20 February, 2019

Blog

The Public Servant As An Endangered Species 

By Upatissa  Pethiyagoda

Dr. Upatissa Pethiyagoda

The recent transfer of the Customs Chief, Ms Charles stirred a hornet’s nest and led to Trade Union uproar, protesting against this officer’s transfer and replacement by a retired Naval Officer. The feeble and laughable “reason” by an important big-wig is that the retired Naval Officer was because a major duty for the Customs is to prevent smuggling, which is mainly by sea, the appointment of a man with “Naval Experience” is justifiable! It would be interesting to see how far this kite would fly!

We are often reminded that there are “three pillars” of democratic governance – The Executive, Legislative and The Judiciary. In our context The Executive means the Presidency, the Legislative means Parliament, and the Judiciary means the Law enforcing body. The “Administration” has no place. I believe that this division is not the best. Considering the Presidency as such, merely because the title includes the word “Executive” is illogical. The verb “execute” means to perform, carry out, effect, operate, implement etc. the laws and directions of the Legislative. This in effect, is that arm which we refer to as the “Administration.” This is the sector which interacts most with the public. The “Presidency” should really reside within the “Legislative”.  After all, he is the Head of State, Head of the Cabinet, (and a Political Party). Since many decisions and Laws require his formal approval, he/she is logically part of the Legislature. He thereby has the opportunity to listen to debates to help evaluate the merits or demerits of proposed New Laws. This gives meaning to the constitutional requirement that he should attend Parliament at least once every three months. Symbolically, when the President is present in the House, the Prime Minister vacates his chair for him/her. The functions of the Judiciary are relatively clear. Its function is to deal with matters referred to it to determine whether actions or intent are consistent with the Constitution and existing Laws. It is also the authority from whom aggrieved citizens may seek relief when they consider that administrative acts infringe their rights. 

In my estimation, it is the administration (= Executive) that needs improvement. The Judiciary is in comparatively good order. The Legislative is perhaps beyond repair (major surgery to address dysfunctional growths is the sole option).

It is in the interest of all of us that the administration should be restructured. It is the major point of interaction between governance and the citizenry. To anyone who takes a close look, there are three main functions of the Administration– regulatory, service and developmental. To countries such as ours, the development oriented sector is the most important (but probably given the least attention).  Since Independence Seventy one (71) years ago, the number of Ministers (including Deputy, Associate, Assistant, Project and Overseeing), has increased from eleven to near/over one hundred. This flies in the face of the promise to restrict the number to thirty as stipulated in the nineteenth (19) Amendment. We see the novel phenomenon of MP’s demanding positions as Minister. This looks like Blackmail. There is the disgraceful spectacle of using the device of a “National Government” to increase Portfolios! This from the promise of a ”Scientific” Cabinet ! One fails to see the “Science” in Linking Highways with Higher Education, Finance with Media and Foreign Affairs with Lotteries. It is clear that the size of Cabinet is dictated entirely by political expediency.  

But to return to the case of Ms Charles – where the Cabinet action to reverse the original decision to replace her with a retiree, opens some new issues. Progress requires that lessons are to be learnt from mistakes or disasters. The fact that Trade Union actions (in this case a “Go slow”), has prompted a retraction. This has dangerous implications – that pressure can induce a change by authorities. This may encourage other sectors too to resort to ransom as a substitute for discussion and compromise. Perhaps the GMOA has already shown this. It is apparent that the action to effect a transfer of this officer was unwise. If, as the Trade Union claims, was because this officer did not accommodate an illegal request from a politician, to release some containers suspected to contain contraband. If this be true, the political authority that has required this departure from process, be publicly revealed and duly punished. It is said that this officer (perhaps the first female to occupy the post of Director-General of Customs), has performed her duties with due diligence, independence and efficiency. Is this correct? Why has deferment of her transfer been for three months only? This apparent departure from normal practice also demands an answer. If her suspicions regarding these detained containers are confirmed, she should be fully vindicated and the “reversed probation period” should also be revoked. This is one more case where political interference, may result in even a charge of complicity in crime, has proven to be toxic. 

I have earlier suggested that a Trust Fund be set up, with voluntary contributions from corporates and individuals, to at least restore any financial loss, suffered by Public Servants. For cases where it can be proven to be victimization, when powerful forces are offended by proper and legally correct decisions. I believe that there would be generous contributions towards such a Fund, provided its organization and proper operation are ensured.  

