Efficient private sector CEOs and MDs could make state institutions
productive -Minister Navin Dissanayake
Public Management Reforms Minister Navin
Dissanayake said President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the ideal leader who can
successfully address the Sinhala people when a political solution is
evolved for the people in the North and the East. The Minister told the
Sunday Observer that nobody commanded the respect that President Mahinda
Rajapaksa commanded from the Sinhalese and can educate them about a
political solution for the North and East.
issue is implementing the 13th Amendment or going beyond that. A
Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) will represents the views of all
political parties. The UNP must make an effective contribution to the
PSC. Having introduced the 13th Amendment, the UNP has a moral right to
back it to devolve power.
The SLFP has also shifted its position in
this regard. The need of the hour is to sit with the TNA and other
minority parties like SLMC and come to a reasonable settlement.
The Minister said President Mahinda
Rajapaksa is the key Leader who can successfully fulfil this task. The
Minister was optimistic that the UNP will be sincere and genuine in
extending its support to the Government to evolve a political solution
to the problem.
Minister Dissanayake said the Government
should examine the LLRC report and see the pros and cons. The Government
has to implement the good recommendations in the report. However, it
cannot be done in 24 hours. But the Presidentís thinking is very clear.
He wanted the LLRC to come up with meaningful proposals for the problems
faced by the people in the North and the East and the incidents that
occurred at the final stages of the military operations against
terrorists. Finally the LLRC has come up with a solid document. Certain
elements are criticising it.
But we canít have personal agendas, we must
have a national agenda. The LLRC has stressed the importance of a
political solution. So we have to go on that track.
Excerpts of the interview:
Q: You hail from a political family and your father had been a
prospective leader of the UNP. What made you to switch over to the UPFA?
A: It was a decision that I took during the last Parliament.
We felt that we should contribute to end the war against terrorists.
That was my motive. President Mahinda Rajapaksa took the decision to
finish the war against terrorists in a military manner. As patriots we
felt that we should help the President and strengthen his hands at that
stage. Since then I have been with the President. Everyone then rallied
round the President. This could be seen from election results.
Q: Werenít you happy as a UNP Parliamentarian under Ranil
A: I think he personally gave me the organisership and he brought me
to Parliament. But I regret to say that once he became Prime Minister,
he forgot all the people who stood with him throughout those years and
he brought newcomers to the scene. He forgot the people who stood with
him and safeguarded the party from 1994 up to 2001.
Instead, he offered positions to the newcomers. In a situation like
that itís difficult to have a long-term plan. Politically also I felt
that the decisions he made were wrong. You can see what is happening in
the UNP today. I donít like to comment on it. But I am in a satisfactory
position today because I am a Cabinet Minister. I want to fulfil my
duties on behalf of my people.
Q: Your father-in-law Karu Jayasuriya resigned from his
important portfolio of Public Administration saying that the government
was not heading in the proper direction. What is your stand on this?
A: What he said when he resigned from his portfolio was that
the war against terrorists was coming to an end, because of that he
wants to leave the Government. His position was that he only joined the
Government to extend his support to the President to end the war. So
when the war was nearing the end, he left the Government.
That was his position and I respect him for that. I think being in
the same family members can represent different political views. That is
not an issue at all as long as it does not become personal. So I respect
him. He is going on a different track with the UNP. I am in the UPFA
Government with the President. There is no problem.
Q: The UNP membership is constantly agitating for a leadership
change and your Father-in-law Karu Jayasuriya was promoted by the
dissident group for leadership. But at the Working Committee, Ranil
Wickremesinghe had a resounding victory over Karu Jayasuriya. In other
words, Wickremesingheís leadership is accepted by the majority of the
party. What is the reason for it and what is your personal view on it?
A: When itís for a leadership change, it has to be done
through a ballot. My father Gamini Dissanayake was able to do that in
1994 when a secret vote was called among Parliamentarians for the post
of Opposition Leader.
He won that secret vote. I donít like to comment much on the internal
issues of the UNP because I am not in the UNP. But I feel itís morally
wrong for a Party Leader to continuously loose elections. I am not just
saying about Wickremesinghe.
If I lose two presidential elections, I would step down without
hanging on to the leadership. That is why there is agitation in the UNP.
Because the grass roots members of the UNP donít see any future.
Q: The UNP is anxious to have a Parliamentary Select Committee
(PSC) on the problems faced by the people in the North and the East. Do
you think that they are genuinely interested in solving this problem
under President Mahinda Rajapaksaís leadership?
A: My position is that for a political solution, President
Mahinda Rajapaksa is the ideal Leader who can give the message to the
Sinhala people. Nobody commands the kind of respect the President
commands with the Sinhala people. The president is the only Leader who
can actually tell it to the Sinhala people and they trust him. They know
the President wonít do anything against the country and he will never
betray the country. Now itís in the process of either implementing the
13th Amendment or going beyond that.
