Filling a vacancy
Never has there been such debate,
political division and, above all, business uncertainty over a single
job vacancy - other than that of the state Presidency itself. After all,
the post of Governor of a country's central bank has direct legal and
policy implications especially in relation to the economy as a whole
and, to the markets, currency values, and business planning in
The country's business community, among many other influential
sectors of society, are now heaving sighs of relief after the
uncertainty and tensions last week over the issue of appointing a new
Governor for the Central Bank. The post of executive head of the "bank
of banks" of the country is one of the most sensitive national
The controversy over the filling of this post dragged on over weeks
until the competence and character of the prospective Governor became
less a concern than the actual delay in selection and appointment and,
the consequent lack of a Bank chief at the helm of the national economy.
In the event, the National Unity coalition regime proved its worth as
a responsible and responsive government that took decisions after
consulting the most competent and respecting the advice offered. This,
as citizens are beginning to learn, is the critical difference between
intelligent and unintelligent governance.
In the recent past, the embarrassment over billion-dollar losses,
glossed-over plunder and, the humiliation of exposure to the world of
uninformed - or, just plain foolish - governmental decisions no doubt
contributed to the general national demoralisation. People had begun to
realise that the election hyperbole of 'Peace with Honour' and 'Miracle
of Asia' was indeed just duplicitous hyperbole and nothing more.
Perhaps, the sheer lack of intelligence of the previous regime, coupled
with greed and caprice, drove it to extremes of such a degree that those
massive blunders could not be hidden or explained away and, this, in
turn, no doubt quickened its demise.
By January, 2015, much of society shook off the stupor of
ultra-nationalistic triumphalism and, prompted by the sharp advocacy of
those small but vigorous groups of concerned citizens and directly
affected social sectors, voted for a change of regime. The resounding
vote at the presidential hustings to elect Maithripala Sirisena was a
vote not just for a change of personalities and ruling clans. Rather, a
somewhat awakened citizenry cast aside inter-ethnic mistrust, war
fatigue, and doubts about patriotic loyalties, to vote for a change of
the whole regime. President Sirisena was voted in with the expectation
of a change in the government itself and the new President acted
promptly to fulfil that expectation.
Many other expectations also followed that initial change and the
country certainly feels the difference, positively, of the fulfilment,
if partially, of those expectations as well. Corrupt plunder is no
longer blatant and 'in-your-face' and as hugely destructive as that
experienced during the past regime. Nevertheless, public perceptions
remain of continued corruption at least by some politicians in power. At
the same time the efforts to prosecute past massive plunder are
appreciated but there is growing dissatisfaction over the pace of
investigations and actual prosecution.
A nation become familiar with corrupt and cynical 'deals' in the
recent past, is quick to see 'deals' when there are long delays in
criminal prosecution, especially of those whose complicity if not
criminality is apparent.
Likewise, the public yearns to see ever greater reliance on 'best
practices' in governance - such as open tenders and merit-based
selections - coming in the wake of a complete absence of such practices
in the past. And when there are impressions of similar non-'best
practices' under the current government, the citizenry are quick to
notice such good governance failures and to view such failures as a
betrayal of electoral promises.
This was why the undue delay and uncertainty over the future of the
governorship of the Central Bank was a cause of worry among those who
had watched chaos over governance for too long and are half-ready to see
the same tendencies in the new regime since hardly anyone in the new
government is exactly 'new' to government and politics.
President Sirisena has done well to find and appoint a compromise
candidate whose credentials are impeccable and whose appointment bridges
a crucial policy division that was seen between the SLFP and the UNP,
being the two main political forces in the new regime. Further
prevarication would have seriously and, perhaps permanently damaged the
currently high credibility of the Government. And a yet hopeful but
suspicious public will watch to see that there is no backsliding in this
regard. That would be a wrong step as far as credibility is concerned.
And credibility is what is needed: for greater economic and business
certainty and, also, for voter confidence in the face of looming local
'Stunting' is a medical term to describe one of the tragic
consequences of undernutrition and malnutrition. It refers to reduced
brain growth in children due to the serious lack of minimum standard
nutritional food in the early stages of childhood, indeed, even during
pregnancy. Such children grow up with permanently reduced intellectual
capacities thereby going through life with less resourcefulness,
innovation and enterprise as compared with their fellows.
That there are some politicians with similar traits due to their
complete lack of education in civilised, modern politics was noticed
during the previous regime. And the attempts they made to get away with
their antics or the antics of their offspring or followers were so crude
and laughable that it helped dispel the mystique of a regime that had
thrived on ultra-nationalistic triumphalism.
Last week's antics by an incumbent government politician - including
a 'suicide' stunt - may lead the watching citizenry to realise that such
stunted politics take a long time to fade. Such antics need to be dealt
with very firmly and transparently if people are to believe that the
country, having moved away from malnutrition and its health
consequences, is also moving beyond such stunted politics.