Go-getters and Sri Lankan theory of relativity
Posted on June 21st, 2015

By Neville de Silva  Courtesy The Sunday Times

Those who missed Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s remarks to a local business website on the appointment of his brother-in-law as managing director of the Insurance Corporation sure missed a hilarious piece of illogicality and non sequitur.

While there is an eminently qualified and experienced business leader, Hemaka Amarasuriya as chairman and a professionally-qualified individual with wide experience in the insurance field as the corporation’s chief executive officer, the finance ministry which oversees the corporation appointed a managing director.

Had the appointee professional qualifications relevant to the job or, in the absence of such qualifications extensive experience in the field of insurance one might have pardoned such an appointment despite nagging doubts about the manner in which it was done. Was it advertised, for instance, to permit a wider choice?

But then what does one find. The new MD does not have any professional qualifications or experience in insurance to justify this appointment except insuring himself of a high-paying job.

But he does have one qualification that seems to supersede all others. He is Finance Minister Ravi Karunanayake’s brother-in-law.

When a joint opposition campaign was launched to challenge Mahinda Rajapaksa at the presidential election last January one of the many charges levelled against his administration was that it was nepotistic

The opposition led by common candidate Maithripala Sirisena, with Ranil Wickremesinghe only a few steps behind, committed itself to eliminate family rule and nepotism among other discardable baggage and establish a yahapalanaya government.

Those keen to see the end of creeping authoritarianism stood on the sidelines and cheered expecting clean government especially from the person who many called Mr Clean”- Ranil Wickremesinghe. He would take over the burden of government when a modest and self-effacing President Sirisena withdrew into the shadows shedding many of the powers he inherited.

But increasingly those very people who supported the incoming government pledging good and open governance are becoming disillusioned day by day.

It is not necessarily the failure of the government to achieve all the promises pledged in the 100-day work programme which any politically-conscious citizen would have considered an over ambitious and a hurriedly cobbled together venture that has sparked this disenchantment and growing doubts over the functioning of this so-called national government.

It was clear enough that a two-third majority in parliament would be necessary to get such crucial constitutional changes like the 19 Amendment through parliament. It would require much negotiation and diplomacy to woo an increasingly confrontationist pro-Mahinda section in parliament for support.

So failure to keep to the time-table because of what the government saw as a recalcitrant faction strongly supportive of Rajapaksa should have been anticipated by those who set this ill-conceived deadline.

That is a worrying factor for those who backed this yahapalanaya government. But even more worrying and contributing to this growing public disillusionment is the failure of the government to keep some other pledges made which the voters supported with alacrity. Among those promises was the pledge to eschew nepotism and family rule which had contributed much to the downfall of the Rajapaksa government.

While the Wickremesinghe government might blame the pro-Mahinda parliamentary group for delaying or diluting essential legislation or the establishment of the Constitutional Council, it surely did not need the support of those parliamentarians to faithfully fulfill the promises made to the people to eschew nepotism and have open and accountable government.

Has this government kept that promise? Surely not, if the appointment of Ravi Karunanayake’s brother-in-law as managing director of the Insurance Corporation serves as an example of abandoned promises.

Not only does the minister justify the appointment but says I have nothing to do with it.” Then, pray, who does? The Insurance Corporation comes under the Finance Ministry. If the minister had nothing to do with the appointment then who made it and how does he justify the appointment of a person who does not appear to have the remotest knowledge of the subject.

Should not the ministry official responsible for making that appointment, if indeed there was one, not be asked to explain the grounds on which he did so and should he not be reprimanded or dealt with in other ways for this crass failure in accountability and good governance.

But let us suspend disbelief and concede the minister knew nothing of it. Still for him to then justify the placement of his relative in a high post without having a single relevant qualification that would prove him worthy of the job and capable of performing in that post surely requires a bladder full of gall.

The minister says his relative is a go getter. Well he has certainly gone and got something he does not deserve.

The piece de resistance, as it were, of the minister’s remarks is this paragraph: In insurance you have to appoint go getters rather than inefficient people and the revenues have increased 35% for the last four months. What more do you want.”

Surely a non sequitur. There is no evidence to suggest-and the minister does not provide it either- that the increase in revenues cited is the fruit of the MD’s labour. If there was such proof Karunanayake would be the first to flaunt it and gloat.

One Response to “Go-getters and Sri Lankan theory of relativity”

  1. Sooriarachi Says:

    With nothing to justify this brazen display of nepotism, the good minister had to create a new qualification termed “Go Getter” to justify his retired police sergeant? B.I.L to a newly created but redundant position of Managing Director of the Insurance Coprporation, to work under eminent persons with time tested business acumen like its Chairman Hemaka Amarasuriya and a well qualified CEO, both of whom I believe could manage without a high salaried MD with no relevant skill or qualification.
    I hope the country is not going to see a new wave of top cats with “Go Getter” qualifications.

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