28 October, 2020

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Taking Stock Of Yahapālanaya & The Way Forward

By Ravindra Galhena

Ravindra Galhena

Ravindra Galhena

Last year on January 8th, people of this country did take an important decision at the Presidential Election. This decision was reaffirmed by the subsequently held General Election. It was an ardent loud and clear call against corruption, bribery, waste, nepotism and other social evils. The collective message was that the country’s political landscape should be changed for better!

I was one of the people who supported and voted for the change. In my personal capacity, I also did canvass and convince people to cast their vote against the then incumbent regime and the corrupt politicians. Definitely, this was not out of malice, but it was a must at the time, for the best interest of my country!

After the change, I wrote my very first article on politics (I have written many articles but those were based on my professional expertise) to the ‘Sunday Observer’ of February 15, 2015 and it was entitled: ‘Wiping out terrorism, feather in Rajapaksa’s cap’. In my view, this title did not go with its content (you too might agree with me if you read it), but it was an executive decision, made by the editor at the time, to serve his defeated political master further!

Through this article, I constructively (my hope at least) criticised President Mahinda Rajapaksa for his undemocratic moves, short-sighted vision and decisions, personal agenda which were simply unbecoming of his position that put the country in the doldrums.

That being said, we the Sri Lankans have now given a clear mandate to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to bring the country back on the right track sooner rather than later. This entails conceptualising a long-lasting vision that will take Sri Lanka through the 21st century in a sustainable way.

However, President Sirisena, Premier Wickremesinghe and their government have been bequeathed an uphill task of setting their house in order. As they are now about 17 months into the task, it would be interesting to examine the progress or the lack of it, the country so far has seen, and the new direction the government is practically taking.

In the said context, it is my intention to ponder on the following in this article; (not listed in any particular order)

People’s right to accurate information

Let me make my premise to the discussion with a personal observation. As a citizen of this country, what I have been experiencing last several months is only the noise and clutter. In my view, this gives confusing messages and the government has not paid enough attention to keep its citizens reasonably informed! In other words, the people are not quite sure of the direction or progress the country has been really making to which they have a fundamental right. This shortcoming is becoming increasingly noticeable as the days go by as expectations of masses from the ‘Yahapalanaya’ (good governance) government are quite high!

Wild media freedom

I believe the media freedom that the country is now bestowed upon is one of the reasons for the said issue. Some media organisations report irresponsibly and play havoc. This is quite apparent if one reads the same news through different channels – some media personnel tend to twist matters, either to serve their masters or due to some other agenda. I begin to think that Sri Lanka’s media is not yet mature to enjoy the level of freedom and autonomy that has now been given them. Hence, it is the responsibility of the government to form some interim mechanism to bring a balance between people, who have a right to know the correct news, and the freedom of media (until we really learn the media freedom!). The media houses must be made aware that freedom of expression is not a licence for wilful misconduct!

The Central Bank bond Issue and the connected confused state of affairs

This controversy began more than a year ago. Some quarters alleged that the Governor of the Central Bank was directly responsible for some irregularities that are said to have taken place with a bond issue and the governor should be removed from office. However, I myself am not aware of what has really taken place, so are many of the public. I believe that the majority would agree with me if I said that people have a right to know what had really happened in the bond issue. But, the general public is kept in the dark, to be honest, and I am not sure whether the authorities are hiding the truth here. Why didn’t they hold a proper inquiry? The government should take this sort of issues seriously if they really want to win the hearts of the general public!

The current state of nepotism and the inner circle

One of the principal criticisms the United National Front (UNF) and President Sirisena had against the Rajapaksa administration was the fact, that the Rajapaksa administration even brought the pets of their households to hold responsible positions in the country! They never checked the suitability of those appointees, loyalty to the Rajapaksas being the only criterion required. I can recollect Dr. Gladys Jayewardene (sister-in-law of President Jayewardene) becoming the chairperson of the Pharmaceutical Corporation during the Jayewardene administration, but that appointment could be fully justified, in my opinion, given her professional suitability to hold that position.

