he President and the Prime Minister in Parliament said numerous steps have been taken to save millions in the Presidential Secretariat. This no doubt is a loud message to the entire public sector. He said owing to the steps taken, the total expenditure had come down considerably resulting in reduced operational expenditure. Shouldn’t we encourage the other Ministries and Departments too to follow this example.
I have always taken up the position that the President and the Prime Minister having agreed to take the country forward -- amalgamated the two main parties to form a coalition. This no doubt was a near impossible task. Now that the impossible had been accomplished – a team of honest, truly patriotic people should be chosen to plan out strategies to unite all forces for the benefit of the country and consolidate and strengthen their hands to take the country forward to achieve sustainable economic development and growth. MS-RW therefore jointly have an enormous task ahead to use their capabilities and charisma to induce the party-men in both sides to sacrifice their own interest for the greater good of the country and the people.
A group of nearly 50 MPs are now working together calling themselves the “Common Opposition”. A leading member in the Common Opposition and former education minister Bandula Gunawardena informed the House that he had permitted those who failed to get through Mathematics at GCE (O/L) to pursue higher education. Is this a better alternative? Over forty years ago our teachers conducted special classes free of charge to help weak students to get through Mathematics, English and other important subjects after school. The rate of drop outs then was minimal. Why didn’t the former minister insist that the teachers-in-charge should hold extra classes after school?
Nevertheless, nobody takes the trouble to find out the specific reasons for the increase of drop outs. If the students had failed – shouldn’t they be guided? The teachers must be compelled to do their job right. In other words, we must not only be concerned about who and what destroyed them, but also about the system, the philosophy which produced the unsuccessful students.
In our country, both politicians and bureaucrats, have failed to address the root causes of these problems. The country is now facing a different state of affairs. We should not overlook the sights of poverty, corruption, lack of lawlessness, hunger, illness, lack of housing and healthcare facilities, etc.
A majority of parliamentarians and public servants whether they be teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, police officers, from top to bottom, do not perform their duties as desired. They nonetheless resort to illegal, mean and immoral ways and amass wealth heartlessly from the masses through tuition and private practice. Some are known to even accept bribes running into millions and billions – customs, police, judicial officers -- while neglecting their legitimate responsibilities. They have simply forgotten the fact that the free education they received, the salaries, allowances, perks and benefits they enjoyed have all been provided to them through taxes from every consumable item such as sugar, flour and many more.
"A majority of parliamentarians and public servants whether they be teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers, police officers, from top to bottom, do not perform their duties as desired."
Parliamentarians and public servants often do not take the trouble to understand the joys and sorrows of the masses, whether urban or rural. They seem to be only demanding their share without attending to their legitimate duties and without being prompt and impartial in dispensing justice as public servants. The GMOA and 18 other unions resorted to trade union action last week over the scrapping of the vehicle permits. The President and Prime Minister in their speeches highlighted the need to inculcate the healthy practice of socio-moral virtues of honesty, truthfulness, compassion, benevolence and considerate behaviour towards all.
The services public officials deliver at present are far below expectations. The teachers give private tuition. Doctors do private practice. Most public servants and politicians make money illegally while a several trade unions have warned of trade union action causing inconvenience to the people for the sake of winning their rights. Should they do that?
It is unfortunate that our beloved motherland and her children had to suffer for want of good leaders. Let me add the necessary qualities recommended by Emperor Asoka for rulers and public officials: Kindness, love of goodness, self-control, loyalty, gratitude, enthusiasm, purity of heart, truthfulness and self-examination.
"The principled successful leader is the one who betrays his party members for the larger interest of the nation. When one has to decide between the rank-and-file and the greater good, the party should never come first."
In a country where corruption, nepotism, fraud, inefficiency and self-centred politicians and public servants are in plenty – shouldn’t the Treasury bosses have been extra cautious. It is incredibly unwise on the part of the treasury to come up with more than a few unworkable proposals (and withdraw them) including the withdrawal of the vehicle permit. If MPs are going to be given permits again, it is unfair on the part of the public servants to be deprived of those perks and benefits. It is also not the practice in the public sector to withdraw the perks and benefits enjoyed by them that way. Were they that foolish not to think that there would be collective trade union action? Why did they act unwisely as if they lacked experience? The treasury is perhaps not aware of what Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
I am aware when MPs allowances are taken up for approval there has been consensus very often. It is time for civil society groups to come forward once again to urge both politicians and those public servants to be fair minded. The Prime Minister stated on the floor of the House that he needes the co-operation of everyone since the government was going through a hard time. The Minister of Finance had said the country was bankrupt. The time has come therefore for both politicos and public servants to be wholly conscious of the joys and sorrows of the people.
"It is unfortunate that our beloved motherland and her children had to suffer for want of good leaders."
I have no doubt living being including animals loves luxuries. However, when the masses are going through immense hardships, both politicians and public sector employees must sacrifice collectively to uplift the country for the benefit of all citizens.They should not be greedy at the expense of the poor people. If not, anger and revolt could be the next outcome again.
The Government and the Opposition including the common opposition must learn a lesson from what Doug Saunders wrote: “The principled successful leader is the one who betrays his party members for the larger interest of the nation. When one has to decide between the rank-and-file and the greater good, the party should never come first.”
We ourselves are responsible for our own happiness and misery in our country. Being a Buddhist I believe we reap what we sow. What we reap today is what we have sown in the past. It may be useful if I quote Steve Jobs’ last words: “I reached the pinnacle of success in the business world. In others’ eyes, my life is an epitome of success. However, aside from work, I have little joy. In the end, wealth is only a fact of life……At this moment, lying on the sick bed and recalling my whole life, I realize that all the recognition and wealth that I took so much pride in, have paled and become meaningless in the face of impending death….The wealth I have won in my life I cannot take with me. What I can take is only the memories precipitated by love. That is the true riches which will follow you, accompany you, giving you strength and light to go on. ….Material things lost can be found. You cannot have someone to bear the sickness for you. But there is one thing that can never be found when it is lost – Life.”
Indiscipline, corruption, fraud, poor governmental policies in the public sector contributed to lack of justice, poor economic growth, unemployment, two insurgencies and a devastating war. It has been stated that bad leadership is believed to be responsible for wasted opportunities. Both MS-RW collaboration is acceptable to a majority in all communities. In a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country like Sri Lanka, it is not an easy task to shoulder the responsibility of leadership. There are millions in our country who have no voice and yet are suffering endlessly owing to political and administrative bungling. We now need a Voice on behalf of those who have no voice. Let us get together to put the country right.