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Midweek Review

How Premadasa turned the Official Language Policy upside down

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By Kalyananda Tiranagama
Executive Director
Lawyers for Human Rights and Development
(Part I of this article appeared yesterday)

On a comparison of the provisions in JR’s 1978 Constitution and Ranasinghe Premadasa’s 16th Amendment one can clearly see how the Official Language Policy of Sri Lanka has been turned upside down through this Amendment. Let us take Article by Article and compare them:

Art. 18(1). The Official Language of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala.

16th Amendment did not touch this Article. If this was amended it would have been too conspicuous. Leaving it untouched helped them to hoodwink the unsuspecting people with the false belief that Sinhala still remains the official language of the whole country.

Art. 18 (2). Tamil shall also be an official language.

18 (3). English shall be the link language.

Art. 19. The National Languages of Sri Lanka shall be Sinhala and Tamil.

These three Articles were also left untouched as there was no necessity to repeal or amend them to achieve their objective of replacing Sinhala as the official language. Leaving them untouched helped them to use the provisions in these Articles for achieving their objective.

Language of administration

Articles 22 (1), 22 (2) and 22 (3) in the 1978 Constitution dealing with the language of administration in the country were repealed and new Articles substituted by the 16th Amendment.

Under the 1978 Constitution, while Sinhala, The Official Language, was the language of administration throughout Sri Lanka, Tamil was also used as the language of administration in the Northern and Eastern Provinces.

After the 16th Amendment, (i) Sinhala is no longer The Official Language of Sri Lanka and Sinhala is no longer the language of administration throughout Sri Lanka. Under the 16th Amendment, (ii) Sinhala and Tamil both are languages of administration throughout Sri Lanka; (iii) Use of Sinhala as the language of administration is confined to seven provinces of Sri Lanka other than the Northern and Eastern Provinces; (iv)There is no similar limitation imposed on the use of Tamil language as the language of administration in the rest of the country, though practically Tamil is used as the language of administration in the Northern and Eastern Provinces; (v) Under the Proviso to Article 22 (1), President has power to create minority linguistic ethnic units at the Divisional Secretariat level using a language different from the language of administration in the province and direct that the language used by the linguistic minority in the District be used as the language of administration for such area.

This proviso is a very dangerous one that can be used by racist politicians of ethnic and religious minority political parties as a bargaining tool in their dealings with power-hungry political leaders in the South during election times.

As reported in the national press, during the 2005 Presidential Election, Muslim Congress of Rauff Hakeem decided to support Ranil Wickremesinghe after the latter had agreed to a 67-point list of demands including autonomy for a Muslim Region in the East. A political group working in the plantation areas extended its support to him after he had accepted 19 demands presented by them including the appointment of Tamil Grama Niladharis for estate areas and the creation of separate Divisional Secretariats for areas with a concentration of plantation workers in the South.

This is a step by step process. First, they get local government areas with a linguistic or religious majority created by removing people belonging to other communities. That is how they got four new Pradesiya Sabhas exclusively with Tamil representation in the Nuwara Eliya District at the last local government elections. Their next step is to get these Pradesiya Sabha areas declared Divisional Secretariats. After that they can take the third step of converting them into administrative units using Tamil as the language of administration of such area.

Already there have been disputes between the Tamil and Muslim communities in Kalmunai each community demanding a separate Divisional Secretariat for themselves. A few months back it was reported that Saindamaruthu had been declared a separate Municipal Council area. Under this provision there is a possibility of using even Arabic as the language of administration for some of such areas like Kattankudy/Saindamaruthu or Wilpattu.

Under Article 22 (2) the 1978 Constitution, any citizen residing anywhere in the country was entitled – (a) to receive communications from and to communicate and transact business with any official … or (b) to obtain a copy of … any official … document or a translation thereof – in either of the National Languages;

Under the 16th Amendment, (i) In any area where Sinhala is used as the language of administration a person is entitled – (a) to receive communications from and to communicate and transact business with any official …. or (b) to obtain a copy of … any official … document or a translation thereof – in either Tamil or English;

(ii) In any area where Tamil is used as the language of administration a

person is entitled – a) to exercise the rights and obtain the services referred to above in Sinhala or English ;

Under Article 22 (3) of the 1978 Constitution, a local authority in the Northern and Eastern Provinces conducting its business in either of the National Languages … is entitled to receive communications from and to communicate and transact business with any official … in such National Language.

Under Article 22 (4) of the 16th Amendment, a Provincial Council or a local authority conducting its business in Sinhala … entitled to … transact business with any official … in Sinhala and Provincial Council or a local authority conducting its business in Tamil … entitled to… transact business with any official … in Tamil.

