Taking a cue from Singapore Nurturing the Island’s Spirit to Work

11 March 2020 12:23 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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There is a noticeable absence of Muslims in the present Cabinet

We are dealing with a government which is boasting about employing people with patriotic feelings. Insiders say that the former military man is hellbent on employing in public service those who were educated either at that leading school in Maradana or at the popular cricket playing school in the vicinity of Punchi Borella.  

This is a time when the country is faced with clearing its debt commitment which is in the range of rupees ten trillion. The president of Sri Lanka wants state employees to work hard and for the country to raise its production.   

This is also a time when we are hearing statements from the president stating that he wishes to do away with amendments to the Constitution which are stifling his efforts as the first citizen of the country. He wants people to support him and vote for the alliance that backs him, so that the collective that the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) forms with other parties would secure two thirds majority in parliament.   


  • In Sri Lanka we are talking much about the MCC Sri Lanka Compact, a large-scale five-year grant programme
  • Singapore shows us how to deal with the intelligent belonging to different religions and cultures
  • The govt. must understand the difference between management and administration of a state institute

The right thinking people of this country will support all that is done in good faith by the government and is within the framework of the law and democracy. But there are questions raised about some of the appointments made by the President already. The appointments of former Army Commander General Daya Ratnayake as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and medical professional ENT Surgeon Dr. Seetha Arambepola as the Governor of the Western Province have raised eyebrows.

Ratnayake is a military man and whether he knows the intricacies of ports and shipping is questionable. Dr. Arambepola is a medical doctor and what she would do in the hot seat of public administration is questioned by critics. There is also a report in the Colombo Telegraph alleging that she has defied the regulations of the Constitution by taking up channeling appointments with patients during her term as Governor. The country’s constitution clearly states that a person appointed to the post of governor must not profit form other means.   

When one turns the pages of time we can see how foreigners serving in the Sri Lanka state sector were involved in coffee plantation. As a result there was a drop in the efficiency at work in state institutions which employed these planters. The government as a result banned these British planters from engaging in coffee plantation and even gave them a deadline to sell their properties which were growing coffee during the 1840s.   

The right thinking people of this country will support all that is done in good faith by the government and is within the framework of the law and democracy

The president’s visit to a selected state institutes to check on efficiency is fine and most welcome. This trend of transforming the public service to perform efficiently began in the tail-end of the 19th century. But the key to such a change is the government understanding the difference between the management and the administration of a state institute. Though the administration of the state institute can be done by government appointees the staff to handle the management process must be selected by taking into account the professional qualifications of individuals that suit the job.   

For the record, the Russia before 1990 fell because the authorities appointed to deal with market demands didn’t cater to the interest of the people. This is what happens when the lawmakers appointed by the people to serve parliament don’t realise that those appointed by them to head state sector institutes fail because they (Government appointees) are not the choice of the people. And we are talking about accountability in the state sector institutes in the same manner in which we hold lawmakers responsible.   

There is much talk about the unprecedented dropping of world fuel prices, but the government is only mulling over a reduction in fuel prices. The state minister for Power and Energy has responded to the fuel price dropping by making critical remarks regarding the time of the past regime. He has said that motorists and riders spent an anxious wait during the 10th of every month in the past because the Yahapalana regime enforced a fuel formulating process. The minister has said that he expects to draw the attention of the Cabinet to the dropping fuel prices in the world.   

We often hear the ‘pundits’ echo the statement that Singapore was once amazed by the growth and prosperity of Sri Lanka. In fact history has it that Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew wanted Singapore to emulate Sri Lanka. But Singapore overtook the island nation famous for tea in terms of growth. What we must draw from Singapore is that this east Asian nation developed its port to the level that it drew marine cargo ships from around the world. When Singapore’s port ceased to be used as a naval base it made amends by developing this facility to be one of the busiest ports in the world.   

So does Sri Lanka want to emulate Singapore now? Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (the son of Lee Kuan Yew) had said at the 2014 Singapore Summit that this is not possible. He has backed his saying with the facts that replicating Singapore isn’t possible because the country doesn’t have the ingredients to be a nation. This he says is because Singapore is not a homogeneous population, there is no common language, no common culture and there is the absence of a common destiny. But the one fact that stood in good stead for the Singaporeans was the thinking of revolutionist Yew. When ever a business professional or economist came up with an idea for business, Yew would shoot back with a ‘what’s in it for Singapore?’. As with this head of state the country came before all business opportunities.   

 The appointments of former Army Commander General Daya Ratnayake as the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Ports Authority and medical professional Dr. Seetha Arambepola as the Governor of the Western Province have raised eyebrows

In Sri Lanka we are talking much about the MCC Sri Lanka Compact, a large-scale five-year grant programme designed to promote economic growth. But what would be the real benefits for Sri Lanka after getting into such a venture with a world super power? The proposed MCC Sri Lanka Compact, designed to spur economic growth and make investments in projects connected to transport and land sectors, has been viewed with suspicion because of USA showing a growing interests in Sri Lanka, like China and India.   

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa promised to rule the country throwing emphasis on meritocracy. But when one checks the composition of his cabinet there is a noticeable absence of Muslims being appointed as ministers. There is no official reason given for this, but critics opine that the reason behind this could be the fact that Muslim extremists were involved in the Easter Sunday bomb attacks which killed close to 250 people.   

Sri Lanka must take a cue from Singapore about how to deal with the intelligent belonging to different religions and cultures. Singapore was built on the principle assets ‘which are the intelligence industry and the dedication of the people’.   

Like Lee, President Rajapaksa must strive for equality and harness talent giving opportunities to all communities.  

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