By Chandra Jayaratne –
Dear Mr. President,
“You must be the change you want to see in the world”
The Sri Lankan Lion roared at the 69th Session of the UN General Assembly reminding the global community that “…, in order to gain the confidence and goodwill of the international community as a whole, but one of the essential requirements was consistency of standards across the board without any perceptions of selectivity or discrimination. It is in this context that the current functioning of the system needs fresh examination in order to enhance its credibility. To be successful, this process must involve de-politicisation of the UN System and mechanisms and they must stop being hostage to different forms of funding…”
At the same time a lion cub on behalf of the Sri Lankan Lion roared in Geneva, stating “…The government of Sri Lanka does not wish to help legitamise a flawed process and have a detrimental precedent established….What Sri Lanka needs at this juncture is to be encouraged and not impeded….the principled opposition to the OHCHR investigation stems from several well founded concerns; its politically motivated agenda; it challenges the sovereignty and the independence…;it violates a fundamental principle of international law;…… by appointment of high level international figures, who are by no means ’technical experts relevant to the investigation’ …lack of transparency of the investigation is in clear contravention of the principles of natural justice…arbitrary and selective action……deviation from established mandates and processes….addressing accountability issues has to be based on available evidence properly sourced and verified…updates replete with accusations and unsubstantiated statistics…”
Are these very same criticisms not be equally applicable to Sri Lanka and all its people, as well as its businesses and civil society, especially in relation to the internal governance and Executive action within Sri Lanka? If so, will not the prescription of a fresh examination of the current functioning of the system and a de-politicisation of the system and mechanisms of governance not be an essential priority change in Sri Lanka as well?
Who can disregard the priority need for de-politisation of the system; assurance that independent persons of integrity, capability and proven track record are at the helm of Public Life, (including in the Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary); Public Institutions and Regulatory bodies act with independence and with commitment to principles of natural justice; the application of the Rule of law and Justice Systems are transparent, unbiased, fair and just; selections to high posts are persons with requisite technical and professional expertise sans nepotism and cronyism; equality is a right of all citizens and they are not discriminated by race, religion, status, political leaning nor by their voice of advocacy : national resource allocations are fair and equitable and based on priority needs of all citizens; state spends are economic, efficient and effective for purpose and not tainted by waste and corruption; policy and regulatory systems follow best practices and are not impacted by state capture nor corruption; deviations from established mandates and processes are transparent and uphold principles of natural justice; accountability is demanded from all based on evidence; statistics are accurate and transparent; transparent Environmental, Ecological and Social Impact assessments precede all new initiatives; legal and regulatory reforms are prioritized and are in accord with principles of natural justice; Media Freedoms are not directly or indirectly controlled and Voices of Advocacy are not treated as voices of ‘traitors’; Democratic and Human Rights are protected and International Commitments are upheld:
By way of a “Reflection” it is time to trace back and validate whether the recent history of governance and administration, especially over the last two years have upheld in Sri Lanka the very same principles referred to above. An independent view seen through a transparent eye of integrity will bring out the many deviations and discriminatory practices in governance.
Mr. President, if you were to focus on a series of discriminatory acts of governance targeting a single community, based on unfair perceptions and unjust accusations, wit associated attempts to control and restrict the freedom of association, activities and expressions of a community, please review the recent actions of the government targeting the NGO Community. Do these actions and proposed legislative reforms, believed to be championed by the Defense establishment, pass the very same principles you and the government articulated before the UN General Assembly and the UNHRC?
Mr. President, in order to gain the confidence and goodwill of the Sri Lankan community as a whole, accepting that the Sri Lankan Civil Society needs at this juncture to be encouraged and not impeded, please evaluate, in terms of the great philosophy and the words of wisdom of Gauthama the Buddha, which you articulated before the UN General Assembly, whether the NGO community as a whole, (including Good Governance and Anti Corruption Activists, Human Rights Defenders, Environmentalists as well as Social Welfare Entities), have been treated fairly, upholding principles of natural justice and with consistency of standards across the board and without political motives and perceptions of selectivity or discrimination?
