Court quashes CB deputy governor's appointment
Improper procedure for promotions adopted
By Naomi Gunasekara
The Central Bank of Sri Lanka has been ordered to adhere to a proper procedure in selecting its officers for high-ranking posts following a landmark judgement quashing the appointment of W. A. Wijewardena as Deputy Governor of the Central Bank after a former officer said he was bypassed for the job although he was more senior.

The judgement, given on April 30, directed the Monetary Board of the Central Bank consisting at the Governor, Secretary to the Finance Ministry and a member appointed by the President, to hold a fresh selection process for the said post after giving publicity to the criteria and procedure for selection.

Justice Mark Fernando, hearing two fundamental rights applications filed by retired executive director of the bank, Somapala Pattiwidana, alleging that his fundamental rights under Article 12 (1) of the Constitution was infringed by the Monetary Board of the Central Bank (first respondent) and the Central Bank Governor (second respondent), by the appointment of W. A. Wijewardena (third respondent) as Deputy Governor, held that the criteria for selection of the third respondent was uncertain, confusing, anomalous and inconsistent and the second and first respondents' failure to evaluate the candidates by failing to comply with the prescribed procedure, the appointment of Wijewardena as DG was arbitrary and unreasonable and that the right of the petitioner to a fair selection process has been infringed.

Justice Mark Fernando, analysing the scheme of the Central Bank, pointed out that the Deputy Governor (DG) had been appointed from among the officers in the Special Grade according to the affidavit of the second respondent, who admitted that at all times the bank has had at least one Deputy Governor qualified in economic policy or major operational functions of the bank.

"It was not unreasonable for the Monetary Board to insist upon having one DG with expertise and experience in those fields more so because Sections 8 (1) and 24 of the Act provide that, in the absence of the governor one DG shall preside at meetings of the Board," the judgement stated.

Hence, when one of the DGs retired, since the other did not have experience and expertise in the fields of economics and monetary policy, had the past practice been followed the vacancy should have been filled from the Special Grade, which had three officers. Contrary to practice, however, the second respondent has created a few positions of Assistants to the Governor (AG) on par with the Special Grade to assist him in specialised areas of the bank's functions and thereby appointed the third respondent, who was a Grade IV officer, as an Assistant to the Governor.

The Board Paper of 4.5.2000 unequivocally stated that the post of AG could only be held by officers having experience, skills and aptitude in particular specialised areas in the Special Grade. That was not an unreasonable requirement, but it made every Grade IV officer ineligible. However, items (3) (b) and (4) (a) made an inconsistent provision, which seemed to make Grade IV officers eligible with only five years service. Allowing such an exception would be manifestly arbitrary and unreasonable and would result in unequals being treated equally. The appointment of the third respondent was therefore flawed."

Having promoted Wijewardena as an AG on a direction made by the Governor, the Monetary Board had unlawfully delegated its statutory power of appointment to the Governor. Consequent to Wijewardena's promotion along with 12 others, the Governor, in a Board Paper dated 2.6.2000 had stated that AGs or Executive Directors in the Special Grade will also be considered for the post of DG hereafter and thereby expanded the number of candidates who would be eligible for the post of DG.

Having made this direction, however, the Governor has directed the Board to consider five out of the 12 officers in the Special Grade for consideration for the post of DG. Within four weeks of Wijewardena's appointment as an AG, he has been promoted to the post of DG. While holding that it was not unreasonable for the Monetary Board to decide that one of the two DGs should be a person with expertise and experience in the fields of economics and monetary policy, it was held that the decision to appoint the third respondent as an AG being made by the second Respondent and not the Monetary Board, was not valid in law.

Further, the judgement said, assuming that the promotions made were proper, the new AGs were in the same class as Heads of Department and hence the latter group ought to have been considered along with other senior Special Grade officers. Short-listing the third respondent and another officer and refusing to promote the other simply because he had only 16 months service was held to be arbitrary and unreasonable and the appointment of the third respondent as DG was thus quashed as those who ought to have been considered for the post are not considered.

