The Sunday Leader

Committees: No Action, Noise Only!

More than 150 days have passed since the new regime came into power on January 9 this year, but the pledges given during the election campaign, especially by the United National Party, seem to be wavering. The assurances to bring culprits to book and ensure good governance appear to be elusive, but the appointment of committees for various issues goes on regardless.

The latest are the Central Bank’s 30-year bond issue controversy and the stalled Colombo Port City Project.

A committee appointed by the Prime Minister on the 30-year bond controversy had submitted a report and it is now being further inquired by a sub-committee. It is interesting to note that the first three-member committee was appointed by the Prime Minister himself on the Central Bank bond issue, where the Governor of the Central Bank, Arjuna Mahendran was also appointed for that post by the Prime Minister. There appears to be a lot of noise on the matter but what the final outcome would be is obvious.

Meanwhile, another committee has been appointed to supervise and report on the 1.4-billion-dollar Colombo Port City Development Project, funded by China Communications Construction Company Ltd., which was suspended by the new government raising issues over some aspects of the project.

Although the pre-election pledge was to stop the project, according to a deputy minister, there is no corruption involved but the only concern is whether proper procedures had been followed. Meanwhile, a minister has said a committee of high ranking officials has been appointed to consider the ability of permitting the continuation of the project, which has remained suspended since March.

What the average citizen could ascertain from these developments is that the basic objective of appointing committees is to pretend that there is good governance, thereafter to stall the issues after creating some clamour to show stern action is being taken, and later, when the heat dies down, to proceed with little change.

The latest issue is the unexpected resignation of the Director General of Customs. The Customs official had claimed ‘personal reasons’ for his decision to step down, but the Opposition has said that the Director General’s resignation was due to the pressure exerted by certain high-level government politicians to get certain containers carrying banned agro-chemicals released.

It is also interesting to note that it was only a few days ago that President Maithripala Sirisena had banned the importation of this particular harmful agro-chemical, identified as the main cause for the chronic kidney disease affecting thousands in Rajarata.

The possibility is that yet another committee would be appointed with ‘highly qualified’ members to inquire into the matter and finally, after leaving enough time for the noise to go down, to settle the issue clearing all concerned.

The nation today is in a confused state, unable to decide the path they should take in the upcoming parliamentary elections. Although the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in Parliament, there’s strong doubt whether the 20th Amendment could go through with several political parties pulling in different directions.

The committee calamity could continue with the 20th Amendment too. With Parliamentary elections said to be held in September, there’s the possibility of more commissions and committees coming up creating more issues to delay the polls allowing the corrupt to hang on to power and depriving the nation of its democratic right to vote.

It is timely to recall what Dr Colvin R. De Silva, one of the founders of the Lanka Sama Samaja Party (LSSP), the first Marxist party in Sri Lanka, had said in the Seventies about committees.

He said, “Committees are like when you do morning duties. When you go there, there is sitting. Then you hear a lot of noise. Ultimately you drop the matter.”



1 Comment for “Committees: No Action, Noise Only!”

  1. Raja

    You have correctly identified the main cause for procrastination and stagnation of economic development and lack of good governance. It is this committee and commission system used extensively to dodge action on serious issues such as the ‘Central Bank Bonds’ and ‘Colombo Port Issue’. This does not come as a surprise if you go back in time to the period when Ranil was the P.M last time, to know how he took cover under this special Committee system to avoid action on many important matters, and then allowed them to die. In my opinion this is what that led a group of Buddhist Monks to form the JHU, so they could pursue inside parliament those serious issues relating mainly to Sinhalese Buddhists, that was being side lined, at the height of the so called “Peace Talks” with the terrorists.

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