he Provincial Councils were introduced in 1988 in order to devolve powers to the provinces while the Centre retained subjects such as police, finance and lands. As regards devolution, the role of successive governments does not seem to be impressive despite the fact that millions of tax payers’ money has been expended to maintain 225 members of Parliament and nearly 300 provincial councillors for provincial administration. In addition, we have thousands involved in local government institutions too.
Nevertheless, the war which was won had been a tremendous achievement for the present government. However, fighting corruption, eradicating inefficiency, waste etc. in the public sector, establishing good governance and the rule of law, seem to be difficult tasks for the government. The existence of a cold war is now apparent. The authorities seem to be unconcerned. The drug menace also seems to be continuing.
The authorities do not seem to be exercising prudence when funds are disbursed. The government revenue is eaten up for unholy purposes by the politicians. Billions of rupees have been wasted to build up a massive complex during the former President’s tenure which was abandoned due to public pressure. The notorious VAT scam is a case where public officers have defrauded billions. Privatisation such as Sri Lanka Insurance and Air Lanka were a few, where millions were lost for the country.
Our politicos have opted to preserve and safeguard the Centre, which has been jealously protected so that they could enhance their personal and party interests while disregarding the ground requirements. More than the national interests, the politicians only commit themselves to protect the existing system to ensure their individual privileges and personal enrichment. Ours is a country where we spent billions to maintain all types of vehicles in very large numbers, including super luxury jeeps, cars etc., for the polticos and for their security. The maintenance of these vehicles and fuel costs are sky high. The burden of all these for the average citizen, cannot be reduced, as the top is extremely heavy.
The time is now ripe to make the Constitutional changes. There has been consensus reached that the election laws too should be changed. However, nothing has been done. The proposed amendments should strengthen the Parliament and restore its supremacy. The Parliament in a democracy should be open, independent, accountable and responsive. This could only be achieved if a proper internal system was established to evaluate and introduce necessary reforms for the Parliamentary process to become more effective and efficient. Democratic Parliament is one that is representative of the political will and social diversity of the population and is effective in its legislative, oversight and representative functions, at the national and provincial levels.
The national agenda therefore, should be to look at what suits the country better. People should be aware of the imminent dangers and be wise and futuristic in their decisions. They should also open their eyes to see what went wrong and how it could be corrected. They vote governments to power and it should be done cautiously.
It must be also stressed that nothing can be done or achieved if there is no political will as in case of winning the war.
The media had continued for very long, having highlighted inefficiency, corruption, fraud etc. It is heartening to note that constant pressure is now being mounted by all sections for Constitutional changes. The villager too seems to be contributing to rid these short comings, which is an important development.
The Parliament should now be down-sized as a top priority matter. It is equally important that lobbying must be done to re-establish the Elections Commission and a police commission. The Bribery commission should be given more powers and become free from political manouevring.
The need has arisen to enact laws to protect the informant with regard to fraud, corruption etc, by law. It will be interesting to mention an incident where steps were taken sometime back by the then Secretary General of Parliament and the political head in Parliament to write to the CID that the then Director (Administration) had leaked out information on corruption. The then Deputy Speaker in a high powered Parliamentary Committee, chaired by the then Speaker, proved that the endorsement in a minute of a meeting of the House Committee, made by the then Secretary General in her own hand writing, most unbecoming of a holder of a high post, was an interpolation, completely false.
The committee subsequently having considered the representation made by the then Deputy Speaker approved the minute, subject to the deletion of the relevant interpolation. However, the CID which also investigated the matter, revealed that the writer had no hand in it.
In successive governments after independence in 1948, unlike in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and India, the political leadership in our country appears to have disregarded the need to develop a base with a solid foundation in the country and placed the interests of the party at the forefront.
A former President accused a senior minister saying that a certain cabinet minister was the biggest rogue. This accusation was made at a meeting where a team of IMF officers including Jeremy Carter, a top official from Washington and the Resident Representative Nadeem Ul Haque were present. It was thereafter revealed that a sum of Rs. 43 million was found in a locker, which had belonged to the relevant minister. It also had been reported that these monies had not been duly declared in the declaration of assets, which was a legal requirement. It does prove that the law applies only to the punchi singhos in our country.
The Constitution specifically states that people are sovereign. Nevertheless, politicians, bureaucrats, and top professionals are not concerned at all to clean up the system for the greater benefit of the masses and the country. It must not be forgotten that the majority of people live below the poverty line. The government has a duty towards them when in fact the treasury finds it extremely difficult to fund essential amenities provided to the masses in a welfare state.
Poverty alleviation should begin with an aggressive industrialisation programme like in India. India is a case in point, The rulers in 1960s were worried that India would always be a poor country. The population was growing faster than the development goals . However, they have now succeeded and are now becoming a stronger economy and a fast developing healthy nation with the calibre of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister.
