be a senator!!!!
    He is a ‘washed out’ liberal, like the other ‘communists’, the ‘trotsky’ites, the JVPers, the JHU jokers etc. All are being used by the Rajapakse Clan for their survival.
    Wake up man!!!!

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      LLRC report is the joke . Which country has their national anthem sung in Minority languages ? UK / USA will have to have several versions to please the URudu speaking , the Hindi speaking . The polish people . The russians , The chinese , the italians , The greeks . and the list goes on and on . Come off it . Is Tamil a recognised language in India where there are 60-70- milliiion Tamils ?
      Follow the live and let live policy without unreasonable demands. Did you listen to the Australian PM saying that anyone who is not going to abide by the country’s rules and regulations are free to go where ever they wish . So be it for SL as well

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        In South Africa, the national anthem is sung in 5 languages. In Xhosa (first stanza, first two lines), Zulu (first stanza, last two lines), Sesotho (second stanza), Afrikaans (third stanza) and English (final stanza). New Zealand has two national anthems, ‘God defend New Zealand’ and ‘God save the Queen’ both of which are sung both in English and Maori. You may have seen the All Blacks singing in both languages before their matches. ‘O’ Canada’ is sung in English and French (spoken by 22%). In India, “Jana Gana Mana” is in Bengali, spoken by 8%. The Swiss national anthem is sung in all four official languages, German, French, Italian and Romansh (spoken by less than 0.5%). In Ethiopia, the national anthem is in Amharic, the official language, but which is spoken by 29.3% of the population, coming second to Oromigna spoken by 33.8%.

        There has been a Tamil translation of Namo Namo Matha from the early 1950’s. This has been used since then not only in the North and East but also in other parts of the country. Go to a Government Muslim Maha Vidyalaya in Kandy and you will hear it sung every day. The mother tongue of roughly 25% of Sri Lankans (Tamils, Muslims and Indian Tamils) is Tamil. So why not let them sing the national anthem in a language they understand.

        Go to the present Sri Lankan Constitution. The Tamil version of the Constitution has the national anthem in Tamil.

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          Thank you for updating me with this information . Please let me know whether India also has its National anthem in Tamil as there are 60-70 million population of Tamils in Tamil Nadu.I would like this information as well please.

        • 0
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          Norman, you are trying to present morons with facts.

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          Janaki

          In India, the national anthem is sung only on Bengali, which is a minority language.

  • 0
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    Good observation Rohitha! This joker who is going around the world and telling what greatness of the MR regime and MR’s good governance is like eating his own vomit. He is capable telling the Emperor that is naked, instead he tells how good he looks in his imperial attire and how he governs. Simple logic, under MR, county has fallen from frying pan to the fire. Murderous are sent overseas to protection, rampant corruption and nepotism, regional favoritism, any thing for Hambantota! ( Like wise Prabaharan had the same mentality (Jaffna)! This man is no different from Prabaharan eithir. Wasting the country and its values and I assume, MR will meet the fate of Gaddfi soon…………….

  • 0
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    This guy only knows English ad put words together . Otherwise e is a good joker who sucks for his own good .

  • 0
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    Great rejoinder Norman!

  • 0
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    Norman, your comment on the National Anthem– that is what one would call a “constructive comment”– Well researched, very elucidating and objective.

    It is the moral duty and the responsiblty of the leaders of the “strong” majority to go the “extra” mile to accomodate the sensibilities of the “weaker” minority, and not trample on them for paraochial political scores –in the long term interst of the welfare of all the citizens of Sri Lanka, the Sinhalese, Tamils and Muslims

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    A lot of hogwash! His writing appears to be that of someone suddenly being given power and wishes to boost his ego by exhibiting his familiarity with persons of influence! It reeks of sycophancy and intellectual prostitution! A joker posing as a deep thinker, using a title he is probably not entitled to, trying to impress the gullible with his so-called ‘considered opinion’!!

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    Thanks Norman for your comment, which should serve as a reality check for those who sing hosannahs to this government. This government has very tactfully created a culture where if someone speaks against it, is branded a traitor. They still talk about Prabakharan, et al. Come on, he is dead. He suffered an ignominous defeat. Get a life and move on. As you have rightly said, one of the first changes that the Mandela government did was to change the national anthem. However, it did not forget the minorities i.e. Afrikaans and English speaking population. Gota “the know it all” who ran away from the war, feels that it is a joke to have our National Anthem in two languages. Then, let us follow the SA National Anthem and include Tamil, Malay and English in it, and let the majority portion remain in Sinhala.

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    This donkey is saying the useless president is the victim and not the cause of all the problems and that his instructions are being grossly neglected by those on whom responsibilities of the government lie! Why the hell does this stupid president cling on to power at whatever cost to the nation instead of resigning and let General Fonseka assume the president-ship who was the actual winner of the last presidential election? I have no time to waste on this stupid professor, but his whole article is a useless self contradictory feeble attempt to protect this corrupt king! These two idiots do not have an iota of wisdom that if the President’s instructions are not complied with then what they have to do is not crawl in front of the whole world and proclaim their inability to govern the country through the corrupt regime they plundered by all the corrupt means but either they must go for a presidential election to find a suitable person as the president or punish and remove the culprits who fail to carry out instructions!

    However it may be that since this president is ruling the country according to the jungle law of Madamulana no one cares about his so called “instructions”! What bloody nonsense these stupids are talking about? We are the fools who waste our time on these morons!

  • 0
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    Professor..

    you are an educated man.. but you have sold your conscience to savage for a living..

    This is the way wise people survive in srilanka..

    I am sorry for you..

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      Last Dino

      There is a vast difference between you and prof. Remember Prof RW is praising a national hero of SL whereas you are sining for a blood sucking terrorist group for your supper man.

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