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Ministries are not lotteries

2017-08-23 00:00:41
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After the resignation of Ravi Karunanayake as the Foreign Minister, the government has reverted the two lotteries boards, the National Lotteries Board and the Development Lotteries Board back to the Finance Ministry functioning under Minister Mangala Samaraweera.   

The two lotteries boards had been under the Finance Ministry for a long time as two institutions earning revenue for the public coffers until the Cabinet reshuffle effected in last May, when they were transferred to the Foreign Affairs Ministry. This was widely discussed among the public then and Joint Opposition Parliamentarian Bandula Gunawardene had initiated legal action against the government’s inappropriate combination of subjects under the Foreign Affairs Ministry.  

Why did the government bring the two lotteries boards under the purview of Foreign Ministry three months ago? And on what grounds has it now brought them back under the purview of the Finance Ministry?  

Ravi Karunanayake had been the Finance Minister during the government appointed for the so-called Hundred Day Programme as well as in the government elected at the subsequent Parliamentary election on August 17, 2015 and the two lotteries boards had been functioning under his ministry throughout. With the change of ministries in May, Karunanayake was deprived of his favourite ministry and had to swap the portfolios with Mangala Samaraweera who had then been the Foreign Affairs Minister.  

However, in a bizarre turn of event the two lotteries boards were brought under the Foreign Ministry under Karunanayake and now that he was forced to resign from the Cabinet they are again under the Finance Ministry. Therefore it is vividly clear that in spite of government ministers waxing eloquent justifying the inappropriate combination of two Lotteries Boards with the subjects of Foreign Affairs Ministry, they had done so as Karunanayake or the leaders of the government had wanted them always under him.   

However, in a bizarre turn of event the two lotteries boards were brought under the Foreign Ministry under Karunanayake and now that he was forced to resign from the Cabinet they are again under the Finance Ministry

The government seems to have totally forgotten its promise given to the nation during the last Presidential election to appoint a relatively small Cabinet on a scientific basis. On the one hand the number of Cabinet ministers envisaged under those promises was 30, but it has risen to 47 now with the latest inclusion of Tilak Marapana at the Cabinet reshuffle in May with a new portfolio called Development Assignment. How can they justify, under the concept of scientific allocation of portfolios and subjects to the ministers, the appointment of State ministers, a portfolio introduced in Sri Lanka by the former President Ranasinghe Premadasa in 1989, apart from the appointment of deputy ministers? Through the latest cabinet reshuffle, Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera has also been assigned with another State Minister portfolio, the State Minister of Mahaweli Development.   

On the other hand the subject combination of ministries has sometimes been ludicrous. The best case in point was the see-sawing of the two lotteries boards between the Finance Ministry and the Foreign Affairs Ministry. Another interesting combination of subjects, among others, is Higher Education and Highways.   

It is comprehensible that ministers or officials might have a special interest in certain ministries or subjects on the basis of their familiarity with or knowledge on those ministries or subjects. However, subjects should not be changed haphazardly from one ministry to another just because a minister or a leader of the government liked to do so. It is also a well known fact that many ministers prefer ministries handling massive amounts of money or/and huge man power capacities which can be puffed up with their supporters. However, governments giving into these whims of ministers or officials would inevitably end up in large-scale corruption.     


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