A welcome move | Daily News

A welcome move

The decision taken by the top to replace all military officers functioning as Ministry Secretaries with Administrative Service officers is a move in the right direction and one that will be welcomed by all members of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service who must have felt left out and unceremoniously ousted by individuals who had no idea of the job at hand. Most of the present woes that have beset the country were attributed to the wrong advice tendered to the President by persons who were not competent to tender such advice in the first place and the retired military officers who held civilian posts during the past two and half years under the Gotabaya Presidency could certainly fit onto this category. Prowess on the battlefield certainly does not qualify one to hold positions that have no relation to warfare. What is the outcome of these appointments? It would be interesting to ascertain if the Ministries to which these military men were appointed Secretaries had made any gains or had marked an improved performance since their take over during the two and half years.

The former President indeed made a lot of wrong appointments for which the country is paying a heavy price today. Ex-President Gotabaya Rajapaksa himself tendered an apology to the nation for making the wrong decisions, which, no doubt, was due to following the wrong advice, chief among which was the decision to ban chemical fertilizer and the delay in seeking IMF assistance. Hardly anything is heard today of the paediatrician who advised the President to go 100 percent organic although the former Central Bank Governor has been slapped with a travel ban by the Court in a case filed against him for wrong decisions that caused damage to the economy. This is as it should be. All those who took arbitrary decisions that led to the present catastrophe should be made accountable for their follies and where possible the public compensated. Most of them are entitled to fat pensions which are paid for by the public whom they swindled by the injudicious decisions. Their bank balances should be checked and any inordinate earnings should be forfeited and the money used for the public benefit.

As a former military officer and one time Defence Secretary Gotabaya Rajapaksa may have thought of rewarding those military officers who contributed to the war victory by offering them posts in his administration or for purely being his colleagues in the Army. But in doing so he handed these ex-military officers subjects and tasks that were quite alien to their profession. This has been the case with most of the appointments under his rule. In-laws, friends and relatives got precedence in the appointments made to top Government posts. The sorry state into which the National Carrier has been reduced is a direct result of one such appointment.

Military officers whose capabilities lay on the battlefield could not be expected to handle issues and take decisions on matters that were strictly the province of civilian administrative officers with long experience and training on the subject. In the end, what was witnessed was, officers with administrative skills and competence having to vegetate in the so-called pool or Siberia kicking their heels while the military men ruled the roost in civilian positions dealing with subjects that were completely out of their depth. The rotten state of affairs in the Ministries and Departments that were under military officers is proof that the exercise was an unmitigated disaster. At least now let saner counsel prevail and the right man/woman be appointed for the right job. The country's present plight owes itself much to the poor choice of appointments to top posts in Government as with poor decision making.

The appointment of retired military officers to civilian administrative posts was among the reasons for foreign countries to suspend aid to Sri Lanka. This is more so since some of the appointed officers had allegations of human rights violations and even war crimes levelled against them at the Geneva Human Rights Commission hearings, a sure recipe for the suspension of GSP Plus facility. Hence it is a wise move to have all military officers removed before the next hearing of the Commission in a few weeks from now. Besides, it is a waste of both human and financial resources to have military officers take over posts strictly meant for the officers of the Sri Lanka Administrative Service. The military officers who functioned as Ministry Secretaries were paid salaries in addition to receiving their pensions while the Administrative officers who were cooling their heels too were being paid their regular salaries for simply idling away their time. Can the country afford such a luxury? Perhaps another reason that must have motivated the former President to appoint military officers to civilian administrative positions may have been to prevent corruption in the Government departments. However, whatever the motive, the decision had failed to pay off. It was indeed poor judgement on the part of the former President who not only paid heed to wrong advice from the wrong quarters but also dismissed from office knowledgeable and qualified Administrative Service officers who tendered sound advice and who were later vindicated.

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