By Uditha Devapriya –
There is nothing wrong in regime-change. Nothing wrong in talking about democracy or mourning its absence. Self-righteous words however do have a limit. They run out of steam the moment those who speak them come to power. Democracy-deficits are objected to by the same people who embrace them when they are elected. Sadly.
The “enemy of my enemy is my friend” argument holds sway, however. No one is a saint. There are lesser evils that need to be taken in to eliminate greater ones.
What we’re seeing in Sri Lanka today is good governance. “Yahapalanaya”. Maithripala Sirisena has promised it all. Commendably. He has promised to look into past abuses and misuses of authority, to punish those deserving and exonerate those wrongly accused or in other ways punished. That’s commendable too. But hardly enough.
Not every appointment made by a government is political. Qualification-requirements, age-limits and term-limits, and appointment-transparency must be kept. And yet, even with all these, there is still something “political” about appointments made by any regime. Why? Because it is the government and in particular the Executive that has to sanction appointment. That’s where the “political” part to it crops up, after all.
There is nothing wrong in this, though, provided the necessarily qualification-caveats are met. Giving a post to someone on the basis of friendship and ignoring the more deserving are signs of nepotism. With a capital N. Which is where, sadly enough, the new regime isn’t going on track.
Upul Jayasuriya is the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. That’s BASL. He’s a lawyer. An eminent one. He and his organisation spoke against the previous government, their abuses and tactics, all the way. Whether they were tied to party preference (Jayasuriya is a UNP activist) more than democracy-love is another story. For now, however, there are problems. Big ones.
Jayasuriya has been appointed as the chairman of the Board of Investment. Forget that he’s a lawyer. Forget that his predecessors at the BOI include Thilan Wijesinghe. Forget that the BOI website itself states that he served as a Legal Adviser to the Greater Colombo Economic Commission (the forerunner to the BOI), and that his experience with economics and finance is limited to this. Forget all these. What’s important is timing.
There are other appointments of course. The Chairman of Lake House, for instance, is the brother of a former Parliamentarian. That’s a far cry from his predecessor Bandula Padmakumara, who wasn’t even remotely related to a ruling party stalwart.
Padmakumara, moreover, was removed not only from his post, but from a private channel. And as Colombo Telegraph itself notes, that had to do with his political preference (which, if I may add here, is his right and his right alone) than the need for an unbiased media. Because let’s face it, why would anyone appoint the brother of a former MP as Chairman of state media? Tp prevent bias? No. Then what? Timing!
“Justice,” someone said, “must not only be done; it must also be seen to be done.” Appearance of bias is bad. Kavan Ratnayaka is Lake House Chairman. His brother (Sagala Ratnayaka) is a (former) UNP parliamentarian. The UNP holds sway over national policy (i.e. the Cabinet). That’s hardly consoling.
Which is why I worry about Upul Jayasuriya’s appointment. Jayasuriya, for all BASL’s posturing about neutrality, was/is a UNP activist. His predecessor, Wijedasa Rajapakshe, is a Minister under that same party. Anyone who looks at Jayasuriya’s track records and thinks he’s politically non-aligned clearly needs an eye-test. Whether or not he is biased towards one party isn’t the question here: the fact is that he’s a UNP activist, and his appointment, particularly given his “credentials” in finance and economics, smacks of “politics” all the way.
Jayasuriya, to make things worse, has shunned the media ever since his appointment. Why? Appointees are required, not as a matter of law but as a matter of transparency, to speak about their appointments and credentials. He hasn’t done that. And there is a reason for this. As Colombo Telegraph reported, Rajitha Senaratne announced that “all public sector officials” are to “strictly follow an Establishment Code and that no comments/information should be released to the media without obtaining prior written approval of the relevant Ministry Secretary.”
First of all, Senaratne is not the Media Minister. Gayantha Karunathilake is. Whether or not Karunathilake has endorsed this decision is another story. But without questioning state officials, without questioning credential and track record, we can’t really hope for “yahapalanaya”. Yes, it’s that simple. Senaratne, sadly enough, hasn’t realised this.
