Colombo Telegraph

Independence, Sustainable Development & The Role Of Professionals

By Chandra Jayaratne

Chandra Jayaratne

Dr. Ambedkar on Independence

“It is not enough to have just a politically independent India. What is also needed is to have an Indian nation where every citizen will have religious and political rights (sic “and economic rights”), so that every person will have equal opportunity to develop.”

“Independence is no doubt a matter of joy. But let us not forget that this independence has thrown on us greater responsibilities. By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is a greater danger of things going wrong. Times are fast changing.”

“There is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the world, it is yet to be created. In believing we are a nation, we are cherishing a great delusion. How can people divided into thousand of castes ( sic “ethnicity, religious beliefs, social status, values and norms”) be a nation? The sooner we realize that we are not yet a nation, in a social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us.”

On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.

How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.

“Our object in framing the Constitution is rally two-fold: (1) To lay down the form of political democracy, and (2) To lay down that our ideal is economic democracy and also to prescribe that every Government whatever is in power shall strive to bring about economic democracy. The directive principles have a great value, for they lay down that our ideal is economic democracy”.

Sixty Nine years on from Sri Lanka’s Independence, and as many independence day celebrations over the years, celebrated by our leaders on a grand scale, have our citizens gained independence only from Britain and now able to boast of being only a sovereign nation!

Where are we as a nation in terms of political democracy and economic democracy? Where should the citizens be today on the bench mark assessment points pronounced by Dr Ambedkar? Regrettably the leaders, post independence, have all failed to commit to the essential values and principles of an independent nation articulated by Dr. Ambedkar.

It is time for citizens to hold to account our present and future leaders, to recognize where citizens are now, where they are likely to be by 2020 and what expectations citizens have of what they desire 2030 to be, measured on the following benchmarks;

  • Equality and inclusiveness of Opportunity to develop and enjoy the benefits of national resources, growth and prosperity
  • Socio-political and economic rights of citizens
  • Peace, harmony and ethno religious co-existence
  • Political Democracy
  • Economic Democracy
  • Good Governance, Rule of Law, Justice, Right to Information, Anti Corruption
  • Having in place visionary leadership committed to creating and governing the nation – a) towards sustainable development, competiveness, optimization of quality and productivity driven with focus on creativity and innovativeness – b) on shared values developed on an accountable social contract with citizens

Growth Models
At this stage without analysing the different growth models adopted by successive governments sinceindependence, it is best that we agree an acceptable growth model to be pursued going forward, fashioned incorporating the undernoted principles;

  • seeking Inclusive growth, encompassing equity, equality, opportunity, and protection in market and employment transition
  • adaptable and flexible in order to execute affirmative action where essential
  • focusing both on the pace and pattern of growth
  • takes a longer term perspective
  • consistent with expected international economic order and international relations
  • ensure all people contribute to and benefit from economic growth
  • leads to rapid and sustained poverty reduction
  • be broad based across sectors ie. not highly dependent one or two sectors
  • focusses on productive employment as against income redistribution
  • environmentally sustainable

It is regreatable, that since independence, none of the governments in power have with single minded focus commitment pursued a growth model structured on the above principles. It is more regretable that professionals, academia and civil society leaders nor international development partners have been successful in persuading and pushing the governments in power to follow such a growth model.

Sustainable Development Goals

In September 2015, the President attended the United Nations Summit, at which world leaders endorsed the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030, with 17 goals ( refer pictorial representation below) and 169 targets, incorporating three dimensions of development: economic development, social inclusion, towards ending poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The leaders agreed to implement it at national level starting from 1 January 2016.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) now committed to are more comprehensive and covers many areas essential for equitable, inclusive and sustainable growth. In the implementation of the SDG’s what is essential are the sustainable qualitative outcomes touching all citizens with equality and inclusiveness, recognizing and implementing affirmative action where appropriate targeting marginalized and conflict impacted communities. The SDG’s must implemented within a growth model as articulated earlier, where actual outcomes are the focus as against numerical/statistical targets. Such an implementation will deliver the expectations and needs of all citizens.

