22 July, 2024


Changing Pillows To Cure Headaches: Government Servants Are Not Gods

By Sunil J. Wimalawansa –

Prof Sunil J. Wimalawansa

Part 13: Sri Lanka—Changing Pillows to Cure Headaches: Government Servants Are Not Gods

“The starting point of all meritorious achievement is desire (but not greed). Keep this constantly in mind. Weak desires bring weak results, just as a small fire makes a small amount of heat” [Napoleon Hill].

Politicians’ vs bureaucrats

Many blame politicians for corruption, authoritarianism, nepotism, etc. However, government servants across the country are equally responsible for the current misfortune. In addition to their lethargy at work, maladministration, and malfeasant, politicians alone cannot embezzle funds and abuse the system without the cooperation of administrators. With the abolition of the CAS (colonial administrative ladder) a few years ago, most administrators who came upon the ladder had no formal training, which led to a gullible generation of politicians. They are easy to manipulate.

The essence of leadership is that he or she has a vision and common sense—however, this lost culture with the president, prime minister, and the cabinet. Medling with a failed system does not make it correct. “We do not ask consumers what they want. They don’t know; usually, they are confused. Instead, we apply Our brain-power to what they need and will want and make sure we’re there, ready [Akio Morita].

Government servants are not ‘gods’

The arrogancy, exploitation, and wrong expectations continue with government servants at every level, from a peon in an office to the president. The Public should stop worshipping government servants, including politicians, administrators (offices of govt departments, municipalities, post offices, etc.), police, or the military. Such is now in the past.

Why would ordinary citizens have to plea each time (and give bribes/santhoshums) they encounter them to get anything done; they should do things promptly and automatically. Government servants are not ‘gods,’ they are ordinary people: so, consider addressing them by the title or the name if you know. They are not your teachers either.

There is no reason to call politicians or administrators, His Excellency, Honorable, Sir/Madam (Garu…; reserved for religious mentors only), etc.; using such salutations is laughable and ridiculous. Stop fooling yourself from now. This is another shameful practice of Sri Lankans, colonial enslavement mentality continuing blindly, which must stop immediately.

Why use pseudo names or titles when they have their proper given names and titles. Those who are gullible ridiculously worship and address politicians as HE, Honourable, Sir, Madam, etc.: these are pathetic, out of date, and out of their minds. The author has always addressed them using their name with Mr or Ms, You, or using their “title” if the name is unknown.

Government servants/administrators who pretend to be superior and intimidate the public are not different from the falsehood-believing, mythical/sprits, ritualistic politicians, and some administrators venerating self-acclaimed falsehoods Gagnaa-Akka, or non-existing daemons. The younger generation must stop following this absurd, mythical behaviour.

Stop addressing politicians as H/E, Honorable, and Sir/Madam from NOW-instead, use the formal title or the name

It is mind-boggling why and how the slave mentality continues. For example, academics and professionals, including individual lawyers and physicians, and even their professional societies, such as doctors, directors, and the Sri Lanka Bar Association, continue to address politicians (Govt. Servants) using fake titles, such as His (or Her) Excellency, Honorable, Sir, etc.! Are they Divinities (Gods), or Educators (teachers) to call them Sir or Madam? If so, who created them?

The best and most respected way to address them is by their last name or the title (Mrs. Johns or Mr. President). The younger generations, protesters and the Public must END these foolish practices and get liberated from the slavery mentality. It must be a part of the system change.

Strop faulty salutation

Why are they fooling themselves and being consumed and intimidated by their excessive ego? Consider, call them respectfully with their last name, Mr. Rajapakse or Mrs. Bandaranayake, Dr. Jones, or their current or former official title. People need to STOP addressing politicians and administrators with bogus labels, like HE or honourable. The latter is used where there is an ‘honour’ or nobleness: do they?. If one contributes to this pathetic behaviour, he/she is shaming themself in public and disgracing others around them. So, do not be a part of this nonsense: another part of the System Change.

Those who opt to continue using the above-mentioned “phoney” titles mostly do so for personal gain: they expect some materialistic thing or favour (e.g., a job). The person greeting politicians or administrators in such a manner should feel embarrassed. When such occur, others around should point it out to them promptly so that he/she can correct it.