Unfortunately these people who openly criticized the Rajapaksa Administration for nepotism and the operation of inner circle, seem to have now resorted to the same practice when they brought their unsuitable friends and family to the system. This is a gross dereliction on their word, and the country is now beginning to see their true colours! In my view, this is a black patch on the Sirisena administration!

Bringing wrongdoers to justice

One of the big election promises was to bring the wrongdoers, who robbed the country in a big way by various means, to justice. I quite agree that the ‘Yahapalanaya’ cannot operate a kangaroo court to punish people and we witnessed cruelty in this area a few years ago. However, there should be some mechanism in place to expedite the delivery of this promise! If need be, the government should establish a new judicial process (a proper one) to hear these cases. The process seems to be too slow at present. However, certain cases may take some time and the time-bar could be a concern. Also, there should be a solid permanent system to bring the suspects of the incumbent government too to justice, if any. The notion of ‘no one is above the law’ must be upheld at all costs!

As promised during the elections by the current rulers, the suspects should be taken to task irrespective of their positions or the connections they have with the hierarchy – no favourites allowed!

Winning the international – Approbation

No doubt, this is an area the present government is doing well with. Before January last year, as a country, we were doomed on the international front. Our real international relations was just limited to a few nations and most of them were in an isolated corner in the big picture! Throwing President Rajapaksa out of power in itself was a blessing and opened a window for Sri Lanka to get into the good books with the entire world. The recent G7 invitation extended to President Sirisena and the reception he received from those political leaders showed the extent of goodwill Sri Lanka has now earned. The severe pressure that mounted due to the action of the United Nations and other global bodies has eased (but could be at a cost) and Sri Lanka has already sorted out some of the adverse international issues. In economic terms, Sri Lanka has now successfully renegotiated the European Union fish ban that was imposed on the country (personally, I am a vegetarian and against killing!). The GSP-Plus (Generalised System of Preferences) facility also is being renegotiated with the European Union. In general, the world is ready to help us in our forward march and this is a positive sign.

Environment, deforestation and sustainability

This is a complex issue in my view; the protection of the environment is not a choice but a must. Our lives should be led in a sustainable way to protect the environment. Some argue that the developed world should be held more responsible for the environmental damage. That could well be the case, but we cannot just shake off our bit of the responsibility, and we should do our utmost for the environment genuinely. I have observed a lot of criticism against the government for deforestation (Wilpattu), but I have no personal knowledge. Is the government doing enough to take control of the alleged situation or be honest with the public about the exact situation? My answer is it does not.

Plants breathe IN the poisonous carbon dioxide we puff out, and they breathe OUT the precious oxygen that we need for our very life. People are part of nature and they are supposed to be kind to other elements of the environment for their own good!

The above account covers only some of the main challenges. There are so many other issues that should be addressed and taken control of. However, the challenges will never go away, the system should be made stronger to face them.

The way forward

The Sirisena administration must deliver the goods and win the hearts of the people. As mentioned before, it is a difficult journey. We now hear, the actual debt of the country running to the tune of several US$ billions. Irrespective of what has happened in the past, we must service the debt. This involves getting the government revenue increased, but the inflation levels should not go up. At the same time the country should progress with its numerous welfare and development projects.

Country’s affairs should be professionally managed. As a country, we can afford no mistakes anymore. Unfortunately, we do have many limitations with our elected politicians and do not seem to have any alternative to this in the short to medium term. This is the downside of democracy!

But, the authorities could bring professionalism to the system through the officials they select. The first steps of this process is to appoint professionally qualified personnel, who could think outside-of-the-box (creative and rational thinking), with proven track records to hold strategic government positions. This is not sufficient; they must be empowered to make decisions with transparency and accountability. At the moment, there is a lot of room for improvement in this area! It would be prudent to revisit our administrative service (SLAS) & the like and see the revival they would need. Are SLAS and other similar services still good enough for the 21st century or out-dated? We must be a vibrant nation to win the world and this involves avoiding complacencies and inefficiencies of all types. Also, we should grow both as individuals and society (as a collective)

Appointment of various commissions was a forward step to make our institutions more democratic, strong and professional. We should mature with these institutions; they would perhaps require adjustments to make their intended purposes more effective.

