The Cabinet in Sri Lanka. Is it a Cabinet or a Cabimutt?
Posted on October 12th, 2017

Dr Sudath Gunasekara


I remember reading Cabinet Government’ by Sir Ivor Jennings’ the classic account on Cabinet government in England as a student in college and also as an undergraduate at the University. We were made to believe that it was a sacrosanct mechanism in modern democratic systems of Government.

A cabinet by way of definition in political science is a committee of senior ministers responsible for controlling Government policy.  It is influenced by the French word cabin-et. In sum overall it has the meaning small in it. So irrespective of whether it is a room, shelter, space or a house of wood the dominant meaning, it inherits the fundamental characteristic of it being small. In UK, (Land area 6 times Sri Lanka) the mother of Modern Cabinet system of Government, it is a small group of 22 Ministers, including the   Prime Minister who heads it who is described as ‘Primus inter pares (first among equals) he presides over the meetings. In some countries like USA they are called Secretaries and the meetings are presided over by the President and there is no Prime Minister. In USA which is almost 150 times bigger than Sri Lanka the Cabinet including the President is 25. Thus in all countries it has two common features for example it is small and it consists of the best brains in state craft in the country. In some countries like UK its Members are senior politicians but in some others it is formed with top executives who are experts in their own fields, for example USA. In Sri Lanka too we started with this system in 1948 following the British model and continued to have the same system until 1972 when the country was declares a Republic under a new Constitution. Before, we had a Monarchy nearly for 2500 years. During the last days of the Kingdom, the Kandyan period, the Monarch was supported and advised by a Council of Ministers ( Disavas and Rate Mahattayas) headed by a Chief Adigar called the Maha Adilkarama, the parallel of modern Prime Minister. The Raja Sabhava the parallel of modern Cabinet was presided over by the King.

Now look at Sri Lanka (only 25,000 Sq mile in area) today has more than 112 Ministers when the affairs of the country could be managed with 12 to 15 Ministries and Ministers. But ironically they call it Yahapalanaya (Good Governance).  I do not know how many of them are Cabinet and non- Cabinet. We hold the world Guianese record of having the biggest Cabinet in the world for any country. The other interesting thing is here in Sri Lanka we have some peculiar Ministers. Some are called Cabinet. Some are called State Ministers as if others are non-State. Some are called Special project Ministers and another set is called Deputy Ministers. But in actual practice the Cabinet Ministers run the show all other Ministers are only ceremonial figures to whom positions are doled out to enable them to get the benefits and numerous privileges of the posts like salaries, official vehicles and drivers, official quarters, Ministerial staff, Luxury Offices enhanced allowances and pensions, duty free vehicle permits worth 20, 30, or even more millions that could be sold every five years, foreign jaunts and many other unlimited privileges like giving bars and permits and getting government contracts for themselves in other people’s names or friends who look after the Minsters interests in return and doling out jobs in Government institutions and corporations among favorites. All these privileges and benefits are enjoyed for no work done to the people other than voting in Parliament to keep the Government going and collect the votes at elections in their Districts for the Party.

If you go through the list of Ministries attached, you will see how funny and ridicules the naming the ministries are. It is like a Pissage palamalla to use a local adage. They have no scientific, functional or rational relationship. They are just named and given to Ministers with a list of institutions attached to boss over these institutions.   See the list attached for details. One gets utterly confused as to what they really mean. For example to name a few M/Higher Education and Road Development, Good Governance and infrastructure, Defense and Urban Development. I cited only few examples. Please have a look for yourself at the list given.

Apart from that, if you trace the names of Ministers, in my opinion, there is not a Single man or women worthy of being appointed as a Minister in this list. When we think of Ministers, People like DS, SWRD, Sirima B, NM. Colvin, Khenaman, CWWKannagara, Felix B, TB Ilangaratna, TB Subasinha, Maitripala Senanayaka. JR, Luxman Kadiragama, Lalith Atulatmudali, Gamini Dissanayaka, Gamani Jayasooriya, Roney De Mel, Nissanka Wijeratna, Mahinda Rajapaksa, A Ratnayaka, MD Banda and Wanninayaka come to my mind. Can you think of at least one man or woman like that in this Cabinet?.