Jayasuriya’s appointment is done and dusted. So is Kavan Ratnayake’s. Both are “political”, by definition and appearance. I don’t much know about Kavan to comment on his track record. But Jayasuriya is another matter. When compared to perhaps one of the most capable and efficient chairmen our Board of Investment ever had (Thilan Wijesinghe), this appointment seems to be “political” no matter how you look at it. That is not what we voted Maithripala Sirisena for.
BBS Rep / February 7, 2015
This is Sri Lanka and this is the only way we know how to practice democracy. Our democracy is based on cronyism, nepotism and countless rounds of worshiping the Mahanayakayas and the bo tree and not to mention eating bucketloads of kiribath at charlatan astrologer appointed auspicious times.
By the way we are also a nation of Buddhists who practice anything but Buddhism.
We also take pride in plural education waxing lyrical about CWWK and teach our children Mahanama myths.
I can go on and on Uditha on our hypocrisy and our inability to live by what we preach.
Take a break my friend. You are getting worked up over nothing.
Ajith / February 7, 2015
Politics is politics. Politicians are Politicians. Opportunism is the best form of democracy. I gave you support you give me ministerial post. It is the beauty of democracy. Those who helped Mahinda to bring 18th amendment are now ministers. One minister says I am going to resign if you don’t give a ministry that gives more opportunity to do corruption, then President has no option other than giving him another ministry. But there is a party that said we give unconditional support to bring the rule of law without demanding ministerial posts, President give orders to ensure that military should interfere with public and do check the people and harress them as before.
Where are we?
SAROJINI / February 7, 2015
This is YAHAPALAYANA AT ITS BEST . MORE TO COME I PRESUME
THIS IS HOW PEOPLE ARE FOOLED AND ELECTIONS WON ON LIES LIES AMD MORE LIES !
SAROJINI / February 7, 2015
YAHAPALANAYA AT ITS BEST . MORE TO FOLLOW I PRESUME . THIS IS OW ELECTIONS ARE WON ON LIES LIES AND MORE LIES
sammy aiya / February 7, 2015
Oh Please…how many times can one say this.
Its NOT “Yahal-Palanaya but “YAAL-PALANAYA !!!!!
AVB / February 7, 2015
Your argument is theoretically correct. But a country which is defined as very uncivilised country by lot of people (Victor Ivan’s Sinhalese word “ASHILA CHARA” is more appropriate), how could you expect 100% or 90% of actions of new leaders to be “SHILACHARA” in 5~6 weeks or 5~6 months?? We can see some good signs though …
OneShot Actor and bigmouth MP RanjanR was made a Deputy Minster in the second round. Even if we assume MS is very SHILACHARA and really wanted to make YahaPalanaya, MS/RW wouldn’t survive 200 days without giving some posts to these kind of people.. It is Siri Lanka, if we as citizens keep monitoring and complaining of any wrongdoings of these Jayasuriyas and Ramanayakas on their new jobs, we may be able to help to make SL a fairly SHILA CHARA country in 3~4 years…
Srinath gunaratne / February 7, 2015
In a country where people elect governments for plate of rice, what can we expect? The rampnat hypocracy while being guardians of Buddhism!
We as usual sit on the tree and keep cutting branches,
Guys this where we have to fight for, Educate common people and teach our people how to elect representatives. Untill then people in this country suffers.
What difference would it make when the society is corrupted from end to end.
If we dont change this, we leave behind a decaying society to our future generations.
Decent minded people must get together and must create a decent society.
For those who did not know, Chandrika came to power with exactly the same euphoria.
Look what she did to the country?
