By Lacille de Silva –
At the time we got independence from British, Sri Lanka had enjoyed excellent opportunities to be one of the most promising new Nations in Asia and in the Commonwealth. Being an Island, with excellent strategic and geographical benefits, situated along one of the most crucial sea-routes in the world, with one of the largest natural deep-water harbours in Trincomalee, the fifth in the world, we could also have been fortunate to achieve economic growth with certainty. We had also inherited a stable economy thanks to the British together with an established export based foreign exchange earner from tea, rubber and coconut.
Our proud record of achievements in education, health, mortality rate etc. were all due to our leaders who served the Nation with dedication during the independence era. The Hon. CWW Kannangara, the first Education Minister of Ceylon, was one of them. Our human development too had been rightly based on the Walter Beveridge Report, which became the blueprint for the modern British welfare state. Expanding peoples’ educational rights, freedoms etc had been the prime aim of sustainable development in England as well as ours after the Second World War.
We had thereafter established a well-functioning democracy and a very well managed efficient and effective public sector thanks to the British. Our public service then was widely regarded as one of the best compared to even those in the developed world. It had been exceedingly efficient and absolutely incorruptible.
Our failure was according to the World Bank – “Sri Lanka could have done even better had better economic policies been pursued”. How did the two major parties in the country, namely the United National Party (UNP) and the Sri Lanka Freedom Party (SLFP), had ruined this country during the reign of their seventy-one long years after gaining independence?
Let me add, with a view to take the country forward, a planning division had been established in early 1950s. A comprehensive Investment programme too had accordingly been drawn up as an effective plan for the purpose of integrating the entire economy. Sadly, the new regime that was elected for a fresh term had scrapped it. They had thereafter established a new apparatus called the National Planning Council. They too had formulated a new ten-year plan (1959) covering both public and private sectors.
They had projected a growth rate of 6 per cent and had drawn up a road map too how to achieve growth and development. It had been anticipated that the gross domestic product would be raised 8 times higher from 1959 to 1997. They had also given a warning that Sri Lanka would essentially fail below other east-Asian neighbours if the expected higher growth is not achieved in the ensuing years.
In 1960, they had rejected the ten-year plan again stating that it was unsuitable and had introduced a short-term implementation programme in 1962. In 1965 again, a new programme of action – “recovery programme” had been launched together with an aid consortium for mobilization of foreign aid to support the recovery programme and also to bring about faster economic growth. In 1970 once again that too had been hysterically replaced.
A fresh initiative thereafter through the constitutional manipulations had begun in 1972. Governance system they had established was far from ideal. Subsequent slow development, or system collapse was all due to weak, highly politicised, highhanded governance system. Since 70s, they had always desisted rule of law. They had selfishly wanted to serve themselves continually. They had therefore craftily created a governance system that suits them. They have no fear at all of being called to account for any reason in this system at present.
As we all know, the Westminster model is a proven, time-tested effective representative democratic governance system. It had been evolved since many many centuries, through traditions, conventions, past practices and precedents of the British Parliament. Soulbury Constitution, in my view, was the best Constitution we have had to-date.
In 1960, Our per capita income had been US $ 141. In the same year South Korea $ 156, Thailand $ 96, Indonesia $ 51. By 1977, Sri Lanka had increased its per capita income by only $ 60 to reach a level of $ 200 compared to South Korea $ 820, Malaysia $ 930, Thailand $ 420 and Indonesia $ 300.
How did Korea, Thailand, Malaysia achieve development while Sri Lanka is still struggling and lagging behind? Our leaders failed to address how and why the dysfunctional institutional, organizational and sociological systems had impeded growth and development. They had instead come up with destructive policies that had destroyed the entire government machinery having led the country on the wrong path.
The First Republican Constitution lasted six only years, which had introduced fundamental departures from the Soulbury Constitution. The National State Assembly became the “Supreme Institution of State power”. It had done away with the concept of separation of powers. In short, the structural systems that was destroyed had paved the way for a range of political, legal, social, economic ills.
This had been the initial step of converting the democratic governance system to a wholly undemocratic governance system. The third Constitution adopted in 1978, was the worst. It introduced the presidential system combined with Westminster model and proportional representation for elections. It has been amended 19 times already.
Since then flood gates had been opened for unethical brigands and mosstroopers to enter politics, at national, provincial and local level. Strengthening good governance, public integrity and rule of law had taken a back-stage. Aberrations such as civil war, emergency regulations and autocratic rule have engendered a norm of bypassing due-process and accountability in favour of arbitrariness, impulsiveness, self-interest, lack of respect for the rule of law.
