23 September, 2020

Blog

Sri Lanka: Building Long-Term Unity & Achieving Progress

By Lacille de Silva –

Lacille de Silva

Undue dominance exercised by the Executive President over the Parliament for several decades has been a serious drawback in Sri Lanka. The opposition too has been weakened and rendered ineffective by the President. Furthermore, the enthusiasm to learn parliamentary practice and procedure of parliamentarians and lack of knowledge have also been a major cause for the deterioration of standards both in Parliament and the country.

The elected representatives have deliriously failed to bear in mind that they are duty bound to perform the task of representing the people, (representative function), execute far-reaching duties and responsibilities in legislation (legislative function), and to oversee government control (control function).

They have failed to give good leadership to formulate development policies as an efficient, responsible, open and accountable Parliament, while engaging more closely with citizens, and local authorities in shaping, preparing and implementing and monitoring development policies and plans at local provincial and national level in a transparent, citizen-centric and people friendly manner.

Parliament is the bedrock institution in our democratic system, which should play a critical role to promote democracy and good governance, while ensuring a government by the people and for the people. Having defeated the former regime in 2015, the present government has failed to consolidate the agenda of strengthening the institutions and the democratization process. The massive defeat at the local government elections leave no room for them to revive the programme. Yahapalana team did not foresee the that the political winds change in Sri Lanka!

Major Issues Before The Country 

  • Severe economic, political, cultural, religious and other issues;
  • Building long-term peace, harmony and unity;
  • Weak, unresponsive, self-seeking undemocratic rule;
  • Inability to conform to the pledged reformist agenda or aversion to make the change;
  • Absence of intellectual ability to review progress on a daily basis on governance issues;
  • Current politicians are the root cause of undemocratic weak governance and citizens do not trust the State;
  • Successive governments have overlooked the need to find out the reasons why youth engage in numerous crimes;
  • Mismanagement, abuse of power, flawed decisions and political leadership errors;
  • Citizens are silent observers of ruin and destruction, when in fact they should be active participants of governance activities;
  • 43% of the population live below poverty line;
  • Judiciary needs to be made totally independent, citizen-     centric; overcome delays; zero tolerance for corruption;
  • Pervasive corruption, ethnic/religious issues, flawed institutions, growth of criminal violence, rising population, poverty, illiteracy, deteriorating rule of law, under-world, drugs, declining national and per capita levels;
  • Failure to strengthen devolution meaningfully in an effective, prudent and people friendly manner;
  • Undemocratic policies, which had triggered state structure to decay and destruction and bad governance;
  • Plundering resources, structural deficiencies, weakening of the state foundation, failure to cope up with internal challenges, economy structurally weak to withstand the challenges of nation-building;
  • Ever increasing poverty level with a deepened debt crisis, poor economic policies, debilitated state capacity, over-spending for luxury vehicles, unnecessary expenditure for state functions, which should be totally band and thereby pushing the country into a legacy of further confusion;
  • Destruction of forest reserves, illegal sand mining/earth and destruction of natural resources
  • Lack of common bonds between different communities;
  • The need to give protection and incentives to local industrialists (including declining industrialists) to invest in real and human capital to develop new capabilities and skills;
  • Deter unfair competition – dumping by foreign firms at prices below cost and save jobs;
  • Help and save environment;
  • Self-sufficiency in rice and other food stuffs as a sensible economic strategy and avoid over-reliance on imports given the risks of global downturns;

Parliament 

  • Being an important arm of the State, does not promote democracy and good governance;
  • failed to establish the necessary checks and balances, develop norms and standards for democratic people-friendly governance;
  • Does not acknowledge the fact that the Parliament derives its powers directly from the consent of the people, expressed through periodic elections: thereby failed to enforce the ‘WILL OF THE PEOPLE’;
  • Does not express people’s voice in making government decisions and people are therefore unhappy that their aspirations have been disregarded by their elected representatives;
  • Elected representatives have failed to maintain integrity, ethics, morality and win public confidence;
  • Failed to place public interest and the country ahead of their personal interest;
  • Enacting Laws/debating national issues/checking the activities to make the government accountable does not happen;
  • Does not help to identify problems and policy challenges to overcome bureaucratic inertia;
  • Being the only State institution that could hold the President to account by way of an impeachment, the ‘trustees’ themselves together had disregarded the ‘WILL OF THE PEOPLE’ for private gain and had paved the way for ‘bad governance’;
  • Needs vast improvements in the legislative process, oversight functions, for budgetary and financial control, Committees, overall efficiency and effectiveness of entire parliamentary process;
  • Empower citizens involvement in governance by enhancing people’s participation in a more open, transparent and accessible Parliament and a public service in decision making process;