SL_Frankfurt / February 7, 2015
as one living in London- you perfectly know how difficult it has been to handle things in our common home country srilanka – since not even few of the able men are allowed to do their best making a greater change of almost everyhting. I can imagine those new men of UNP – Dr. H Silva, Eran Wickramaratne, Sujewa Senasinghe et would do it by heart to achieve their clean politics and do feel clea at the end of the day WHILE there are a larger fraction would not see it the way the former do. This is a great social problem that stay still not being recovered for such a long time. If that was the case in the UK or Germany, there are most appropriate laws and order in provisions allowing anything to be shaped up WHILE srilanken laws remains akin exclusively out covers without compelte contents. This is exactly the failure of BRIBERY COMMISSION that prevails there in the coutnry today. Sacking the President of the body is not an easy task. Law makers of srilanka have not worked on law reforms to any laws – as is the case in UK other european countries. Germany they often get them passed in parliaments to allow laws to be fuctions as people expect them to be. So it would take the Europeans few days to see that law punished for examples the criminals within hours or days.
Uthungan / February 8, 2015
“Guys this why we have to fight for. Educate common people ………etc.etc.”
You can do all that until ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, my friend.
Have you not heard of the TAMIL PROVERB ‘Nai valai nimiththa elathu’, meaning ‘ balage valge diga karrana vagae’, like trying to straightening the dog.’s tail?
DIL / February 7, 2015
This is SL Ulditha, nothing will change much once power has been grabbed. For them to survive they have to appoint and appease their catchers otherwise they may jump elsewhere. Expect more of this including following the same policies of the same regime, like the Colombo city project. Already so many undemocratic, unconstitutional things have been done within a month.
Anyway lets give them the benefit of doubt. The real performance can be measured by the economy and political stability issues that can be foreseen to some extent, with the character of the new government.
T.A.KUMAR / February 7, 2015
Yes I know that Mr.Upul Jayasooriya contested under the U.N.P. in the municipal or some election cos I voted for him. We have to see the other side of the coin too . We need someone who is honest and whom the government could fall back on. Mr. Tillan wijesoriya was very good and he had a shot at it.
What you and we should be shouting about now is the Bribery commissioner and the commission for dragging its feet and for that only the J.V.P. and The J.H.U. are shouting If the government does not move fast to do something all the sharks will escape and Mahinda will be back in the saddle.
My vote will be for the J.V.P. as a party whom ever they put forward and not for any other conventional party So this time Iam sorry to state that Roy and Mr. Perera from Rathmalana will loose a vote f things do not move fast.
Palayang Yako / February 7, 2015
Who is this writer and how come he didn’t write ANYTHING while the kind of “governance” under the Rajapaksas he obviously supports was in full swing? When blatant lies and fabrications were the order of the day and not so much as a belated apology was forthcoming and when the Commissioner of Elections was compelled to drive down to Rupavahini to have them retract their completely fabricated report ON THE EVE OF THE ELECTION that Sajith Premadasa had crossed over to the government? He even has the b..s to defend the head of a state broadcasting entity who in any other country would be behind bars for criminal fabrication.
This writer is a very obvious shill of the corrupt and murderous regime that this country has only recently rid itself of and his sanctimonious rubbish should be deposited in the nearest garbage can.
SAROJINI / February 7, 2015
THE STORY THAT SAJITH WAS GOING TO CROSS OVER AS TOLD BY MR IS A COMPLETE FABRICATION . I LISTENED TO WHAT MR SAID ON THE PLATFORM . ALL HE SAID WAS THAT SAJITH HAS REFUSED TO SIT ON THE SAME PLATFORM WITH PEOPLE WHO SUPPORTED THE LTTE WHO KILLED HIS FATHER( REF TO CBK FOR CALLING MR PRABHAKARAN ). MR LAUGHINGLY SAID THAT HE DOES NOT KNOW WHETHER SAJITH IS PLANNING TO CROSS OVER AS WELL , HE CAUTIONED SAJITH TO BE IN THE OPPOSITION BUT ONLY TO PLACE THE X FOR THE BULATH KOLE . THE MEDIA TWISTED THIS WHOLE STORY AND THE REST AS WE ALL KNOW IS HOW IT WAS INTERPRETED .