However, a Provincial Council or a local authority, ….. transacting business with any other Provincial Council or a local authority,……functioning in an area in which a different language is used as the language of administration …. entitled to …. to communicate and transact business in English.

By the 16th Amendment, English has been raised to the level of the Official Language of Sri Lanka, or at least to the level of a national language of Sri Lanka.

Language of Legislation:

Articles 23 of the 1978 Constitution dealing with the language of legislation was repealed and a new Article substituted by the 16th Amendment.

Art. 23 (1) of the 1978 Constitution required all laws and subordinate legislation to be enacted and published in both National Languages together with a translation in English Language.

In the event of any inconsistency between any two texts, the text in Sinhala, the Official Language prevailed.

Under Art. 23 (1) of the 16th Amendment all laws and subordinate legislation required to be enacted and published in Sinhala and Tamil together with a translation thereof in English.

Proviso – Parliament to determine at the time of enacting legislation which text to prevail in the event of any inconsistency between texts.

There is no difference in the substantive provision. Both are the same.

However there is a fundamental change in the law, as to the text that should prevail in the event of any inconsistency between any two texts.

Under the 1978 Constitution, it was the text in the Official Language that should prevail. Now there is no Official Language in the country.

Under the 16th Amendment, at the time of enacting legislation, Parliament to determine which text to prevail in the event of any inconsistency between texts.

This provision may lead to dangerous consequences if the Parliament decides the English text to prevail in the event of any inconsistency between Sinhala and English texts in the case of a vital Bill enacted by a government heavily dependent for its survival on the support of racist parties like the TNA and the SLMC.

Sometime back the whole country saw how Sumanthiran threatened and stopped Lakshma Kiriella, the Leader of the House of UNP government from continuing his speech in Parliament.

Article 22 (4) of the 1978 Constitution required all Orders, Proclamations, Rules, By-laws, Regulations and Notifications made or issued under any written law … and all other official documents including circulars and forms issued or used by any public institution or local authority, to be published in both National Languages.

There was no requirement to publish the said documents with a translation in English. Only laws and subsidiary legislation enacted by Parliament published with a translation in English.

Until 1987, there had been no Provincial Councils. Only local authorities were there. Local authorities were also required to publish by-laws, regulations, notifications … circulars and forms issued or used by them in both National Languages.

Article 23 (2) of the 16th Amendment requires all Orders, Proclamations, rules, by-laws, regulations and notifications made or issued under any written law, other than by a Provincial Council or a local authority, and the Gazette to be published in Sinhala and Tamil together with a translation thereof in English.

Under Article 23 (3) of the 16th Amendment, all Orders, Proclamations, rules, by-laws, regulations and notifications made or issued under any written law by any Provincial Council or a local authority, and all other official documents including circulars and forms issued or used by such body or any public institution or local authority, required to be published in the language used in the administration in the respective areas in which they function, together with a with a translation thereof in English.

All the documents mentioned above made or issued by any public institution, other than a Provincial Council or a local authority, need to be published in both national languages – Sinhala and Tamil, together with a translation in English.

Under the 1978 Constitution, there was no such requirement for publishing the said documents together with a translation in English.

Under the 1978 Constitution, all by-laws, regulations, notifications … circulars and forms issued or used by Local authorities were required to be published in both National Languages.

Under the 16th Amendment there is no requirement for publishing any Orders, Proclamations, rules, by-laws, regulations, notifications made or issued by any Provincial Council or a local authority, and all other official documents including circulars and forms issued or used by such body in both National Languages.

They need to be published only in the language of administration in the area in which they function, together with a with a translation thereof in English.

The language of administration in the Northern and Eastern Provinces is Tamil and when all the above mentioned official documents published only in Tamil language it will result in a grave injustice to the Sinhala people resident in the North and the East. They are being totally deprived of their language rights.

Language of Courts

Article 24 (1) of the 1978 Constitution dealing with the language of courts in the country has been repealed and a new Article substituted by the 16th Amendment.

Under Art. 24 (1) of the 1978 Constitution, Sinhala, the Official Language, was the language of courts throughout Sri Lanka and accordingly court records were maintained and proceedings conducted in the Official Language;

Tamil was also used as the language of the courts exercising original jurisdiction in the Northern and Eastern Provinces and their records kept and proceedings conducted in Tamil.

Under Article 24 (1) of the 16th Amendment, Sinhala and Tamil are the languages of courts throughout Sri Lanka and Sinhala shall be used as the language of the courts situated in all the areas of Sri Lanka except those in any area where Tamil is the language of administration. The record and proceedings shall be in the language of the court.