Please also reflect, whether the present and planned actions, circulars and legal and regulatory reforms dealing with NGO’s, pass the tests of just and fairness and are in compliance with international best practices, standards and conventions, and specifically whether before enacting laws to require NGO’s:
- to give further information that the Government must first enact a law that makes Right to Information a binding Governance Commitment on all
- · to have their
- publicity, advocacy, training and publications, and
- fund raising and grant receipts, and
- action plans
to be prior approved by a Government Secretariat, to evaluate whether these requirements are based on ill conceived advise, misconceptions and are discriminatory and not in line with independence, natural justice principles , democratic freedoms and human rights as committed to by the constitution and binding international conventions
- · to demonstrate their independence , integrity of purpose and credibility of operations that Effective, Independent and Credible Public Institutions ( Judicial Services, Public Services, Elections, Human Rights, Police Services, Bribery & Corruption, Ombudsman, Attorney General and Auditor General) are in place
- · to disclose their strategic plans, budgets, resource allocations and post spend Management Information that the budgeting and budgetary control process of the government are compliant with the best practice benchmark processes advocated by Civil Society Leaders, Businesses and Experts
- · to demonstrate the cost effectiveness and value addition of outcomes of NGO spends the State to agrees that all public spends in excess of agreed amounts will be subject to value for money and economy/effectiveness and efficiency post audits, with reports tabled in Parliament before COPA/COPE
- · to disclose assets and remuneration and perks of key NGO officials, that all Legislators, Executive and Administrative and State and Corporation Officials above a certain agreed grade, to annually declare assets and all remunerations, benefits and perks as well as official expenses and other payments to such officials with disclosures regards their related party transactions and declarations of conflicts of interests to be publicly disclosed
- · to ensure transparency and accuracy of all reports, data information, accounts and public statements/presentations that all State bodies and regulatory bodies also commit to similar independence, integrity and transparency, especially in relation to Socio-economic and environmental impacts and cost benefits
- · to be subjected to investigative review and examination of books of account and data of NGO’s to have an independent ombudsman / facilitator who has accountability to advance the interests of the NGO’s by effectively progressing any issues challenging the NGO’s or putting in place safeguards on behalf NGO’s with any Ministry, Department or State/Para state Institutions and willing also to place any grievances of NGO’s and Untangle any knotty issues and ease challenges faced by NGO’s and progress complaints or claims before independent public institutions and state parties
- · to have a legislatively imposed binding codes of ethics, conduct, standards in public life and governance for all Legislators, Executive and Administrative and State and Corporation Officials above a certain agreed grade to be bound by similar frameworks, including binding standards in Public Life eg. Nolan Committee Standards in British Public Life
In the interim the NGO’s as a Grand Collective, should offer to adopt on a voluntary basis;
- A Code of Conduct for Persons in Public Life
- Ten Golden Rules for Civil Society Organisations
- Audited Accounts and Annual Reports to be compliant with the Accounting Standards for Not for Profit Organisations
- Where appropriate and cost effective Global Reporting Initiative Standards on Economic and Social Impact and Sustainability Reporting Standards
Mr. President, please tread the path that Mahatma Gandhi traveled and recollect his famous words of wisdom with time tested universal adaptability, quoted below;
“You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.”
If you change yourself you will change your world. If you change how you think then you will change how you feel and what actions you take. And so the world around you will change. Not only because you are now viewing your environment through new lenses of thoughts and emotions but also because the change within can allow you to take action in ways you wouldn’t have – or maybe even have thought about – while stuck in your old thought patterns.
And the problem with changing your outer world without changing yourself is that you will still be you when you reach that change you have strived for. You will still have your flaws, anger, negativity, self-sabotaging tendencies etc. intact.
And so in this new situation you will still not find what you hoped for since your mind is still seeping with that negative stuff. And if you get more without having some insight into and distance from your ego it may grow more powerful. Since your ego loves to divide things, to find enemies and to create separation it may start to try to create even more problems and conflicts in your life and world.”