By Uditha Devapriya –
There is practically nothing wrong in regime-modify. Nothing at all incorrect in speaking about democracy or mourning its absence. Self-righteous words nevertheless do have a limit. They run out of steam the moment these who speak them come to energy. Democracy-deficits are objected to by the same individuals who embrace them when they are elected. Sadly.
The “enemy of my enemy is my pal” argument holds sway, even so. No 1 is a saint. There are lesser evils that want to be taken in to get rid of higher ones.
What we’re seeing in Sri Lanka nowadays is great governance. “Yahapalanaya”. Maithripala Sirisena has promised it all. Commendably. He has promised to look into past abuses and misuses of authority, to punish these deserving and exonerate these wrongly accused or in other techniques punished. That’s commendable too. But hardly sufficient.
Not every appointment created by a government is political. Qualification-specifications, age-limits and term-limits, and appointment-transparency must be kept. And however, even with all these, there is still something “political” about appointments made by any regime. Why? Simply because it is the government and in specific the Executive that has to sanction appointment. That’s where the “political” portion to it crops up, soon after all.
There is absolutely nothing incorrect in this, even though, provided the necessarily qualification-caveats are met. Providing a post to somebody on the basis of friendship and ignoring the a lot more deserving are indicators of nepotism. With a capital N. Which is exactly where, sadly sufficient, the new regime isn’t going on track.
Upul Jayasuriya is the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. That is BASL. He’s a lawyer. An eminent 1. He and his organisation spoke against the earlier government, their abuses and techniques, all the way. Regardless of whether they had been tied to celebration preference (Jayasuriya is a UNP activist) much more than democracy-really like is another story. For now, nevertheless, there are troubles. Big ones.
Jayasuriya has been appointed as the chairman of the Board of Investment. Overlook that he’s a lawyer. Forget that his predecessors at the BOI contain Thilan Wijesinghe. Overlook that the BOI site itself states that he served as a Legal Adviser to the Greater Colombo Financial Commission (the forerunner to the BOI), and that his expertise with economics and finance is limited to this. Overlook all these. What’s crucial is timing.
There are other appointments of course. The Chairman of Lake Home, for instance, is the brother of a former Parliamentarian. That’s a far cry from his predecessor Bandula Padmakumara, who wasn’t even remotely associated to a ruling party stalwart.
Padmakumara, in addition, 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 possibly add here, is his correct and his appropriate alone) than the need to have for an unbiased media. Due to the fact 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,” a person said, “must not only be accomplished it must also be observed to be carried out.” Appearance of bias is undesirable. Kavan Ratnayaka is Lake Residence 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 identical party. Any person who appears at Jayasuriya’s track records and thinks he’s politically non-aligned clearly requirements an eye-test. Regardless of whether or not he is biased towards a single celebration isn’t the question here: the truth is that he’s a UNP activist, and his appointment, specifically 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 needed, not as a matter of law but as a matter of transparency, to speak about their appointments and credentials. He hasn’t completed that. And there is a purpose for this. As Colombo Telegraph reported, Rajitha Senaratne announced that “all public sector officials” are to “strictly stick to an Establishment Code and that no comments/information ought to be released to the media without getting prior written approval of the relevant Ministry Secretary.”
Initial of all, Senaratne is not the Media Minister. Gayantha Karunathilake is. Whether or not Karunathilake has endorsed this selection is an additional story. But without questioning state officials, with out questioning credential and track record, we can’t genuinely hope for “yahapalanaya”. Yes, it’s that straightforward. Senaratne, sadly sufficient, hasn’t realised this.
Jayasuriya’s appointment is completed and dusted. So is Kavan Ratnayake’s. Each are “political”, by definition and appearance. I don’t a lot know about Kavan to comment on his track record. But Jayasuriya is an additional matter. When compared to maybe 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 appear at it. That is not what we voted Maithripala Sirisena for.