Public Service 

  • Quality of both National/Provincial public services have come down drastically, with a heavily overloaded staff;
  • Does not promote and safeguard meritocracy principle in the recruitment, promotion and career management of public servants;
  • Professionalism, careerism have been neglected;
  • Excessively corrupt and politicised;
  • Poor service delivery due to excessive political interference, discrimination, inefficiency and bribery;
  • Senior public officers do not have the necessary independence to implement policies to achieve their anticipated goals;
  • Public Services Commission has been side lined manipulatively having entrusted constitutional authority to deal with appointments/disciplinary control/promotions of senior public officers vide Article 55 (2) to the Cabinet;
  • Appointments of Secretaries to Ministries has been entrusted to the President vide Article 52 (1);
  • Need to create a totally independent Public Service Commission (PSC) has been overlooked for several decades, (which is now inferior to the Cabinet of Ministers);
  • Public Administration Circular No. 15 of 1990 introduced during the Premadasa government, which had outlined the recruitment/promotions policy in the public sector has been surreptitiously pushed under the carpet to accommodate corrupt politicos;
  • Employee/citizen ratio – 1/18 (1990); It had increased to 1/16(2012) This is higher than all our neighbours – India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia.

Public Finance Management (PEM)

  • There is no credibility in PFM in Sri Lanka;
  • Public Finances need to be handled with probity and in the public interest;
  • Public funds should be used wisely;
  • Transparency and value for money

Improvements Of Standards Required In The Delivery Of Public Service

  • Honesty – Impartiality – Openness – Accountability –
  • Accuracy – Fairness – Integrity – Transparency –
  • Objectivity – Reliability;
  • In the spirit of and to the letter of the law;
  • In the public interest;
  • To high ethical standards;
  • While achieving value for money.

Responsibilities Of The Citizen/Government 

1. In a democracy, the people should also be aware that they have the space to interact , intervene and participate in day to day governance issues that affect their lives to ascertain whether public officers are guided by rules and have used resources and authority in a transparent, accountable, effective and an equitable manner to benefit the community; They must play and active role in a democracy. They should not remain as silent spectators.

2. Due to lack of oversight, checks and balances, transparency, breakdown of parliamentary system, wasteful spending decisions have resulted in excessive physical deficits and balance of payments crises;

3. Professor Nicholas Van de Walle, Cornell University, had pointed out that substantial amount of increased aid given to developing countries continuously had prevented suitable reforms leading to economic growth. Under similar circumstances, corrupt leaders, who are rent-seekers had disregarded the need to deal with the challenges of state building. Professor Walle had also argued that continuation of aid could finally end up in state failure;

4. Youth in Sri Lanka are becoming more and more disgruntled due to drugs, poor education, high rate of unemployment, alcohol and numerous other reasons. Some youth are fighting against the system. It appears they engage themselves in violent activities due to unequal opportunities and deprivation. Frustration, resulting from the non-delivery of material benefits by successive governments have led youth, including adults, to seek opportunities to acquire wealth and prosperity elsewhere, drug trade etc. These problems have not been adequately addressed together with the psychological factors involved.

The Need To Establish A National Commission For Education Together with Other Independent Commissions 

The first Minister of Education (1931 – 1947) the late Hon. C.W.W. Kannangara’s contribution having laid the foundation for a national system education, which should now be given constitutional recognition, since educational opportunities to people must be strengthened TO BUILD A PROSPEROUS NATION. The Education Ordinance No. 31 of 1939 – a comprehensive ordinance covering all aspects of education to lay the foundation for a national system of education, introduced purely on the initiative of Dr. Kannangara remains as the basic law of Education, embracing primary, secondary and tertiary levels, in Sri Lanka to-date. His goal was to ensure a genuine democratization of education through the provision of equal opportunities for all children irrespective of social class, economic condition, religion and ethnicity. He had stressed that a curriculum was needed for every child in the country to develop his “head, heart and hands” and (1) academic knowledge (2) aesthetic values and (3) practical skills.

In conclusion, let me add the country now needs a credible group of truly patriotic, honest, hardworking, dedicated and capable, passionate professionals to craft a political solution urgently, with strategy and determination. Their goal should be to create a robust democracy from a weak democracy. A passively peaceful country to a reconstructed realistic peaceful country. Moreover, they should create a country, where all ethnic communities could live as equals. They should be able to dispel mistrust against each other to enjoy fruits of a successful nation. If so, future Sri Lankans should be provided accessibility to shared political future where equality, justice, peace, harmony, law and order, freedom, meritocracy and unity would ensure growth and development.