Unfortunately, Sri Lanka does not have proper national policies in place. Usually they change according to the whims and fancies of the party in power. Among many pieces of legislature we must enact, Sri Lanka would need a well-thought out, solid, modern and long-lasting national policy for education, health, social welfare, transportation (all modes) and other key areas.

The government sector jobs should be designed only with a proper need analysis. They should not be dumping-grounds just to keep people on a payroll for political mileage. The creation of unwarranted government sector jobs has been a contributory factor for the colossal national debt which gets in our way badly. These positions should have win/win outcomes for the benefit of all stakeholders!

It is my opinion that one term of parliament (five years) is not sufficient to see tangible results from the Sirisena & Wickremasinghe led government. This team would at least require another parliament. Hence, the delivery of election promises is a must to get re-elected for another term. The biggest asset of a country is its people, so they should be well looked after, groomed, given proper education, disseminated with proper and correct information for the forward march of the nation.

Once Lee Kuan Yew observed; “The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society to establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people”. We must uphold this notion.

I have watched quite a few TV interviews President Sirisena and Prime Minister Wickremesinghe have given in the last one year or so. They seem to have many good plans to improve the quality of people’s lives. If they can be implemented, well and good, but I am not so sure of the capability of the machinery and other resources in place for the implementation at present. To be honest, I still believe the system is yet to attract capable people from a wider circle – it is still the friends and family more or less, unfortunately. The government must understand the fact that there are so many capable, visionary, upright Sri Lankan professionals who do not loaf their time in politicians’ corridors! No doubt, most of them are willing to help rebuild the nation and there should be a genuine effort to rope them in. The government would certainly need a breath of fresh air for furtherance!

Hope and pray, the situation will improve sooner rather than later. With regard to the development work, most of us would like quality more than just quantity – doing one thing well would be much better than carrying out two things badly!

Also, I do not believe a country could be made super clean – let us be realistic – human weaknesses and mistakes would be there forever. Can things be ever measured in absolute terms in life? We should weigh and value results on a relative basis. However, our people now certainly want to see a better Sri Lanka on all fronts and this is the challenge presented to the authorities.

Hope, at least, senior politicians are aware of their task. The mandate they have been given is very clear. Let us observe how well they would perform to bring prosperity to the country in the coming months.

*Writer is a Maritime Consultant who has lived, worked, studied and researched in the UK for 12 year

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Latest comments

  • 7
    3

    The author mentioned about several lapses of the current regime. However he missed out on one of the main short comings of the Yahapalanaya. I refer to the continuation of army rule in the North and East. The armed forces intimidate,kidnap torture and kill civilians whom speak against their atrocities. They threaten press and politicians. They occupy civilian lands and do farming and selling vegetables in competition with the local traders.They are present in an intimidating manner in social gatherings and school functions. They build and oversee Buddha statues erected all over North and East without concern for the wishes of local citizens. There are many more atrocities. However the Yahapalanaya turns a blind eye. The so called “Reconciliation ” process is completely ignored while they pacify International Organizations with nothing but bluff and lies.

    • 0
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      Thanks for your comment. As I have mentioned very explicitly, I have not been able to cover every issue in this article. Obviously, there are many limitations when it comes to writing. I think the civil situation is much better in the North & East now on relative terms. As I mentioned in my article, life cannot be taken on absolute terms! Have been to Jaffna in April, my observation was simply life is quite normal there! Hope things will improve further in the coming months/years.

    • 1
      4

      To reconcile, there must be some Sinhalese villages, temples in North too like Sinhalese have tolerated mosques Kovils. Why are you so scared to let Sinhalese to come in to North,

      What army control? Stop these lies dude!

