“There are none so blind as those who will not see and none so deaf as those who will not hear” says a well-known idiom which is a reflection of the state of governance today.Unfortunately – aside  from  sections of the media – Sri Lankan citizens (barring a few) are either afraid to speak out [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Anarchy in governance


“There are none so blind as those who will not see and none so deaf as those who will not hear” says a well-known idiom which is a reflection of the state of governance today.Unfortunately – aside  from  sections of the media – Sri Lankan citizens (barring a few) are either afraid to speak out or are simply not interested and reminds one of another phrase “Hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil”.
Over the past few years, many issues have surfaced that have raised series issues of governance, transparency and accountability (to the people whom the government represents). Here are recent examples some of which are bizarre:

n Z score crisis at the 2011 A Level exam and finding lame excuses for the flaws.
n 2012 A Level examination problems in most question papers. (For example the absence of the periodic tables at the Chemistry paper which is ‘a given’ at the same exam in past years drew angry protests from students. How did the authorities respond? The paper-setter (a professor) says one question would have been too easy for those using the periodic tables and thus the Examination Department banned the use of the periodic table this year. Now should not schools, teachers and students have been informed months in advance that a regular tool at the Chemistry test would not be permitted this time so that they would have adequate time to memorise the table containing 119 chemical elements? By not informing the schools and students about this change of plan, isn’t it a violation of a student’s fundamental right and provides enough grounds to be challenged in the Supreme Court and seek redress?

  •  Nalaka Godahewa’s association with a company dealing with the construction of a tourist hotel while he serves as chairman of the Sri Lanka Tourism Development Authority, which the Business Times said was a conflict.
  • The National Savings Bank-TFC share transaction and no action against the bank’s board of directors other than their resignation.
  • n Crises at the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation involving former chairpersons Asantha de Mel (oil hedging) and Harry Jayewardena (irregular tenders) – no action.
  • Issues at Sri Lanka Insurance involving its former chairman Pradeepa Kariyawasam (also involved in NSC-TFC deal as NSB chairman) – no action.
  • Treasury Secretary P.B. Jayasundera was criticized by the Supreme Court and ordered to vacate his position. He continued until he was given a final warning and he apologized (in open court) for not following orders, and gave a letter promising not to serve in any public office. No sooner a new chief justice is appointed Jayasundera succeeds in winning a new court ruling to withdraw this letter (promise). President Mahinda Rajapaksa then re-appoints him as Treasury Secretary – action taken in reverse.
  • Questions about a former Central Bank deputy governor who seats on several boards and has been nominated as a Commissioner of the Securities & Exchange and is a director of a company  owned by  high net-worth stock market investor.

This is just the tip of the iceberg as there are many more governance issues where the government has been found wanting. Last week the Business Times reported the conflict in Godahewa’s role as Chairman of the Colombo Land and Development Co and as SLTDA Chairman as per the Tourism Act. Asked for a response, Godahewa says among others: “Whether a company entering into a sales agreement to purchase a land for a future real estate development could be interpreted as providing a tourism service in the current context, is up to the stakeholders to decide and act upon.”

This means it is up to the government (‘.. stakeholders to decide and act’) to take a decision on whether there is a conflict or not between the two positions. So far there is no official comment from the Minister and the Deputy Minister handling tourism on a matter of public importance. On Tuesday the Information Department announces Godahewa’s appointment as chairman of the SEC.

The level to which the law of the jungle prevails in Sri Lanka can be seen from a brazen attempt by what-must-be a powerful group to flog a dubious loan scheme, as our story on the previous page shows. The response (below) to one of the questions asked by our reporter clearly illustrates the rough-arm tactics this group would resort to if unsuspecting borrowers don’t pay up.

Reporter: By the way what happens if someone defaults the loan?
Response: (in a rough voice) “Eva apith ekka hariyanne ne. Api dannawa salli ganna heti.  Apita office ekak nehe. Apita badu thiyenawa. Api thamage gederata avilla thamai okkoma ganudenu karranne (No one can do such things to us. We know how to handle those matters. We have no office. All transactions will be done at your house)”.

While this group blatantly violates the law and freely distributes posters and pastes them on some walls, the police claim ignorance of such an activity.

Let’s put it this way: The new SEC chief tells his staff that he won’t interfere in the investigations and that they should be completed as soon as possible; the loan sharks have listed two numbers which are available for a proper investigation by the police and the Central Bank.

Only time will tell whether the SEC chief has allowed the current investigations pertaining to stock market manipulation and inside dealing to continue freely to a conclusion; and whether the police has fully probed the loan shark scam. The Business Times will keep readers updated of these developments as and when they unfold.

Share This Post

comments powered by Disqus

Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.