Corruption became a way of life, and recruitment to the public sector has turned out to be a form of reward for political sympathisers from the Ministry Secretary downwards. Having enacted the 13th Amendment, with the devolution of power, the entire machinery at all levels became fundamentally over-bloated, weak, severely politicised, utterly corrupt, extremely inefficient.
The number of ministries had been increased to suit whims and fancies of politicians with scant regard for costs etc. We had the largest cabinet of ministers in the whole world, just after ending a devastating war, which I was told a Guinness record. Such ministers were not aware of their responsibilities and hence they have not delivered any service at all to the country.
This is because there is no satisfactory performance management system in place at all in the entire public sector. We do not therefore see any professionalism at all in the the public service. They therefore are hell-bent to earn a quick buck and hence corruption is rampant at all levels. The 1978 Constitution gave the President the powers to appoint the Secretaries to the Ministries. Cabinet of Ministers were given powers to appoint other senior officers, grant their promotions, transfers, disciplinary control etc.
Our political and administrative culture was accordingly destroyed totally with the introduction of the two Constitutions in 1972 and 1978. Public service was shamelessly politicised. Until then, political neutrality was considered to be part of the public service philosophy. Neutrality was extremely important. Public servant had to be apolitical in carrying out their functions and impartial in implementing government policies.
It was basically their neutrality that allowed public servants of the calibre of Bradman Weerakoon, M.D.D. Pieris, Shelton Wanasinghe, Lionel Fernando and many more to serve different governments. They had contributed immensely towards the nation in a multi-party democracy. How is that we don’t produce similar officers in the public sector at present?
Our political leaders were not long-term visionaries. They had failed to execute their Manifestos drawn up by them, efficiently and effectively. They simply need to come to power. Having been elected, they have not identified development priorities, for self-centred political gains, unlike other nations such as China, India, Malaysia, Korea.
Legal scholars, democrats recommend that new institutions and policies be transplanted from developed societies to overcome such complications. In 2015, the Yahapalana regime was elected with a mandate to strengthen rule of law and good governance. Both Maithreepala Sirisena and Ranil Wickremasinghe were total failures. Duo did not succeed in producing a progressive democracy to achieve economic growth and establish rule of law with an improved public sector.
The ability of the government to meet their obligations to pay instalments of debt etc., has also become a serious issue. The sluggish performance of the economy and never-ending theft, waste, corruption etc goes unchecked. The government does not therefore have necessary funds to run day to day governance. They are now cutting down allocations for health care, education and even other welfare services. My humble request is please read the William Beveridge report on WELFARE STATE.
Good governance requires separation of the political functions from the administrative/technical ones. Politicians usually set the policy agenda based on their political manifesto. The public officers such as ministry secretaries are required to ensure that necessary technical input and advice is provided and that policies are implemented effectively.
We know that both these categories need each other and none can succeed without mutual co-operation. It is therefore extremely important both categories be fully committed in the pursuit of common good.
The legislature in any country should be the foundation of democratic governance. Parliament for that purpose need effective and visionary leaders to serve as a fully-functional vibrant democracy. Parliament should also bring in suitable amendments to the Constitution and other laws to establish a neutral public service to empower public servants to be apolitical in carrying out their duties and functions futuristically and implement all such policies, programmes and projects for the public good.
Sri Lankan Parliament however is simply the opposite. Why? We have a dearth of honest, hard-working patriotic good leaders, both at political and administrative positions at its helm. “Corruption chips away at democracy to produce a vicious cycle, where corruption undermines democratic institutions and, in turn, weak institutions are less able to control corruption,” is the view Patricia Moreira, Managing Director of Transparency International had expressed. “With many democratic institutions under threat across the globe – often by leaders with authoritarian or populist tendencies – we need to do more to strengthen checks and balances and protect citizens’ rights”.
In Sri Lanka, a few months ago, the former Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe said in Parliament that more than 42% live below the poverty line. A large majority of our elected representatives, who had been lucky to be re-elected, again and again for decades, did not consider poverty to be a result of bad governance and endemic corruption.
Democratically elected leaders and such governments in the past have destroyed rule of law causing country-wide chaos. Now that we are on the verge of electing a new parliament, my worry is not about who will be the next prime minister. My concern is about what kind of a country the new parliament is going to create for the generations to come.
