CHEATED VOTERS: A smiling Harsha de Silva taking his appointment letter from President Maithripala Sirisena, after an election where voters lost.
ECONOMYNEXT – The naming of deputy ministers of the new government has kept pace with the record-setting cabinet and confirmed that voters were the clear losers at the August 17 parliamentary election.
The business community had high hopes of seeing Harsha de Silva and Eran Wickremaratne getting key positions where their knowledge on monetary and fiscal matters could have been fully utilised.
Harsha has been given a subject foreign to him – Foreign Affairs — while Eran as deputy of State-owned enterprises may be able to make a partial contribution, although his area of expertise is policy making.
Apart from them, the induction of 19 non-cabinet rank state ministers and 22 deputy ministers read more like a list of wanted criminals and left even senior ruling United National Party (UNP) stalwarts wondering what had hit them.
Tourism deputy minister Nimal Lansa’s house was raided in October 2011 by the STF which was said to be looking for illegally assembled motor vehicles and narcotics.
Shortly after the STF raid, which was carried out along with similar searches of homes of Lansa loyalists in Negombo, the then President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited him, hugged him, posed for pictures and dropped the case.
The current Prime Minister and then opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe was a vocal critic of Rajapaksa’s action and said the presidential intervention showed that “rule of law in the country has deteriorated and there was no decorum in the police force.”
It would have been more appropriate to give Lansa something within his area of expertise.
However, Priyankara Jayaratane has got the right subject Law and Order, given his experience in barging into the Karuwalagaswewa police station in June last year to free a suspect in custody.
Jayaratne’s chief security officer was the main accused in a LKR 10 million robbery in Colombo in 2013, at the time the biggest heist in the capital. It was carried out at the Nawaloka car park.
Jayaratne also figured very prominently in the Weliamuna investigation into corruption at Sri Lankan airlines. Jayaratne could now fly high as he controls the investigators, including those of the CID and the FCID.
Arundika Fernando who was hauled up before courts for making false statements about abducted journalist Prageeth Eknaligoda is made deputy minister of Home Affairs.
Several MP’s who camped inside the parliament chamber during the 100-day government have been rewarded with deputy ministries. T. B. Ekanayake who famously wore shoes without soles at a ceremony attended by Chinese president Xi Jinping is now minister of Lands.
In June, Ekanayake was questioned by the FCID for four hours about misappropriation of money from the Central Cultural Fund.
Sumedha Jayasena who signed twice a no-trust vote against Ranil Wickremesinghe in June is now deputy minister of Wildlife. She had famously obtained state land for her family at rock-bottom prices and also was involved in a tiff with a DIG over the arrest of illegal sand miners in her electorate.
Lakshman Yapa Abeywardene who aggressively pushed James Packer’s casino project in Colombo is state minister of Finance. The UNP which accused him of getting kickbacks from Packer’s Crown will have to go to him for their decentralised budget allocations.
Ranjan Ramanayake, a vocal critic of the corruption under the Rajapaksa regime, was made deputy minister of Social Empowerment and Welfare, but promptly shared his displeasure over most of his fellow deputies.
“…saddened by some of the appointments but I don’t have a control over it, but I will not stop my fight against them,” he said on twitter in a clear move to distance himself from the rotten rambutans. (Colombo/Sep09/2015)