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qrcode.30057893One area in which a government must ensure continuity is with regard to foreign relations. I do not mean by this that a new government must follow the policies of its predecessors. But it must understand them, and ensure that changes are made systematically, and without destroying anything that has been built up.

I wondered about the assertion in the manifesto that ‘Within hundred days all political appointments and appointments of relatives to the Foreign Service will be annulled and the entire Foreign Service will be reorganized using professional officials and personnel who have obtained professional qualifications’. But that last clause made me think that the annulling of what were termed political appointments would be, not in terms of a catch all phrase, but on a rational basis that understood the need for professionals with suitable qualifications and objectively justifiable capacity.

That is why I wrote at the time that ‘Whilst there are good reasons sometimes for appointment of non-career individuals to Head of Mission posts, all other posts should be reserved for members of the Diplomatic Service.’ Though there are several obvious cases of inappropriate appointments to Head of Mission posts, what was infinitely worse was the manner in which individuals, related to opposition as well as government MPs, were sent to undertake vital responsibilities for which they were not trained at all. Outsiders of proven capacity are appointed by all countries to head Missions, and this has always been the case in Sri Lanka. It was the Jayewardene government that made several inappropriate appointments to junior positions, and this destructive practice was implemented in spades as it were by the last government. Read the rest of this entry »

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reform agenda 13I have written already about the inconsistency this government is manifesting with regard to strengthening the independence of the Public Service. It is patently ridiculous that much energy is expended upon ensuring a Public Service Commission that is not constituted according to Presidential or Prime Ministerial whims and fancies, but continuing to leave the Commission with no authority at all with regard to the seniormost positions in the Public Service. And it is obviously counter-productive, if one wants an independent Public Service, to have Secretaries to Ministries replaced when there is a change of government. This suggests that they are meant to serve the government in power, whereas going back to the practice of having Permanent Secretaries makes it clear that they are in office to serve the State.

 Keeping them in office, instead of allowing this to be a matter of grace and favour, will also help to ensure continuity. When you have new Ministers – who often know nothing about the subject they have to handle, because we do not have a Shadow Cabinet system – and new Secretaries, understanding what has been happening becomes difficult. And even when the Secretary is kept on, since he will see this as a concession, he will be hesitant to expound the virtues of what the previous Minister has done. So often good initiatives are promptly forgotten, and wheels are reinvented, with little understanding of the road conditions.

One sad example of the probems that arise relates to an excellent initiative of the National Child Protection Authority. They had established a hotline for children, which has proved increasingly popular in the period after it was made operational for 24 hours. Now this may be cut to working hours, and the line transferred to the Ministry. Though the previous administration had obtained a grant from the South Asian body responsible for Child protection to improve the hotline, there is some confusion now about that money since it was for both Women and Children, and the Ministries have been divided up. I believe, given how dedicated the Minister is, that things may work out all right, but I worry lest children will be expected to ensure that abuse, or even worries, occur only during working hours. Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2019
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