I think through a PSC where all political views are represented, we
can have a final document. Being one of the largest political parties,
the UNP must come into it. The UNP having introduced the 13th Amendment,
they have a moral right to back it to devolve power.
I think the SLFP has also shifted its position in this regard and
they are also for devolution. Now we have to sit with the TNA and other
minority parties like the SLMC and come to a reasonable settlement. I
think President Mahinda Rajapaksa is the key Leader who can successfully
fulfil this task.
So I hope the UNP will be sincere and genuine to extend its support
to the Government to evolve a political solution.
Q: The UNP wants the Government to implement the LLRC
recommendations immediately. What is the reason for the delay on the
A: I think even a month has not elapsed since the LLRC report
was released. It was tabled in Parliament just before the end of the
Budget debate. The Government should examine the document and see the
pros and cons. The Government should get the good recommendations of the
LLRC and implement them. We canít do that in 24 hours.
The Presidentís thinking is very clear. He wanted the LLRC to come up
with meaningful proposals to the problems faced by the people in the
North and the East and the incidents that took place in the final stage
of the military operations against terrorists. The LLRC has come up with
a solid document.
But some people are criticising it. We canít have personal agendas.
The LLRC has stressed the importance of a political solution as well. So
I think we have to go on that track. The main thing is to get it on
track. If we are on track, we can somehow finish it. Again I must
emphasize, the direction and the leadership must come from the
Q: Since its inception, this is the first time that the Nuwara
Eliya Municipal Council was won by the UPFA. Are you personally
responsible for the victory of the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council?
A: I canít say I am personally responsible for the victory. I
say its a team effort. This time also the UPFA had a very good team
consisting of Mahinda Kumara who joined the UPFA from the UNP and was
elected as the mayor. He is a well respected person.
The people like him a lot, he is a clean politician. Many UNPers
voted for him due to the successful campaign carried out by him. I think
that was the main contribution. The other fact was the people felt that,
the Municipal Council should be from the party already in power.
Otherwise they canít get resources from the Central Government. After 30
years, the UPFA was able to win the Nuwara Eliya Municipal Council. So I
want to consolidate and build on that. I am sure even at the next
election we can win it without a problem
The closure of universities due to various student protests and unruly
behaviour has become a common phenomenon. Do you think there is a
political move behind these incidents?
A: I can emphatically say there is a very clear political hand
behind this. The JVP-backed Inter University Studentís Federation is
behind these incidents. Because universities are the last battle ground
for the JVP. They donít want to let go.
They want to harass the youth and politicise them. They want to
spread a propaganda and use them as their pawns. This is what is
happening right now. The majority of university students are not in
Of 20,000 university students, they get about 10 percent which is
about 2000 students. But, they act as if that the entire student body is
behind them. This is not the case. The Government is well aware of it.
The President is meeting this challenge. We want a university system
which caters to youth in this country.
Of the total number of students who sit for the G.C.E. Advanced Level
Examination, only 10 percent qualify to enter universities. That is the
cream of society.
The cream of our intellectual base is there in the universities. We
are not going to forget that. We have a responsibility on behalf of
students to educate their parents as well. We are not going to allow
these psychotic people to destroy the university system.
Now the President has given this task to Higher Education Minister
S.B. Dissanayake to stop ragging. About the Jayewardenepura university
issue, I can responsibly say they blasted the statue themselves and
created an issue by attempting to mobilise the students. But it did not
As a Government, we have a responsibility to the students. University
students, teachers and parents have to be patient. These universities
have been built up with lot of funds and effort.
Q: There is a belief that state enterprises are inefficient.
What are the steps being taken to rectify this situation?
A: My Ministry is really interested in reform. If a statutory
body is gazetted under another Ministry, my Ministry has no hand. But we
can make recommendations.
If you take the real issue of state losses at the Ceylon Electricity
Board, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation and other Boards, we must streamline
these institutions and do some cost cutting and increase revenue by
running them as professional bodies.
To do that, political commitment and political will is necessary.
These institutions have unions. So we cannot make decisions overnight.
We have to consult the unions and make them understand that they are not
going to get hit or we are not taking any action against them.
I think its a very difficult process as we have to bring so many
parties together. But the political decision to turn these institutions
around is of paramount importance.
Q: The last COPE report spotlighted that a large number of
state enterprises were loss making. Are there any plans for reforming
A: My own thinking is that we must give some kind of market
plan- a vision statement and mission statement to all the Boards that
are running at a loss. Those Boards should have very good General
Managers or Chief Executives from the private sector.
