27 November, 2020

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Development & Devolution Can Go Together

By Jehan Perera

Jehan Perera

The new government under President Gotabaya Rajapaksa can be seen to be doing many new things. These can contribute to the betterment of the country and the people. Most recently the president paid a surprise visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. This is a government agency where delays and corrupt practices can occur as indeed they do in other government institutions. During the course of his visit the president stressed on the need to provide prompt and accurate service to the public. He said “It is very important that institutions such as the Department of Motor Traffic, which serves a large number of people in the country, set an example to others. When delivering their service all the officials should firmly resolve themselves to prevent any fraud or corruption.”

This most recent foray into the way government is conducted follows other positive actions, such as issuing the directive not to put his photograph in government offices, which is a symbolic affirmation of the importance of institutions as against the individuals who temporarily manage and guide them. He has also made an effort to ensure that top management positions in state institutions are occupied by those who have the requisite skills and qualifications. By such actions which show his interest in the day to day problems of people, the president is demonstrating that he is committed to the development of the country and is determined to transform the government service into one that serves the needs of people.

Although the World Bank has categorized Sri Lanka as an upper middle income country, this is hardly a cause for satisfaction for the vast majority of people who do not enjoy such a lifestyle. The bandwidth of upper middle income countries is a per capita income of USD 4000 to 12000 per year and Sri Lanka is at the 4000 level. Satisfaction about the country’s economic performance is also mitigated by the high income inequalities that make most people observers as against being consumers of the fruits of development. The new shopping mall, One Galle Face, will be comparable to similar malls in South East Asian countries, except that most of those who currently throng it are sightseeing for the most part rather than shoppers.

New Hope 

In this context, much hope will be pinned on President Rajapaksa that he will be a leader who, with his military background and administrative experience, will give rational leadership in the South East Asian tradition to bring development and prosperity to the nation. It is important to note that most of these countries also have ethnically mixed populations which they needed to weld together for developmental purposes. In countries like Malaysia and Indonesia there were civil wars in which tens of thousands perished. In Singapore, the political leadership took and continues to take exemplary action to ensure that no community feels discriminated against and feel included in sharing the fruits of development in an equitable manner. Sri Lanka also requires such strong and rational leaders.

Ten years ago, Sri Lanka was able to end its civil war with the present president as one of the chief architects of that success. It is said that the worst peace is better than the best war as in war killing is legitimized and therefore containing excess becomes much more difficult than in a time of peace where killing is not legitimate. It is important therefore that the wounds of war should heal in an environment in which the causes of war are being dealt with through rational government policies. Unfortunately, the two issues of language and devolution of power, which fed into the mindset of grievance and division are coming to the fore again. In particular there is a need for the continuation of the policy on the national anthem set in 2016 that the national anthem would be sung in both Sinhala and Tamil languages in keeping with the earliest post-independence practice in 1949 at the inauguration of the Independence Memorial Building at Torrington Square of singing of national songs in both languages.

As the country heads to a new year the hope would be that the new government that came to power after the Presidential Elections of November 16 will continue to govern the country in a manner that meets the hopes and aspirations of Sri Lanka’s multi ethnic and multi religious population. President Rajapaksa’s pledge on taking the oath of office where he said he would be the president of all Sri Lankans, and not only of those who voted for him is too valuable to lose. However, his repeated statements that development would be prioritized in resolving the ethnic conflict and that strengthening the system of devolution of power is not going to be the answer is a matter of concern. The assertion by government leaders that the national anthem will not be sung in Tamil at the forthcoming Independence Day celebrations has also caused concern, though this is now being reconsidered.

Constructive Aspects 

The new government has presented itself as having a vision that will strengthen national unity and protect the country’s sovereignty in a manner that would speed up the development process. The vast majority of people would applaud such sentiments as development would give them a better standard of living and quality of life. However, it is also important to note that development does not need to be viewed as being in opposition to devolution of power and to language rights. Both devolution and language need to be harnessed so that they contribute to development. Development is an overarching concept. Giving priority to development would mean that any decisions taken with respect to political, economic or social action should be with the purpose of speeding up the development process.

