Colombo Telegraph

Your Excellency, Don’t Take The Wrong First Steps

By Janakie Abeywardane, Shanthi Sachithtanandam, Prema Gamage, Christine Perera and Visakha Tillekeratne

It was only the day before yesterday that we wrote a letter to you asking you to “honour our trust” – the trust we placed in you with our ballot and our not too obvious support of your campaign. We mentioned that we would be watching you closely.

Our initial observations worry us, that our hopes of good governance will not be materialized. Why do we say this?

There is a saying in Sinhala about the prediction of a young person’s future. The saying being “hedena gaha depeththedee denei”. This translates into “we will know by looking at the growth of a young plant, if it is evenly growing on both sides” – indicating proper growth from the beginning. Likewise we are looking at the growth of your fledgling government and its governance. What are the first indicators?

The 100 days program is already behind schedule.

Appointments to Senior Administrative Positions

Many Sri Lanka Administrative Service (SLAS) Officers are quite disturbed about the appointments of Permanent Secretaries to the President and the Ministry of Defence. Both these gentlemen are on their 4th extension of service. This is not good governance. Both of them have been intensively violating election law, by canvassing the support of SLAS officers and cadets to vote for ex President Rajapaksa. Therefore they are not neutral officials acting professionally. These persons will block your path in 2 ways; by not sincerely supporting the 100 days program and beyond and also by destroying the confidence of other officers in your efforts for good governance. Another officer you have appointed to a high post, is accused of sexual harassment and misconduct. This kind of start is not healthy.

The solution is to use existing instruments such as the SLAS Association and the Committee on High Posts or even to set up strong Ad Hoc Committees of capable and knowledgeable people to formulate lists of persons suitable to positions such as Secretaries and Chairpersons of Statutory Bodies and go through time tested selection criteria.

Formulating Ministries and Allocation of Subjects

As your initial task is to complete the 100 days program, subjects should be allocated to Ministries in a logical manner. Of course this should be balanced with the profile of existing Ministries as there is no time to change completely. As an example there is no point in isolating Women’s Affairs and Child Development in a separate Ministry that does not have much resources. This Ministry should be combined with Social Services as many problems of women and children could be addressed through the window of social welfare. Women and children clubbed together with culture has no meaning whatsoever. Logical examples from other countries include The Ministry of Food, Environment and Rural Affairs, The Ministry of Universities, Science and Cities in the UK and a Ministry of Communities and Local Government (covering women and children as part of a family and a local government beneficiary) also in the UK.

Appointing Ministers and Deputies

We are aware that some matching of professions to portfolios has already been done. This is a refreshing change after many years. However, it should be those persons who supported the campaign for change that get these portfolios and not those who now support you for their own advantage. It is also important to consider the experience of candidates in achieving proven success in their own field. But most of all their conduct should have been and continue to be exemplary.These persons will make positive changes for sure.

It is very important to stick to the number of Ministries you have stated in your election pledge and not to increase this number of expediency.

Your Excellency, we sincerely hope you can rectify these issues right from the beginning, in order to give your governance system and yourself, much needed credibility. The public of Sri Lanka are fed up of excesses and failed promises.

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