*To be continued…
rbh / March 7, 2020
Who will benifit by the Unethical Mosstroopers Sri Lanka is only countries where the China-India rivalry has roiled domestic politics.U.S. warning that China was using “debt diplomacy this kind of international attention, 3 Steps to go Balance ties lead to a diplomatic crisis, this situation keeps its profile low, Tension had been building within the country economic reforms & economic policies cannot be pursued imminent danger” from the trinity of social disharmony India, and a global health epidemic China directly involved to economic slowdown, Democratic methods to a friction –ridden for a majoritarian show case,
ajith / March 7, 2020
When Srilanka got independence from British, racism was minimal, religious fundamentalism was minimal, corruption was minimal, power greediness was minimal. So the country was well in economic level. Now Greediness of power, Corruption, Bribe, Racism, Religious fundamentalism is maximum, so the country is economically poor now.
Dilshan / March 7, 2020
Why are you NOT intellectually sincere. Major issue.is.racism that.started.in 1956. Without eradicating, it.Sri Lanka.can not move forward. Why are the alternate political platform people and civil society people.do.not come against it
Why are you not commenting on war crimes committed by the armed forces lead by the current president, large army in North and East depriving the.livelihood of 86000 woman led house.holds political prisoners kept without trial while convicted army personnel are released.
If you are serious about building Sri Lanka start with this and educate the south. Do not be Hyprocrats Lacile
Adrian / March 7, 2020
Why are you posting rubbish? The Tamils have always been racist mercenary types. Even today the Sinhalese will buy goods from any shop but the Tamils and Muslims will always favor their own.
Native Vedda / March 7, 2020
Adrian Aged 13 3/4
“The Tamils have always been racist mercenary types.”
I envy the Sinhala/Buddhists for being good teachers.
Converting Sinhalese and Tamils into racism was not an easy task.
Dilshan / March 8, 2020
” Even today the Sinhalese will buy goods from any shop but the Tamils and Muslims will always favor their own.”
Not because they are racist.but because it will be cheaper
Lacille de Silva / March 8, 2020
Racism is one separation is another. The whole lot is to be blamed. I believe a leader who could respect the rule of law could create a country where hatred, injustices could be elimnated peace and prosperty could be achieved.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 8, 2020
Tamil demand for separation was the result of Sinhala racism and state terrorism. Even after dropping the demand for separation and agreeing to consider a solution to allow Tamils to share land and power in a fair manner, Sinhalese are not willing to move forward. Instead of a political solution, Sinhala dominated governments are still pursuing military solution keeping Tamils suppressed by continuing with racism and terrorism. There is no respect to rule of the land with allowing Sinhala murderers of Tamils impunity by distorting truth, and no commitment to justice to Tamils with preaching of hatred by Sinhala politicians. Singapore achieved peace and prosperity by controlling Chinese nationalism and ensuring equality to all.
Lester / March 8, 2020
“Tamil demand for separation was the result of Sinhala racism and state terrorism.”
When Tamils had their own fake state under LTTE, how many Sinhalese and Muslims lived there?
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 9, 2020
Lester the coward, making racist comments under a false name because of fear of being arrested for spreading hatred, do not place Tamils with LTTE. Now Muslims and Sinhalese expelled by LTTE have been resettled in their original places, whereas many Tamils expelled are still living as refugees internally and in foreign countries unable to get back to their original lands. During every riots ethnic cleansing of Tamils took place and at present there are no Tamils in north central province, Kurunegala, Moneragala and Hambantota districts. In Galle, Matara, Ratnapura and Kegalle districts only workers in plantations are left. In most parts of Trincomalee districts Tamils have been driven out. No government will ever agree to bring back demographic pattern in every district as of what existed at the time of independence. Myamnmar is being accused of genocide for expelling 750,000 Rohingyas, less than the 1 million Tamils expelled by Sri Lanka.
Mallaiyuran / March 9, 2020
What are the means your people use to conduct their life? Looting, raping, robbing, murdering…..? Then the answer is none. Leder Pirapaharan is not the one to tolerate those in his land.
Muslims Paramilitary were expatriated from Jaffna Peninsula for spring. Sinhalese were from the forcefully occupied lands like Manalaru…. The rest were living as usual wherever they were living. Sinhalese, who left after 1983 hoping to apply asylum Western countries saying that they saved Tamils so Sinhala Buddhist Rapist Army attacked them, were not willing to return even long after as Tamils boycotted their business. They could not survive only by supplying to occupying Rapist Army.
