Ad hoc assignment of subjects and functions


I am sure readers would have been at their wits end trying to figure out the basis on which the assignment of subjects and functions had been determined, following the recent reshuffle of Ministerial portfolios. Such an exercise should necessarily entail the allocation of subjects and functions in a logical and feasible manner, enabling their accommodation within an integral framework falling within the defined end objectives of a Ministerial assignment. One is therefore baffled by the arbitrary manner in which some subjects and functions have been shoved into some Ministries where they stand out as unique incongruities! One wonders what rationale or the reverse of it, made the concerned authorities decide on these peculiar juxtapositions which, to many of us, would defy logical comprehension!

One could perhaps charitably attribute these unique arrangements to the sad hiatus in ability and competence seen in Parliamentarians, some of whom are literally ‘unlettered’ and hence woefully ill-equipped to handle serious national level programs with the required competence. Left with little alternative, the concerned authorities may have had recourse to these ad hoc measures, trying to make do with whatever is available! In this context, it is indeed heartening to see a person of the calibre of Tilak Marapana being brought into the Cabinet and given certain important assignments.

When this writer functioned as an Addl. Secy. to the President, even a strong willed person like President Premadasa, left this exercise of the allocation of subjects and functions among Ministries, entirely in the hands of the Secretary/President and the three Additional Secretaries.

President Premadasa perhaps knew how to get things done in the best possible manner, by the people he believed, had the knowledge and the competence to carry out particular assignments. I still vividly recall how, while the 1989 General Election results were still coming in, the four of us worked right through the night, allocating subjects and functions among the different Ministries in a rational and practical manner. Although President Premadasa dropped in a few times just to see how we were progressing with our work, he never interfered with our work. He, however, thoughtfully ensured that we were provided with dinner and snacks throughout the night from Hotel Intercontinental which was just across the road. I must add here that this procedure was followed by both Presidents Wijetunge and Kumaratunga during their terms as President.

The current predicament the authorities find themselves in is appreciated, as the scenarios obtaining in the earlier periods referred to, were different from the socio –political scenario that obtains today. However, the totally irrational assignment of certain subjects and functions coming in the wake of the recent Cabinet re- shuffle cannot be justified on any account.


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