I attended the above book launch on 15 November 2012 at the Lakshman Kadirgamar Institute in Colombo. It was significant that this august gathering consisted of retired public servants, academicians and diplomats and professionals of the past.
K.H.J.Wijayadasa was a senior public servant who started his career in the Ceylon Civil Service in 1960 and rose to the zenith of his career as the Secretary to Prime Minister and later President Premadasa.
Sri Lankans will not deny the fact that Wijayadasa is an honest, dedicated, and meticulous and concencious public servant and could be placed in the caliber of G.V.P.Samarasinghe , B.P.I S .Siriwardena and CP.De Silva the illustrious sons this country and indeed very rare to find such public servants today.
I have known Wijayadasa from 1995 when he was a consultant to the Environment and Sustainable Development Division of United Nations ESCAP and admired him for his knowledge, dedication to service and integrity.
The book “Governance Heritage and Sustainability “consists of three parts dealing with Governance, Heritage and Sustainability.
American election process
Under governance the American election process is highlighted. It sets the theme for the book that good governance is of paramount importance to achieve sustainability with emphasis of safeguarding heritage for posterity. American society has a multiethnic religious and cultural background have been effectively interwoven into an entity where justice and fair play is enshrined in the executive, legislative and judicial arms of government. To this end, it has been stressed that the Sri Lankan Constitution does not provide for bipartisan government as in other democracies and should revert to the Westminster system or copy from the American system as appropriate to the local conditions.
The Premadasa vision vis a vis national development is also highlighted. This vision is highlighted on time tested and honored principles namely sustainable use of resources, reliance on indigenous knowledge and traditional wisdom .Further the available resources namely: labour,water should be extensively utilized instead of undue focus on scarce capital and technology.Premadasa vision of “Tank, Paddy Field and Dagoba” concept symbolizes prosperity ,plenty and tranquility The book very effectively addresses Premadasa policies covering the national development strategy, environmentally sound and sustainable development, housing development , Village re awakening (Gam Udawa) which are subsumed in the whole holistic approach of poverty alleviation.
The author further concludes that “after serving 35 years in the highest echelons of the public service, I am still in search of answers to two questions. Why do Sri Lankan voters succumb to false election promises at every successive election? Why did our people light fire crackers throughout the country: even though many of them were beneficiaries of President Premadasa’s programmes and projects: when the electronic media announces his gruesome assassination at 3 .00pm on 1 May 1993?”
The important link of food and nutrition has been well focused. Accordingly food security for people living below the poverty line and availability of a basic basket of food at affordable prices has been stressed.
The danger of consuming genetically modified food as well as food produced by excessive use of pesticides as well as fertilizer is elaborated. The high incidence of kidney decease in the north central province is an example.
Chapter 4 on P Toms is very thought provoking. It is revealed that P-Toms and the ISGA were sinister instruments that the LTTE formulated with the assistance of Norway especially after Thimpu Talks of 1985 and the Ceasefire Agreement (CFA) of 2002. It is alleged that there were territorial and administrative implications and the main objective of these legal instruments was to achieve world recognition of a “Homeland” for the Tamils although the LTTE was not their sole representative .The 13th Amendment that is being debated at present is also focused on achieving a federal state which is a stepping stone to the “Homeland “concept. In 2005 Wijayadasa stated the “All Sri Lankans who stand for the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Sri Lanka should form a non-partisan National Front and agree on a considered package that can be offered to the LTTE If it is acceptable to the LTTE the required Constitutional amendments can be passed. If it is not acceptable to the LTTE there is no alternative other than to wage war.” The decision to wage a full scale war against the LTTE by President Rajapakse in 2008 is therefore justified as the LTTE was determined to have their separate state. These facts should be drilled into the so called human rights advocates who are bitter critics of the government.
Public administration and politics
Public administration and politics is very effectively articulated with a comparison of the old CCS and the present SLAS where the former consisted of only 150 members but the present service has over 2000.The deterioration of the public service started in 1978 with the Republican Constitution where the appointing authority was the cabinet of ministers instead the Public Service Commission and was a disaster to the independence of the service. Open competitive exams for recruitment were in 1991 restored by President Premadasa but after a short time ministers took over this function. Politicization of the public service is invariably attributed to the large majorities the political parties gained at general elections where the ruling party members and their supporters had exclusive right to all rewards and benefits on the “winner takes all” mentality. To this end the author states “Abuses, excesses, and malpractices relating to over politicization have manifested themselves in many different forms and guises: especially political interference in day to day administration, abuse of power, election malpractices, bribery, corruption, favoritism and nepotism. Sometimes the pressures brought on the public servants are so great that one has to either cave in or least compromise. This is the art of survival that is currently in vogue among the large majority of the public servants.”
Tracing inseparable links
The author very effectively traces the inseparable links between indigenous spiritual ecological and socio cultural foundation in sustainable living conditions in Sri Lanka. A striking fact that emerges is that the Sinhalese kings cultivated the lowlands of the country and kept the hill country as a total reserve for effective balance between the environment and ecology recognizing the biological diversity .However this balance was greatly disturbed with the introduction of plantation crops mainly tea and rubber. It is also stressed that paddy cultivation is less environmentally damaging than export crops The Trusteeship Principle which was the cornerstone to the Buddhist way of sustainability is completely overlooked at present.
The construction of tanks and distribution canals, the backbone of the hydraulic civilization of the Sinhalese has been revived by the launching of the Mahaweli project launched in 1980’s as well as the other irrigation schemes initiated by the late D.S Senanayake after independence .The nexus between poverty , environment and sustainable development is also highlighted throughout the publication. The spiritual dimension of sustainable development as the “fourth wheel” of the vehicle of sustainability where the other three are economic, environmental and social development is also recognized as the Buddhist path...
The conservation of the national heritage in sustainable development is also focused with the bottom up approach of the past as compared to the present top bottom approach.
All Sri Lankans should be indebted to the author who as Chairman of the Sri Maha Bodhi Development Fund from 2002 to present has successfully restored this holiest of holy place of worship to the Buddhists to its pristine glory dating back to 12 Century CE.
Sustainable consumption, production
The author also identifies 10 major programme indicators that have to be included in formulation a 10 year Framework for sustainable consumption and production to feed half of the world population in Asia and the Pacific and at the same time eliminate poverty and inequity, pollution of air soil and water. These indicators should be included in the vision of the Mahinda Chintanaya of the present Government if not done so far if we are to leap frog from the Third World to the First and be the Wonder of Asia.
In conclusion, I would like to commend the author who in 210 pages has very successfully and effectively articulated the major issues in achieving sustainable development without unsustainable practices including excess and wasteful consumption and preserve the environment for future generations. It is the first time that an attempt has been made to focus on issues with such diversity as governance heritage and sustainability in a simple and a holistic manner with overarching effects
It is recommended that every development economist, regional and national planners, environmentalists should have access to this valuable publication and the Government may take immediate action to get it translated into Sinhala and Tamil for distribution to schools and universities as well as all Government institutions at the central, regional levels if Sri Lanka is to achieve sustainability with good governance and heritage.