Moral elegance does not necessarily follow professional brilliance

By Afreeha Jawah

A frequently heard view expressed of late is about the inefficiency of the police force. Yet, it is no one’s concern to delve deep into the reasons that led to the losing of face that once could be looked at directly in the eyes of the public.

 None can deny the progressively falling standards over the recent decades particularly after Sri Lanka was saddled with the ‘72 constitution when the effective and efficient executive arm of government was paralyzed. As a result, the public service, judiciary and police with its once star studded integrity lost its brilliance and lustre only to meander into the dark grim abyss of default.

 If the elegance of equal opportunity is to be practiced, merit need be the sole criterion for every appointment of the government’s executive enclave.
Law enforcement is in public interest. Any attempt into strangling it, shows the great disregard for the people, who have been promised ‘ yeoman service.’  If for the sole purposes of power consolidation and pecuniary gain the people’s sovereignty is undermined, that state cannot be boastful of people’s sovereignty and the regality of democracy.

 Preventing the police from fulfiling their professional obligations demoralizes its membership. Having given of their best in some raid or the other, only to find their spirits fizzling out due to political interference is no harbinger to boost police morale. Particularly the young blood therein remains crestfallen when the lid is forced on their raid and arrest adventures. Following an arrest or a raid they are at cross roads not knowing which path to tread. The pressures brought on them contravene all the training and advice of their superiors. Instances of some law-breaking legislators preventing law enforcement for personal gain is nothing new and successive governments should shoulder this misgiving - quite contrary to the patriotism, democracy and people’s sovereignty they often proclaim.     Not surprising then some police personnel yielding to the system - seemingly a preference of the clichéd saying, if you can’t beat them, join them’.

 The fate that befell the police force having lost its independence, integrity and glamour that was in the pre ‘72 era is no doubt tragic. Even the once honourable public service ended up a scavenger service. The unimpeachable integrity and forthrightness of the Civil servants groomed amid an independent public service under the Soulbury Constitution became buried in history following the ‘72 republican constitution.  Referred to as the prestigious Ceylon Civil Service for its highly principled membership that did not waver from moral elegance, it was a far cry if not a distant wail from the ‘Yes sir,’ administrative service of today ever willing to curry favour with politicians to meet their own agendas. Burdened with a dented spine, they unhesitatingly stoop to the lowest level in their servility towards politicians - some of them even appearing in ‘hurrah talk shows on television eyeing the next promotion.

" Sri Lanka’s legislature did these true patriots proud in accommodating them in their once hallowed precincts "

 Contrastingly, the eminent civil servants of yesteryear even stood up against unjust ministerial orders and came out in all their moral brilliance - national interest being top priority.

Apart from the harm brought upon the once independent public service, the republican constitution’s damage to the independent judicial services commission goes without saying. Yet there have been instances of non-conformity.  A moral stalwart - one time Chief Justice Neville Samarakoon when summoned by President J.R Jayewardene to Braemar shot back,’’ welł, it is you who should come to me.’’ Mr. Samarakoon, despite being Presidential choice for the judiciary’s most luminous post drove home the judiciary’s importance over the executive.

As for outstanding politicians adorning the crown of integrity was the late Gamini Jayasuriya who flung his ministerial trappings on his opponents’ face displaying unwillingness to embrace untruth. Seeing him soon after, all very relaxed at the Observer editorial one day , this writer remembers the stentorian laugh that followed when  commenting on his facial glow because his involvement with untruth had ceased to be.   Witnessing honesty and simplicity as a little girl, this writer recollects her father offering Dr. W Dahanayake a lift when he was spotted walking briskly under the scorching noon day sun along Galle Road. Here was the country’s Prime Minister quite unconcerned, walking all the way for lunch to a relation’s home in Bambalapitiya.

 Sri Lanka’s legislature did these true patriots proud in accommodating them in their once hallowed precincts. The dishonesty, self-centredness and grievous personality disorders of those that framed the moral incongruity-filled ‘ 72 and ‘78 constitutions moved this country away from equality, human dignity and justice  - all essential components of social development. These two documents prove that moral elegance does not necessarily follow legal or for that matter professional brilliance. Only in exceptionally rare instances the two have combined, bringing out the best in that person for the greater good of humanity - Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi to name a few. It is left to be seen whether Sri Lanka has the potential to produce their kind of statesmanship that would add colour to world history.

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