Characteristics of Independent Professionals

A true professional leader in Sri Lanka must have several requisite hard and soft characteristics to effectively serve the superiors or clients retaining services of the professional, as well as serve the indirect interests of the nation and the target community at large. These characteristics include the following:

  • Independence and commitment to hold on to hallowed personal and professional principles, values and norms
  • Unquestioned Integrity ; Integrity and honesty respected by the community
  • Commitment to uphold the constitution, rule of law, justice, and the regulatory framework
  • Competency and Capability being endowed with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values to discharge responsibilities of office
  • A high recognition track record of achievement and delivery more than promised
  • Accountability for results, human and physical resources and upholding core commitments
  • Leadership abilities
  • Effective at delegation, mentoring , counseling and oversight of sub-ordinates
  • Open minded and invites advise, accepts constructive dissent and disagreement
  • Effective problem solver, making decisions having considered facts, advise and having evaluated options and risks;
  • A calm disposition at times of stress
  • Creative, Innovative, inquisitive, flexible
  • A respected change manager committed to deliver quality outcomes with productivity
  • A visionary providing a sense of direction for others
  • Personable, reliable and approachable and
  • An effective human resource manager
  • Self -motivated
  • A good Team Player ;demonstrating organizational skills and leadership by example
  • Effective Communication skills, attentive listening
  • Striving for excellence and seeking to make the Impossible possible and dreams come true
  • Avoids conflicts of interests and conscious of all intervening related party transactions
  • Ready to share knowledge and mentor and develop successors
  • Trustworthy- behaving in a consistent, highly ethical, and in a fair manner.
  • A person who does what he commits to and commits to only those which can be done
  • Brings in own expertise in to decision making whilst taking in views of others/advisors and looking at the problem from a 360 degree overview before decision
  • Being confident and able to justify, debate, defend decisions/actions taken and willing accept changes where so justified
  • Respectful of leaders, elders and superiors; but committed to act and advise based only on principles, laws and regulations, ethical, fair and acceptable norms of society
  • Bound by codes of conduct and ethics of the governing professional association, trade chamber /association, trade union or other linked collective
  • Apolitical and not seeking crony network relations /preferences
  • Be conscious of the environment and committed to equity, inclusiveness and ready to take bold affirmative action targeting marginalized segments of society
  • Willing to be a whistle blower in cases of non compliance with laws and regulations in employment , general corporate governance and national governance
  • Duly engaging in public policy recommendations, discussions and debate and be an active contributor to the process of assuring democratic and rights based governance, ethical and inclusive governance, law & order, rule of law, justice, good governance, environmental l protection, upholding accepted societal norms and ethical conduct in society
  • When engaged in holding public office, be sworn to uphold the following seven principles of Public Life in holding any public office
  1. Selflessness -Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest.
  2. Integrity – Holders of public office must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence their work. They should not act or take decisions in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends. They must declare and resolve any interests and relationships.
  3. Objectivity – Holders of public office must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias.
  4. Accountability – Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
  5. Openness – Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for doing so. .
  6. Honesty – Holders of public office should be truthful.
  7. Leadership – Holders of public office should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs

The Professionals are Accountable for the Destiny of Sri Lanka

Every Qualified Professional in a leadership position since independence, whether in the Executive, Cabinet, Legislature, Judiciary, Media , Academia, Private Sector and Civil Society, carry a heavy responsibility and an accountability, to discharge their respective professional duties and services in any such capacity, assuring that;

  • they place the interests of the nation and its people first,
  • they live up to the expectations of society,
  • uphold acceptable societal norms and
  • specifically demonstrate that qualities and characteristics outlined above are duly practiced as core commitment.

For instance all professionally recognized Doctors, University Academics, Accountants, Auditors, Lawyers, Bankers, Engineers, Architects, Economists, Planners, Analysts, Brokers, Mangers, Journalists, Media Broadcasters, Chemists, Valuers, and Surveyors, etc will be classified as Professionals. Company Directors and Partners of Professional service entities will also be professionals for above classification.