RUMOUR MONGERS PLEASE TAKE NOTE.
sundara / February 7, 2015
thank god. under previous regime your well meaning and penetrating letter would have invited a white van. now you are safe and carry on your criticism.
Off The Wall / February 7, 2015
These two appointments are abominable, shocking and unpardonable indeed. They represent a sinister attempt to undermine the constitution and destroy democracy in the country. People should take to the streets and stage an uprising without delay to topple this despotic government.
Sharanga / February 7, 2015
Ben Dover / February 7, 2015
You are being very naive perhaps you have a medamulana agenda, poor fellow?
It is total idiocy to expect that:
1. Any politician to be super-human
2. The new government (ANY government) to stay clear away from people with ANY taint of alignment to a political party or organisation controlled by its predecessor regime.
What matters is, whether those appointed are above board by and large, and perform to peoples’ expectations and critically, remain free from corruption. There should be strong watch-dog groups overseeing and reporting on this, and people should also be free to bring complaints in.
Ask yourself, young man, whether any of the above did or could have prevailed under the previous thuggish regime? Then say a few hail mary’s or saaadhus and join in the Yahapaalanaya whole-heartedly.
T Wickramaratna / February 7, 2015
The present set up must understand this and correct them self before it is too late, or be prepared to go home after the general election
K.A Sumanasekera / February 7, 2015
I thought Uditha would have said uncorked rather,, I am more in to good wines than Rags..
Nothing against Ranil or Managal’s selections to unleash good governance on the Elite , Anglicans, Vellalas and the SLMC Muslims including Assath Sally and Bathdeen.
5,6 Million Sinhala Buddhists said No to them.
Thankfully this great majority and a few who were misled have the chance in the New Year to say adios to Balasooriya , Sweat Shop Boss , Lake House Boss and any other undesirables who have been handed the public purse.
I hope Gallion Ravi will keep using the Air Force Helicopter as frequently as possible because it is only another 70 days,
That is if Ranil is fairdinkum,
But if Ranil and his mates feel how great the Good Governance has been for them so far, they may decide to keep going a lot longer.
Ranil may even create another 60 0r70 deputies at least to get the majority, and Dr Mervyn will be quite happy to be the number cruncher and the recruiter.
Gallion Dollars and the 500 Million from the Army Building fund which Ravi understated may come handy, with the overdraft facility from Colombo Embassies.
Snowden Edward Asange / February 7, 2015
WE voted for a CHANGE to bring the corrupt, thugs rapists or human and national wealth to book.. You talk about qualified people to be at the top.. yes I agree, Upul is qualified may be as a lawyer , what qualifications do Sajin Vas, Chamal, Johnston Fernando, Wimal Vermin Saliva have to HOLD not just positions in boards and committees but be MINISTERS in Parliament where law is enacted? you kidding me? how much was paid by MR and clan for u to write this crap? Really now…
Patta Pal / February 7, 2015
The writer cannot possibly be thinking that each and every public appointment should be made after due process with an independent selection board looking into the merits of each applicant!
It does not work in the private sector either, as from personal experience I know that despite the post being filled in advance through internal connections, the full page ad goes anyway to give an element of transparency, and even an interview board screens other applicants, but chooses the original applicant.
This can be done in the public sector too, and made a mockery of. Is the writer implying that these posts should be advertised?
I know I am more qualified that the recipient of the ANCL chairmanship, and have a better case to make, worked harder for the winning side than the recipient, would like to have got that job to turn ANCL around, as I already have a plan to improve it by leaps and bounds to keep up with and better the competition, but then I was not so presumptious as to put my CV in to the relevant Minister, as I knew in advance that these positions are generally part of the sinecures of an administration.
It is the same in developed and richer countries too.
So these position filling to a limited extent does not mean that Yahapalanaya has not happened nor will not happen.