There is no doubt that if Sri Lanka did not experience the internal conflicts, the riots, insurrections, wars and terrorism it did during the past six decades we would have been in a different place in terms of development. Leonard Wolfe, the British civil servant who wrote the classic “Village in the Jungle” and who loved the country envisaged Sri Lanka to be the “Switzerland of the East” at the time of Independence. Therefore, national reconciliation needs to be a priority along with development. In fact, development can be the great unifier as it is meant for the good of the people. Development can be used as a tool for reconciliation by using the institutions that currently exist, including provincial councils to identify the specific priority needs and aspirations of the people in the different provinces.

The challenge for the government is not to see development as being in opposition to the devolution of power which is an important value to the ethnic minorities. The president has said that the issue of devolution has been debated for seventy years without a positive outcome and that he is not prepared to go beyond what the Sinhalese ethnic majority feels comfortable with. The challenge would then be to begin to identify those aspects of devolution of power that the Sinhalese people find acceptable for their own lives at the community level and which also contribute to development. These are matters that need to be discussed with the political parties and representatives of the ethnic and religious communities, in keeping with the plural nature of Sri Lankan society, prior to concretising them as policy decisions.

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Latest comments

  • 6
    8

    Development can go without devolution too, in a small country like Sri Lanka.

    See the cost of devolution; cost of maintaining the white elephant PCs.

    • 5
      3

      ” Leonard Wolfe who loved the country envisaged Sri Lanka to be the Switzerland of the east at the time of independence”. His dream has taken a first step towards realizing its goal, when their law is being applied in the Swiss embassy employee case. Sri Lanka will soon be made to fall in line with Switzerland, when economic embargo will be enforced.

      • 2
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        Dr.GS
        Tamil racists who pray for economic embargoes on us should realise that the Sinhalese invariably will on pass a greater share of the burden on to the Tamils.

        Soma

        • 3
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          soma

          if there is economic embargo against srilanka , you Sinhalese will eat shit.

          • 0
            2

            Will certainly share that with bigger portion allocated to you.

            Soma

    • 5
      2

      Does singing of Sinhala Song in Tamil also disturb the development? Is that you tried many times in last 70 years to sing it in Tamil and but come to understand that your Moda brain does not allow a new Language get into it? ( We don’t want permission to sing Sinhala Song in any Language; we want the UN to refer the War Criminals’ case to ICC.; that’s all)

      Chinese White Elephant Hangbangtota has forced you to sell your land China. You lost that piece of land. Than what is the big deal for you to leave the Tamils land with Tamil white elephant, North East?

      Now Chinese want to drive their Train in your land. 100,000 want a train for themselves! When it starts, Sinhala Buddhist linemen will take batta from Chinese Engine Drivers and show red flag to Sinhala Train & show green flag to Chinese Train. You Modayas 7M who voted for Royals will stand in the middle of the rail nowhere, instead of rolling to Mahanuwara.

    • 4
      1

      Revolutionist!
      You seem to be worried about the Cost of Devolution, but you don’t seem to be concerned about the Cost of War and Cost of Lives due to lack of devolution.

  • 6
    5

    We tried but failed; so this time, development first devolution later. Please get adjusted to that reality.

  • 1
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    Jehan Perera: How do you think in a world that people earn $4000 when most earn, that is too if the govt gives it free, as welfare, only Rs. 3500.
    [edited out]
    Reconciliation and Power sharing are just words like DEMOCRACY OF UNHCR. Those have different meanings.

