Shameful truth of Political Consultants
Posted on July 24th, 2016

Courtesy The Island

When the truth comes out it is not shocking, but so simply crooked. What the Minister of Highways and Higher Education Lakshman Kiriella said in parliament about the appointment of Consultants to the Road Development Authority (RDA) was the simple, unblemished truth.

It a was by no means a shocker, although some seem to think so. Only two of 56 newly appointed Consultants to the RDA had passed the GCE A/L. The reason given was the most realistic, in the context of both Sri Lankan politics and governance. He did not make any claims about ‘yahapalanya’ or the much shouted about good governance. These appointments were plain and simple political payoffs.

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What else can a politician do was the question he raised with his answer. These are people who did so much hard to help the UNP win in the Kandy District, and no doubt his electorate and thus help in bringing the present government to office. To hell with National Government or Consensual Government and all that bunkum. This is just a two-party coalition in office, and bound by all the rules or misrules, or corruption of such politics and governance.

One question that arises why there were two who had passed the GCE/AL? Most likely it must have been for doing much more and tougher electoral work than the others, such as climbing the highest pole to put up a party flag or daring the police to prevent them from pasting party posters, mostly banned at election time. Another question is why they are also just Consultants and not Senior Consulants – surely with the GCE A/L, which even so many members of parliament do not have?

It would be interesting to know what these persons would be consulted about on Road Development. Would it be on the quality of sand or metal that is used for the road work. Would they be asked to give their OK on the quality of tar that is used or even on the quality of work being done by those engaged in road building? Would they have to give approval to the carpeting used on some roads or the quality of concrete on other road surfaces?

My guess is that there consultancy would be much more political in content.

They would be giving consultant opinions on whether the material purchased for RDA work came from the proper political sources. Which simply means, to go by the minister’s explanation for their appointments, that the suppliers were also those who worked hard or contributed most – both in cash and kind, for the victory of the UNP and the present government.

Of course, there are important layers in the qualifications of suppliers – did they contribute to Minister Kiriella winning his electorate, which would certainly get the highest marks; next, how many present UNP ministers benefitted from their riches and supplies, working it out on the basis of cabinet ministers, state ministers and deputy ministers, whichever the political pecking order.

As you may see, these consultants on political road building will have no easy task. They will be subject to much political questioning and pressure as any work gets going, most or all of which will certainly be politically oriented, which is the reality of the day.

It is good if a few more questions are raised in parliament about such recent appointments, and the responsible ministers are as truthful as Minister Kiriella in their replies. Let’s not go into big jobs such as Diplomats and Heads of State Corporations and other institutions. Let’s just keep it to consultants, managers, supervisors, and the like. Because, if we begin to probe the bigger places there are bound to be exposures of immediate nepotism, as we have seen in places such as the SLT and the Ports Authority, and support for those in extended family links that is well observed in diplomacy.

Instead of giving his explanation as the need to help political workers for his party, it would have been much better for Minister Kiriella to have said that he only followed the political culture that has prevailed and still does in the country. Of course he would have had to give due credit o the Rajapaksa Regime, and even recognize the leadership that President Mahinda Rajapaksa gave to strengthen this system he so proudly follows today.

Of course he did say that the previous Rajapaksa government made 250 such consultant appointments. That’s good for the truth. It is also good to learn that these people who were elected to change that system have nothing else to follow. The appointing of brothers, cousins, more distant relations, political donors, as well as supporters and catchers, is the stuff of the democracy we have today. All the cries and calls for political change are just stuck in the mud of catcher based politics. It is the Kiriella truth of Political Consultants; a shameful reality.

This is by means a major revelation, but its admission with such comfort in parliament makes it a truth of great reckoning, and points to more political consultancy in the path to progress, if there is any such path.

 

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