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Ravi: What I did as Finance Minister was like running a tavern without arrack



By Saman Indrajith

UNP Assistant Leader and former minister Ravi Karunanayake, in an interview with The Island conducted on July 30, says there is no significant threat from his party’s offshoot, the SJB, which he describes as only ‘a mere irritant factor.’ Excerpts of the interview:

Q: The country is going through very turbulent times. The economy is in the doldrums. Many developing countries, including Pakistan, have opted for requesting loan waivers from their lenders such as China, considering the impact realities of COVID-19. As a former Finance Minister do you think Sri Lanka should do likewise?

A: In the current situation we see the country’s revenue dwindling. There is a yawning gap between revenues and cost of living, and this gap has led to the widening of the budget deficit, which cannot be bridged with taxes. In the process of cushioning this impact you have to reduce either the recurrent expenditure or the country’s loan commitments. One of the two has to be reduced to make the fiscal space possible for the country’s economy to move forward. I do not see that happening. The revenue is dropping and expenditure increasing and this has caused the alarming fiscal imbalance. Economic disparities seem to be becoming more complicated by the day. In this situation, seeking loan waivers is not the answer. If you ask for waivers, you’ll lose the opportunity of getting loans in the future. The impact of loan waivers would vary on bilateral and multi-lateral loans which are a few and far between but not so on international sovereign bonds. It would lead to a negative economic outlook. When I took over the Finance Ministry, we had a negative outlook. We had to convert it into a positive outlook and we went forward. Under this government, such good work is being undone and the country is moving backwards. The World Bank has moved Sri Lanka from a medium-income earning country to a low-income earning country.

Q: What is the solution?

A: We have to navigate through these turbulent times. For that we need a strong national economic agenda, which should be able to address the issue of decreasing revenue and keep the economy afloat.

Q: The government has received encomia for handling the COVID-19 threat professionally. It is popularly thought that a UNP government would have made a mess of the battle against coronavirus and economic recovery. What would you say to this?

A: If we are elected, our immediate intention should be to restore confidence in the people, in the investors, in the local and foreign markets. We need to create a situation where people would get economic activities restarted. It is a matter of how you would be able to rekindle that confidence. For that you need consistent and coherent policies. At the moment we have policies that change by the day. When we were elected to office on Jan 8, 2015 the country’s economy was not better than this. In a way it is same with the post-COVID-19 situation.

The other factor is that the country’s economy had been in the doldrums well before the COVID-19. The impact of pandemic started on March 21, but economy had started experiencing trouble well before that. The main reason for that was because the government tried to reduce VAT from 15 to 8. And with many other things, the resultant loss was about 600 billion rupees. That amount is almost one third of the government revenue for the year 2019. When you don’t have revenue, there is no economic kick start. You lose 600 billion and the economy is going to tailspin. On the other hand, none in society would feel any relief from VAT reduction because of that increases that have taken place are so much more. With the 600 billion just thrown down the drain there has been no resultant economic gain.

Q: On the political front, the split within the UNP resulted in a confusion among UNP voters. The SJB has emerged a formidable political force. What do you think the impact of the split on the UNP’s electoral performance?

A: Our fight is with the SLPP and not any other party. This government has been in power for eight months. It’s almost one fifth of its full term. During this period, the cost of living has gone up dramatically and now it is almost 40 per cent. There have been job losses though the government promised to create many more. The SJB is a by-the-way party. Our main focus is to ensure that we are engaged with the main opponent rather than by-the-way parties. Every time when there is an election such by-the-way parties are formed by breakaway groups. It is like old leaves falling from a tree. New leaves will appear and fill the gaps. The UNP is such a strong party that it will not be affected by splits.

The people who have left the party have something in common. They are people who lost badly in their electorates at the last presidential election. Their leader lost that election. The SJB is only an irritant factor.

The UNP is a reservoir of talent. Whenever there is a slip-off we have lot of new talent to remedy it. The UNP is the oldest party in the country and it is getting stronger.

Q: Speculation is rife that the SJB members will join the UNP after the election. Some UNPers have said they will never allow them to return to the party’s fold. In your case, you were with Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake when they left the UNP to form the DUNF and contest under the Eagle symbol. The DUNF was a splinter of the UNP like the SJB. Years later, DUNF members returned to the UNP’s fold. So, what’s wrong with the SJB members coming back to the UNP?