In successive governments after independence in 1948, unlike in countries like Singapore, Malaysia and India, the political leadership in our country appears to have disregarded the need to develop a base with a solid foundation in the country and placed the interests of the party at the forefront. Plantation workers, from the time we gained independence are in shanty type houses, having contributed immensely to earn much needed foreign exchange for generations. We could not even improve the railway an inch for the benefit of the general public for many years.
After 1977, the then UNP government drafted a Constitution and introduced proportional representation to keep a stable UNP government in power for ever. These have now caused irreparable and unpardonable damage to the country, having faced a war and a youth unrest too.
Constitutionally, sovereignity is inalienable. The then UNP government in 1977 was elected to power with an unprecedented majority and boasted that the President could do anything other than making a man a woman and vice versa. By this, it could be seen that people quite unwillingly had surrendered their sovereignity to the MPs who in turn did let down the masses by dishonouring the given mandate and the election manifestos..
The peace accord with India was signed when the country was bleeding, without informing Parliament under emergency rule. The Constitution was amended on 18 occasions to suit every political need. The Parliament out of its 225 members now have nearly half of it holding ministerial and deputy statuses, when in fact the treasury is borrowing money from all available sources to maintain a top heavy political system.
The newspapers revealed that steps are being taken to legalise certain election offences such as pasting election posters etc. The government passed a law to retain local government heads in their seats even if the budgets of local government bodies were defeated. These are unprecedented moves which prove our country is on the wrong track both morally and ethically. Does this mean we legalise what is illegal right now?
All these governments are no doubt responsible for the present state of affairs in every single sector. We could recall well that a former President assured that corrupt politicians would be brought to Galle Face. She even gave in writing that the Presidency would be abolished after the elections.
All the governments in power took steps to give employment and promotions, not on merit, but to sympathisers with political affiliations. Secretaries go to do politics and seek favours by being in good books for personal gain. This had never happened prior to 1977 and the situation is worsening now with similar news items appearing very frequently in the media.
Successive governments did not take meaningful steps to improve the public sector. It became wasteful, inefficient, and corrupt. The standards and the attitudes of the public servants, including efficiency and effectiveness have drastically dropped day by day. Furthermore, there was an unhealthy precedent created when the fine imposed on a senior police officer, by the Supreme Court for committing a violation of human rights, was paid by the government. The same police officer was thereafter given promotions up to the rank of Deputy Inspector General in quick succession. These precedents eventually sent wrong messages to the public servant. It is common belief that the only way to secure promotions faster is to please the politicians and be in their good books. The Police Department has now become utterly corrupt owing to the patronage given by the politicians.
The time has now come to give the lead to develop the country, having finished the war. The Public Enterprises Committee Chairman, Minister D.E.W. Gunasekera told Parliament sometime back that 15 public enterprises were currently running at a loss. The Chairman also pointed out in his speech that the most disturbing fact was that 04 institutions accounted for 98% of the total loss namely, Ceylon Petroleum Corporation, Ceylon Electricity Board, Sri Lankan Airlines, and Mihin Lanka.
Ours was a country where we spent billions to maintain all types of vehicles in very large numbers, including super luxury jeeps, cars etc., for the polticos and for their security. The maintenance of these vehicles and fuel costs are sky high. The burden of all these for the average citizen, cannot be reduced, as the top is extremely heavy
These Institutions have recorded continual losses year after year. However, the Treasury keeps on pumping tax payers’ money to keep them without sinking. It has been stated that the employees enjoy even bonuses, when in fact they do not make profits, at the cost of the poor masses. The Chairman also in his speech appealed to the Executive the need for enhancing the quality of leadership of the public enterprises. The Chairman urged that steps be taken to appoint professional, experienced and skilled personnel in order to be able to be answerable and accountable to the Executive.
On the other hand, we must teach co-existence and mutual respect for each and every community. Every effort should be made to iron out misunderstanding and cultivate ethnic harmony, which is a topmost priority. Secondly, we must unite irrespective of party politics, to stand as a nation to oppose corruption, fraud etc. Thirdly, we should do whatever possible in order to restore ethnic harmony, law and order and good governance.
Let us therefore, stand up united to re-establish and preserve the country for future generations where ethnic harmony, good governance, law and order will prevail. Let us also firmly resolve to create a new political culture where the elected representatives would take maximum effort to up hold the traditions and re-establish the best practices that had prevailed in this country in the past. It is time for elections, and decisions need to be taken for the betterment of all communities.
We can surely restore its lost glory as we hold the key as electors. It is my dream that we should do whatever we can in order to establish the rule of law and good governance for all communities to live happily ever after in the country again.