In addition all professionally accredited members holding high office in the Executive, Public Service and Public Enterprises including Educationists, health Professionals, National Planners, Regulators, Law Enforcement Officers will also fall within this category. All office bearers of Chambers, professional and Business Associations, trade unions etc as well as civil society organizations will be included within the definition.

If all professionals of Sri Lanka abide by above commitment under the oversight supervision of of the governing professional association, association, trade union or collective Sri Lanka will soon be a rising star amongst developing nations in the world.

Have Professionals Played their Role since Independence

The readers will no doubt endorse that the some of the unacceptable, harmful, public interests damaging long term negative socio-political economic outcomes we have witnessed since independence, could not have be a reality, if those defined herein as professionals had stood their ground and discharged their accountability as professional.

For instance the negative socio political economic outcomes of the following few examples, could have not been possible if the professionals discharged their due accountability;

  • Ethnic conflict and associated war and terrorism, driven by unacceptable centre periphery power sharing, language and other rights and national resources sharing not being equitable and inclusive
  • Political culture, divisive politics sans national interest, politics supporting nepotism and cronyism and unprofessional and unethical conduct of leaders in the executive and legislator and their network power brokers
  • Education, higher education systems failing to develop knowledge, skills, attitudes and values matching changing times
  • Social upheaval and break down in law and order crystallized by religious, class, caste, status and other socio economic discrimination led tensions
  • Widening gap between haves and have-nots in income, wealth, power , capability, opportunity and recognition
  • Failure to build equitable and inclusive policies and associated regulatory framework in national resource allocations and development initiatives
  • Successive failures in adopting ill designed socialist and or neo liberal policies
  • Lack of equity and inclusiveness in development
  • Constitutional reforms driven by personal, power and party interests
  • Presidential system of governance and proportional representation system
  • Total lack of effective and sustainable environmental and ecological protection
  • Unprofessional foreign policy and foreign relations
  • Policies and practices promoting unbridled consumerism
  • Breakdown in law & order, rule of law and justice systems and weak public/regulatory institutions
  • Low commitment to quality, productivity, creativity, innovativeness and applied research
  • Consistent and widening budget deficits on account of poor budgetary management and excessive external and internal debt due to ineffective monetary management
  • Public investments not yielding cash flow returns nor socio economic outcomes justifying spends and investments
  • High levels of bribery, corruption, waste and money laundering
  • Dangerously high proliferation of narcotics and dangerous substances accreoss the island and Sri Lanka being a key transit point
  • Annual national budgeting and budgetary control processes being politicized and failing to meet accepted international standard and conducted without effective participation of professionals
  • White van culture, disappearance and attacks of activists and media personnel
  • Control of Media freedom

Role and Accountability of Professionals in Good Governance and Anti Corruption

Having dealt with the failures of professionals at a macro level in the previous paragraph, this section focuses and elaborates one such area in a detailed analysis, to demonstrate by specific examples of professional community associated failure in regard to reported , purported acts of corruption;

  • Five separate rounds of failure of finance and investment companies
  • Bankers confirming that over 60% of accounts and financial information /estimations submitted seeking banking facilities are false
  • Even the audited accounts of the Central Bank carrying gross misrepresentations
  • Key justifications, approval conditions of and agreed project deliveries/outcomes not being met but entities continuing to benefit from concessions and tax and duty waivers / concessions
  • Purported scams linked to Greek Bond investments and Bond scams of 2015 and 2016
  • Banks and Finance /Investment Companies accepting deposits with Know Your Customer validations and without proper identification validations
  • Banks facilitating the regular cash collections from the distribution of narcotics
  • Auditors of companies indirectly acting as secretaries of companies
  • Misrepresentation of going concern status
  • Significant non declaration of conflicts of interests and related party transactions of substantial value
  • Valuation of assets being manipulated and certified for revenue frauds or misrepresentation of accounts
  • Pumping and dumping trades reducing the returns of the national Provident Fund
  • Total disregard of Financial Intelligence Unit regulations and Suspicious Transactions alertness defining FATF 40 guidelines
  • Non adoption or manipulating the process of adopting accounting and auditing standards ; use of SME Standards where inapplicable, and non adoption of fair value accounting standards
  • Attestation and acceptance false and erroneously represented deeds and contact documents
  • Facilitating money laundering, and illegal transfer of state property,
  • Facilitation of tax and revenue avoidance
  • Transparent and professional tender processes not being followed and unsolicited proposals being the basis of significant investments
  • Several purported attempts at transferring illegally/not pursuing or abandoning national resources on land/sea / air and terrestrial