      • 2
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        srinath.gunaratne

        “To reconcile, there must be some Sinhalese villages, temples in North too like Sinhalese have tolerated mosques Kovils.”

        What Sinhalese temples are you talking about? There are no such temples in the entire history of this island.

        Have you been to the North in the past 60 years or so?

        When I visited the North I also visited Buddhist Vihara, Hindu temples, Christian Church and seen Mosques in Jaffna, Nainativu, Vanni and other parts of the North.

        I haven’t seen any Sinhala temples in the south either.

  • 3
    0

    Good critique of Yahapalanaya.

    “To be honest, I still believe the system is yet to attract capable people from a wider circle – it is still the friends and family more or less, unfortunately. The government must understand the fact that there are so many capable, visionary, upright Sri Lankan professionals who do not loaf their time in politicians’ corridors! No doubt, most of them are willing to help rebuild the nation and there should be a genuine effort to rope them in. The government would certainly need a breath of fresh air for furtherance!”

    Unfortunately, it seems that selfish and unsuitable appointments are still the order of the day instead of having the country at heart and getting the most suitably qualified into positions of importance. And when the President and PM are among the chief perpetrators, what hope do we have that they will ‘do the right thing’?

    • 1
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      I cant agree more! :)

  • 2
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    Ravindra Galhena

    RE: Taking Stock Of Yahapālanaya & The Way Forward

    1. “Once Lee Kuan Yew observed; “The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society to establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people”. We must uphold this notion.”

    2. “That being said, we the Sri Lankans have now given a clear mandate to President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe to bring the country back on the right track sooner rather than later. This entails conceptualising a long-lasting vision that will take Sri Lanka through the 21st century in a sustainable way.”

    3. “Hope, at least, senior politicians are aware of their task. The mandate they have been given is very clear. Let us observe how well they would perform to bring prosperity to the country in the coming months”

    Thanks for the write up.

    However, Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore had an easier task.

    1.The Average IQ of the Populace was 108.

    President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe have a more difficult task. That is why the GDP of Singapore went up faster than Sri Lanka.

    2.The Average IQ of the Populace is 79.

    IQ and the Wealth of Nations

    http://www.rlynn.co.uk/uploads/pdfs/Intelligence%20and%20the%20Wealth%20and%20Poverty%20of%20Nations.pdf

    Map of IQ and Wealth

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IQ_and_the_Wealth_of_Nations#/media/File:National_IQ_per_country_-_estimates_by_Lynn_and_Vanhanen_2006.png

    • 1
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      IQ is a controversial area. The new research shows that there are different types of intelligence and the overall rating cannot be presented as a single value. There are other factors that impact on people too. However, I agree with you that this is not an easy task. We need the right kind of education – I call it ‘real education’. A few months ago I wrote a newspaper article on this area.

  • 6
    2

    This government is obsessed with two things; ‘Rajapakse bashing’ and ‘reconciliation’ and not paying enough attention to the economy. This government has made the country more indebted than the Rajapakse regime and say that they are paying the price for mismanaging the economy by Rajapakse regime. I understand that immediately after taking over power by MY3 and RW, they sought a bailout from IMF but it was turned down saying the country’s reserves were at a comfortable level. That was a certificate given by IMF that economy was sound at the time this government came to power. The situation got worse because of the election promises that required a lot of money. When they made those promises, they should have realized the consequences. Without admitting that, they blame Rajapakse regime. They are with the opinion that people are buying what they say but they do not.

    Many praise this government for the foreign policy shift and reaching out to western countries. What else they should do, after all those countries paid for the regime change. But I say both MY3 and RW lacked political maturity because of the way they criticized China and announcing publicly that they are going to stop Chines funded projects. Even if they wanted to do that they should have kept their mouths shut. If Chinese money is good for western countries and India, why should it be an issue for Sri Lanka. They were naïve to believe that the western countries will come to their rescue. In 1977, JRJ, uncle of RW made the same blunder. At the end this government had to hire a PR firm to mend ties with China. I wonder how much it cost to the tax payers. They blamed MR for hiring a PR firm to mend ties with USA.

