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Jumbo Cabinets & JRJ Formula: ‘Consistently Inconsistent’ Somersault Record holders?

31 December 2018 01:06 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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The first Cabinet of independent Ceylon

 

he term cabinet derives from the name for a small, private room used as a study. In the UK and its colonies, smaller sub-groups of the English Privy Council began in the late 16th century as ‘cabinet counsel,’ meaning units that gave advice to the King in a private capacity. The first user of ‘Cabinet council’ as per Oxford Dictionary was none other than Sir Francis Bacon. The controversial Monarch Charles I set in motion a formal ‘Cabinet Council’ in 1625, as his “private council”, or the Privy Council, and the first recorded use of ‘cabinet’ by itself and associates the term with dubious foreign practices. The process has repeated itself in recent times, as leaders have felt the need to have a Kitchen Cabinet or ‘sofa government’  

Cabinets are naturally the body answerable for the day-to-day running of the government and response to unexpected events, whereas the lawmaking and judicial branches work in a precise pace, in sessions according to prolonged procedures.  Officially, under both categories of systems, the Westminster parliamentary system and the Executive presidential system, the Cabinet ‘advises’ the Head of State: the distinction is that, in a former system, the monarch or Ceremonial Head will always follow this counsel, whereas in a latter system, a president who is also head of government and political head may head off from the Cabinet’s advice if he disagrees with it.   


The Executive Council of Ceylon

On the recommendations of the Colebrook-Cameron Commission, 185 years ago The Executive Council [the first Cabinet ?] was created in British Ceylon by the Colonial administration along with a legislative body, The Legislative Council of Ceylon, on 13th March 1833.  
It was headed by the representative of British Monarch, the Governor, along with five members appointed by him. The five appointees were officials who held the posts of Colonial Secretary, Attorney General, Auditor-General, Treasurer and General Officer Commanding the island’s forces. The Council implemented executive power and acted as adviser to the Governor. Then came the First Manning Reforms, as a result of which the three non-officials were added to the executive council as elected members.  
With the introduction of the new constitution in 1947 following Independence and creation of a Dominion, the Executive Council was substituted by a National Cabinet. There have been over 25 swearing-ins of Cabinets of Ministers of independent Ceylon/Sri Lanka since 1947.  


D. S. Senanayake’s 1947 Cabinet 

The central government of Colonial Ceylon led by Prime Minister D. S. Senanayake [1947 - 1952] was formed in September 1947 after the parliamentary election. His cabinet that was sworn in at Queens House, on September 26, 1947, consisted of 14 members with 11 Parliamentary Secretaries [how the deputies were known until 1972’s Republican Constitution]. The same Cabinet was sworn in again on February 4, 1948, when Ceylon obtained Independence; the number of ministers was increased to 18 subsequently over the years until it ended in March 1952 with DS’s untimely death.  
Every government that came into power since 1977 has clamoured to increase the number of Cabinet Ministers beyond the constitutional provision or the legal limit of 30. Is this permissible when matched up to other nations. Dr. Wijewardene former Deputy Governor Central Bank had worked out the cost of maintaining a Minister at Rs 8.4 million a month which is paid out of funds collected from poor man’s indirect taxes.   
The situation today is that Politicians demand Ministerial perks for reasons best known even to any stupid voter who venerate them as their demi-gods. Once appointed they will acquire a team of henchmen as their personal staff paying off handsome allowances for little or no work but would commit to unprecedented corruption, fraud and waste. In order to have a ruling majority intact the leaders who are helpless will create more such ‘Scientific’ portfolios.   


Proposed JRJ Cabinet of 1977

With the country facing an unprecedented economic disaster under Sirimavo Bandaranaike, J. R. Jayewardene was very much confident of winning in 1977. Months before the polling day, he assigned two competent men, B. J. Fernando a leading civil courts lawyer, a President’s Counsel and a Permanent Representative for Sri Lanka at the United Nations and Ronnie De Mel former CCS, Parliamentarian and later Finance Minister for eleven years, with the task of drawing up the structure for a scientific cabinet.  
‘Browsing’ through the well preserved private collection of valuable original documents of our first Executive President at JRJ Centre library, the writer came across a letter addressed to JR by one W. D. Mahawatte on behalf B. J. Fernando [Doc marked- 00275], detailing the committee’s proposed structure that can undertake the enormous development strategies the political colossus intended to put into practice under an open economy.  
This hitherto unpublished document signifying the proposed structure, [for Westminster style Parliamentary system] is copied here for public knowledge and for the benefit of students of politics.  