As Sinhala is no longer The Official Language of Sri Lanka, there is no need to maintain records and conduct proceedings in Sinhala in areas where Tamil is the language of administration.

Language of Admission to Public Service

Article 22 (5) of the 1978 Constitution dealing with the language of admission to public service in the country has been repealed and a new Article substituted by the 16th Amendment.

Under Article 22 (5) of the 1978 Constitution, a person was entitled to be examined through the medium of either of the National Languages at any examination for the admission of persons to the Public Service, Judicial Service, Local Government Service, a public corporation or a statutory institution, subject to the condition that he may be required to acquire a sufficient knowledge of the official language within a reasonable time after admission to such service, etc., where such knowledge is reasonably necessary for the discharge of his duties.

Under Article 22 (5) the 16th Amendment, a person is entitled to be examined through the medium of either Sinhala or Tamil or a language of his choice at any examination for the admission of persons to the Public Service, Judicial Service, Provincial Public Service, Local Government Service or any public institution, subject to the condition that he may be required to acquire a sufficient knowledge of Tamil or Sinhala as the case may be, within a reasonable time after admission to such service, etc., where such knowledge is reasonably necessary for the discharge of his duties.

a. removed the requirement of persons seeking admission to the Public Service, Judicial Service, Provincial Public Service, Local Government Service or any public institution being examined through the medium of either of the National Languages – Sinhala or Tamil;

 Now the applicant has the choice of deciding the language he is to be examined. It may be English or even Arabic.

 In fact, this has been brought for the purpose of opening the public service to those students of International Schools who receive their education in English medium and who do not know either Sinhala or Tamil.

b. removed the requirement of persons joining the Public Service acquiring a sufficient knowledge of the official language within a reasonable time after admission to such service;

Now, there is no requirement of any public servant in the North and the East acquiring any knowledge of Sinhala language; He has only to acquire knowledge of the language as is reasonably necessary for the discharge of his duties – that is Tamil.

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Midweek Review

Pursuing political agendas at the expense of national security

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By Shamindra Ferdinando

Yahapalana President Maithripala Sirisena recently contradicted former Defence Secretary Hemasiri Fernando as regards the latter’s statements before the Presidential Commission of Inquiry (P CoI) probing 2019 April 21 Easter Sunday attacks.

It was, in fact, Sirisena who appointed the P CoI several weeks before the end of his term.

Without realising the possibility of being pulled up for contempt of the PCoI, in a statement issued on Sept 19, the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) Polonnaruwa District lawmaker, who is also the leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP) rejected Fernando’s damning accusations, pertaining to the former President’s culpability as regards his government’s failure to thwart the deadly attacks.

There had never been an instance of a former President having to contradict a Defence Secretary, he himself appointed.

Fernando, who had been President Sirisena’s Chief of Staff squarely, faulted the President for lapses, as well as a brazen bid to cover up the humiliating failure to prevent nearly simultaneous suicide attacks.

Referring to a meeting, he had with President Sirisena on April 24, 2019, Fernando alleged that the President attempted to bribe disgraced IGP Pujitha Jayasundara.

During Sirisena’s tenure, as the President, he appointed no less than five Secretaries to the Ministry of Defence. That too must be a record for any Sri Lankan President. Hemasiri Fernando had been the fourth to serve as Secretary Defence during the disastrous yahapalana rule, followed by retired Army Commander Shantha Kottegoda, who received the appointment in the wake of the Easter Sunday attacks. It would be pertinent to mention that President Sirisena held the defence portfolio by special arrangement, though his successor was to be deprived of the privilege in terms of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

Having won the 2015 January 8 presidential election, Sirisena named one-time environment and renewable energy Secretary B.M.U.D. Basnayake as Secretary to the Ministry of Defence (11.01.2015-08.09.2015). Subsequently, Karunasena Hettiarachchi (09.09.2015-05.07.2015), Kapila Waidyaratne (06.07.2017-30.10.2018), Hemasiri Fernando (30.10.2018-25.04.2019) and Gen. Shantha Kottegoda (24.04.2019-19-11.2019) received appointment as the Secretary to the Ministry of Defence, amidst the massive turmoil caused by the Easter carnage.

 

Ex-top cop replaces ‘intel’ veteran

The yahapalana leaders also appointed a retired DIG as the Chief of National Intelligence (CNI) – a special post created by President Mahinda Rajapaksa, in late 2006, on the advice of the then Defence Secretary, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, to oversee all intelligence services, including the SIS (State Intelligence Service).