Firm Accountable Commitments from Leaders and Professionals

All leaders and professionals, as a core part of celebrating 2017 Independence Day, must accountably commit to the achieve the under noted goals, by the time they celebrate 2018 Independence Day;

  • The on-coming year will be committed towards developing a common agenda of agreed actions to be implemented collectively in the next two years to improve the prosperity and growth of the nation and all its people
  • Commit to adopt a new constitution, where a parliamentary democracy with an effective public oversight control in place; along with a mixed first past the post and proportional representation electoral system; and restores to an independent public service, where chief accounting officers (not the cabinet ministers)become responsible and accountable for public finance, the executive decision making and implementation with accountability; with effective devolution of power within an acceptable centre periphery relations; equity and inclusiveness driving national resource allocations; and rights and judicial services frameworks assure sovereignty vests in the people
  • All commit to place the interests of the nation and its people first,
  • Transitional justice mechanisms are put in place meeting the aspirations of the international community and citizens whilst taking cognizance of acceptable security concerns of defense authorities
  • With single minded focus and commitment pursue a growth model structured on the principles articulated herein before.
  • Law and order, justice processes, foreign policy and foreign relations and good governance commitments are bench marked to the vision outlined in the election platforms in 2015
  • Equity and Inclusiveness are established as essential pre requisites of national resource allocations and budgetary spend; and priorities of such allocations and spends are determined taking cognizance of such commitments and are duly applied in socio economic development plans compiled in a manner touching and recognizing the aspirations of all citizens
  • Develop a National Education and human resource development policy with the future needs and demands in mind are developed and collectively agreed
  • Develop an accountable, transparent and effectively monitored and oversight reviewed plans for realization of Sustainable Development Goals and Global Environmental Goals
  • Having in place effectively functioning efficient, capable and adequately resourced, independent;
  1. public institutions/regulatory bodies,
  2. attorney generals office linked to investigation bodies including the Police, bribery commission and proceeds of crimes/asset recovery offices
  3. national audit office, additionally empowered to carry out post audits, economy/efficiency/effectiveness audits,
  4. right to information support structures

all with effective and efficient enforcement mechanisms

  • Completion or nearing completion of judicial process connected with purported serious crimes, money laundering, scams, bribery, asset recovery and corruption cases of significant value reported up to end 2016
  • Effectively enforced codes of ethics and conduct to bind all members of the cabinet/legislature/judiciary/state services and media as well as members of private sector chambers and professional associations
  • Have in place effective and actively pursued practices of whistle blowing ( with effective whistle blower protection laws) on non compliance with laws and regulations and on bribery, corruption waste and nepotism

Promise and the Delivery and the Social Contracts

The leaders and professionals must recognize and commit to honour, this independence day, the Social Contracts created by the elections of 2015, especially those associated with the commitments in the manifestoes and political platform representations. They must firmly accept their accountability to the people, who are sovereign by the Constitution, to assure that the delivery matches the promises made.

These leaders and professionals must also recognize that the democratic space created in 2015, irreversibly allows the smart and principled people to protest, agitate publicly, debate, advocate and pressurize, demanding the honouring of the social contract and they may soon start “ Nayakayanta Enna Kiyapipya Mewata Uththara Denna Kiyapiya” – demanding accountability.

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