Monday, June 02, 2014

Why is the President taking over the Buddha Sasana and Cultural Ministries?

A report in the Ceylon Today claims that the President will take over the ministries of Buddha Sasana and Cultural Affairs. These ministries were previously under the purview of the Prime Minister D.M Jayaratne, a senior SLFP figure.

Is this a move to sideline the Prime Minister or otherwise clip his wings? The rivalry between the First Family and the old party hands of the SLFP is well know and thought to be worsening. The reason cited for the takeover: "failure in providing an adequate response to various religious problems and conflicts" rings rather hollow - in the first place the problem is one of law and order, not religion; in the second place what about the new Religious Police Unit that was supposed to have been set up to deal with the problem?

Could this also represent another change in stance - to try and bring more religion into politics? Perhaps a change in strategy prompted by or inspired by the meeting with India's Prime Minister, Modi? Most likely a bit of both, I would guess, although readers are invited to suggest other, more sinister motives that may come to mind.

It is not that the President does not have enough responsibilities already, his official website lists no fewer than thirty two statutory institutions that come under his purview; from the Salaries and Cadre Commission to the Ceylon German Technical Training Institute. This is apart from the Ministry of Defence, The Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Religious Affairs (and all the bodies that come under them) adding up to a grand total of seventy eight.

From an administrative perspective this is quite ridiculous, there is no way that any person can devote sufficient time to pay proper attention to the issues that can crop up under each of the bodies or even review their budgets or spending. I imagine that things must be running either completely independently under these bodies with no interference or that a lot of approvals are stuck in very long queue awaiting his Excellency's attention, with work being frozen until an appropriate decision is reached.

Any which way ones looks at it, its very strange and very silly. One hopes it is not a sinister step on the road to theocracy.

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