By CV Wigneswarwn –
Guru Thothiram, in silent mode
Chairman, fellow members of the Northern Provincial Council, persons of learning and of standing seated on the dais, my dear brothers and sisters,
Some of us gathered here, were earlier candidates. Today we are meeting as members of the Council. A majority of the candidates changed into members. Yet a few are left out. But it does not imply that in the service of the people they are not wanted. On this occasion I only want to say that their services are needed.
Those of us who are selected are today entering an important phase.
All of us who have taken the oath today, will perform our duties and do our work with commitment. We cannot forget our pledge to the people that we will faithfully execute them. Now we have to redeem that pledge and confirm our obligations. Our duties and our services should have the people at the core of our thinking. For more than 25 years the people were suffering, unable to express what they desired and what they rejected. At the recent elections they have made their likes and dislikes very clear for the village and town, country and the world to become aware of. On account of that, we have taken our oath today. Our obligations are towards the people. They cannot lean towards anybody else. Recently Narendra Modi made an important statement “Good governance alone is not sufficient. That governance should be people oriented. All measures have to advance their cause.“
Good governance should be people centered when development activities are promoted.
This statement by a leader who had won the hearts of Gujarat many years ago is appropriate to us too. On this occasion I wish to declare that we have to discharge our duties with a full knowledge of the people’s needs and their wishes. We have to do them with partiality to none.
All this while, politicians performed their work with selfishness at the core of their lives. I want to recount an anecdote which will reflect their frame of mind. There was a Sinhalese friend of mine. Both of us studied together at the Law College. At the parliamentary elections of 1977,he was elected. He was appointed a Deputy Minister by JR Jayewardena. Soon after, I got in touch with him over the phone, conveyed my felicitations and inquired, dear friend, what do you intend doing? Oh! why, how much money have I spent to win at the elections. Should I not recover all that money? He said his objective was to amass wealth. It’s a different story, that later he was killed by the JVP. Therefore the philosophy of entering politics to make money and for a display of power and pelf has to change.
We are living in post war times. We have to consider a situation where people have lost everything. Our people with their minds battered and shattered and who had lost their sense of dignity, have only now learnt to sit up. We have to do everything within our means and do all things possible, to lend a helping hand and lead them into the democratic process where they can walk with their heads aloft having a sense of a renascence.
Never should we thrust our own selfish ends upon them and submerge them again in turbulence. We should not forget that now we have crossed times of violence. With armed might we lived with the thought that the people are our hand maidens. Each one of us has now to bear in mind that these days are past. Therefore in the new environment, we have to redefine our position and follow fresh criteria. At this juncture, I consider it appropriate to put forward Seven Principles that are emphasized in public life.
First – Selflessness
Absence of selfishness. This implies that those who enter pubic life should at all times take decisions in favour of people’s welfare only. Never should they make any determination for their personal benefit or for their family members or for the sake of friends in respect of issues that confer monetary or other rewards.
Second – Integrity
If those who seek public life are indebted in financial terms to outsiders or external financial institutions, then they will not be able to discharge their duties with honesty and integrity.
Third – Objectivity
In public life, appointments and prizes can be awarded only on the basis of qualifications and merit. Our minds have to work with detachment and objectivity.
Fourth – Accountability
For action taken by us in the course of our public duty, we have to hold ourselves answerable. Therefore we should never engage in any irresponsible manner.
Fifth – Openness
To the maximum extent possible, we must learn to take our decisions with transparency. Unless public interest forbids, we should be able to give reasons for our decisions quite openly.
Sixth – Honesty
It is necessary for those getting engaged in public duty, to openly declare their assets. Along with that, we have to assign high priority to their advancement and take decisions accordingly.
Seventh – Leadership
Those who are involved in public duty have to embody the above principles in their personal lives and set an example to others.
You may ask me from where I took these seven principles. I will tell you. When John Major was Prime Minister of Britain, he appointed a Committee headed by Nolan to examine and to report to him about principles that those engaged in public life should adhere to. The Committee studied the issues and submitted its First Report in 1996. The above principles were the unanimous conclusions and recommendations of that Committee.
I too have begun to get engaged in public life only now. When I was in the Judiciary, occasions to err were few. Now it is not so. Whenever anyone approaches me with a broad smile, I am inclined to think, is he meeting me with an ulterior motive, or does he attempt to lead me astray? I am constrained to be vigilant at all times. Like you I too have to do my work with the same difficulty.
Up to this time our people and many others, entertained the false idea that governmental authority was on their side and acted with no thought of social responsibility. I have come to know that they have acted selfishly and taken decisions with little concern for people’s well-being. If we too repeat the same mistake, it is the people who will be affected. It is they who have voted for us and brought us to these seats of authority. We cannot function against their interests and contrary to their rights and expectations. There has to be consonance of views on this issue.
Our political formation is a coalition of parties. We have forged our party by a coming together of parties that grew up in diverse backgrounds. No party can forget that whatever our past, we have now set our foot on the democratic path. In democracy, thorough examination, discussion and consensual decisions are crucial. Employing use of authority is best avoided. I believe that if we had got accustomed to resort to authority or force of arms, renouncing them at least now will yield benefits. Our people have got tired of being treated with nonchalance. We have to enable them to lead a democratic way of life and to get about with their heads erect. Let us do everything within our power to do this from now onwards.
People have selected thirty of us. Two out of them were chosen by people’s representatives. All of them have the same obligations. No one can overlook this. It means it is our duty to labour with our thoughts on the people’s advancement. If I start thinking from now on, will I win the next election, will my party be victorious next time, then it is the common people who will loose out. Such an attitude would imply that what is important is not the people but my own future and that of my party.
Services to the people that await our attention are numerous. Let us take action to fulfill them.
Our positions are positions of trust. Our public servants too have to consider their office as a trust. Their obligation to direct the people will influence their conduct for the better. Many a responsibility like safeguarding the people is entrusted to our care. Instead of the idea that we are government servants, the concept to grow in our minds is that we are their guardians. That is the reality also. Successive governments have confined us to our offices, constrained us and imprisoned us.
We have lost our valour to the extent of thinking that it is our duty to be submissive to the government and to politicians.
We cannot ever forget that when we devote ourselves to serving our people, it is they who become our principal responsibility.
Lee Kwan Yew reputed to be the architect of modern Singapore has said “Those in governance, engaged in serving the people should transcend limitations of race, religion and gender and consider service to them as all important. They have to go beyond political considerations. They must learn to distinguish personal interests from public weal”.
Therefore, service to the people should be our sacred duty. We must weed out our selfish leanings and move forward to enter into selfless service. For the first, time our Northern Provincial Council has gained strength and has begun to sprout.
It is we who are going to run it. By we, I mean the Tamil speaking people. We have to set the pace and be a forerunner to others. Even now our election has made a mark in the world arena. Those from a neighbouring country have felicitated us.
Our performance should astound them. Our selfless actions should be an example to all. I am new to my tasks. Many of you are alike. Let us jointly get forward. Together let us achieve the foremost place. Let us all reach our targets.
*This is the English Version of the speech made in Tamil at Veerasingham Hall, Jaffna on October 11, 2013. Occasion – Northern Provincial Council Election 2013, Members of the Northern Provincial Council, Taking their Oaths.