  • 5
    2

    Jegan,
    Yes. Development and devolution can go together but Gota anD Mahinda have closed the door for devolution. Yes Gota made a visit to Department of motor vehicles and preached them and made a TV propaganda. How many government institutions are there in the country and how many visits can he make in a year? Doesn’t he has any other job? Why none of his ministers did not visit a single office? Even the Prime minister did not make any visit to govt departments. Who created the culture of ministerial posts to all of his MPs during 2005 to 2015? Who created the culture of Cut-outs throughout the country? The Prime Minister promised to send those who involved with the bond scam? It is not a secret that PM Mahinda bribed Viyalenthiran. Can he investigate that crime?
    Gota is not going to be our President more than two or three years. If they get two third majority in parliament they will bring back 18th amendment and the power will be transferred to Mahinda and then to Namal. It is their prime objective and this is another political coup.

    • 3
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      Ajith, Unfortunately majority in SL don’t understand what you are trying to say. Before the elections Gota was portrayed as a person who knows how to manage but it is highly doubtful whether he has learnt anything during his 15 years of working in USA. Senior managers at the RMV may have done wrong but which CEO/GM would try to insult the senior managers in front of the minor staff ? How could these senior managers face their staff thereafter.
      Then as the CEO do you want to spend time and effort on activities such as inspecting the markets, Hospitals, RMV and, instead focus on high value things but would pass on the responsibility to lower rankers to get these issues resolved and follow up the progress. If he thinks that the ministers are useless then sack them without getting taxpayers to pay their salaries.

      With hardly a month had passed things are turning out to be not so good for the Gota team with Nurse monk openly speaking against GMOA head. Double agent Wije Rajapakse proposing to bring the ministry of defense under the president. Recently the remaining part of former army headquarters has been handed over to a company without a tender and the Rajapaksa’s going after the remaining government land to sell as a way of financing the increased budget deficits required due to salary increments of govt employees and removal of taxes. MR using Airforce helicopters as his private properties. Things will turn really ugly after the G elections as SLPP candidate lists will be full of military personal and finally will pave the way for a military junta. He may kick out MR’s group after the elections and surprising MIA are JLP, MR and Adm. Weerasekara, Dallas but may see a counter revolution by MR’s old guard few years later if no Junta is formed.

  • 0
    0

    The author at the beginning appreciates the President in taking the bull by the horn in taking action with respect to an instance of poor performance in public service. The bone of his contention is in the last paragraph where he contends that development should not be seen in conflict with development. “Devolution”, granted in terms of the 13th amendment of the constitution is a reality. With the exception of implementing the “Police Powers” all are functional. Premier Modi of India lamented in not implementing the 13th amendment while President GR replied that he would not implement the 13th amendment against the wishes of the Sinhala majority. In my view, sentiments expressed by both parties are neither here nor there. It is unfortunate that none of the governing structures as permitted to implement in terms of the 13th amendment are functional to the expectations of the people. The real question therefore is the machinery whether it is “Central Government” or “Provincial Government” really functional? All of them are no better than the Department of Motor Traffic (DMT)with the exception that the activities in the DMT is well known among the public. It is interesting to visualize if the Provincial Councils were functional (all of them now dissolved) and if the President made a visit to an office of a Provincial Government whose council is controlled by the opposition and made a similar intervention what would the Chief Minister of that Council do? He is likely to make a big political fuss out of it. In the event of the hypothetical instance I described above, I am interested to know the position of the author as to whether he would appreciate the action of the President or decry the action as an unwanted interference? PEOPLE WANT RESULTS NOT THEORY.

    • 2
      1

      How many bulls can the president take by the horn? What are the ministers doing? Bullshitting?

  • 1
    3

    Mr Sampathar the Leader of the Tamil Alliance got the outgoing Cabinet of Dr Rani to give him a House in Colombo 7 for hs retirement , which he has announced to his close mates after the Election.

    Mr Sampathar is at the forefront of this Devolution asking for a Federal Sate in the North East for the Tamil people to rule, with the Right to all Lands and the Power to have its own Police under the Tamil Government.