A: You cannot compare the two events. The bravest in the UNP at that time such as Lalith Athulathmudali and Gamini Dissanayake challenged what they saw as wrongs within the party. So, they were virtually thrown out of the party as a result of their struggle for democracy. In the present instance, some disgruntled party members have left the UNP as they could not achieve their ambitions.

I beg you not to compare the two events for it’s unfair by Lalith, Gamini and others of their calibre, who formed the DUNF.

The final outcome of an event is determined by the performance of a team. If you are a member of a cricket team, you have to be led. You cannot be led by the spectators outside the field. You can’t win the match by singing hosannas for his father or grandfather. Your success hinges on your performance.

The SJB lied to the people and they lied to the judiciary. That is why it lost the case. When it appealed to Court of Appeal and they had to pay Rs 25,000 fine as well. So, now the people can understand that their version of what happened at the Working Committee meeting of the party was not true.

With regard to the rumours of their return after the election, I must say the UNP is not a rest house where you come and go as you please.

Q: Some opposition parties have criticized the government’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. Do you subscribe to this criticism?

A: COVID situation is something unprecedented. We would give our support to the government to face any such crisis for the sake of the people. I believe the government is doing its best, given the situation. But I cannot say the same about its handling of the economy.

Winning the COVID-19 war and winning the economic war are two different things. You cannot justify losing the economic war in post-COVID situation even if you fare well in your fight against COVID.

Q: The yahapalana government failed to prevent the Easter Sunday carnage. Don’t you think those terror attacks will have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming election as well?

A: If you say the Easter bombing had an impact on the then government’s electoral performance, then the COVID-19 pandemic will have a similar impact on this government. If people are guided by their emotions in casting their votes, then they will vote against this government. The economy is in tatters, companies are closing, cash flows are threatened and it is these major problems that will have an impact on the outcome of the upcoming election.

Q: The Easter Sunday carnage took place under a UNP government and the presidential election results show that people are concerned about national security and their safety. What would you say?

A: Well, it is unfair to say it happened on our watch because basically all security matters were in the hands of a single person, who is not in the government when this disaster occurred. It happened during the time of our government but everybody knows that the Prime Minister was not even invited to the national Security Council meetings. Everything was handled by the Presidential Secretariat. It was virtually one man show going on. We see the same now as investigations are on for eight months, but nothing new has been found out.

Q: What do you have to say about the disastrous MCC agreements with the US? Some opposition parties have already accused the government of duplicity?

A: They promised to dump the MCC agreement if they were elected. Have they thrown the MCC agreement? What a fuss they made prior to the presidential election. They said that the country would be under the dictates of America; the country would be divided and we would have to get visas to enter parts of our own country beyond Anuradhapura. We call upon the government to state its standpoint. If they reject the MCC agreement then they could tear it off and, if not, they have to admit that we did the right going ahead with it. It first started under the Mahinda Rajapaksa government; we went forward ahead because it was a grant in appreciation of good governance. What’s wrong with that?

Q: The SLPP is seeking a two-thirds majority to do away with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. How do you propose to counter this campaign?

A: The 19th amendment was brought to do away with the 18th Amendment to the Constitution. The 18th amendment allowed the President to act according to his whims and fancies. So, the 19th Amendment had to be brought in. It was the will of the people.

At the time the 19th Amendment was introduced there were two opinions — either to do away with the presidential system or reduce its executive powers. I believed that we should do away with the executive presidency and give more powers to parliament. The 19th Amendment was introduced to pave the way for scrapping the executive presidency. People since 1988, have voted for its abolition but none of the governments care to respect their will.

Q: Treasury bond controversy had a huge impact on the UNP. Allegations have been levelled against you as well. What kind of impact this issue will have on the upcoming election?

A: This is a miscarriage of justice. I happened to be the Finance Minister, but the Central Bank was under the Prime Minister and other commercial banks were under Kabir Hashim. It was not the Prime Minister but his deputy Minister Harsha de Silva who did all the work at the Central bank. Both of them have been kept out of this issue while people who are not relevant were dragged into it.