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Latest comments

  • 3
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    “In conclusion, let me add the country now needs a credible group of truly patriotic, honest, hardworking, dedicated and capable, passionate professionals to craft a political solution urgently, with strategy and determination.” – lacille de silva

    I agree with analysis of problems in Srilanka and agree with the conclusion as well. But the problem is to identify the group of professionals who are credible, truly patriotic, honest, hardworking, dedicated and capable. We had very talented patriotic honest hardworking people like Colvin Rde Silva, Dr NM Perera, HW Thambiah, Neelan Thiruchelvam etc. in the past. Unfortunately, the race based emotional politics played by both UNP & SLFP & FP took us away from building a united Srilanka for all communities with equal rights and nowadays the impact racism completely wiped out all democratic processes and independent institutions. People have no options other than electing same corrupted racial politicians and most of the professionals are serving to these corrupted racial politicians. Where can you find these group of professionals?

    • 1
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      Difficult to find such people, Yet, it cannot be impossible.

      • 3
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        Lacille,

        So, the gals aren’t keeping you busy….uh?

        It’s a great piece and nice to read and I appreciate your efforts …………….but I hope you realize that whatever you or I write here is not going to make a tuppence of a difference.

        You’ll have better results for your efforts ………if you go to the Dehiwala Zoo and lock yourself in a cage of apes and try to change their behaviour.

        The way we Lankan behave is ingrained in our genes ………..so instead of writing ……….. the easier task would be to take-up DNA studies and find a way to clone some other peoples genes into us…………

        We were doomed the day we were born in the shithole (pardon Donald’s French……I’m too well brought-up :)) ………… there’s nothing to redeem………….

        I gather you didn’t study science ……….”Social-Science” is not science ………..the first few lines of any of Dayan’s writings – prizes and all – will convince you of that……….

      • 0
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        continued

        Science, as far as possible, is applying a rational process to examine natural phenomena …………even then sometimes some uncertainty will throw-up that’ll stump even people like ol’ Al (“God does not play dice”) ……..but eventually people will find a rational way to explain the phenomenon …………. Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle

        In the rational process of science, if the first basic assumption is wrong ……….that and anything beyond that doesn’t last even a millisecond………….

        And 99% of the people who write here make the basic assumption that people come to politics to serve the country, when 99.99999998% come to serve themselves!

        Soooo, ……….when your basic assumption is wrong why spend all your time imploring them to do this or that?

        That’s why I tried to get you interested in gals ………..at least then life will have some meaning……..Isn’t ………. that’s why we were put on this earth in the first place? :))

      • 1
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        But dear Lecille, say you can find them but HOW are we going to put them on the top? Wait patiently until the present rotten lot dies away out of old age one by one? Don’t you see that they have put a lineage of same character in place to step into their shoes? Is there any alternative to praying to God?
        Soma

      • 1
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        Namal Rajafucksa says Srilanka is a Sinhala Buddhist country to BBC. What a racist!

        https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=542823249450218&set=gm.1997690187147227&type=3&theater

        • 2
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          Like Pakistan is an Islamic country.

      • 1
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        Mr. Lacille de Silva,
        A few comments on some of your points:
        Deter unfair competition – dumping by foreign firms at prices below cost and save jobs;
        Help and save environment;
        Self-sufficiency in rice and other food stuffs as a sensible economic strategy and avoid over-reliance on imports given the risks of global downturns;
        Have you any proof that any country is dumping goods below cost here? If so, to what purpose? To capture a microscopic market? A particular example- local footwear manufacturers claim Chinese and Indian footwear is sold below cost. But I have personally seen that footwear in those countries is sold at 1/3 of our retail prices. If our people cannot compete, it is due to high labour and material costs (taxes). As you have said, we have an universal free education system. It is these very same taxes that pay for it, and as a side effect, make our industries uncompetitive. In effect, the shoe buyer is paying his hospital/ school bills in advance.
        Something similar applies to agricultural self-sufficiency. It should be clear by now that this cannot be done, given the repeated cycles of drought and floods. Our farmers must be taught efficient use of water and fertilizer. If Indian farmers with less water can sell potatoes for 20 rupees a kilo, why can’t ours?
        We must grow here only things which can be competitively exported.We cannot export our rice. We had commercial agriculture before independence, which was screwed up for political reasons. Estates were broken up and given to local “farmers”. We are seeing the results now. The wives and daughters of the farmers are being exported to Dubai!