We must pay them the salary that the private sector is paying them
and tell them to turn those Boards around. There is no other way.
Because the Government cannot keep pumping money like this to these
Boards and these institutions.
As I said earlier, any institution can be salvaged. If it cannot be
salvaged, it must be closed down. We canít allow organisations to
function as loss making institutions. We must make very hard decisions
now because this is public money. We must make decisions that these
institutions are at least covering costs.
Q: One part of public management reforms would be changing the
attitudes and mindset of public servants. Are steps being taken towards
A: Definitely. My Ministry is doing a very broadbase campaign
to train public servants. We have got funds for that.
We are starting with Divisional Secretaries and then going to the
Ministries. We are doing a functional review of 21 Ministries now. Once
we have the report of the consultants on these Ministries, then we will
make changes. We are also having Ministerial Reform Cells (MRCs) in all
the Ministries. From these MRCs, we want get ideas how to change those
Ministries. Because it cannot be from the top.
It must come from within the organisation. Unfortunately, unlike
private sector organisations, there is no measurement in the public
sector. How do we define public performance? If you are given a task,
you must do it.
There are functions that you must do properly. You must carry out
Government policy properly and must be people-friendly. You must also
infuse modern technology like emails and internet to increase
performance and productivity. There are modern management techniques
such as the 5S system, productive cycles and team building. These are
all new concepts that we want to give to the public service.
Q: There are allegations many Government institutions are
politicized and unqualified people are heading such institutions. Even
the COPE report referred to this. How do you address this issue?
A: I fully agree with that. I think we have to stop
politicization of public institutions. It has been happening over a
period of time. The people appointed must at least have a university
degree at Board level.
Legislations must be enacted. We must make sure at least the top
management level is qualified. Once the top management is in place then
they can make crucial decisions. Of course politics must play a role
because we are politicians.
We are engaging with the people all the time and politics is all
about people. I donít blame a politician or a Cabinet Minister for
giving employment to people of his electorate in institutions that come
under his purview.
That happens and you canít stop that as well. But that must be at a
certain level. You canít put a person who has got G.C.E. Ordinary Level
qualifications to be a director of the Board. So you must know your
At the end of the day we must have a professional public service. To
do that, we must have professionals to run these organisations.
Q: How do you plan to eliminate bribery and corruption in the
A: This is a very important question. This is happening all
the time. I think we must impose penalties and that is the only way to
address this issue. We must have a reporting system which is called a
If somebody gives a bribe to a public servant, we have a method where
we can report it via internet or some other way. Now we are working on
those models. But there must be a penalty imposed. The bribe taker and
the bribe giver must be penalised. If a public servant is involved must
face the consequences. But the net is not big enough to catch everybody.
That is the issue.
Q: What kind of contribution do you expect from the public
enterprises to the Mahinda Chinthana development drive?
A: Its a huge effort. If the public service is not committed,
the Mahinda Chinthana cannot be delivered. Otherwise these policies will
always be limited to paper. I am happy that a vast majority of public
servants have realised and are now conscious.
The Governmentís development effort is being successfully carried
Q: What is your view on the process of reconciliation as
highlighted in the LLRC report? Are you aiming for a truly trilingual
public service as part of this process?
A: Definitely. I think National Languages Minister Vasudeva
Nanayakkara is passionate about this. Even when Cabinet papers are not
trilingual, he gets very angry. I think this conflict has caused a lot
of damage and mistrust between two communities. There must not be racism
of any kind. All races must get together.
We can have different view points and issues. We can support anybody
we want from any political party in the elections.
After the electoral process is over, we as a country must move
forward. A Sinhala, Tamil or Muslim person is equal before the law. We
must make sure that this conflict does not erupt again.
There has to be a political solution for the problems faced by the
Tamil speaking people. There is no question about that. How to get about
that is the issue. Again its a political process and we have to be very
patient with that process.
Q: Are there plans for greater autonomy to Government
institutions? How do you bring the Provincial Councils in line with
proposed reforms because some Government institutions are under the
Provincial Councils in their areas?
A: Under the 13th Amendment, the Government has a list and the
Provincial Councils have a devolved list. There is an interim list as
well that power belongs to both.
The Provincial Councils are asking for the interim list to be given
I think there is a process that we can talk. My personal view is that
more power should be given to the Provincial Councils. Certain issues
like Police and land powers are becoming questionable. Because when my
father Gamini Dissanayake and then President J.R. Jayewardene got the
13th Amendment signed, the situation was very different particularly in
The East has completely turned around. Now Muslims, Tamils and even
the Sinhala community donít want to be a part of the North. Perhaps we
can look at other models for the Northern Provincial Council. I think
its important that at least the 13th Amendment is fully implemented.
There are methods to overcome any issue.