    Is this a fair Devolution when 7 Million who wanted this new Government have only the Resources of Two Thirds of the Land Mass and One Third of the Seas araound the Island to feed them ?.

    Wouldn’t it be better if our inhabitant brothers and sisters all have at least USD 3000 per Capital each family and live in Harmony specially while the TNA leader lives in Cinnamon Gardens?…

    • 1
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      K.A.S
      I have no issue Sampanthan being given a house in Jaffna city or some scenic location overlooking Nandikadal according to his preference but why Colombo 7?

      Soma

      • 2
        1

        Because Sampanthar is no safe in his own village due to his activities with Ranil and his inactivities with regard to the Tamil problems.

  • 2
    1

    An idiot cannot, on his own, assume that there are corruption problem in an office and attempt to investigate him/her self. An order for corruption investigation on an office has to come from bribery commission and CIDs has to be employed to do that job. A president cannot walk into an office for surprise supervising visit. A president can go to offices in occasions like recognized annual function of those offices, et al.
    Management by exception is the way to run offices efficiently and cost effectively. Macro management in the one really solves administrative problems; micromanagement alienates workers & aggravates the problems. A junior officer can be supervised by his direct senior officer only. On the supervision, maintaining hierarchy is important. Never an officer be allowed to servicing more than one master at a time. Management techniques called queuing theory, Network analysis, linear programming …. like scientific methods should be employed to calculate resources needed to serve the queues. O & E or Work Study methods should be employed to find out how to clear the queues without efforts. Latest software and electronic gadgets on the markets should be checked for labor and paper & time reduction. A team of proper consultants (especially, out of Lankawe) should be hired and have everything evaluated, including the bosses’ ability to run the offices, instead of running Air Lanka.

    This game is to show the Modayas that Royals are saving them against cruelly praying corrupted bureaucrats. But harassing workers to milk beyond their health and humanistic concern is fundamental right violation of workers. This Modaya is not employed as flying squared to do this kind of checking. A policy maker is not the man perform in an active queue. He has not capacity to analyze or evaluate where the bottleneck was remaining to be fixed.
    We have no idea why the double talker Jehan PhD is connecting this Election Propaganda Robinhoodism, Polices for developments and the devolution. Hong Kong, Catalonia and Kurts are developed than from they look for separate.

    • 0
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      Mally ,

      Now you are in to Micro and Macro Economics , Fiscal and Administrative policies.-

      How come your mates Sivajilingam , Sampathar and even Abraham never talk about them, except harping about wanting all the Lands in the North and the East to Rule with their own TNA Police.

  • 5
    2

    Two federal countries Belgium and Switzerland have population of about 11.4m and 8.6m respectively.. Sri Lanka has a population of about 21.7m. Sri Lanka is small in size but population wise it is greater than so many countries in the world. Sri Lanka needs devolution for development. Otherwise it will never progress . The author praises GR’s visit to Department of Motor Traffic. His visit is categerised as an operational activity..

  • 7
    1

    No Jehan:

    Not according to Gotha . Gotha is a man posessed by both India and China. For him Devolution is anathema becaause it stands in the way of Colonsation. Development is a stepping stone for Colonisation. He has already stated his views on Devolution , Reconciliation and Human Rights. All the Tamils want in his word is ” Kanchi” and a Warm Place to ” Shit” like Mr. McCarthy of USA once said about blacks. ” Tight P.u..y and a Warm Place to shit.

    But I have just read that Gotha is vising China for a remembrance service for China to remind him that the Terms of the Hambanthotta Lease is not Negotiable. This is where India has to decide when to intervene in Sri Lanka So we will either see arrival of Indian Defence Minister before or after and depending on what comes of the talk with China. India cannot trust Gotha to Monitor Chinese vessels docking at Hambanthotta not only because of the Distrust but also lack of Technology. Indian Military presence will be vital. I hope India delivers this message before the elections to chose a PM.

