The Joke Shuffle way to national disaster


Ravi Karunanayake has gone very high on the greasy pole of so-called good governance. The shuffling of political interests with the need to cover the stakes in continued corruption makes the new Foreign Affairs Minister the windsock of the growing contempt for bad governance.

It’s the F-word that matters here.

What F-word are you thinking of?

Simple…from Finance to Foreign, and Sri Lanka has scored another world record.

Can’t be in cricket…we’re down in rugby too…is it football?

In Foreign Affairs…we’ve produced the world’s first minister of Foreign Affairs, who has much more to do with things local than foreign.

The Banker magazine that named Ravi Karunanayake as the Best Asia/Pacific Finance Minister, is now contacting other regional finance ministers, telling them to be in touch with it if they have hopes to become foreign ministers. From Finance Roving to Foreign Roaming is the promise.

Let’s look at the situation here after a so-called Cabinet Reshuffle, which is a Cabinet Shakeup of nonsensical proportions. The new Minister of Foreign Affairs carries a portfolio that has much more to do with things other than Foreign Affairs. He carries Lotteries Funds, a scholarship fund, SriLankan Airlines, part of the Plantation Sector, and an Economic Vision of Foreign Policy, too. He may even have to handle the Securities & Exchange Commission – helluva local load. There is very little space left for Foreign Affairs in that portfolio.

It could well be that this is part of the new strategy of government to win the support of foreign countries, UN organizations and other foreign institutions.

How come?

By offering them lottery tickets. When an issue about Sri Lankan governance gets tricky, he can pull out tickets for the Development Lottery and the National Lottery and offer them to the critics, with the assurance that the winning will be in a special prize range and in US Dollars too, and also give a hint that he is the minister in charge of the lottery. Don’t you think it is good lottery diplomacy?

There could also be a Cabinet decision soon to have a Diplomatic Lottery.

If the former Finance Minister was flying around so much to get funds from the World Bank, IMF and other organizations that know how best to squeeze the local economy, the new Foreign Affairs and Local Stuff Minister will be roaming even more, getting a name for himself as the Lottery Ticket Minister from the Paradise Isle. He also has another catch in his sleeve, the ability to offer Mahapola Scholarships to youth, and also politicians, in the countries he will be visiting so often, just to keep the Foreign Affairs buzz alive. He will have to make sure the scholarships offered are not to SAITM, in case he takes a lesson from Mahinda Rajapaksa who was sympathetic about his change of portfolio, who was known for his support to SAITM.

Whatever you and I may think of Minister Ravi Karunanayake functioning as Finance Minister, what with the gravy of car assemblies, more than hello links to Perpetual Treasuries, and the never ending bondage issues with the Central Bank, he is certainly identified as a man with a vast capacity for diverse interests. Where in the world would you have a Minister of Foreign Affairs, with so much baggage of local affairs, as this wondrous minister? In addition to appointing ambassadors and high commissioners, keeping track of our missions abroad, dealing with the United Nations and also the United Nations Human Rights Council (will that fall for lottery tickets?), he also has to make sure that SriLankan Airlines keeps flying, and also keep more than one eye on the functioning of institutions in the Plantation Sector.

There is a belief that this link between Foreign Affairs and Plantations is because our plantation sector had its beginnings with the interest of foreigners – our old colonial rulers. But it is interesting that the Minister of Plantations, Navin Dissanayake, has expressed a Twitter hope that the new Finance Minister, Mangala Samaraweera, would be "more congenial". Could it be that the Finance Ravi was not congenial towards the plantations? That doesn’t sound good for green connections.

A world record has been established in Foreign Affairs, but how much this record will benefit Sri Lanka we will have to wait and see. Will it amount to anything like the joke of Foreign Affairs that Theresa May has carried out, by having Boris Johnson as Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs? Are we to be pleased that Ravi Karunanayake has started his race to be the chosen as the Best Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Asia/Pacific Region by a little known Foreign Affairs magazine? Will he be the one Foreign Minister in Sri Lanka, and even the world, whose portfolio has a bigger load of other subjects than Foreign Affairs…and what will that do to our Foreign Relations in the coming months and years?

Apart from this Foreign Affairs wonder, or blunder, is that this whole Cabinet Reshuffle has been one big political joke, given to a people who were not looking for any joke. The Greens have kept their numbers plus one, and the Blues have their numbers intact, with more functions. The Coalition of National Unity – call it the Yahapalana Ekamuthuva – has achieved a shakeup of crooked politics with all promise of spawning more of such politics. There are no signs that all those boastful claims that the corrupt would be removed have even been heard by the one who held the pack and did the shuffle. Foreign Affairs has all the promise of being much more local than foreign. Who knows, with the support he now gets from the Joint Opposition, he could well be the King of Hearts in a pack of crooked clubs.

One other change in this new joker pack deserves mention. There is a new Minister of Kandyan Heritage, and he is none other than S. B. Dissanayake. What is the heritage this political long jumper and pole vaulter will help build or strengthen? Do the Kandyans deserve to have their heritage managed or manipulated by one who did commit contempt of court, and spent his related incarceration in the Merchant’s Ward? Has Kandyan Heritage declined so much that it must be in charge of one who was not elected by the votes of the Kandyan people, but was shoved into the pack of crooked power from the backdoor of politics?

After this burlesque of a Cabinet Reshuffle, President Sirisena has said it was aimed at fast tracking the government’s development programme, and called on ministers to work towards fulfilling the aspirations of the people. Did we need this buffoonery of politics and governance to fulfill the aspirations of the people? When did the people aspire to have a Foreign Minister loaded with lotteries, and Kandyan Heritage to be the stuff of a backdoor creep into governance?

Did the huge political joke of the so-called Cabinet Reshuffle cause such an environmental shock as to give us the national disaster we are faced with? How many more shocks are we to be confronted with, before the dealer has no cards cleft to shuffle?

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