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 Post subject: Blood is certainly thicker than water in Sri Lanka
 Post Posted: Fri Feb 17, 2006 1:24 am 
Blood is certainly thicker than water in Sri Lanka
Ministers appoint wives and relatives as their private secretaries

@ Sunday Leader / 17th December 2000
By Frederica Jansz

While wide publicity has been given to the country's staggering number of cabinet portfolios, The Sunday Leader has found that the country's 44 ministers boast of an equal number of private and co-ordinating secretaries almost all of whom are either the spouse or an offspring of the incumbent in office. Blood is certainly thicker than water in these cases, or perhaps it is the feel of hard cash and limousines which are the draw for the appointments, which can all be traced to the bloodline of the minister.

This cosy arrangement is not merely because the minister perhaps trusts only his dearly beloved with state secrets. It is not to engage in pillow talk either. Little birds have whispered that certain spouses are barred from ministerial bedrooms. That, however is another story altogether.

The fact of the matter, so to speak, is that the minister, by putting near and dear into top postings at state ministries, entitles them to all the perks that go with holding such office. Perks that are virtually twofold if handed out to two or more members of one brood.

The private secretary of a minister is paid a basic salary of Rs. 10,000 per month. In addition, he or she is entitled to an official vehicle and a monthly fuel allowance of Rs. 4,000. Together with other perks that come with the job, the private secretary to a minister can take home a cool Rs. 20,000. He or she (in most cases it's a she) also gets to share the state mansion, rents which range from anything between Rs. 40,000 to Rs. 80,000. (All this of course, is at state expense). A duty free vehicle has also been on offer.

Serving as private secretary, the minister's spouse or relative also gets to travel overseas each time with the minister, in an official capacity - all expenses paid.

The public relations officer or co-ordinating secretary to a minister earns a similar remuneration package. This fortunate individual is also entitled to an official vehicle. It is no small wonder that Sri Lanka's potty' highway's are today packed to capacity with Volvos, BMWs, Monteros and super deluxe brand names of vehicles that the average citizen Perera' can only dream about.

A salient feature, which cropped up in this probe, is that while almost all the private secretaries are the minister's spouses, they are rarely at their workplaces. Over 40 phone calls to each ministry by this newspaper, all made after 11 a.m. on a working day, found that not a single spouse had yet reported to her designated desk. Perhaps it is too much to juggle both housework and the demands that come with holding a responsible post as that of private secretary to a minister.

A glaring feature that emerged is that a mere marriage certificate serves as a suitable qualification to hold responsible postings in ministries which include handling confidential work of the minister and meeting with and screening members of the public who seek a private meeting with the minister. In fact, the marriage vows know no bounds in these cases, and the partners, for better or worse, are together in an unholy alliance until death or a fair poll do them part.

Apparently, very few of them take their duties seriously, since almost none are at work during normal working hours of the ministry. In fact, ministry officials sounded confused when asked where the minister's private secretary is. "We don't know," was the stock answer. Ministry henchmen found it impossible to even say what schedules these private secretaries kept. They sounded embarrassed when forced to point out that many of the private secretaries could be traced (during working hours) to the private abode of the minister.

To begin with, Premier Ratnasiri Wickramanayake, has employed his better half, Mrs. Kusum Wickramanayake as his private secretary at the ministry of plantations. Ratnasiri Wickramanayake however sacked his wife from the plantation ministry in 1995 when she slippered a woman close to the premier's heart. Kusum however has refused to budge and to this day draws a salary and enjoys all other perks that come with her title as private secretary to the minister.

The premier's son, Vidura, enjoys equal status. He in fact, is fortunate enough to function from home, draw a princely salary, be allocated an official vehicle, state fuel and all other costs working as a pseudo private secretary to the ministry of Buddha Sasana and religious affairs of which Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickramanayake is also minister.

Minister of Forestry and Environment, Mahinda Wijesekera's private secretary is his wife Ajantha M. Wijesekera.

Nandimitra Ekanayake, Minister of Provincial Council and Local Government has also employed his wife Manel Ekanayake as his private secretary.

Pavithra Wanniarachchi, Minister of Plan Implementation has given the post of private secretary to her husband Kanchana Jayaratne.

Minister Alavi Mowlana heads the Labour Ministry and has given the coveted post of private secretary to his son, Nakeeb Mowlana.

Ronnie de Mel has also found employment for his wife Mallika de Mel. Since Ronnie de Mel was appointed Minister for Ports Development and Development of the South, he in turn appointed his near and dear to the post of private secretary.

Mahinda Rajapakse, Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has also found employment for his wife Shiranthi Rajapakse who has been appointed as one of the four co-ordinating secretaries to the minister.

M. Naimullah, in local parlance, is cousin-brother to Minister of Internal and International Trade, Rauf Hakeem and serves as his co-ordinating secretary.

