Columnists,Sujata Gamage,Opinion and Issues

An executive presidency and a technocratic Cabinet accountable to Parliament

Views - 474 Thursday, 21 November 2019 00:00

Basil Rajapaksa of the winning party in the 2019 Presidential Election had said that the 19th Amendment (19A) has some good parts and some bad parts. The 19A indeed gives us much despite its flaws. However, the lack of a coherent architecture therein


Leadership for a post-truth era

Views - 526 Friday, 8 November 2019 00:00

A recent encounter with one of the ‘inspirational’ videos by a popular tuition master, Tissa Jananayake, brought home the extent to which post-truth has pervaded cultural life in Sri Lanka. This teacher grossly misleads his students about the Mil


Three pivotal reforms for a nation rich in human capital

Views - 114 Friday, 25 October 2019 00:00

I write with apologies to Dhammika Perera from whose series on ft.lk I borrowed the ending phrase in my title. It is heartening to see policy engagement by a corporate leader. Policy is indeed too important to be left to politicians. But, given the


Three real threats affecting our security and possible solutions

Views - 54 Friday, 18 October 2019 00:00

Security is a recurring theme in the Presidential Election. With the ghastly Easter Sunday attack still on our minds, it is natural to think of security only in terms of security against aggression. Unfortunately, this kind of thinking can make us le


Political parties in Sri Lanka: Undemocratic by design or practice?

Views - 328 Saturday, 7 September 2019 00:10

Of the three major parties contesting for the Presidency, JVP and SLPP have already named their candidates. The process of selection is clear - in one, it is a matter for the politburo, and in the other, it is a family matter. In contrast, the UNP’


Enough power in the presidency for the right person

Views - 175 Friday, 23 August 2019 00:00

The presidency has not much power some say, but I would say there is plenty for the right person. By intention or otherwise, our Constitution leaves the presidency to be defined by the person occupying the chair. Maithripala Sirisena (MS) showed us t


Real threats to our security

Views - 162 Friday, 9 August 2019 00:00

A secure tomorrow is first and foremost our ability to leave home without fear of bodily harm. Whether it is bodily harm, or other less obvious forms of insecurity, there is a limit to what we can do ourselves. There are external factors beyond our c


Need a common guiding principle for all religious education

Views - 201 Friday, 31 May 2019 00:00

After the evil Easter attack of 2019 by terrorists claiming to be Islamists, spotlight is on Islamic religious education in ‘madrasas’ and Islam-based higher education. The decision to bring the proposed Batticaloa University College, feared to


A secular public space is essential for the safety and wellbeing of all

Views - 177 Friday, 26 April 2019 00:05

The heart is heavy and the pen is slow. The environment is thick with the shared sorrow of many. Pain and suffering caused by deaths of hundreds and maiming of more on Easter of 2019 will linger for the rest of our lives. But life must go on and we m


Avurudu: When we eat the same thing at the same time

Views - 763 Friday, 12 April 2019 00:00

Avurudu falls on 14 April Sunday this year. On this day at 2:09 p.m., the sun crosses an imaginary line that separates the constellation Pisces from Aries, marking the dawn of the Sinhala and Tamil New Year. The period from 7:45 a.m. to 2:09 p.m. is


Grade 5 Scholarship Examination: Make it smarter, abolish not!

Views - 1682 Friday, 29 March 2019 00:00

The President has made headlines declaring an intention by the Government to abolish the Grade Five Scholarship examination. The President is free to express his opinions but policy making has to be led by the Minister of Education and ratified by th


Recognition of and support for international schools is essential for equity in education

Views - 394 Friday, 15 March 2019 00:00

If we are to realistically address the increasing demand for quality education in a debt-strapped developing country such as ours, it is essential to allow a parallel system of private education opportunities within a policy environment that makes en


The free tabs initiative is a worthy investment if the objects are articulated and outcomes monitored

Views - 120 Friday, 1 March 2019 00:00

The Budget of the Government of Sri Lanka for 2017 included a line item for Rs. 5 billion to provide free tabs for students who enter the Advanced Level (A/L) classes in public schools. It was a long overdue allocation of funds to fulfil a campaign p


Rolling back big government – The next big challenge

Views - 129 Thursday, 24 January 2019 00:40

Preliminary estimates in the 2019 Budget to be presented on 5 March this year include an income of 2.5 trillion and a debt service requirements of a whopping 2.2 trillion, leaving only a net income of 0.3 trillion. As for expenditure, the Government


Reforming public corporations and enterprises: Focus on performance not inputs

Views - 281 Thursday, 10 January 2019 00:29

Recently the President issued a circular on recruitments to boards of public corporations and enterprises, overriding the prerogative of ministers to appoint boards to such entities under their jurisdictions. The new process includes the review of a


Value of regulated landfills: Megapolis Ministry must communicate

Views - 457 Tuesday, 23 October 2018 00:00

Our policymakers may do the right thing but not do it too well by not communicating the larger purpose of their actions. The current fuss about the proposed Aruwakkalu landfill is one such example. As the Ministry of Megapolis correctly points out,


