Posted on October 8th, 2017

Upali Cooray

Public administration has a rich history that dates back to the Greeks. Public administration is putting laws in action to better serve a civilization and the public. While the idea of public administration dates back thousands of years, it played a significant role throughout history as countries developed and new technology changed the way we live and interact.

400 B.C. Plato recognizes the separation between management and developed the concept of democracy. At this time, the Greek people began electing their leaders and became educated on social services. It is also at this time that politician’s begin a very loose version of campaigning to expose ideas on platforms in order to gain a place in office. 325 B.C. We all know Alexander the Great wasn’t a guy who messed around. His organizational skills were beyond his time and helped him organize an army large enough (and smart enough) to conquer most of the world. This isn’t your typical public administration, but it does illustrate how important proper delegation helps the governments (or ruling party) conquer.

In 1525 Machiavelli realizes the cohesiveness and organization are essential tools for public administration. He also realizes that it’s most effective when you have a group of committed to a cause, versus a group of people who are being forced to participate.

In 1776 Adam Smith pens his book, Wealth of Nations which discusses public administration and specialization. The book focuses on the economic state of America and what create a wealthy nation. Smith’s becomes a benchmark for developing effective public administration that creates a capitalistic society.

Patronage is often the reason why public reforms are attempted and almost equally often the reason why they fail. Patronage is a political problem that requires a political solution. The 1997 World Bank report mentions patronage as a disease of government. Yet it stubbornly persists in many countries, including Sri Lanka, where all remedies have been canvassed at one time or the other.  Sri Lanka has the highest life expectancy of any south Asian country but saddled with a public sector that has sometimes seemed to be not so much unreformed as unreformable. Politicians have a vested interest in maintaining a patronage system. The expectation that the public sector should provide jobs is the root cause. This is exacerbated by changes of government following of which a fresh crop of patronage appointments sprouts. Politicians consider that governments exist to provide jobs for their supporters.

Recent happenings at the highest levels of Sri Lankan bureaucracy reflect how patronage has rooted deep in to the country’s administration. One cannot foresee any headway in the near future. The highest level of Sri Lanka’s bureaucracy is the Secretary to the President. There have been seven secretaries to the President since 1979. They are.

W.M.P.B Manikdiwela SLAS (1979 -1989)

K.H.J Wijedasa SLAS (1989 – 1994)

  1. Balapatabandi (1994 – 2003)

W.J.S Karunaratna SLAS (2003 -2005)

Lalith Weeratunga SLAS (2005 – 2017)

P.B.Abeykoon SLAS (2015)

Austin Fernando SLAS (2017 – present)

Bradman Weerakoon who was in office prior to the Presidential system was introduced has served seven heads of states in a career spanning half a century. He has served as secretary to Prime ministers Sir Jhon Kotalawala, S.W.R.D Bandaranaike, Vijayananda Dahanayake, Sirimavo Bandaranaike and Dudley Senanayake.  M.D.D Peiris is another veteran civil servant who has worked as secretary to the prime minister and did not tolerate patronage K. Balapatabandi is the only non SLAS officer who was sponsored by President Chandrika Kumaratunga, a clear cut political patronage case.

The secretary to the former president was imprisoned for providing funds for distributing “Sil Redi”(clothes of virtue) during the election period in 2015. It is nothing but political patronage which put him in to trouble. This officer who is much respected and has done much to the country by way of making opportunities of information technology to penetrate all undeveloped areas in the country cannot by any means called dishonest. Even the verdict of the case points out that he did not have any personal benefit in allocating money to distribution of “Sil Redi”. He succumbed to patronage to satisfy his political master. The former president is now confirming that his secretary was given orders by him to allocate Six hundred million rupees for distribution of “Sil Redi”. The question is why didn’t the former president appear before courts when the case was being heard and confirm he gave orders? He was not to be seen when his secretary and former chairman of the TRC were bailed out.

In 2015 the new Sirisena- Wickramasinhghe government cosponsored a resolution (30/1) with US and other member countries to address the Human rights violations in the country during the internal war and thereafter. It contains 25 key undertakings by the Sri Lankan Government across a range of human rights issues. Now the UNHCR has expressed its concern about the actual willingness of the government to fully implement all aspects of the resolution (30/1). A key element of the resolution consists of transitional justice promises: a special court including international judges and prosecutors to try all parties to the conflict, an office on missing and disappeared persons, a truth seeking and reconciliation mechanism and a reparations mechanism. The government has made only halting progress in fulfilling these commitments. The office on missing and disappeared persons is yet to be established. The ongoing resistance to any foreign involvement in the four mechanisms is coming not only from officials but also from the president and the prime minister. The will to implement any of the proposals is dwindling.