K.Anaga / March 7, 2020
Almost all the ruling political parties were /are keen on maintaining power. As soon as one party comes into power it plans for the next elections and continues cheating the voters by promising the Sun and the Moon and the Earth when in fact over 40 % of the population apparently lives below the poverty line. They have to collect money for the next elections.
Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. All politicians are interested in Keeping the Tamils/ Muslims under their feet, whereby they are unable to concentrate on development. They consider the Tamils and Muslims as enemies of the state and will not allow them to even develop themselves by their own efforts.
There is a Tamil saying ‘Enakku Mooku Ponalum Paruvai Illai Ehirikku Sakuna
Pilai Entral’ meaning, “Even If I Lose my Nose it does not matter as long as it is a bad omen for the enemy’ Tamils are considered enemies by the state.
Raj-UK / March 7, 2020
Looking back at post colonial SL history, I think SWRD was the root to current problems. His ‘nationalism’ & religious sentiments, paved the way for the division we see in the country today. I can vaguely remember growing up with food shortages & a time of severe austerity under his widow, where the country went backwards in every way. The change brought by JR in 1977 gave a glimmer of hope for prosperity but his autocratic leadership failed to address the problems in hand, mainly due to useless politicians in the party who were not disciplined. Certainly, there were competent & visionary Ministers but the majority were uneducated with short term vision. Much hyped R. Premadasa was such a person who also subtly introduced thuggery into politics. Similarly, CBK was no better. Perhaps, MR, her successor, even learnt corruption from her. Much was expected from Ranil W. but he turned out to be a great disappointment. However, it is MR who was responsible for the exponential increase in corruption, abuse of power, incompetence in all govt. sectors & nepotism which gave a thoroughly incompetent, stupid, even sleazy, Sirisena, the opportunity to hold the highest office in the country. Perhaps, GR is trying to emulate Lee Kuan Yew now but he has much baggage, his own corruption allegations & his own brother who will be pulling all the strings in his govt. In hindsight, it is my opinion that if not for the biggest hypocrite in SL politics, SWRD, who began the trend of allowing the riffraff into parliament, SL would be a prosperous country in Asia today with, certainly, a more tolerant, less corrupt society.
Fred / March 8, 2020
I have read that it was GG Ponnambalam, with his famous 50-50 cry, who tried to exploit the race card for political advantage before SWRD did. Unfortunately for GGP he was not from the majority community and that frustrated his efforts. But SWRD who was quick to learn from him was not similarly handicapped. Coming from the majority community he was able to us the race card to devastating effect.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 8, 2020
Ponnambalam made 50-50 demand only in 1944 for the Soulbury Commission. Racism raised its ugly head in 1931, when the then British government appointed Donoughmore commission for political reforms. The first racist act in Sri Lanka is the pan-Sinhala cabinet formed by D.S. Senanayake in 1931 leaving out Tamils and others. The first ethnically based party was Sinhala Maha Sabha formed by SWRD in 1934. Tamil congress was formed only in 1944. All Ceylon Muslim league though formed in 1927 was a cultural organization and not a political party at that time, but later joined to form UNP. As for demand of federalism, it was the Kandyan chiefs who first proposed it to Donoughmore commission and SWRD to Soulbury commission. Tamils demanded it only in 1949, when they found that Sinhala leaders were going back on their word given before independence. Lord Soulbury in hindsight said that he expected Sinhala leaders to be gentlemen, and had he known that they will behave like this he would have formulated a tough constitution to rein in Sinhala nationalism. DS was an inborn racist while SWRD was only an opportunist racist.
Lester / March 8, 2020
“I have read that it was GG Ponnambalam, with his famous 50-50 cry, who tried to exploit the race card for political advantage before SWRD did.”
No doubt, Ponnambalam was playing the race card. And what a ridiculous proposal. How can 10% of the population enjoy 50% of representation in Parliament? There is no such case anywhere in the world. Before that, Ponnambalam was opposed to D. S. Senanayake disenfranchising 780K Indian Tamils from their citizenship. How can this act be called racist… the Indian Tamils were brought to Sri Lanka by the British, without consulting any of the native people. Secondly, how many of the SL Tamil refugees who lived in TN during the civil war became Indian citizens? Zero. SWRD was not a racist for promoting swabasha. If 90% of the population speak 1 language, common sense says the country can progress using only that as the national language. The national language of France is French, in Germany it is German, in Sweden it is Swedish, etc. There are thousands of Muslims living in these countries as immigrants, do they ask for Arabic to be a national language? Again, look at Tamil Nadu. Buggers refuse to teach Hindi in their schools because it is seen as an “Aryan” language. But these coolies want Tamil to be an official language everywhere they go.
