Our Apostles and their words of wisdom


In this letter I am not referring to the Apostles of Lord Jesus Christ, but to some writers to The Island from whose pens flow not ink but golden words of wisdom. Originally the  lay Apostles were  mostly  distinguished Cambridge graduates who formed a sort of think tank .Some of them were J.M. Keynes, the famous economist, Bertrand Russell, Lytton Strachey, Leonard Woolf, GE Moore. As it turned out, it came to be dubbed a Secret Society. In fact some, not the above named, became spies for the Soviet Union.

There was a similar group formed here during the tenure of Elmore Perera as President of the OPA. Perhaps at the risk of causing a little embarrassment to them, I am impelled to mention a few names of a future group of eminent persons, which fits the bill as our local Apostles, since their profound thoughts and suggestions, as expressed in their letters to the Editor, seem to be genuine gems of wisdom "of purest ray serene" - now falling in the wilderness reflecting or refracting their luster in the dessert air. They are Drs Upatissa Pethiyagoda, Upul Wijeywardene, Rohan Wickremesinghe, Garvin Karunaratne, Ranil Senanayake, G Uswatte-arachchi, Devanesan Nesiah, Chandre Dharmawardena, J. Ratnasiri, C.S Weeraratne, Messers Jolly Somasunderam, RMB Senanayake, Chandra Wickremesinghe Edward Gunawardene, Anton Nanayakkara, Anton Jayanathan, and Ashley de Vos, to name some.

In the 1970s and 80s there was the requirement in the public service that important matters concerning public affairs reported in the press should be brought to the notice of the head of the Department. This matter was left usually to the Press Officer of the Ministry and/or the Librarian. Often responses to any adverse or controversial press reports were made by the Secretary of the Ministry concerned. Things have changed to such an extent that one hardly sees any response from public officials in the media, unless the matter in question has a political bias: Nor is remedial action taken despite there being a plethora of Press Secretaries and Coordinating Secretaries attached to the ministries. A case in point I wish to refer is the absence of the Tamil version of the legend in Sinhala appearing on the commemorative plaque placed on the figure of C.W.W. Kannangara, a former Minister of Education, standing at the entrance to the Ministry of Education in Pelawatte. I have highlighted this grave error twice in two letters published in The Island to no avail.

What I now wish to suggest is the same proposal of mine published in The Island of 24/10/15.regarding the establishment of Management Committees (MCs) at the level of ministries, departments both at the center and periphery.  The role of the MC should be advisory mainly, but will not be merely passively advisory. It should also perform an investigative and analytical role, and have the power to question senior officials about their acts of commission and omission, and issue reports to the media. The MC could, in addition, make proposals on development projects setting priorities for capital expenditure, and monitor the progress of these projects and report to the heads of the institutions concerned.

A MC at the highest level would have one of the Apostles (nominated by the government, preferably by the Constitutional Council) .who should have the power to nominate or co-opt a limited number of senior retired public or private sector persons as members. The political authorities, like the Ministers, should not have the power to appoint these persons.

The above suggestion is only the outline of a scheme purporting to assist public sector managers (not mere administrators) and even the ministers in policy making, planning and budgeting and progress monitoring.  It is hoped that some of those mentioned above and others selected by the Apostles are willing to play an active advisory role to the powers that be, if given the opportunity by law.




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