ri Lanka’s population vastly is rural and it was the rural population who gave enormous strength to the former regime. It was those rural folks however, who have been badly hit by corruption. Sadly, they do not understand the implications and the price they pay due to exceedingly corrupt politicians and bureaucrats. Why have the elected representatives failed to look into the causes why the cost of living has gone up over the years to unbearable heights? Instead, didn’t they look after themselves?
Isn’t it sad, that elected representatives seem to be acting contrary to the promises given in their manifestos? Restoring good governance and rule of law should therefore be a multi-faceted, collective endeavour by all actors, including citizens and institutions?
What seems to be lacking is the inability of our elected representatives to develop and strengthen the culture of good governance. Haven’t they forgotten that the former Air Force Commander Jayalath Weerakkody had to go home prematurely because he attempted to replace another person having met with an accident? We shouldn’t forget that the law should apply to everybody alike. Shouldn’t the politicians forget that the former regime was defeated because they had been utterly corrupt and fraudulent. Don’t they think what Abraham Lincoln had said is true – “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time”?
"Isn’t it sad, that elected representatives seem to be acting contrary to the promises given in their manifestos? Restoring good governance and rule of law should therefore be a multi-faceted, collective endeavour by all actors, including citizens and institutions"
We have a long history and a culture and had been a well-known trading hub for centuries. Portuguese having invaded us first introduced new religious beliefs. The coastal communities had been accordingly converted to Catholicism. Portuguese had destroyed temples and Buddhist lifestyles. It was however the British, who subsequently established a bureaucratic administration in Sri Lanka - governance based on law. The officials were accordingly expected to implement the laws of the land and provide a buffer to the politicians who exercised power.
Nevertheless, after we became independent, didn’t we destroy the public sector due to circuitous procedures, petty minded outlook and high-handedness of public officials. Didn’t we also fail because we were short of competent, committed and concerned public officers who could implement policies efficiently to take the country forward? In addition, haven’t they failed to integrate with the general public to serve the masses to the benefit of the citizens. Public officers do not pay full-time attention to official duties for which they are compensated by the payment of a salary?
Could the public officers deliver the services unless meritocracy is recognised? It is now the most appropriate time to take meaningful steps to link up with the public together mutually in order to reduce the gap and mistrust. Robert Kearney had said “The question is whether the sense of distance and impersonal guardianship can be replaced by a sense of identification with the people and responsiveness to their desires without sacrificing the quality of duty, integrity and responsibility which were a heritage of the public service”
We have had instances, when the Chief Justice of the country delivered a judgement opposed to the government, the then government took steps to remove the Chief Justice. Amendments had been introduced both to the Constitution and the election law to the governments’ advantage. The enactment of the Special Presidential Commissions of Inquiry Acts No. 4 and 7 of 1978 had provided for the retroactive classification an offence which had not been defined legally to cover the term “abuse of power” and “misuse of power”.
The then JR government made use of these amended laws to victimise his political opponent Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the then Leader of the Sri Lanka Freedom Party. Parliament thereafter in 1980, removed her civic rights stating that it had been found that she had “abused” and “misused” power. Aren’t there other politicians who have misused power thereafter? Why shouldn’t this government apply the same law to others similarly placed? At this particular juncture, what is right for the government is to attend boldly with sincerity to correct what is wrong in our system.
During the colonial days, Brits had gone to the extent of destroying villages, killed cattle and a Lieutenant by the name of Mclaine (1817) had ordered to kill anyone without trial. It is on record that Mclaine had enjoyed his breakfast while watching men being hung.
A British Army Surgeon, Davey had said - “When they were attacked they became ferocious and showed no fear or mercy. They were totally dedicated fighters. Over 20% of our troops died in the jungles and over 1000 British troops died in this war. We did not manage to kill the enemy, but we killed a lot of villages. We must have killed at least 10,000 men in the villages”. In a separate memo, it had also been mentioned “We were under orders to destroy all coconut trees, trees that bore fruit and paddy fields. We were also ordered to destroy the bunds of the water reservoirs as this water was essential to them for cultivation. We wondered how long it must have taken to build these giant reservoirs and how long it would take them now, without having any engineers or equipment, to rebuild them or repair them”– Campbell.
The then Governor Brownrigg in 1817, had said “They don’t face us in combat. Instead they follow us through the jungles. They wait until bad weather arrives and we become tired or sick. Any European would not be able to destroy them in this country alone without the help of their own countrymen”. Isn’t this good enough proof that our forefathers too had used superior military strategy, tactics and brains described in the book called “Art of War”written by Sun Tzu. Shouldn’t we be proud that we are a proficient nation that could rise up again if we are fully committed to take the country forward?
How did the British achieve their objectives? Didn’t they use “divide-and-rule policy”? They had used thereafter all deceitful tactics in order to seek support and assistance for the benefit of the British.
May I now ask my fellow citizens whether the so-called elected representatives too used the same tactics and destroyed this country further after independence? The country is presently facing severe hardships due to lawlessness. Drugs, alcohol, which had seriously eroded the village atmosphere causing harmful impact on families which had been closely knit in our history. It must be mentioned that Governor Gregory (1872) had accepted that the British had been responsible for making Sinhalese into drunkards. President Maithripala Sirisena has taken several steps to reduce the dependency on liquor and had specifically said that he would not expect liquor sales to bring the highest revenue for the government.
Don’t we have ministers in our Cabinet who campaigned for good governance and appointed family members to various positions in the public sector. Aren’t there ministers who are double-dealers? May I add, we now need elected representatives who could genuinely understand the culture and the degeneration that had taken place in the country. The Youth Commission in their report had extensively discussed all the pertinent issues. Isn’t it sad that successive governments had failed to take necessary steps to alleviate most of the problems faced by the youth? Don’t you think that we need to reconsider the pattern of our thinking for the benefit of generations to come?
Let me now add that the Commission had also recommended that an education policy aimed at imparting the following skills to children be introduced:
(a) the training of the mind, the sharpening of intellect and increasing the awareness of students.
(b) the development of communication skills and the refinement of creativity,
(c) equipping the students with skills and knowledge so that they may pursue a vocation of their choice, given the opportunity and minimum standards,
(d) developing personality traits so that the student becomes a self-reliant, self-determining individual who is able to contribute to the life of his/her community,
(e) developing social skills so that a student may contribute to his community, develop capacity for teamwork, leadership and self-sacrifice. In a multi-ethnic society, young people may also require sensitivity to diversity and the tolerance of different cultures to develop a sense of obligation to the community. In addition, The Commission on Youth had examined in greater depth the origin and causes of the extensive discontent of youth and their distrust towards the democratic system. They had discussed the need to strengthen the institutional structure in order to successfully cope with the internal and external tensions and responding flexibly to external pressures.
"After nearly 20 months in power, the Unity Government has yet not been able to develop the required sense of identification with the people and appropriate responsiveness"
It is my sincere view that the politicians are yet playing games to win absolute power for their own benefit. Does that mean that they are thinking of the next election but not the next generation? After nearly 20 months in power, the Unity Government has yet not been able to develop the required sense of identification with the people and appropriate responsiveness. The quality of duty, integrity and responsibility of both elected representatives and bureaucrats seem to have degenerated.
Aversion to venality is a positive trait in politicians in countries like Singapore. It is unfortunate that our politicians are just the opposite. Shouldn’t they look into matters concerning waste, minimising corruption etc., in order to reduce cost of living and to serve the public better?