Enterprise Development Minister Rohitha Bogollagama last week dodged questions about the appointment of his brother, Ravi, as deputy chairman of the Export Development Board (EDB).
`I?m a bit busy, call later,` Bogollagama said, in response to two phone calls. The third time, he hung up.
In a show of blatant nepotism, Ravi Bogollagama was appointed deputy chairman of the EDB, a statutory body which also falls under Minister Bogollagama?s purview. EDB sources said the post had been especially created to accommodate the brother.
Ravi, when contacted, said: `He?s not my brother, he?s the minister.` When it was pointed out that this explanation could work both ways (`he?s not the minister, he?s my brother`), he requested the Sunday Island to contact Secretary to the Ministry of Enterprise Development, Lal Kumara Gamage.
Gamage explained that the minister was not legally obliged to follow any procedure when appointing people to or creating posts within statutory bodies under his purview. `The minister has the right to appoint anyone from the board,` he said, pointing out that Ravi Bogollagama had initially been made a member of the EDB?s board of directors.
`It is up to the minister in charge of that particular authority to choose someone he feels can do something,` Gamage reiterated, pointing out that various people have regularly been appointed to government bodies at the discretion of ministers. This includes retired politicians. If we were so concerned about these matters, he said, we could examine the manner in which appointments have been made to all such institutions in the country.
Gamage avoided questions about nepotism (defined in the Oxford Dictionary as: `favouritism shown to relatives in conferring offices`), saying, `you may call it whatever`. Asked for Ravi Bogollagama?s educational or professional qualifications, Gamage said he didn?t know.
When asked about the ethics of creating posts to accommodate ministerial relatives, he said this too was the prerogative of the minister.
`You are questioning the rights of the minister,` he asserted.