There were five committees on the matter. First there was the Pitipana committee. There is nothing against me. Then there was DEW Gunsekera Committee. He was in the opposition then. His report does not say I was involved. Then there was Sunil Hadunnetti-led COPE investigation. They found nothing against me or the party. Then there was a presidential commission. There is nothing mentioned in their report about me with the issue at hand. They also found that Central Bank officials are responsible for this. Have any of them been questioned? Then there is another report of which 108 pages are missing. Why are they missing? Why hasn’t it been published? These were the things in the hands of the then President. It was a political witch-hunt. It was aimed at character assassination. Then there was a forensic audit report. It shows very clearly what happened during the period of 2005 to 2015. Why is that report not brought out and why action has not been taken on its findings? They have clearly stated that losses have occurred since 2005 onwards and that Central Bank had not got relevant approval for the implementation of private placements. When this question arose, I, as the finance minister, asked the Auditor General to compare what had been happening since 2005 to 2015. All are silent. They are trying to kill the messenger and distract public attention. That is an absolute national crime. At the moment those investigations have got nowhere, found nothing at all, and why are 108 pages missing? Why is that, not a single Central Bank official has been even basically mentioned? Because these are the guys- the central bank officials, not all of them but seven or eight people. They live luxurious lives. They are earning 2.5 or 3 million salary and dictate terms to people who get by on 25,000 to 30,000 a month. It is said that the monetary policy is being pursued by the Central Bank. The government’s or the financial minister’s role is to handle the fiscal policy. But the central bank was always at loggerheads with the government. We believe that the innocent people should have low interest rates on their borrowings, so that you could bring about an economic upturn, but the Central Bank officials pursue a high interest rate where they basically think that would ward off inflation. This is the problem that exists. And this menace must come to an end. These are the people who created it. Once again, I say I was not in charge of the Central Bank; I was not in charge of the commercial banks. Then why am I being accused of something I did not do? This is simple case of character assassination. That has to be corrected. When I was the Finance Minister, what I did was like running a tavern without arrack.

I was the Finance Minister but I did not have the banks under me. Even then we were able to bring economic stability. We were able to bring in financial discipline. We established the focus on right financial directions. That was during the three years I was in charge of the finance ministry. Some of them who are engaged in character assassination have left the party. They were responsible for the footnotes of the Sunil Handunnetti COPE report. Why do they hold me accountable for this? It was they who involved in it. People within the country did not recognize us, but outside world recognized us and that was how the Bankers’ Institution in the UK, which is highly respected one, voted me the best finance minister Asia Pacific for 2017.

Q: What plans does the UNP have for the future of the younger generation of the country?

A: Not that you cannot develop this country. It’s a matter of whether you want to develop this country or not. The talent is there, the opportunity is there and we do not apply ourselves in order to get to that. My best comparison is Sri Lanka in the time we got Independence 72 years ago, we had a per capita income of $ 49 and Japan had $ 48. Japan got battered in the Second World War and without any natural resources, they are basically today enjoying a per capita of 55,000 dollars while in Sri Lanka its 4,000 dollars.

Q: The UNP is doomed in the opinion of its critics. How do you counter this view?

A: Before talking of the party’s future, I should say we should talk of the present. We should handle it very dexterously. The UNP is very hierarchy-oriented, very seniority-oriented and competency-oriented party. In election times you hear various things from people who cannot even stand on their own feet. In the UNP, we have a leader in the party and our emphasis is on discipline. As for the party hierarchy Mr. Ranil Wickremesinghe is the senior most and next to him is John Amaratunga and I come next to him in order of seniority. I guess competency, discipline, loyalty, comradeship all would be put together and at the right time we will come as the right team.



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Take Human Rights seriously, not so much the council or office



By Dr Laksiri Fernando

The 46th Session of the UN Human Rights Council started on 22 February morning with obvious hiccups. The Office, to mean the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, finally decided to hold all sessions virtually online, only the President of the Council and the assistants in the high table sitting at the UN Assembly Hall in Geneva. The President, Ms. Nazhat Shammen Khan, Ambassador from Fiji in Geneva, wearing a saree, was graceful in the chair with empty seats surrounding.

In the opening session, the UN General Assembly President, UN General Secretary, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Head of Foreign Affairs, Switzerland (as the host country), addressed remotely the session. In fact, there was no need for Switzerland to have a special place, as the UN is independent from any host country. Switzerland is fairly ok, however, if this tradition is followed, the UN General Assembly may have to give a special place to the US in New York.


Initial Addresses

UN General Secretary, Antonio Guterres’ address could have been quite exemplary if he gave a proper balance to the developed and developing countries. He talked about racism and fight against racism but did not mention where racism is overwhelmingly rampant (US and Europe) and what to do about it. Outlining the human rights implications of Covid-19 pandemic, he made quite a good analysis. It was nice for him to say, ‘human rights are our blood line (equality), our lifeline (for peace) and our frontline (to fight against violations).’ However, in the fight against violations, he apparently forgot about the ‘blood line’ or the ‘lifeline’ quite necessary not to aggravate situations through partiality and bias. He never talked about the importance of human rights education or promoting human rights awareness in all countries.