The other judges of the three-member bench were Wadugodapitiya J. and Gunasekera J. R.K.W. Gunasekera with J.C. Weliammuna and Janaka Samarakoon appeared for the petitioner while P.A. Ratnayake, Deputy Solicitor General and Rajiv Goonetillake, State Counsel appeared for the respondents.

Sri Lanka launches modern Distance Learning Centre
Sri Lanka is the first country in South Asia to be linked with the World Bank's Global Development Learning Network (GDLN) with the establishment of a state-of-the-art Distance Learning Centre in Colombo.

Located at the Sri Lanka Institute of Development Administration (SLIDA), the centre is funded by a Learning Innovation Loan (LIL) of $ 2 million from the World Bank and counterpart funds of $ 1 million from the Sri Lankan government. It will use a combination of four main technologies - Video Conferencing, the Internet, CD ROM and Print - to conduct training and skills development for senior civil servants and corporate executives, an official statement said.

The project will be managed and operated by Distance Learning Centre Ltd, (DLC) a public limited liability company which is a collective enterprise of the government and private sector. The company's board of directors represents both the public and private sectors.

"The Centre assumes special significance as Sri Lanka is poised for an economic turnaround, and in the context of the renewed possibility of peace," DLC Chairman Armyne Wirasinha said. "It will facilitate the transfer of international best practice in public sector management and corporate governance, which is critical to strengthen the environment for policy reforms in Sri Lanka and build capacity in the public and private sectors."

He said the company, which is expected to achieve self-financing status by 2005, would offer a demand-driven fee-based course curriculum based on training needs assessment and market survey. The courses would range from global dialogues linking experts in several countries for an exchange of ideas to half-day programmes or courses of longer duration on a wide choice of subjects. These courses would be sourced from the Global Development Learning Network, which would link at least 52 countries, as well as other leading international educational institutions.

The core of the Distance Learning Centre comprises an interactive video classroom that enables interaction between local course participants, remote instructors and international participants, and a computer laboratory consisting of two rooms with 40 personal computers for independent Internet based interaction among peer groups and instructors.

Coconut oil adulterated
Some types of "loose" coconut oil, which come in barrels, are adulterated with cheap vegetable oil, said H.A. Tillekeratne, chairman of the Coconut Development Authority (CDA).

Speaking at a recent ceremony where Adamjee Lukmanjee and Sons, established in the 1860's, won the SLS mark for its N-Joy brand White Coconut Oil, Tillekeratne said vegetable oils are imported and packed in attractive packages but the quality of the contents are unknown.

"Consumers are now aware that there is no cholesterol in coconut oil," he added stressing the importance of having quality brands like N-Joy in retail packs in the market.

He said Adamjee Lukmanjee is currently the only manufacturer cum regular exporter of White Coconut Oil in Sri Lanka. The company is also the second organisation to receive SLS certification for White Coconut Oil.

Armyn Weerasinghe, Chairman of the SLSI, said it is a milestone for a company with a history of over 100 years of export trading to achieve the SLS mark for bottled coconut oil within a very short period (in the local market).

He stressed the importance of quality and wished other coconut oil millers in Sri Lanka too would try and obtain this certificate as today's consumers are becoming more quality conscious.

Murtaza Lukmanjee, Managing Director of the company, said it was a happy occasion for the company in its long history to achieve the SLS mark.

Tracking baggage possible!
Mishandled baggage, one of the worst nightmares for travellers, need no longer be a headache - at least at British Airways. With the online WorldTracer Baggage Tracing system via the website, links are provided to appropriate parts of the WorldTracer system site including 'The Baggage Home page', the 'Contact Us' section and the 'AskBA' functionality.

A BA press release said linking through to this online service offers passengers an extra channel to use for querying the status of their mishandled baggage. "It is available 24 hours a day thereby enhancing the customer service offered to our passengers," says Joe Rajadurai, British Airways Country Manager for Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

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