    My feeling is that, even for the ordinary folks in the North and East, tackling economic issues is more important than reconciliation. If the country wants to grow quickly, development must subsume all other priorities. Former South Korean President Park Chung-lee told “In human life, economics precedes politics and culture”. Our political leaders should learn from what he said. Get the priorities right!

    • 3
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      National Debt: The real world situation is; everyone owes everyone more or less. The problem is taking loans and busting them! I don’t think this government has refused Chinese or Indian aid/loans/investment. For instance, Port City is Chinese. Recently we heard that Sri Lankan itself has a debt of over US$3.2 billion taken over last 7-8 years. These funds have been just wasted on a white elephant! This is the issue.

      • 2
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        Nice response to ‘Kautilya’ (which used to be the pseudonym of Mervyn de Silva, father of the Rajapakse acolyte Dayan J), who seems to have the interests of the Rajapakses at heart!!!

        Wonder if he thinks of those white elephants down south – Mattala, the Harbour and the Cricket Stadium, not to mention the other ‘development projects’ in the area that are rotting away – as ‘development’?

        • 1
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          I do not know about the cricket stadium but the airport and harbour are not MR’s projects. These two projects were proposed by the Southern Development Board established by Chandrika Kumaratunge. MR decided to implement these projects. The problem is ‘Black Elephants’ in this government do not know how to make the best out of these projects. These two projects are linked to ‘Kra Canal’ project in Thailand. The ousted Prime Minister Thakshin Shinawatra wanted to implement that project with Chinese support but he was removed using the same slogan ‘corruption’ by you know who.

          I read that Katunayake airport will be closed for repairs for four months. They can do it because we have a second airport.

      • 1
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        This government has borrowed more than what Rajapakse regime borrowed. Rajapakse regime invested for development projects whereas this government is using the borrowed money to pay higher salaries for highly inefficient government employs and pensioners to fulfill cheap election promises. I heard Sajith Premadasa saying Chinese investors are waiting eagerly to come to Hambantota. If that is true, the white elephants will become profitable ventures. You should know that this kind of projects do not turn into profitable ventures overnight.

        Please read my reply to Fraud Bureau.

        • 0
          0

          Kautilya, sure looks like you are still employed by MR to boost his come-back bid in the hope that you will be re-enlisted to the Diplomatic Corps in the unlikely event that the gang will return.

          You say that ” Rajapakse regime invested for development projects”. Is that right??!!

          Pray tell what has come of them after all these years – other than to pave the way for the usual commissions to Basil, Gota and the rest of the family, whose bank accounts and assets have swelled beyond logic and that beggars belief.

          The REAL Kautilya (as well as Mervyn) would have been aghast at you taking the name in vain!

  • 5
    0

    This is the reason why I believe – simply believe, so long people become no civlized and educated enough, media freedom could ruin the fools pushing into much deeper. Media held in the country should be mafia like – not allowing facts to be passed to the average folks. Recently, Mr Medmulana was on a visit which was controversial by every means, and nothing was much in the air in the country, even if some interntional journalists named it as all unethical behavoiur being present by lanken former. All in all, I have the feeling RW led freedom of anything can only be appropariate to the west but not to lanka. There do exist more justice for the people in this country under President My3 and PM RW, but journlists twist it for their favour being supprotive former fractions. For some reasons, they the majority of lanken journos behave not against Mahidna Rajakashe. Chapa Bandaras saying that he is social acitivsts sharpen anything being done by MR standingy by them even today. There are the kind of men set by former regime, to save their bums further. I believe, FCID should have to work with international crime bodies to fully convince that Rajapkashes have done more abuses than the good to this nation. All the money grabs being done by them should be analysed by British or other bodies so that country and nation can finally see forward not being stagnated this way.

    • 3
      0

      Yes, lanken Journos are caught mafia within the island boundaries.