The Rajapaksas created the post of CNI, by way of a cabinet paper, especially for Maj. Gen. Kapila Hendavitharana, in the wake of his retirement. Hendavitharana, who had been deeply involved in clandestine operations against terrorists, knew what was going on in the war zone, elimination of high profile LTTE targets, or overall attempts to intercept LTTE arms shipments on the high seas et al. Even after the successful conclusion of the war, in May 2009, the CNI continued to play a significant role in the previous Rajapaksa government’s security strategy.

An operation, involving the Office of the CNI, and the Navy, to seize an LTTE ship, anchored in a foreign harbour, as well as apprehending Prabhakaran’s successor Kumaran Pathmanathan, alias ‘KP’, in Malaysia, and whisking him back to Colombo, under a web of secrecy, were some of the notable operations undertaken by them.

The yahapalana lot came to power determined to dismantle the security apparatus. The Office of CNI was handed over to the retired DIG Sisira Mendis, an experienced investigator, though he lacked experience in running such a high profile operation. On top of that, the yahapalana administration, on its own, worked overtime to undermine the intelligence services. Even the new CNI lacked swift access to political leadership.

The yahapalana administration was bent on destroying the intelligence outfits. Selected officers were used in the yahapalana administration, much to the dismay of the armed forces. Senior security forces officers were harassed. Among those who had been targeted was the then Commodore D.K.P. Dassanayake, who was recalled from overseas where he was taking part in a US-sponsored programme.

The SIS was brought under SSP Nilantha Jayawardena, in the first week of March 2015. The appointment was made by the then IGP N.K. Illangakoon, obviously on the instructions of the yahapalana grandees. Two years later, the National Police Commission cleared Jayawardena to hold the rank of DIG. The SIS Chief received the promotion, just a couple of weeks before the Easter Sunday carnage. In spite of him being implicated in the overall intelligence failure, rightly or wrongly, it did not prevent the Sri Lanka Podujana Peramuna (SLPP) government in having Jayawardena as Senior DIG, in charge of the Eastern Range – a hot bed of Muslim extremism.

 

Geneva betrayal

The Defence Ministry, during Sirisena’s tenure as the President, simply turned a blind eye to what was going on with the political leadership, working overtime to haul up the war-winning Sri Lankan military before the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Geneva betrayal was far worse than the intelligence failure that allowed the National Thowheed Jamaat (NTJ) to mount a coordinated terror campaign, in April 2019. The Defence Ministry conveniently refrained from representing the interests of the armed forces and the police. Instead, the Defence Ministry provided the backing required for the political leadership to proceed, with a despicable operation that finally led to President Sirisena’s government co-sponsoring an accountability resolution against one’s own country. In spite of President Sirisena, publicly blaming it on the UNP, on numerous occasions, he did nothing to reverse the Geneva process. The government failure to thwart the Easter Sunday attacks shouldn’t be examined in isolation. Instead, the Easter Sunday catastrophe should be studied as part of a comprehensive study on the Yahapalana government’s defence policy/strategy.

Perhaps, the P CoI should scrutinize the overall security failure to recognize what really went wrong on April 21, 2019. Having won the presidential election in January 2015, the UNP, in spite of not having 50 members in parliament, received the premiership. The badly shaken UPFA handed over parliamentary control to the UNP, while President Sirisena took over the SLFP.

The stage was set for the first mega Treasury bond scam, in late Feb 2015, after the dissolution of parliament, in late June 2015, and the general election, two months later. The June 2015 dissolution was meant to save the UNP from a massive embarrassment, in case the parliamentary watchdog committee, COPE, handed over its report on the first Treasury bond scam to parliament. President Sirisena delivered a stunning blow to his own party by declaring that Mahinda Rajapaksa wouldn’t be appointed the Premier, even if they won the 2015 August general election.

The President’s contemptible announcement, almost on the eve of the election, obviously even discouraged some UPFA supporters from casting their vote. The President’s bid was meant to give the UNP an advantage over his own party. The treacherous move could be only compared with Sirisena switching allegiance to UNP leader Ranil Wickremesinghe, in Dec 2014, to bring an end to the Rajapaksa era.

Having won the general election, with rival leader Sirisena’s support, the UNP formed a coalition that betrayed the armed forces, in Geneva, a few weeks later, with the President conveniently looking the other way. The UNP-SLFP coalition should take the responsibility for the Geneva betrayal, though the SLFP always denied having a hand in it. Those who masterminded the Easter Sunday massacre must have taken the political situation into consideration in planning the terror project.