Free tabs for A/L students: Limits and opportunities

Views - 651 Tuesday, 10 July 2018 00:27

‘Tabs for A/L students’ and ’13 years of education for all’ are two promises from the 2015 election manifesto of the UNP. Both are game-changer promises, but a promise in a manifesto is only a starting point. Bureaucrats have to expand the id


The evolving shape and form of the presidency in Sri Lanka

Views - 451 Tuesday, 15 May 2018 00:00

Even the strongest critics of the 1978 Constitution will have to agree that it is a well-constructed piece of legislation with an architecture which is internally consistent. While a Constitution ensures the citizens their rights, the right of repres


Learn from local elections to get on with the provincial elections

Views - 196 Friday, 27 April 2018 00:00

As Churchill had said, democracy is the worst form of government except for all those other forms that have been tried


Liberal democracy as a sellable brand: The challenge for the UNP

Views - 244 Friday, 6 April 2018 00:10

With the No-Confidence motion behind it, the United National Party (UNP) is promising deep reforms in the party. Unless the party


Asbestos, glyphosate and polythene bans: Cases of lazy and irresponsible policymaking

Views - 390 Friday, 30 March 2018 00:05

The President retracted the ban of asbestos in the face of Russian pressures. The glyphosate ban is now under review


A framework for a Cabinet reshuffle – if the Government is serious about it

Views - 449 Friday, 2 March 2018 00:00

On 16 September 2015, still under the euphoria of a new government and new possibilities, I wrote an article titled ‘The real issue is not the size of the Cabinet but its performance’.


Liberal democracy is dead. Long live liberal democracy.

Views - 339 Tuesday, 20 February 2018 00:00

Liberal democracy as propounded and practiced by the UNP is dead. Beating up the statistics of the recent local election will not bring it back, but the UNP still remains the best vehicle for reviving liberal democratic ideals. Pohottuwa or the Sri L


Enough piecemeal solutions: A coherent HR policy for the health sector is needed

Views - 147 Friday, 2 February 2018 00:00

The anti-SAITM movement was never about SAITM. It was essentially a coming together of statist protectionist segments in society together with the extreme left to stop private higher education of any form.


Problem is not us women and booze: It’s paternalism and capriciousness in policymaking

Views - 432 Friday, 19 January 2018 00:00

The other day the President of Sri Lanka went public expressing his intention to revoke a ministerial order revoking the notion that a woman of any age has no more maturity than a youth less than eighteen years old.


Local elections: The process, results and the future

Views - 2134 Friday, 5 January 2018 00:00

The local elections are scheduled to take place on 10 February, after a long period of anticipation. As a country


Quotas with ‘zipping’ for women in local government

Views - 1344 Friday, 28 July 2017 00:08

The other day I met a woman who is a card-carrying member of a major political party. She is the president of the midwives association in her area. She exuded leadership. She has so much to share with her community about health, lifestyles and oth


Plastics ban is good in parts; room for corrections?

Views - 1572 Friday, 14 July 2017 00:00

On Tuesday Cabinet approved a proposal by the President as Minister for Environment on short-term, mid-term and long-term measures to curtail the use of polythene or the soft form of plastics familiar to the average citizen as shopping bags and lu


Electoral reforms: Lessons from Indonesia and South Africa

Views - 1653 Friday, 30 June 2017 00:10

  The Constitutional Assembly in the Parliament of Sri Lanka hosted Dikgang Moseneke, the former Deputy Chief Justice of South Africa and an architect of the South African Constitution, to deliver a lecture on ‘Reaching


Disaster response needs an active National Council, not a dedicated Ministry

Views - 1986 Friday, 2 June 2017 00:08

Ministers may get photo ops but local action is what gets the jobs done – Pic by Shehan Gunasekara   Floodscaused by heavy monsoon rains have not receded yet. This flood happened in the wake of another major flo


Today's Columnists

Roots of the crisis

Saturday, 14 December 2019

The candidates who had genuinely contested the Presidential Election had elaborate and attractive election manifestos. But none of them had a pragmatic program to address the basic question of how to overcome the extensive crisis Sri Lanka is facing.


What price reforms now that progress rules?

Friday, 13 December 2019

It was a famous victory. A shadow of a doubt persists after an election commission member spoke up recently, after the event, about an alleged irregularity somewhere in the voting system works. But this would be churlish, buffoonish and academic to t


Assessment of fitness and propriety of directors and officers

Friday, 13 December 2019

In the early ’80s, a businessman turned financier from the hill capital started a public deposit canvassing drive by offering 20% interest per month. The depositors were offered on the spot payment of 20% as interest for the first month for their d


How to select top officials to public corporations

Friday, 13 December 2019

It is commendable that the President wants to select suitable decision-makers to public corporations without them being mere and ad hoc political appointments. However, the process thus far seems somewhat weak. Various people are complaining about th


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