Once again going back to the concept of Cabinet Government as we knew it, I feel the whole definition of the word Cabinet has to be redefined in the Sri Lankan context as it is utterly irrelevant and absured to use the conventions terminology to describe our Cabinet. The concept of smallness and quality in our context does not apply to it by any means. The dictionary meaning in that respect remains unchanged. But I am inclined to replace the letter n with M so that it will read as Cabimutt. I do not know how far it is etymologically sound. Nevertheless I deem it to be the most appropriate word that could be coined to describe our Cabinet and I take the liberty call it CabiMutt and assign the meaning  a small group of mutts though inappropriate to it in terms of both the size and the quality as Jennings has defined it. There may be few of them who are definitely not mutts as they are not both stupid and ignorant.

However even those few who are not ignorant are certainly stupid if not cunning for all of them are blundering people. Prevailing circumstances have compelled all of them to be dull and stupid persons or at least they behave so, may be to safeguard their personal interests. To this extent none of them could be called Public Servants (meaning the people who serve the people), because none of them serve the people. They only enjoy the privileges conferred or rather showered upon them by Parliament by virtue of the fact they are supposed to be elected by the people. But they are hardly concerned about the people of the country.  The prevailing electoral system has distanced them from the people to the extent today they represent nobody. Besides helping themselves they only help their party leaders both in Parliament and outside in order to safeguard their positions and perks. In this backdrop I think it is more than appropriate to call it a Cabimutt rather than a Cabinet, meaning a small group of Mutts.

I don’t think I need to mention about other salient characteristics of Cabinets such as collective responsibility, maintenance of the highest standards of objectivity, quality of debate and discussions, secrecy, strict adherence to Legal and Administrative norms, requirements and traditions and the décor and decorum of proceedings. The daily news bulletins on TVs and other media will tell you enough.