 

A role for the late Mano

The UNP-SLFP coalition created a special post for overseeing the Geneva operation. The late Mano Tittawella, in his capacity as the Secretary General of the Secretariat for Coordinating Reconciliation Mechanisms (SCRM), instructed Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative in Geneva, A. L. A. Azeez, in March 2019, to accept resolution 40/1 on behalf of the government of Sri Lanka.

Tittawella received his appointment, on March 29, 2016, around the time the UNP perpetrated the second and much bigger Treasury bond scam.

The UNP-UPFA coalition established the SCRM, under the Prime Minister’s Office in terms of a Cabinet decision, dated Dec 18, 2015.

The Secretary General reported directly to Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe.

Knowing Tittawella was carrying out Wickremesinghe’s directives, the President lambasted him publicly, but never challenged Wickremesinghe’s authority, granted by way of a cabinet decision. Addressing a public gathering at Meegahatenna, in late March 2019, President Sirisena accused Azeez of having betrayed the country and its armed forces.

The Oct 01, 2015 resolution had been endorsed by Ambassador Azeez’s predecessor, Ravinatha Aryasinha (our next Ambassador to Washington). Azeez took over the Geneva mission, in April 2018. Aryasinha signed the March 2017 resolution, which gave Sri Lanka two more years to fulfill its Geneva commitments.

Mangala Samaraweera functioned as the Foreign Minister (January 2015 to May 2017), followed by Ravi Karunanayake (May 2017 to August 2017), Tilak Marapana PC (Aug 2017 to Oct 2018), Dr. Sarath Amunugama (Oct 2018 to Dec 2018) and Minister Marapana took over again before the change of government, in Nov 2019.

Both Defence and Foreign Ministries actively contributed to the campaign against the war-winning armed forces. By the time NTJ mounted its deadly operations, the State security apparatus was in chaos. In late January 2019, Defence Secretary Fernando caused quite a controversy when he called for Tamil Diaspora to cooperate with government investigations into alleged war crimes, as well as other high profile cases, such as the disappearance of 11 Tamils, blamed on the Navy. Fernando, an old boy of Nalanda College, called for Tamil Diaspora support at an event organized by the Nalanda College Ranaviru Society to felicitate him. Thereby, the former Volunteer Navy officer reiterated the Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government policy as regards the post-war accountability issues though, by then, the yahapalana arrangement was in tatters.

 

A Defence Secy. before LLRC

Hemasiri Fernando’s accusations, directed at former President Sirisena, reminded the writer of one of Fernando’s predecessors, Austin Fernando, appearing before the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC), in August 2010. One time top civil servant, Austin Fernando, acknowledged that there hadn’t been proper consultations between the government and the military before the finalization of Oslo-arranged Ceasefire Agreement (CFA). Testifying before LLRC, headed by one-time Attorney General C.R. de Silva, Austin Fernando claimed in spite of him being the Secretary Ministry of Defence he didn’t enjoy the authority to intervene, though the CFA dealt with national security matters. Fernando also denied having a hand in preparing the CFA. Fernando took up the position that, in spite of serious concerns expressed by the top brass, the UNF government of Premier Ranil Wickremesinghe went ahead with the Norwegian hatched project regardless of the consequences.

The writer covered the LLRC throughout its sittings at the Kadirgamar Institute. At one point when Fernando claimed that he hadn’t been involved in drafting the CFA, LLRC Chairman shot back “no Sri Lankan was involved in the process.” Austin Fernando also blamed the Norwegians and the Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) for failing to implement the CFA properly (Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission: Now ex-Defence Secy slams CFA – The Island, August 19, 2010).

The UNP proceeded with the CFA agreement, at the expense of national security, and jeopardising the country’s fate. The government bent backwards to appease the LTTE, following the signing of the CFA. The government, on March 31, 2002, closed down ‘Wanni Sevaya’ which was in operation for the benefit of the armed forces and the police, while allowing the LTTE to import state-of-the-art equipment to expand its radio.

When Security Forces Commander, Jaffna Maj. Gen. Sarath Fonseka strongly opposed the reduction of high security zones in the north, without the required security guarantees, from the LTTE, the government engaged a retired Indian General to review the ground situation in the Jaffna peninsula. The government move drew widespread condemnation though Wickremesinghe blindly pushed ahead with it, believing the self-appointed international community.