Richard Pathirana, Minister of Public Administration and Home Affairs has also decided to keep his secrets intact and appointed a relation, K. P. Chandrasekera, from his village at Akmeemana, Galle, to the post of private secretary.

Minister of Women's Affairs Sumedha Jayasena in true sisterly fashion has appointed her brother-in-law Kamal Weerasekera as her private secretary.

The vociferous A. H. M. Fowzie, Minister of Highways has employed his daughter-in-law, Fara A. Nuzer as his private secretary.

Minister Reggie Ranatunga heads the ministry of Food & Marketing Development and believes firmly in keeping his brood together. His son Prasanna Ranatunga serves as his private secretary. Prasanna's duties are more than two-fold as he also serves on the Board of Control for Cricket.

Jeevan Kumaratunga, Minister of Youth Affairs, also has comfortably ensconced his wife Shereen Kumaratunga as his private secretary.

Indika Gunawardena, Minister of Higher Education, convinced his wife Padmini, to leave her profession as a doctor of medicine and instead function as his private secretary. The perks are obviously more lucrative than serving the sick.

Minister of Co-operative Development, H. B. Semasinghe has followed in the footsteps of his cabinet colleagues and also employed his wife, D. S. Semasinghe, as his private secretary.

Salinda Dissanayake, Minister of Land Development and Minor Export Agriculture has handed out the post of private secretary in his ministry to his better half, Manjula Dissanayake.

Maheepala Herath, Minister of Rural Industrial Development also has his spouse in place, A. R. Herath who functions (de-facto) as his private secretary.

Lakshman Kiriella, Minister of Tourism and Sports also has a close relation, Asanka Dodanwala who serves as his private secretary. Dodanwala when quizzed as to how closely he was related to the minister refused to elaborate.

M. C. Gopallawa, Minister of Cultural Affairs has his daughter S. L. Gopallawa employed as his private secretary. She too was not in her seat at 12 noon last Wednesday and a ministry official sounded embarrassed when asked what time she was expected to be in office. "I cannot say, we can never be sure," he said.

Tissa Karaliyadde, also has in the state payroll, his dearly beloved wife, Ramani Karaliyadde. Ramani, The Sunday Leader was told, does not bother functioning from the ministry. She can only be contacted at home. She however continues to pick up a monthly pay cheque and is a willing recipient of an official vehicle, with a fuel allowance of Rs, 4,000 and all other perks that come with holding this office.

The elusive Douglas Devananda, Minister of Development Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of the North, is more a scarlet pimpernel than a working minister, and has as his private secretary one of the brotherhood,V. Ragunathan.

Athauda Seneviratne, Minister of Ethnic Affairs and National Integration has appointed his son, H. W. S. Seneviratne as his private secretary.

Ferial Ashraff, given recent controversy hardly needs an introduction. As Minister of Development of the East and Rural Housing she has empowered her nephew S. M. M. Yaseen as her private secretary.

Anura Priyadharshana Yapa, Minister of Information and Media has also delegated the duties of private secretary to his brother-in-law, Narada Sumanaratne.

Milroy Fernando, the new entrant to the PA cabinet and minister of Social Services and Housing Development for the Fishing Community has appointed his nephew Amal Fernando, in place as co-ordinating secretary for parliamentary affairs.

D. M. Jayaratne, Minister of Agriculture has placed all his trust in his better half and appointed Anula Yapa his wife as private secretary.

Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Urban Development and Construction and Public Utilities will not waver from continuing to appoint his mother Khema Samaraweera as his private secretary

Minister of Health, John Seneviratne has appointed his wife K. D. Seneviratne as his private secretary.

Amarasiri Dodangoda, Minister of Vocational Training has appointed his cousin Thilak Kariyawasam as his private secretary.

Maithripala Sirisena, Minister of Mahaweli Development must indeed believe in the old adage until death do us part' as he too has appointed his wife Jayanthi Pushpakumari as his private secretary.

Needless to say, the enterprising S. B. Dissanayake, Minister of Samurdhi and Parliamentary Affairs has in place his wife Thamara Dissanayake who will more likely serve as ministerial watch-dog than anything else.

Arumugam Thondaman, Minister of Livestock Development and Estate Infrastructure has also decided to keep the silver within the family and appointed a close relative, Vadivel Sathiyanandan, as his private secretary.

Dinesh Gunawardena, Minister of Transport has appointed his younger brother Geethanjana Gunawardena as his private secretary.

Susil Premajayanth, Minister of Education has delegated the post of private secretary to his first cousin, T. M. Sirisoma who informed The Sunday Leader that he is a fully qualified professional for the job and is not holding this post merely because he is related to the minister. "I am different to all these wives who have been appointed as private secretaries," he said. He was obviously not referring to gender!

What the public may not know is that the ministers who are already being criticised for indulging in too many perks while the people are burdened with soaring prices is that with relations holding jobs as private secretaries, the perks in fact are almost double of what the public see.


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