sithamuI was immensely impressed by the publication, initially on this website, and then in a Sunday newspaper, of the report of some young parliamentarians, from government and opposition, which aimed at promoting post-war Reconciliation and better relations with members of the Diaspora. I had come across them before, since I was asked to address them before an initial visit to Britain, and later I was most impressed with two of them who attended a meeting with the former British Secretary of Defence when he was here for the recent Defence Seminar.

I told the Secretary to the President about their input, and he turned out to be aware of their academic qualifications, and recognized their worth. Unfortunately he is not in a position to make use of their undoubted talents, given our national obsession with seniority, regardless of merit.

I will not discuss their recommendations, which are In accordance with those of the LLRC but adding on more interesting initiatives too. Rather my purpose here is to suggest that such synergy should be used by government also, to promote reform, as well as wider understanding of how reconciliation can be pursued.

The group had been brought together by an organization that sent them to Britain for interactions with the diaspora. Interestingly enough, many of those involved had also been selected by the Americans for a study visit a few months back. Unfortunately, where Britain and America have the capacity to identify talent, this seems to be lacking in our own administrators.

Some time back I had suggested to the Ministry of External Affairs some discussion programmes with regard to Reconciliation. They were not interested, but the Ministry of Defence participated actively, and I had also invited one of the MPs whom subsequently the British and the Americans identified as a potential high flyer.

Some of them are now in Britain on yet another tour, and I expect they will produce another constructive report. I fear this too will come to nothing but, since one should never give up hoping, I have written to the Secretary to the President to suggest that one of them be appointed as Minister in the President’s Office to oversee Policy and Training with regard to External Relations.

This is a concept I have been developing over the last few weeks, because I feel that the great achievements of this government in so many areas are being undermined by what seem endless problems in three areas. I identified these to the President’s Secretary as External Relations, Education and Justice, and suggested that, as happens in most countries that have Executive Presidencies (and indeed where there are Prime Ministers concerned with special projects), there should be ministerial support within the President’s Office to carry out important policies expeditiously.

Given the administrative overload of these three Ministries, I am sure the existing Ministers would be happy to have others taking on responsibility for Policy and for Reform (and, in External Relations, the training and development of wider understanding that officials need). With regard to Justice and Education I was able to suggest individuals in whom I know the President has great confidence.

External Affairs was trickier, since it might be thought I wanted such a position myself, but obviously this is more appropriate for someone younger, who could work together happily with the existing Minister. The report mentions three extremely bright youngsters from not just the UPFA but the SLFP, so I hope my advice will at least be considered.