K.Anaga / March 9, 2020
GGP demanded 50/50 not for the Tamils alone. Apart from 50% for the Sinhalese, the other 50% was for the total minorities -Tamils-MuslimTamils, Burghers. Malays. It has been proved right. Day in and day out Sinhala colonization of the Tamil areas are going on. Buddha is Planted and nurtured by the government everywhere. The biggest rogue was DS Senanayake who initiated the Colonization of the Eastern province with thugs and Sinhala prisoners from the south. DS eclipsed his ulterior motives behind his large mustache and finally, DS was able to buy over GGP with a
Ministry which was the beginning of the end of Tamil Self respect. This was followed by Sampanthan and Sumanthiran (SAMSUM)
EmAG / March 9, 2020
The 50-50 solution of GGP was proposed to control the Sinhala hegemony over other communities. The other 50% included Tamils, Moors, Malays, Burghers, Chinese and Indians; and NOT the Tamils only.
chiv / March 8, 2020
Lucille, a big thankyou for bringing out some true facts which are intentionally avoided by our fake media. Yes , racial hatred and division lead us to a 30 years of drawnout conflict (which was internal is now international) needs to be added some where to above narration. It is almost a chicken and egg debate and which came first ??? But one answer is clear as Lucille mentioned, it is our crooked so called political leaders who masterminded this tragedy with the help of voting public who were gradually conditioned over years to where they are right now. The hatred has now completedly bling sighted the public from every thing else which are vital for their existence. There is no signs of hope , that the public will come out of their DENIAL, in near future.
Mallaiyuran / March 8, 2020
Having enacted the 13th Amendment, with the devolution of power, the entire machinery at all levels became fundamentally over-bloated, weak, severely politicised, utterly corrupt, extremely inefficient.
” Oru Paanai Saurukku Oru Sauru Patham” . While cooking, the mothers at home pick one rice out of the pot and squeeze to see if the pot full of rice is cooked. That one rice is enough for them to tell rest of the story pot full rice. That line tells all the things inside the mind of the author. He is telling the Sinhala Buddhist Aanduwas were not efficient enough in destroying the Tamils so Lankawe might have flourished now. He nowhere discuss the destruction Aanduwa and rowdies did to Tamils economy in the name of saving the security of the nation.
The guy is thinking all the readers are only Balangoda Veda Buddhist Modayas. He is telling JR and he walked to Kandy and destroyed Banda -Chelva pact, the very first effort to bring harmony with devolution. Further he can’t remember that India, much high in world corruptions scale used even stronger 13A like constitution and maintained racial harmony to develop the country. All these Sinhala Intellectual destructive species, walk with two legs and eat with two constantly invent how to destroy Lankawe. He can’t remember before the civil war started, JVP has staged “October” communist revolution. Author appears to be new Don and SWRD. He is struggling to match his essay to the new notions of the Sinhala Intellectuals that how to consolidate the war victory over Tamils.
Mallaiyuran / March 8, 2020
The 13A sentence is fire around the gasoline for the other Sinhala Intellectuals; they will follow it up on their TV shows; all the rest of the essay is only water on the lotus vine leave. The water will slip off without touching or affecting the leave.
Dr. Gnana Sankaralingam / March 8, 2020
The statement that after the enactment of 13th amendment, with devolution of power, machinery at all levels became fundamentally over bloated, weak, severely politicized, utterly corrupt, extremely inefficient is far from the truth. 13th amendment was enacted only in 1987, by which time all these were institutionalized and rampant at all levels. When indiscipline was unleashed in 1956, machinery at all levels became weak and extremely inefficient. When trade unions were allowed political activity in 1956, machinery at all levels became severely politicized. When bribery became widespread since 1970 and fraud was common since 1977, machinery at all levels became utterly corrupt. When appointments to state sector departments and corporations were given to accommodate party stooges since 1970, machinery at all levels became over bloated. In addition to this, since 1982 when act was passed to dispose dead bodies of Tamils without a judicial inquiry, impunity was granted for committing crimes on Tamils. Thus your attempt to place the blame for everything in the country on 13th amendment, lacks morality. Without beating round the bush, please be honest that you are against sharing of power and territory with Tamils.