Prairie Leafy Spurge Awards to Those Who Reneged on Yahapalanaya Pledge
Posted on November 22nd, 2015
By Shelton A. Gunaratne
[Dr. Gunaratne is a professor emeritus at Minnesota State University Moorhead.]
MOORHEAD, MN — Sri Lanka’s bloated cabinet of ministers, which exceeds the limit of 30 specified by the 19th Amendment, is an example of wasteful public expenditure that the election campaigns of 2015 pledged to resolve but failed to implement. More insidious is the elevation of nepotism on the basis that the appointed relative or friend is “qualified” for the job.
Because citizens have a right to remind the ruling class that nepotism will rarely yield positive results, I wish to offer a hefty heap of Leafy Spurge to the following two political worthies;
TO: Arjuna Ranatunge, minister of ports and shipping, who continues to justify the nomination of his elder brother Dammika to be chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) because Dammika had enough qualifications, and “family connections should not be a barrier to him being appointed to the post.” (The Nation, 11 Oct. 2015). He has pointed out that a special committee that would include both President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremasinghe would make the final decision on who would head each of the government institutions. However, this explanation does not absolve the minister of the charge of festering nepotism, a fundamental reason for corruption and inefficiency in the bureaucracy. The issue is not Dammika’s qualifications, but the minister’s attempt to recruit his own brother for the top job under his ministry. It’s pathetic when an ex-cricketer tries to justify family bandyism devoid of a sense of ethical propriety. If his brother is “qualified,” he should offer his expertise to the public/private sector outside the domain of his brother’s ministry. The contrived action of the Joint Trade Union Forum of the SLPA urging the special committee to appoint Dammika as the new SLPA chairman also smells of a rat.
TO: President Maithripala Sirisena for allegedly violating “all norms of good governance, go[ing] back on several key election pledges including a vow to end nepotism and cronyism, and severely dent[ing] investor confidence in moves associated with a deal between the troubled telecommunication service provider Hutch and Sri Lanka Telecom (SLT), the latter now chaired by his brother Kumarasinghe Sirisena.” (Colombo Telegraph, 21 Nov. 2015) The Telegraph has made this allegation on the basis of an investigation done by the Ravaya newspaper edited by Victor Ivan. This is a scam to purchase Hutch for double its market value in hopes of getting a kickback from a massive “over-bid” of some US$ 50 million or approximately Rs 7 billion. This allegation is an example of what could happen if Arjuna gets his brother appointed as the head of SLTC on the basis of his “qualifications.”