List of ministries in Sri Lanka 2016

The President

Prime Minister

1 Minister of Defense and Urban Development

2 Minister of Finance and Planning

3 Minister of Ports and Shipping

4 Minister of Law & Order

5 Minister of Buddhasasana and Religious Affairs

6 Minister for Good Governance and Infrastructure

7 Minister for Human Resources

8 Minister for Rural Affairs

9 Minister for Urban Affairs

10 Minister for Social Services

11 Minister for Consumer Welfare

12 Minister for National Resources

13 Minister for Scientific Affairs

`14 Minister for International Monetary Co-operation

15 Minister of Health, Nutrition and Indigenous Medicine

16 Minister of Mahaweli Development and Environment

17 Minister of Water Supply and Drainage

18 Minister of Local Government and Provincial Councils

19 Minister of Housing and Construction

20 Minister of Justice

21 Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs

22 Minister of National Co-existence Dialogue and Official Languages

23 Minister of Higher Education and Highways

24 Minister of Foreign Affairs

25 Minister of Home Affairs

26 Minister of Posts, Postal Services and Muslim Religious Affairs

27 Minister of Power and Energy

28 Minister of Petroleum Industries

29 Minister of Women and Child Affairs

30 Minister of Labour Relations and Productivity Improvement

31 Minister of Education

32 Minister of Plantation Industries

33 Minister of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development

34 Minister of Land and Land Development

35 Minister of Private Transport Services

36 Minister of Agriculture

37 Minister of Mass Media and Information

38 Minister of Transport

39 Minister of Youth Affairs & Skills Development

40 Minister of Co-operatives and Internal Trade

41 Minister of Rehabilitation and Prison Reforms

42 Minister of Indigenous Medicine

43 Minister of Minor Export Crop Promotion

44 Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion & Welfare

45 Minister of Civil Aviation

46 Minister of Coconut Development and Janatha Estate Development

47 Minister of Culture & the Arts

48 Minister of Disaster Management

49 Minister of Resettlement

50 Minister of Public Relations & Public Affairs

51 Minister of Sports

52 Minister of State Resources and Enterprise Development

53 Minister of Telecommunication & Information Technology

54 Minister of National Heritage

55 Minister of Sugar Industry Development

56 Minister of Public Management Reforms

57 Minister of Investment Promotion

58 Minister of Botanical Gardens and Public Recreation

59 Minister of Education Services

60 Minister of Wildlife Resources Conservation

This is the list I copied from Wikipedia on 12.10.2017. We have only a list of 60 here .But actually there are about 112 or  Ministers today. Therefore obviously this list is not comprehensive. Ministries like Janatha Savibala Genviime, Special Services, Parliamentary Affairs, Regional Development, Southern area Development, Mega police, Irrigation, Christian Affairs, Upcountry Village & Infrastructure development are not included here. They are missing or not shown to conceal the long list of Ministries and mislead people.

9 Responses to “The Cabinet in Sri Lanka. Is it a Cabinet or a Cabimutt?”

  1. Senerath Says:

    You are 8 years late on this. We didn’t even think. We trusted the crooks. We are such fools.

    There was no cabinet, there is no cabinet at all now. It is CABIN FULL OF NUTS.
    Either it follows the command of a NUT or it VARIOUS NUTS rooling in different directions.

  2. dhane Says:

    Dr Sudath Gunasekara very appropriated article. There is not a single political party could do away with present system of huge number of Ministers. Political parties will talk reducing the number of ministers ONLY at Election meeting. Sri Lankans have to learn and live not to believe anything what politicians promises and talks during election campaign. Immediately after election politicians do whatever they wants to keep themselves happy & rich.

  3. Senerath Says:

    In addition to what Sudath has listed, there are Palaath Sabha crooks, 9 Thief Ministers , 9 Governers sucking blood. We need a proper dictator, who has no families no friends.

  4. L Perera Says:

    60 Ministers and their Deputies makes it 120. Therefore The SL Parliament comprises of more Ministers than Ordinary Members. Guinness Book of World Records, take note.

  5. SA Kumar Says:

    We need a proper dictator, who has no families no friends.- I recommend our Thesiya Thalaivar VP ( never care about his family or friend)

  6. Fran Diaz Says:

    An excellent article by Dr Sudath Gunasekera. Thank you !


    There are no perfect rulers. Best get 5-8 time tested PATRIOTS to govern Sri Lanka ?
    Make sure all Elections (big or small) are never rigged. RW wants to bring voting machines, aka “rigging machines” ! Yahap has already installed voting machines in the Parliament for MPs to click ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Time to put the brakes on Yahap fooling around with the Democratic processes.

  7. Fran Diaz Says:

    What is the alternative to the govt being the “main employer” in the country ?
    How about the local Co-op movement which can cover almost any sphere of commercial activity, with govt participation re govt held land leases ?

    That is far safer than getting huge foreign Corporations to come into small islalnd Lanka ?
    Far better than RW’s “Crash & Sell” program.

  8. Fran Diaz Says:

    Co-ops & Free Trade Zones all over the island are the way to go to give full employment to the rural people of Sri Lanka.
    In Spain, the Mondragon Corporation has a whole lot of Co-ops under that Corporation.
    In America, over 15% of the total business world, are Co-ops.

    Other ideas and comments welcome.

  9. Cerberus Says:

    Dr. Gunasekera, Agree that employing a whole bunch of unemployable rejects who pander to My3 in the Cabinet is unproductive.

    President Mahinda Rajapaksa was trying to go on the path of Self-Sufficiency as you suggest. He had to spend money on the infrastructure since it had been destroyed and neglected for 30 years by the old hag CBK and Ponil. As soon as MR came into power he started projects to develop the infrastructure. In 2009 when he eliminated LTTE and their leader the West was against it. They send the French Foreign Minister Boucher and David Miliband Leader of the opposition in U.K. Parliament to request saving Prabhakaran and the terrorists. President Mahinda Rajapaksa stood firm and because of this and other reasons such as friendship with China, Libya, etc. they started their plans to remove him from the Presidency. Funds were given to the opposition to mount a campaign to give a negative slant to MR, his family & his govt. In spite of it MR would have won if there was no large-scale Election cheating by the opposition.