His final assault was on Myanmar. Although he did not call ‘genocide,’ he denounced the treatment of Rohingyas as ethnic cleansing without mentioning any terrorist group/s within. His call for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other civilian leaders undoubtedly should be a common call of all. However, he did not leave any opening for a dialogue with the military leaders or bring back a dialogue between Aung San and Min Aung, the military leader. With a proper mediation, it is not impossible. Calling for a complete overhaul as the young demonstrators idealistically claim might not be realistic.

High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s address was brief and uncontroversial this time without mentioning any country or region. It is clear by now perhaps she is not the real author of the Report against Sri Lanka, but someone probably hired by the so-called core-group led by Britain. Her major points were related to the coronavirus pandemic trying to highlight some of the socio-economic disparities and imbalances of policy making that have emerged as a result. The neglect of women, minorities, and the marginalized sections of society were emphasized. But the poor was not mentioned. As a former medical doctor, she also opted to highlight some of the medical issues underpinning the crisis.

Then came the statements from different countries in the first meeting in the following order: Uzbekistan, Colombia, Lithuania, Afghanistan, Poland, Venezuela, Finland, Fiji, Moldova, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Equatorial Guinea, Vietnam, Belgium, and Morocco. The obvious purposes of these statements were different. Some countries were apparently canvassing for getting into the Human Rights Council at the next turn perhaps for the purpose of prestige. Some others were playing regional politics against their perceived enemies. This was very clear when Lithuania and Poland started attacking Russia.

But there were very sincere human rights presentations as well. One was the statement by the President of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. He outlined the devastating effects that Afghanistan had to undergo during the last 40 years, because of foreign interferences. The initial support to Taliban by big powers was hinted. His kind appeal was to the UN was to go ‘beyond discourse to practice’ giving equal chance to the poor and the developing countries to involve without discrimination.


Controversial Presentations

China’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Wang Yi, made his presentation almost at the end of the first day. This is apparently the first time that China had directly addressed the Human Rights Council. Beginning with outlining the devastating repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic he stressed that the world should face the challenges through ‘solidarity and cooperation.’ He broadened the concept to human rights solidarity and cooperation. His expressed views were quite different to the others, particularly to the Western ones.

He frankly said that what he expresses are the views of China on human rights without claiming those are absolute truths or forcing others to believe or implement them. There were four main concepts that he put forward before the member countries. First, he said, “We should embrace a human rights philosophy that centres on the people. The people’s interests are where the human rights cause starts and ends.” Second, he said, “we should uphold both universality and particularity of human rights. Peace, development, equity, justice, democracy, and freedom are common values shared by all humanity and recognized by all countries.” “On the other hand,” he said, “countries must promote and protect human rights in light of their national realities and the needs of their people.”

“Third,” he said, “we should systemically advance all aspects of human rights. Human rights are an all-encompassing concept. They include civil and political rights as well as economic, social, and cultural rights.” He then emphasized, “Among them, the rights to subsistence and development are the basic human rights of paramount importance.” Fourth, “we should continue to promote international dialogue and cooperation on human rights. Global human rights governance should be advanced through consultation among all countries.”

It was on the same first day before China, that the United Kingdom launched its barrage against several countries not sparing Sri Lanka. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, delivered the statement from top to bottom attacking alleged violating countries on human rights. But there was no mentioning of Israel for the repression of Palestinians or the systemic racism rampaging in the United States, including the 6 January attacks on the Capitol by extremist/terrorist groups.

His first sermon was on Myanmar without acknowledging the British atrocities or mismanagement of this poor and diverse country during the colonial period. He was quite jubilant over implementing sanctions and other restrictions over the country. Many sanctions, in my opinion, are extortions. Undoubtedly, Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders should be released, and democracy restored. This is a task of the whole council and when one or two countries try to grab the credit, there can be obvious reservations of others.

His further scathing attacks were against Belarus, Russia, and China. Some appeared factually correct but not necessarily the approach or the motives genuine. The following is the way he came around Sri Lanka. He said,

“Finally, we will continue to lead action in this Council: on Syria, as we do at each session; on South Sudan; and on Sri Lanka, where we will present a new resolution to maintain the focus on reconciliation and on accountability.”

‘Action’ to him basically means repeatedly passing resolutions, of course imposing economic and other sanctions. He said, “as we do at each session”; like bullying poor or weak countries at each session. Can there be a resolution against Russia or China? I doubt it.