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    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn’t abide by our Comment policy.For more detail see our Comment policy https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/comments-policy-2

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    If this happened in another country the minister in charge (in this case Mangala Samaraweera) would resign immediately and go home.
    Under this Ranil W’s Westminister Yahapalanaya it won’t happen. Even if he resigns he will enter the Cabinet through back door like RaviK.

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    I think the the day PErmanent Secretaries were removed from the ministry, everything started chaging. Now, it is the minister who does things. they get their wives, daughters, sons, brothers, sisters to do the permanent secretary job.
    The next thing is so many court cases are delayed until april, March, May etc., Once the next govt comes you may here all those cases were acquitted. They are placimng the cases in proper duration, so things will work out.

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      To solve this national this national curse why not good meaning citizens like us form party with honest people and bring the day of reckoning for these politicians who are constantly doing crooked things. These politicians think that it is their right to all the previlages,which is not practiced in a good democracy like in UK.JVP seems to be the only party that is shouting foul and they could be part of this new party or the present politicians will band together and put the country in to an unbearable debt.

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    In Shri Lanka not only public servants but anyone who is honest or sensible or logical or truthful or fair or well educated or humane are also in danger of extinction. Thanks to 70 odd years of so-called freedom the country had been well and truly taken over by goons and morons and thugs and crooks and criminals and rapists and drug smugglers, murderers what else one could expect. Banda opened to floodgate to mad dogs and now we see the result. Even the sinhala patriots, leave aside the unpatriotic dhemalus, are running away in search of better lives. Suddhas dole is more sweeter than what they got back in paradise.

    What a shame. How religion and race, they not only turned and twisted its authenticity, they used them to ruin and misguide their own race. Appe anaduwa is their appe ruination. Sri lanka is a wonderful example of “balla kanneth naa kanne gonatta dhennath naa”.

    from DS downwards when they started telling lies and betray everyone it was crystal clear that the country created on the basis of false history will not survive. Even God cannot save us. But one cannot forget the fact that YOU GET ONLY WHAT DO DESERVE.

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    Land like no other…. mockery at best:-) Present day politicians destroy this country faster than the fall army warm (“sena dalabuwa”) destroy corn fields:-)

    No idea what super being (if there are any) can bless this country…. so I would say … ‘political crooks who destroy this country bless Sri Lanka, aka Loken Utum Rata’:-)

    Late Mr. Iriyagolla must be crying in his grave for composing such a wonderful but meaningless song (loken utum rata lankaawai) in today’s standards:-) How sad the plight of Sri Lanka.

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    What a joke…the public servant is the curse of this country. Red tape bribery inefficiency nepotism run riot in public servants.

    We should make stricter laws for public servants like they should come to work on time. Stop demanding benefits from the government and do your job

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      Very true. Country is rotten from the level of the clerk in the government office to the top politician. Is this the miracle of Asia that some one who seemed to claim?

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    Dr Upatissa Pethiyagoda may remember the ‘good old days’ when “The Public Servant” always replied your letters and the iconic ‘Your obedient servant’.
    .
    Politicians started enslaving “The Public Servant”. They got into the ‘Endangered Species’ list following the fine imposed onto a high ranking Policeman who investigated allegations of irregularities in the use of funds meant for rehabilitation of victims of the 2004 X’mas day tsunami.
    ‘The Public Servant’ we knew is extinct. We have now replaced them with Armed Services and Police.
    .
    Mangala (Et Tu?) wanted to replace the Director-General of Customs Ms P S M Charles, the first ever female and chosen by Mangala, with a retired Navy person because, as he put it, “….blah….blah”.
    She stood her ground. Full credit to her.
    The Customs Trade Unions backed her. The cabinet over-ruled Mangala.
    ‘The Public Servant’ is not extinct after all. And so are Trade Unions!
    .
    PS: By the way Upatissa: She is wearing a ‘pottu’.

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    By the way Upatissa: She is wearing a ‘pottu’.

    Ha….ha….Mr Pillai even the Sigiriya Frescoes damsels with full boobs too wear pottu. Ajantha frescoes wear pottu. Now our Sinhala sisters too are wearing pottu. Soon pottu will get the same hit as ganeydeiyo and Vishnu deiyo and pathini deiyo.

    But as I said our brothers are slowly but steadily opening their eyes to reality and that is a good sign. Recently I went to Galle Shivan temple and was pleased to see 100% sinhala sisters wearing pottu and holly ash and sweet rice and blessed by the hindu poosari and that gave me a great confidence we are once again coming together having made a full circle.

    If we unite we will progress.

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    Give a politician a gun, and he can rob a Government department. Give a politician a Government department and he can rob the entire nation.

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