 

Merril G on security fiasco

The UNP took national security lightly. The party played politics with vital security issues. The handling of matters, related to the CFA et al, was quite knowledgeably discussed by retired Senior DIG Merril Gunaratne, who had also functioned as the Director General of Intelligence during his long police career. Gunaratne’s ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ first launched in 2011, expertly dealt with the perilous way the UNP handled national security matters. The Chapter titled ‘On the Ministry of Defence with Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’ described the Premier’s response to security matters. Gunaratne should send a copy of ‘COP IN THE CROSSFIRE’ to the P CoI. Perusing Gunaratne’s work would certainly help those interested in knowing the truth or understanding the ground situation at the time of the Easter Sunday attacks, as well as the UNP thinking. The writer focused on the Premier and the Secretary Defence.

The Sirisena-Wickremesinghe government refused to take action against extremist Muslim groups for political reasons, between the 2015 and 2019 period, leading to the massive Easter Sunday attacks.

Similarly, Wickremesinghe, at the onset of the CFA, declined to act on information provided by his own intelligence services. Gunaratne explained how the Premier dismissed their assessment as regards the rapid LTTE build-up on the basis of what the Indian Intelligence told him. Gunaratne quoted Wickremesinghe as having told a special security meeting; “even the Indians think the numbers were highly exaggerated.”

Gunaratne criticized Wickremesinghe over leaking of intelligence reports by way of a weekly column in the ‘Sunday Observer’ as well as opening up regular sensitive intelligence meetings, to a foreigner, at the expense of national security. The situation during the periods 2002 to 2003 (UNF) and 2015 to 2019 (yahapalana) administrations, can be easily compared. During the Oslo-run CFA, the UNP was seriously scared of the LTTE quitting the negotiating table. Wickremesinghe believed the success of his political future depended on having the LTTE at the negotiating table, at any cost. The UNP felt comfortable even after the LTTE forced the Illankai Tamil Arasu Kadchi-led Tamil National Alliance to recognize them as the sole representative of Tamils. Although the TULF later pulled out of the coalition, it remained loyal to the LTTE until the group’s annihilation militarily on the Vanni east front.

 

Athaulla’s warning

During the yahapalana fiasco, the UNP, and even President Sirisena, didn’t want to do anything to ruffle the feathers of Muslim political parties, as well as those outside parliament, but wielded immense power. National Congress leader A.L.M. Athaulla’s somewhat controversial assertion that those who had a hand in engineering Mahinda Rajapaksa’s defeat, at the 2015 presidential, were also responsible for the Easter Sunday attacks, should be carefully examined. Western powers are alleged to have pushed for Rajapaksa’s ouster, in 2015, as part of their efforts to counter the growing Chinese influence in Colombo. Addressing the media last Sunday, lawmaker Athaulla explained how violence, directed at the Muslim community, in June 2014, transformed the Muslim community into an anti-Rajapaksa movement. Perhaps, the post-Easter Sunday situation should be examined, taking into consideration the ‘Mission Impossible’ type internal and external engineering, by hidden forces, that may have contributed to an explosive situation – causing unprecedented chaos, a decade after the conclusion of the war.

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Midweek Review

Which MBA?

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Some pointers to consider in selecting an MBA

It is but natural that when there is a glut in the market, that is, when supply of a commodity is much in excess of the demand, the customer will, obviously, have a wider choice to select. At the same time, he will be bemused in the choice of a quality product from the rest. This phenomenon has become true in the case of selecting an MBA course, by young graduates, as…

i. they will not be that clear as to why they do an MBA, as they continue to possess the basic-degree mentality, and / or

ii. they will not know the objectives of doing an MBA, and what qualities a good MBA should have, and, therefore,

iii. they will face a daunting challenge in selecting an MBA that will…

(a) suit their aspirations, and

(b) bring about the desired skills, competencies, attitudinal and behavioural changes in them.

 

By K. A. I. Kalyanaratne
Consultant-Publications
The Postgraduate Institute of Management

 

An MBA is an extremely popular Master’s degree programme locally as well, which has a high demand in the country. The attraction to do an MBA comes from two factors, namely:

(a) job limitations for those possessing only a basic degree, and

(b) many a job holder being driven by the aspiration to possess an MBA, inter alia, to go up in his/her career.

 

How an MBA differs from a basic degree?

They are at two different levels of education. The broad objectives of an undergraduate programme are to provide students an excellent academic experience, and to equip them with the ability to solve a broad range of problems in our rapidly changing technological, economic and social environment. As there’s a wide range of basic degrees, the student can select a particular degree programme if he/she wishes to tread on a specialized field. Moreover, in an undergraduate programme, the candidate has the option of selecting either a general degree, wherein he/she needs to study several subjects, during a specific period of time, or specialize in a single subject. Both these options provide a candidate with relevant knowledge that will make him/her possess a relatively broad perspective of the subjects/subject offered. Further, the basic degree lays the initial foundation for a candidate to proceed further in the selected professional field, in which he/she becomes a master of it. This is precisely the objective of an MBA. A basic degree being an entry point for furtherance of a specialized subject/an area of study, anyone wishing to enter a job at this point would need to undergo job-centred specific training depending on the specialty of the job. It is due to this reason that the government finds it difficult to absorb those with a basic degree into the cadres, sans an attuning-process/ training.