      This is the reason why we dont see any factful informaton is in the air within the island.

      More to disgrace anyone and anyones good move but being same in the line of Rajaakshe abusive thoughts.

      • 1
        0

        I know some journalists and media houses try to stir things in a wrong way for their own benefit. We need ethics!

    • 1
      0

      I agree, all suspects should be brought to justice. I have been very clear on this. Our media fabric is weak unfortunately!

  • 2
    0

    CT Please safegaurd the respect and dignity – not displaying any just pictures of the current president on this Forum. I believe, even if all is becoming against him he has sacrificed a lot to allow us some freedom today. Had he let all the Rajapakshe supporters to continue their way of politics, many would have gone missing to this day. Please remind the past and allow at least some respect to current President. Dont make him a joker just displaying any pic of him on your forums.

    • 1
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      I agree we enjoy more freedom in the post January 2015 period!

    • 1
      0

      So called media freedom has brought fruits to people! See how developed it is after 100 day program!

  • 1
    0

    Good governance must start by cleaning Universities. All fake profs must be sacked.In order to be a real international professor your PhD from world top 100 University, minimum 20 articles in ISI/SCOPUS indexed journals, 10 text books with international publishers and three countries have to appoint you as a Visiting professor. But all these Sri Lankan Professors are jokers and more than 40% University Lecturers are relatives to each others and they give degrees to each other. MY3 clean University system and sack fake professors. Some Dept are family trees. Grandfather Emeritus and all others are relatives, henchmen, lovers, pimps, etc. We well know how they recruits and promoted in University Mafia. First find a person and then advertise according to his/her requirement and send aboard for their friends’ places for PhDs. Go beyond Sri Lankan airport and see International job market. Even in Middle East job market, without PhD from accredited Western University you cannot become even Assistant Lecturer. But in Sri Lanka more than 80% professors do not have PhD. The countries they (University teachers) go to do higher studies, no person is going to studies: China, Malaysia and India.Stop after retirement appointing them as consultants and do not allow them to still corrupt system in Universities.

    • 2
      0

      I agree to a certain extent. Universities should remain as backbone of nation. I really don’t know the university set up here and the national contributions they make, but have seen some academics coming and supporting their political heroes during elections! I wrote about ‘Real Education’ and you can access it; http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2016/03/06/can-we-please-have-real-education/

    • 1
      0

      I do not know why no one is talking this day time robbery of poor tax payers money with fake professor appointment in local Universities. Recently I checked Sri Lankan Universities Management faculty Lecturers and Profs credentials. It is shamed to see that no person has PhD from recognized world class University (at least top 100) and AACSB accredited place. Still this day time robbery of fake professor appointment are continuing at local University level. Now all Sri Lankan tax payers duty is to expose fake professors to the nation. I guess more than 95% are fakes eating poor tax payers money as salary.

      • 0
        0

        This could be one of the reasons for our struggle. However, real education is not the certificate/s one holds in general.

  • 1
    0

    A very good write-up … unbiased and well explained the bitter truth …

  • 0
    2

    Is RG for real? Too obsessed with his own very biased writing – patronising and a bit pompous.

    • 2
      0

      Of course you see my name and picture here (unlike orison!) This is your opinion. As always, I respect that. Perhaps, you may have also read many other opinions here!

  • 1
    0

    RG,

    Leaving all the consequential comments that your article has generated, some of which I agree with, some of which I endorse and wished it were more elaborate, some of which I do not agree with, I agree whole heartedly with ‘Bunjappu’ about respecting the President. The picture that CT has deemed proper to head this article is a total ridicule, with no relevance to your article and forces me to quote you very own words about your earlier article to the OBSERVER. “…. this title did not go with its content (you too might agree with me if you read it), but it was an executive decision, made by the editor at the time, to serve his defeated political master further!…”
    Probably another executive decision by the Editor of CT…..!

    • 0
      0

      Thanks John. People have different opinions and it’s normal. That’s the very reason the world becomes both beautiful and ugly! :)

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