    Gothas reign of Terror is paying Dividends. Many people are on the run to avoid White Vans and from what I have read “Sumanthiran” is next to be bundled in to one after Iqbal Athas having to lip his hat.

  • 1
    3

    The Development and Devolution are in antagonistic contradiction of two set of phonemically run by opposites directions. Therefor ” Devolution” served the purposed overall split of all resources and manpower,while social classes and its undermined and unitary nature of modern State of any mode of system .
    This is where this writer has no knowledge of crux of matter of ABCD of political science of outdated in mindset that an even Capitalist development that he is out of touch by currently.
    The ours evil social forces are advocated by Federalism, Separatism and Extremism all in all come under policies of devolution.
    It road map of covered operation by Western Super-power by” divide and rule”. Splendid example is that Swiss Embassy in Colombo that principally by hire manpower for so-called “White Van which that kidnapped incident maneuvering by Swiss Ambassador…..Colombo. Ours evil forces of that devolutionist are great splinters of our time.

    • 3
      1

      Rantings of a Sinhalese racist . You can have devolution and development . Many of the worlds rich and industrialised nations with good human rights are all highly devolved. Sinhalese racists , do not want to devolution , as then they will not have power to colonise Tami lands, for under the guise of development they want to settle hundreds of thousands of Sinhalese in Tamil areas and turn the entire island into to Sinhalese Buddhist Fascist colony. Mad extremists Buddhists monks like the one in Batticaloa and the one who recently died in Mullaithivu , will not be able to run around Tamil areas with impunity assault local largely Tamil Christian priests., and convert ancient Hindu temples to Buddhist shrines , with the help of the fake history created by the Archeological department and the occupying racist Sinhalese armed forces , if there is proper devolution. This is why most Sinhalese , especially the recently Sinhalised South Indian immigrant variety with Portuguese surnames , do not want and keep on shouting this mantra no devolution but development thinking this will fool the world. These are Tamil areas and the Tamils want devolution first to safeguard their lands , language , history and heritage in their areas , before any development , as they know this so called development that these Sinhalese want in their areas , is not development for the local Tamils but a means to settle and Sinhalise Tamil areas , under guise of development.

    • 3
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      Chingkallam , you must be very happy , as Gotha Payam has now openly stated in the Parliament that he was elected by Chingkallams only and will only do what Chingkallams want and safe guard them and their Poutha Matham. Now what do Chingkallams want. to destroy Thamizh and Thamizh Muslim Thullukans. Their language , steal their lands everything and convert all this to Chingkalla Poutham and this war criminal demon has now promised this not only this but laws to reduce the number of Thamizh and Thullka members of parliament . This is only his idea of development without devolution and this is what most Chingkallams suffering from some sort of persecution and inferiority complex want.

      • 3
        0

        And another minister from Gotha Payam racist government has openly stated this Chingkallams elected them to ban the singing of Thamizh national anthem and usage of Thamizh. You must be very happy Chingkallam with the Portuguese name. How are your relatives living in Southern Thamizh Nadu. have you ever visited them?

  • 1
    1

    The Tamil’s ” homeland” is more or less that uncontested of that Tamil Nadu of which is that in Republic of India.
    No sufficient historical roots of facts and archaeological sources to has not proven in Island of Lanka!
    For several centuries in History in Lankan there was no solidly an innovated of facts that Tamils living in soil Island of Sri Lanka?
    For the Tamil authors of pseudohistrocal books and writings ,if successful they attract are an imitators .The Tamil writing of books enter the cultic milieu of pseudohistorcal, that is where they influence and inspire by other writers.
    An Idea get of combined into New hypotheses about past,but it reshuffled into configuration and even revert to earliest versions of certain pseudhohistraorical interpretations of past of racism of Tamils nationalism .

    The so-called “Tamil homeland” of pseudohistory has its unknown historiography and its genealogy of view of “Tamil chauvinism” by that Tamil speaking people in out-side of Tamil Nadu of that Republic of Indian

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