but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done
From the directions he gave as he took over the Ministry of Vocational Training and Skills Development, it is clear that Mahinda Samarasinghe understands his mandate and the obligations ministerial office entails. This is quite unlike most members of the Cabinet today, and they do not even have the excuse that was offered in Mahinda Rajapaksa’s time when, as John Seneviratne put it when I told him to stop usurpation of his authority, that Basil Rajapaksa was doing that to everyone.
But, though Basil is not someone for whom I have any high regard, at least he worked hard and effectively in terms of his limited capacity. Human Resource Development was beyond him, but he did achieve much in terms of infrastructural development, in the North and East in particular. There is no sign of this now, and Ranil has entrusted areas where new directions are vital, Education and Higher Education for instance, or Tourism, or Industry and Commerce, or Rehabilitation, to individuals with limited conceptualizing or creative capacity.
Education is perhaps the most obvious example of Ranil’s weaknesses playing themselves out in a manner most destructive for the country. At the first meeting of the Committee he had set up to look into Vocational Training, both the UGC Chairman and I pointed out that, while we were doing our best, the rot lay in the school system and it was necessary to reform that swiftly. But obviously Akila Viraj, bless his soul, is not someone capable to spearheading such reforms.
Ranil must know that, and perhaps – as a bright official in the South put it in welcoming Akila Viraj’s appointment – he thought he would run education himself, and replicate his relatively effective work of the eighties. But obviously, given his other responsibilities he simply has no time to devote to this important subject. In 2001 he understood this, when he told me that he had to concentrate on developing the economy and had no time for education. That was his excuse for trying to abolish English medium, which he did not claim to oppose per se, it was simply that he had no time to attend to this and no one else was capable of seeing it through. But in appointing Akila Viraj this time round, given that the young man had no credentials at all for the position, unlike Karunasena Kodituwakku last time round, he seemed to indicate that he would himself intervene.
But instead of concentrating on nurturing young Akila Viraj, instead he has decided to interfere with an area in which there is a competent Minister. But this time round he does not have anyone experienced to advise him, unlike when Edward Wijemanne and D A Perera made the running in education. Instead he has selected Ken Balendra, who is a delightful character, but knows nothing about the subject, and was given no one to brief him. Thus he had no idea at all about the technological stream that had been introduced into the General Education system a few years back, and given the outsiders he had to work with, no one had brought this to the attention of the Committee in the month before I was able to attend a meeting. Continue reading