| Ceylon Today Editorial
( February 3, 2013, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) So the Jumbo Cabinet, said to be one of the biggest in a democratic nation, had to have its seams let out last week to accommodate a few more MPs, who were given some nonsensical ministerial portfolios in what is being described as a reward for ‘exceeding the expectations of the President.’
In the parliamentary system of government, Cabinet reshuffles are nothing new. But, in the Sri Lankan context, when the Westminster system was being practised and collective responsibility of the Cabinet of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister was not taken lightly by its members, a reshuffle of its makeup was a rarity. If it ever happened, some serious changes were effected; the sole purpose of this re-hashing was to introduce some new blood into the highest decision-making apparatus of the government; those who did not perform were dropped altogether from high office.
A directional change, if it were the wish of the government, was so coursed the policies of the State could be implemented in the manner in which they were supposed to have been implemented in the larger interest of the people who were the ultimate masters of the State.
Those who performed well were rewarded and those who didn’t were punished, so to speak. That is, as someone might surmise, the private sector-way of doing things. The underlying fundamental principle of that kind of sensible approach had a magic word for it: Accountability.
Accountability has assumed a very nasty character as far as this government is concerned. It’s being depicted as a Western concept, a concept impregnated with unholy Western values; it’s being mentioned about by those who wield real power as a luxury, we in the Developing World simply cannot afford. And those locals who advocate the value and indispensability of accountability are labelled ‘conspirators’ aided by international agencies.
In such a bizarre context, last Monday’s Cabinet reshuffle was hardly a reshuffle; yet it qualifies to be discussed and debated, especially the relevance of the changes that were caused.
One sector, not just a ministry, which needed a real reshuffle and reorganization, is Education. Both, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education, are being manned by two individuals who have proven time and time again to be grossly inadequate, not only in terms of guiding the education of the next generation towards a more palpable goal, but also in the manner in which both ministers handled the intricate working of the two ministries. All they have succeeded in doing is to bring about total chaos in the State-run education system and cause it to lose credibility. The Ministry of Education has caused some unpardonable mishaps resulting in cancellation of examination papers, review and recall of results, postponement of examinations...
Things have not been any better with the other ministry – that of Higher Education either. If one is to pick a sector that has been agitating right throughout the period of this regime, it would be Higher Education. From the university academics to the ordinary and minor staff, members of the universities were found on the roads, protesting and expressing their unreserved rejection of the way in which the minister had been tackling this most vital segment of the population – university students and academics.
Instead of showing the country it is seriously interested in making some real progress in this crucial sector, the reshuffle saw the creation of another ministry, this time the Educational Services Ministry.
This not only reveals the government’s priorities, it also makes clear its intent. And it has nothing to do with changes being made with a view to improving an ailing system. On the contrary, the government it appears, does not want to accept the fact the system is unwell and needs some critical and fundamental change, nor realize a change is necessary. Such folly in governance is not a very good omen for the country.
In the reshuffle, some obvious quid pro quo effects were made without any apology. Once again, the Executive scored a century, surpassing 100 with so much ease and carefree manipulations. Of the 10 Senior Ministers, nine are rotting away, except perhaps Dr. Sarath Amunugama, without even an office for each minister.
It’s time the government realized governance is not allocation and reallocation of State coffers among its members. It’s much more than that; it’s making those allocations work for the welfare of the people. If not, this government of the people, for the people and by the people, will end up as one of the Cabinet, for the Cabinet and by the Cabinet!