What would be the purpose of presenting a resolution against Sri Lanka? As he said, “to maintain the focus on reconciliation and on accountability.” This will satisfy neither the Tamil militants nor the Sinhalese masses. But it might satisfy the crafty Opposition (proxy of the defeated last government). This is not going to be based on any of the actual measures that Sri Lanka has taken or not taken on reconciliation or accountability. But based on the ‘Authoritarian and Hypocritical Report’ that some anti-Sri Lankans have drafted within the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. This what I have discussed in my last article.

In this context, successful or not, the statement made by the Sri Lanka’s Minister of External Affairs, Dinesh Gunawardena, in rejecting any resolution based on the foxy Report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in my concerned opinion, is absolutely correct.


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President’s energy directives ignored by the Power Ministry: Another Point of View



Dr Tilak Siyambalapitiya

Dr Janaka Rathnasiri laments (The Island 19 Feb 2021) that the Power Ministry has ignored the President’s directive to draw 70% of energy from renewable sources by 2030. I saw the approved costs of electricity production for 2019, published by the Public Utilities Commission (PUCSL).

PUCSL has also approved the prices to sell electricity to customers. Although various customers pay at various “approved” prices, the average income from such “approved” prices in 2019 was Rs 17.02 per unit. It is not only the Ministry, according to Dr Rathnasiri, ignoring the President; PUCSL is also breaking the law, which says prices and approved costs should be equal.

So there is already an illegal gap of Rs 21.59 minus 17.02 = Rs 4.57 per unit of electricity sold. If electricity prices are not to be increased, as stated by many in the government and PUCSL, let us say the following: Distribution costs should decrease by 0.57 Rs per unit. Generation costs should decrease by Rs 4.00 per unit.

PUCSL also published the approved cost of purchasing or producing electricity from various sources for 2019. The actual energy values were different to what was approved, but let us stick to PUCSL approved figures:

I suggest Dr Rathnasiri fills-up the following table, to show how much electricity will cost in 2030 to produce and deliver, if the President’s 70% target is to be achieved and for PUCSL to abide by the law. Let us assume that electricity requirement in 2030 will be double that of 2019.

Since PUCSL has to save Rs 4 from 13.92, the average selling price for energy should be Rs 13.92 minus 4.00 = Rs 9.92. With a target network loss of 7% (in 2019 it was 8.4%), the average cost of production has to be Rs 9.27 per unit. Eight cages have to be filled-up by Dr Rathnasiri.

In 2012, PUCSL approved the energy cost of electricity produced from coal power to be 6.33 Rs per kWh. In 2019, PUCSL approved 9.89 (56% increase). For renewable energy, it was 13.69 in 2012, and 19.24 in 2019 (a 40% increase, but double the price of electricity from coal fired generation). In 2012, rooftop solar was not paid for: only give and take, but now paid Rs 22, against Rs 9.89 from coal. There seems to be something wrong. The price reductions of renewable energy being promised, being insulated from rupee depreciation, are not happening? Either Sri Lanka must be paying too little for coal, or it may be renewable energy is severely over-priced?

On coal we hear only of some corruption every now and then; so Sri Lanka cannot be paying less than it costs, for coal.


Enough money even to donate

Another reason for the Ministry of Power to ignore the President’s directive may be the Ministry’s previous experience with similar Presidential directives. In 2015, the President at that time cancelled the Sampur coal-fired power plant, and the Ministry faithfully obliged. That President and that Prime Minister then played ball games with more power plants until they were thrown out of power, leaving a two-billion-dollar deficit (still increasing) in the power sector. Not a single power plant of any description was built.

Where is this deficit? You do not have to look far. In the second table, replace 24.43 with 9.89, to reflect what would have happened if Sampur was allowed to be built. The value 12.79 will go down to 8.55, well below the target of Rs 9.27 per unit to produce. Not only would CEB and LECO report profits, but the government too could have asked for an overdraft from CEB to tide over any cash shortfalls in the treasury. All this with no increase in customer prices. Producers of electricity from renewable energy could enjoy the price of 19.24 Rs per unit. And that blooming thing on your rooftop can continue to enjoy Rs 22 per unit. The Minister of Power, whom Dr Rathnasiri wants to replace with an army officer, would have been the happiest.

