By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –
Part 12: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Additional Government’s Cost-Saving Measures
Authoritarian policies or ruling are against the constitution of the democratic republic of Sri Lanka. Despite these abuses, violations of the constitution and tainting it with the 13th and 20th amendments, injustices, financial embezzlements, and systematically misguiding the public have exponentially increased over the past 15 years. The public lost the tolerance, and in April 2022, they rose spontaneously to raise their voices loudly, requesting to reverse this. Despite these, illegal actions by the executive are continuing.
To remind, a few examples of recent unlawful activities by the executive presidency include (A) Dual citizens becoming presidents and members of parliament, (B) a declaration of illegitimate emergency on the 10th of May, 2022, signed by a person who lost authority (due to the resignation of the PM), (C) bringing in a foreign citizen with no experience in finance as the finance minister (nepotism and foraging) and appointing incompetent persons to ministerial positions, (D) inappropriate pardoning of murderous and criminals and appointing them to higher government positions, (E) insane appointments of those who lost elections to the parliament, (F) allowing MPs to enter the parliament via backdoor, such as a person who lost the election and credibility and then appointed as the prime minister without consulting MPs. Such misconducts only happen in Sri Lanka and communist dictatorships.
Budget reductions and elimination of the totalitarianism
With the crucial requirement for saving funds by the government and the desperate need for a smaller government, it is no brainer that at least 45% of funding for the military must reduce immediately. Currently, one in four public servants comprises the armed forces, an unnecessary burden for the taxpayers and this small island. Despite the over-bloated police and military and the associated public expenses, the country has no law and order or public protection.
Disregarding the proper constitutional path and what is requested by the overwhelming public, the president continues to play games without resigning. The country will decide for how long. As per the constitution, the proper action for the president was to resign, appoint an interim president and a smaller cabinet of fewer than twelve members, and dissolve the (redundant) parliament till the next election, as discussed in the previous post.
The interim cabinet should immediately start cost-cutting measures. The quickest is to 30% reduction of the allocated budget from all government ministries and departments and retract it to the treasury. Implementing these measures and reducing the military budget (Cadre) would convert the current budget deficit into positive territory. This positive step will signal the IMF and creditors to view the interim government in Sri Lanka favourably to assist.
Riots on the 9th of May 2022—apparently organised by PM’s office and implemented by local politicians
The primary duty of government servants is to “serve the public” and not harass, threaten, harm them, or make money for the entities or politicians. At the same time, the prime duty of the police is public safety and maintaining law and order—not protecting politicians, robbers, and bureaucrats. Therefore, it is disappointing to see their mediocre attitudes, wrong mindsets, and consequent abuse of power and harming people.
There are many good police and army employees. However, the behaviour of police that was involved on the 9th of May 2022 riots and supported the gangsters [even used prisoners, which was highly unethical and in violation of the Geneva convention] to carry out extensive destruction and harm innocent protesters was despicable and disgraced the entire police department. The current police and defence leadership failed to stop riots, are ineffective, and let down their staff and the country: they should have resigned by now.
May 9th rioters, organisers, and facilitators must be prosecuted
All those police, military, and prison officers, ex-PM and his close associates, senior prime minister’s office staff, and local politicians who brought those thugs and engaged them in said criminal activity on the 9th of May must bring to justice by the attorney general, SLBA, and other law professionals.
They should seek maximum punishments under the criminal law, including removing them from their official positions without pensions. That would be a good lesson for the police and the military in the future, not to break the law just because they are in uniform (i.e., abuse of power), personal agendas, and when unscrupulous politicians give such unlawful orders.
Reduction of the military troops is essential to rectify the budget deficit
Considering the big picture and analysis, a fifty percent reduction in the strength of the military, especially the army, is indicated within the year. The public must be aware that, except during the LTTE war, on each occasion when the Sri Lankan government ‘used’ the army (used as a private army to protect themselves) intended to harm people. So, where is the rationale for the public and businesses to maintain the extraordinary salaries paid to the army?
Sri Lanka does not need the same strong (i.e., numbers of persons) military that it had in 2009 when it successfully defeated the LTTE terrorists under the command of F/M Sarath Fonseka and other commanders. The military had successes and failures, but collectively, with strategy and tremendous bravery from all divisions and ranks of the military, three decades of terrorism were successfully defeated in 2009. However, the country is not at war today. Therefore, in 2022, it is time to shrink the number of personnel in the army by 50%. Each armed force section or the military branch should handle the budget cuts and related personnel reduction, starting immediately.
The over-blown SLGo has three-fold excess employees than what it needs
Sri Lankan government SERVANTS, including politicians (President, PM, and members of the parliament, local governments—municipalities), and ALL government employees, especially the over-rated and arrogant administrators, police, and the military, conveniently forget that they are “servants” to the public. Consequently, they falsely assume that they are the masters of the public.
The Sri Lankan government and institutions are overstaffed, and appointees are lethargic and unaccountable. Currently, the number of people employed in the public sector is approximately 300% more than (over-loaded) it needs to function effectively. In any institution, the responsibility, accountability, and efficiency go down with too many employees—no wonder why administration at every level in Sri Lanka is so inefficient.
Pretexts and hollow authority used by government servants
Besides, most government servants’ pitiful attitudes (e.g., arrogance), falsely pretending to be Kings and Queens with egoistic swollen heads, verbal abusing the public (i.e., their masters), and how they communicate with the ordinary public are absurd and laughable. Most of us have experienced such. Abusers include government officers at municipalities, kachcharis, post offices, lawyers, hospital staff, and doctors. It is hard to imagine from where they learn such bad behaviour and the pretence with deceptive (artificially acquired) non-existing authority. Ironically, they blame politicians, the same crookery.
The author suggests that all the groups mentioned above look at the mirror each morning before leaving home and remind themselves who they are. That might reduce their ego, desire to control, and fake deceptive behaviour at work. The community should not encourage or tolerate such behaviour of public servants.
All perks for government servants (including politicians) should be revoked
Government SERVANTS, including politicians (i.e., president, prime minister, members of the parliament, local government-municipalities), and all government employees, especially administrators, police, and the military, are supposed to serve PEOPLE. Taxpayers pay their salaries and perks.
However, they conveniently forget it once they get elected or appointed. At every opportunity and encounter with this ‘privileged’ group of over 1.6 million in Sri Lanka, the public must remind them that it is unacceptable. The nation pays the salaries of all public employees, and they are the masters of all public servants. None of the government servants should be given rewards/perks that are not available to the public. For example, car permits, free meals and accommodation, free electricity and water, priority treatment, etc.: all these must be stopped immediately.
*The next article will discuss the role of government servants: they are not gods.