Foreign Affairs

Yahapalanaya (Un)Cloaked

Uditha Devapriya

Uditha Devapriya

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 &#8220enemy of my enemy is my pal&#8221 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&#8217re seeing in Sri Lanka nowadays is great governance. &#8220Yahapalanaya&#8221. 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&#8217s 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 &#8220political&#8221 about appointments made by any regime. Why? Simply because it is the government and in specific the Executive that has to sanction appointment. That&#8217s where the &#8220political&#8221 portion to it crops up, soon after all.

UNPThere 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&#8217t going on track.

Upul Jayasuriya is the President of the Bar Association of Sri Lanka. That is BASL. He&#8217s 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&#8217s 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&#8217s crucial is timing.

There are other appointments of course. The Chairman of Lake Home, for instance, is the brother of a former Parliamentarian. That&#8217s a far cry from his predecessor Bandula Padmakumara, who wasn&#8217t 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&#8217s face it, why would anyone appoint the brother of a former MP as Chairman of state media? Tp prevent bias? No. Then what? Timing!

&#8220Justice,&#8221 a person said, &#8220must not only be accomplished it must also be observed to be carried out.&#8221 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&#8217s hardly consoling.

Which is why I worry about Upul Jayasuriya&#8217s appointment. Jayasuriya, for all BASL&#8217s 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&#8217s track records and thinks he&#8217s politically non-aligned clearly requirements an eye-test. Regardless of whether or not he is biased towards a single celebration isn&#8217t the question here: the truth is that he&#8217s a UNP activist, and his appointment, specifically given his “credentials” in finance and economics, smacks of &#8220politics&#8221 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&#8217t completed that. And there is a purpose for this. As Colombo Telegraph reported, Rajitha Senaratne announced that &#8220all public sector officials&#8221 are to &#8220strictly 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.&#8221

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&#8217t genuinely hope for &#8220yahapalanaya&#8221. Yes, it&#8217s that straightforward. Senaratne, sadly sufficient, hasn&#8217t realised this.

Jayasuriya&#8217s appointment is completed and dusted. So is Kavan Ratnayake&#8217s. Each are &#8220political&#8221, by definition and appearance. I don&#8217t 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.

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