In the absence of Sampur (PUCSL’s letter signed by Chairman Saliya Mathew confirmed cancellation and asked CEB not to build it), PUCSL approved electricity to be produced at Rs 21.59 and sold at Rs 17.02 per unit. The annual loss would be Rs (21.59 – 17.02) x 15,093 = Rs 69 billion per year of approved financial loss. Sri Lanka has a Telecom regulator, an Insurance regulator, a Banking regulator, who never approve prices below costs. Sometime ago the telecom regulator asked the operators to raise the prices, when operators were proposing to reduce prices amidst a price war. But the electricity industry regulator is different: he approves costs amounting to 27% more than the price, not just once but, but continuously for ten long years !

That is 370 million dollars per year as of 2019, the economy is spending, and for years to come, to burn oil (and say we have saved the environment). Did the Minister of Health say we are short of 160 million dollars to buy 40 million doses of the vaccine? Well, being a former Minister of Power, she now knows which Presidential “order” of 2015 is bleeding the economy of 370 million dollars per year, adequate to buy all vaccines and donate an equal amount to a needy country.

Prices are the production costs approved by PUCSL for 2019. The selling price approved by the same PUCSL was Rs 9.27 per unit.


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Confusion on NGOs and NSOs in Sri Lanka



If you listen to politicians and journalists here, you will hear of that curious creature rajya novana sanvidane, a Non-State Organization (NSO). Where do you get them? In the uninstructed and dead minds of those who use those terms. In the real world, where politicians and journalists have developed minds, there are Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). The United Nations is an organization set up by state parties, not by governments. It is true that agents of states, governments, make the United Nations work or fail. Governments may change but not the states, except rarely. When Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia, a new state was formed and was so recognised by the United Nations. However, the LTTE that tried to set up another state was crushed by the established state that it tried to break away from, and the UN had nothing to do with them.

This entirely unnecessary confusion, created out of ignorance, is so destructive that organizations completely loyal to the existing state, are made to be traitorous outfits, for they are ‘non-state organizations’ within the state. There are citizens of each state, but no citizens of any government. Government is but an instrument of the state. In most states there are organizations, neither of the state nor of government: religious organizations including churches. But none of them is beyond the pale of the state.

Those that speak of rajya novana sanvidane give that name partly because they have no idea of the origin of non-governmental organizations. NGOs came into the limelight, as donor agencies, noticed that some governments, in East Africa, in particular, did not have the capacity and the integrity to use the resources that they provided. They construed, about 1970, that NGOs would be a solution to the problem. Little did they realize that some NGOs themselves would become dens of thieves and brigands. I have not seen any evaluation of the performance of NGOs in any country. There was an incomplete essay written by Dr. Susantha Gunatilleka. NGOs are alternatives to the government, not to the state.

Our Constitution emphatically draws a distinction between the government and state, and lays down that the President is both Head of Government and Head of State (Read Article 2 and Article 30 of the Constitution.) It is as head of state that, he/she is the Commander of the Armed Forces, appoints and receives ambassadors and addresses Parliament annually, when a prorogued Parliament, reconvenes. He/she presides over the Cabinet as head of government. The distinction is most clear, in practice, in Britain where Queen Elizabeth is the head of state and Boris Johnson is the Prime Minister and head of government. However, in principle, Johnson is the Queen’s First Minister appointed by the sovereign, and resigns by advising her of his decision to do so.

In the US and in India the term ‘state’ has special significance. In India there is a ‘rajya sabha’ (the Council of States) whose members represent constituent States and Union Territories. Pretty much the same is true of the United States. In the US, executive power is vested in the President and heads the administration, government in our parlance. The Head of State does not come into the Constitution but those functions that one associates with a head of state are in the US performed by the President of the Republic. The US President does not speak of my state (mage rajaya) but of my administration, (mage anduva). Annually, he addresses Congress on the State of the Union. Our present President must be entirely familiar with all this, having lived there as a citizen of the US for over a decade. It is baffling when someone speaks of a past state as a traitor to that same state. It is probable that a government was a traitor to the state. ‘Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their (States’) enemies, giving them aid and comfort’. That a state was a traitor to the same state is gobbledygook.

Apart from probable confusion that we spoke of in the previous paragraph, it is probable that a president and other members of a government, including members of the governing party here, find it grandiloquent to speak of his/her/their state (mage/ape rajaya), rather than my government (mage anduva) or Sirisena anduva’ and not Sirisena state; it was common to talk of ‘ape anduva’ in 1956; politicians in 1956 were far more literate then than they are now.

When translating from another language, make sure that you understand a bit of the history of the concept that you translate. A public school in the US is not the same as a public school in the UK.






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