Executive Magic
Posted on March 3rd, 2016

Editorial Courtesy The Island

Lacille de Silva, the ardent campaigner for good governance, did not know what really hit him. On Tuesday he was unceremoniously removed as the secretary to the Presidential Commission of Inquiry to Investigate and Inquire into Serious Acts of Fraud, Corruption and Abuse of Power, State Resources and Privileges. He has chosen to remain tight-lipped about his termination for obvious reasons.

Lacille is not alone in this predicament. The same fate befell the then Prime Minister D. M. Jayaratne immediately after the Jan. 08, 2015 presidential election. The newly elected President Sirisena waved his executive magic wand and, hey presto, Jayaratne was gone and there appeared a new Prime Minister, beaming from ear to ear. The then Chief Justice Mohan Peiris was also made to disappear from the Supreme Court in a similar manner; in walked Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake, a victim of a witch hunt under the previous government. No sooner had she entered than she left. It was decreed that Peiris, who headed the judiciary, heard many cases, gave judgments and made vital decisions for the apex court, had never been the CJ! Next to disappear was the parliamentary Opposition.

More recently, the senior most official at the Attorney General’s Department was overlooked when a new Attorney General was appointed. The Constitutional Council merely rubber-stamped a presidential decision for which no reason was given. People were left racking their brains, trying to figure out why on earth the acting Attorney General had been denied the coveted post.

The government tells us that the Right to Information Bill, currently being licked into shape, will be presented to Parliament shortly. Never does it miss an opportunity to make a public display of its commitment to good governance, of which transparency is an integral part. Good governance means different things to different people. It is one of the most misconstrued, misunderstood and abused political terms.

Even those who do not see eye to eye with the World Bank on its draconian economic policies will agree with it that good governance ‘entails sound public sector management (efficiency, effectiveness and economy), accountability, exchange and free flow of information (transparency), and a legal framework for development (justice, respect for human rights and liberties).’ There cannot be good governance without transparency.

President Sirisena has made many a revelation before and after the last presidential election. He has told us about a despicable attempt by the tobacco industry to give him a huge bribe, the Rajapaksas’ palomino steed, Lamborghinis etc and the ‘presidential jet’ ordered for his immediate predecessor’s use etc. So, it is puzzling why the outspoken President has not revealed why he decided to remove the PRECIFAC Secretary. The rumour mill has gone into overdrive. Speculation is rife in political circles that Lacille, a prolific writer, who does not pull punches, may have ruffled a government bigwig’s feathers and paid the price for that.

When officials are appointed and sacked according to the whims and fancies of powers that be, institutions concerned naturally lose legitimacy and suffer a severe erosion of public confidence therein. The government will do well to explain why Lacille was got rid of without further delay.

Some of the good governance campaigners have censured the government for the deplorable manner in which Lacille was axed. This kind of mild rebuke won’t do. They are floating like bees and stinging like butterflies, so to speak. It is a case of all bark and no bite. What would Ven. Maduluwawe Sobitha Thera say if he were alive today? The rebel monk who played a pivotal role in effecting last year’s regime change was dejected and disillusioned at the time of his untimely demise as his successor has revealed.

In trying to make sense out of what is being done in the name of good governance, let us put on our thinking caps and apply the ‘science of deduction’ a la Sherlock Holmes; we will have to take as the truth what remains after the impossible are eliminated however absurd it may look. There seems to be no other way. Welcome to the world of executive magic!

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