Based on this backdrop, an MBA is more business-centred and career-oriented. One of the most common reasons for doing an MBA is that, for many people, it can lead to the next step in their careers. Sometimes, after working for some period of time, people find that they’ve reached a certain level in their careers, and they need something else to get to management-level positions. An MBA adds the specific business skills higher management positions demand to one’s toolkit, such as leadership or strategic thinking, that will help getting them into the management-level positions.

 

Basics for an MBA programme

An MBA being a graduate course of study, MBA aspirants must initially have completed his/her studies with an acceptable/recognized bachelor’s degree before being able to enter an MBA programme. Although the bachelor’s degree may not be directly related to the business world, an ideal candidate is one who would possess sufficient executive exposure. As regards executive exposure, institutes of higher learning/universities have their own stipulations regarding the period and the nature of executive exposure. Insistence on this requirement is considered a necessity as executives, having a view of the overall organizational profile and its objectives, are better equipped to arrive at rational decisions. Decisions, in short, are planning and implementation-centred. Realizing the ultimate ‘why’ aspect of an organization is, therefore, a must in any decision-making process. In short, MBA aspirants need to be in that level of maturity to grasp the interconnectivity of the subjects they master in the programme.

 

MBA – Parameters and Purpose

Further, many an MBA aspirant does not know clearly what an MBA consists of, content-wise, and what purpose it serves. Unlike other postgraduate courses, which provide specialization in a specific field, the Master of Business Administration is interdisciplinary, and it prepares an aspirant for senior management roles by exposing and preparing him to be confident in the midst of all areas of business, including accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, business communication, business ethics and business law. A well structured MBA programme also provides candidates access to an extensive network of contacts that can help them boost their career. The future depends much on organization-wise and people-wise linkages as the future of any enterprise is almost entirely interdependent. The overall purpose of an MBA degree is thus to prepare candidates for managing an organization/enterprise in every way, or in other words, to train qualified executives who have gained an all-pervading vision for business.

 

MBA and the Level of Learning

When it comes to learning-levels, one would invariably take into consideration the Bloom’s Taxonomy, (origin in 1956 and revised in 2001) which provides a classification for learning outcomes. Herein the basic levels include (i) remembering (ii) understanding and (iii) applying. In these levels the elements of (iv) analysing (v) evaluating and (vi) creating are almost absent. To make it more elaborate, in the three higher levels, the following are emphasized and given more weightage:

Analysing:

Correlating, deconstructing, linking, organizing, appraising, probing, questioning, structuring, integrating, attributing, estimating and explaining.

Evaluating:

Arguing, validating testing, criticizing, commenting, debating, detecting, experimenting, measuring, hypothesizing, moderating, predicting, reflecting and reviewing.

Creating:

constructing, adapting, collaborating, directing, devising, programming, simulating, solving, facilitating, synthesizing, investigating, negotiating and leading.

It could thus be seen that all these three tiers demand a critical, probing as well as a researching approach; an approach that is constantly critical of the ‘status quo’. The automatic conclusion would thus be that an MBA demands a mature and a critical approach. These ingredients are lacking at the lower levels of the Bloom’s taxonomy.

 

Measurement of Impact: The Level of Transformation

Hence, any well structured MBA programme, designed and conducted/executed, so as to achieve these higher objectives demanded of by the current business world, should be able to transform an aspirant to a fully fledge MBA, at the conclusion of the programme. An MBA programme is, therefore, virtually a process of total transformation of a basic degree holder to an accomplished master of business administration, as per the true meaning of the title. To effectively carryout a process of authentic/true/genuine transformation, the following are musts among a host of other components that compose an MBA programme:

Effective Communication: Communication encapsulates all modes of conveyance of ideas and information. In fact, communication is the glue that binds all sectors of a business. It thus includes both oral and written communication. Additionally, mastering presentation skills is a must for a manager, as more often his functions revolve around coordination and conveyance of facts and information. Human resource management, team and relationship building, transparency, developing trust, linking with stakeholders, presentation of business-related information are a few major tasks that demand effective communication.