It is all a matter of degree, and this transition is a damn sight better and the progress is in the right direction even though it is not PERFECT and to the writer’s satisfaction.
I too am opposed to Upul Jayasuriya’s appointment as I know that there are better people BUT. you and I dont know certain things!
It is possible that that he had to be given something, and this was the least contentious as the BOI is going to be relegated to a nothing position. So whilst Upul is under the impression that he is on to something, it may be nothing after all!!! So don’t get hot under the collar about this worthless appointment, as both Kabir and Eran are far smarter than Upul.
If you have law and order, and it is properly policed, you dont need a BOI.
If you know anything about why people invest, it is to make money, with conditions conducive to it, and tax concessions are the least important here.
in time and experience you will understand some of the games that the big boys play, and some are not what they seem, just like the way Ranil snookered Mahinda.
Give the new regime a well deserved chance, they are trying, on balance they will succeed warts and all. We are not all perfect. BTW I believe I can do the BOI job better than Upul too, but I don’t want that, as it is all a lot of hot air.
In fact I don’t want any appointments, not just yet anyway, we have to win an election in June that is far more important than any pissing ministries or positions now. Only a 6 year govt. can change this country for the better, and let us work on that to educate the voters to the options, so they choose wisely.
Vas / February 7, 2015
The writer was planted by medamulana cronies
Crazyoldmansl / February 7, 2015
Public officials must answer all questions raised by the public before they are appointed.
This can be made law.
Then we will have no public officials at all.
piyal / February 7, 2015
Appointment of a person accused(court case pending) as Minister of fiance is “yasapalanaya”
appointment made to the chair of SLT is :yasapalanaya
APPOINTMENT(IF IT IS TRUE)OF YOUR NOMINEE TO HERAR YOUR COMPLAINTS AGAINST BRIBERY AND CORRUPTION IS”YASAPALANAYA.
WAIT A LITTLE LONGER FOR THE LIST GET LONGER
Jagath Fernando / February 7, 2015
Appointment of Upul at BOI and Kavan at Lake House are not too bad compared to MS brother being at SLT.
Upul and Kavan who is former country head of IBM have the capability and give them a chance.
Even foreign service is going to cater to 30% political appointees compared to 70% by Rajapakse.
Current appointments are much .better
Jim softy / February 8, 2015
IF you expect the whole thing out of the jungle within a short time…..
Just think, would you have done that ?
See Upul Jayasooriya, all his talks was to get him a position.
kali / February 9, 2015
Reading your Article it is obvious where you are coming from.Correct me if I am wrong but it is obvious you belong to the MR camp and you dont like to see MRs men being removed and replaced with men who will toe the line under the Coalition.
Nothing can be as bad as what MR did and who he appointed and how much he looted. It is only the tip of the Iceberg.
Frankly I dont see the appoinments of Upul Jayasuriya & Wijedasa Rajapakshe as cronism. These are people with a lot Intergrity and Calibre to clean up the mess left behind by MR and his cronies.
UNP might be in the driving seat and that is what the Tamils voted for and that is a Change for the better. Decency, Cilvilsed behaviour. Dont forget Sri Lanka is on probation and you put a foot wrong you are doomed. So face facts and move on.
R.M.B Senanayake / February 11, 2015
What is required is to build institutions for good governance. So far the new Government has not shown any inclination to do so except for the Audit Commission Bill which W Rajapakse has promised to enact. The real test is if they enact the Public Finance Act prepared by the World Bank which was not passed by the previous UNP Government. Good thing a Commission of Inquiry is to be set up for the financial irregularities committed by the previous regime which cannot be criminalized. The Government should follow the UN Convention on Corruption and criminalize corrupt practices for the future at least.this is the real test of whether
the new government is committed to good governance or merely to talk of corruption of the previous regime for getting political advantage.
sangaralingham / November 17, 2015
the motif and wishes are good. but there must be a certain amount of wisdom hohesty justice truth must be evident. all government public appointment must be approved by a committee of experts who has experience in that organization company institution.