The Public is the master of all government servants; they pay the salaries of all public employees

The government employees are supposed to serve the needs of the public and the country, for which they are paid well and have a virtually guaranteed job for life. Despite these, many abuse their privileges, such as timesheets, false absentees, and sick leave, etc., and expect bribes to get things done. The lack of oversight and penalties encourage their lousy behaviour and poor performances. Under the current system, they have no incentive to be good, polite, efficient, compassionate to the public, or do better. The system has converted to make additional money.

The public servants have a guaranteed salary whether they work or not; this flawed system needs to be changed. They should not be provided with any perks or privileges that are not available to the public. These include but are not limited to lucrative car permits (including for doctors), escorts, regularly coming to work late or leaving early, extra security, priority in queues/lines at the airport, supermarket, doctor’s office (clinics), or bank.

Government serves the needs of the people—people do not serve the government

Service is not about YOU. It is about delivering what OTHERS need and want. This is part of the duties of government servants. Think and engage in work that matters to your clients, the public. Make sure to leave things and conditions better than when you assume the position. Have you?

Sri Lankan Government SERVANTS, including politicians (President, PM, and members of the parliament, local government, i.e., municipalities), and ALL government employees, especially administrators, police, and the military, have conveniently forgotten that they are “servants” to the public. Once one gets into a uniform, they assume they are ‘gods’ and “above the law”; this attitude must change through education and the legal system. No matter what, The Public is their master, and they pay the salaries.

Stop inviting them for opening ceremonies

The government employees are “serving” the Public and the country for which they are paid, and no additional perks or escorts/security should be provided to them.   They should NEVER formally invite them to opening ceremonies of public entities, roads, buildings, etc. or as chief guests. If they like to witness such a ceremony, they can attend on their own, unofficially.

Stopping peaks and reducing government costs

Since all government employees are paid by taxpayers (but not exclusively) and “serve” the public, they have no reason to have additional perks, official vehicles, escorts, and security that the public does not enjoy. Besides, there is no reason to invite them to open ceremonies of public entities, opening roads, toilets, buildings, or as chief guests. If they are keen to witness such a ceremony, they should attend on their costs on bicycles, not using official transportation.

Despite these facts, the nation, especially professionals, continue to enslave or colonial mentality using, His or Her Excellence/ Highness, Honorable, Sir or Madam, etc., for ANY public servant? It is shocking to see this happening even in today’s documents circulated by medical societies and the BASL. These salutations are over-blown, inappropriate, and things in the past. These “servants” are paid workers and should be addressed respectfully with their names or titles, just like one address a carpenter, plumber, farmer, or teacher. No need to use fancy acronyms to address them.

This arrogant attitude of the public servants at each level of the central and peripheral governments, exploitation, the expectation of bribes (e.g., as in most municipalities, from the garbage collectors to the Mayers), and false expectation of dazzling respect should be repealed.


Once the public understands the above facts, the venerating politicians, administrators, police, and military become a history. The younger generation and the entire country must come out of this “striver mentality” and ensure to END these insane practices. Respect for the public by the government servants also must be a part of the “system change” that Gall-Face protesters are rightly seeking.

 *The next article will discuss the critical need for replacement (change) of the system.

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  • 0

    I totally agree with the author’s criticism of the government servants that //In addition to their lethargy at work, maladministration, and malfeasant, politicians alone cannot embezzle funds and abuse the system without the cooperation of administrators//.

    The present economic crisis is not solely due to bungling by politicians. The government bureaucrats too should bear part of the blame. I will cite a simple example to understand the idiosyncrasy of government bureaucrats.

    In July 2018, the Pension Department stopped paying foreign pensioners in foreign currency. The Department asked pensioners to open rupee savings accounts in one of the 4 local banks approved by the Pension department.

    The bank account should be an individual account and not a joint account. The monthly pension credited to the pensioners’ Bank Account cannot be withdrawn or transferred to a third party within Ceylon. Foreign Pensioners thought the move is to save dwindling foreign exchange, but they were proved wrong.

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