Officials of the American Embassy have urged the caretaker Government of Sri Lanka to ensure the rights of all citizens. Carrying out protests is one such right
President elect Gotabaya Rajapaksa announcement that loss-making institutes have to be turned around has been met with positivism more than a lackadaisical attitude.
Gotabaya has got a cracking start. He has reduced his staff and back-up vehicles and even objected to roads being closed when his official vehicle was travelling on the road. Where he wants the state to head is towards prosperity. This would also mean changing an existing culture in some state institutions where clock-watching prevails.
With the call coming from the First citizen of the country to change the present ‘working culture’ in state institutions, this writer thinks it is apt to turn the pages of time and review how President J.R. Jayewardene tried to turn around the economy by privatising loss-making state institutions.
It all started with the liberalisation of the economy after the 1977 elections. Sri Lanka’s economy had suffered much with the Government’s policy of finding substitutes for foreign imports.
- These Acts provided for state institutes to obtain raw materials, modern technology, skills and capital form the open economy
- Premadasa could have still been ruthlessly efficient without being so dictatorial
- Susantha Ratnayake, Lalith Weerathunga, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Dian Gomes forming a Select Board which will recruit professionals to serve state institutions
Hence in 1987 two acts were passed in parliament to privatise loss-making state institutions; largely state corporations and state owned businesses. The Acts were: Transforming Government Enterprises through the 1987 Act No 22 of Public Enterprises and the other was Transforming Public Corporations and transforming State Owned Enterprises through the 1987 Act No 23 into Public Corporations. These Acts provided for state institutes to obtain raw materials, modern technology, skills and capital form the open economy.
The Government in its new found enthusiasm to lift the underperforming state institutes privatised not only loss making institutes, but also profit making ones. Good examples for the latter were Ruhunu Cement and Lanka Milk.
The whole structural change also enabled the Government to obtain aid from the World Bank.
The state even established the State Investment Management Company for this purpose. But what transpired in the end was the introduced system ‘failing to realise the realities of such decision making’. People blending with the existing work culture and top officials who wielded power not willing to let go of control of such state institutions created the obstacles which eventually failed the regime’s attempt to give the country benefits through the system of privatising loss making state enterprises.
But what transpired in the end was the introduced system ‘failing to realise the realities of such decision making’. Top officials who wielded power were not willing to let go of control
Then there was the Ranasinghe Premadasa era where this president of the common man wanted to raise the living standards of the less affluent by driving the economy forward. This he did through opportunities he created in the garment industry, Sri Sucharitha Movement and reducing unwanted spending. Compared to other political leaders, Premadasa also travelled much less. But his achievements came through a culture of aggression which critics best described as dictatorship. There was a culture of fear associated with Premadasa’s presence. And many say that Premadasa could have still been ruthlessly efficient without being so dictatorial because he was a president who led the way with example; practising what he preached.
Citizens have a few months to see how this caretaker government, which has replaced the Yahapalana regime, would perform before they vote at the Parliamentary Elections
But his demise was met with celebrations in several parts of Sri Lanka. When one reminisces the Premadasa era, citizens enjoyed the benefits of a thriving economy. But many were uncomfortable with their leader who was keeping a close watch over them, using a security network. There was little democracy to talk about during the Premadasa era. People learned the hard way that a dictatorial leader would not suit Sri Lanka. This thinking was substantiated by the fact that Sri Lanka is a predominant Buddhist country and its citizens value compassion towards other human beings quite highly.
Sri Lanka is in line to experience a repeat role of Premadasa through Gotabaya. But what could be different between the incumbent president and the late Premadasa is that the latter detested educated lawmakers. Gotabaya doesn’t seem to have this phobia or weakness. Gotabaya reached the citizens through his Viyath Maga Programme and nourished himself by associating with academics and professionals. Today we see four individuals who associated themselves with that programme, Susantha Ratnayake, Lalith Weerathunga, Dr. Nalaka Godahewa and Dian Gomes forming a Select Board which will recruit professionals to serve state institutions which need to raise their performances.
Any nation wishing to scale great heights must get government servants to work hard instead of depending on contributions to the economy through the private sector and taxes.
The caretaker Government led by Gotabaya has promised many changes and even harbours thoughts of reviewing the agreements inked with foreign nations
It’s good that the country’s citizens have a few months to see how this caretaker government would perform before they get a chance to cast their votes at the Parliamentary Elections, expected to be held early next year. It is reported that Gotabaya has demanded that the present set of ministers work hard and achieve targets set for them, during this interim period.
The caretaker Government led by Gotabaya has promised many changes and even harbours thoughts of reviewing the agreements inked with foreign nations which may contain clauses which are detrimental to the island’s national security, sovereignty, well-being of the people among other negativities. This the Sri Lankan president has said in an interview with Bharat Shakti.in and SNI. All this will be welcomed by the islands citizens. But amid the good work already done and promised there is also concerns about citizens’ rights in the island with as many as 704 CID officers being barred from leaving the country. Prior to the issuing of a travel ban on these officers the fleeing of IP Nishantha Silva, of the CID, to Switzerland raised much concern about what’s in store for government servants who come under the scrutiny of the this caretaker regime. Meanwhile US Embassy officials who met Gotabaya, while wishing him, had requested that his regime should charter a course that’ll ensure a solid partnership between the two nations based on good governance which also protects the rights of all citizens.
The writer can be reached at [email protected]