Extracts from …00275/JRJ 

1. Prime Minister -- Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs - Three State Ministers to serve under him.  
2. Minister of Home Affairs, Local Government, Rural Development and Parliamentary Affairs - 22 State Ministers for 22 Districts under this Minister.  
3. Agriculture, Lands and Irrigation - a State Minster for Power and Hydro-power.  
4. Food, Internal trade-Co-operatives.  a State minister for Prices and Consumer Protection.  
5. Finance and External Trade – 2 State Ministers for Public Administration and Implementation.  
6. Shipping, Aviation and Tourism – one State Minster for Tourism.  
7. Education and Cultural Affairs – 2 State Ministers each for Higher Education and Religious Affairs.  
8. Justice
9. Labour, Social Services, Youth Affairs and Sports -one State Minister for Youth Affairs.  
10. Industries and Scientific Affairs- two State Ministers each for Public and Private sector Industries.  
11. Health and Fisheries [Alternative-Fisheries under Food or Agriculture]-one State Minister for Fisheries and Maritime Resources.  
12. Transport, Highways, Post and Telecommunication – one State Minister for Bus and Rail Transport.  
13. Housing, Construction and Public works- one State Minster for Housing.  
14. Plantation Industries- one State Minister for Diversification of Plantations.  
Strictly; 14 Cabinet and 39 State - only   


Cross over Dramas

Ronnie-Panni was a smart heading coined a decade or two ago by Sinhala editors in reporting cross-over by the reputed Civil servant turned shaky politician in Ronnie de Mel whose acrobatic reverse somersault, he performed for the umpteenth time? Six in all. The highly versatile reputation and record he held until recently for the Great grandson of father of nation to break by somersaulting only four times! How come? Ronnie did it over one and a half decades, which Wasantha accomplished within 72 hours! Let alone his Grand uncle Dudley, who had the guts and audacity to prematurely dissolve Parliament being appointed as successor to father, but preferring to go before the people for a mandate and after obtaining it, resigned the post and retire after 1 ½ years disregarding appeals by masses over his decision—Wasantha’s own father, the late Ranjith Senanayake [with whom the writer had the privilege to work for a short time at Colpetty’s Multinational, Shaw Wallace in early 1970s] an honourable mercantile executive who hastily handed over his resignation on a matter of principle. When I asked him, if he had found a place, he happily said, “Yes, my home.”   
Mr. Wasantha, it is unethical for me give credit to you, for establishing a Record in the political gymnastics, but you remind me of the other Wasantha who took your place as State Minister along with his brother for the fact that they had a grandfather in politics too. Bernard Aluvihare somersaulted back and forth, he was the first to set this unbreakable record when he first crossed the floor with SWRD in 1951 to the opposition and back to UNP just before 1956 election to lose his seat.  


Consistently Inconsistent

The somersault acrobats can do it with impunity, because every time they do so it is into the welcoming arms of the leader of the opposing side. It is a matter of time, history repeats itself, they would leap effortlessly backwards or forward. Dr. Colvin R. De Silva, the Trotskyite leader described this acquired skill as being ‘consistently inconsistent’. I doubt if there is any other nation in the planet where such political triple jumpers are tolerated by the electorate as it happens in this island.   
 To be principled is to have integrity in the face of adversity. There are only a handful of them in politics today. The two sides are infested with crooks, thieves, rogues and bribe-takers. They both filled the 13-acre Galle Face Green to capacity within a space of 20 months with tens of thousands of brainless supporters.   
It is nothing but the wrong exercise of our sovereign power that created this disastrous situation. This is an instant for the People to wake up from their mindset of acceptance and stand up for their rights. let’s give life to Article 3 of Constitution, that Sovereignty is with the People, not only at the cast of vote once in five years, but always.

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