    During the last two years from Jan 2015, the මූසල ආණ්ඩුව has taken more loans than MR did in his time from 2005 to 2009. But what do they have to show for it? They go around opening buildings and hospitals etc that MR had built and they put their own nameplate on the buildings after removing MR’s name. The only thing they have done with the money is pay high salaries to MPs, to import luxury BMWs, Mercedes Bezes and Range Rovers for the corrupt parliamentarians. The two bond scams engineered by Ponil and Arjun Mahendran is one of the biggest insider trading jobs in the world.

    Self Sufficiency would have given our people Dignity, Peace, and Prosperity. The farmers would have been self-employed and would have supplied the rice we needed. We could have had small-scale private operations to produce various other goods as you suggest. The Yahapalanaya killed the fertilizer subsidy to destroy the farmers. Now that Wikunanasinghe wants to convert us into an export economy as per the instructions from the IMF. They feel the time is right for the takeover of Sri Lanka by Multinational Corporations and the wealthy Tamil Diaspora. They will come and buy everything from the Trincomalee harbor, Hambantota harbors our best lands and convert the people to serfs who will have to work under these Corporations. Instead of being a dignified race of people who are self-sufficient, we will end up as serfs working for a pittance for these corporations. Wikunanasinghe and his cohorts will be very well looked after. Sri Lanka labor costs are much higher than that in India, Bangladesh etc. So these corporations will import labor who will never go back and what happened in 1815 will be repeated. The ethnic balance will be changed furthermore forever. Both CBK and Ponil will have their ultimate revenge. Ponil is a twit who mind is still in the 1950’s mindset. He thinks Capitalism works. It does not as has been shown by one of the world’s foremost Economists Dr. Richard Wolf and many others.

    RW follows the script from failed pure capitalist ideas from the International powers. Most of Europe including U.K follow Socialist Systems of Governance. RW after losing elections 29 times keeps coming like the Terminator in the film. Both Ranil and CBK are like the walking dead in the film Zombies since their hearts are dead. The body and head keep going on a set program from the International powers.

    We need to measure the success of the economy by PQLI (Physical Quality of Life Index which is a composite number to measure Life expectancy, literacy, infant mortality etc). Not by GDP. The only solution is for all the good well-meaning people in the country, the intellectuals, the workers, the priests and the forces to rise up against this life defeating systems and bring lasting change and prosperity for the ordinary people not the few at the top.

    Sri Lanka is the Socialist Republic. Not a Capitalist Paradise for vermin from abroad to creep in and spoil our land and culture. The purely Capitalist countries have destroyed their countries and parts of the world and are now looking for new fresh lands to conquer and plunder and rape.

    There are many top economists who have written on the topic. One of the most outspoken has been Dr. Richard Wolf. His famous talk Capitalism hits the Fan is given below. His solution for capitalism is to have democracy in the workplace. The Mondragon Corporation in Spain is actually a large number of Co-operatives under the umbrella of Mondragon. This was set up with the blessings of the Catholic Church. In the USA there are many companies which are run as co-operatives where the employees participate in the decision making of the company affairs by being on the board. In Germany which has been very successful any company with over 2000 employees have to have at least 50% of employees on the board. This is why unlike USA Germany is very successful. In 2008 when the recession hit many companies in the USA laid off people in millions. In Germany, the Govt informed the companies not to lay off anyone. They suggested that they can reduce the number of hours of employees but keep all employed. In return, the German Govt paid the wages of the companies who had reduced the number of hours of employees so that no one lost any money. The net result was that the people had money in the pocket and were spending it thereby keeping the economy rolling. They hardly felt the recession, unlike the stupid USA.

    Please watch ( Capitalism Hits the Fan – Richard Wolff) ( Austerity and Neoliberalism in Greece with Richard Wolff and Barry Herman | The New School)

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