      • 4
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        You say:
        Improvements Of Standards Required In The Delivery Of Public Service

        Honesty – Impartiality – Openness – Accountability –
        Accuracy – Fairness – Integrity – Transparency –
        Objectivity – Reliability;
        In the spirit of and to the letter of the law;
        In the public interest;
        To high ethical standards;
        Things such as ethical standards depend on the prevailing culture. I am sure you are sincere in your writing because you are a product of 1950’s or 60’s education, a time when some colonial era teachers were still active. But what do present day students have? Teachers/tuition masters steeped in what they think is local culture, where honesty ,integrity, ethics, all have different meanings. What is more, nobody dares question this “culture”.
        The only way out is to import teachers who are untainted by local culture. But it will take another 70 years.

      • 1
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        Lacille de Silva:-
        But are they willing to join this Present Crowd of Politicians?

  • 3
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    Lacille de Silva

    Impressive wish list.

    You haven’t told us how we managed to arrive at this point where nothing is working, if working its working against the people and working for the crooks, criminals, …..war criminals, …. If you don’t mind you could start from when Brits decided to leave or the advent of Aryan public racist Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala if suitable.

    • 1
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      I wrote an article sometime back – Politics, Corruption, Lies and Betrayal and that deals how we ultimately ended up here. I would pl request you to go thru that article pl

    • 1
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      ‘Aryan public racist Anagarika Homeless Dharmapala’

      That’s it Veddah, keep the hatred burning while you pontificate on the crimes of others.

      • 0
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        Taraki

        So you are happy with what the Aryan public racist did to the people of this island. You are happy how he describe “other” people. A racist is a racist is a racist. Do think naming a racist a racist is burning hatred?

        When we have racists like you we don’t need enemies from outside.

  • 3
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    This is what we need now ..not hatred .
    Not hat .
    Not fighiting between us .
    43% below poverty

  • 2
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    Dear Lacille, Thank you for the content and your theme of your articles… My Father would totally agree with you Sir. Ajith’s comments are spot on is now all about how to pull this “dream team” to together. We have done the Cricket World Cup and this should set standards for politics too:).

    -There was valid point made by someone on Singapore politicians with regards to “them being technocrats” and they go through some fundamental training to be politician etc.
    -Chinese ruling part was told full of Engineers (need to confirm) – speaks for the conceptualisation/planning/engineering/execution of all aspects of nation building.
    -A strong civil service independent of politics reflective of the community they serve is required.
    -Desperate need for professional of all background – this could be from local/global patriotic Sri Lankans/well managed foreign content to be at advisory roll play with all party(existing) united front for a period of say 20 years until the country find its footing and set on a right path to survive in a competitive world free from divisions.
    -Armed forces/security apparatus to support/protect the above and perhaps the ministry of national/security , law and oder to be handed over to armed forces with certain accountability free from political interference for the same period with a “security committee made of all district/divisional (not provicial)representation” reflecting national policy to be custodians of “human rights and nations security” at the same time.

    • 0
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      Thank you so much

    • 3
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      T Venugopal – Your Statement:-” There was valid point made by someone on Singapore politicians with regards to “them being technocrats” and they go through some fundamental training to be politician etc.”

      Whereas in Sri Lanka Unqualified, Corrupt Politicians are driving away Qualified Professionals, to offer their Services to other Countries, where they are Valued and Appreciated!

  • 2
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    Demala Wellala politicians are the root cause of all the problems. Since they could not get what they wanted; separate state or 50:50 from British colonial parasites in-spite of Wellala guys becoming their poodles, Demala politicians decided to ruin the country. Even today the situation is same. While there are so many burning issues facing the country, they keep on singing ‘Devolution, Devolution, Devolution’; ‘War Crimes, War Crimes, War Crimes; Missing Persons, Missing Persons, Missing Persons’. Daliths in the North do not want any of these.

  • 1
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    Thank you Lacille de Silva. The article is a gem.
    Lacille is trying to bring about a permanent change which will result in Nava Sri Lanka (NSL) superior in every respect to the pre-independent Ceylon.
    The reform must start at the bottom – i.e. the parliament, where else? We must dare the MPs to read the article and elaborate on disagreements if any

    • 2
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      K.P,
      “We must dare the MPs to read the article “
      Well, if the majority of MPs (and their voters)could actually read and understand this, we wouldn’t have this problem in the first place.

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