LIRNEasia Running Dogs on Rupavahini TV

Posted on October 21, 2004  /  5 Comments

Today there was an odd ‘story’ on Sri Lankan television involving a few LIRNEasia staff. The segment opened with, inexplicably, a shot of a topless Ranil Wickremasinghe and 10 barechested men walking down a hall. It then cut to shots of him wearing (thankfully) suits, and getting out of limousines. The segment then listed millions of dollars spent on advisers and foreign consultants including:

  • Rohan Samarajiva
  • Lakshman Siriwardene
  • Harsha de Silva

I say ‘story’ in quotes because the piece concluded by saying this was in contrast to the ‘people friendly’ policies of the aptly named People’s Alliance – which sounds like a Sinclair Broadcasting version of news. It also makes no mention of the huge spending naturally inherent in a socialist leaning government, and the rising cost of living under the PA. I don’t know much about Sri Lankan politics, so I won’t go on. I’d rather hear from people who do, perhaps even the capitalist running dogs themselves.


  1. So the first of the running dogs to respond.

    I thought my salary, which was approved by a Cabinet headed by the President herself, was old hat, having been splashed on the front pages of newspapers back in 2002 August when it was approved. My contract, which was funded by a International Development Association credit (loan with a large grant component), was denominated in dollars. Back in 2002, I was called the million rupee man by the media because that’s what they came up with in the conversion. I know the rupee was devalued sharply in the past year, but I do not think it could have been so bad that one million became 2.4 million.

    I have no apologies about what I was paid, which was in line with my rates and the risk that I took. The real question is whether I and the Public Interest Program Unit that I headed with Luxman Siriwardene, delivered the goods. Our record is public (hopefully, we will be able to post the PIPU progress report and related documents on this website, now that the old website has been dismantled). Even if we could not complete all our work because of the early dissolution of government, the attraction of major investments in telecom (in excess of USD 300 million), the arrival of marquee BPO operations such as HSBC in Sri Lanka, the opening of the aviation market, the creation of the Public Utilities Commission, etc. were things that we made significant contributions to.

  2. Wouldn’t you rather have contracts that are public knowledge and were given in a transparent fashion with clear deliverables, rather than some murky deals done under the table? It is quite a joke that the government is misusing the official media to settle scores with its political rival. It is a bigger joke when you think about the billions of US dollars that governments in our part of the world (South Asia) have received and spent on bribes, commissions and favors that never see the light of the day, never appear in newspapers!

    Our region is afflicted with this disease against foreign consultants. Most of you may have heard about the brouhaha in India about having consultants from the World Bank, Boston Group and Mackenzie in the Planning Commission. I find it hilarious that it is always the left parties that have a problem with keeping their minds open to new ideas. Gandhi-ji said something to the effect that “keep your doors closed but keep the window of your mind open.” Liberalization has resulted in keeping our doors open but somehow our window to new ideas have shut! Kuppa manduka-ites

  3. I heard this ‘story’ from the Sinhala news telecast of Rupavahini – quite accidentally, as I normally do not watch Rupavahini news – and lost the first part of it. Did not bother to watch the English recast, as I was sure the news item would hit the headlines of Daily News next morning (it did!). The Sinhala version (which is more effective from the govt’s point of view) was gross unfair. The screen showed the name of ‘Rohan Samarajiva’ (without ‘Prof.’) on top of five foreigners (may be Sri Lankans, I do not know any of them personally – just guess by the names) while the newsreader described how Ranil Wickremasinghe’s government paid extraordinary salaries to ‘foreign’ ‘crony’ ‘personal’ advisors to ex-PM. Before that she was telling about someone who advised ex-PM on his dress code. So anyone who does not know the facts, would have assumed that the names followed too were of the same category!

    As far as I know, Prof, Rohan Samarajiva, Mr. Luxman Siriwardena and Dr. Harsha De Silva were NOT personal advisors to the ex-Prime Minister. They were part of a reputed government establishment. Everybody who worked for that organisation – Public Interest Programme Unit – got packages above the govt. average, for well justifiable reasons. (The positions were on contract basis with no job security or any other privileges enjoyed by the govt. servants of the same rank. Please note that they had to repay about 30% of their salaries to the govt. as tax, where a normal govt. servants – or politicians for that matter – do not pay a red cent in tax!) This was no secret and has no news value at all. A more ethical news editor would have thrown such a story directly to the dustbin. (I observe some of them from the private media have already done that!)

    As for paying high salaries for those who really deserve it, I always follow Lee Kuan Yew’s example: “If you pay peanuts, you only get monkeys” As many of you know, I have had my own criticisms about some of the programmes undertaken by the previous government, but till today, I have never written a single word about the relatively high salaries paid, because I know many of them truly deserve it. The remuneration made to a person should be decided what he/she can bring in return. There is no logic in paying Rs. 50K to a person who handles a project worth of hundreds of millions of Dollars. The salary paid to the right person is peanuts when compared with the massive losses the govt. makes by assigning the jobs to wrong people. (This happens right now. I can tell the names of several projects currently being ruined by mediocre consultants who are paid less than 100k!)

    Anyway, I believe this is the policy of the present govt. Pay peanuts. Recruit some monkeys and give them the razors. There is a Sinhala saying “Vandurata Delipihiya dunna vage” (It’s like giving a sharpened razor to a monkey) This is exactly what happens right now in this land of ours – under our people’s friendly “Kata- Perata” (Propaganda Forward) government.

  4. This is the way things should be, get off what we are on now

  5. I missed this news item in Rupahavhini. ITN attacked Harsha de Silva sometime back in its Pasu Wadana. The reasons maybe that Harsha critizises government’s economic policies. It maybe the same with the likes of Prof. Rohan and Luxman.

    Paying someone what he/she deserves is not a sin and there are mechanisms to see if a contracted consultant delivers the goods. Damaging social icons has become a habit of late and this will not take us to development of the country.