One should now go back to 2002 when the Ranil Wickramasinghe government signed a cease fire agreement with LTTE with Norwegian assistance. The LTTE used government adherence to the pact to build up its own strength with massive importation of weapons while paying little attention to the idea of ending hostilities. In five years, Sri Lanka monitoring mission found the LTTE guilty of 3830 violations, while holding the government responsible for only 351. It was dreadfully clear that no negotiations are possible with LTTE. The diaspora and the western powers were hell bent on carving out a Tamil Elam in the north and east of Sri Lanka.  The current attempt of the Sirisena -Wickramasinghe government to have the 20th amendment passed is a devious way to establish federalism in the country. What the LTTE couldn’t achieve by force is being given on a platter. Many organizations in addition to TNA have opposed these proposals. These movements have been demanding that the police and land powers should be given to provincial councils. Though Ranil agreed to this demand, Maithree has not committed still.

The present secretary to the President was the secretary defense during the period CFA (cease fire agreement with the LTTE) agreement was signed. The millennium city episode which happened in January 2002 where a safe house maintained by the Directorate of Military Intelligence (DMI) of the Sri Lanka Amy at Millennium city, Athurigiriya was raided by the police led by Kulasiri Udugampola ended up exposing the SL Army intelligence officers and thus LTTE was able to assassinate 80 informants and Army intelligence officers including Lieutenant Colonel Tuan Nizam Muthaliff. He was the Commanding officer of the 1st Battallion, Military Intelligence Corps.

The construction of the Manirasakulam camp in Kinniya commenced   and the LTTE spurned the protests by the army and as stipulated in the MOU the (Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission) SLMM took over the issue direct with LTTE political wing chief Thamilselvam who maintained that the camp was there even at the time of signing the MOU, that it is in LTTE held area and refused to budge.

All attempts by the SLMM to have the camp dismantled failed miserably. The LTTE built bunkers there. After everybody else failed, Eric Solheim the Norwegian came all the way to solve the problem, and probably to “teach the Tigers a good lesson”. But the LTTE refused to discuss the subject.  But the GOSL maintained a stoic silence on the issue and all those who talk of the peace, or rather the appeasement process, were worried only about the interim administration. Day by day the LTTE advanced even in the East in the direction of the Elam. People began to raise eye brows about the stance taken by the Tigers vis-a-vis visits to the North by government ministers.

The GOSL did not break its baffling silence and issue a clear statement regarding its stance on the Manirasakulam camp of the LTTE which was close to the strategic port of Trincomalee. The failure to keep the people informed of its stance was construed as a betrayal of the confidence the public have placed on the UPFA.

In 2002 The Ranil Wickramasinghe government permitted import of powerful radio transmission equipment purported to be for the SLMM but in actual fact for the use of LTTE.

Prabhakaran was able to achieve Elam more or less during Ranil Wickramasinha’s (RW) last tenure. Arms were coming in to the country in rouge ships unhindered. It was alleged that RW attempted to send the navy Commander abroad for 14 days purported to be courtesy visits enabling a rouge ship anchored in Indonesia with 60 tons of arms to the LTTE to discharge it’s cargo in the eastern coast of SL. President   Chandrika Kumaratunga in her letter to RW on 06/10/2003 bares this fact. She further states that knowing this ruse, she reduced the Navy Commander’s visit just to four days.

Adhistanaya (determininaton) a Sinhala book written by former Navy Commander Wasantha Karannagoda is very explicit in how his efforts to thwart LTTE arms supplies were seen as wrong by the defense secretary at that time. The former secretary now the secretary to the President in his book my belly is white, like Operramire the snake in the Ghanian folk tale who, at death bed contorts himself to expose his pure white belly, the author attempts to exonerate himself and his colleagues from the charges leveled against them during their quest in peace-making. After all, like the author says, as public servants they only rose to call of duty The policies and actions of RW and his patronizing bureaucratic cohorts who claim RW is competent and charismatic amount to treachery against the country and that’s not “call of duty”. How can a person(RW) who could not become the head of state be called “charismatic? In a subsequent interview with Sanjana Haththotuwa (centre for policy studies) in 2008 the same secretary is “ambivalent”about the past deeds.

The court was correct in finding Weeratunga and Palpita misused state funds to satisfy their political master but implicit treachery committed by the politicians and top bureaucrats carry on regardless tasting power. It is said that the present secretary to the president is the mentor of Maithreepala Sirisena the “Grama Niladhari” (village officer). This is patronage at its best.

I end this article quoting Aeschylus the great Greek dramatist and poet who lived in 525 BC to 456 BC.

I have learned to hate all traitors, and there is no disease that I spit on more than treachery UPALI COORAY

One Response to “SIL-REDI and TREACHERY”

  1. Cerberus Says:

    How can we compare the ‘Sil Redi’ incident to what Ranil has been doing for the last 40 years to destroy Sri Lanka? See:
    How can we even begin to compare the activities of Ranil with the ‘Sil Redi’ incident? If we are to succeed as a country we must rid the country of this parasite who is loyal only to IDU, the IMF and the Western powers which wish to destroy, destabilize and dismantle the country to leach off all its resources. It is a paradox of this time of Kali that a Govt called the ‘Yahapalanaya’ would imprison a virtuous and innocent man who has a spotless record as a loyal public servant of Sri Lanka to three years R.I imprisonment and also fine him Rs.50 million while the chief perpetrator of two bond scams goes scot free.

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