Business Communication: A specialized component of communication is an important integral part within overall communication skills in an MBA programme. Being able to communicate up, down and across is essential in any management position. Communications skills are an area employers have often found candidates lacking. Therefore, in an effective MBA programme, business communication is considered as an indispensable skillset. Business communication, in short, is fine-tuning of communication skills to achieve business objectives.

Analytical and Critical Thinking:

All the three stages of higher learning, namely, creating, evaluating and analyzing in the already discussed Bloom’s Taxonomy demand analytical and critical thinking. The basic element that promotes all these skills is the questioning-inquiring-probing mindset. Developing this mindset, which is a critical component, is one of the overall objectives of a well designed and structured MBA programme. In competitive and uncertain business environments, analytical and critical thinking help improve the quality of managerial decisions.

Strategic Thinking and Integration of Functional Areas of Business:

Issues, problems and challenges being the common-denominator in a business, a trained business-mind that thinks of issues strategically, taking into account all related factors, is a must, if one is to add value to the organization. Therefore, mastering strategic thinking skills is essential as they provide the bases for the generation and application of unique business insights and opportunities that create competitive advantage.

Ethical Leadership:

Organization being closely integrated to the social fabric they cannot function in isolation. This phenomenon demands that an MBA graduate needs to demonstrate knowledge of ethical frameworks for management decision-making and leadership. That’s why business law and business ethics form a part of an MBA course structure. Honesty, integrity, humaneness, value-driven decision-making, intolerance for ethical violations, being just and impartiality and exemplariness are further parameters to gauge a well-rounded MBA graduate.

Global Awareness:

‘Think globally and act locally’ is an axiom that established seats of higher learning would encourage and promote. It is essential for an MBA student to be aware of the global environment, and factors affecting the global economy and international business and to gain a comprehensive understanding of these in order to arrive at informed decision-making. The current developments that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic amply prove the need to be aware of the global environment.

 

Some Important Hallmarks of a Reputed Seat of Learning

A good library is considered as the heart of any seat of learning. A reputed seat of learning is supported by a library that is rich enough to support the research of the university faculty and student. The maturity of a seat of learning is also measured by the richness of its publications; richness by way of the volume, variety and depth of its publications as well as their linkages to socio-economic development. Richness of research is also a strong indicator that an institute is in constant pursuit of new knowledge, and not a mere passive reproducer of knowledge. The main teaching arm of an academic institute – the key to its education – is its Faculty. Especially in an MBA degree–business school, the Faculty should invariably be those who are industry-experienced. It is they who introduce the much valued practices and norms of business to the classroom as well as to the respective course-contents. Encouraging innovativeness and promoting entrepreneurship through business-incubators are other important hallmarks of a higher learning institute that is truly concerned with the ultimate product of transforming an MBA aspirant to a truly business-minded person.

 

The elements of Rigour and Disciplined Culture in Executing an Effective MBA Programme

Transformation being the central theme of an MBA programme, reputed seats of learning are in an on-going process of re-structuring their game-plans, by re-visiting every aspect that has a bearing on the final product, i.e., meeting the needs of the business community through their MBAs. In this endeavour, the element of rigour or rigorous learning experiences help the MBA aspirants to realize expectations that are academically, intellectually and personally challenging. Coupled with rigour is the culture of the organization. In its broadest sense, culture is cultivated behaviour; that is the totality of a person’s learned, accumulated experience which is socially transmitted, or more briefly, behaviour through social learning. All reputed seats of learning maintain a disciplined atmosphere, conforming to procedural and quality systems. Opposite to bureaucracy, cultivated behaviour and set rules and procedures unleash the creativity and nimbleness that is required for growth of both personnel and organizations.

 

MBA – A Life-changing Programme that Transforms One’s Future

The above revelations would sufficiently convince that a well structured and strategically executed MBA is a life-changing programme that transforms a person through experiential learning. Such a programme will strengthen both, one’s business and leadership skills and his critical and strategic thinking. Moreover, the creative problem-solving abilities, new knowledge, and tools gained through the programme will, for sure, be a key to success in one’s personal and professional transformation. In other words, MBA is a process that re-invents a person to be a full-fledged professional. In reaching these goals, there are no shortcuts or compromises.

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Midweek Review

The Book’s Hold

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By Lynn Ockersz

It’s not at all a bad thing – This mesmeric hold of the book,And the Isle’s doing the right thing,

By allowing itself to be carried away,On the wave of boundless delight,Book Month without fail brings,

Though the durance of such joy is all too brief,But the wish of she who thinks,Is that this magical pull of the book,

Will be a life-long thing,And that those who noisily warm their seats,In the House by the ‘Oya’ of esteem,Would make of reading a sacred undertaking,For, a measure of grey matter is very much in need.

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